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What is Domestic Violence (Assault)?

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Domestic violence and domestic assault includes any behavior used to assert control over somebody in your household. Victims of domestic abuse can include spouses, domestic partners, girlfriends or boyfriends, and family members. While most people think of physical violence when they think of domestic assault in Canada, the crime can also include aggressive behavior such as stalking. Everybody should know how to identify domestic violence and what steps they can take to end it.

Domestic Violence as a Form of Control

Regardless of its form, all domestic violence is harmful behavior designed to control an intimate partner or family member. This often includes physical abuse, but can also include coercion, threats, sexual abuse, and economic abuse. An abuser does not set out to commit felony domestic assault, but rather identifies the method that most effectively allows control over another individual. Domestic violence and assault in a physical manner often works because it keeps the other person from retaliating or speaking out for fear of more pain. Emotional or sexual abuse can cause that same fear. In many cases, the abuser controls the family finances, preventing escape and adding economic abuse to the tactics used by somebody guilt of assault and domestic violence charges.

The Difference between Simple Assault and Domestic Violence

Is a simple assault the same as domestic violence? In many cases, the answer is no. In two similar cases of physical assault, one defendant might face assault charges while the other might need a domestic assault lawyer. The deciding factor in these cases is usually the defendant’s relationship to the victim. A person who faces domestic assault charges in Ontario has allegedly committed an assault against an intimate partner, child, or dependent. Despite the crimes themselves being very similar in terms of execution, individuals who fail to defend against domestic assault charges usually face steeper penalties. In matters of simple assault vs domestic violence, the identity of the victim matters a great deal.

Domestic Violence Procedures

The exact manner in which a domestic assault case proceeds can vary on a case by case basis. Once a victim has filed a complaint with the police, domestic assault in Ontario becomes a matter for the authorities. This means that, per the domestic assault Criminal Code, the person who initially laid the claim cannot later drop the charges. The ability to dismiss a domestic dispute before it goes to court lies with the Crown Attorney. Domestic assault lawyers can appeal to the Crown Authority to have the case dismissed before a trial occurs, in which case both parties may be questioned before a final determination gets made. In most cases of aggravated domestic assault, however, you can expect the matter to go before court. This means that anybody involved in the case should seek out a domestic violence lawyer for help.

What to Do If You Are Accused of Domestic Violence

Should you be accused of domestic violence, the first and most important thing for you to do is to make sure that you follow the instructions handed out to you by the police. Even if you feel that you are innocent of the accusations laid against you, violated police orders can lead to a more severe domestic assault sentence. You may wish to tell your side of the story. If you do, make sure to write it down and present it to your domestic violence lawyer. When you choose a lawyer to defend you, seek out somebody who has experience in your area and a history of defending people who have been accused of common assault or domestic violence. These steps can help save you when the case goes to court.

Domestic Violence Criminal Penalties

If a court finds you guilty of domestic violence, sexual assault, or a similar crime, you might find yourself facing several different possible sentences. On the lighter end of the spectrum, you might have to pay restitution to the wronged party, which might cover property damage or medical bills for personal injury. If the crime is significant but not severe enough to warrant a jail sentence, you might receive either a suspended sentence or conditional sentence. A suspended sentence means that you remain under terms of probation, and that any violation of that probation could mean actual jail time. A conditional sentence allows you to serve your jail sentence away from prison, such as under house arrest. Finally, the most severe cases might wind up with lengthy jail sentences. In cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse, the jail time often lasts for years, after which terms of probation may apply.

Domestic Assault FAQ

Listed below are the most frequently asked questions regarding domestic violence and assault in Ontario. If you find yourself in need of learning some important information about these criminal charges, refer to the domestic assault FAQ presented here.

What is Domestic Assault and Battery?

Ontario’s domestic assault and battery definition includes the same behavior included in normal assault and battery, particularly direct physical violence. The main difference between domestic violence vs assault that does not get classified as domestic is the accused’s relationship with the alleged victim. Domestic violence, by definition, is a crime against an intimate partner or family member. While normal assault might be the result of a heated dispute or other mitigating circumstance, domestic assault is almost always about exerting power over a close relation. For this reason, the penalties for a domestic assault are often more severe than they would be for a simple assault.

Do All Domestic Violence Charges Go to Court?

