The U.S. registers more than ten million cases of domestic violence annually. The latest statistics for domestic violence in Texas show an uptick in the number of homicides related to domestic violence by 23%. Unfortunately, many victims of domestic violence don’t fully understand the crime or their legal rights and protections. Here is a comprehensive guide on what constitutes domestic violence in Texas and how an attorney can help.
It is worth noting that domestic violence in Texas is also referred to as family violence. Domestic violence in The Lone Star State is categorized into three types:
The following actions qualify as domestic violence in Texas:
- Recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally causing the victim physical harm.
- Intentionally or knowingly making verbal threats of physical abuse.
- Engaging in aggressive behavior, involving physical contact, intended as a threat.
The victim of domestic violence can be a former or current partner. They can also include people related to you by blood, family, or adoption.
Aggravated Domestic Assault
Aggravated domestic abuse is domestic abuse that involves the use of a deadly weapon or results in serious physical injury. A serious physical injury is any injury that requires hospitalization or surgery, while a deadly weapon is a weapon that can cause serious bodily injuries or death (such as a gun or baseball bat).
Continuous Violence Against the Family
Continuous violence against the family constitutes at least two domestic assaults committed within 12 months. Assaults against different people within this timespan also qualify as continuous violence against the family.
The Line between Self-Defense & Domestic Violence in Texas
If possible, it is always advisable to defend yourself (and your loved ones) against the offender when under assault. In this case, your actions qualify as self-defense if they meet the following requirements:
- The attack is unprovoked – the other person could claim self-defense and sue you for assault if you do something to provoke the altercation.
- The physical attack is either imminent or in progress.
- You (or the victim) have a legitimate reason to fear for your safety.
- You use proportional force against the victim (for example, punching someone for punching you is justified, but shooting them is not; similarly, shooting someone if they are attacking you with a deadly weapon would be considered reasonable force).
It is advisable to call the police and provide a detailed report as soon as possible after the altercation. You are not legally liable for hurting the attacker if your actions qualify as self-defense.
Can Men be Victims of Domestic Violence?
Most of the victims of domestic violence are women. However, men can be victims of domestic violence, too.
Unfortunately, most men don’t report when abused for several reasons. Most notably, society doesn’t expect a man to be a victim – interestingly, the other spouse’s attorney can leverage this assumption to accuse the man of domestic violence while they were in fact defending themselves against an attack.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself & Your Kids
As explained, it is always advisable to protect yourself and your loved ones against domestic violence. Some of the recommended safety measures include:
Develop a Safety Plan
The first step you should take immediately after experiencing domestic violence (or threats of domestic violence) is to develop a safety plan. Learn how to spot your abuser’s red flags and identify safe areas around the house where you can hide when threatened or attacked.
Most importantly, develop a plan to leave the house at a moment’s notice. In this case, it is advisable to identify safe escape routes, keep a go-bag ready, and have an emergency contact willing to take you in (or somewhere to go in the meantime, such as a discreet motel).
Unfortunately, many victims of domestic violence choose to stay in the abusive relationship for various reasons. However, it is prudent to walk away (for your safety and your loved ones’) if the abuser doesn’t change their abusive ways.
In this case, it is necessary to prepare yourself for the coming change. For example, you should try to put aside some savings or get a job without the abuser knowing. You should also seek help from organizations that shelter victims of domestic violence. It would also be prudent to make your plans to walk away and your new location a secret if the abuser is obsessive or excessively aggressive.
Get a Lawyer
The law can help protect you against your abuser in several ways. For example, you can get a restraining order restricting the abuser from coming close to you. The court can also jail your abuser if their actions warrant it. A domestic violence lawyer can help you file a domestic violence complaint and leverage these and other legal options.
Where Can You Get Help?
There are close to 150 organizations in Texas dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence. They include the Family Violence Program, a state-funded program accessible to all residents. This program provides help in the following ways:
- Providing temporary 24-hours shelter.
- Enlightening victims about their legal rights and options.
- Providing access to legal services.
- Providing access to medical care.
- Facilitating emergency transportation and relocation.
- Providing training for jobs and helping with job searches.
Victims of domestic violence can access this program by calling 800-799-SAFE (7233) or writing an email to [email protected] It is also advisable to call 9-1-1 if you need immediate help.
How Can an Attorney Help Protect You?
As explained, a lawyer can help you utilize the legal resources available to victims of domestic violence. Some of the ways how a lawyer can help include:
Getting a Protective Order
A protective order will require the abuser to maintain a safe distance from you. A lawyer can help you file a temporary or permanent protective order when you decide to walk away.
Filing a Domestic Violence Lawsuit
Victims of domestic violence often suffer physical and psychological trauma. A lawyer can help you file a lawsuit to pursue justice and compensation for the medical expenses and other financial, physical, mental, and emotional hardships you experienced due to the abuse.
Filing for Divorce
Divorce may be inevitable if the abuse persists, and a lawyer can help you file for divorce and represent you in court. Your lawyer will work to get the court to rule in your favor when it comes to issues such as child custody and child support.
Facilitating Communication with the Abuser
While you may wish to cut off all communication with the abuser, communication is necessary throughout the legal proceedings. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it yourself, as your lawyer can act as an intermediary.
What if You Are the Defendant?
Most cases of domestic violence are usually charged with passion and mixed emotions. Additionally, as explained, there is a thin line between domestic violence and self-defense.
As such, one bad decision can make you liable for domestic violence charges, and the charges could also be fabricated in some cases. Either way, it is also advisable to consult a defense attorney specializing in domestic violence.
Let Us Help – Domestic Violence Texas Attorneys You Can Trust!
You don’t have to stay in an abusive relationship. The law can protect you from your abuser, and Stephen T. Bowling: DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys pursue all of your legal options. Our lawyers are very talented and resourceful, and we will pursue all legal avenues to keep you and your loved ones safe. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help.