Being affected by domestic violence can feel like a helpless situation. Confusions can arise on whether domestic violence has occurred or not. Also, deciding on how to resolve the matter can lead to a multitude of variables and worries making you feel even more confused and helpless. However, resources are available to fight against domestic violence and improve your circumstance. There are many people and places that can help guide you out of a violent situation and into a more pleasant home.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is the use of unwanted force in domestic (household/family) situations that cause bodily harm or causes any physical contact the victim may regard as offensive or provocative. Domestic violence in Texas applies to family, present or former spouses, dating couples, live-in couples, blood relatives, and foster children.
There are three categories within the umbrella of domestic violence: domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, and continuous family violence.
- A domestic assault is an instance when someone in the family or household causes injury or threatens to cause injury to another family or household member.
- Aggravated domestic assault has a higher level of danger involving a more serious injury and usually a weapon of some kind.
- If an individual commits two domestic assaults (aggravated or not), it is defined as continuous violence against the family and is classified as the most serious offense.
How to Identify Domestic Violence
You can identify if your situation classifies as domestic violence if someone in your household has ever physically harmed you. If an individual hits, beats, or pushes you against your will, these all count as domestic abuse. Also, stalking, verbal threatening, and verbal abuse are considered domestic violence and should not be disregarded.
Sexual abuse including rape and molestation are also considered domestic violence. The “offensive or provocative” label in the definition of domestic violence refers to feeling violated and put in uncomfortable and unwanted situations. These situations often involve sexual innuendo.
Even if an injury was committed unintentionally, it is still considered domestic violence. This is termed as a reckless act, or an unintentional injury that was done without regards to an outcome, leading to an injury.
If you have noticed a friend or co-worker that has suddenly shown cuts and bruises on their body, you could be seeing signs of domestic violence. When someone becomes suddenly withdrawn, emotional, jumpy, or easily frightened these are also signals of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Resources
If you find yourself or someone you know in a situation of domestic violence there are many resources to help get out of that situation and improve your life.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a fantastic source for providing options and routes towards safety. Contact them if you feel like you are in danger or have been injured in any way.
It is important to get the violent act or fear of violence on record. Take safety measures by calling the police or visiting a police station whenever you feel like you have been injured or threatened due to domestic violence. If you decide to press charges against the offender, having a police report will bolster your case with evidence.
You can also apply for a restraining order and submit it to your local courthouse. A restraining order, also known as a protective order, will separate the people in danger from the individual who has injured or poses a threat to you or your family. Restraining orders can help prevent issues of violence, threatening, stalking, and assault by distancing the assaulter from your area and prohibiting contact in many cases.
Penalties to Domestic Violence
Depending on the degree of injury or threat, committing domestic violence in the state of Texas holds serious consequences. Class C Misdemeanors usually occur when the assaulter has little to no criminal background, and the injury was less severe. This can result in jail time and/or a fine of up to $500. Depending on the severity of the injury, a charge for domestic violence can range from a 3rd to a 1st-degree felony. These felonies range from two to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000.
Defenses to Domestic Violence
While the penalties for domestic violence are severe, there are some defenses that protect the potential injurer. First off, the individual said to have committed domestic violence may have done so in an act of self-defense. For example, if the person who is claiming to be injured first attacked the person charged, the person charged may be free of blame.
There is also the matter of defense of others. If a person seemed to commit an act of violence to protect another family/household member, then this is counted as defense of another and protects the individual from being convicted for that crime.
There is also the defense of property. If someone is illegally trespassing onto a person’s residence and the rightful homeowner defends himself with an act of violence, then the homeowner is free of blame. Similarly, if a residence was illegally stolen from an individual, that individual has the right to use force to retrieve their property.
Finally, there is the offender’s defense of consent or the proposition that no offense has even occurred (which is why evidence in the form of a police report is paramount). Issues of consent can be involved in areas of sexual assault.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that should never be ignored. If you feel like you, or your family is in danger, the best thing to do is get out of the unsafe situation and report it to the police. If you need help finding additional resources contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline, and they can guide you through all of the necessary steps.
If you feel like you have been wrongfully charged with domestic violence then contact The Law Office of Ramos & Del Cueto today.