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Is physical abuse the only type of domestic violence?

The definition of domestic violence that most people are familiar with is actually fairly narrow. Although domestic violence can and often does take the form of physical abuse, this is not always the case. Understanding exactly how violence in a relationship may manifest is important for helping Louisiana victims know when to seek help.

The United States Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women defines domestic violence as patterns of abusive behaviors used by one person in a relationship to keep control over his or her partner. Physical abuse is a common tactic and can include anything from hitting and slapping to pulling hair and pinching. This type of abuse can happen even if a person does not put his or her hands on an intimate partner but instead denies the individual access to necessary medical care. Other forms of abuse include emotional, economic, psychological, sexual, stalking and even cyberstalking.

These types of abuse can be nuanced and may differ from victim to victim. Stalking might take the form of physically following a person from his or her home to work or elsewhere, while for others, it might involve constant phone calls, written messages or more. However, that does not mean that one person is a victim of domestic violence while the other is not — it simply means that the perpetrator is using different tactics to inflict abuse.

Virtually anyone in Louisiana can become the victim of domestic abuse, including spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, children and even cohabitants. All victims — not just those who are married — can seek protective orders that prevent an abuser from making contact or coming within a specified distance. For those who are experiencing physical abuse or other types of domestic violence, these types of orders can be invaluable.

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