WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence occurs in all walks of life: rich, poor, black, white, same-sex relationships, etc. In years past, poor excuses were made for incidents of abuse, and they were kept secret within the home. Today, there is a still a great deal that goes unreported, but an effort is being made to acknowledge that family violence is a problem that must be stopped.
Most people, however, are unclear of what domestic violence is, or how to recognize it’s danger signs. Definitions can vary from state to state; as well as the authority of law enforcement in their response. The Savannah Police Department has provided this page so that you may have a clear understanding of domestic violence in Georgia.
The State of Georgia defines Family Violence as (§OCGA 19-13-1):
“… the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household:
- Any felony; or
- Commission of offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass.”
This law does not preclude you from defending yourself in an attack. It is meant to give law enforcement the authority to arrest and prosecute the primary aggressor.
The law continues to say:
“The term ‘family violence’ shall not be deemed to include reasonable discipline administered by a parent to a child in the form of corporal punishment, restraint, or detention.”
Although children may be punished with corporal punishment, they can be victims of domestic violence if such corporal punishment is not “reasonable discipline.” Children who witness their parents engaged in a domestic dispute may also be considered victims of family violence and cruelty to children.
The State of Georgia authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest (without a warrant) the primary aggressor at the scene of a family violence dispute. Such arrest, and prosecution, may be made without the consent of the victim. This authority was granted because many victims are reluctant to follow through with legal action against their abusers. The cycle of violence then continues.
The Savannah Police Department takes an affirmative stance against family violence in all forms. Should a primary aggressor be identified, an arrest will most likely be made.
There are many remedies available to the victims of domestic violence. Many shelters have been created, support groups established, counseling services made available, and tough legislation enacted.
The first step, as the victim of a batterer, is to remove yourself (and your children) from the abusive relationship. If you have a nearby friend or relative you may be able to go there, but more appropriate would be your local shelter. Once you are safe, you can take some time to step back and formulate your plan.
Next, it would be advisable to contact a domestic violence organization for assistance through this tough time. You can not do this alone; you will need the guidance and support of experienced professionals. Many advocates are available to help you, and they can be located by using any internet search engine.
Whether or not you decide to stay in the relationship is entirely up to you, but here are some things to consider:
- If you decide to try to work things out, he MUST get counseling. If he refuses help, or continues to batter, it is not recommended that you stay in such a relationship, as each occurrence will continue to get worse.
- File, and follow through with, criminal charges. Whether or not you decide to stay in this relationship, the best deterrent of future incidents is to press charges. Legal action may dictate therapy for the batterer and will also ensure that permanent records are on file.
- If a child is exposed to abuse without recourse, chances are he/she will internalize that this action is OK, and will develop abusive behavior toward others.
- Where you (and your children) are going to reside and for how long.
- You will need to determine your finances; decide whether you will work, or continue work, what types of financial help are available from government or other groups, and what financial benefits did you and your partner have that you are entitled to.
- Legal counsel.
- If the incidents are repetitive or severe, you can apply for a Temporary Protective Order.
WARNING SIGNS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Quite often in an abusive relationship there will be warning signs. An abuser can exhibit any one, or more, of these signs. One thing that will be consistent, however, will be the fact that he uses fear and intimidation to control his victim.
This following list identifies certain behaviors which could indicate the presence of a volatile relationship. Keep in mind that these are warning signs only, and not always indicative that abuse is taking place. You should use judgment before accusing others.
Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship. If your partner displays one or more of the following, you may be the victim of abuse (the word “he” is used throughout this page for ease of reading only):
- Physically Abuse – If he hits you once, it will be easier for him to hit you a second time. Also, if he has physically abused past partners, there is a high probability he will abuse you.
- Verbal Abuse -He may disrespect you by putting you down in front of others, use abusive language toward you, ignore you, or tell you what you should think, feel, and say.
- Extreme Jealousy – Your partner gets angry when you do well, make friends, or want some alone-time. Often he will accuse you of having an affair when you want to go out.
- Multiple Personalities – You may notice that he will be nice one second and then abusive the next. He may be so nice to others that no one could ever believe he’s an abuser.
- Isolation – More often than not, your partner tries to keep you from seeing family and friends. He may discredit their advise or even encourage you to turn against them.
- Threats and Coercion – He often tries to coerce you into doing things that you don’t want to do. If you refuse he may throw a guilt trip, or even manipulate the children. If this does not work, he may progress to threatening harm to you, the children, or other family members. He may even threaten suicide.
- Complete Control – Your partner tries to control your every action. He tells you how to dress, what to eat, who you can and can not see, insists on driving you wherever you want to go, won’t let you see the finances, etc.
- Property Destruction – When he is angry, he will damage things of his and yours.
- Bad Temper – You are afraid of his temper.
- Low Self-Esteem of the Victim – You feel that you deserve bad treatment and that you are lucky to have him in your life.
- Blame – He blames you for the abuse; you caused him to do it. He may even blame you for all of his problems.
- Substance Abuse – Substance abuse and domestic violence are two separate problems. Drugs and alcohol do not cause one to become an abuser, and an abuser does not have to be an addict. More often than not, even though there is no correlation between the two, both problems co-exist within an abusive relationship.
THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
The Cycle of Violence is a series of events that happens in a violent relationship. It starts with an abusive incident, moves its way through the cycle, and then returns to another abusive incident, usually worse then the last one. This cycle can repeat itself hundreds of times in such relationships and each stage can last a different amount of time. The total cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a year or more to complete.
Any type of abuse occurs (physical/sexual/emotional)
Abuser may apologize for abuse
Abuser may promise it will never happen again
Abuser may blame the victim for causing the abuse
Abuser may deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims
Abuser acts like the abuse never happened
Physical abuse may not be taking place
Promises made during “making-up” phase may be met
Victim may hope that the abuse is over
Abuser may give gifts to victim
Abuser starts to get angry
Abuse may begin
There is a breakdown of communication
Victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm
Tension becomes too much
Victim feels like they are “walking on egg shells”