Written by Canterbury Law Group

Domestic Violence

The attorneys at Canterbury Law Group help clients obtain orders of protection in Scottsdale. We also assist in determining if your domestic violence case is a civil or criminal case.
In domestic violence situations, there may be both civil and criminal matters occurring at the same time as a result of the same violent act. You may want to pursue both civil and criminal actions for maximum protection. The major differences have to do with who takes the case to court, the reason for the case, and the possible penalties.

  • Civil Law – In a civil domestic violence action, you are asking the court to protect you from the person abusing you. You are not asking the court to send that person to jail for committing a crime. However, if the abuser violates the civil court order, s/he may be sent to jail for the violation. In a civil case, you are the person bringing the case against the abuser and (in most circumstances), you have the right to withdraw (drop) the case if you want to. A Scottsdale order of protection is requested in civil court. Once granted, they usually are valid for a period of one year and they sometimes can be renewed by the person originally obtained the order of protection.
  • Criminal Law – In stark contrast, the criminal law system handles all cases that involve violations of criminal law such as harassment, assault, murder, theft, etc. As such, only the government, via the local prosecutor or grand jury can make the final decision to “bring charges” against the bad actor who has engaged in bad acts.
    A criminal complaint involves your abuser being charged with a crime. In a criminal case, the prosecutor (also called the district attorney) is the one who has control over whether the case against the abuser continues or not. It is the county/state who has brought the case against the abuser, not the victim. It is possible that if you do not want the case to continue (if you do not want to “press charges”), the prosecutor might decide to drop the criminal charges but this is not necessarily true. The prosecutor can also continue to prosecute the abuser against your wishes and can even issue a subpoena (a court order) to force you to testify at the trial live under oath.

Domestic violence used to be a secret to be “kept in the family” or swept under the rug. But it’s now more prevalent in news and media than ever before. As a result, a lot of people are thinking about what constitutes domestic violence. Why do people stay in abusive relationships? How can family and friends help a loved one leave an abusive partner?

This Domestic Violence section provides resources for victims of domestic abuse and those who love them. If you need immediate help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Findlaw’s Domestic Violence section is divided into four parts.

  • An overview of domestic violence: These articles define the different types of abuse and how to recognize signs of abuse. There are articles that explain battered women’s syndrome and why some victims recant after finally speaking out. It also provides the history of legal intervention.
  • Domestic violence laws: These articles cover the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, and state domestic violence laws.
  • How to stop domestic violence: These articles can help victims file for a restraining order and file a domestic violence lawsuit. They explain who is a mandatory reporter and who you can turn to for help. You will also find a guide to stop domestic violence.
  • Domestic violence resources: In this section you will find a list of domestic violence organizations and hotlines. At the state level, this listing includes domestic violence programs and state forms to file for a protective order.

Domestic Violence, Legally Defined

Domestic abuse is a top public health concern. Homicide by an intimate partner is one of the leading pregnancy-associated causes of death, according to research. And yet many people do not understand the scope of abusive behavior. Early in their intimate relationship, victims may not realize they are experiencing domestic violence. They fail to take action and then it escalates.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic abuse as “a pattern of abusive behaviors used by one person to gain or maintain control over another person in an intimate relationship.”

The victim is often a spouse (male or female). But they can also be a dating partner, a child or parent, a family member, or a roommate. It is a person with whom the abuser is in close proximity.

Most people think of domestic abuse as battering or assault, but there are several types of abuse:

  • Physical abuse is most likely to be seen by coworkers or health care providers. Victims often find ways to hide the evidence of the abuser’s violent behavior. But physical violence can lead to physical injury requiring medical care.
  • Sexual abuse may not be understood by the victim as abuse until it becomes sexual violence. Non-consensual sex, even within marriage, is sexual assault. Young people, in particular, need to be educated about dating violence.
  • Emotional abuse causes the victim to feel intense emotional distress. The abuser may verbally demean and socially humiliate their victim. They may engage in name-calling. Emotional abuse damages the victim’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Stalking, harassment, and threats are forms of emotional abuse; They are designed to instill fear in the victim.
  • Psychological abuse is controlling behavior that damages the victim’s mental health. They may think they are going crazy. They may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Economic abuse or financial abuse is an extension of the abuser’s need for control. They may prevent a spouse from earning money or from having access to money. An abuser may steal money from an elder parent with whom they live.

Punishing Domestic Violence

While law enforcement once turned a blind eye to intimate partner violence, state laws now require an arrest and mandate penalties. Restraining orders are easier to get, at least initially. And federal and state laws are in place to prevent abusers from owning guns.

Survivors of domestic violence can sue their abusers in civil court to recover damages for their injuries.

Unfortunately, these remedies are only available after the abusive behavior or physical violence has already occurred.

Preventing Domestic Violence

Nationally, there is a loud call to end domestic violence.

