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Do Other Types Of Abuse Count As Domestic Violence?

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More and more, society is moving away from a definition of domestic violence that includes only physical abuse. Doctors and scientists are gradually beginning to realize that intimate partner violence is primarily about control, and control can be exerted in multiple different ways, from emotional to financial. However, many state legislatures are proving slow to catch up, and Florida’s is unfortunately one of them. As of this writing, the state’s domestic violence statute only classifies physical abuse as legal grounds to try someone for the crime. However, that does not mean that evidence of other types of abuse cannot play a role in a criminal case on the issue.

Physical Violence Is Not The Only Predictor

Florida’s domestic violence statute defines it as any criminal offense that results in “physical injury or death” to a “family or household member” of the alleged perpetrator’s. This generally includes spouses, ex-spouses, unmarried co-parents, family related by blood or marriage, and anyone else who is or was residing together with the perpetrator as a family. The statute is, thus, fairly explicit that physical violence of some kind is required for the abuse to fall under the umbrella of domestic violence law.

However, this does not reflect what we currently know about domestic violence in general. For example, data from the Lethality Assessment Program from the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) shows that for roughly one-third of victims, homicide or attempted homicide is the first physically violent act in the relationship, and in general, violent partners have repeated records of a concept known as coercive control – essentially, currently legal methods of stalking, harassing, and otherwise threatening a victim into compliance with their wishes.

What Options For A Victim?

While as of this writing, Florida has very few laws that regulate coercive control behaviors, a victim does have some options. Florida’s anti-stalking statute makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to harass someone – that is, to cause someone significant emotional distress for no legitimate purpose. Alternatively, it may be possible for a victim to obtain an injunction against their alleged abuser, even if it is not specifically a domestic violence injunction (DVI).

Florida has passed a bill known as “Greyson’s Law,” which would establish coercive control behaviors as a reason for a DVI to be granted, after a young boy tragically killed by his father in 2021. The father had not committed any overt acts of physical violence against the boy or his mother, so Florida’s courts did not take action against him until he took his own life and Greyson’s in a murder-suicide. The law took effect in July 2023, but has not yet been really tested.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

While legislatures are slow to change, the fact is that change is happening. If you have been involved in a domestic violence case, a West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can protect your interests and ensure you get your fair day in court. Call our office today at 561-721-0552 to speak to an attorney.

Source:

flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2021/741.28

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