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December 03, 2020

Domestic Violence Basics

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of many behaviors directed at achieving and maintaining power and control over an intimate partner, such as physical violence, emotional abuse, isolation of the victim, economic abuse, intimidation, and coercion and threats.

If someone is abusing you or someone in your household, you do not have to accept it—even if your spouse is the abuser. The police and courts can help you stop the abuse.

What kind of behavior is defined as domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a crime in all states, though each state’s laws are a little different.

Abuse can include:

  • physical attacks, including forced sexual relations
  • verbal abuse or harassment, including disrespectful or demeaning comments
  • threats against you or another family member
  • creating disturbances at your place of work
  • harassing telephone calls
  • spying on you
  • child abuse

Which courts handle abuse cases?

Domestic violence can be handled in three different types of courts:

  1. criminal court, where the state will prosecute the abuser (possible crimes include abuse of intimate partner, violation of a protection order, elder abuse, murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, property destruction, vandalism, trespassing, stalking, unlawful possession or concealment of a weapon, intimidating a witness, and many others)
  2.  civil court, where you might address violation of a protection order or sue for money damages (possible civil lawsuits include sexual harassment, personal injury).
  3. divorce, or family, court (family violence directly affects divorce proceedings, and can be a factor in limiting or prohibiting the abuser’s rights to child custody or visitation privileges)

Domestic violence might also involve child abuse and neglect and might impact on other areas of law, such as public benefits, immigration status, etc.

Each branch of the military has a program that can respond to domestic violence cases and is often the first place for members and families in this situation to go before seeking help from the civil or criminal courts. Such programs offer counseling and command involvement for incidents of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence is a very serious problem. To get important information on dealing with domestic violence and protecting you and your loved ones, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, and the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence.