October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This recognition is necessary because domestic violence is quietly pervasive. It is not enough to say that “1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence,” or “1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence,” even though this is true.
A client once asked, “you must have seen it all,” as if to suggest that her experience with domestic violence were unspecial in some way. It’s not true. Every client’s experience of domestic violence is unacceptable, unjust for that client, even if not uncommon.
It impacts families and children at all income levels: stay-at-home parents, executives, nurses, attorneys, and doctors experience domestic violence. And domestic abuse of professionals is not rare, or resulting from any weakness of character. Domestic violence is the abuser’s fault.
“Domestic violence” is a misnomer: it includes abusive behavior even if there is no physical violence. The California Legislature recognizes this in its definition of “abuse” as used in the family court: It specifically “is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.” (Fam. Code Section 6203(b).) A fuller discussion of the dynamics of domestic violence can be found here.
There are legal protections in place that can assist victims of domestic violence from leaving an abusive situation. These may include the issuance of Emergency Protective Orders mandating that the abuser “stay away,” through making a report of domestic violence to law enforcement; issuance of domestic violence restraining orders, which can include child custody, child support, and move-out orders requiring that the abuser stay out of the home; criminal protective orders issued by the criminal court where criminal charges have been initiated against an abuser; and more.
A common misconception of clients is that the abuse they experience isn’t “enough,” or that there isn’t “evidence.” A client’s testimony is evidence. We can help flesh out what other evidence may exist. It is true that criminal courts require a high burden of proof: proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But even if there isn’t sufficient evidence preserved to support a criminal case (where the goal is the conviction and sentencing of the abuser), the family court can provide protections for domestic violence victims with a lesser showing (and in family court, the goal is protection of the individual victim parent/partner/child).
The definition of “abuse” sufficient to support the issuance of a domestic violence restraining order is broader than you might expect. It includes “intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury,” “sexual assault,” but also: “molesting…stalking, threatening….harassing…destroying personal property…or disturbing the peace of the other party.” (Fam. Code Section 6320(a).)
Our attorneys represent survivors of domestic violence year round but we firmly support Domestic Violence Awareness Month because domestic violence remains so widely misunderstood.
We represent clients who have safely left the abusive situation, and those who are just making plans to leave. We are honored to represent our clients who trust us to be their advocates in the court system. We are continually inspired by the courage of our clients who face extreme obstacles and hardships as they balance leaving an abusive situation with moving forward to protect themselves and their families.
This domestic violence awareness month, for those who are in stable and safe situations, please take a moment to better understand domestic violence so that you can be supportive to those who are experiencing abuse.
For those who are considering leaving, please reach out us or one of the organizations on our resources page so that you can understand your options.