What is Domestic Violence?

What is Domestic Violence?

By: Alex Graziano

It is a common misconception that domestic violence only occurs when one spouse physically strikes another. It is also common for people to believe that men are generally the only ones who are ever prosecuted for domestic violence. In the last twenty years, many states have adopted an expanded definition of "domestic violence."

Our family law attorneys at Pope McMillan primarily address domestic violence matters in the context of restraining orders, rather than criminal cases. North Carolina has a multi-part statute that defines the term "domestic violence" for the purpose of obtaining a restraining order against someone.

First, the offensive act must have been between two people who have some sort of personal relationship, such as boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife, father-mother, brother-sister, etc. If the offensive act occurred between two strangers or acquaintances a protective order can still be sought but it is not considered domestic violence. Additionally, if the offensive act was committed against the minor child of someone who had a personal relationship with the aggressor, that would also suffice for domestic violence.

Second, the aggressor has to have committed some sort of act covered by the statute. The statute lists three main grounds for a Domestic Violence Protective Order: (1) attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury; or (2) placing the victim or a member of the victim's family/household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress; or (3) committing an act defined in N.C.G.S. 14-27.21 through N.C.G.S. 14-27.33.

The first basis for getting a domestic violence order sounds straight-forward: a person strikes another person with whom they have a personal relationship. Certainly, many instances of domestic violence occur under this scenario. The relatively unknown scenario is the second basis for an order. Many people are not aware that someone who threatens you with bodily harm, whether with words or actions, can absolutely have a domestic violence order taken out against them. Furthermore, a person who continuously harasses someone with disgusting remarks, hurtful words, or other forms of badgering can also have a domestic violence order taken out against them. The law is clear here: it is not necessary that someone strike you in order for it to be domestic violence in the eyes of the law.

While this article does not address the specific grounds for criminal prosecution, a protective order can still be immensely helpful. A Judge can order that the aggressor refrain from doing a number of things, including contacting, harassing, intimidating, or going to the victim's home, work, school, or anywhere else where he or she obtains shelter. The power of a Domestic Violence Order is substantial, and violations of an order are punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.

If you ever believe you are the victim of domestic violence, regardless of whether it is physical or verbal, please contact one of the family law attorneys at Pope McMillan Kutteh & Schieck, P.A. It is incredibly important that you seek the protection necessary for your safety and the safety of your family.

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