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Posted on February 28, 2018 in Domestic Violence

If one were to ask 100 Americans, “What is domestic violence?” one would receive a variety of answers. The most common answers would be obvious, like hitting, punching, and kicking. Some answers would include sexual assault, other answers might even include emotional abuse. However, acts which the law defines as abuse is much, much longer.

On occasion, some spouses say something like: “Well, he never punched me or anything.” Ok, but that only covers a fraction of domestic violence scenarios. A large percentage of domestic violence restraining orders involve facts without any physical abuse.

The California Family Code 6320 defines “abuse” as:

“(a) For purposes of this act, “abuse” means any of the following:

(1) To intentionally or recklessly cause or attempt to cause bodily injury.

(2) Sexual assault.

(3) To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another.

(4) To engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320.

(b) Abuse is not limited to the actual infliction of physical injury or assault.” Fam.C. Section 6203.

Family Code 6320 states:

“(a) The court may issue an ex parte order enjoining a party from molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, credibly impersonating as described in Section 528.5 of the Penal Code, falsely personating as described in Section 529 of the Penal Code, harassing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls as described in Section 653m of the Penal Code, destroying personal property, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance of, or disturbing the peace of the other party, and, in the discretion of the court, on a showing of good cause, of other named family or household members.”

What does this mean? In short, not only is physical abuse included in the definition of domestic violence but so too is stalking and harassing behavior. This type of abuse includes calling vulgar or belittling names, screaming/yelling, and even statements on social media. Identity-theft is included, by reference to Penal Code 528.5. In looking at emotional abuse, the Court will look to Family Code section 6203 (a)(3) to see if the behavior would place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent bodily injury.

Some other examples of “non-physical” abuse include (but are not limited to:)

  • Preventing escape (e.g. taking away car keys, blocking doorways, etc.;)
  • Preventing communication (e.g. taking/turning off cell phones;)
  • Throwing items, punching walls, cars, or doors, even if those items were not used to physically hurt the protected person. This creates a reasonable apprehension of immediate physical injury;
  • Exposing others (children) to drug abuse or illicit drug use;
  • Exposing children to domestic violence;
  • Harassing telephone calls, texts, emails, or social media posts; and
  • Stalking behavior (e.g. following, appearing at protected person’s residence or work, unsolicited contact with protected person’s family or friends, social media identity-theft, etc.)

Every person has the right to be free from harassing or dangerous behavior. This extends well past the old notions of domestic violence survivors having to show dramatic injuries to prove their claims. Your personal safety is very important to us. If you feel you are in danger, please call a San Diego domestic violence lawyer from Scott & Matteson today to schedule a consultation at 1-858-974-490o. You may also reach us online.