Domestic Violence - Laws

Please discuss legal action or protection that has assisted you with partner abuse.

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How is intimate partner abuse legally addressed?

Laws against domestic abuse are essential in the effort to protect battered men and women from their abusers. Federal law, like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that was passed in 1994 and renewed in 2000, as well as federal anti-stalking and anti-cyber-stalking legislation, provide significant prison terms and fines of up to more than $200,000 to discourage abusive behaviors. The Federal Gun Control Act and federal firearm offenses now include provisions for domestic violence- related crimes. Limitations of this protection include the enforcement of legal protections for all victims, as well as the omission of legal protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) victims of intimate partner violence. Although all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws against stalking, less than one-third have laws that address cyber-stalking. Also, stalking can be difficult to define, since it can take the form of virtually any pattern of harassing behaviors. Furthermore, most stalking laws require that a credible threat of harm be made toward the victim or the victim's immediate family.

Mandatory reporting, now the legal requirement in 23 states, requires that health professionals report suspected instances of domestic violence to the police; it is a somewhat controversial legal intervention for domestic violence. While mandatory reporting may result in some partner violence victims and perpetrators receiving the treatment they need, it is thought by some to place the victim at risk for experiencing a worsening of the abuse as a result of angering the abuser. Another criticism of mandatory reporting includes the violation of doctor-patient confidentiality that is important for effective treatment to occur.

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