When someone you love uses violence to punish or control you, it is hard to think clearly about what to do next.
Feelings range from shock to fear to anger, and often to helplessness and confusion. You ask yourself questions like:
What did I do to deserve this?
Should I call the police? If I press charges, what will he do to me later?
If he goes to jail, how will we pay the bills?
What will the children think if he is arrested or if we have to leave our home?
Is there anyone who really cares? Would anyone believe me?
Where can I find help?
In her book, “What To Do When Love Turns Violent,” Marian Betancourt educates women about the resources available to help them be safe if they are in relationships with abusive men. The first chapter in her book is entitled “How the Police Can Help You.”
Domestic violence is a federal crime which calls for stricter enforcement of the law and provides for more safety measures for the victim.
Police officers are required to keep you safe if you are being abused, and are held liable if they refuse to take action against the abuser. If you are in immediate danger, find a safe place to call 9-1-1 and give as much information as you can. Tell them:
Where you are and the location and identification of your abuser
Whether or not you were or are being threatened with a weapon
Whether or not there are children present in the home
Whether or not you are still being assaulted or if further assault is imminent
Whether or not the abuser has been using drugs or alcohol
Whether or not you are disabled
Whether or not you have an order of protection
How badly you are injured
If you are interrupted during the call by the abuser, try to leave the phone (landline) off the hook and keep talking or screaming until police can trace the call. If you are using a cell phone, put the phone down without disconnecting the call.
When the police arrive, many abusers will appear calm and rational in order to talk their way out of an arrest. He may deny attacking you and claim he was defending himself against your attack. It is important to stay calm and tell the facts as clearly as possible. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming enraged and hysterical.
It is important to remember that you could be arrested too if you hit the abuser in self-defense. Women often receiver greater jail sentences than men for using force to defend themselves. Part of society still believes a man has the right to abuse his wife, but she does not have the right to fight back.
If the abuser leaves the scene of the attack before the police arrive, do not clean up the house. Make sure all evidence of broken dishes or furniture, holes in walls, torn or bloody clothing, or weapons are available for the police to see as evidence.
If you have visible injuries, photograph them for evidence later. Make sure photographs are date-stamped. Many hospitals will photograph injuries to keep with the medical report. If they do not help domestic violence victims, they can lose their accreditation.
Realize that assault and battery is a crime and where it happened is a crime scene. You are not helping your husband or boyfriend by trying to cover up the evidence or failing to press charges. He may cry and plead for forgiveness as he is being handcuffed or threaten you with greater harm if you press charges.
However, the best way to stop the cycle of abuse is to hold the abuser accountable for his actions. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey, reporting domestic violence to police appears to reduce the risk of a husband attacking his wife again by as much as 62 percent.
If a stranger beat you up, you would call the police. You should do the same if the abuser is your spouse, boyfriend, or family member. Without intervention or punishment, violence only continues and often leads to homicide.
Here are some charges that can result from domestic violence:
1. Misdemeanor–hitting or kicking you without causing significant injury. He may not spend any time in jail, but may pay a small fine.
2. Felony–hitting you with a weapon that results in serious injury which requires medical attention or hospitalization. If convicted, he may spend at least a year in jail with a large fine.
3. Harassment–threatening phone calls, emails, texts, and letters, shoving and pushing without injury.
4. Menacing with a weapon–threatening you with a gun or knife, or telling you he is going to kill you. This is a misdemeanor.
5. Criminal mischief–damaging your property, slashing your tires, etc.
6. Breaking and entering–forcibly entering your home if you have an order of protection or if you have moved out of the family home.
7. Stalking–following, harassing, or threatening you. If you have an order of protection, this may be considered a felony. It is a federal crime with tougher penalties.
If you have your abuser arrested, be clear in your own mind how it will affect your safety and why you want him arrested. Don’t act with revenge. Evaluate the situation and make sure your motive is to let the abuser know you are taking a stand to stop the violence by having him face the consequences of his actions.
Consider these reasons for arrest given by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota:
Abusive men get violent because they get away with it and they get what they want. It is time they learned some other way.
If a man is abusive and there are no serious consequences, his violent behavior is reinforced.
The courts can place controls on a violent man that friends and family members cannot. They can send him to jail, levy heavy fines, restrict his bail, serve protective orders, and send him to a batterer’s counseling program.
Find out now about your state’s domestic violence laws and be aware of the help available in your community. It could save your life!
Copyright © 1999, 2013 Brenda Branson