The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women quietly made changes to its definition of domestic violence last April. Under the Trump Administration, it has rolled back far-reaching rules instituted by the Obama Administration that were vetted by domestic violence experts. The new approach defines domestic violence primarily as a criminal concern, either as a felony or as a misdemeanor that involves physical assault or sexual violence. The individual charged can be a spouse, person living under the same roof, intimate partner or someone with whom the victim shares children. The charges can apply to either an adult or a minor.
A black and white definition
Analysts assert that this change reflects the Trump Administration’s overarching “law and order” stance on criminal activity. Advocates claim that this change provides stronger legal protection to the accused, but also removes grey areas of the old definition that included such patterns of qualifying behaviors as:
- Actions that are deemed deliberately hurtful
- Exercising a dynamic of control or power
- Varying psychological abuses
- Economic abuse of spouse or children
Convictions may go up
Critics and domestic violence experts have been quick to condemn these changes, but the new definition likely means a higher rate of conviction of those who meet the criteria of the definition.
It will be more important than ever for victims to seek domestic violence counseling as well as legal protection. Not only can a knowledgeable attorney provide victims of violence help with filing restraining orders, they can help ensure that individual’s and their children’s rights are protected in court.