Like DUI arrests, arrests for family violence spike during the holidays. These two types of arrests increase this time of year for some of the same reasons; lots of alcohol consumption, antagonistic families getting together for long periods of time, etc.

These are not excuses to become violent in the home. They are just aggravating factors that create the increase.

Family violence is unique in two ways. First, unfortunately, family violence is cyclical and generational. When a young boy watches his father beat his mother for years, statistically he has a higher chance of becoming an abuser himself.

Second, prosecuting family violence cases can be very difficult. Oftentimes, the victim will not want to testify in court or will recant statements made at the scene. While prosecutors have the power to force a victim to testify, most refuse to do this. The victim is already wounded. Forcing him or her to air their problems in open court just provides another injury.

While there is no level of family violence that is excusable, sometimes it gets so bad that victims must leave their homes for safety. For those of you in this category, here is a methodical escape plan:

Secure Vital Information
If a victim must leave, he or she must put all important data in the cloud. Many companies, such as Google, offer free data storage that you can access from any computer with login information. Effective legal action requires evidence. Divorce, Protective orders, assault charges, and child custody become successful when there is a strategy that can be tactically unleashed by data to back up claims. If there are photos, doctor bills, or narratives, that could be used as evidence, victims should put copies of them in the cloud.

Read Georgia’s Family Violence Act
A great deal of support is available to victims based on Georgia’s Family Violence Act (FVA), a statewide family violence law. There are plenty of public-private support groups and resources available for survivors of violence. Simply by reading FVA and the news surrounding it, victims will become aware that they are not alone, and that there is support available if they want to break ties with the abuser.

The FVA also has two little known consequences that are huge. First, if a person is convicted of family violence, he or she loses the federal right to even possess a firearm. Second, if a person is arrested for family violence after previously being convicted (a second lifetime offense), he or she is not facing a misdemeanor anymore. They are facing felony charges that could lead to service in prison.

Open A Bank Account
There are numerous banks in town and online that will assist in opening an account. Victims should take the time to open an account, even if it is never used. Money alone does not create power, but without money, one can be powerless. If a victim has even a small amount of money in an account through which he or she could receive and save money, they feel more empowered and able to walk away if the need ever arises.

Don’t Develop a “Victim Mindset”
Even though an abused person is legally a “victim”, it is highly detrimental for that person to develop the “victim mindset.” Having a legal safety plan not only provides a roadmap, it also provides the person the courage to know that they aren’t a victim. They have a plan that is unseen by the abuser and others. If things get bad, the plan can unfold at any time.

Victims can obtain further tips on creating a general safety plan by visiting the National Domestic Violence Hotline. For more specific legal tips, victims can contact a local family law attorney with an excellent reputation for professionalism. If a victim does not know any lawyers, they can contact Holly Reece at my office to get a referral.

What About the Offenders?
It’s easy for society to say, “just lock em up.” That certainly fixes the problem on a temporary basis and out of sight is out of mind, right? Not really. The vast majority of those convicted for family violence will return to society.

Then what? I have seen only one way to address the problem at its core. When a defendant is ordered by a judge to have a forensic psychological evaluation, follows through with the recommendations for treatment, and has a medical and psychiatric exam, (which may or may not include prescription medication), I have seen abusers become loving wives and husbands again. It takes a lot of time and painful work. But, to see the generational cycle of family violence break is one miracle that is hard to forget.

If we just forget about the offenders and hope that one day they “snap out of it”, then its not if another violent episode occurs, but when.

All of these resources can become a toolbox for gaining freedom. But, toolboxes are useless until they are opened up and put into action.