Understanding Domestic Violence

Page Summary: 
What is Domestic Violence?
What is Florida’s Legal Definition of Domestic Violence?
Family & Friends Can Help
Local Services

What is Domestic Violence?

It is a pattern of controlling behaviors – violence or threats of violence – that one person uses to establish power over an intimate partner in order to control that partner’s actions and activities. Domestic violence is not a disagreement, a marital spat, or an anger management problem. Domestic violence is abusive, disrespectful, and hurtful behaviors that one intimate partner chooses to use against the other partner.

You may be experiencing domestic violence if your partner is doing any of these or other unwanted behaviors:

  • Hurting you physically – slapping, hair pulling, strangling, hitting, kicking, grabbing, excessively squeezing or shaking, twisting your arms, burning you, or intentionally injuring you in any way
  • Using your children against you
  • Calling you names and hurting you emotionally
  • Harming your pets
  • Acting with extreme jealousy and possessiveness
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Threatening to commit suicide or to kill you
  • Controlling your money
  • Withholding medical help
  • Stalking you
  • Demanding sex or unwanted sex practices
  • Hiding assistive devices
  • Minimizing the destructive behavior
  • Threatening to “out” you if you are Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or transgender
  • Controlling you with “that certain look in his eyes” or certain gestures

If you are a victim of abuse, you are never to blame. It is not your fault.
All of the tactics above are abusive, and some may also constitute a crime under Florida Statutes (see definition). 

What is Florida’s Legal Definition of Domestic Violence?
As defined in law:

741.28 Domestic violence; definitions. --As used in ss. 741.28-741.31: "Department" means the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"Domestic violence" means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

"Family or household member" means spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married. With the exception of persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit.

"Law enforcement officer" means any person who is elected, appointed, or employed by any municipality or the state or any political subdivision thereof who meets the minimum qualifications established in s. 943.13 and is certified as a law enforcement officer under s. 943.1395.


Family & Friends Can Help

As a family member or trusted friend, do not be surprised if your loved one does not reach out to you for help. The survivor may feel ashamed, afraid, or even that she would be putting you in harm’s way if she told you about the abuse. Immense fear of physical violence or even death is often associated with being a victim of violence and that fear can keep someone from asking for help. She also may fear she will be told she should leave the relationship when she knows doing so most likely would increase the violence and put her life in jeopardy. It is important for family and trusted friends to remember that the person experiencing violence by an intimate partner is the expert in her own life and only she knows if and when it is safe for her to seek help.

For those who want to help, you can do the following:

  • Let the survivor know she is not alone and you are there to listen if/when she wants to talk.
  • Let her know there are services available to her.
  • If she talks to you about the abuse, let the survivor know you will keep a safety bag for her is she chooses to create one. Items for a safety bag may include identification papers/cards, keys, cell phone, bank statements, money, medicine, pictures of the family that include the abuser, proof of income, financial statements, visas, passports, green cards, insurance documents, birth certificates for you and your children, the abuser’s personal information including date of birth, social security number, place of employment and license plate number.
  • If she talks to you about the abuse, let the survivor know you are willing to set up a code word or signal for when she may need you to call the authorities for help.
  • Familiarize yourself with the services at the local certified domestic violence center in your area and inform her about the services.
  • Tell her the abuse is not her fault, that she does not cause it and she is not to blame.

Local Services
If you need immediate help, click here to locate the certified domestic violence center nearest you. By calling local 24/7 hotline number or the toll-free statewide hotline, 1-800-500-1119, you will be given information about domestic violence, safety planning, resources and referrals as well as emotional support. All of Florida’s certified domestic violence centers provide personal advocacy, shelter, safety planning, legal advocacy, children’s programs and information and referrals. All services are confidential.

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