Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Search for legal issues
For help near (city, ZIP code or county)
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location

Domestic Violence

Person comforts friend as the police talk to their partner about a domestic violence call for help.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence refers to violent or abusive acts committed by one family or household member against another, such as child abuse or spousal abuse. Domestic violence can refer to physical harm, or behavior that is controlling, coercive, or threatening. It can occur in any kind of intimate relationship -- married or unmarried, straight or gay, living together, or simply dating.

Domestic violence (sometimes called "spousal abuse") usually involves:

  • Repetitive physical and psychological abuse
  • A "cycle of violence"

Specific crimes charged vary based on:

  1. The severity of the victim's injuries
  2. Whether a minor was present
  3. Whether a protective or restraining order was violated

Anyone can become a domestic violence offender or victim. While rape and murder can be forms of domestic violence, most often domestic violence consists of lesser forms of physical abuse such as slapping and pushing. Stalking can also be a form of domestic violence.

What is Domestic Battery?

Domestic battery is a crime under the umbrella of domestic violence. It is also called "spousal battery." Battery is a criminal charge when violence and force are used against someone or it is attempted against someone. You do not have to actually be hurt for the guilty person to be charged with battery. You can think of domestic battery being the specific charge someone is guilty of, but it is all within a domestic violence case.

Is Domestic Violence a Specific Crime?

Many states define domestic violence as a distinct crime. As a result, a suspect who strikes a significant other may be charged with domestic violence instead of (or in addition to) other crimes such as assault and battery. Recognizing that domestic abusers take advantage of their victims' trust and confidence, after a conviction for domestic violence prosecutors often push for sentences that are harsher than those that might be sought for assault-type crimes involving two strangers. Those sentences typically include special protections for past (and potential) targets of domestic abuse.

Forms of Domestic Violence

Many forms of abuse are included in the definition of domestic violence:

  • Physical abuse can include hitting, biting, slapping, battering, shoving, punching (any type of violent behavior inflicted on the victim)
  • Sexual abuse occurs when the abuser coerces or attempts to coerce the victim into having sexual contact or sexual behavior without the victim's consent
  • Emotional abuse involves invalidating or deflating the victim's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem
  • Economic abuse takes place when the abuser makes or tries to make the victim financially reliant

Charged With Domestic Violence? An Attorney Can Help

Domestic violence can sometimes be a tricky area of the law involving emotionally-charged events and perceptions. If you've been charged with domestic violence, your case will depend on what facts can be established at trial. This can be especially difficult where there are no third-party witnesses, but a seasoned criminal defense attorney knows what to look for and can help you present your strongest defense.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified criminal lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Find a Lawyer

More Options