The terms “domestic violence” and “domestic abuse” are often used interchangeably to refer to incidents of physical violence committed between people who are married, who live together, or are who are dating. Some states’ criminal code use the term domestic violence while others use domestic abuse, ultimately the terms describe similar conduct. However, in some states a distinction is made between domestic violence and domestic abuse. The distinction under many states’ legal code rests in whether actual physical harm occurred, with domestic violence involving some type of physical harm to person or property and domestic abuse involving the threat of harm to a person or property for intimidation or coercion.
To understand the distinction looking at commonly used definitions can shed light on the differences between domestic violence and domestic abuse.
According to the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, domestic violence is:
- A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
- Domestic abuse on the other hand, involves conduct similar to domestic violence, but the main distinction rests in the fact that the abuse does not fall under a law that specifically outlaws domestic violence, but rather is considered common assault or battery against a person the defendant has an intimate relationship with.
Charles E Corry, PhD, an authority on domestic violence and abuse advances the following definitions:
…any act, or threatened act, of violence that is committed by any person against another person to whom the actor is currently or was formerly related, or with whom the actor is living or was formerly living in the same domicile, or with whom the actor is involved or has been involved in an intimate relationship. Domestic Abuse may also include any act of violence or threatened act of violence against the minor children of either of the parties.
…also includes any other crime against a person or against property or any municipal ordinance violation against a person or against property when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is/ has been involved in, an intimate relationship.
If you are victim of domestic violence, it is important to hire a lawyer experienced in representing victims of domestic violence. A skilled domestic violence attorney can help, explain the rights you may have and how to best protect yourself from an abusive partner or family member.