Once you have been accused of a domestic assault, you might find yourself asking, “How can I get my domestic violence charges dropped?” Unfortunately, once the complaint has been made, getting the charge removed before a court appearance can be tricky. As mentioned above, the Crown Authority makes the final determination as to whether an alleged domestic assault goes to court. If both parties express a wish to dismiss the charges, it is possible that the Crown Authority might choose to stop the process before trial. Similarly, your domestic assault lawyer might be able to request that the charges be dismissed based on a lack of evidence or other extenuating circumstance. If you want to know how to remove domestic violence charges, finding a skilled lawyer is probably your best option.

Are Women the Only Victims of Domestic Assault?

Most people imagine domestic violence as a husband attacking his wife. While women are the victims in between 80% and 90% of domestic violence crimes in Ontario, anybody can be at the receiving end of domestic assault. This extends beyond married couples, including couples who are dating, children in a household, and even the elderly. Domestic assault victims come in all varieties and wear many different faces, as do their assaulters. That is why it is extremely important to remain vigilant about this crime, and that is why the authorities take all accusations of domestic assault very seriously.

How Frequently Does Domestic Violence Happen?

Surveys from the United States and Canada indicate that as many as one in four marriages faces the problem of domestic violence. This number is likely low, since most cases of domestic assault go unreported. Additionally, this statistic does not include cases of child abuse or elder abuse, since not all states and provinces include these methods of abuse in the definition of domestic violence. Likewise, some cases of sexual assault may not be included in that statistic, as many of these cases get prosecuted as something other than a domestic assault.

How Does Ontario’s Laws Differ from Other Provinces?

The biggest way in which Ontario’s domestic violence laws differs from other locations in Canada and the United States is the inclusion of non-romantic partners in the definition. Per Ontario’s Domestic Violence Protection Act, a victim of domestic violence can be a spouse or former spouse, sex-sex partner or former same-sex partner, person who cohabits with the accused, person in a dating relationship with the accused, or a relative who resides with the accused. The last item in particular separates Ontario from some, but not all, other provinces. Other locations draw a finer distinction between domestic violence and other crimes like child abuse, while Ontario includes those crimes in its definition.

What Non-Violent Acts Might Count as Domestic Assault?

Assault and battery is just one way in which a person might find themselves facing a domestic assault charge. In addition to that crime, the definition of domestic assault covers psychological assault, which can involve isolation from family and friends, forced financial dependence, threats, and verbal abuse. This category of crime also includes attacks against property and pets as well as stalking. Essentially, Ontario’s stance on the matter is that anybody should feel safe and comfortable with the people they live with. When somebody finds themselves threatened in any way by those individuals, they are potentially victims of domestic assault.

Why Do Victims Stay or Choose not to Report Domestic Assault?

Many people make the mistake of thinking that because a person chooses not to report a domestic problem or chooses to stay with the person assaulting them, they cannot truly be considered victims of domestic violence. In truth, many victims stay with their abusers out of fear of the situation getting worse if they leave or speak out. They might fear for their safety, or they may simply believe that they have nowhere to go. In other cases of assault, a person can run away from their attacker or go to the police. When it comes to simple assault vs domestic violence, though, the option to run away isn’t always there and the victim might fear that reporting the problem will only increase the amount of violence.

What Should I Do About Domestic Violence?

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should do everything you can to remove yourself from the situation. If you feel like you can’t do this, remember that Ontario does provide resources to help you. This can include Ontario Legal Aid, which has a 24/7 domestic abuse hotline. Victims in the Toronto area can also call Ontario Victim Services for help, and the province offers staffed shelters to help victims of domestic assault. After you get yourself out of the situation, you should speak with a domestic assault lawyer who can provide advice on next steps.

If you think that somebody you know might be a victim of domestic violence, you should make sure that you are supportive and available to that individual. If you see evidence of the assault, you should report the matter to the police. If you aren’t sure what to do, consider consulting a domestic violence counseling program, which can provide advice and guidance that allows you to help the individual in need.

If you find yourself accused of domestic violence, you should contact a lawyer in your area immediately. Your lawyer can give you valuable guidance that might result in the charges getting reduced or dropped. In cases where the charges cannot be dismissed, your lawyer can still fight for your rights in court and get you a sentence that provides you with as much freedom as possible. While it is important to take every complaint of domestic violence seriously, a domestic assault lawyer knows that every report has two sides and will work to make sure that the truth of the matter comes out in court.

Domestic violence is a serious problem that hurts many people throughout Canada. The above information should help to put the crime in context and answer common questions such as, “What is the difference between simple assault and domestic violence?” Moreover, it should allow you to identify what counts as domestic violence, who the potential victims of this crime might be, and what you can do to help. By knowing as much as possible about this situation, you can empower victims and defend yourself properly in case you ever find yourself accused of domestic violence.

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