Description of Terms

Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence can take many forms including physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse, forced social isolation, economic deprivation, or behavior which causes another to live in fear.

Emotional Abuse is when someone puts you down or makes you feel bad, threatens you, your children, other family members or your pets or threatens suicide to get you to do something you don’t want to.

Financial abuse can be keeping or taking your paycheck, not letting you work or interfering with your job.

Isolation can be keeping you from seeing your friends, family or from going to work.

Physical abuse is pushing, hitting, slapping, choking, kicking, or biting; using or threatening to use a weapon against you.

Sexual Abuse is forcing you to have sex or to perform sexual acts you do not want or like.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Sexual Assault is defined as any sexual activity involving a person who does not or cannot (due to alcohol, drugs, or some sort of incapacitation) consent.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention.” Sexual assault is therefore somewhat of an umbrella term, and can describe many things, including:

  • Rape, including partner and marital rape
  • Unwanted sexual contact (touching or grabbing)
  • Unwelcome exposure of another’s body, exhibitionism, or voyeurism
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Incest or molestation
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual exploitation of clients by therapists, doctors, dentists, or other professionals

It is important that victims of sexual assault understand that no matter where they were, the time of day or night assaulted, what they were wearing, or what they said or did, if they did not want the sexual contact, then the assault was in no way their fault. Sexual assault is an act of power and control. It is never about love or affection. It violates a person’s sense of safety and control and can leave them feeling powerless and dishonored.

Perpetrators of sexual assault may use drugs, threats, power, force and manipulation (or a combination of these) to attempt to control another person’s body, senses and emotions.

Elder Abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional, or psychological harm on an older adult. Elder abuse also can take the form of financial exploitation or intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver. It is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
  • Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
  • Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or resources.
  • Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities.
  • Self-neglect is failure to provide for one’s own essential needs.

Most elder abuse and neglect takes place at home. The great majority of older people live on their own or with their spouses, children, siblings, or other relatives, not in institutional settings. When elder abuse happens, family, other household members, and paid caregivers usually are the abusers. Although there are extreme cases of elder abuse, often the abuse is subtle, and the distinction between normal interpersonal stress and abuse is not always easy to discern.

There is no single pattern of elder abuse in the home. Sometimes the abuse is a continuation of long-standing patterns of physical or emotional abuse within the family. Perhaps, more commonly, the abuse is related to changes in living situations and relationships brought about by the older person’s growing frailty and dependence on others for companionship and for meeting basic needs.

Stalking can be defined as the willful and repeated following, watching, and/or harassing of another person. Stalking is unwanted actions which threaten and or cause fear. Some examples of stalking include:

  • Repeated physical following
  • Unwanted telephone calls, e-mails, or letters
  • Observing a person’s actions closely for an extended period of time
  • Unwanted and inappropriate approaches and confrontations
  • Contacting family members, friends, or associates inappropriately
  • Unwanted gifts
  • Threats to victim, victims family or friends
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Cyber-stalking

New ways of stalking emerge frequently, and different behaviors’ can be threatening or cause fear to different individuals.

(a) Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

(e) For the purposes of this section, “harasses” means engages in a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.

(g) For the purposes of this section, “credible threat” means a verbal or written threat, including that performed through the use of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family. It is not necessary to prove that the defendant had the intent to actually carry out the threat. The present incarceration of a person making the threat shall not be a bar to prosecution under this section. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “credible threat.”

Warning Signs

Stalkers usually display two or more of these warning signs:

  • Impulsive
  • Obsessive
  • Selfish
  • Doesn’t take no for an answer
  • Has few friends
  • Low self-esteem
  • A history of relationship violence or stalking

Cyber-stalking is threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of online and computer communications.

Cyber-stalking takes many forms such as:

  • Targeting victims through chat rooms, message boards, discussion forums, and e-mail.
  • Threatening or obscene e-mail; spamming (in which a stalker sends a victim a multitude of junk e-mail); live chat harassment or flaming (online verbal abuse); leaving improper messages on message boards or in guest books; sending electronic viruses; sending unsolicited e-mail; tracing another person’s computer and Internet activity, and electronic identity theft.
  • Can evolve into off-line stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault.