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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a yearly reminder for people to be mindful of a serious situation that can be devastating to victims—leaving deep scars in women, men and children that take years and even decades to heal.

The U.S. Government estimates that nearly 25% of all adult women and nearly 14% of men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner.

As alarming as those statistics can be, what’s just as harrowing is that many domestic violence incidents go unreported. Victims of domestic violence can remain hidden from family and friends for years.

An Example of Domestic Violence that Remained Hidden for Years 

One family recently became aware of a domestic violence situation in their midst. For years, a woman remained silent to ongoing physical and emotional abuse from her husband. By outside appearance, this family of a husband, wife and teenage daughter appeared normal.

One evening this year, the husband became physically violent against both the wife and daughter. After being hit, the daughter barricaded herself in her bedroom and called 911. Police arrived and escorted both the wife and daughter to safety. The wife’s mother and brother were shocked to hear of the years of abuse that had remained hidden to them.

The wife’s reasoning for not reporting or sharing her ordeals are common to many victims:

  • Shame
  • Felt her actions caused the abuse
  • Thought it was a normal situation shared by many families
  • Did not want to cause trouble for—or arrest of—her spouse
  • Fearful she did not have the means to financially care for herself and daughter
  • In many cases, the wife had blocked out and forgotten past violent incidents

Today, the wife and her daughter live safely with family and away from the violence and the continual threat of violence they had lived through for years. With the help of domestic violence advocates, family support and a family law attorney, the wife and daughter are rebuilding their lives. The wife is proceeding with a divorce guided by her attorney.

Below we’ll share specific information on domestic violence.

However, if you require immediate assistance, please call the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or TDD (TTY) (800) 621-4202.

If you’re seeking legal guidance on domestic violence, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Fusco Law Group at (904) 567-3113.

Definition of Domestic Violence

2018 Florida Statutes Title XLIII Chapter 741 defines domestic violence as:

  • Assault and Aggravated assault
  • Battery and Aggravated Battery
  • Sexual Assault and Sexual Battery
  • Stalking and Aggravated Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • False Imprisonment

Additionally, the definition includes any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of a family or household member by another family or household member

Family or household members are defined as:

  • Spouses
  • Former Spouses
  • Persons related by blood or marriage
  • Persons presently residing together

This also includes:

 “persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit.”

The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) defines it as:

“A pattern of controlling behaviors—violence or threats of violence—that one person uses to establish power over an intimate partner in order to control that partner’s action and activities.”

FCADV provides a list of behaviors to help identify acts of domestic violence that we’ve broken down into categories.

Physical Abuse

These are behaviors where a partner intentionally hurts another physically, for example:

  • Slapping
  • Hair pulling
  • Strangling
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Grabbing
  • Excessively Squeezing or Shaking
  • Twisting Arms
  • Burning

Additionally, physical abuse could include withholding medical help and harming your pets. Another destructive and violent behavior could include hiding assistive devices.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can include ongoing controlling behaviors that can take a huge toll on victim’s self-esteem plus undermine their confidence and foster feelings of fear and guilt. Behaviors can include:

  • Using your children against you
  • Calling you names and hurting you emotionally
  • Acting with extreme jealousy and possessiveness
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Threatening to commit suicide or to kill you
  • Threatening to “out” you if you’re a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or transgender

Controlling threatening behavior can even include a partner giving that “certain look” in their eyes or “certain gestures.”

Financial Abuse

According to the Centers of Financial Security, 99% of domestic violence also involves financial abuse.

Financial abuse is where one partner controls another partner’s money and/or restricting the means for the partner to acquire financial resources.

This controlling behavior can result in the victim feeling trapped in an abusive relationship with little ability to financially support themselves or their children.

Many domestic violence victims remain in abusive relationships due to feeling financially inadequate.

Domestic Violence Penalties and Sentences in Florida

In Florida, when police are called to a domestic violence incident, they must treat it as a criminal offense. Chances are high that one of the domestic partners will be arrested and jailed.

As a criminal case, the State Attorney’s Office will make the determination to proceed with the domestic violence case—not the victim.

A domestic violence conviction carries a mandatory minimum one-year probation. It also requires the convicted domestic violence offender to complete a Batterers Intervention Program.

If the violence results in assault and battery charges, it can lead to a:

Misdemeanor sentence: Ranging from 60 days to one year

Felony conviction: May result in a five-year prison sentence

Get the Help You Need

As mentioned above, if you require immediate assistance for a domestic violence situation, please call the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or TDD (TTY) (800) 621-4202.

Whether you’re a victim of domestic violence or accused, it’s important not to make rash legal decisions. Getting the right legal guidance can help you protect your rights.

That’s a good reason to have an experienced attorney by your side before filing. Fusco Law Group is experienced in Criminal and Family Law. If you have legal questions regarding domestic violence, contact the Fusco Law Group: (904) 567-3113 for a free consultation.