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What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors that adults use to maintain power and control over their intimate partners, or former partners. People who abuse their partners use a variety of tactics to coerce, intimidate, threaten and frighten their victims. Coercive control is a term often used to describe how an abuser purposely diminishes their partner’s freedoms as a way to strengthen their authority by withholding resources and taking away the survivor’s rights and liberties. The abuse often includes:

  • physical violence
  • sexual violence,
  • emotional abuse,
  • economic abuse,
  • isolation,
  • pet abuse,
  • threats relating to children
  • a variety of other behaviors meant to increase fear, intimidation and power over the victim.

Florida legally defines "domestic violence" as 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.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, anytime and in all kinds of families and relationships. However most domestic violence is committed by men and women are five times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner . Abusers and victims/survivors represent all ages, races, religions, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, marital status and economic status. The violence abusers perpetrate is a public health concern; effecting workplaces, health care, educational systems, social services, child welfare, and criminal justice systems.

Abusers cause harm to their children who may see or hear the abuse being committed or directly experience harm, injury, or abuse that is intentional, inadvertent, or during a child’s attempt to protect the non-abusive parent or caregiver who is being abused. Children may show signs of trauma such as higher levels of aggressive behavior, depression, and anxiety, difficulty getting along with others, and difficulty performing well in school. Not all child observers of domestic violence become batterers or tolerate abuse. Children react to their environment in different ways and age and gender are considerations in how a child is affected by the violence. The potential to heal from the effects of the abuse and enhance a families’ resilience and well-being comes from supporting the safety and well-being of the non-abusive parent or caregiver.

What is Dating Violence?

Similar to domestic violence, dating violence is a pattern of behaviors where an individual exerts power and control over their partner through fear, intimidation, and often the threat or use of violence. Dating violence can happen in person or electronically, and can include:

  • physical violence,
  • sexual violence,
  • emotional abuse,
  • verbal abuse.

Some Examples include:

  • physical violence: throwing objects, punching walls or doors, or threats of violence
  • sexual violence: sexting, threatening to break up with partner if they don’t have sex, unwanted touching or teasing
  • emotional abuse: statements intended to cause fear or cause someone to question their value or self-worth
  • verbal abuse: name calling, yelling, spreading rumors

Florida’s legal definition of dating violence means “violence between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The dating relationship must have existed within the past six months with the expectation of affection or sexual involvement between the parties.” The partners in the relationship must have been together and involved over time. This is the definition considered by the courts when victim/survivors file a petition for a civil order of protection against their abuser for repeat violence, sexual violence or dating violence.

What you can do if someone you know is experiencing domestic or dating violence