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What constitutes domestic violence?

Pennsylvania residents may be shocked and saddened to learn just how widespread domestic violence in our country is. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General at one point declared domestic violence to be the number one health concern in the United States. Domestic violence can be incredibly traumatizing and victims may be harmed in many ways including physical, psychological and financial.

Some may be wondering just what constitutes domestic violence. The Office on Violence Against Women at the United States Department of Justices defines domestic violence as any behavioral pattern in which one spouse abuses another spouse in order to obtain or maintain control over that spouse.

This can take many forms. There are cases in which domestic violence takes the form of physical abuse, including punching, biting, hitting, slapping and other types of violent behavior. Physical abuse can also occur when one spouse denies needed medication or forces drugs and alcohol on the other spouse.

Another common form of domestic violence is sexual abuse. Marital rape, genital harm and forced sexual contact all fall under this category, as does telling sexual jokes regarding the victim. Emotional and economic abuse are also forms of domestic violence. Emotional abuse can manifest itself as name calling or constant criticism that interferes with the victim's functioning. Economic abuse can be withholding necessary finances or controlling the spouse's monetary resources in a way that prohibits the victim in some way.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. It is not limited to one gender, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background. Domestic violence can be extremely frightening to confront. This is why it is often helpful for victims to deal with compassionate attorneys who can help ensure that the appropriate legal measures are taken.

Source: FindLaw, "What is Domestic Violence?," Accessed on Sept. 14, 2015

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