Domestic Violence: We Can Live Without It: Rights and Options Available Under the Law
Violence done to us by someone we love is frightening and degrading. It is also against the law. If you have been abused, you have a right to stop the abuse. Every year in the United States, more than 4,000,000 individuals are beaten by their partners . . . some leave, some stay and hope it will end, some go to shelters, some go to battered persons’ support groups or counseling, some petition for protective orders through the court, some press criminal charges against the abuser, and some are killed or kill their partners.
Domestic abuse means committing abuse against a domestic victim, defined as adults or minors who are current or former spouses; adults or minors who live together or have lived together; adults or minors who are dating, have dated, or have had a sexual relationship; adults or minors related by blood or adoption; adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage; or adult or minor children of a person in one of these relationships.1 Domestic violence is a misdemeanor in Tennessee.2 The violence can be physical, sexual, or psychological, with the primary purpose of controlling, dominating, or hurting another within the relationship. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
According to recent studies, one in four women in the United States will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.3 Although the great majority of domestic violence victims are women, approximately fifteen percent are men. Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of encountering non-fatal violence from an intimate partner. Estimating rates of domestic violence continues to be a difficult task, in part, because many factors inhibit individuals from reporting these crimes. The private nature of the event, the perceived stigma, and the belief that no purpose would be served in reporting the problem keep an unknown portion of the victims from talking about the event. Domestic violence occurs at all levels of society and in all classes and communities, regardless of social, economic, or cultural backgrounds.
In addition, studies show that dating violence is on the rise. One in five teens in a serious relationship reports having been hit, slapped, or pushed by a partner. Fourteen percent of teens report having either received a threat of physical harm or a threat that a partner will self-inflict harm to avoid a break-up. One in ten teens has been verbally or physically abused by a boy/girlfriend who was drunk or high. Fifty-one percent of college males admit perpetrating one or more sexual assault incidents during college.
Instances of violence are far from unknown to our community. Violent crime against women consists predominately of sexual assault and domestic violence crime.4 Domestic violence in Knoxville is at an all-time high. In 2011, the Knoxville/Knox County dispatch received 19,043 domestic calls for an average of one call every thirty minutes.5 This was the highest annual figure to date, compared to 17,951 in 2009 and 16,400 one year earlier.6
Statewide, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported that during the years of 2010 through 2012, simple assault was by far the most frequently reported domestic offense, accounting for 69.2% of all domestic violence offenses, outnumbering all other offenses by more than three to one.7 Boyfriend/girlfriend relationships were involved in the most frequently reported incidents in Tennessee, accounting for 44.2% of all domestic violence.8 Juveniles in Tennessee accounted for approximately 10% of domestic violence victims in 2012.9 One in three perpetrators of forcible rape and forcible fondling offenses against juvenile victims were identified as other family members.10
It is no coincidence that domestic violence tends to correlate with economic losses and higher rates of unemployment. Despite shortages in housing for victims and in funding and personnel needed to provide support to places like Legal Aid and the Young Women’s Christian Association (“YWCA”), Knoxville has some advantages when it comes to domestic violence. The city began addressing victims’ advocacy in the 1980s and has been moving forward since. Knoxville is one of only about fifteen cities across the country to serve domestic violence victims through a family justice center. In 2011 alone, Knox County’s Fourth Circuit Court granted 2,519 orders of protection to alleged victims of domestic violence.11
1 See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-601 (2014).
2 See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-14-109 (2012).
3 Unless otherwise indicated, the source for statistical information in this Introduction is the “Facts” section of the Knoxville Family Justice Center website, available at http://www.fjcknoxville.com. Specific, original sources for these facts are included on the website.
4 Rose Kennedy, Knoxville’s Growing Crisis of Domestic Violence, Metro Pulse, (February 23, 2011), available at http://www.metropulse.com/news/2011/feb/23/knoxvilles-growing-crisis-domestic-violence.
7 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Domestic Violence Statistics 2010-2012, available at http://www.tbi.tn.gov/tn_crime_stats/documents/DomesticViolenceinTN2010-2012final.pdf.
11See Kennedy, supra.