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What is included in the definition of domestic violence?

A charge or accusation of domestic violence in Illinois may be confusing to you if you have never reacted physically against a member of your household. Your confusion is understandable, as the general term includes a wider range of behaviors than a strict interpretation would suggest. 

According to FindLaw, the definition of domestic violence includes physical forms of abuse, such as punching, hitting, slapping, kicking, biting, etc. However, the definition also extends to include abusive patterns of behavior that are nevertheless nonviolent, which can involve the following:

  • Emotional abuse: Diminishing the victim's self-worth through insults and criticism
  • Economic abuse: Preventing the victim from earning money and/or restricting access to household funds
  • Sexual abuse: Coercing the victim into sexual activity without his or her consent

Furthermore, you do not need to share a residence with the alleged victim of abuse, either presently or in the past, to face a charge of domestic violence. Even if you and the accuser are simply dating, and neither married nor living together, law enforcement may still bring a domestic violence charge due to a pattern of allegedly abusive behavior. Child abuse may fall into the category of domestic violence as well. 

While there may be an element of domestic violence in cases of murder or rape, the court usually treats these crimes as separate offenses. States vary as to whether or not stalking qualifies as domestic violence; some include it as such, while others regard it distinctly. 

Prosecutors often push for harsher sentences for domestic violence in the interest of protecting the alleged victim. Certain circumstances, such as the violation of a restraining order or the presence of child while the alleged abuse was taking place, may also affect the severity of domestic violence charges.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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