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What is the Difference Between Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse?

David Pisarra May 24, 2017

Domestic abuse and domestic violence are two terms which hold a great deal of weight in family law courtrooms. Both are used to secure domestic violence restraining orders, and the prevention of domestic abuse, and violence, is one of the highest priorities for family law judges nationwide.

While these terms are frequently used interchangeably, and have similar definitions, there are nuanced differences between the two.

The State of California defines Domestic Violence as: Domestic violence is abuse or threats of abuse when the person being abused and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship (married or domestic partners, are dating or used to date, live or lived together, or have a child together). It is also when the abused person and the abusive person are closely related by blood or by marriage.

Within that definition of domestic violence, and within the laws that govern them, the State of California says domestic abuse is: Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly; Sexual assault; Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt (like threats or promises to harm someone); OR Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone’s peace; or destroying someone’s personal property.

Given those two definitions, domestic violence is the overarching, all-encompassing, umbrella under which many different types of abuse falls under. As we can see by the definition of abuse; abuse is not just direct physical or sexual violence. Abuse includes threats, intimidating or threatening behavior and speech, and financial abuse.

Let’s say you and your wife get into an argument over what is for dinner. She wants chicken, you want steak. As the argument escalates, you raise your voice, and the conversation disintegrates into a yelling match. If this makes her fearful, or “disturbs her peace”, then that qualifies as domestic abuse. Under the law, she will be entitled to seek a domestic violence restraining order.