Domestic Violence and the Law

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is widespread throughout the United States. According to a recent National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice, each year approximately 1.5 million are raped and/or physically assaulted by their current or former husbands, partners, or boyfriends. Many are victimized more than once over the course of a year. 

When spouses, intimate partners, dates, or family members use physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment, or stalking to control the behavior of their partners, they are committing domestic violence. Most victims of domestic violence are women. Children who witness domestic violence are also victims. Girls may grow up and suffer from domestic abuse like their mothers. Boys, especially, are more likely to be aggressive and engage in criminal behavior if they grow up in homes where domestic violence exists. 

No one has the right to hit or threaten you with violence. If they do, they are breaking the law. There are still people who believe that violence between a man and a woman involved in a relationship is not a crime. They may think that it is a private matter between couples or that you are not serious about stopping the violence. 

Get Help - The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233

  • You are not alone. One-fourth of all relationships include violence which almost always involves the man abusing the woman.
  • You are not the cause of someone else's violent behavior.
  • People have the right to get angry, but not the right to hit because they are angry.
  • You have the right to help and respect. You are the victim of crime and should be treated accordingly.
  • You have the right to protect yourself and your children.
  • You have the right not to be blamed for the crimes of your partner against you or your children.
  • Domestic Violence affects people of all walks of life.

Who Qualifies?

Questions to Ask:

  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family?
  • Put down your accomplishments or goals?
  • Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions?
  • Use intimidation or threats to gain compliance?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them?
  • Treat you roughly - grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
  • Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you aren't ready for?
  • Make you feel like there "is no way out" of the relationship?
  • Prevent you from doing things you want - like spending time with your friends or family?
  • Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to "teach you a lesson"?
  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner's behavior?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
  • Stay with you partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke-up?

Are you eligible to file for a protective order?

You can seek legal protection from acts of domestic abuse committed by

  • An "Intimate Partner"
  • A "Family or Household Member"
  • If you are an immediate family member of a first degree murder victim, where the defendant has been charged and convicted.

More Detail

  • a current spouse
  • a former spouse
  • someone you have had a dating relationship with
  • someone you have had a sexual relationship with
  • someone you have a child with and currently live with
  • someone you live with where there is affectionate or sexual involvement
  • someone who is an intimate partner of a minor child
  • parent, grandparent, stepparent, adoptive parent or foster parent, or
  • child, grandchild, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child, or
  • related to me in another way, by either blood or marriage, and lives in the same household, or
  • family or household member of the minor child.
  • Rape
  • Harassment (must file a police report)
  • Stalking (must file a police report)

against you or your minor child.

Terms and Definitions


  • Affidavit: a written statement of evidence, given under oath. For example, "I swear that my husband beat me."
  • Alias: an extension of time for an Emergency Protective Order and is given by a judge. This happens when the other party has not been served with the petition and emergency protective order. Law enforcement will use this to try and serve the petition again. 
  • Assault: as an attempt to commit a battery or the intentional placing of another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery. If your spouse or significant other threatens or attempts to hurt you, this is assault. It can be prosecuted under both city and state criminal law. 
  • Aggravated Assault: an assault with a dangerous weapon (i.e.: gun, knife, car) and it is a felony.
  • Battery: the intentional use of force or physical violence upon another person.
  • Aggravated Battery: Beating or attacking someone with a dangerous weapon. It is also inflicting serious bodily injury, unconsciousness, disfigurement, loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ or mental faculty, or the substantial risk of death. Aggravated battery is a felony. ·     
  • Defendant: the person accused of committing a crime. 
  • Police Report: often a necessary step to bring charges against someone for domestic violence or assault and battery, but it is not always all that is needed to bring charges. You may also have to complete a complaint form with the prosecutor's office.
  • Arraignment: When the person accused of an offense goes before the judge to be charged and advised of his rights. This is not a trial. This is when the bond is set. 
  • Subpoena: a written notice for you to appear in court at a set time with a penalty for failure to appear. 
  • Plea Bargain: means that at certain times the defendant will be given an opportunity to plead guilty to the charges, make some bargain to plead guilty to lesser charges, or plead guilty to receive an agreed sentence. Victims can have an influence on the plea bargaining by making your wants and wishes known to the prosecutor. 
  • Preliminary Hearing: the time when the judge hears evidence to determine if a crime has been committed and if the person accused of the crime should stand trial. Victims may need to testify in a preliminary hearing. At this time the case can be dismissed or the defendant held for trial. ·     
  • Trial: the final hearing to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. You may need to testify in the trial.
  • Victim Impact Statement: a domestic violence advocate can help you can provide a written statement to the prosecutor and the court outlining how you have been affected by the crime and what you wish to have done.

Helpful Links

Last Review and Update: Mar 21, 2024
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