How to Recognize Domestic Violence (and Get a Protective Order)

If you or a family member are a victim of family violence, you should seek help immediately. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or if you are unable to speak text LOVEIS to the Hotline at 22522. If you are in the Dallas, Texas area, follow this link to see a list of domestic violence resources, including shelters, near you. In Denton County, Denton County Friends of the Family offers resources. In Collin County, you can find information and useful resources by following this link. And, in Tarrant County additional information is available here. If you live in Texas, but outside of Dallas, you can find a list of domestic violence shelters in every county by clicking here.

Of course, if you are in immediate danger, dial 911.

If you or your family member are a victim of family violence, sexual assault, or dating violence, a protective order can provide you with protection. You should contact law enforcement in your area immediately to begin an application for a protective order. Help is available. You are not alone.

Domestic violence is a serious problem in the US. Roughly one in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence, and/or harassment.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made domestic violence more prevalent. Across the country, reports of domestic violence increased in cities as quarantines and shelter-at-home orders took place. In the city of Dallas, the domestic violence rate rose by 12.5% after the shelter-at-home order was implemented. Denton County witnessed a 61% increase in domestic violence cases in the early weeks of the pandemic compared to 2019.

Domestic violence and abuse can be a vicious cycle that's difficult to escape. This blog covers how to recognize domestic violence, how to report it, and the process for receiving a protective order in Texas.

Recognizing Domestic Abuse and Violence

Domestic violence often occurs in a pattern, commonly referred to as the "cycle of domestic violence" by domestic abuse and law enforcement professionals. According to the National Center for Health Research, the cycle of domestic violence consists of three phrases:

  1. The tension-building phase- the victim feels like they are “walking on eggshells” around the abuser
  2. The abusive incident- the abuser lashes out- physically, or by denying access to necessities
  3. The honeymoon phase- the abuser tries to “make up” for the abuse

Some other domestic violence response organizations break down the cycle further into six phases:

  1. Normal behavior
  2. Fantasy
  3. Set-up
  4. Abuse
  5. Guilt
  6. Excuses

Because the second model is essentially just a more detailed version of the first, that's what we'll be using today. The cycle of domestic violence typically looks something like this:

  1. Normal behavior. The abuser draws their victim in, forming a close relationship with them. Many abusers are exceptionally charming or charismatic and might be well-liked by friends and coworkers or be successful professionally. When the victim first enters the relationship, the abuser "turns up the charm," doing everything they can to entrap the victim.
  2. Fantasy. At this point, the abuser begins to fantasize about enacting abuse. This also often coincides with increasingly controlling behavior. For example, the abuser may push the victim to move in with them or start insisting that the abuser not hang out with their friends. The abuser may use psychological manipulation to isolate the victim, such as suggesting that the victim's friends aren't good friends and that the abuse is just trying to look out for or protect the victim from isolating them.
  3. Set-up. In the set-up phase, the abuser starts creating situations in which they try to justify abuse. They may be increasingly volatile or get angry over issues that didn't previously bother them (such as unwashed dishes or certain social behaviors).
  4. Abuse. The abuser lashes out and commits an act of abuse, marking the apex of the cycle of domestic abuse. Frequently, the abuse escalates in severity as more cycles of abuse occur. For example, the first instance of abuse might involve the abuser yelling at the victim or slapping them. The second instance of abuse may escalate to punching or choking. As soon as you experience family violence, even if the abuser tells you it wasn’t intentional, you should seek help from law enforcement and consider applying for a protective order. You should take these steps even if the abuser appears remorseful.
  5. Guilt. Most abusers experience guilt, but not because they care about their victims. Instead, most abusers fear the consequences of being caught and thus feel remorse for their actions. The abuser may try to apologize to their victim, promising them that things will be different in the future. This leads us to the final step in the cycle.
  6. Excuses. The abuser often tries to shift responsibility or blame to the victim. They may try to blame the abuse on extrinsic factors, such as stress at work or anger issues. They do anything they can to convince the victim that things will be different and to remain in the relationship.

Once the cycle finishes, it's often followed by a "honeymoon" period leading into the next phase of "normal behavior." The abuser may be exceptionally kind or loving in an attempt to make the victim stay with them. Once the abuser is confident the victim won't leave, the "normal behavior" phase will begin to shift into the "fantasy" phase again, and the cycle repeats.

Here are some common signs of an abusive relationship:

  • You might:
    • Feel afraid of your partner
    • Avoid acting a certain way around them for fear it will set them off
    • Feel emotionally drained or helpless
    • Wonder if you deserve the abuse, or if you're blowing things out of proportion
    • Feel like no matter what you do, nothing's good enough for your partner
  • Your partner might:
    • Humiliate you constantly, even for little things
    • Make you embarrassed for enjoying things or interacting with others
    • Put down your achievements and accomplishments
    • Prevent you from seeing other people or limit your access to items like a car, a phone, money, etc.
    • Threaten to harm you
    • Have an unpredictable temper
    • Engage in acts of physical violence

You can learn more about common signs of domestic abuse by following this link. If the cycle of abuse or any of the above characteristics applies to you or a loved one's relationship, you should seek help immediately. If your case qualifies and there is a likelihood of family violence in the future you should also begin the process of filing for a protective order to protect yourself or your loved one.

How to Report Domestic Violence and Receive a Protective Order in Texas

You can apply for a protective order for yourself or any other member of your family or household in Texas if:

  • Family violence has occurred and
  • Family violence is likely to occur in the future.
  • Family Violence includes acts against family or household members as well as dating violence and certain forms of child abuse.

If you meet the above criteria and are in danger of suffering from further abuse or don't have access to transportation, you should contact local law enforcement immediately. A law enforcement professional will assist you by connecting you with local resources and may also be able to take you to the county courthouse, where you can apply for a protective order for yourself or your family member.

If you are not in immediate danger and have access to transportation, you can go to your local District Attorney’s office and file for a protective order. Resources like family violence shelters can also help you apply for a protective order.

Upon arriving at the courthouse, you can apply for a protective order. You will fill out paperwork and an affidavit will be drafted letting the Judge know what has been going on. A protective order requires a hearing and a judgment to finalize. To protect yourself in the interim, you will first apply for a temporary ex parte protective order. To qualify for this order, the Judge has to find a clear and present danger of family violence after reading an affidavit you will swear to detailing the incidents of family violence. The ex parte protective order can include provisions requiring the respondent to remain a certain distance from you at all times, and will last until a hearing for the protective order can be arranged within 14 days. In certain circumstances, and only after you appear before the Judge in open court, the ex parte protective order can include an order that the abuser move out of the residence to allow you to live there safely. At the hearing, the judge listens to the alleged victim (called the applicant) and the alleged abuser (called the respondent). If you have an attorney, the attorney will help you prepare your case and present it to the court. The judge will then make a final decision to grant or deny the protective order. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the protective order could last two years, or, if certain factors are present, the Judge could order that the protective order last for a period of time that is more than two years.

At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we help victims of domestic violence and abuse receive the legal representation they deserve.

Contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313 to learn more.

Categories: