The Criminal Justice System and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a serious problem in homes across the nation. Largely under-reported, its criminal roots run deep, and can have far-reaching effects on victims and friends and family of victims. Several different types of domestic violence exist, including physical, verbal, mental and emotional, and sexual abuse. Each are very serious, and often accompany one another other. Read on to learn more about domestic violence and find resources to help with surviving it.

Domestic violence is defined as abuse that occurs within a home. The abuser and the victim can live together, be involved a romantic relationship, or be related by blood or marriage. Victims can also be children. This type of abuse can encompass a wide range of harmful behavior, but usually shares the commonalities of harmful behavior or threats of it being inflicted onto another person. At its root, domestic violence is about control, and the desperate actions that are taken to maintain it. Contrary to what many may think, domestic abuse encompasses more than physical assault, and spans across a spectrum of misconduct. Verbal, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse can be just as dangerous as physical attacks, and should be recognized as such when they occur, both to cease the activity as soon as possible and to deter the violence from escalating to the physical.

Physical Abuse

One of the most widely recognized forms of domestic abuse is physical. Physical domestic violence includes actions that result in bodily injury. If a person is being physically abused, she can experience hitting, punching, and slapping. She may also be subject to shoving, scratching, rough grabbing, throwing, flesh-pinching, choking, and hair pulling. Other forms of physical abuse can be less obvious: when a person is denied healthcare, this can also constitute physical abuse because it can effect her body in a negative way. Verbal abuse can often accompany physical violence. With this type of abuse, words can be used to convey threats. Verbal domestic violence can also be employed to undermine a person’s self worth by name-calling, humiliation, coercion, criticism, and blaming. Harassment is a hallmark of this type of abuse, with victims always being diminished in their own eyes and the eyes of others.

Fear is a large component of a home being touched by domestic violence, and is the stronghold of mental and emotional abuse. Many times, a victim is made afraid by the abuser’s threats to her person, people or animals she loves, or items she cares about. Mental or emotional abuse can also take the form of stalking and the disturbing of one’s personal space. The withholding of important information, financial resources, and affection can also constitute this type of abuse.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can also occur as domestic violence. Rape — or sex that occurs without consent — and other types of sexual assaults can be part of abuse that occurs within the home, even between married couples. This commonly occurs after another form of domestic violence has taken place, but can happen at any time. Sex may be expected after physical abuse, or a victim can be treated in a sexually demeaning way by her attacker. It can be important to realize that sexual domestic violence can happen, even if the sex act has not been followed through to completion.

A number of resources are available to people who experience domestic abuse. Domestic violence hotlines exist that victims can call so they can talk to advisers and obtain guidance about the next steps to take when living in an abusive home. Victims can also seek the aid of domestic violence counselors. For immediate help, sufferers can visit domestic violence shelters, which will provide refuge from dangerous living situations. Those who experience physical injuries may visit a hospital to attend to those injuries, and receive the guidance of domestic violence advocates while there. If visiting a hospital, it can be important to keep medical records to substantiate court cases and restraining orders. Several different restraining orders also exist to help victims of domestic violence. These include domestic violence, civil harassment, elder or elder dependent adult abuse, and workplace violence restraining orders. It may be a good idea for victims to reach out for the support of friends and family, who can help with emotional wounds and the planning of future safe living.

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