What Domestic Violence Means

Domestic Violence is defined by the Penal Code as an assault or an assault and battery that is committed by:

  • A spouse
  • A former spouse
  • A person residing or having resided in the same household as the victim
  • A person having a child in common with the victim
  • A person with whom he/she has or has had a dating relationship

Domestic Violence Act

Domestic Violence has been defined by the Domestic Violence Act as a non-self defense act that:

  • Causes or attempts to cause physical or mental harm to a family or household member
  • Places a family or household member in fear of physical or mental harm
  • Causes or attempting to cause a family or household member to engage in involuntary sexual activity by force, or duress
  • Engaging in activity toward a family or household member that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested


The Domestic Violence Act defines "family or household member" as: 

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A person with whom the defendant resides or has resided
  • A person with whom the defendant is or has engaged in a sexual relationship
  • A person to whom the defendant is related or was formerly related by marriage
  • A person with whom the defendant has had a child in common
  • The minor child of one of these people

Domestic violence has also been viewed as a learned pattern of physical, verbal, sexual and/or emotional behaviors in which one person in a relationship uses force and intimidation to dominate or control the other person. The partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Domestic violence occurs in all ages, races, genders and social classes.

Examples of Domestic Violence

The violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. Examples of domestic violence are:

  • Physical assault or abuse - hitting, pushing, shoving, slapping, choking, punching, kicking, grabbing, beating, throwing her down, tripping, twisting arms, biting, using a weapon
  • Threatened physical harm
  • Sexual assault or abuse - unwanted, forced sexual activity, making her do sexual things against her will, physically attacking the sexual parts of her body, etc.
  • Stalking
  • Intimidation
  • Emotional abuse - mind games, name-calling, put-downs, making the victim feel bad about herself
  • Jealousy - a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust
  • Controlling behavior and forced isolation (from family or friends), controlling what the victim does, who the victim sees or talks to, where the victim goes, relocating to a remote area, etc.
  • Economic abuse - preventing the victim from getting or holding a job, and controlling the purse-strings by withholding money, taking her earned money, giving her an allowance, making her ask for money, etc.

An important step to help yourself or someone you know prevent or stop violence is recognizing the warning signs listed on the Violence Wheel (PDF).