By: John P. Paone, Jr., Esq. and Megan S. Murray, Esq.
Domestic violence is a crime which is blind to sex; class; race; and religion. Victims of domestic violence can be male or female; young or old; rich or poor; and married or single. Regardless of our backgrounds or social standing, many of us know someone who has been the victim of domestic violence, whether it be by a spouse; a family member or a significant other. In New Jersey, an act of domestic violence happens every 7.29 minutes. In 2014, the Ray Rice altercation with his fiancée at the Revel Hotel in Atlantic City made national news and raised awareness to domestic violence as a scourge to be eliminated from our society.
Domestic violence can take many forms. While the most obvious form of domestic violence involves cases of physical abuse, domestic violence can also be committed through other, less obvious means. Domestic violence can take the form of emotional abuse, where the victim is demeaned; degraded and subjected to constant bullying by the other party rising to the level of harassment. Domestic violence can also take the form of subtle actions on the part of the perpetrator—for example, stalking by an ex-significant other who makes his or her unwanted presence known at odd hours and in places where not welcomed by the victim.
For those who have never been a victim of domestic violence, it seems incomprehensible to believe that an individual would allow themselves to be the victim of abuse without taking any action to stop the abuser. However, for multiple reasons and based on the specific circumstances in each case, victims may rely on what they see as rational justifications for allowing the abuse to continue. For example, a dependent spouse may decide not to report an incident of domestic violence because of fear that it could impact upon the spouse who is the abuser’s job and thereby jeopardize the financial wellbeing of the family unit. An individual without a support system may believe the promises of the abuser that he or she will never commit an act of abuse again. Many victims also believe the arguments of the abuser that the abuse was instigated and caused by the victim. Experts have written on the “cycle of domestic violence” starting with the tension building phase – to the acute battering episode – to the honeymoon phase – with the cycle continuing over and over again, with the victim staying in the abusive relationship.
If you believe that someone has been the victim of domestic violence, offer your support to that individual, as opposed to passing judgment. The more that victims of domestic violence believe that they are not alone, the more likely they are to stand up to their abusers and to take steps to ensure that the abuse will not continue. If you are the victim of domestic violence, call the police as all police departments now receive special training to ensure that domestic violence victims are properly protected. For further information, there is the non-profit organization “180 Turning Lives Around” which offers information; guidance; and protection to victims of domestic violence in New Jersey. The website for this invaluable organization is http://180nj.org.
New Jersey law prohibits the infliction of domestic violence on another individual. Domestic violence is unacceptable in any form. If you have questions about domestic violence, you should speak with an attorney to understand your rights and understand the steps you can take to protect yourself and to free yourself from abuse.