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Changes in domestic violence law over time

Virginia residents may be interested in a recent article discussing the progress the country has made in dealing with domestic violence issues. Domestic violence has been something of legal concern since before the founding of the nation. According to the article, the Puritans were the first Western society to expressly outlaw wife beating. The early decades of the United States, however, were marked with very little progress in response to domestic violence. Sexism dominated both the culture and the law. Charges and rulings against husbands were often overturned on the reasoning that the wife was expected to be subordinate to the husband and that the submission could be enforced even by physical means.

Modern times brought a slow but steady advancement of the law to protect women. It provided them with an ever expanding base of resources to seek legal help, protection and other services to protect themselves and their families from abusive situations.

The sexism that dominated the law and culture is now gone, but one interesting facet remains. Husbands and perpetrators of domestic violence often have some kind of financial leverage over the victim that makes escape from the situation difficult even with the proper legal support. The law is now turning a more direct eye to this part of the problem and seeking means to ensure that money is not the reason a person remains in an abusive situation.

When a person is in a violent or abusive domestic situation they have the right to seek legal protections against the abusive person. The most common form of protection is a protective order that prevents physical contact between the two individuals. Violation of such an order can have serious legal consequences including imprisonment. Such orders are one of the first legal tools a person can use to get out of a potentially dangerous situation.

Source: Real Clear Politics, "America's Long, Slow About-Face on Domestic Violence", Carl M. Cannon, July 23, 2014

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