Being accused, arrested and/or charged with domestic violence can be a highly disruptive moment in your life, to say the least. Any allegation of domestic violence can cause a rift in your family and close relationships, not to mention the stress that comes with arrest and the fear of what comes next.
However, a domestic violence charge can do much more than cause immediate stress to you and your family; it can have a ripple effect with far-reaching implications for many other parts of your life, some of which have nothing to do with whatever altercation may have prompted the accusation. Let’s discuss a few of these sometimes-surprising effects and talk about what you can do to address them.
Effects on Career/Finances
Generally speaking, having a criminal record of any kind (particularly one involving a felony) can limit you from working at certain jobs—and even for jobs you’re qualified for, certain employers may be reluctant to hire you. That distrust gets amplified when the charge involves domestic violence because of the stigma and assumptions that come with it. A person with domestic violence on their record may be assumed to be hot-tempered, unstable, difficult to deal with, potentially violent in the wrong circumstances—the list goes on.
Suffice it to say if you’re looking for a job, you may have a more difficult time getting an employer to trust you—and if you have a job currently, at best the work culture may become more strained, and at worst, it could put your position in jeopardy. All of these workplace dynamics can cascade into financial difficulty in the short term, and possibly your chances at a meaningful career in the long term.
Relationships with Your Children
A domestic violence charge can severely disrupt your connection with any children you have, even if the alleged violence was not directed toward them. If a child witnesses violence within the family, it can cause deep-seated scars that may be difficult to heal. Furthermore, depending on the circumstances, an allegation of domestic violence may cause family, friends or even the state to view you as an unsafe person around the children. It’s not uncommon for defendants to be hit with restraining orders, lose visitation rights or even lose custody of their children in the wake of a DV charge—at least until your case is resolved. And even if the charges are dropped, or you’ve served your time in the event of a conviction—it may take years to restore trust with the children themselves, even after they come of age.
Not only can domestic violence accusations have a devastating effect on your current family or romantic relationships—it may also have an impact on your ability to have meaningful future relationships. The simple reason: People tend to distrust people whom they believe are prone to violence. (If you hit your last girlfriend, who’s to say you won’t hit your next girlfriend?) A DV charge doesn’t automatically condemn you to isolation, but you may have to work harder to build trust and to demonstrate that you’ve sought help to deal with anger issues, etc.
Impact on Emotional and Mental Health
There have been many studies and reports about mental illness occurring in the victims in the wake of domestic abuse-and rightly so. However, an accusation of domestic violence can also have an effect on the long-term emotional/mental health of the person accused or convicted of it. Of course, sometimes existing issues may have been a precursor to violence (although these issues are never an excuse for violence)—but regardless of a person’s guilt or innocence, the stigma associated with a domestic violence charge can cause anxiety, depression and other emotional issues that may last for years after the arrest itself. These issues may or may not contribute to future incidents, but at the very least they can lower your quality of life unless you take steps to address them.
Dealing Constructively with the Effects of a Domestic Violence Charge
Understanding how deeply a domestic violence charge can affect both your life and the lives of those around you—what can you begin doing now, in the wake of an arrest, to deal with the aftermath in a healthy manner? Some tips to help:
• Be honest with yourself. Violence is often a symptom of something else. If the allegations have any legitimacy to them, it’s time to do some serious soul-searching. Regardless of what happens legally or in the courts, you must take personal responsibility for your actions and the choices that led to them. As bad as this situation may be, the one thing that could make it worse is to repeat the offense. Begin now to explore the possible causes of the violence, and get professional help, if necessary.
• Work to rebuild trust. Once again, stigmas and presumptions aside, if there merit to the accusations, you have effectively broken public trust. This breach of trust is the underlier behind many of the other repercussions we discussed, including jeopardizing your career, relationships, etc. The first step in rebuilding that trust is to own your actions and demonstrate your willingness to make amends and seek help to break the cycle. Doing this one thing can go a long way toward rebuilding what has been torn down. Your attorney may have advice on what to say publicly until your case is resolved, but do what is necessary to rebuild trust for your long-term relationships.
• Take care of yourself. Regardless of guilt or innocence, it’s easy in the midst of a traumatic situation to neglect self-care. This arrest is affecting you as well as the people connected to you, so try to nurture good habits of care while your case is in process. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep—and talk to someone, if necessary.
• Get proper legal counsel. California law is quite strict when it comes to domestic violence charges. Anytime you face a legal charge involving DV, no matter how minor or severe the offense, you could be facing serious legal repercussions, and you should never try to navigate those waters yourself. Seek the help of an experienced defense attorney who can provide guidance, advice and proper strategy to make sure your rights are protected in the process.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, we are here to help you. Give our offices a call today.