Rethinking Domestic Violence: Know the Signs Beyond Physical Abuse

Domestic Violence is…

What qualifies as “abuse” under the law? When people think about domestic violence, physical abuse is usually the first thing that one pictures. Images of a battered woman with a black eye and bruises on her arms from being thrown around come to mind, mainly because that is the kind of imagery we are exposed to through the media and high-profile cases. Most people remember the photographs of Rihanna’s face after she was violently assaulted by Chris Brown back in 2009.

However, domestic violence does not always present as physical abuse. It can be emotional/psychological (verbal and non-verbal), spiritual, sexual, technological, or even financial.

Protect Yourself with a DVRO

Family Code §6320 allows the court to grant a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (“DVRO”) prohibiting the abuser from molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, credibly impersonating, falsely personating, harassing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls, destroying personal property, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, coming within a certain distance of, or disturbing the peace of the other party.

You might be thinking, “making annoying telephone calls?” “Disturbing the peace?” Really? And the answer is YES.

For example, a family law court in San Diego granted a woman’s request for a DVRO against her boyfriend for sending emails about her alleged infidelity to her employer, mutual friends, and more importantly, discussing the graphic details to her children, ages 17 and 9. The boyfriend went so far as to warn the woman’s children that they could contract sexually transmitted diseases from the towels their mother might use. The 17-year-old was so traumatized that she required inpatient care at a mental health facility. The family court found that the boyfriend’s actions amounted to disturbing the peace and issued a Domestic Violence Restraining Order against him. (See Altafulla v. Ervin (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 571).

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is important to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and understand that even if there is no physical abuse, you can still be a victim of domestic violence and may be entitled to injunctive relief under the law.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristen Sellers is an attorney with FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC, a Northern California law firm focused exclusively on specialized counsel for complex divorce and family law issues. The firm regularly represents business owners, professionals, and other high net worth individuals (or their spouses) in divorce, premarital agreements, and related actions. Keeley can be reached at or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice. Follow FPS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @law_fps
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