Domestic Violence Isn’t Always PhysicalIs it possible to get arrested for domestic violence, or have a protective order put out on you, if you never even put your hands on someone? Yes, it is – and it’s important to understand why.

The terms “domestic violence” and “domestic abuse” can conjure up disturbing images of bruises, cuts, or even broken bones. However, physical acts aren’t the only forms of abuse that can qualify as domestic violence under Maryland law. Although psychological abuse may not leave physical scars, it still causes harm and can be the basis for a protective order.

Maryland’s domestic violence law covers physical things like punching, slapping, or kicking someone. However, it also uses language that encompasses non-physical actions, including any acts that place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, stalking, or revenge porn – all behaviors that don’t require actual physical contact.

Subtle signs of domestic abuse

It’s vitally important for you to understand all the nuances of what can be considered abuse and violence so you know what you’re up against. Rachel Goldsmith, LCSW-R and associate vice president for the Domestic Violence Shelter Programs at Safe Horizon, talked to Refinery29 about some of the signs of emotional abuse:

  • Isolating a partner from their friends and/or family. It becomes easier to control someone if they don’t have a support system to turn to. Believe me when I tell you there are plenty of people out there who get blindsided by this one. You think you’re being cute and snuggly; your partner – or just as likely, your partner’s friends – think you’re possessive.
  • Controlling the finances. This is known as financial abuse, and can cause a person to become dependent on another. Having a partner make do with an “allowance,” stealing money, or not allowing them to work are ways of controlling someone financially. If you’re the one who manages the finances, talk to me about it so I can help prove that this was a mutual decision, or one based out of necessity (i.e., your partner has a gambling problem so now you handle the dough.)
  • Shaming and humiliation. Putting someone down, whether it’s about their intelligence, looks, or something else, is another way of exerting power over a person. You know those couples who say that teasing is their “love language”? Don’t be that couple. It’s not going to end well.
  • Jealousy and accusations. Even if unfounded, accusing a partner of cheating is another way to keep them in line and “attached to the relationship.” A person may demand their partner “check in” at all times, which can cause a great amount of emotional stress. Jealousy is a bad look on everyone, and if you think your partner really is cheating, maybe it’s time to say goodbye.
  • Gaslighting. This is a tactic an abuser uses to convince someone to question their own perceptions of the world around them. Per Goldsmith, “Someone may try to undermine your credibility or make you feel like you’re not remembering things accurately.” Gaslighting is particularly nasty, but it’s also hard to prove. If you’re purposely lying to someone to control them, you’re gaslighting them. If you’re simply remembering things differently, that’s another story.
  • Nonstop texting, calling, etc. Just because you can stay in touch 24/7, doesn’t mean you should. Says Goldsmith, “[Technology] is a way that this controlling behavior can really be enhanced, because a person isn’t allowed to have that faith to have their own life.” No one likes a Stage 5 clinger, folks. Give your partner some room to breathe, okay? And if you can’t bring yourself to do that, then get some therapy because you’re being obnoxious.
  • Sexual coercion. You know that sexy pic your partner sent to you? That’s legal. Did you whine nonstop to get it? Did you take it without permission? Did you take it while your partner was unable to consent legally? Are you forcing your partner to have sex with you by guilt or by force? Is your partner underage? ALL of these behaviors are illegal. But were you both drunk or high? Did they send you a photo and then you got into a fight and now they want it back? Did you get a little freaky one night and now they’re all weirded out? Suddenly, that clear-cut assault isn’t so clear cut anymore.
  • Withholding medication. Another thing some people may use to exert control is blocking access to their partner’s medications, which can be dangerous, especially if they are denying access to reproductive or lifesaving medicine. You could literally kill someone this way.

Accused of non-physical domestic violence? You need a lawyer fast

I don’t know if you’ve spent any time awake in the last few years, but the rules and laws governing domestic violence are getting more and more stringent. And while there’s no doubt that domestic violence is a horrific crime, it’s starting to feel like Minority Report up in here. So if you are accused of domestic assault – of ANY assault, really – you don’t want to leave your fate up an overworked, underpaid public defender who’s doing the best they can to juggle 185 cases a week (or whatever ridiculous number it is these days). You want an experienced Annapolis criminal defense lawyer on your side.

And you want one fast, because there are defenses to accusations of domestic violence – but the longer you wait, the worse it could be for you. The sooner I can get started on your case, the better it looks for everyone, but more importantly, the better it looks for you. It makes you look cooperative and that you really want to improve your behaviors and actions.

If you’re facing domestic violence charges or a protective order, get in touch with me today. I have years of experience navigating the criminal justice system and I want to help. Contact my office, Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, in Annapolis or Ellicott City by completing this form.

And remember – Keep Calm, and Call Drew.