Domestic Violence Definition
Domestic violence definitions, even legal ones, include all types of abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, and financial abuse. In this article, we will discuss legal domestic violence definitions and what legal actions you can take if you are a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Definition: Who Can Be a Victim of Domestic Violence?
The legal domestic violence definition recognizes that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. It does not only cover certain genders, sexual orientations, races, or religions. A domestic violence victim can be someone who lives with or used to live with the abuser in a close relationship. They may be linked to the abuser in the following ways:
- Close family member
- Spouse, partner, or dating
- Ex-spouse, partner, or used to date
- Parent of a shared child
Domestic Violence Definition: What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?
Domestic violence can take many forms. At its core, it is all about exerting power and control over the other person or people. This may be through physical means by threatening or using physical harm to control someone. It may be through emotional means by withholding love and affection to “punish” someone for their actions. It could be harassing someone or keeping track of their whereabouts, or controlling finances so that the victim has no financial autonomy.
Domestic abuse victims often feel:
- Like they are walking on eggshells, afraid to upset or anger their abuser
- That they have to excuse and downplay their abuser’s behavior
- Like the abuse is their fault, and if they were more like X or didn’t do Y, then their abuser would love them and not act the way they do
- Scared of how their abuser will react to things
- Like they always have to do what their abuser wants to do in order to keep them happy
- Afraid to leave their abuser because they are worried their abuser will hurt them or make their life hell if they did
- Like a child because they have to ask permission for things or like they have to ask for money if they want to do anything
- Like they always have to give in to their partners wants and demands in order to “keep the peace”
- Alone, like they have no support because their abuser either slowly isolated the victim or drove away their support network
Domestic violence definitions include financial abuse, where the abuser controls the finances, and either does not allow the victim to have access to money, forcing them to ask for money for anything they need or makes the victim explain and justify every expense. It includes sexual assault, coercion, or physically forcing someone to have sexual contact with either the abuser or someone else. It does not matter if the abuser and victim are in a relationship or married; it is still sexual assault and domestic abuse if consent was not given willingly.
Domestic violence definitions also include psychological and emotional abuse. These are attempts to control someone through manipulation or threats, and intimidation. It could look like withholding affection to punish the victim, belittling the victim and make them feel worthless or unloveable. It could be through making the victim feel crazy or humiliating them in front of others. Some examples of domestic abuse are:
- Making the victim feel stupid and like they are unable to do things or make decisions for themselves
- Belittling the victim and making them feel they are not worthy of love, affection, success
- Embarrassing the victim in front of people
- Blaming the victim for the abusers feelings or actions (eg. If they are depressed, making it the victim’s fault or responsibility that they feel that way)
- Requiring the victim to check in regularly or share their location
- Teaching the victim a lesson through physical abuse, withholding affection or money, abandoning the victim somewhere, or preventing them from leaving
- Destroying personal belongings of the victim
- Excusing their behavior by blaming drugs, alcohol, grief, anger, etc.
- Treating the victim roughly by showing them, hitting them, pushing them, grabbing them, or physically hurting them
- Throwing items in order to intimidate the victim
- Making the victim feel trapped in the relationship
- Pressuring the victim into sexual contact or physically forcing them to engage in sexual contact
- Controlling the victim’s interaction with the outside world or friends and family
- Threatening loved ones like children or pets in order to control the victim
If you experience any types of domestic violence or domestic abuse, know that it is not your fault. Unfortunately, many people in the United States experience domestic abuse, and you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you in whatever way you need. There are helplines when you need someone to talk to and counsellors who can provide you with the information you need to change your situation when you are ready. They can help you to find resources to help you escape your domestic abuse situation, including legal advice, financial aid, and shelters.
Is Domestic Abuse Temporary or a One-Off Occasion?
