What Is the Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
Childhood should be a magical time of learning and discovery. Above all else, a child should feel safe and loved in their home environment. However, children of parents who are in a tumultuous relationship characterized by yelling or domestic violence often have a different set of experiences.
As most parents know, children are resilient. However, there are limits to what a child can witness or experience without the child suffering long-term consequences. For decades, experts have looked into the effect that domestic violence can have on children. Children who are exposed to domestic violence experience social and emotional damage that can affect their growth. Some children may develop an inability to express empathy, while others become socially withdrawn. At the other end of the spectrum, some children can become very aggressive or have a hard time understanding social norms.
The impact that domestic violence has on a child cannot be overstated. However, as any defense attorney knows, not every reported instance of domestic violence is substantiated; sometimes, individuals fabricate allegations of domestic violence in hopes of correcting or coercing certain behavior. Other times, one partner makes up a report of domestic violence as a way to get revenge against the other partner. In these cases, the partner making the report is potentially adding to what may already be a difficult time for the children.
What Constitutes a Domestic Violence Charge in New Mexico, and What Doesn’t?
Families will have disagreements. Sometimes, these disagreements can get heated. It is often with those whom we have the closest relationships that we fight or argue the most. There may be underlying resentment built up over the years, issues of jealousy, or child-custody disputes. The list of reasons why families and couples argue is a lengthy one. However, yelling and arguing is not domestic violence.
Under New Mexico criminal law, a domestic violence offense is one in which a person commits a designated offense against a person in their “household.” Notably, the law broadly defines the term “household” to include not just children, spouses, and family members currently living in the home, but also ex-spouses, parents, other family members, and any person with whom someone has had a continuing personal relationship. Thus, under this definition, a domestic violence charge can arise if the alleged victim does not live in the same home as the defendant.
State law designates a specific list of offenses that can serve as the basis for a domestic violence charge, including:
- Bodily injury or assault;
- Criminal damage to property;
- Criminal trespass;
- Harm or threatened harm to children;
- Physical harm;
- Repeatedly driving by a residence or workplace;
- Severe emotional distress;
- Telephone harassment; and
- Threats causing imminent fear of bodily injury by any household member.
Understanding what constitutes domestic violence is essential, because these offenses are often used by family members, spouses, and former partners as a tool to get back at those whom they believed have wronged them in other ways.
Domestic Violence Is Over-Reported
Domestic violence charges tend to be grossly over-reported when looking at the number of reports versus the number of substantiated cases. In fact, according to a recent study, domestic violence calls represent up to 50 percent of all calls to police. However, many domestic violence cases do not end up going to trial. Of those that do not go to trial, about one-third of the cases end in a guilty plea, and the prosecution drops the remaining cases.
Most often, a domestic violence case is dropped either because the complaining witness fails to appear at court or they take back their statement, admitting that they made up the charges. However, the prosecution in a New Mexico domestic violence case will not drop a case merely because the alleged victim decides they do not want to testify. In fact, in some situations, a case may proceed even if the complaining witness takes back their statement.
While many domestic violence charges are baseless and do not end up going to trial, those that do go to trial most often result in convictions. In fact, by some estimates, the domestic violence conviction rate is above 97 percent. However, this is in large part due to the societal stigma around domestic violence allegations. Too often, as soon as someone is arrested for a domestic violence crime, their presumption of innocence is stripped away.
The Impact of False Domestic Violence Charges on Children
Just as actual violence in the household can have a detrimental effect on children, so too can creating a false report of domestic violence. If one parent presses criminal charges against the other, children will naturally feel as though they need to take sides. Often, children are told by one parent what the other did – even if that was not the case. This will necessarily have the effect of turning a child against a parent.
Another problem that arises when dealing with false claims of domestic violence is that children are often forced to get involved in the legal process. The prosecution in a domestic violence case may call a child witness to testify about their parents’ arguing, fighting, or threats – even if they were months or years in the past. Children are impressionable and want to make those around them proud. Thus, it is not uncommon for a parent to mold a child’s testimony to what the parent wants it to be.
Are You Facing Domestic Violence Charges in New Mexico?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a domestic violence crime, contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices for immediate assistance. Our defense attorneys have decades of combined experience representing clients in all types of domestic violence offenses. We understand that these allegations – regardless of whether they are true – can have an enormous impact on your life. We know that you take your case very seriously, and so will we. Starting from the moment you allow us to aid in your case, we will begin creating a compelling defense. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation with one of our defense lawyers, call us today. You can also reach us through our online form.