Dealing with Domestic Violence

At its heart, domestic violence is about control—specifically, about one person having power over another in the context of an intimate relationship. Domestic violence is more than physical abuse. It involves a pattern of behavior by one partner to control the actions of the other. While physical violence is often a part of that pattern, the abuse often does not begin with physical violence.

The pattern of behavior we call domestic violence or intrafamily violence includes coercion, intimidation, threats, and isolation. By the time the abuse has escalated to physical or sexual violence, the abuser has often abused their partner verbally, emotionally, or economically for a very long time. An abuser is often a current romantic partner, but may be a former spouse or dating partner, or a family member.

Types and Examples of Abuse in Relationships

There are many ways in which domestic abuse manifests itself within a relationship. Sometimes it might be a single, situational incident in the context of the stress of separation. Other times it could be false accusations of abuse against an innocent partner or even against the actual victim. When the abuse is part of the classic domestic violence cycle, the abuser’s actions are calculated to exert control and make the partner dependent upon the abuser so that it will be difficult to leave or tell others about the abusive behavior. And the truth is that at times it can be difficult to determine which type of abuse is present.

Some of the forms domestic abuse may take include:

  • Intimidation, or making the partner afraid
  • Threatening physical harm either by verbal threats or insinuation, or by menacing behavior
  • Sexual abuse, such as being rough during sex without the partner’s consent, or forcing the partner into a sex act in which they do not wish to participate. Sexual abuse can also include refusal to use birth control.
  • A former spouse or partner stalking, following, or repeatedly contacting the victim in a way that makes them fearful
  • Emotional abuse, including constant criticism, insults, name-calling, and suggesting that no one else would want to be with the victim
  • Economic abuse, including causing a partner to lose or quit their job so that they will be financially dependent upon the abuser
  • Isolating a partner from family, friends, therapists, and other outside sources of support who might help or encourage the victim to leave the abuser
  • Psychological abuse, such as threatening to harm a pet or a child, destroying property, or threatening to call immigration officials on the partner. Psychological abuse also includes manipulation, such as the abuser threatening suicide if the partner leaves. Many abusers try to make their victims feel as if they are to blame for the abuse.
  • Physical assault: hitting, pushing, spitting, kicking, or using a weapon against a partner. Choking or strangulation is a common form of violence in intimate abusive relationships.

Both men and women can be the perpetrators—and the victims—of domestic violence. Domestic violence is present among all races, ethnicities, income levels, religions, and education levels. It takes place among couples of all ages, and people of all genders, gender identities, and sexual orientations.

One thing many victims of domestic violence have in common is a feeling of shame: that they are somehow to blame for the abuse, for not recognizing the abuse earlier, or for feeling powerless to leave the situation. Survivors of abuse do not deserve to feel shame and they do not deserve to be abused. They deserve help, and empowerment. At Strickler, Platnick, & Hatfield, we help them find it.

Fighting False Claims of Domestic Violence

Courts often see domestic violence as the worst element within the family unit. Allegations of domestic violence can destroy lives, shatter families and wreck careers; however, when someone is wrongly accused of violence within the family, the devastation is amplified. Baseless accusations can often impact an entire family’s financial security, professional career, relationship with children, and standing within the local community for many years to come.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (“NCADV”) cites that within the United States, nearly 20 people are physically abused by a domestic partner each minute. This staggering statistic equates to more than 10 million women and men who suffer at the hands of domestic violence each year.

Regrettably, some individuals are so indifferent to what real abuse survivors endure that they invent false claims of violence simply to improve their position during a child custody or divorce dispute. Such actions harm not only the falsely accused partner, but also true victims of domestic violence.

If you are wrongfully accused of domestic abuse, the most important thing to do is seek legal help as quickly as possible. Navigating the waters of domestic violence can be a challenge. The situation will not resolve itself if you do nothing because while you may know that you are innocent, the judge does not. In these difficult situations, you need a lawyer who understands these distinctions and will make certain that a judge hears your voice too.

Help for Survivors of Domestic Violence in Maryland and the District of Columbia

Survivors of domestic violence can seek a protective order against the abuser. There is no filing fee if you need to request a protective order. There are two types of protective order: a temporary (or interim) protective order and a final protective order. If you or your family are in immediate danger, you may be able to be granted a temporary protective order the day you ask for it.

A temporary protective order is in effect for a short time. If you need protection for a longer time, you can file for a final order at the same time as you request the temporary order. A hearing will be scheduled for a time before your temporary order expires. The person against whom you are seeking the protective order must be served with notice of the hearing and have the opportunity to appear and tell their side of the story.

In order to be granted a final protective order, you will need to prove to the court that the abuser has caused or threatened serious harm, such as threatening to harm or kill you, physically assaulting you, sexually assaulting you, stalking you, or kidnapping you. Having some form of independent evidence can be important. If you have photos of your injuries or police or medical records that support your claims, they might be used as evidence. However, you may still be able to obtain a protective order based upon just your testimony depending upon the situation and the presentation of your case to the judge. It even is possible to obtain a protective order that offers the same protection by agreement or to obtain a separate, private agreement which provides for the same protections, but may not be filed within the courts.

A final protective order may last for up to one year and can offer you the following protections:

  • Order your abuser to stop harming, threatening, or harassing you
  • Order your abuser to stay away from your home, temporary home, school, or workplace
  • Order your abuser to leave a home you share together
  • Order your abuser to stay away from your child’s school
  • Order your abuser to stay away from your family members’ homes
  • Order your abuser to give up any firearms
  • Order your abuser to not keep possession of your pet
  • Order your abuser to provide emergency family financial support
  • Order your abuser into counseling
  • Order your abuser to pay court costs
  • Award you temporary use of a vehicle titled jointly with your abuser
  • Order a child custody schedule
  • Order temporary supervised visitation for the abuser with any children you share if they are also in danger

Note that a protective order is a civil matter rather than a criminal one. A protective order will not cause your abuser to be sent to jail for past abuse, but if they violate the terms of the order, they may be arrested and could serve jail time for violation of the order.

Depending upon the circumstances, other remedies may also be available for you. For instance, in Maryland, if you are not eligible for a protective order, you may be able to get a Peace Order, which offers some of the same protections against someone who is bothering you, but with whom you may not have ever been romantically involved.

Legal Help in Domestic Violence Cases in Maryland and D.C.

At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield we have decades of experience helping both victims of domestic violence and defendants falsely accused of abuse. Our attorneys have received training in recognizing the different types of domestic violence. And we are sensitive to the unique emotional issues that arise in the context of domestic violence.

It is possible to pursue protective orders and other help for domestic violence without an attorney’s help. However, there are many reasons you may want an experienced attorney by your side during domestic violence proceedings. The legal process in protective order cases can be technical, and may be unfamiliar and confusing. An attorney can help you cut through the red tape and make sure that the legal paperwork, your negotiation position, and ultimately the evidence in court are all prepared and presented properly and accurately. An attorney can advise you as to what evidence will best support your case and help you to gather and present that evidence to a judge.

If you are also divorcing or involved in a custody matter, an experienced family law attorney will ensure that the domestic abuse issues in your case are appropriately taken into account during your family law case. Perhaps most importantly, having an attorney at your side will help you know that you are not alone and not powerless.

Domestic violence is about taking away your control. Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield are about restoring it to you. We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation if you have faced domestic abuse or been unjustly accused of abuse.