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Understanding Domestic Violence
What is Domestic Violence
It is a pattern of controlling behaviors – violence or threats of violence – that one person uses to establish power over an intimate partner in order to control that partner’s actions and activities. Domestic violence is not a disagreement, a marital spat, or an anger management problem. Domestic violence is abusive, disrespectful, and hurtful behaviors that one intimate partner chooses to use against the other partner.
You may be experiencing domestic violence if your partner is doing any of these or other unwanted behaviors:
- Hurting you physically – slapping, hair pulling, strangling, hitting, kicking, grabbing, excessively squeezing or shaking, twisting your arms, burning you, or intentionally injuring you in any way
- Using your children against you
- Calling you names and hurting you emotionally
- Harming your pets
- Acting with extreme jealousy and possessiveness
- Isolating you from family and friends
- Threatening to commit suicide or to kill you
- Controlling your money
- Withholding medical help
- Stalking you
- Demanding sex or unwanted sex practices
- Hiding assistive devices
- Minimizing the destructive behavior
- Threatening to “out” you if you are Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or transgendered
- Controlling you with “that certain look in his eyes” or certain gestures
If you are a victim of abuse, you are never to blame. It is not your fault.
All of the tactics above are abusive, and some may also constitute a crime under Florida Statutes (see definition).
What is the Florida’s Legal Definition of Domestic Violence?
As defined in law:
741.28 Domestic violence; definitions. --As used in ss. 741.28-741.31: "Department" means the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"Domestic violence" means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.
"Family or household member" means spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit.
"Law enforcement officer" means any person who is elected, appointed, or employed by any municipality or the state or any political subdivision thereof who meets the minimum qualifications established in s. 943.13 and is certified as a law enforcement officer under s. 943.1395.
It’s about your Safety!
Your safety is important and making informed decisions about staying or leaving an abusive relationship is critical to your safety. You are the expert in your own life and the only one who knows what is right and safe for you. Florida’s certified domestic violence centers have trained advocates who are dedicated to assisting you with finding options and developing your safety plan.
Do I Need a Safety Plan?
If you are experiencing domestic violence, you may want to consider developing a safety plan. A safety plan is for:
- individuals living with an abuser – because danger can occur at anytime
- individuals planning to leave – because few abusers allow their partners to leave peacefully
- individuals living away from the abuser – because danger often increases after a survivor leaves or ends the relationship
The trained advocates at one of Florida’s 42 certified domestic violence centers or a hotline advocate at the toll-free statewide hotline – 1-800-500-1119 – can help you plan.
What are Some Safety Tips in the Meantime?
- Identify a safe place to go if an argument occurs – avoid rooms with no exits (bathroom) or rooms with weapons (kitchen).
- Calls for assistance should be made from phones in safe locations.
- If you use email or instant messaging, use a computer and an account your abuser does not know about, or use a more private computer at a trusted friend’s house, a library or an internet café. For more information regarding computer and internet safety: (include the link to internet/computer safety here)
- If someone is threatening you or your children, take the threats seriously.
- Keep important items in a bag with someone you trust. Items include your identification papers/cards, keys, cell phone, bank statements, money, medicine, pictures of the family that include the abuser, proof of income, financial statements, visas, passports, green cards, insurance documents, birth certificates for you and your children, your partners personal information including date of birth, social security number, place of employment, license plate number.
- Change your shopping habits by choosing different grocery stores, retail outlets, etc. and change your travel routes to and from the stores.
- Change your travel routes to work, school, or places you travel to on a regular basis.
- Request confidentiality when working with agencies and religious organizations.
- Establish a code word so that family, trusted friends, teachers, or co-workers know when to call for help.
- Contact your local certified domestic violence center for assistance with safety planning.