Domestic violence is the United States’ top health concern, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. When a loved one hurts you physically, threatens you or touches you in a way you find offensive, that’s domestic violence. If you’re a victim, it’s critical that you leave the situation immediately and get to a safe place. Contact authorities who can provide you with emergency assistance.
It’s also important to understand the complex issues involved in domestic violence so you can protect yourself and your children in the long term. An experienced domestic violence attorney can assist you with the legal process and act as an advocate in safeguarding your rights.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence involves a pattern of abusive behavior by an individual toward an intimate partner or family member. Often, the abusive behavior is used to gain and keep control over the victim. Forms of domestic violence include several types of abuse:
- Physical: Including punching, pushing, hitting, cutting, pulling hair and other forms of violence. Denying an individual medical treatment or forcing a victim to consume drugs or alcohol also are forms of physical abuse.
- Emotional: Attacking a victim’s feelings of self-esteem and self-worth through continual criticism and other tactics.
- Sexual: Attempting to force a victim into sexual behavior or contact without consent. Sexual abuse can include marital rape and sexual demeaning of the victim.
- Psychological: Causing fear through intimidation, including threats to harm the victim, loved ones, children or pets.
- Economic: Attempting to make a victim financially powerless by taking control of economic resources, prohibiting the victim from working, or blocking access to funds.
In addition, stalking and cyberstalking are usually considered forms of domestic abuse. Staking includes spying, harassing or following a victim, or showing up uninvited at a victim’s place of employment or home. Cyberstalking includes online harassment that causes emotional distress to a victim.
Who Are the Victims of Domestic Violence?
Victims of domestic violence are not defined by education or income level, race, age, sexual orientation, or even gender. While women are the most frequent victims of domestic violence, men are sometimes victims as well. Abusers and victims can have a variety of relationships, including:
- Dating partners
- Parents and children
- Individuals who live together
- Family members
Texas laws relating to domestic violence apply to anyone living in the same household and not just to spouses. Domestic violence can apply to people related by blood or “by affinity,” which includes foster children and foster parents, along with people who are in romantic relationships. Any victim of domestic violence can obtain a protective order, also referred to as a temporary restraining order.
Criminal Charges in Domestic Violence Cases
To convict a criminal defendant in a domestic violence case in Texas, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the act knowingly or intentionally. If the abuse included physical injury, a prosecutor also may present evidence that the defendant’s actions were the cause.
An individual convicted of domestic violence in Texas can face various penalties, ranging from a fine up to $500 for a Class C misdemeanor up to a fine up to $10,000 for a second-degree felony with 20 years in prison. Several factors influence the type of penalty a defendant may receive upon conviction:
- The relationship between the defendant and the victim
- Whether the defendant has past convictions related to domestic violence
- Whether the domestic abuse involved attempted strangling or suffocating of the victim
Defense attorneys may use one of several types of defenses in a domestic violence case:
- The domestic abuse was a mistake or was unintentional.
- The defendant had a lack of knowledge of what was occurring.
- The alleged domestic abuse did not occur.
- The alleged domestic abuse was committed in self-defense.
How Can Victims Protect Themselves?
If you or your children are the victims of domestic violence, the Attorney General of Texas advises taking the following steps to protect yourself:
- Seek a protective order through your local district attorney. An experienced domestic violence attorney can assist you with the process.
- Keep the protective order with you, and call police if the abuser violates the order.
- Tell loved ones, neighbors and family members that you have obtained a protective order.
- Plan to be able to protect yourself and your children if police do not respond to a call immediately.
- Change your door locks and get an unlisted telephone number.
Contact Experienced Domestic Violence Attorneys
If you, your children or other loved ones are the victims of domestic violence, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney to navigate the legal system. For a free consultation, contact Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, at 817-841-9906.