What is Domestic Violence?

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What is Domestic Violence? Many people have the misconception that it pertains only to “wife beaters.” They envision horrific images of a man wearing the proverbial “wife beater” undershirt, drunk, angry at the world and using his wife as a punching bag, beating her to the point where she needs sunglasses to go out in public.  We’ve seen it in the movies and on television . . . and all too often in real life.  But there is much more to domestic violence than simply physical assaults. 

According to the California Courts website:

The domestic violence laws say “abuse” is:

  • Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt (like threats or promises to harm someone);
  • Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone’s peace; or destroying someone’s personal property; OR
  • Coercive control, which is defined as “a pattern of behavior that in purpose of effect unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will or liberty.” 

The physical abuse is not just hitting. Abuse can be kicking, shoving, pushing, pulling hair, throwing things, scaring, or following you, or keeping you from freely coming and going. It can even include physical abuse of the family pets.

Also, keep in mind that the abuse in domestic violence does not have to be physical. Abuse can be verbal (spoken), emotional, or psychological.  Coercive control is the newest form of recognized abuse under California law, with the statutory changes going into effect in 2021.  Per the statutes, actionable coercive control specifically includes, but is not limited to, isolation from friends, relatives or other sources of support; depriving the other party of basic necessities; controlling or monitoring the other party’s movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources or access to services; OR forbidding or compelling conduct that the other party has a right to engage in or abstain from.” 

How many of us have walked on eggshells in our own home, afraid to do or say certain things for fear of what a romantic partner may say or do; or lost touch with friends, family members and people who can help because a partner “forbid” it and made life miserable if you dared to disobey?  I have, and it’s one of the reasons I began practicing family law: to help others in need like I was.  

As a Domestic Violence survivor, I can assure you that no matter how bad it gets at times, life is ALWAYS better on your own than in the middle of an unhealthy, toxic relationship. The first step in preventing abuse and moving on with your life (on a personal human note) is recognizing that THIS IS NOT “NORMAL” AND IT IS NOT OK.  You do NOT have to accept this treatment.  You deserve better and your children (if you have them) deserve better. They will be 1,000 times better off seeing their parents healthy and happy apart than miserable and abused together (allegedly “for the kids”).  When looking at your own situation, ask yourself—”What would I tell a friend going through this situation?  Would I be OK with someone treating my children like this?”  It can help bring the proper perspective.  

After recognizing it is not OK, make a plan to get out safely and to begin rebuilding your life, your empire, and your legacy.  A big part of that will be getting the right attorney, someone you can trust and who you feel comfortable opening up to. Seek the protections available under the law—which in California, is a lot. For ex., restraining orders. Here is a list of things restraining orders can do as stipulated by the California Courts.

It can order the restrained person to:

  • Not contact or go near you, your children, other relatives, or others who live with you;
  • Stay away from your home, work, or your children’s schools;
  • Move out of your house (even if you live together);
  • Not have a gun;
  • Follow child custody and visitation orders;
  • Pay child support;
  • Pay spousal or partner support (if you are married or domestic partners);
  • Stay away from any of your pets;
  • Transfer the rights to a cell phone number and account to the protected person (read more);
  • Pay certain bills;
  • Not make any changes to insurance policies;
  • Not incur large expenses or do anything significant to affect your or the other person’s property if you are married or domestic partners;
  • Release or return certain property; and
  • Complete a 52-week batterer intervention program.

And restraining orders are just one type of protection California law offers. Remember, if you ask, “What is domestic violence?” and wonder whether you are a victim of it, you are not alone. See an attorney. Let them explain it to you and inform you of your legal options and protections. You deserve better.

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Article by Amber Simmons
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