What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence, also known as intimate partner violence, involves an act of violence specifically against family or a household member. When most people think of domestic violence, they envision women being abused, most of the time by men. However, Tampa statistics, which are in line with national statistics, indicate that men are victims of domestic violence at near equal rates to women; but incidents are reported far less and there are much fewer support services offered to male victims. This is likely because men who report domestic violence can face social stigma and perceptions of weakness. Another possible reason is the belief that the man will automatically be deemed the aggressor in the situation.
Domestic Violence against men is often depicted in the media as excusable because the woman in the relationship is “emotional” or the man was unfaithful. In reality, violence against men can be brought on by no fault of the victim and can occur in many different ways such as:
- Verbal insults and other berating language
- Possessiveness or extreme jealousy
- Controlling his finances
- Isolation from family and friends
- Threatening self-harm as a way to “punish” or guilt him
- Shoving, slapping, or other physical attacks
Thankfully, a local victim’s options for justice are enhanced by the availability of knowledgeable Tampa domestic violence attorneys.
Florida Law on Domestic Violence
Unfortunately, Florida law does not contain a specific named charge for ‘domestic’ assault. However, a Tampa domestic violence charge will carry the same prosecution and penalties as a standard assault charge against a stranger would.
Usually, the first step in pursuing domestic violence remedy is to engage law enforcement. Many men are reluctant to do this as they fear they will be arrested without a fair opportunity to explain their situation. To be honest, this may happen. Police will often arrest one person, unfortunately often the man, in order to diffuse the situation. However, you should promptly retain a Tampa domestic violence lawyer because, after a fact-finding mission, which will include your statement and examination of any visible injury, the district attorney will decide on the best way to pursue charges and who against. Note that many times, once charges have been filed, the district attorney will proceed with prosecution, even if the victim requests to drop charges. Sometimes, these charges can also include damage to property or even be elevated to aggravated assault depending on the specifics of your situation.
During trial, the state will likely utilize your previous testimony and/or photos. Note that even where there is no photographic evidence, a conviction can still be obtained. The severity of sentencing will depend on the seriousness of the offense. Assaults involving use of a deadly weapon or threats of death or serious bodily harm can be charged as felonies.
Remedies for Men Who are Victims of Domestic Abuse in the Tampa Area
Domestic Violence typically can carry criminal and civil penalties; the following remedies are generally available in domestic violence cases:
Criminal Charges – If the victim only sustained minor injuries or the case involves only non-deadly threats, the aggressor may be charged with a misdemeanor assault or battery. However, as mentioned before the charges may be raised based on severity. Felony assault charges can be levied if extreme harm has been caused to the victim. Elevated charges can also apply where the victim is a minor or elderly.
No Contact Orders – If someone is charged with domestic violence, they will likely be ordered to refrain from contacting the victim whether directly or through a third party via a criminal “no contact order”. This order typically includes being required to stay away from the victim’s home or place of work.
If the aggressor makes contact with the person named in a no-contact order, bond can be revoked. This can also invoke charges of witness intimidation or tampering.
Injunctions – Separate and apart from any potential criminal penalties that may result from acts of domestic violence, Florida recognizes the existence of a civil action for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. If issued, the injunction generally will also prohibit the perpetrator from contacting the victim and coming within a specified distance of the victim’s home or place of employment. Some of the differences between a criminal no contact order and a civil injunction are that the victim will be entitled to exclusive use of a shared residence and may be granted sole custody of any children. Civil injunction is temporary and generally is not accompanied by formal criminal charges.
In addition to a standard injunction under Florida law a non-familial victim can also petition for protection with the following specialty injunctions:
- Repeat Violence Injunction – A victim of repeat violence can seek an injunction against the person that causes the violence. For this to be an option, there needs to be at least two occurrences of violence and/or stalking with one occurring within the previous six months. Enforcement of repeat violence injunctions are processed through criminal court.
- Dating Violence Injunction – A victim of dating violence can seek an injunction when violence occurs during an ongoing, intimate relationship, provided that the relationship must have existed within the past six months.
Sentencing or judgments against an aggressor for domestic abuse can include:
- Jail time,
- A restitution order (a payment to compensate the victim for losses related to the abuse such as lost wages, property damage, or medical bills) or
- Mandatory counseling, anger management, or parenting classes.
How Can an Experienced Tampa Bay Domestic Violence Attorney Help?
A domestic violence attorney in the Tampa area will understand local processes and can assess your case, explain the process, answer your questions, keep you informed, and help you determine the best course of action. Here are just a few specific ways an attorney can help:
- Obtaining protective orders. Protective orders require very specific standards to ensure they are granted. A skilled Tampa attorney will be familiar with the petition requirements.
- Advocacy. A local attorney will have presented similar cases throughout Tampa and will be able argue, citing regional standards and customs, on your behalf in court and through written documents.
- Communicate with the defendant. Your attorney will communicate and negotiate with the defendant or their attorney, so you do not have to suffer through with additional tension or abuse.
- Civil Action. An attorney can file a civil lawsuit to help with recovery of medical expenses or financial/emotional loss caused by your abuser.
- Initiate Divorce Proceedings. If your abuser is your spouse, an attorney can help process a divorce, including negotiating spousal support and property distribution.
- Child Custody. If the abuser is also a parent to your child(ren), an attorney can help you work out custody and child support.
The State Attorney’s Office for Tampa Bay and the greater Pinellas County area has implemented a special division to investigate, charge, and prosecute domestic violence offenses, an expert Tampa domestic violence lawyer will be able to guide you through the local process.
What to Do If You’re the Victim of Domestic Abuse
If you are abused, whether it is a one time occurrence or an ongoing problem, you should remove yourself from the situation, contact the authorities as soon as it is safe to do so and seek medical attention, if necessary. Make sure that during your interaction with police you request to file a formal report and take photos where applicable.
Additionally, there are 12 Tampa Bay domestic violence programs that operate shelters and 24-hour hotlines to aid victims.
Domestic violence is a complicated crime that happens primarily in private but can become public very quickly. Unfortunately, this can bring unwanted opinions, advice and judgment from family, friends, and your local community whether you are at fault or not. As a victim of domestic violence it is important that you surround yourself with a good support system and prepare for a potential trying time.
A victim of domestic abuse is still a victim, regardless of gender or proportional size. As a man, of any orientation, you should take violence or threats against you seriously. There are support organizations in every state and if you are unsure of your options or need assistance in getting legal protection, consult a Tampa domestic violence attorney as soon as possible.