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What Is a Domestic Violence Charge?

A man shouting at his girlfriend.
Article Details
  • Written By: T. Briseno
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
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A dispute or pattern of harmful behavior within a relationship can lead to a domestic violence charge. While there may be a distinction between the terms domestic abuse and domestic violence, legally they can carry the same or similar charges. An individual may face immediate arrest if physical violence is committed against a spouse or partner, and long-term verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse also may lead to a domestic violence charge.

When the abused partner decides to take action leading to charges, the abuser’s volatile and damaging behavior may intensify. Jail or prison time, loss of child custody, and orders of protection or restraining orders may result from these charges.

Domestic abuse may be described as abusive behavior toward a partner in a marriage or relationship. Often this behavior includes verbal denigration, manipulation, and excessive control by one partner. A common description by an abused individual may include the phrase “walking on eggshells” in terms of living in an abusive relationship where care has to be taken to avoid receiving name-calling, threats, or the withholding of financial needs. When this abuse becomes physical, it is generally considered domestic violence.

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Many states within the U.S. have specific responses and protections in place for reports of domestic or spousal abuse. Hitting, kicking, and other forms of assault can lead to arrest and domestic violence charges. Threatening words and actions also can be cause for legal action against an alleged abuser. Stalking laws can protect a partner who is separated from a spouse by resulting in domestic violence charges should the order of restraint or protection be broken. How an abuser is charged and sentenced may depend on the location of the crime and the degree of assault or damage.

If an individual is unsure about the laws in place, making an inquiry at the local police station may be done anonymously. Authorities may find cause for recommending and issuing a domestic violence charge, and action generally can be taken to protect the abused partner before steps are taken to arrest the abuser. When police are called in the midst of a domestic dispute, typically one of the individuals involved will be removed from the situation for a set period of time or will be arrested and detained for sentencing or further charges before a judge.

Often, long before a domestic violence charge is made, an abused individual may have explored options for exiting an abusive relationship. Seeking help through a domestic violence program or specialized shelter is usually advisable and recommended. Hot lines may be found in the phone book, and local police often provide resources to those seeking help. Being removed from a violent living arrangement before events escalate can prevent devastating physical and emotional consequences.

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