In the legal world, definitions are very important. The general public’s understanding of a term may not fulfill the legal understanding, sometimes making it difficult to determine what actually qualifies as a crime worthy of report. Indeed, questions like “What is considered domestic violence?” are asked frequently. So, what is the definition of domestic violence? Here, we will provide an answer to that question.
The term “domestic violence”, also termed “domestic abuse”, can describe a number of abusive behaviors that take place in the home or within family relationships. In general, these behaviors are intended to control, intimidate, or injure an inhabitant of a home either physically, sexually, socially, economically, or emotionally.
Physical violence is the most obvious category of domestic violence, and can include behaviors like kicking, punching, burning, assault with weapons, prolonged immobilization, or forceful shoving. These actions, taken against spouses, children, or other members of a domestic unit, are considered domestic violence, especially when they have pronounced physical and psychological effects on the victim.
Sexual abuse fits into the definition of domestic violence when non-consensual sexual acts are forced either physically or through psychological manipulation or social pressure. While most people immediately think of sexual abuse of children, spouses can also be affected by sexual violence when they are pressured to perform undesired sexual acts by psychological or economic means.
Social control is a very common type of domestic violence, existing where there is attempt by one party to control the social movements of another member of a domestic unit. This can take many forms, including demands that a victim not participate in certain activities or interact with certain people, or invasive actions like stalking. Though this category can be included in an answer to the question, “What is domestic violence abuse?”, it is often difficult to define or prosecute legally.
Economic deprivation is also included in the definition of domestic violence and refers to any action designed to inflict pain or hardship on a person through the withholding of necessary economic support or vital goods like food or clothing, especially when that deprivation is meant to affect the victim’s behavior. When this denial has deep physical and psychological consequences, it is considered abusive.
Emotional manipulation exists when family members use emotional threats or needlessly cruel comments to belittle or affect the behavior of a victim. Threats to commit suicide unless a certain action is performed or routine disparagement of a victim are often considered abusive.
Beyond answering the question “What is considered domestic violence?”, it is important to consider related laws on restraining orders. In the state of California, restraining orders for domestic violence are civil orders meant to protect victims from abuse by an intimate partner or family member. There are emergency protective orders that can be requested by police offers, and which take effect immediately. They last only five business days or seven calendar days, giving victims time to visit court to request a domestic violence restraining order. If your court date is scheduled much later, and you need continued protection, you can request a temporary (ex parte) restraining order. Temporary restraining orders require the abuser to leave the home and cease contact with the victim. In court, further restraining orders can be requested, lasting for up to five years. Do restraining orders work? That depends on you. As long as you report behaviors that defy your restraining order, you should remain safe from your abuser.
To determine more specifics about what is considered domestic violence in your state, request information from your local Department of Social Services. Find out more at this site.