The U.S. Department of Justice defines domestic violence as "a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone".*

Intimate Partner Violence is relatively new term and as such often has no legal definition in statute. Some states like Florida focus on offenses occurring within the setting of the family or household. Other states like California are more expansive, recognizing offenses that occur within families, households and dating relationships. The National Institute of Justice defines it as physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples. Violence by an intimate partner is linked to both immediate and long-term health, social, and economic consequences.*

Florida law ss. 741.28-741.31, 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".

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".

California Family Code Section 6211 defines domestic violence as follows:

"Domestic violence" is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons:
(a) A spouse or former spouse.
(b) A cohabitant or former cohabitant, as defined in Section 6209.
(c) A person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.
(d) A person with whom the respondent has had a child, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child of the female parent under the Uniform Parentage Act (Part 3 (commencing with Section 7600) of Division 12).
(e) A child of a party or a child who is the subject of an action under the Uniform Parentage Act, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child to be protected.
(f) Any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree.

While the vast majority of DV victims are women who are abused by a male intimate partner, the terms DV usually extends to those in lesbian and gay relationships as well, and to instances of males abused by females. A few states restrict full civil protections to heterosexual relationships, including LA, MT, NC, SC.* Studies have shown that men in same-sex relationships suffer from domestic violence at rates that are equal to those of heterosexual women. Studies are less clear about the rates for lesbians, but abuse may be underreported or under-recognized.

Domestic violence not only affects the adults directly involved, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children who grow up witnessing domestic violence are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life - therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society's next generation of victims and abusers.

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