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What guides the police when allegations of abuse are made?

Imagine this situation: Your partner abuses you on a regular basis. Finally, you've had enough and you use physical violence to protect yourself. However, your partner then calls the police, says that you are the one who initiated the violence and tries to have you arrested.

As you can imagine, this puts you in a very tough situation. You did harm your partner, but you only acted out of self-defense -- which is what you tell the police.

How do police sort out the details and decide who was the original aggressor when there are conflicting stories and both parties are claiming they were the victim?

A few things the police and prosecutors may consider include:

  • Statements from any witnesses who were there at the time the abuse occurred
  • The general demeanor and statements made by each party -- especially if one person seems to be particularly aggressive and the other much more fearful
  • Injuries that appear defensive in nature, rather than offensive
  • A history either of domestic violence (or accusations of violence) in the past of either person
  • A conviction for assault or some other violent crime in either party's past
  • The fact that one person has taken out a protective order against the other person
  • How serious the injuries are to both parties
  • Any threats that the individuals have made, including those directed at pets or other family members
  • If one person claims to be defending a third party (including claims that one party felt the need to act to protect a child or another individual present)

Domestic violence cases are often very complex. Things are not always clear to the authorities (even if they seem clear to you). Make sure you are well aware of your legal rights if you're facing charges of domestic violence -- especially if you were acting in self-defense. You may need an experienced advocate to help you.

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