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What is domestic violence, and what should victims do?

Domestic violence is something that no one should have to deal with. It includes abuse or threats of violence against someone who is or has been in an intimate relationship with the abuser. Abuse has many different meanings, but by law, domestic violence includes sexual assault, harassment, stalking, physically harming another person and/or making someone afraid that those things may happen in the future and result in serious injury.

While many people talk about domestic violence as if it's only hitting or slapping, the truth is that domestic violence also includes throwing things, stalking, preventing you from coming or going and threatening you. Abusing the family pets may also be considered domestic abuse.

Abuse doesn't have to be physical, either. In fact, some forms of abuse include emotional abuse or financial abuse. With emotional abuse, a person could call you names or make you feel badly about yourself. Financial abuse may involve being cut off from the bank accounts and credit cards you share or having your paycheck taken away from you to prevent you from having access to any money.

What can you do if you're a victim of domestic violence?

If it's an emergency, call 911 for immediate assistance. If you're able to wait, it's a good idea to start planning a way out. There are shelters, but if you have family who can help, that may be the way to start. You can also go to the police or talk to your attorney about obtaining a protective order. Even a temporary protective order can keep you safe while you focus on protecting yourself and your children.

Source: California Courts: The Judicial Branch of California, "Domestic Violence," accessed Aug. 24, 2017

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