Domestic Violence: Definitions

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

Picture of the side of a dictionary
[Flickr, 2010.05.02 by Andy Simmons,CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
There are many definitions

related to domestic violence that are used depending on the context and type of services offered. For instance, domestic violence is difficult to prove without evidence. Therefore, common definitions used in the civilian legal systems tend to focus on physical abuse, stalking, and/or harassment.

The Department of Defense has its own definition of domestic violence where:

“…the term ‘crime of domestic violence’ means an offense that has as its factual basis, the use or attempted use of physical force, or threatened use of a deadly weapon; committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victims.” [1]

In the helping professions (healthcare, advocacy field), however, it is common to adhere to a more encompassing definition of domestic violence:

A pattern of behavior in which one partner uses the establishment of control and fear through the use of violence and/or any other forms of abuse (emotional, financial, spiritual, etc.) [2]

How can an awareness of various definitions help professionals working with families experiencing domestic violence?

Understanding definitions utilized in various contexts aids professionals in helping families navigate through and get the most out of services provided. The Department of Defense requires coordinated community responses when assisting military families experiencing domestic violence yet all states have specific definitions of domestic violence connected to laws that set criminal penalties for domestic violence and these often differ from the military definition of domestic violence. Also, local jurisdictions can have additional laws that connect to local services (i.e. batterers’ intervention programs, victims services). Thus, an awareness of the various definitions in each context (i.e. military personnel, mental health/advocacy services, civilian law) aids in streamlining the process of coordinating services between military and civilian communities and beginning to see what’s possible for families seeking services.

References

[1] Department of Defense. (2011). Domestic Violence Involving DoD Military and Certain Affiliated Personnel. Retrieved on July 14, 2013 from: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/640006p.pdf.

[2] Smith, L.B., Mixon, K.A. (2013). Unit 10: Legal & Medical Perspectives. Family Centered Treatment: Domestic Violence Training. [Online curriculum].

This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist.  She is a member of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, You Tube, and on LinkedIn.

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