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What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse (using money and financial tools to exert control). Some abusers are able to exert complete control over a victim’s every action without ever using violence or only using subtle threats of violence. All types of abuse are devastating to victims.

Abusive partners make it very difficult for victims to escape relationships. Sadly, many survivors suffer from abuse for decades.

It is important for survivors to know that the abuse is not their fault, and that they are not alone. Help is available to those who are experiencing domestic violence.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any sexual act that is unwanted and that no consent has been given in which a person is threatened, coerced, forced to comply against their will or unable to give consent to the activity.

The activity or conduct may include threat, the use of physical force, the use of coercion or manipulation into agreeing, causing the other person’s intoxication or incapacitation to give consent (usually through the use of drugs or alcohol) or taking advantage of the other person’s voluntary intoxication.

Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence and can include unwanted, non-consensual touching and/or oral, anal or vaginal sexual intercourse, penetration with a foreign object (i.e. fingers, sex toys, etc.). This could be perpetrated by a person known by the victim or by a complete stranger.

How to report a domestic violence or sexual assault incident?

In Maryland, the police may make an arrest for an incident of domestic violence without witnessing the assault if they have "probable cause" to believe that an assault took place. Officers must make an arrest if an offender is in violation of the "stay away" or "don't abuse" provision of a Civil Protective Order.

If an arrest is not made at the scene, a domestic violence victim may:

· Make application with a District Court Commissioner to file criminal charges

· Request that the State's Attorney file a criminal charge

A victim of domestic violence may receive, upon request and without cost, a copy of the incident report from the law enforcement agency that responded to the call.

A domestic violence victim may also request a "domestic stand-by" from an officer to ensure that she is safe while removing personal items to meet her emergency needs or those of any children in her care.