Many people don’t realize actually what domestic violence means. For most, the image that comes to mind is something out of the Shining: an angry man stalking the halls, perhaps a weapon in hand, while the family cowers, afraid of the next blow.
While everyone would recognize this sort of extreme physical abuse as violence that must be stopped, many do not know that that is not the full extent of what we mean by domestic violence, either in practice or law.
Physical violence can, in fact, be much less obvious or dramatic. It can include simply holding someone’s wrist in order to keep them with you when they have asked to be let go. It can include hair pulling, slaps, pushes, pokes, scratches, bites, or holding someone down, among other forms.
Even this is not the limit of the definition, however.
There are, in fact, many ways a spouse or partner could be abusive in the home. The violence may not be towards the person but could instead by towards property. If the person grows angry and starts breaking objects around the house, that is considered a form of domestic violence.
Such acts don’t even have to be physical. Excessive profanity and loud arguing can also be considered violence, especially if they are accompanied by threats or intimidation, although these are not required to meet the definition.
The reason the definition is so broad is that it is difficult to protect people in homes where domestic violence is taking place. A husband, to give an example, may never physically harm his wife or child, but he may still create an environment of violence and suffering for his family in which they are afraid, intimidated, and psychologically abused.
In order to give that family the ability to get the help they need, the laws are constructed in such a way to protect them from the husband and father.
This should not be taken to mean that everyone who has ever lost their temper is guilty of domestic violence. Arguing and swearing are normal parts of relationships, even if they are the least desirable parts. It is not necessarily the singular act of loud arguing but the degree and regularity of the act.
Once loud arguments and profanity become regular and particularly violent, then it is possible for the state to step in to protect the objects of that violence.
It is, of course, of primary concern that the accusers are kept safe but of no less concern that those who have been accused are given proper channels to contest any actions taken by the state and to defend themselves. Lawyers are available for council and defense of all parties.
It is hoped that all cases can be handled safely and fairly with a regard for what is best for all parties (but especially children).
No matter the type of abuse taking place in the home, if you ever feel unsafe for yourself or your children, do not hesitate to contact the proper authorities. There are no limits on what domestic violence can be, except a question of if you feel safe or not.