Written by Avvo Staff

The Basics of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence involves abuse between family members or people who are related to each other. Domestic violence is not limited to physical acts and can include mental or emotional cruelty and threats of physical harm.

Identifying domestic violence

Violence or threats of harm between people who are related by blood, by marriage (even if they are no longer married), or through adoption is considered domestic violence under the law. Violence between people who are simply living together (or used to live together), are dating or engaged, or have children together may also be considered domestic violence.

Getting help

The most important thing in a domestic violence situation is for you to get away from the abuser and seek help. That help can be from a friend or neighbor, but should also include help from the police. Police are specially trained to handle domestic violence situations and can be of great help. There are also local agencies that provide shelter or counseling for victims of domestic violence, and some that can offer legal assistance.

It is important to note that domestic violence is not a class issue or a race issue. Anyone can be a victim. Help is available to anyone who needs it.

Prosecuting domestic violence

Often in domestic violence cases a victim will press charges, then reconcile with the abuser and ask to have the charges dropped. Because this pattern often repeats itself, in some places domestic violence is treated as a crime against the community and charges will be filed regardless of whether the victim files a formal complaint.

Whether a you press charges, or the state files charges against your abuser, one of the most common tools used to separate the people involved is a restraining order ( Usually a temporary restraining order is issued, which gives the alleged abuser an opportunity to appear in court. After a hearing, the court may decide to issue a more permanent restraining order.

Restraining orders may vary in specifics, but they usually state that:

  • The restrained can have no contact, whether physical, verbal, or otherwise, with the protected.
  • If the people involved live together, the restrained must move out immediately.
  • The restrained must stay a certain distance away from the protected at all times.
  • The restrained must enroll in a counseling program.
  • The restrained can't buy a gun.

Other family members who live with the victim may also be protected by a restraining order. Violation of any restraining order can result in jail time and/or a fine for the restrained person.

Additional resources:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (

End Abuse: Family Violence Prevention (

Related Legal Guides:

Domestic Violence Restraining Order (

Domestic Violence Charges (

Domestic Violence against Men (

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