In anticipation of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (in October 2013), I wanted to take a moment to highlight the seriousness of domestic violence and resources that are available if you or someone you know are a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic violence does not discriminate. There are victims of domestic violence across every age group, race, and gender. It is estimated that 25% of women in the United States has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. Men are also victims but are less likely to report the violence. It has been estimated that approximately 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year. The statistics for teenagers that fall victim to domestic violence are also staggering. The Centers for Disease Control has estimated that each year nearly 1.5 million high school students experience domestic violence from a dating partner.
Often times when we think about domestic violence we only think about physical abuse. But domestic violence is any pattern of behavior in an intimate relationship that is used by one person to gain or maintain power over the other person. Domestic violence also includes sexual, emotional, verbal, economic or psychological abuse.
Sometimes a victim is unable to pursue criminal charges against his abuser in criminal court. When this happens, the victim should know that the family court offers him a remedy.
Article 8 of the Family Court Act gives the family court the power to grant an order of protection where the victim alleges that a “family offense” has occurred. A family offense is any of the following conduct:
- Disorderly conduct (e.g. obscene/abusive language, fighting, threatening behavior)
- Sexual misconduct
- Forcible touching
- Sexual abuse
- Criminal mischief (e.g. intentionally damaging property of another person)
- Menacing (e.g. intentionally placing or attempting to place another person in fear of death or physical injury)
- Reckless endangerment (e.g. conduct that creates substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person)
- Criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation
In order for the family court to have jurisdiction, the conduct described above must have occurred between spouses or former spouses, a parent and child, or between “members of the same family or household.” “Members of the same family or household” include people related by blood or marriage, people who have a child in common, and people who are or have been in an intimate relationship (even if the relationship was not sexual in nature).
In order to seek an order of protection, the victim needs to file a petition with the family court clerk and allege that a family offense has occurred. While this can be done without an attorney, a domestic violence victim should seek assistance from an attorney (or minimally, a domestic violence advocate) so that he has help in navigating through the court system. Contact one of the following groups for help: Equinox, Inc. (518-432-7865), Unity House (518-272-2370) or The Legal Project, Inc. (518-435-1770).