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Fighting domestic abuse in the U.S.

Pennsylvania residents may be aware that the federal government has enacted various programs and initiatives to protect victims of domestic abuse over the past decades. Although a few states had previous laws in place to address the problem, it was not until the late 20th century that issues regarding domestic violence began to gain attention.

A case in the 19th century revealed how pervasive the problem was in the country. In the North Carolina case, a woman was granted divorce and alimony from her husband who was known to physically and verbally abuse her. However, the verdict was later overturned on appeal by the state Supreme Court on the grounds that a woman was subject to her husband even if physical force needed to be used. The case highlighted a woman's lack of legal standing and financial independence, which were underlying issues in various domestic violence cases. Moreover, lax domestic violence laws at the time allowed the problem to continue.

With the help of the feminist movement, which occurred in the latter half of the 20th century, several programs and laws were passed to reduce the incidences of domestic abuse. In 1964, the first women's shelter was founded in California, and in 1976, a coalition in Pennsylvania was formed to fight domestic violence. Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama have also been proactive in the issue. For instance, the Clinton administration passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 to help victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. Additionally, President Obama has launched a series of initiatives, including one that provides victims with free legal services.

Victims of abuse may be able to file a domestic violence complaint in order to gain a form of protection against the individual who is causing harm. A lawyer could assist the victim in drafting the complaint and also by reviewing relevant evidence to build a strong case.

Source: Real Clear Politics , "America's Long, Slow About-Face on Domestic Violence", Carl Cannon , July 23, 2014

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