The Importance of Domestic Abuse Victims and Speaking Their Truth
Of all my clients, I would say that domestic abuse victims are the most emotional and hard to hear. They are also difficult as many domestic abuse victims harbor much guilt about filing charges against their abuser. This is especially true when there are children involved and the abuser will most likely be incarcerated for a period leaving the children without that parent. In Arkansas, domestic violence crimes are penalized based upon the level of injury suffered by the victim. The minimum charge is for third-degree domestic battering, a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Second-degree domestic battering is a Class C felony, which could result in a maximum prison sentence of ten years. Finally, first-degree domestic battery, a class B felony, carries up to 20 years in prison. The differing degrees are defined by Arkansas law as:
- Third-degree domestic battering is committed when:
- Physical injury occurs while intending to cause such injury,
- Recklessness causes physical injury,
- Physical injury occurs when a deadly weapon is negligently used, and/or
- An intentional physical or mental impairment is caused by the administration of a drug or other substance without that person’s consent.
- Second-degree domestic battering is committed when:
- Serious physical injury occurs while intended to cause physical injury,
- Physical injury is inflicted by use of a deadly weapon while intending to cause such injury,
- Reckless use of a deadly weapon causes serious physical injury, and/or
- When the victim is 60 or more years of age or 12 years of age or younger and physical injury is knowingly caused to a household or family member.
- First-degree domestic battering is committed when:
- Serious physical injury occurs due to use of a deadly weapon by while intending to cause such an injury,
- Serious permanent disability or disfigurement results from the intent to cause such an injury,
- When an extreme indifference to the value of human life is demonstrated by the abuser and serious physical injury results, and/or
- When the abuser knows the household or family member to be under the age of 13 or over 60 and serious physical injury occurs.
Additionally, in all situations, whether the violence is considered to be first-, second-, or third-degree, the punishment is far stiffer if the abuser either knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant or if the abuser has a prior domestic battering conviction within the previous specified years for that particular degree of battering.
You may have noticed verbiage such as, “household or family members” was used throughout. That is because Arkansas domestic violence laws apply to them specifically. They are defined as:
- A spouse – this includes both current and former
- Parents and children
- Those related by blood
- A child living in the household
- Those that previously or currently live together
- Couples that have a child together
- Those either currently or formerly in a dating relationship. The term “dating relationship” can be a bit ambiguous, so a court considers the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interactions between those involved.
Anyone can become a victim of domestic violence. Victims include all genders, ages, and abilities. Many people often believe that abuse victims are only poor, uneducated women. This couldn’t be further from the truth as abuse is found in all social and economic classes for all genders.
As I mentioned in the beginning, domestic abuse victims are reluctant to press charges and/or testify in court. However, it is important that they do so to avoid having their case dismissed. Moreover, possibly a more important reason to testify and press charges is so the victim can finally have his or her voice heard to speak their truth. Often times, this alone gives the victims confidence in themselves to move forward and know that the abuse is not their fault.
Kevin Hickey Law Partners will help you prepare the case and gather evidence, file the appropriate paperwork to get help and protection immediately, and present your side of the story to the courts. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation. Our River Valley office number is 479.434.2414 and our Northwest Arkansas number is 479.802.6560. If you are a domestic abuse victim, you are always encouraged to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).