Domestic Violence

A woman is pulled from her bed by her ankle at 5 am by her husband and dragged across the floor, and is beaten and bloodied because she didn’t have his favorite shirt ironed for him to wear that morning. Another woman is followed by her husband everywhere she goes. He checks her cell phone to see who she’s spoken to, and when he’s feeling particularly jealous he takes her car keys away and keeps her prisoner in their home. A man’s wife is a verbally abusive, physically violent alcoholic, and threatens that “if I can’t have you, no one will” whenever he talks about ending the marriage.

More than 1,300 women are murdered each year in the United States by their current or former husbands, boyfriends or domestic partner. Florida holds the dubious distinction as the nation’s leader in murder-suicides. And for every woman that is killed, eight more are seriously injured in a domestic assault. Men can also be the victims of domestic violence by their wives, and same-sex domestic violence is very real, though under-reported.

Without question, according to experts, the single best indicator of future fatal or near-fatal domestic violence is prior incidents of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a progressive cycle that escalates over time. There are a number of factors which are known indicators for lethal domestic abuse, including: suicidal behavior or history threats to kill you, your children, other family members or your previous intimate partners, psychological problems or mental illness, if they have recently suffered a job loss or other major life stress, obsessive and jealous behaviors like stalking and incessant phone calls, flying into a rage at the mere suggestion that you want to end the relationship, previous history of domestic violence, substance abuse, gun ownership, unwanted sexual contact, and injuring pets.

Taken individually, any one of these may not be enough to raise an alarm. But when found in combination, there is cause for genuine concern and grounds for taking immediate action. The presence of “morbid, obsessive possessiveness”, extreme jealousy, rage or depression over separation, an increase in the frequency of violence, stalking, death threats, perceived betrayal, particularly in conjunction with major life changes such as unemployment, are a recipe for lethal domestic violence. Studies have shown that the moment of attempted or actual separation from the relationship is the most dangerous time of all.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to leave an abusive relationship. You need as much support during this traumatic time as you can get. No one deserves to be victimized and abused. You must develop an escape plan that ensures your safety. After securing yourself, you should contact law enforcement and report the crime. The State Attorney’s office will prosecute with your cooperation. In addition, you can obtain a civil Injunction at the courthouse. There is a domestic violence intake office that will assist you in filling out the forms. It may be helpful to consult an experienced family law attorney in advance to get some expert guidance on what to say in the Petition for Injunction. Certain requirements have to be met for the Injunction (often referred to as a restraining order) to be granted.

Women in Distress of Broward County, (www.womenindistress.org) is an invaluable local agency that assists women who are the victims of domestic violence. Their 24-hour emergency number is 1-800-500-1119. The Gay and Lesbian Community Center, (www.glccsf.org) serves the gay and lesbian community in Broward County, and has a support group for the survivors of domestic violence. The GLCC’s hotline is 954-761-1133.

Domestic Violence is a crime. But it has to be reported in order for you to get the help and protection that you need. Call 911 and report domestic violence, the very first time that it happens. You may just be saving your own life.

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