Domestic abuse nonprofits and governmental agencies exist in every state. They provide information and training on how to identify the warning signs of abuse. They provide practical resources to help survivors of domestic violence create a safety plan to exit dangerous relationships. They provide referrals for safe places to shelter and offer victim hotlines in a variety of languages. And they undertake legal advocacy.

Help is a phone call away. But as many victims know, that phone call and those first steps can be extremely dangerous. Their lives are often at stake. If the U.S. wants to end the scourge of family violence, it needs to provide human services resources and physical and financial support to help victims break free once and for all.

The prevalence of domestic violence is arguably one of the top health concerns in the country. Understanding its definition can help you to take more effective action against its many manifestations of abuse.

In some cases, abusers may not even realize that they’re inflicting domestic violence on someone else. On the flip side, victims may not take action against their abusers if they don’t realize that the behavior they’re experiencing is indeed domestic violence.


Moreover, friends and loved ones of victims are in a better place to help if they understand what domestic violence looks like. Therefore, it’s important that people understand the definition of domestic violence and the many forms it can take.

This article provides helpful information about domestic violence. If you or someone you know are suffering from domestic violence, get immediate access to resources here.

Definition of Domestic Violence: Types of Abuse

According to the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, the definition of domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner. Many types of abuse are included in the definition of domestic violence:

  • Physical abuse can include hitting, biting, slapping, battering, shoving, punching, pulling hair, burning, cutting, pinching, etc. (any type of violent behavior inflicted on the victim). Physical abuse also includes denying someone medical treatment and forcing drug/alcohol use on someone.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when the abuser coerces or attempts to coerce the victim into having sexual contact or sexual behavior without the victim’s consent. This often takes the form of marital rape, attacking sexual body parts, physical violence that is followed by forcing sex, sexually demeaning the victim, or even telling sexual jokes at the victim’s expense.
  • Emotional abuse involves invalidating or deflating the victim’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem. Emotional abuse often takes the form of constant criticism, name-calling, injuring the victim’s relationship with his/her children, or interfering with the victim’s abilities.
  • Economic abuse takes place when the abuser makes or tries to make the victim financially reliant. Economic abusers often seek to maintain total control over financial resources, withhold the victim’s access to funds, or prohibit the victim from going to school or work.
  • Psychological abuse involves the abuser invoking fear through intimidation; threatening to physically hurt himself/herself, the victim, children, the victim’s family or friends, or the pets; destruction of property; injuring the pets; isolating the victim from loved ones; and prohibiting the victim from going to school or work.
  • Threats to hit, injure, or use a weapon are a form of psychological abuse.
  • Stalking can include following the victim, spying, watching, harassing, showing up at the victim’s home or work, sending gifts, collecting information, making phone calls, leaving written messages, or appearing at a person’s home or workplace. These acts individually are typically legal, but any of these behaviors done continuously result in a stalking crime.
  • Cyberstalking refers to online action or repeated emailing that inflicts substantial emotional distress on the recipient.

Definition of Domestic Violence: Victims

Definitions of domestic violence recognize that victims can include anyone, regardless of socioeconomic background, education level, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence was formerly referred to as wife abuse. However, this term was abandoned when the definition of domestic violence was changed to reflect that wives are not the only ones who can fall victim to domestic violence. The definition of domestic violence now recognizes that victims can be:

  • Spouses
  • Sexual/Dating/Intimate partners
  • Family members
  • Children
  • Cohabitants

Many people think that a victim of domestic violence can only obtain a protective order against a spouse. This is actually a myth. Most states allow victims of abusive cohabitant lovers to obtain protective orders (also referred to as temporary restraining orders or emergency protective orders). Some states allow victims of abusive adult relatives, roommates, or even non-cohabitating partners to obtain protective orders. The laws in each state are different, so check the most updated laws in your state.

Dating Violence

Dating violence is another form of domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act defines dating violence according to the relationship between the abuser and the victim. Dating violence is committed by a person in a social, romantic, or intimate relationship with the victim. The existence of such a relationship is determined using the following factors:

  • The length of the relationship
  • The type of relationship
  • The partners’ frequency of interaction

Does the Definition of Domestic Violence Apply to Your Situation? Ask an Attorney

A complete definition of domestic violence encompasses many forms of abuse and negative behavior. Domestic violence is a destructive crime that carries life-altering damage to everyone involved.

Legal Help for Victims of Crime

If you feel unsafe in your home or relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or call 911. An experienced family law attorney can assist you with everything from talking to the police to filing for protective orders and a civil lawsuit.



It is essential to contact an attorney to evaluate and invoke your rights when dealing with domestic violence either when allegations are brought against you, or where you bring them against another. Contact our Scottsdale lawyers today to schedule your consultation. www.clgaz.com 480-744-7711.

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