What are my legal rights, and where can I turn for help if I find myself in an abusive relationship?

Both married and unmarried people who find themselves in abusive relationships can seek help from the court system in Virginia. Individuals in fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury can go to court and ask for a protective order to shield them from acts of abuse by third parties, even if the threat comes from a family member. “Family abuse” is any act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury and that is committed by a person against such person’s family or household member. Such act includes, but is not limited to, any forceful detention, stalking, or criminal sexual assault as defined by law or any criminal offense that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury. The court may try to alleviate the abusive situation by prohibiting further contact or abuse between you and your abuser, granting you sole possession of the marital residence or forcing your abuser to provide you suitable housing, or even requiring you both to attend counseling. There are stiff legal and financial penalties if your abuser violates a court order. You also may bring criminal charges against your abuser by filing a complaint for assault and battery. 

Domestic or relationship abuse is a very serious issue, and the first step is to seek help from an outside resource, which may be the police or an advocacy group in your area that addresses domestic violence. Check your local telephone listings or call the local police department for the number of a resource group that can provide you with further information on your options. 

The Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline
for family violence and sexual assault

Child Protective Services Hotline for Virginia
for child abuse and neglect

Adult Protective Service
for elder and disabled adult abuse and neglect
(888) 83-ADULT or 1-800-832-3858

National Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 799-SAFE or 1-800-799-7233 (voice)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

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