When we think about domestic violence, most people envision physical violence of one sort or another. Indeed, in Arizona, the definition of “domestic violence” includes acts that are themselves crimes, coupled with a relationship such as marriage, parent/child, dating, etc. A.R.S. 13-3601. While a domestic violence offense may affect the sentence of someone convicted of an offense, it is not a charge separate and apart from the underlying assault, homicide, kidnapping, sexual offense, criminal trespass, criminal damage, and so on. In each case, the underlying offense is either a violent act itself, or one that carries with it the threat – or at least the potential – for violence.
However terrifying it may be for a family member to be threatened by or physically assaulted by, for example, a present or former spouse or partner, some victims say that invisible forms of DV – sometimes referred to as “coercive control” – may be even more terrifying.
Expanding the Definition of Domestic Violence
Several states are considering the expansion of the definition of domestic violence to include issues such as financial and mental abuse. They include Massachusetts, where one of the pending bills, H.1643, would add “coercive control” and “technological abuse” to the definition of domestic abuse.
In California, recent legislation (Senate Bill 1141) likewise expands the definition of the term domestic violence. In that state, it now includes behavior that “destroys the mental or emotional calm” of the other party. Similarly, in Connecticut, Senate Bill 1091, signed into law last year, not only adds coercive control to the definition of domestic violence, but also defines it as including:
- Monitoring the movements of a family member, monitoring their communications, their daily behavior, or their economic resources,
- Depriving a family member of basic needs, and
- Isolating a family member from other members of the family or from loved ones.
We expect that more states will follow, particularly with the spike in domestic violence during the pandemic.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004