Domestic Violence: A Renewed and Visible Conversation

In the wake of the infamous domestic abuse charges against Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back accused of a violent assault on his then-fiancée, and the subsequent media attention concerning how the NFL handled the charges, there appears to be an ever stronger campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence.

During Super Bowl XLIX earlier this year, a public service announcement (PSA) against domestic violence ran featuring a woman pretending to order pizza because it was the only way she could call 911. Most recently, during the Grammy Awards, President Obama implored viewers that “It’s not okay-and it has to stop” in regard to accepting a culture where domestic violence, against both men and women, is not tolerated.

These examples show that in the last year, the issue of domestic violence is moving beyond the shadows, into the forefront of both sports and pop culture, and is no longer being met with silence and shame but with disapproval and the advancement of the need for change.

Domestic Violence Can Affect Anyone

Domestic violence is a pattern of assault and coercion, often including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults and adolescents use against their intimate partners. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4,774,000 women in the U.S. experience physical violence by an intimate partner ever year, and nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Seeking Legal Help

For family law attorneys, domestic violence is a concern that must be carefully dealt with, in terms of identifying the issue, advising the client regarding the law, and strategizing the best way to both protect the client and combat the violence.

Domestic violence comes in many forms, and may not just be actual physical violence, but may be harassment or threats via social media, or incessant text messaging, or the hacking into an intimate partner’s email. Ultimately, domestic violence consists of ongoing, unwanted actions which can threaten an individual and disturb their peace.

If the abuse is perpetuated by an intimate partner (for example, a spouse, former spouse, co-parent, or significant other), the victim may be able to find relief via a domestic violence restraining order. The victim can apply for a domestic violence restraining order on an emergency basis, called an ex parte domestic violence restraining order, which will last for a limited duration, not more than 21 days. After the expiration of the domestic violence restraining order, a hearing is held, and the court, depending on the evidence provided to it, may deny the restraining order, or issue a permanent restraining order. Permanent domestic violence restraining orders are deemed to be of three years in duration if the expiration date is not stated in the order itself, and can last for a maximum of five years subject to renewal.

Victims Should Not Be Ashamed

Domestic violence is a pervasive and difficult issue because the perpetrator is an intimate partner, and the victim is often too ashamed to seek help. Brooke Axtell, a survivor of domestic violence and director of Communications for Allies Against Slavery, delivered a profound speech at the Grammy’s this year when she spoke the following directly to domestic violence victims: “If you are in a relationship with someone who does not honor or respect you, I want you to know that you are worthy of love. Please reach out for help. Your voice will save you. Let it extend into the night. Let it part the darkness. Let it set you free to know who you truly are. Valuable. Beautiful. Loved.”