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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.
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.
I had a co-worker who was arrested on a domestic violence charge one time. He and his then-wife were both pretty volatile people, and they fought a lot over the phone while he was at work. One night he decided to go to a local bar with the rest of us for a few drinks after work, and she found out he wasn't working overtime like he said. She showed up at the bar, and the two of them proceeded to go at it.
When the police arrived to break it up, she was bleeding from her neck and she had a black eye. He didn't look as bad, so the police decided he was the one to charge
with domestic violence. It was a real legal mess for him, since our state has some really strict domestic violence laws. He had to serve some time in jail and pay a substantial fine. They got a divorce 6 months later.
One thing I didn't know about many states' domestic violence laws is that the injured party doesn't actually press charges against his or her assailant. The state itself becomes the "victim", in a sense. That way the aggressor can't claim later that the alleged victim did something deliberately to mess up his or her life. The actual victim has no say in the arrest process.