What Is Considered Domestic Violence in California?

By Law Office of Karen S. Brown

As shelter-at-home policies took effect at the onset of the pandemic in Los Angeles County, calls to the Department of Public Health’s Domestic Violence Council Hotline increased every month of 2020 compared to 2019. The L.A. Police Department reported 16 percent more domestic violence calls in April of 2020 over 2019. By December, the calls had tapered off but still hovered about 200 calls a week over the year before.

Hopefully, the elevated figures continue to taper. But 400 calls a week is a huge figure, even in pre- or post-pandemic times—not to mention the many victims who suffer in silence.

Domestic violence, both by California law and by standards employed by organizations seeking to build awareness of the issue, does not always involve a blow to the body or having something thrown at you. It can also be more psychological in nature by the perpetrator instilling fear or seeking control over you, your thoughts, and your actions.

If you feel you’re the victim of domestic violence anywhere in Los Angeles County – even if it involves a divorce that inspires fear of hardship through your spouse’s financial tactics or threats to take the children away – contact the Law Office of Karen S. Brown. Domestic violence is a beast with many shapes that requires different approaches to stop it in its tracks, including restraining orders, adjustments to your work schedule, relocating, counseling, and potential law enforcement involvement.

Domestic Violence in California

Domestic violence laws are contained in California Family Code Section 6203. The California Penal Code Sections 273.5 and 243(e)(1) and other sections cover criminal domestic violence laws in the state.

California’s domestic violence laws hinge on the word “abuse.” Abuse is defined as:

  • Inflicting or trying to inflict physical harm on another person, intentionally or recklessly

  • Making someone reasonably afraid that you are going to seriously hurt them (through threats or promises)

  • Sexually assaulting another person

  • Engaging in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined, including molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, disturbing your peace, or destroying your property

Even threats of divorce to cause financial harm in retaliation or to remove the children to another (unknown) location can be considered domestic violence. Note that “disturbing your peace” is a broad category that can include all kinds of verbal (but not necessarily physical) behavior. See the next section for signs of what this might involve.

Signs of Domestic Violence

The National Domestic Violence Hotline warns that abusive behavior often begins with efforts to obtain power and control over another. Warning signs include, but are not limited to:

  • Convincing you that you can never do right

  • Preventing or discouraging you from spending time away in general or time with others specifically, including family and friends

  • Preventing you from making your own decisions

  • Insulting, demeaning, or shaming you in front of others

  • Controlling your finances and even where and when you work

Who Can Be a Victim?

The popular conception is that domestic violence is mostly the case of a man victimizing a woman, whether a spouse, live-in partner, or girlfriend.

When it comes to physical violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the victims are indeed 85 percent women. However, in terms of overall incidents of domestic violence, one in every 10 men and four in every 10 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Under California law, a victim, regardless of gender, can be anyone who is or has been an intimate partner, including:

  • A current or former spouse or fiancé(e)

  • A current or former cohabitant

  • Someone with whom the suspect has or had a dating or engagement relationship

  • Someone with whom the suspect has a child

Get Help from An Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you are in an abusive relationship or are being haunted by a former spouse or intimate partner, the law is on your side. You don’t need to remain silent or wait for the possibility of physical violence that might result in a 911 call or visit to the ER.

Karen S. Brown is a Certified Legal Specialist in Family Law, a distinction awarded by the State Bar of California. At the Law Office of Karen S. Brown, she has helped countless others like you with care and compassion. Her firm proudly serves clients in Los Angeles County, from Santa Monica and Brentwood down to Long Beach and Torrance, and throughout the San Fernando Valley.