Recognizing the Signs of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse looks different in every relationship. To complicate matters, the signs of abuse are not always overt. What are the signs of domestic abuse, and how can you recognize them?

Common Signs of Abusive Behavior in a Partner

In a relationship, an abuser may initially hide abusive behaviors and tendencies. Toxic behaviors can intensify and/or reveal themselves as the relationship progresses. You may notice the following behaviors enacted by abusive individuals:

  • Acting unnaturally jealous of others
  • Not wanting their partner to spend time away from them
  • Encouraging or forcing their partner to stop spending time with specific people
  • Humiliating their partner publicly (with insults or demeaning language)
  • Controlling their partner’s decision-making processes regarding where they work, how they spend their money, or if they attend school/places outside of the home
  • Threatening their partner physically, mentally, or emotionally (with weapons, violent looks, or words)
  • Destroying their partner’s personal property

Noticing Behavior Changes in Those Affected by Domestic Abuse

Friends, family members, coworkers, or others can look for common signs of domestic abuse in people they know. A person suffering from a domestic abuse situation may:

  • Withdraw from others
  • Stop engaging in activities they usually enjoy
  • Start being late for or canceling appointments or meetings
  • Become emotionally reserved or secretive
  • Seem anxious around, or when they are away from, their abuser

Domestic Violence in Texas

In Texas, an abuser can be charged with three types of domestic violence: domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, and or continuous violence against the family. You can report an abuser by calling the police and filing a criminal complaint.

  • Domestic assault is any threats or acts of violence made against someone, that the abuser has an intimate relationship with, that results in physical injury. Intimate relationships can include current or ex-boy/girlfriends, current or ex-spouses, family members, roommates, or children. Examples of domestic assault include the act or threat of hitting, kicking, slapping, and/or hair-pulling. Those charged with domestic assault face misdemeanor or felony charges.
  • Aggravated domestic assault occurs when an abuser assaults another person and causes serious physical injury or uses a deadly weapon. For instance, if an abuser threatens harm (with a gun, knife, or bat) or causes severe injury (such as broken bones or hospitalization), they have committed an act of aggravated domestic assault.
  • Continuous violence against the family occurs when an abuser commits two or more acts of domestic assault within a 12-month period. This is a third-degree felony, which can result in penalties of imprisonment and hefty fines.

Restraining Orders in Texas

To protect yourself and/or the people you love, you should obtain a restraining order. In Texas, there are three types of protective orders:

  • Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): You can file for a TRO without notifying the offending party or having them present in court. Once you file, a temporary orders hearing will occur. If the judge believes the abuser is a present threat to you/your loved one, the civil courts will issue a temporary restraining order. TROs are meant to protect victims/survivors until their hearing for a permanent order. These orders generally lasts 20 days, but you (or your attorney) can file for an extension (Texas Family Code § 83.002).
  • Permanent (or Final) Protective Order: At the conclusion of a protective orders application hearing, final protective orders may be issued. These orders generally last for two years, but in some instances, judges opt to keep the orders in effect for longer (i.e. when the abuser committed a felony or inflicted extreme bodily harm on the victim/survivor). A year after the order goes into effect, Texas law allows abusers to file a motion to ask for the order to be terminated. If this motion is filed, a judge will decide if the order is still needed.
  • Magistrate’s Order of Emergency Protection (or emergency protective order): Unlike the previous orders, this protective order is issued by criminal courts. When the abuser appears in court, this order can be issued based on the magistrate’s own decision or at the request of the state attorney, victim/survivor (or their guardian), and/or a peace officer. This order can last 31 to 61 days, and a violation of the order is punishable of up to a year of imprisonment and $4,000 in fines (Texas C.C.P. Art § 17.292).

Getting the Help You Need

If you are a victim/survivor of domestic abuse, please consider reaching out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website. They can help you plan and take precautions for your safety.

After contacting the police and/or victim/survivor programs, you should also reach out to our attorneys. We can help you file the necessary motions and stand with you in court.

At the Law Offices of Mark M. Childress, PLLC., our legal team exists to be advocates for our clients. If you need legal counsel and help to obtain temporary orders because of domestic abuse, please contact our firm. You can reach out online or call (817) 497-8148.
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