A common myth this time of year is that domestic violence rates spike during the season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. However, the facts point to the contrary. Below, we’ll explain the reasons why and what Texas law states about domestic violence.
‘Tis the Season to Be Stressed… But are We Also More Violent?
Here’s what most of us understand about the holiday season: it is horrifically stressful. The extra activities can be exhausting. The financial strain can be intense. The family gatherings aren’t always peaceful, and are often made worse due to the additional alcohol consumption. To top it off, everywhere you look, expectations rise high.
Learning how to minimize this stress can be incredibly valuable. Here are some tips:
- Form a gift budget and stick to it, giving only what you are able.
- If alcohol tends to start arguments, serve nonalcoholic beverages at your gatherings.
- Have an exit plan in case emotions run high.
- See a therapist to manage your mood and set boundaries in your relationships.
Looking at this list, it’s no wonder that so many buy into the myth that this season sees higher rates of domestic abuse. You know that extra stress can cause fights, and even most of the de-stressing tips seemed designed to diffuse potentially violent situations.
The reality, though, is very different.
The Actual Stats on Holiday Domestic Violence and How the Increase Myth Can Hurt
Far from increasing, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence reports that calls to its hotline actually decrease during the holidays.
Every day, hundreds of individuals call the hotline for assistance. In 2016, the center averaged 829 daily calls. On holidays, though, the average numbers go down. That same year, Thanksgiving had 486 calls, Christmas Eve had 531 calls, Christmas Day had 540 calls, New Year’s Eve had 634 calls, and New Year’s Day had 650 calls.
Quite a significant drop, right? Definitely not a sign that there is more domestic violence around the holidays. Why doesn’t an increase occur?
Because domestic violence is generally attributed to a long-standing behavior pattern, not stressful events like those associated with the holiday season. In fact, victims of domestic violence may feel added pressure to keep the peace during the holidays, even if only for the sake of the couple’s children. Moreover, cases of violence may go unreported during the holidays because families are trying to stick it out.
Focusing efforts on stamping out this mythical holiday increase in violence can actually be counterproductive because it may take needed resources away from the rest of the year.
Still, domestic violence can and does occur over the holidays, and people can be surprised to find themselves facing a charge during what’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
What are your rights under Texas law? Let’s look at what the law says about domestic violence charges.
How Texas Handles Alleged Incidents of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence charges can be filed if a dispute involving bodily injury occurs between household members or relatives. For a charge to be filed, an offender must have had intent, knowledge, or reckless causation in the bodily injury of another person. The other person can be a spouse, dating partner, parent, sibling, child, or any other member of the household, including a roommate.
A domestic violence charge is at least a misdemeanor. When you are charged, you are not permitted to possess a firearm, even if you are a registered carrier. You are also refused the right to have your record sealed if you are convicted.
Punishments for first offenses of domestic violence involve up a maximum of one year in jail and a maximum of $4,000 in fines. For a second or subsequent offense, a defendant will be charged with a third degree felony. The punishment will involve between two and 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
What people often don’t realize is that your charges will not be automatically dismissed if the alleged victim does not wish to prosecute.
When an alleged victim calls 911 to report a case of domestic violence, the police will come. If the situation points toward an assault, the police will then arrest the alleged offender and send the case to the District Attorney’s office.
Once the case has been accepted by the District Attorney, the alleged victim has no control over the situation. The prosecution has the sole right to pursue or dismiss the charges. The prosecutor will arrange a meeting with the alleged victim to discuss the case, where he or she can make their feelings known, but the prosecutor will retain the right to pursue the case regardless of the alleged victim’s wishes.
Convictions on charges of domestic violence can result in lifelong consequences. Since they are classified as violent crimes, they can affect your ability to apply for certain jobs and may cause you to lose other rights and freedoms.
If you are facing charges of domestic violence in Texas, it’s crucial that you contact an experienced defense attorney who will help you craft the best possible strategy against your charges. Contact us today for a free consultation.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.