Domestic Violence: What Everyone Needs to Know

Domestic violence is commonly thought of as the little dark secret that occurs behind closed doors and which is not discussed. However, it is this sort of sentiment that facilitates domestic violence by perpetuating ignorance of both the problem and the many resources available to combat the problem. Domestic violence must not remain a secret, as exposing these events and taking action can prevent occurrences and reoccurrences.

Very few people realize how prevalent domestic violence is in our society. Each year over two million people are assaulted by an intimate partner in the United States. Too many people discount the possibility that they will be the victim of domestic violence, but the facts speak for themselves.

In the year 2000, 1,687 people were killed by their intimate partner. Two out of every three women killed with a gun is killed by their intimate partner. Approximately 13% of adult women are victims of completed rapes during their lifetime.

Many people look at those facts and assume that there is something unique about their own circumstances that makes them immune from domestic violence. That sort of “˜it won’t happen to me’ attitude is as bad as ignoring the problem generally. All people are at risk regardless of race, age, or gender.

People of all races are victims of domestic violence. The number one killer of African-American women ages 15-34 is homicide by a current or former partner. Yet in Florida, in the year 2007, more Caucasians received emergency shelter to protect them from domestic violence than any other race group. As for Native Americans, they are victims of rape or sexual assault at more than twice the rate of any other racial group. A study amongst Korean men reported that 18% admitted to committing some act of physical violence against their wife in the past year. 48% of recently immigrated Hispanics reported their partner’s domestic violence increased after moving to the United States. These startling statistics apply to all race groups.

Age is also irrelevant, as people of all age groups are affected by domestic violence. It has been reported that women ages 20-24 are at their peak age to be the victim of domestic violence. Despite this, 1 in 5 female high school students is physically abused by a dating partner. Between 2% and 10% of the elderly are abused (depending on the study you read). Florida domestic violence shelters served more 30-44 year olds than 18-29 year olds in their 2007-2008 fiscal year. Between 3.3 and 10 million children witness domestic violence each year and studies are clear that this has a negative affect on their development. No person is immune from the threat of domestic violence merely due to their age.

Finally, there is the stereotype that only women and children are the victims of domestic violence. Those sorts of widely held misconceptions make it all the more difficult for the roughly 835,000 men in the United States to speak out and get help when they are assaulted by their intimate partner each year.

Stated plainly and simply, domestic violence transcends all race, gender, social, economic, geographic, and age classes; and when it occurs it can ruin lives. When domestic violence occurs in front of children it can permanently scar them, and it increases the chances that they will later commit acts of domestic violence, or be the victim of domestic violence. When adults are involved in domestic violence, it can result in set backs in their careers, losing their homes, and ripping apart their families, not to mention the physical and emotional tolls that result.

Understanding that domestic violence occurs is a start to addressing the problem. However, to combat the problem people must become aware of the resources that are available to assist them.

Florida has enacted over 100 statutes that directly address or apply to domestic violence. The most basic of these is the definition of domestic violence, and the others address issuance of local protective orders, application of protective orders issued by other states, surrender of weapons by a domestic violence offender, and relocation assistance programs.

Perhaps the most important, and least known, piece of Florida legislation is the law that created certified domestic violence centers. Florida has 42 of these centers throughout the state, and all of them offer emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence (including their children). These centers have professionals available to explain resources to victims, they have counseling available, and they are equipped to address training and safety planning for the future. A 24-hour hotline has been established to provide information about these shelters, to counsel individuals who fear domestic violence or who have been the victim of domestic violence, and even to provide information to domestic violence offenders to help stop their cycle of abuse. This hotline number is 1-800-500-1119.

Use of this hotline number is not a substitute for a call to 911 in the event of an emergency. Further, it is not a replacement for seeking the advice of an experienced domestic attorney that can help you seek an injunction against the offender.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence, if you feel that you may be at risk for domestic violence, or if you have been accused of domestic violence, it is imperative that you understand your legal rights. Injunctions can afford domestic violence victims the right to the exclusive use and possession of the mutual residence (meaning that the offender may not come back to the residence, despite the residence being their home). Injunctions can result in requiring the offending party to surrender all of their firearms, can address issues concerning minor children and which parent they will reside with, and can even address temporary support issues.

Most importantly, 86% of women who got a protective order (injunction) reported that their abuse either stopped or was greatly reduced upon the order being entered. This relief should be available to every victim of domestic violence, and it can be if victims consult with qualified attorneys about their rights, their options, and the resources available to them. It is equally important that those who live in fear that they will become the victim of domestic violence contact a qualified attorney, as they should be advised of the actions that they can take to protect themselves against domestic violence, and create a safety plan in the event they become the victim of domestic violence.

Those who have been accused of domestic violence also have rights and should consult an attorney to better understand those rights and how to defend themselves against such accusations. The system is intended to protect victims and those who have been wrongfully accused. These results are most often achieved when both sides are thoroughly informed regarding their rights and available resources.

Written by:

Andrew Windle, Esq.- Associate Attorney at DeWitt Law Firm, P.A.

Andrew can be reached by phone at 407.245.7723, by email at, and by mail at 37 N. Orange Ave., Suite 840, Orlando, FL 32801