Domestic violence is a growing problem in America, and it affects more families than we know, especially since many incidents of domestic violence go unreported. However, if you or someone you know is involved in an abusive situation, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Those who commit abuse don’t often stop on their own so it will be up to you to escape this situation.
Proving Domestic Violence
When it comes to getting out of an abusive situation, this is not something you may be able to do without help. An attorney will help you gather as much of the supporting documentation as possible when attempting to build a case. The evidence needed will often be based primarily on your own testimony and the testimony of witnesses who may have seen the abuse or the injuries caused by the abuse.
Additionally, medical records outlining the treatment you received and police reports for past occurrences may be used as evidence. While past offenses can’t be introduced in most criminal proceedings, cases involving domestic violence are different in that respect in many states. Your attorney can explain the laws in your own state and how they will affect your case.
Even where you may not have enough evidence to go to trial immediately, you may still be able to obtain an order of protection against the abuser. While the burden of proof at trial is to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, there’s a much lower burden in obtaining a protection order. Depending on your state’s laws, you may only need to show that abuse has occurred or is likely to occur in the future.
Helping a Victim of Domestic Violence
If you believe a friend or family member is the victim of domestic violence, it’s important to know how to approach the situation. Direct interference may do more harm than good and could end up with you getting yourself victimized as well. Instead, speak to your loved one and ask about the situation in a nonjudgmental way. The goal should be to get the individual to open up about the abuse and to ensure the victim knows you believe her or him about the abuse. One of the greatest problems victims face is their loved ones often doubt that abuse has occurred.
Express your concern, but don’t try to tell the individual what to do. Many people make the mistake of telling the victim to leave the situation without realizing the risk of more abuse is higher at that point. The decision to leave should be the victim’s sole decision. Always remain supportive of victims of domestic violence. Remember that this person may have no money of her or his own, no place to go, or no means of support. Offer what help you can to the victim so that the person will feel secure in her or his decision to leave the abuser.
You can recommend seeking counseling from a domestic violence support center. Trained professionals will be better equipped to give your loved one the more practical help she or he may need. When the individual does make the decision to leave, you may also suggest consulting an experienced domestic violence attorney. A legal advocate can assist victims with obtaining legal protections that play a part in keeping the victim and children safe from future harm.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Attorney Bradley Corbett | Domestic Violence
HG.org | Evidence Needed for a Family Violence Protective Order
Refuge | Support a friend or family member experiencing domestic violence