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Domestic Violence Lawyer

Domestic violence is a serious and challenging problem that results in over 1,500 deaths in the U.S. and as many as 200 in Florida each year. It is an epidemic that destroys families and does irreparable harm to partners and children. 

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is not an isolated incident, but rather a pattern of controlling behavior that one person uses to establish power and domination over an intimate partner. This behavior involves violence or the threat of violence, and is abusive, disrespectful, and hurtful. 

Some examples of domestic violence include:

  • Intentional physical abuse, such as slapping, hair pulling, strangling, hitting, kicking, grabbing, excessive squeezing or shaking, arm twisting, and burning
  • Using your children against you
  • Name calling, degradation, and threats
  • Controlling behavior such as restricting computer use 
  • Harming a partner’s pets
  • Threatening or intimidating behavior
  • Extreme jealousy and possessiveness
  • Isolating a partner from family or friends
  • Threatening suicide or murder
  • Withholding money or the ability to obtain employment
  • Stalking
  • Demanding sex or unwanted sexual practices
  • Minimizing destructive and violent behavior

These behaviors may constitute a crime under Florida law. A victim of domestic abuse is never considered to be at fault or to blame.

How Domestic Violence Affects Children

In homes where domestic violence occurs, as many as 87 percent of the children living there witness it, according to Florida’s Dependency Benchbook. Each year, between seven and 14 million children are being exposed to violence against a parent or caretaker by other family members, and the physical abuse or neglect of children in these homes is estimated to be between nine and 15 times higher than the national average. 

Here are some of the ways that children can be harmed by domestic violence:

  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Injuries sustained when trying to intervene to protect an adult victim
  • Violence or threats of violence toward them that are used to control an adult victim

Research shows that children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to exhibit aggressive, antisocial, or risk-taking behaviors, and they also frequently experience low self-esteem, academic problems, depression, eating disorders, drug use, alcoholism, and become involved in crime. Children exposed to domestic violence tend to have problems as severe as those who are physically abused themselves. In Florida, approximately seven percent of the victims of domestic homicide were children killed by a parent.

Unfortunately, a finding of domestic violence can also be detrimental to children because although the abuser might be removed from the household, they often try even harder to maintain control by resisting attempts at removal and refusing to comply with legal mandates. 

Help for Victims of Domestic Violence

Although victims of domestic violence may need to leave their abuser for safety, there is evidence that separation and a restraining order are often not enough to eliminate their risk for harm, and the intensity of the violence often escalates. For this reason, it is important for victims to develop an action plan that includes relocation to a victims’ shelter or some other safe environment and filing a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence.

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) operates 42 certified domestic violence centers to provide crisis intervention and support services to adult victims and their children free of charge. Services provided include:

  • Information and referral 
  • Counseling 
  • Case management
  • Emergency shelter
  • 24-hour crisis and hotline services
  • Child assessment
  • Professional training
  • Community Education
  • Safety planning

Many centers also provide legal and court advocacy, transportation, relocation assistance, life skills training, transitional housing, daycare, outreach services, and rape crisis intervention. There are also a number of domestic violence support groups in Florida that address relationships, trauma, empowerment, self-esteem, and surviving domestic violence.

Accused of Domestic Violence? Steps You Can Take

When the police are called to investigate a domestic related offense in Florida, an arrest will very likely be made, even if the victim doesn’t want to press charges. If you have been accused of domestic violence, here are some guidelines on how to proceed:

  • Confirm your identity when asked, but do not volunteer any information.
  • Be as cooperative as possible.
  • Don’t agree to make or sign a written statement until you’ve spoken with an attorney.
  • If you are released by a judge, take care not to violate any of the specified conditions of release – e.g. don’t contact the victim, return home, or possess any weapons.
  • Contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Florida courts routinely order convicted abusers to enroll in and complete a Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP) as a mandatory condition of their probation. The BIP is a six-month intensive program designed and monitored by the DCF that addresses the root causes of domestic violence to help prevent future acts of violence. 

Contact an Experienced Florida Domestic Violence Attorney Today

Whether you are a victim of domestic violence or you are being accused of battering an intimate partner, you need skilled legal representation. Vero Beach Florida Attorney Susan Chesnutt learned system from inside out –  as a child of abusive parents, a foster child, a social worker, a DCF investigator, a prosecutor, and now as a private attorney with a child-welfare centered practice. For help with domestic violence issues, contact our firm online or call 772-492-3330 today.