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AN OVERVIEW OF THE EVOLUTION OF LAWS AGAINST SPOUSAL ABUSE

Domestic violence has long been a problem in Washington just as it has been in the rest of America. Beatings and other threatening behavior in the home have been a well-known social ill since at least the 17th century when the Massachusetts Body of Laws and Liberties attempted to protect women from domestic violence in 1641. Unfortunately, the issue has persisted up until the present day, affecting both wives and husbands. However, since the last half of the 20th century, there has been a concerted effort on many fronts to confront this dilemma and prevent further occurrences.

A pivotal moment in the modern view of domestic violence came in 1979 when the U.S. Surgeon General Julius B. Richmond identified spousal abuse as one of the primary ills affecting America. This was followed up 15 years later when the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law in 1994. This landmark legislation, in addition to providing funds to train half a million law enforcement personnel in dealing with domestic violence, established the National Domestic Violence Hotline that allows those in dire predicaments to reach out for help.

Efforts such as these led to a 35 percent increase in prosecutions for domestic violence in 2002 alone. Recent attempts under the Obama Administration have built upon this foundation, and experts believe that abused husbands, wives and children have much better options available to them than the people of 150 years ago, when a state supreme court ruled in favor of wife-beating, could have ever hoped.

Spousal abuse is a serious issue and a prosecutable crime. It can be advantageous for victims to take out restraining orders against violent partners. Family law attorneys can also recommend other protection options for abused partners and their children.

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