Eric J. Dirga, P.A.

A Florida Trial Attorney

Criminal Record Expungements/Sealings, Traffic Defense.

733 West Colonial Drive, Orlando 32801 - 407-841-5555

Domestic Violence Awareness

What No Government Agency Will Tell You

Eric J. Dirga, P.A., Orlando, FL - Call (407) 841-5555

In order to defend yourself from domestic violence and the false accusations of it you need to understand the law. Domestic abuse is a serious problem between couples. The typical situation involves a live-in relationship between two people. One partner enters into an escalating cycle of violence with the other person. The other person does not understand that he or she can leave the situation. The reasons for both parties actions are psychological. However, there is a huge difference between what is true domestic violence and what Florida law proclaims to be domestic violence. Know the signs and protect yourself if you think you are about to become a victim.

Know the Signs of True Domestic Violence

Domestic violence awareness is critical in the effort to stop the abuse associated with it. Domestic violence is defined as a psychological cyclical "pattern" of abuse. The cycle of violence is an intricate part of the behavior known as domestic violence. Understanding the cycle of violence is key to protecting yourself from the physical abuse and violence that occurs. Unfortunately, today the shift has been to any act of violence between family members or people involved in a relationship. This broadening of the definition has placed true victims into a blurry mass of people whose motives are suspect.

The Cycle of Violence

The cycle of violence is a social cycle theory developed by Lenore Walker to explain patterns of behavior in an abusive relationship. Her terms the battering cycle and battered woman syndrome has since been largely eclipsed by cycle of abuse and, battered person syndrome due to the application of her theory to a broader segment of society. However, the pattern she developed still applies.

The phases of Lenore Walker's cycle are illuminating and are a good start point for anyone that is concerned they are in an abusive relationship:

  • (1) Tension Building: This phase occurs prior to an overtly abusive act, and is characterized by poor communication, passive aggression, rising interpersonal tension, and fear of causing outbursts in one's partner. During this stage the survivor may attempt to modify his or her behavior to avoid triggering their partner's outburst.
  • (2) Acting Out: Characterized by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents. During this stage the abuser attempts to dominate his/her partner (survivor), with the use of domestic violence.
  • (3) Reconciliation or Honeymoon Phase: Characterized by affection, apology, or, alternatively, ignoring the incident. This phase marks an apparent end of violence, with assurances that it will never happen again, or that the abuser will do his or her best to change. During this stage the abuser feels overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness, or at least pretends to. Some abusers walk away from the situation with little comment, but most will eventually shower the survivor with love and affection. The abuser may use self-harm or threats of suicide to gain sympathy and/or prevent the survivor from leaving the relationship. Abusers are frequently so convincing, and survivors so eager for the relationship to improve, that survivors who are often worn down and confused by longstanding abuse, stay in the relationship. Although it is easy to see the outbursts of the Acting-out Phase as abuse, even the more pleasant behaviours of the Honeymoon Phase perpetuates the abuse because the survivor then sees that the relationship isn't all bad.
  • (4) Calm Period: During this phase (which is often considered an element of the honeymoon/reconciliation phase), the relationship is relatively calm and peaceable. However, interpersonal difficulties will inevitably arise, leading again to the tension building phase.

The Battered Person Syndrome

The Battered Person Syndrome has now come to describe a person suffering from an abusive relationship. It is a physical and psychological condition of a person who has suffered (usually persistent) emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from another person.

When Battered Person Syndrome (BPS) occurs the repeated cycles of violence and reconciliation can result in the following beliefs and attitudes:

  • The abused thinks that the violence was his or her fault.
  • The abused has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
  • The abused fears for their life and/or the lives of their children (if present).
  • The abused has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.

The one common thread through most of these studies is that they involve people involved in an emotional relationship such as boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, same sex couples. Strangely, Florida law has inexplicantly broadened this to include brother/sister, brother/brother, sister/sister, or any two blood relatives or relatives by law.

False Accusations of Domestic Violence

Most charges accusing someone of domestic violence are either false because the victim is upset or vindictive or the victim is confused or ignorant regarding how the law works. The typical situation is the latter.

Girlfriend/Wife Wants You Out of The House

You went out with the boys, against your spouse's wishes, and came home after drinking. The smell of alcohol and the late time of your return is the last straw. Now, at some early morning hour when you are tired and just want to sleep, your wife decides it is time to talk about it. The problem is obvious but emotions are in control. She yells and you yell back. You decide to leave and things get worse. She, not knowing what else to do, calls the police.

She Thinks The Police Will Help

You can't blame her. She honestly believes the police will arrive and calm the situation down and either leave with both reconciled or having you stay the night at a friends to sleep it off. No one in this situation wants domestic violence charges filed. Unfortunately, the belief that the police are there to help resolve domestic squabbles is misplaced.

The Police and Prosecutors are Tasked to Charge People With Domestic Violence and Prosecute Them

The government has made domestic violence charges a priority. Federal grant money flows to law enforcement for prosecuting domestic violence cases. If you dial 911 and call the police, you have to realize that someone is very possibly going to jail. It can be the person that is the reason for the call or the person placing the call. There is no more "cooling off period" when it comes to domestic violence.

The reason for these false arrests is money. Since the beginning of the program in 1994 the act has funneled billions of dollars to local law enforcement. However, these agencies are tasked with providing results - that means more arrests. Add to that the very broad definition of domestic violence that the Florida Legislature created that goes well beyond the psychological (true) definition.

For those who are truly being abused this is a great step towards minimizing domestic violence in our society. However, many prosecutor's offices now push to find everyone accused of domestic violence to be guilty of domestic violence even when the accusation was emotionally exaggerated. Very often a clarification of the original victim statement can clear up what seems to have been a domestic violence offense.

Defending Yourself From Domestic Violence and False Accusations

If you think you are a victim of domestic violence or may be falsely accused of domestic violence I suggest that you take the following precautions:

  1. Keep a paper pad and pen with you. Whenever you have contact with the person abusing you write down the date, time, place, and what happened.
  2. Chapter 934 of the Florida Statutes makes it a crime to record another person's oral statements without their express permission. However, if you feel that you are being threatened, verbally abused, or physically abused, buy a recording device to keep with you and to turn on if you feel violence is eminent. The law requires that you have a person's permission prior to recording them. Send this person a letter (via certified mail) that is dated indicating that you will be recording them in your presence. Indicate that you will consider it their permission to record them whenever they voluntarily approach you or make contact with you. Keep a copy of this letter and all paperwork regarding the certified mailing.
  3. Keep all emails, texts, and voice messages from the person you are afraid of. If the voicemail remains for only a specific amount of time, try to record it to another more permanent medium.
  4. If you really feel threatened contact the police. The evidence you have collected will help with your case. Write a statement. Even if they cannot pursue it you have left a paper trail of your concerns. Consider obtaining an injunction from the Court against the threatening person.
  5. If you believe you are facing the potential for false accusation of Domestic Violence all the above actions will help with your defense.
  6. If you believe you are a victim or may be falsely accused of domestic violence - get out of the relationship. It will not get better.

We cannot minimize the dangers of true domestic violence by simply saying all household violence is domestic. We need common sense. Government is not the answer to solving the problem of domestic violence in our society as we can see by their wide net approach. We all need to become domestic violence aware. We need to know what to look for and what is and is not true domestic violence. By focusing our resources on only the true domestic violence cases we can do much more towards ending this crime.

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