As our society becomes more condemning of domestic violence, perpetrators of these crimes are paying greater consequences. During my days as a police officer in the 80s, when I would get a call to a domestic violence scene, I was trained to ask the perpetrator to cool off at a friend's house or spend the night in a hotel. Flash forward 30 years later, and I can tell you from experience as a family law practitioner that the penalties these days amount to much more, from loss of child custody rights to termination of your job to jail time.
Though domestic violence is more prevalent in lower income below $25K, the fact is domestic violence is prevalent across the board: rich and poor, men and women, all ethnicities, age groups, geography and even religious affiliation. It knows no boundaries. And the higher the profile, the easier it is for the perpetrator to initially get away with the crime.
I represented a celebrity perpetrator of domestic violence who couldn't comprehend that his drug and alcohol abuse were interfering with his ability to cope with everyday life. He started showing up in places where he wasn't welcome, and threatening to physically harm his girlfriend. His "celebrity" team diligently worked to cover up his tracks, which in a way justified his actions. His agents, managers, publicists and personal assistants enabled my client to continue to abuse the victim because if he was prosecuted, the celebrity's empire would crumble, a financial risk for all that are involved. What they need to realize is money isn't the only thing at risk. By covering up tracks and hiding evidence, they're preventing the system from protecting the victim and just as important, future victims.
Most recently, a video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was released by TMZ, showing footage from an elevator camera of Rice punching his wife (then fiancé) Janay Palmer in the face, ultimately knocking her unconscious. Initially Rice was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season, and eventually suspended from the NFL indefinitely.
Since the NFL's decisions to suspend Rice, other sports associations like the NFL, NBA and MLB have been criticized on their policies on domestic violence, including the U.S. Women's National Soccer for allowing Hope Solo to continue to play despite being accused and pending trial for the violence against a family member.
While these high-profile cases make the air waves and light a fire under the people who should be helping to end the violence instead of hiding it, it should be known that non-celebrity perpetrators are just as at risk, if not more so, of losing their careers if they are accused. Doctors, real estate brokers, licensed caretakers of children or the elderly, and officials of law enforcement are most apt to suffer the penalty of losing a professional license or job as a result of domestic violence. It can be financially devastating to not only the perpetrator, but to the victim and their children.
When I have a client with a history of violence and is seeking help, my first recommendation is always a court certified anger management course, which can easily be found through a simple Google search. This class can be taken even if your case has not received legal attention and you want to take a step away from violence. I also encourage individual therapy, and remind my clients to recognize the familiar patterns for their aggression and walk away from a situation before it escalates.
If you are a victim, here are the steps to ensure your safety when leaving a domestic violence relationship:
1. Go to your Superior Court and asking for a Temporary Restraining Order.
2. Make arrangements for where you are going to stay BEFORE telling your abuser you are leaving. Transfer any important documents, medications and clothing to your new home.
3. Ensure the safety of your children. Contact a local service for and alert child care providers and schools about the abuser.
4. If you're employed you can safely open new accounts and have mail redirected without your spouse's knowledge though programs which provides a free P.O. Box and maintains your confidentiality.
5. When it's time to tell your spouse you are leaving, it is imperative you DO NOT GO ALONE. Bring someone with you to help you leave the scene immediately. If things escalate and your spouse gets violent, leave the scene immediately, do not engage, and call the police.
If you are seeking a divorce or if child custody is an issue, it is also important to contact a family lawyer who is experienced with handling cases in criminal courts and family law sensitivities to advise you on the best possible protection and outcome for your situation.
Don Schweitzer is founder and partner of The Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer, based in Pasadena, Calif. As a Certified Family Law Specialist and former District Attorney, he has extensive background in domestic violence, divorce and child custody issues. Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. Schweitzer was a Police Officer for approximately 10 years.