Domestic violence is believed to be the most common, yet least reported crime in our nation. An estimated 3 to 4 million American women are beaten each year by their husbands or partners. Domestic violence is indeed a serious national problem that has a lasting effect on not only the victim, but their families as well.
Domestic violence is not a disagreement, an anger management issue, or a normal part of an intimate relationship. It is a systematic pattern of abusive behavior with intent to gain and maintain power and control over another person. This includes dating, partner, spousal, and elder abuse, as well as abuse between present or former household members. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their race, religion, age, socio-economic background, level of education, or sexual orientation. Domestic violence is a crime!
Types of Abuse
Abuse is any behavior used to control or intimidate another person and can be verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual in nature.
Emotional / Psychological Abuse: Name-calling, put-downs, threats, stalking, intimidation, degradation, tracking time, isolating victim from family and friends, forbidding victim from working or participating in outside activities, sleep deprivation, interrogation, accusing, using money to control, destroying property.
Physical Abuse: Pushing, shoving, slapping, kicking, punching, biting, restraint, hair pulling, strangulation, pinching, burning, grabbing, shaking, scratching, spitting, using weapons, throwing objects at victim.
Sexual Abuse: Any non-consensual sexual act or behavior, including forced sex, unwanted touching, or sexual degradation.
The Cycle of Violence
The "Cycle of Violence" refers to the pattern that domestic violence tends to follow. There are three distinct phases to the cycle: tension building, acute explosion, and honeymoon.
The tension-building period is usually the longest period of the cycle, and is generally characterized by a high level of stress. For example, the abuser may be moody, sullen, fault-finding, and very critical. He might withdraw affection, belittle his partner, drink or abuse drugs, make threats, or even destroy his partner's personal property. Meanwhile, the victim may attempt to keep her partner calm and placate him, become overly accommodating, agreeable, solicitous and nurturing. She may also become either silent or overly-talkative, withdraw from and avoid family and friends, try to keep the kids quiet and "out of the way", or constantly feel as if she is "walking on eggshells."
The acute explosion period is usually the briefest period of the cycle, as well as the most severe. During an explosion, and abuser might beat, rape, isolate, imprison, or attack his partner with a weapon. He may become extremely verbally abusive or humiliate and publicly degrade his partner. The victim will often try to protect herself in any way she can, attempt to reason with or calm her abuser, call the police, fight back, or leave or attempt to leave.
The honeymoon period might not exist in every abusive relationship, and is often shorter than the tension-building period. The abuser may apologize, cry, and beg forgiveness, make declarations of love, promise to get help, send extravagant gifts, and promise it will never happen again. The victim often accepts the apologies, believing that it will never happen again, and even cancel legal proceedings or appointments with a counselor because the situation "seems to be better."
Violence in a relationship tends to escalate in frequency and severity over time without proper intervention. It typically begins with verbal and emotional abuse and is often not identified as violence. This can escalate to physical and/ or sexual abuse which becomes more violent and life-threatening. We've all been there, relationships can be tough at times, but no one deserves to be emotionally or physically abused! The first step in breaking this cycle is to seek help. There are many agencies available to assist you, including the police. Remember, we are there to help you in anyway possible. Whether you need immediate assistance or you just need someone to talk to about your situation, we are just a phone call away!
Identifying an Abusive Relationship
Does your partner...
put you down, constantly criticize you, or say blatantly cruel, hurtful things?
act in a controlling, jealous manner?
criticize the way you parent your children?
bring up the past to hurt you?
swear at you?
yell and scream at you?
give you the "silent treatment"?
monitor your time?
discourage or prevent you from socializing with friends?
blame you for his/her temper or mood?
discourage or prevent you from seeing your family?
threaten to hurt him/herself if you left?
change moods radically?
threaten to have an affair?
threaten to leave the relationship?
accuse you of having affairs? Of constantly flirting with other men/women?
threaten to take your children away from you?
and Court Proceedings
Understanding your Domestic Violence Rights
What is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is a court order which is intended to protect you from further harm from someone who has hurt you; to keep the abuser away from you, or to stop harassing you, or keep the abuser from the scene of the violence, which may include your home, place of work, or apartment. It is a civil order, and does not give the defendant (the abuser) a criminal record.
What does a Restraining Order Do?
If you are the victim of domestic violence, a judge can sign an order of protection that requires the abuser to obey the law. It is usually very specific. The following are some examples of what can be included in a restraining order:
The abuser can be ordered not to have any contact with you, in person or by phone, at home, work, or almost anywhere you ask the court to put in the order. The order against contact may also protect other people in your family.
