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What is domestic violence, and what do you do if you're accused?

Domestic violence is a crime that takes place at home or against people who used to share a home with you. It's essentially a pattern of negative behaviors that a person uses to elicit control. It's possible to be falsely accused of domestic violence, particularly in volatile relationships. For instance, a single time where you yell at a partner probably wouldn't be constituted as domestic violence. However, hitting or hurting your partner would be, even if it only happened once.

How do you recognize an abusive relationship?

One of the things to look for is physical violence. If you're punched, kicked, scratched or otherwise physically hurt, you could be in a physically abusive relationship. If someone is accusing you of being the aggressor, it can take time to prove your innocence. You may want to keep evidence of consent, for example, if you participate in activities that could be considered abusive, like certain sexual acts. There are people who like physical violence in some controlled aspects of their relationships, but those individuals agree and consent to that treatment.

What should you do if you're accused of domestic violence?

If you're accused of attacking your spouse or a family member, you have a right to speak to your attorney and defend yourself. Once a claim is made, police often have little choice but to make an arrest. If you're the one who was actually attacked or injured, it can be devastating to be accused of the criminal act. Fortunately, facts win out in most cases, and you can work to be heard without bias.

Source: Virginia Department of Social Services, "Domestic Violence (DV)," accessed Feb. 17, 2017

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