It’s an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes, we can be wrong about the judgments we make of a person’s character. In most cases, this simply means that a person isn’t quite who we thought he or she would be. In more serious instances, sadly, it can mean that a person is far more violent than initially suspected, and, in the case of a long term partnership such as a marriage, this can result in an abusive relationship. An abusive relationship is, regardless of personal feelings, unacceptable, and in the eyes of the law, not only can it be legitimate grounds for divorce, it can also be grounds for requiring legal intervention.

But how, exactly, does it work in our state?

The Legal Position

When someone is involved in a relationship where intentional suffering is a regular occurrence, this is known legally as “domestic abuse.” In the state of Pennsylvania, domestic abuse is defined as physical injury, sexual assault, and the abuse-either physical or sexual-of children. Domestic abuse also includes imprisonment, threats of violence that leave people in fear of genuine injury, or behavior or other acts that may result in injury.

If any of these occurrences, or variations of them, should be taking place in a home, then police officers have the legal right to intervene and charge someone with domestic abuse. This is not quite the same as assault and battery, which would be considered a criminal act.

In cases of domestic abuse, Pennsylvania actually grants police officers a degree of freedom in intervening. An officer does not need a warrant or charge previously laid out by someone else before moving in to arrest someone for domestic abuse. However, a police officer must have enough evidence to sufficiently justify the belief that some form of abuse has taken place. Visible injuries that look like the results of assault rather than an accident are the most common indicators that police officers can safely act upon. This is not just limited to injury however, visible signs of violence in the home, strong suspicions of threat, or even evidence of stalking are all reasonable causes for a police officer to act.

What You Should Do

If you and/or your family are victims of domestic abuse, the first thing you should do is ensure the safety of family members. Once that safety has been secured, you should engage the services of an experienced family lawyer to protect and represent your rights. With the help of a lawyer, you can secure an order of protection from the abusive partner, and, with that in place, work towards resolving the situation in a safe, legal manner. Abuse in any family situation is not just unacceptable, it is illegal, and no one, especially children, should simply have to “live with it.” Get the safety, protection and legal compensation you deserve. Make sure your family is safe, then work together with a family lawyer to ensure that the situation gets resold in a firm, final manner.