What is Domestic Abuse?

(Baton Rouge, LA) State Congress met to discuss the amendments to the definition of domestic abuse that are being proposed in House Bill 159. The bill provides a civil definition of domestic abuse and looks to keep consistent terminology within the definition. 

A new definition was brought to everyone’s attention for what domestic abuse actually means. Professor Andi Carol, a professor of Family Law at LSU Law Center, spoke about how, after spending time doing research on the matter, there are certain actions that are taking place besides just physical abuse.

“We know, from all the social science research and evidence here that much of domestic violence doesn’t begin with an act of physical abuse. It begins with coercion, control, isolation of the victim.”  

During the discussion, Representative Ed Larvadain, III, adds “the most important word is ‘control’ and I think that once you put that definition in, we’ll do a real good job of teaching law students.”

Carol also explains how the new definition of domestic violence, even though it is a small change, is a better representation that makes a difference: “We believe that, although it is an expansion of the view of domestic violence, it better represents the actual dynamics of domestic violence, and yet, remains very narrow.”

The needs for these amendments are essential in helping those dealing with domestic abuse. By narrowing the definition, it can give justice and peace of mind to the victims. 

Helen Launey, a domestic abuse survivor, says, “So domestic abuse means a lot to me as I have lived through it. In my experiences, it’s kind of hard to talk about, but it has made me stronger. I still have days where it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning or it’s just a small trigger. As an RA, I was able to use my experience to help others, so I’ve caught a lot of domestic violence and domestic abuse happening within a residential halls just because I was aware and I’ve been there, and I could see the signs of what others were going through. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like that again, no one deserves to go through what I’ve been through.”

Moreover, a detailed definition is necessary in avoiding the problems that broad terminology may cause in future disputes. 

Heather Stewart, a guidance counselor at Covington High, says, “Abuse comes in many forms: verbal, sexual, emotional, etc. I believe when one of those occurs inside the home it’s considered domestic. Whether it happens with a spouse, child, elderly parent, etc. I think it should still be considered domestic abuse. As the definition of domestic changes, we must change our laws as well. I think a change in the law will positively impact future domestic abuse disputes. Right now, it’s difficult to claim domestic abuse unless you are in a heterosexual relationship.”

The bill is currently awaiting the third passage during the floor debate on April 15. 

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