Domestic abuse can be anything from name calling to put downs to actual or threats of physical harm and overall intimidation. Domestic violence includes physical assault, sexual abuse and stalking and is punishable by law. Any age, race, cultural, religious, educational and marital status groups can be victimised by domestic violence. So laws are in place to protect individuals who share a domicile with someone who is potentially dangerous.
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Several federal violence laws pertain to firearms and the offences surrounding them. It is illegal for a family member to possess a firearm if he is under a restraining order to keep him from threatening, stalking and harming an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner. It is also illegal for anyone who has been convicted of misdemeanour domestic violence crimes to possess a firearm. These laws also apply to law enforcement officers and military personnel in that they too are unable to possess a firearm if the above violations apply, even in the performance of official duties.
Stalking is oftentimes highlighted as a crime against strangers when, in fact, it is also a crime that occurs in domestic violence situations. In 1998, the National Institution of Justice defined stalking as indulging in activities such as repeated visual or physical proximity, non-consensual communication and threats that cause a reasonable person fear. Domestic violence stalking refers to simple obsession stalking which involves stalking someone you know. Laws against domestic violence stalking vary by state. In the District of Columbia, stalking is punishable by up to £325 in fines and 12 months in jail for the first offence. The third offence carries a £975 fine and up to three years imprisonment.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 to make domestic violence and sexual assault a crime. The VAWA served as a catalyst for creation of new punishments for these types of crimes against women. Congress reauthorised the law in 2006 and added more programs and services to help keep women safe. These included violence prevention programs, the funding of rape crisis centres and programs set up to meet the needs of women of different races and ethnicity.
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