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Defining Domestic Violence

There are various definitions of domestic violence used nationwide, reflecting both legal definitions under law,

as well as descriptions relevant to specific disciplines of caregivers, including victim advocates,

medical professionals, and criminal justice practitioners.

Georgia law defines domestic violence as:

Any felony, battery, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint or criminal trespass between past or present spouses, parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household. (O.C.G.A. 19-13-1)

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines battering as:

A pattern of behavior with the effect of establishing power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.


  • batterers believe they are entitled to control their partners

  • when violence is permissible

  • when violence will produce the desired effect or prevent a worse one

  • when the benefits outweigh the consequences

Whenever a person is placed in physical danger or controlled by the threat or use of physical force, they have been abused. Not all abuse is physical. Emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, using children, making threats, using male privilege, intimidation, isolation, and a variety of other behaviors can be used to maintain fear, intimidation and power.

Forms of Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is usually recurrent and escalates both in frequency and severity.


It may include the following:

  • pushing

  • shoving

  • slapping

  • punching

  • biting

  • kicking

  • choking

  • assault with a weapon

  • torturing

  • burning

  • confining

  • holding

  • tying down or restraining

Emotional & Psychological Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse may precede or accompany physical violence as a means of controlling through fear and degradation.


It may include the following:

  • threats of physical harm

  • harm or threats to harm pets and or other treasured objects

  • physical and social isolation

  • extreme jealousy and possessiveness

  • deprivation

  • intimidation

  • humiliation

  • name-calling and constant criticizing, insulting and belittling

  • false accusations, blaming the victim for everything

  • ignoring, dismissing or ridiculing her needs

  • lying, breaking promises, and destroying trust

  • driving fast and recklessly to frighten and intimidate

  • leaving victim in a dangerous place

  • refusing to help when victim is sick or injured

Economic Abuse

Economic abuse involves the abuser creating financial dependence by gaining control of his partners money and assets through:

  • manipulation

  • coercion

  • misrepresenting facts, lying

  • stealing

  • borrowing

  • misappropriating

  • signature forgery

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse in violent relationships is often the most difficult aspect of abuse for victims to discuss. It may include any form of forced sex or degradation, such as:

  • trying to make victim perform sexual acts against their will

  • pursuing sexual activity when victim is not fully conscious, is not asked, or is afraid to say no

  • hurting victim physically during sex or assaulting genitals, including use of objects or weapons

  • coercing victim to have sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmittable diseases

  • criticizing victim and using sexually degrading names

Involving Children

Children are often incorporated into patterns of abuse. Abusers may also:

  • physically or sexually abuse their children

  • neglect children emotionally or financially

  • threaten to harm the children

  • use the children as “pawns” in episodes involving partner abuse or neglect

  • attempt to get children to “take sides” in partner disputes

  • degrade or humiliate their partners in front of the children

  • threaten to have the children taken from victim or cut off financial support for children in the event that the partner leaves

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