The court can order the abuser to leave the house or apartment that you and the abuser share, even if it is in the abuser's name.
Except in the most unusual situations, the court will grant you custody of your minor children. The court can also order the abuser to pay child support and support for you. The abuser may be granted visitation with the children under certain conditions.
The court can order that the abuser pay for costs that resulted from the abuse. Examples of this would include; household bills that are due right away, medical/dental treatment, moving expenses, loss of earnings. The judge can also make the abuser pay for your attorney's fees, and can make the abuser pay damages to you or other people that helped you or got hurt by the abuser.
The judge can order the abuser to receive professional domestic violence counseling, or tell the abuser that he must get evaluated.
The judge can order the police to escort the abuser to remove personal items from the residence or shared place of business, so that you are protected by the police during any necessary contact.
The judge has the power under the law to order anything else that will help protect you, as long as you agree to it.
How do you file a Restraining Order?
Monday through Friday between 8:30am and 3:30pm, except on a holiday, you can go to the Domestic Violence Unit of the Family Division of the Superior Court in Hackensack (201) 646-3506 and apply for the order. Court employees will assist you in filing the necessary paperwork
If it is after the court day, a holiday, or on a weekend, you can go to your local police department to obtain an order. They have all the forms and can contact a judge to get an order that starts immediately. You will be asked to speak to the judge by telephone and explain your situation. He will then make the determination as to issuing, and conditions to be included in the order.
How long does the order remain in effect?
When you first get protection under the law it is only temporary. The order is called a TRO for Temporary Restraining Order. You must return to court on the date indicated in the TRO, which will be about 10 days later. Both you and the abuser will be asked to appear in court on that date. During the 10 day period the police will serve the abuser with a copy of the order, so the abuser will know when the hearing is scheduled. Keep a copy of the order with you and give a copy to the police in any town where you think the abuser might bother you.
What happens in Court?
If you apply for the TRO in the Family Division, you will appear before a judge so you can tell him / her what happened. You will usually appear before a judge without the abuser being present.
When you return to court on the date indicated in your order, the abuser has the right to be present. Both you and the abuser will have the opportunity to tell the judge what happened between you. You are allowed to bring a lawyer to this hearing, but it is purely your choice. At the end of this hearing the judge will determine if you should receive a final order, for how long, and under what conditions.
If the abuser does not appear at the hearing, the judge will either continue the temporary order in effect until the abuser can be brought into court, or will enter a final order if there is proof that the abuser was served with the TRO / Notice to Appear. The police will have proof as to whether the order was served on the abuser. You can not be asked or told to serve papers on the abuser.
If you do not appear, and have not made arrangements with the court to reschedule the case, someone from the court will attempt to contact you by phone at home or work, or they may send you a certified letter if you have no phone. If the court is unable to locate you, your restraining order may be dismissed and you will no longer have the protection granted in the order.
What can you do if the order is violated?
Call the Family Court Domestic Violence Unit if the abuser's only violation is failure to return personal property, failure to pay support or rent, not complying with custody or visitation conditions, or failing to attend domestic violence counseling. In those cases the Family Division will process your request to enforce the order.
If the abuser violates any other parts of the order Call the Police. For some violations (having contact with you or coming to the house) or if the abuser violated the order by committing a crime (stalking you, harassing you, or trespassing), the local police must sign a criminal complaint for contempt.
You do not have to file criminal charges (which are separate from a TRO), but the law does allow you to file them even if you get a restraining order.
Domestic Violence and Police Response
The decision to call the police is sometimes a difficult one to make. Not knowing what to expect from the police once they arrive, might deter you from requesting assistance. We hope the following information will explain what to expect of the police should the need present itself.
Once the officers arrive they will separate each of the parties involved and have them explain their side of the story.
Should either party be injured, medical assistance will be summoned.
If the victim exhibits any sign of obvious physical injury, the abuser will be arrested and criminally charged! (Police will arrest the offender and sign criminal complaints on the victims behalf even if the victim does not want them charged)
The victim will have their domestic violence rights explained to them and asked if they want a temporary restraining order. Should they request one, the judge will be contacted and the victim will be asked to explain the circumstances for their request. Once the request has been granted, the officer will complete the required paperwork and serve a copy to the defendant. The victim will also be asked to provide a written statement.
If the parties reside together, the defendant will normally be granted a limited amount of time to gather personal belongings (This will be done with officers present). The defendant will also be advised that he / she is to have no contact with the victim until after the final hearing.
For further information regarding Domestic Violence: