The law is plainly written. Virginia Code § 18.2-57.2 is titled, “Assault and battery against a family or household member; penalty.” You break the law once, you face a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Break it three times, you face a Class 6 Felony. But what exactly entails “assault and battery,” and is emotional abuse domestic violence?
Assault and Battery
Watch enough cop shows and you will hear the term, “assault and battery,” which makes the phrase sound like it can never be split apart. It can, though:
- Assault — Assault is a threat against a person so that the person has a legitimate fear for her or his personal safety. The threat can be offensive touching, physical harm, or immediate danger. If someone tells you they would like to take a swipe at you in six months, that is not assault. If someone says, “I want to punch you out right now,” that is assault.
- Battery — Battery is touching another person willfully or in anger. This term applies to anything controlled by the batterer, including animals, inanimate objects, or other persons. The person who batters you could sic a dog on you, throw a pot at your head, or literally pick up a child and toss the child at you. All of that is battery.
Punishment for Assault & Battery
A Class 1 Misdemeanor charge carries with it the punishment of “confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.”
A Class 6 Felony charge carries with it a punishment of “a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.”
Either charge is ruinous to reputation, job, and finances. The question now becomes if emotional abuse, in the eyes of Virginia’s court system, counts as domestic abuse under Virginia Code § 18.2-57.2.
Social change outpaces law. Technology deals with tomorrow. Fashion deals with today. Law deals with the past, and politics apparently deals only with the last century. Virginia’s laws move at a glacial pace while society uproots its own conventions every day. Our laws are not always up to date. Emotional abuse is domestic abuse, but you have to work within Virginia law to make your case.
This is one reason you need a good family law attorney. Your attorney can build a case with two Virginia laws:
- Domestic abuse in Virginia is “Family Abuse” under § 16.1-253.1, which allows for protective orders “against an allegedly abusing person in order to protect the health and safety of the petitioner or any family or household member of the petitioner.”
- Abuse is “any act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury” under § 19.2-152.7:1.
You can immediately see the sticking point here: emotional abuse, to be part of family abuse, must leave you at “reasonable apprehension” that the abuse will lead to physical injury, sexual assault, or even death:
- She rolls over and smacks you in your junk in her sleep. That’s not emotional abuse. It’s not family abuse. It is not assault. Just a painful accident.
- She is cold and distant, refusing to compliment you on jobs well done either in your career or in the sack. Not emotional abuse; not family abuse; not assault. She’s just an icy b***h.
- She insults your manhood and says she could “cut it off while you sleep.” Now she has committed emotional abuse. Now she has committed family abuse. Now she has assaulted you.
Making It Stick
- Write down the episodes of emotional abuse you endure together with their dates and times.
- Make plain to anyone who will listen that you fear for yourself because of her abuse, whether it is sexual, emotional, financial, physical, or psychological abuse.
- If in public, use your cell phone to record your partner or wife as she heaps emotional abuse on you. She has no reasonable expectation of privacy on public streets and in stores, so you will not be violating any wiretapping laws by recording her in those locations.
- Get a good lawyer to help make the case that the emotional abuse you endure puts you at reasonable apprehension of bodily injury.
Men can be abused. Contact The Firm For Men if you, a Virginia man, are suffering from domestic abuse by any name. We focus on understanding men’s needs, protecting men’s rights, and getting Virginia’s men the legal and professional help they need. Call our office at (757) 383-9184.