Unfortunately, domestic abuse is rarely temporary or a single occurrence. Domestic abuse tends to be a pattern of behavior that steadily gets worse over time. This is why it can be hard for many domestic abuse victims to recognize that they are being abused. It may start off as an occasional rude name or an overreaction to something you do or say. Because the increase happens slowly but steadily, you become acclimatized to the behavior rather than it changing suddenly and alerting you that something is wrong. Domestic abuse can result in serious injury or death, so it is something that should be taken seriously.
Making the first call to talk to someone, even just a helpline, is a huge first step. It is a success and signifies you have recognized that you are in an abusive situation and that you deserve better. There are resources available to people who do not speak English as their first language, and there are resources available to people who feel trapped in abusive households or marriages due to immigration or visa statuses. Leaving an abusive marriage does not mean that your visa will be revoked; there are legal resources available to help you.
Domestic Violence Definition: Power and Control
As we mentioned earlier in this article, the intention and purpose behind all forms of domestic abuse is power and control. The abuser wants to control their victims and wants them to comply with all of their wants and needs.
This is why domestic violence is usually a pattern of abuse rather than an isolated type of domestic abuse. There may be emotional and verbal abuse or emotional abuse and financial abuse. An abuser will not use just one type of domestic abuse. Here are the different types of abuse included in the domestic violence definition and how they may look.
Emotional abuse is bullying and verbal abuse designed to undermine the victim’s self-worth and destroying their relationships with other people. Emotional abuse looks like:
- Name calling
- Frequent criticism of the victim or things the victim does
- Lack of trust
- Isolating the victim from friends and family
- Stalking or tracking the victim
- Controlling finances
- Humiliating and embarrassing the victim
- Threatening to hurt the victim or their family, children, or pets
- Withholding affection in order to punish the victim
- Expects or forces the victim to ask permission before doing things
- Asks or forces the victim to quit their job, so they are financially dependent on the abuser and isolated from their family
- Name calling
Psychological abuse is intimidating and manipulating the victim or otherwise playing mind games to keep the victim on the back foot or questioning their view of reality. It includes:
- Forcing the victim to become isolated from friends and family
- Intimidating the victim
- Blaming the victim for the abuse
- Gaslighting or causing the victim to question reality
- Playing mind games
- Keeping the victim tired or uncomfortable, so they are less emotionally stable
- Destroying the victim’s property
Financial abuse is controlling the finances and forcing the victim to ask permission for money or justify spending. This is to ensure the victim does not have the financial means to enjoy themselves or leave their abuser. This can happen even if the victim has a job or even if they are the sole earner in the household.
- Forcing the victim to quit their job
- Forcing the victim to ask for money or ask permission to spend money
- Forbidding the victim from attending school or work
- Interfering with the victim’s job in order to get them fired and destroy their employment record
Physical abuse is physically hurting the victim. It includes:
- Damaging property
- Driving recklessly in order to scare them
- Abandoning the victim in a dangerous area
- Forcing the victim out of their home
- Physically forcing the victim to have sex or perform sexual favors
- Hurting or threatening to hurt their children or pets
- Physically prevents the victim from seeking medical attention or help from law enforcement
- Trapping the victim in their home or room
Sexual abuse includes forcing or coercing someone into sex or sexual contact that they do not want.
- Accusing the victim of cheating
- Being jealous of their relationships with others
- Requiring the victim to dress a certain way
- Calling the victim sexual slurs or sexual insults
- Holding the victim down in order to rape them
- Forcing the victim to have sex with other people
- Involving other people in sexual activities
- Demanding sex after beating the victim or when they know they are sick or tired
- Threatening the victim with weapons in order to get sex or during sexual activities
- Ignoring your concerns or feelings about sex or sexual contact
- Removing birth control during sex without the victim’s permission
Stalking with the intention to terrorize, harass, or annoy the victim is also considered domestic abuse. This includes behavior such as:
- Unwelcome letters
- Frequent phone calls
- Sending unwanted gifts
- Surveilling the victim at work, home, or other places they go to regularly
- Following the victim
Domestic Violence Definition: Restraining Orders
If you are a victim of domestic violence, then you should seek a restraining order once you are ready to escape your abusive situation. It will protect you by requiring the abuser to stay away from you. It will allow you to escape and sort out any details you may need to without being scared for your safety.
