February 14 is Valentine’s Day, a day created to recognize the importance of the love we hold for one another. For most of us, Valentine’s Day means showing our loved ones how much we care with romantic gestures and well-meant gifts of flowers and chocolate. Sadly, for some people, Valentine’s Day means a brief reprieve from their abusive relationship. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Valentine’s Day is one of three days (alongside Christmas and Thanksgiving) where there is a slight decrease in reports of domestic abuse in the United States. That brief moment of relief is cold comfort for those who are victims of family violence.
Despite the name, family violence does not have to occur between family members. Under Georgia law, family violence is defined as any pattern of deliberately violent and abusive behavior between people in a domestic relationship, committed with the intent of establishing power and control. This includes parents and children, spouses and intimate partners, and roommates or housemates. There does not have to be physical abuse for an act to count as family violence either – if someone subjects a person fitting one of the above categories to emotional abuse, threatens to hurt them, stalks them, or deliberately damages their property, they can also be charged with family violence.
Despite the slight downtick in reports of domestic violence this Valentine’s Day, there are still bound to be lovers’ quarrels. These arguments can escalate into a domestic disturbance… and the situation might not be perfectly cut and dry. It takes two to tango, and there are unique circumstances leading to every incident. For example, you might be trying to get away from an argument with a partner that turned physical or fighting back against a spouse who attacked you first. Unfortunately, this might not save you from being charged with family violence if the police are called to your house.