When reactive abuse leads to domestic violence charges

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2023 | Domestic Violence |

Common beliefs about domestic violence are often rooted in misconceptions or dramatized stories presented by the media. People often have a very black-and-white approach to domestic violence in which they assume one person is always the aggressor and the other is the victim.

However, domestic violence often provokes unusual behavior in people who are typically calm and rational, which can sometimes make it seem to outside observers as though the victim of the abuse is actually the one committing domestic violence. Occasionally, people accused of domestic violence offenses are victims themselves and simply got caught during an incident involving reactive abuse.

What is reactive abuse?

Someone who experiences physical violence and intimidation may become defensive. Prolonged exposure to abusive behavior can make someone volatile and frightened for their safety. The person who often gets hit, attacked or threatened by their partner may come to associate certain behaviors with that aggression and may start lashing out preemptively when their partner appears to be on the cusp of violence.

Neighbors, family members, strangers and police officers may witness reactive violence, which is an outburst resulting from months or years of interpersonal abuse, and reach the inaccurate conclusion that the person who yelled or behaved irrationally is the perpetrator rather than the victim.

Police officers often have a limited amount of information when they receive domestic violence reports and often make mistakes regarding who is the victim when assessing the situation. Someone arrested and accused of domestic violence may actually have survived extensive abuse at the hands of the other party and only acted the way that they did because of what they had already endured.

Reactive abuse could influence a defense strategy

Although a misunderstanding of reactive abuse might lead to someone’s arrest, explaining their prior experiences with the other party involved might help them develop a more effective defense strategy for the charges the state brings against them. Journals, medical records, police reports and even witness statements can all help someone prove a long-term history of domestic violence and abuse to establish that their actions were reactive abuse and not standard domestic violence.

Consulting with a defense attorney can help someone accuse of domestic violence explore their different options for a criminal defense strategy, which may increase their chances of avoiding a criminal conviction.