Domestic violence is one of society’s darkest and best kept secrets. Domestic violence can and does occur between family members and often with tragic results.

How Does California Define Family Violence?

Family violence or domestic violence – both terms are correct – is defined as the mistreatment of one family member by another to gain power and control.  It can and often does include any and/or all: physical abuse, including slapping, choking, punching and kicking; emotional abuse, including threatening, hurling insults and yelling; sexual abuse, including unwanted touching, rape or incest; neglect, including refusing to give money for food, hiding the keys to the family car, locking one into a section of the house with limited resources and more.

Protecting the Family

Domestic violence hurts every member of the family. This is without fail and that damage is never forgotten. It changes the entire familial dynamic and while family members can heal, it does shape who they ultimately become.

Add to this the possibility of the abuser spending time in jail or prison, and it can up the guilt factor tremendously. Other family members can blame the victims for sending another family member to jail and those are burdens they carry for many years, if not the entirety of their lives.

There are opportunities, however, to ensure an easier path forward after domestic violence has ripped apart a family. California domestic violence laws are clear and can take that burden off the victims and pursue charges even if the victim takes a step back. Courts learned years ago that recanting isn’t about a victim saying it didn’t happen, but rather, it’s a safety mechanism and sometimes part of a threat of, “If you don’t drop charges, I’ll…” Since the newer laws, it’s become easier to come forward.

Younger Children

Since most families have younger children, it’s not uncommon for them to witness the abuse. California statistics reveal up to 90 percent of children in abusive homes are very much aware of the violence. If not addressed, they can grow up with emotional, behavioral and physical problems that last for a lifetime. Many adults who suffer from depression; anxiety; violence toward peers; suicide attempts; drug & alcohol abuse and more can trace at least some of the important points in time to an abusive childhood home.

It can also be dangerous for younger children since they are sometimes caught in the line of fire. Unaware that the child is close enough to be hit, batterers inadvertently injure him or her. Worse, some abusers deliberately inflict pain on a child to “get even” with the victim or to assert control of the victim. Studies show that boys raised in abusive homes are twice as likely to become abusers and girls are twice as likely to become victims at the hands of their own intimate partners after they reach adulthood.

Help for Domestic Violence in California

To be sure, it’s a dark and vicious cycle. For those in this cycle and wish to leave, there is help available. Many Los Angeles family agencies, and certainly agencies in California, are equipped to handle the immediate needs and concerns of those fleeing abuse. If you are planning your get away, be sure to bring a trusted family member into what should be a very, very close group of trust people. This can help other family members from worrying about you once you leave. Make extra keys, stash important papers (insurance, birth certificates, any legal papers you might need) away, pack a suitcase and leave elsewhere so that you don’t raise suspicions. Reach out. It is never easy, but for so many, it’s the best decision they can make to protect themselves and their children.