Many people believe that domestic violence increases during the holidays. But that’s not necessarily the case. Experts find that many abusers try to “keep it together” during times when families are cooped together for long periods of time. Nonetheless, when a violent situation already exists in a household, it’s only a matter of time before the pressure turns into an explosion.
The Raleigh Public Record recently published a three-part series on domestic violence in Raleigh and Wake County. According to the report, statistics from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence indicate that while people tend to call law enforcement more frequently to report abuse around the New Year, calls to domestic violence hotlines actually decrease. But that doesn’t mean dangerous situations just disappear.
Raleigh Police Sgt. Gregory Darden, head of the Family Violence Unit, told the Public Record that verbal abuse tends to get worse after the holidays. But that doesn’t translate into more official charges being filed, he added.
Abuse statistics in Raleigh are staggering. As of Dec. 11, when the first article in the series was published, there had been four homicides in Raleigh with a domestic-violence connection in 2012 – a 400 percent increase from the previous year. Of those homicides, three occurred between partners or exes, and two were adults causing the death of a child.
Any statistics surrounding domestic abuse are likely to understate the problem. Just as many rape victims fail to come forward out of shame, battered women (and men) often do not seek help out of fear of retaliation. However, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that as many as one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. The Raleigh Public Record report went as far as to say, “It is likely that every resident in Raleigh knows a victim of domestic violence, whether they know it or not.”
Breaking away from an abusive situation is a terrifying prospect for many people. But there are legal steps that you can take to begin to protect yourself. First, it is important to understand how North Carolina defines domestic violence.
In North Carolina, domestic violence includes:
- Inflicting or intending to inflict bodily injury.
- Making someone afraid of imminent bodily harm.
- Committing rape or other sexual offenses defined by N.C. law.
- Make someone afraid of continual harassment.
The Wake County Courthouse has a Domestic Violence Unit to help victims take action against their abusers and obtain orders of protection. It also provides information about court dates, show cause hearings and other resources available to victims of domestic violence.
It may also be useful for you to discuss your situation with an attorney who specializes in family law so that you understand all of the legal options available to protect you, your children and even your beloved family pet. Remember, you are not alone.