There are different types of “abuse” and harassment defined in the law. Most “abuse” scenarios have a civil and criminal component. Because of the media, we are most familiar with the criminal aspect of sex crimes and abuse. This discussion will only address abuse issues from a civil standpoint; however, upon recognizing that you or someone you are acquainted is or was the victim of abuse, we encourage you to report the abuse to your local law enforcement office immediately.
The victim of harassment and abuse, whether physical, psychological or sexual, may also be able to file a civil lawsuit. A civil suit would be separate from a criminal case, if law enforcement files the case with the local district attorney’s office. In a civil case, the perpetrator will not be sentenced, or re-sentenced to serve jail time but, if found guilty, would be subject to a restraining order to stop the harassment and abuse, and a monetary judgment in favor of the victim.
The abuse and harassment lawyers at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP are experienced and have the knowledge to help you through the process. We are an AV Rated law firm, with award winning attorneys and certified trial specialist.
CIVIL ABUSE OR HARASSMENT:
Many forms of non-violent harassment, like stalking, threats, unwanted telephone calls or emails can be considered just as abusive as a black eye or broken rib. Domestic violence laws protect you from physical, emotional or verbal abuse by someone with whom you are intimately connected (i.e. present or former spouse/partner, someone you are dating or used to date or living with or used to live with (more than a roommate) or a close family member (i.e. parent, child, sibling, grandparent or in-laws). Civil harassment laws on the other hand will protect you from physical, emotional or psychological abuse from a stranger or farther related relative, i.e. cousins, uncles, aunts.
From a civil standpoint, there are four types of abuse or harassment: domestic violence, civil harassment, workplace violence, and elder or dependent adult abuse. The difference in the “title” of the abuse or harassment depends on the relationship between the perpetrator and victim; the age of the victim; the type of abuse or harassment, and the location of the threatened credible violence.
Workplace violence and harassment in the workplace is similarly defined as “civil harassment”; however, in this case, the harassment and violence takes place in the workplace and it is the employer (not the employee victim) that seeks a restraining order and other protection on behalf of the employee, and if necessary, on behalf of the employee’s family. Our lawyers at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP have worked successfully with employment harassment. Let our lawyers help you protect your employees.
In order to obtain a workplace restraining order, the employer must show reasonable proof that the employee was assaulted, stalked or hit (battery) or that there is a credible threat of violence against the employee; that the violence or threat of violence can reasonability be carried out (or was carried out) at work; that the conduct was not allowed as part of a legitimate labor dispute; and the person accused of the violence is not engaged in a constitutionally protected activity. Upon a reasonable showing of these elements, the court will typically grant the requested restraining order. Additionally, the party harassing the employee can be ordered to pay fines and other monetary sanctions.
2. Domestic Violence
Brown & Charbonneau, LLP, has successfully obtained multiple domestic violence restraining orders to protect victims of abuse and their family law matters. We have also obtained confidential six and 7-figured awards in civil cases involving sexual abuse and molestation. We are ready to help you obtain the protection and justice you deserve.
Family Code §6203 define domestic violence “abuse” as any of the following:
“(a) Intentionally or recklessly to cause or attempt to cause bodily injury;
(b) Sexual assault;
(c) To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another.
(d) To engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320”.
The behavior described in section 6320 includes molesting, attacking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering (striking/hitting) harassing, annoying telephone calls, impersonating someone, destroying personal property, contact by mail or otherwise (i.e. text, emails, Instagram) or disturbing someone’s peace. If any of this behavior is directed toward you or other family or household member, you can ask for protection from the court.
For the perpetrator, physical, emotional or sexual violence is about control. The perpetrator will use a number of tactics to gain control of the victim. A spouse may play “mind games” with his or her spouse in order to keep the spouse dependent or to control their domestic life according to their terms. The perpetrator’s goal is to have control and power over the person being abused.
