Domestic violence. It’s something that many people, especially the victims, would rather not talk about – but it’s also something that far too many families experience – and far too often. Those who are victims of domestic violence often suffer silently for any number of reasons. Sometimes, victims feel afraid to speak out for fear that further violence will be perpetrated against them. In other cases, victims worry about their children – that if they seek help, the perpetrator will try to take their children away from them or harm them in some way. In still other cases, victims feel shame, as if the violence is somehow their fault. All of these feelings are understandable – but if you are a victim of domestic violence, you should realize two things. First – that it’s not your fault, and secondly, that you have rights and protections available to you in North Carolina, and you should never suffer alone.
Domestic violence can come in many forms. While physical abuse is certainly the form of abuse that is most immediately obvious, it is definitely not the only kind of domestic violence that occurs. Various types of domestic violence include:
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is one of the first types of abuse that many people think of when they hear the term “domestic violence”. Physical abuse is intended to intimidate the victim and render the victim powerless in the relationship. Physical abuse is more often perpetrated by men against women although this is not necessarily always the case. Some examples of physical abuse include:
- Pushing, kicking, scratching and hitting;
- Pushing the victim into other objects;
- Using household objects as weapons;
- Using other weapons to harm the victim;
- Subjecting the victim to reckless driving;
- Emotional and Mental Abuse: Emotional and mental abuse can often be harder to define than physical abuse, but the consequences can be just as harmful. In fact, sometimes, emotional abuse can have even more long-lasting consequences than physical abuse does. After all, bruises will eventually heal, but the pain and harm to one’s self-esteem caused by emotional abuse might last for years to come.
- Repeatedly ridiculing and insulting the victim;
- Abandoning the victim in a dangerous place;
- Regularly threatening to abandon or leave the victim;
- Threatening to harm those the victim loves;
- Withholding affection as punishment;
- Publicly humiliating the victim;
- Any number of other behaviors that hurt, deprive, frighten, or harm the victim emotionally or mentally.
- Financial Abuse: Financial abuse is a type of abuse that many people are either unaware of, or simply haven’t considered, but it does occur with surprising frequency. Essentially, financial abuse is perpetrated when one spouse withholds funds from the other spouse or otherwise uses money as a means to control the victim’s behavior. It may mean denying access to a bank account or credit cards or otherwise conditioning the provision of funds upon the spouse doing what the abuser wants. While this type of abuse may not leave physical bruises, it is nevertheless very harmful and it is wrong. Some examples of financial abuse include:
- Insisting that all bank accounts be only in the abuser’s name;
- Controlling how, where, and when money is spent;
- Giving the victim an “allowance” that is very small or unrealistic given the cost of living;
- Denying a partner the right to work outside the home if he or she chooses to;
- Misusing a partner’s name for financial purposes;
- Forcing a partner to sign financial documents against his or her will;
- Any number of other activities that are financially controlling in nature.
- Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is a particularly difficult aspect of domestic violence, both in terms of discussing it and identifying it. As with physical abuse, this is typically abuse perpetrated by men against women – although that is not always necessarily the case. Like physical violence, sexual violence is a tool that abusers use to establish control and assert dominance. Some examples of sexual abuse include:
- Sabotaging the victim’s birth control, or threatening to do so;
- Using derogatory sexual names;
- Forcing a partner to do sexual things that he or she does not want to do;
- Forcing the victim to watch pornography against his or her will;
- Accusing a partner of promiscuity as an attempt to hurt the partner;
- Using objects to hurt a partner during sex;
- Any number of other unwanted sexual acts.
The good news is that if you are struggling with domestic violence, you are never alone, even though you may feel that way at times. There is help – and you deserve to live a life free from fear. In North Carolina, there is legal help available, and there are many resource centers and compassionate, understanding people ready and waiting to help.
In terms of legal assistance, the first and most important step to asserting your rights will be contacting an attorney who understands the law and can help you apply it to your particular circumstances. In North Carolina, domestic violence is considered to have occurred when one partner in a romantic relationship perpetrates violence on the other. A personal relationship may include:
- Two people who are current or former spouses;
- Members of the opposite sex who live together or who have lived together;
- Those who are related as parent and child or grandparents and grandchildren;
- Parents of the same child;
- Those of the opposite sex in a dating relationship; or
- Current or former household members.
If you are in one of these relationships and violence has been perpetrated against you, you should know that you have the right to seek safety and protection under the law. Of course, in North Carolina there are criminal statutes that apply to those who perpetrate domestic violence, and those who are convicted may face time in prison or may be ordered to attend rehabilitation or a substance-abuse program, complete community service, or any number of other consequences depending upon the offense and what the court determines is best in its discretion.
In addition to criminal penalties for domestic violence, those who are the victims of domestic violence may also petition the court for a protective order to keep the abuser away from the victim and to attempt to prevent further acts of domestic violence. A petition for an emergency protective order can be filed if the person believes there is a danger of experiencing serious and immediate injury either to themselves or to a minor child. When a petition is filed, the court may schedule a hearing including the defendant and the judge may grant an order if it finds that domestic violence has occurred or is likely to occur.
In addition to the legal protections that may be available, there are also many resources, both online, and in communities across the country that exist specifically to help victims of domestic violence. You can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time, day or night, and someone will be available and ready to help direct you to the resources that you need in your area. Don’t hesitate to reach out – it’s the first step toward a safer, happier future for yourself, and for those you love.
If you are the victim of domestic violence and you need legal assistance as you move through the divorce process, please know that the first and most important thing to do first is to ensure your own safety and the safety of those you love. After you have done so, your next step should be to call us. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we understand the law regarding domestic violence and concerning every other aspect of the divorce process as well. We’re here for you, and we would be honored to help you as you move through this process, and toward your next new chapter ahead. Call us at any time.