The requirements for a domestic violence restraining order are:
- Someone has threatened to abuse you or has abused you
- That person is closely related or has a close relationship with you
You may also file for a restraining order on behalf of your minor child (under the age of 12).
The abuser must match the domestic violence definition and be current or former spouse, partner, registered domestic partner, or parent of a child, or living together or used to live together. It may also be someone in a close relationship, like parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, or even in-laws.
If you cannot obtain a domestic violence restraining order for any reason, then you can apply for one of the following restraining orders instead:
- Workplace violence restraining order
- Elder abuse restraining order
- Civil harassment restraining order
All of these restraining orders have different requirements and can help protect against abusers who do not fit the requirements of the domestic violence definition. If you are unsure what type of restraining order is best for your situation, you should speak to an attorney. If you call a domestic violence hotline, they can help put you in touch with legal services and resources. Indian tribes can provide you with resources, and the tribal court can help you with a protective order.
How Can a Restraining Order Help?
A restraining order will help by ensuring the person cannot come near you or contact you. They cannot come into contact with anyone in your household or your pets either. If you live together, they must move out of your house. They are not allowed to purchase or own a firearm while the restraining order is in place.
The restrained person must follow all court-ordered visitation requirements and pay all child support and spousal support. They must release any property that they are holding and must ensure that the victim’s cellphone contracts are transferred back into their name and control. The restrained person cannot make any changes to insurance policies or incur any large expenses or make changes to joint property. They may have to pay bills, depending on circumstances.
The restrained person may also have to complete a 52 week batterer intervention program.
The restraining order will be entered into CLETS so that all law enforcement officers can see the details of the restraining order. Restraining orders from other states are valid in California, and law enforcement officers will enforce them.
What Can’t a Restraining Order Help With?
A restraining order cannot legally separate or divorce you from an abusive partner or spouse. It also cannot establish the paternity of your child or make a judgement as to the paternity. This is a separate court process. The restraining order will help to keep you safe and reduce some of the stress while you try to sort out these other aspects.
How Can I Apply For a Restraining Order?
In order to apply for a restraining order, you need to file an application for a restraining order with the court. On these forms, you can specify the restrictions you want to be placed on the restrained person. This is where legal help can be handy; a lawyer can advise you on what restrictions you can ask for in order to improve your situation. They can help you fill out the forms and help you with any questions you may have.
There is no filing fee for a domestic violence restraining order. The judge will make a decision of whether they will provide a temporary restraining order by the end of the next business day. The courts try to make the process as quick as possible in order to ensure domestic violence victims are protected. The temporary restraining order will include provisions for who can live in the family home and use joint property like cars. It will also make child custody and visitation arrangements. These provisions must be followed until the hearing date for the permanent restraining order.
The temporary restraining order will go into effect immediately and stay in effect until the court date for the permanent restraining order. At the court hearing for the permanent restraining order, the court will make permanent decisions about child custody and child support. The permanent restraining order will last for 5 years, and can be renewed if the person who filed it applies for a renewal. If the individual who filed does not show up to the court hearing, the case will be thrown out. If the individual who was restrained does not attend the court hearing, then they will not be given a chance to present their evidence.
How to Get Help For Domestic Violence
There are a number of resources available to help domestic violence victims. They range from helplines to chat about your situation and seek solidarity through to shelters and legal assistance.
While it is possible to file a restraining order or respond to a restraining order without legal assistance, it is recommended you seek the advice of an attorney to do so. They can help simplify the court process and advise you of the legal help available to you. A lawyer can also put you in touch with additional resources should you need them.
Most domestic violence shelters give access to legal resources, and legal aid will often take domestic violence cases for free or low cost. Look into these resources before you try to handle the case yourself.