A parent may pride themselves that they do not use corporal punishment to discipline their children, yet a non-physical tactic used by the parent to “discipline” and control a child, like withholding affection, demeaning a child, making a child sleep outdoors without proper protection on cold and frigid nights, or withholding food can be just as or more devastating than physical abuse.
If you are being abused physically, emotionally or psychologically, or feel afraid or controlled by your spouse/partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend, contact a domestic violence counselor, or reach out to a trusted friend, clergy, teacher or healthcare worker. When using a computer to look for help, use a computer that the perpetrator does not have direct access to or can hack into like a computer in school, a public library, or at a close friend’s house. Also, traditional old-school phones with a “corded” are more private than cell or cordless phones. You can also call a domestic violence counselor in your county.
A lawyer can help you obtain restraining orders against the perpetrator, which can order the perpetrator to move out of the home, have no contact with you and other family members and to keep a certain distance from you. In certain circumstances, you may also be able to file a civil lawsuit for assault, battery, sexual abuse, and if the victim is under 18 years of age for child abuse and if over 65 years of age for elder abuse.
Here are few numbers and websites to remember:
- If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
- If you are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or ndvh.org
- If you are a teen being abused call the National Teen Dating Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or visit loveisrespect.org
- If you have been raped or experienced sexual violence, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit rainn.org
3. Online Harassment
Online harassment has become rampant. The media has identified many large problems, but the vast majority has to be dealt with by the individual. First, take a few steps yourself to document the problem and try to make it stop.
1. Demand that the Harasser to Stop
You must clearly demand that the harasser stop. Usually, it is unwise to communicate with the harasser as that is probably what they want. So, as soon as you determine that you are truly being harassed by someone, you must very clearly tell that person to stop. Simply say something like “Do not contact me anymore”. Period. Don’t respond or encourage further communication. Ignore their attempts to get you to engage online.
2. Compile and Keep Evidence
Although you may want to just delete everything and hope it goes away, that may hurt you later. You need to have evidence. Keep everything (emails, blogs, chats, IM’s, etc.). If there are blogs or websites referring to you, monitor and save as much as possible. Many times they post and then take it down (kind of a “hit and run”). Save copies to a hard drive and make a copy of the evidence and store offsite. If there are voice mails, save them. If there are envelopes or things they may have touched, tag it and bag it (just like on CSI).
3. Contact the Authorities
Depending upon the type of problem, you can contact the police. If at school, advise the administration. If you can determine where the communications are coming from, contact the ISP (Internet service provider) or website host and report the wrongful conduct. There are many resources online to help with this aspect.
4. What Next?
If it continues even after all the steps taken above, you may need to decide on aggressively pursuing criminal action or pursue a civil action in court. The police have become quite receptive to this growing problem and are usually a great help and resourced. If legal action is desired, consult with qualified counsel. Remember, with lawsuits there are hard costs (fees and costs) but, also, there is a huge mental toll on you so think it through before diving into litigation.
4. Civil Harassment
Civil harassment is similar to domestic violence, except that the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim are not intimate or as close as that defined in the domestic violence statutes. Persons in this category include friends, neighbors, work-acquaintances, non-romantic roommates, uncles, aunts, nephew, nieces, or cousins. At Brown & Charbonneau, LLP our attorneys have obtained civil protective orders, and collected damages on behalf of clients who were threatened and harassed by strangers, “friends” and distant family members. We are ready to help you.
In civil harassment, “harassment” is defined as
- a “course of conduct” – a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose, including stalking, making harassing phone calls, sending harassing correspondence by private or public mail, email, fax, text, or other means of communication.
- “credible threat of violence” — a knowing statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety or safety of his or her immediate family and that serves no legitimate purpose.
- “harassment” — is unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys or harasses the person and that serves no legitimate purpose. The conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the person seeking court protection. (CCP 527.6 (b)).
In civil harassment cases, a lawyer can help you file a lawsuit for damages as a result of the harassment and help you obtain retraining orders, which will order the perpetrator stop contacting you, to stay a certain distance away from you, and to stop all contact with you family members if included in the original request.
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