When most of us think about the term “domestic violence,” images of a husband beating his wife are what usually come to mind. But domestic violence also occurs in many other situations. For example, it can occur between individuals who have a child in common or people who have lived together at some point.
The impact of domestic violence on society is simply staggering. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
- One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
- One in 33 men has experienced an attempted or completed rape.
- An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
- The majority (73 percent) of family violence victims are female. Females were 84 percent of spousal abuse victims and 86% of abuse victims at the hands of a boyfriend.
- The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
In many cases, domestic violence is also an “enhancer” that is attached to a number of charges, battery being the most obvious.
(Note: In legal terms, the “enhancement” of a criminal penalty means the increase of punishment, such as by increasing a jail sentence. This type of enhancement might be affected when the criminal's motive is found to be particularly depraved.)
But this “enhancer” can also be applied in cases that aren’t violent, such as instances of disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is defined as a person being engaged in some type of behavior that’s hindered or caused to provoke a disturbance. It could be the use of profanity, for example.
The domestic violence enhancer gives the court the ability to put the offender on probation for a longer period of time. It may also include a federal firearm prohibition that can be attached to it down the road.
If you are involved in some type of abusive relationship or domestic violence case, disorderly conduct, battery or harassment of some type, the law provides more than just criminal remedies. The situation doesn’t just have to include striking or hurting. It can just be something requiring intervention by law enforcement.
When domestic abuse happening, there are civil remedies as well. One can be a temporary restraining order or the possibility of a four-year injunction. Depending on how your case is filed or how the court would approve it, the abuser might not be allowed any personal contact with you. Then, if he or she violates the restraining order or injunction, they would be subject to additional criminal penalties.
Should you or a friend or loved one fall victim to domestic violence, use common sense. Protect yourself! This means:
- Call law enforcement. Don’t hesitate. Regrettably, many victims of violent acts tend to not report because they fear retribution or they worry about the effects it will have on their significant other. They rationalize, “Oh, well, it wasn’t such a big deal.” Call law enforcement to intervene because criminal charges may be warranted.
- Avail yourself to the openings that Victim/Witness Assistance Program has in the district attorney’s office in whichever county you live in. Typically, they have victim witness specialists who will assist you in the filing of a petition or temporary restraining order. (In Milwaukee County, the phone number to call is (414) 278-4667.)
- Check out other third party groups that can help domestic violence abuse victims such as Sojourner Family Peace Center, the Milwaukee Women’s Center, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, and Pathfinders.
Above all, don’t ignore domestic violence because the consequences can be deadly.