How to Stop Domestic Violence FAQs
By John Mascolo, Esq. | Legally reviewed by Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last reviewed May 25, 2023
This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy, clarity, and style by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and attorneys and in accordance with our editorial standards.
The last updated date refers to the last time this article was reviewed by FindLaw or one of our contributing authors. We make every effort to keep our articles updated. For information regarding a specific legal issue affecting you, please contact an attorney in your area.
We can all take steps to stop domestic violence. If you or a loved one are struggling through an abusive relationship, it's important to remember that it's the abuser who needs to change. However, your abuser may be unable or unwilling to change, and you should never have to endure abuse from anyone. Your number one priority should be safety for you and your loved ones.
This article answers commonly asked questions about how to stop domestic violence with helpful tips and resources.
Q: I'm Thinking of Leaving an Abusive Relationship. Where Do I Start?
A: First, plan for your safety. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Or contact your local domestic violence outreach organization to learn more about creating a safety plan. You can also discuss how to approach a friend about your concerns regarding their abusive relationship. There are a number of resources that support victims of intimate partner domestic violence.
Educate yourself about domestic violence and its many forms. Domestic abuse can include sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and psychological abuse. Not every form amounts to a crime. Finding out that you are not alone can also help. Local organizations can direct you to a domestic violence support group.
Q: I'm Afraid To Call the Police. What Happens if I Call?
A: Remember, in any emergency, you should call 911 for immediate assistance. Police, EMS, and other first responders can stop an offender and treat injuries. If someone is hurting or threatening you or a loved one, this is the first step in stopping family violence. Police can separate the abuser from the victim and other household members.
The arrival of law enforcement officers has potential consequences for your abuser. This can include arrest and criminal charges. A criminal case is just the beginning of the criminal justice system's response. A conviction for domestic violence may lead to jail time for an abuser. If the abuser is in the country illegally, it can lead to deportation.
It's important to keep in mind that it was the abuser who engaged in the act of domestic violence. Victims call the police because they need to stop the violence and gain protection from the abuser. Most police officers and prosecutors want to hold violent offenders accountable for their crimes. They will seek your cooperation and take steps to make sure you can provide input at each stage of the case. Staying in contact with the police can be important. In domestic violence cases, abusers often try to contact victims after an incident and try to influence them. Follow-ups by law enforcement can provide ongoing safety to you and your family.
If you do call the police and they respond inappropriately, you may be able to take steps to address such conduct. You can consult with your local domestic violence agency or seek legal advice. Most police departments have a citizen complaint process you can access in such situations.
Q: The Defense Attorney Is Calling Me. What Do I Do?
A: If criminal charges are pending, the defense attorney will engage in a process called “discovery" to help understand the case and defend their client. If the defense attorney contacts you, you can decide how or whether to respond. If you need more information on your options, you can seek legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.
Q: I'm Not Safe at Home. Where Can I Go?
A: If you need to leave a home you share with your abuser immediately, you can call a local domestic violence agency. They can give you information about how to enter the local domestic violence shelter or about confidential programs for safe lodging. Shelters are often full, and you may have to leave your area to find a safe and confidential place elsewhere. As most domestic violence victims are women, many emergency shelters may be designated for single women or women with children.
Q: I'm Still Hurting From Abuse. What Can I Do?
A: Whether you made a police report or not when the abuse happened, you should seek medical treatment from a health care provider. Medical professionals engage in training to help identify and assist violence victims.
Certain injuries from a domestic violence attack may not immediately appear. For example, a victim states that her abuser "choked" her during a fight in their home. Although there were no signs besides some redness after the attack, she now has bruises and trouble speaking. Health care providers follow important protocols to protect a victim's health after a strangulation incident. Serious and sometimes fatal outcomes may occur days later if the victim does not seek treatment.
Your health is vitally important to your quality of life and the lives of the people that depend on you. Medical professionals can also provide referrals to social services and victim outreach programs to help you plan best steps for the future.
Q: I've Left My Abuser. What Can I Do To Stop Them From Coming After Me?
A: A protection order or temporary restraining order is a great legal option that can help to stop domestic violence. This is a court order that says your abuser cannot contact you or come near you, your home, your car, your work, or your school. In certain circumstances, a civil protection order may also permit the court to order child support or spousal support from your abuser.
A protection order doesn't prevent an abuser from stalking or attacking you. However, the mere existence of a protection order tends to increase the urgency in the police response to a victim's 911 call. In most states, police follow pro-arrest or preferred arrest policies for such calls. The elements of the crime of violating a protection order are also easier to demonstrate and prove in court.
An abuser commits a new crime when he violates a protection order. As with domestic violence today, a first offense for violating a protection order may be a misdemeanor. Repeated violations will normally be felonies. If your abuser violates a protection order, the prosecutor may seek for the court to revoke bond. This could mean the abuser returns to jail while the criminal case proceeds.
States today also have different types of protection orders for victims of domestic violence. If a criminal case is pending, the criminal court can issue a protection order that will last until the case ends. If there is no criminal case, or even while a criminal case is pending, a victim can seek a civil domestic protection order that can last for years. In other words, this type of protection order can continue after the end of the criminal case. Protection orders are not only issued for spouses and former spouses. A victim in a dating relationship who has experienced violence can also seek a protection order.
Violation of a civil protection order can be addressed with criminal charges and can also be addressed by contempt of court proceedings before the judge who issued the order.
Q: Does a Protection Order Remain Active if I Leave the State?
A: Yes. Federal law requires that each state provide Full Faith and Credit to a protection order issued in another state. It is a federal crime for an abuser to cross state lines to commit domestic violence or to violate a protection order. Federal law also prohibits an abuser who has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence from having a firearm (gun).
If you believe an abuser has followed you to another state to commit abuse, you can explain this circumstance to law enforcement. If you are concerned that the abuser owns a gun or has access to them, provide this information as well. Besides any state offenses, they may refer your case to the U.S. Department of Justice for any possible federal offenses.
Q: I'm Not the Victim. What Can I Do To Stop Domestic Violence?
A: The best answer to the question of how to stop domestic violence, and the only way to permanently do so, is to end the cycles of control and abuse in relationships. This involves teaching children and others about what healthy and effective partnerships look like. Partners with children may do this by engaging in healthy relationship behaviors and demonstrating these behaviors around their kids.
Each of us can also take more concrete steps in our daily lives to help achieve the goal of ending domestic abuse. Here are examples of such steps:
- Call the police if you see or hear evidence of domestic violence.
- Speak out publicly against domestic violence. This can be as simple as telling someone who jokes about domestic violence that such jokes aren't funny.
- Reach out to your neighbor, co-worker, friend, or family member if you suspect abuse. Refer them to a domestic violence outreach organization if appropriate.
- Educate others on domestic violence by inviting a speaker from your local domestic violence organization to present at your religious or professional organization, civic or volunteer group, workplace, or school.
- Educate and encourage your neighborhood watch or block association to treat domestic violence seriously and raise awareness. This may lead to more intervention with victims and referrals for help.
- Donate to domestic violence programs and shelters.
- Be vigilant about domestic violence during the stressful holiday season within your own extended family. Be vigilant for anyone else who you believe is struggling with domestic violence.
Learn How To Stop Domestic Violence With an Attorney's Assistance
If you're the victim of domestic violence, you can also seek legal help. It's important that you take action to make sure that you're safe and can heal. Consider working with a family law attorney. They can discuss and explain legal processes and options that help you leave your abuser.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.