Out of all of the topics and questions that we are asked as family law and criminal defense attorneys, the one topic that keeps to continuously come up concerns Domestic Violence and Abuse. This is not too surprising as recent reporting cites an overall increase and concern about domestic violence during the Covid-19 crisis, ongoing economic issues, the rise in unemployment rates and other societal concerns.
The impact on families, spouses and children can be hard and long-lasting. In our practice, whether in criminal or family court, we are often asked to find solutions and provide guidance. Most often our clients are just asking for help.
That’s why we felt it was important to provide some basic information, especially if you or someone you care about in an abusive relationship or has been accused of domestic violence. Everyone can benefit from learning to recognize the signs of domestic abuse and how to get legal help.
What is Domestic Violence and Abuse?
Domestic abuse is often considered seen as only domestic violence. However, they are distinct from one another. Domestic abuse includes any attempt by one person in an intimate relationship or marriage to dominate and control the other. Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose: to gain and maintain total control over the subject of their abuse. Typically, fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation are used to manipulate and control.
Domestic Violence and Abuse Can Happen To Anyone
Abuse happens within heterosexual relationships and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more often victimized, men also experience abuse—especially verbal and emotional. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether from a man, woman, teenager, or an older adult.
What is Physical and Sexual Abuse?
Physical abuse occurs when physical force is used against you in a way that injures or endangers you. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of a family. The police and the courts have the power and authority to protect you from a physical attack.
Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and domestic violence. Furthermore, people whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.
Emotional Abuse Is Also Damaging
Not all abusive relationships involve physical violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked—even by the person experiencing it.
Emotional abuse chips away at a person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior are also forms of emotional abuse.
What is Economic or Financial Abuse?
Frequently money is used by an abuser to control and manipulate. Economic or financial abuse includes:
- Rigidly controlling your finances
- Withholding money or credit cards
- Making you account for every penny you spend
- Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)
- Restricting you to an allowance
- Preventing you from working or choosing your own career
- Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
- Stealing from you or taking your money
Speak Up If You Suspect Domestic Violence Or Abuse
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or that the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save their life. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.
Seek Legal Help
Domestic Violence and Abuse can create several types of legal issues that may depend and vary on the specific facts of your particular situation. In general, the criminal courts, the family courts, or both may become involved. In fact, many of the crimes charged in domestic violence cases are also utilized by the New York Family Courts as a basis for family offense petitions, child custody cases and CPS investigations. In addition, domestic violence and abuse can serve as a basis for divorce or legal separation.
Understanding how the legal process works and how it can protect someone involved in a domestic violence or abuse situation is often a crucial and necessary step.
Stephen Riebling and Marcia Payton are Family Law and Criminal Defense attorneys at Riebling & Payton, PLLC, with nearly 50 years of combined experience and located in Westchester County, NY. To learn more about them and the firm, visit Riebling & Payton, PLLC at www.RieblingPaytonLaw.com.