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Dating/Domestic Violence Definitions and Forms of Abuse

If there is immediate danger, call 911.

Relationship Violence

Is a pattern of behavior in an intimate relationship that is used to establish power and control over another person through fear, intimidation and threats. Whether you refer to an experience as dating violence, domestic violence, intimate partner violence or relationship violence, all terms mean that one partner has gained more power over time through the use of controlling tactics.

Domestic Violence

Is abuse committed against someone who is a current or former spouse; current or former cohabitant; someone with whom the Respondent has a child; someone with whom the Respondent has or had a dating or engagement relationship; or a person similarly situated under California domestic or family violence law. Cohabitant means two unrelated persons living together for a substantial period of time, resulting in some permanency of relationship. It does not include roommates who do not have a romantic, intimate, or sexual relationship. Factors that may determine whether persons are cohabiting include, but are not limited to: (1) sexual relations between the Parties while sharing the same living quarters; (2) sharing of income or expenses; (3) joint use or ownership of property; (4) whether the Parties hold themselves out as spouses; (5) the continuity of the relationship; and, (6) the length of the relationship. For purposes of this definition, “abuse” means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to himself or herself, or another. Abuse does not include non-physical emotional distress or injury.

Dating Violence

Is abuse committed by a person who is or has been in a social or dating relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim.This may include someone the victim just met; i.e., at a party, introduced through a friend, or on a social networking website. For purposes of this definition, “abuse” means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to himself or herself, or another. Abuse does not include non-physical, emotional distress or injury.

Dating/Domestic violence can take many different forms including, but not limited to, the following:


Inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury
example: grabbing, punching,  pinching, shoving, slapping, hitting, biting, arm-twisting, kicking, punching, stabbing, strangling, smothering, using or threatening to use weapons, shoving, interrupting your sleep, throwing things, destroying property, hurting or killing pets, and denying medical treatment.


Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact without consent
example: physically forcing sex, making you feel fearful about saying no to sex, forcing sex with other partners, forcing you to participate in demeaning or degrading sexual acts, violence or name calling during sex, denying contraception or protection from sexually transmitted diseases, marital rape, acquaintance rape, forced sex after physical beating, attacks on the sexual parts of the body, forced prostitution.


Instilling or attempting to instill fear
example: intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, victim, and/or others, threatening to harm and/or kidnap children, menacing, blackmail, harassment, destruction of pets and property, mind games, “crazy-making”, stalking.


Undermining or attempting to undermine victim’s sense of worth
example: constant criticism, belittling victim's abilities and competency, name-calling, insults, put-downs, silent treatment, manipulating victim's feelings and emotions to induce guilt, repeatedly making and breaking promises, minimizing the abuse or blaming you for their behavior, excessive jealously, accusing you of having affairs, and watching where you go and who you talk to.


Making or attempting to make the victim financially dependent
example: giving you an allowance, not letting you have your own money or access to money, maintaining total control over financial resources, forbidding attendance at school, forbidding employment, on-the-job harassment, requiring accountability and justification for all money spent, running up debt, running credit.

What Does Dating/Domestic Violence Look Like

Anyone can be a victim of dating/domestic violence. Research indicates that female perpetrators are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves, pinch, slap, scratch, or kick, while male perpetrators are more likely to punch their partner and force them to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Some dating/domestic violence victims experience physical violence only occasionally; others, more often

Controlling Behavior May Include

  • Not letting you hang out with your friends
  • Calling or paging you frequently to find out where you are, whom you're with, and what you're doing
  • Telling you what to wear
  • Having to be with you all the time

Verbal and Emotional Abuse May Include

  • Calling you names
  • Jealousy
  • Belittling you (cutting you down)
  • Threatening to hurt you, someone in your family, or himself or herself if you don't do what he or she wants.

Physical Abuse May Include

  • Shoving
  • Punching
  • Slapping
  • Pinching
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Hair pulling
  • Strangling

Sexual Abuse May Include

  • Unwanted touching and kissing
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Not letting you use birth control
  • Forcing you to do other sexual things

There are many factors that make leaving an abusive relationship difficult.

Factors that make leaving an unhealthy and/or abusive relationship hard.

  • You may be financially dependent on the abuser
  • You may love and care for the abuser and hope they will change
  • You may have nowhere else to go if you leave
  • You may not feel safe leaving
  • You may feel cultural, religious, familial, or social pressure to stay in the relationship
  • You may have grown up in a violent household and may not know what healthy relationships are
  • You may be embarrassed to admit that your partner is abusive
  • You may have legitimate fears that leaving may result in more harm


State of California Domestic Violence Statutes

Dating/Domestic Violence Statutes

Victim Protection Statutes