What is Domestic Violence?

Abuse is a pattern of physically and emotionally violent and coercive behaviors that one person uses to exercise power and control over another.
Quick Links: Types of Abuse |  Early Warning Signs |  Domestic Violence Laws |  Legal Alternatives in a Domestic Violence Case |  Steps in Misdemeanor and Felony Cases |  Strategies for Dealing with Domestic Violence |  Protection Orders |  Stalking

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse is behavior that intentionally causes a person physical pain or injury. Examples include hitting, pushing, biting, choking, hair pulling, forced confinement, withholding of necessities, etc.

Sexual Abuse is behavior in which one person touches another in a sexual manner without their permission. Examples can include kissing, grabbing, intercourse, forcing a person to perform sexual acts in which they do not wish to participate, pressuring a person to not use safe sex methods, etc. Marital status does not permit the use of force in sexual situations.

Emotional Abuse is behavior that undermines another person’s sense of self and emotional well-being. This can be more damaging than physical because it involves breaking the victim’s spirit. Examples include put-downs, name calling, mind games, humiliation, guilt trips, etc.

Mental Abuse is behavior that undermines a person’s independent thought by using intimidation. Examples include isolating a person from family and friends, making threats, hurting pets, destroying property, manipulation, displaying weapons, etc.

Financial/Resourse Abuse is behavior in which money is used to control another person. Examples may include preventing a person from getting or keeping a job, taking their money, not letting them know about or have access to the family income, giving them an allowance, making them ask for it, etc.

Spiritual Abuse is behavior in which a person uses another person’s spirituality in order to control them. Examples can include using scriptures to justify the abuse, stopping their partner from engaging in religious practices, ridiculing their beliefs, disrespecting their spiritual belongings, etc.

Early Warning Signs

Abuser may start out small but will eventually develop into more violent acts. Here are some early warning sign for you to watch for in a relationship. See also Red Flags


  • Threatening gestures
  • Shouting to gain control
  • Driving recklessly
  • Use of size to overpower victim


  • Destroying personal property
  • Taking or hiding things


  • Abuser has an unusual fascination with weapons
  • Use of weapons to scare or intimidate victim
  • Use of weapons to assault or hurt the victim in any way

Domestic Violence Laws

Domestic Violence
ORC 2919.25

(A) No person shall knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a family or household member.

(B) No person shall recklessly cause serious physical harm to a family or household member.

(C) No person, by threat or force, shall knowingly cause a family or household member to believe that the offender will cause imminent physical harm to the family or household member.

(D) Whoever violates this section is guilty of domestic violence. A violation of division (C) of this section is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. A violation of division (A) or (B) of this section is a misdemeanor of the first degree. If the offender previously has been convicted of domestic violence or a violation of section 2903.11, 2903.12, or 2903.13 of the Revised Code involving a person who was a family or household member at the time of such violation, a violation of division (A) or (B) of this section is a felony of the fourth degree and a violation of division (C) of this section is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Custody Rights of
Unmarried Mothers
ORC 3109.042

An unmarried female who gives birth to a child is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a court of competent jurisdiction issues an order designating another person as the residential parent and legal custodian. A court designating the residential parent and legal custodian of a child described in this section shall treat the mother and father as standing upon an equality when making the designation.

Legal Alternatives in a Domestic Violence Case

Topic Civil Criminal
Arrest Not Necessarily Police may arrest at the scene or victim may press charges
Court Domestic Relations
Division or Common Pleas
Municipal Court
Common Pleas Court
Police Report Can be helpful in court case Required when filing charges
Possible Relief Civil Protection Order:

  • Contact with victim can be a criminal offense
  • Effective maximum of five years
  • May determine spousal/child support
Temporary Protection Order:

  • Contact with victim can be a criminal offense
  • Effective until sentencing or dismissal
  • Court ordered counseling
  • Jail time or probation
Time Frame CPO Ex-parte hearing is same day as filing – full hearing is set for 7 – 10 days TPO may be granted at arraignment
Victim Responsibility Must be initiated by victim or guardian Police can arrest with probable cause

Steps in Misdemeanor and Felony Cases

Steps in Misdemeanor Case:

  1. Crime is reported
  2. Law enforcement makes an arrest and sends charges to the prosecutor or the victim meets with the prosecutor to file charges
  3. Prosecutor determines charge and a warrant or summons is issued
  4. Arraignment (or Initial Appearance)
  5. Pre-trial
  6. Trial
  7. Finding: guilty or not guilty
  8. Sentencing
  9. Possible appeal

Steps in a Felony case:

  1. Police respond
  2. Victim taken to hospital if necessary
  3. Interrogation by detectives
  4. Affidavit filed in Municipal Court
  5. Initial appearance
  6. Preliminary hearing
  7. Grand Jury
  8. Arraignment of accused in Common Pleas Court
  9. Pre-trial motions
  10. Pre-trial conference
  11. Trial
  12. Sentencing
  13. Possible appeal

Strategies for Dealing with Domestic Violence – Documenting the Abuse

Keep a Journal – Keep a journal or log where you record incidents and any witnesses or other evidence. Go back and write down things that have happened in the past with as many specifics as you can remember.

Take Pictures – Show someone you trust or contact law enforcement, Turning Point or the emergency room to take a picture of any visible injury you have from abuse.

Talk to Witnesses – If there were witnesses to the abuse, who saw or directly heard what occurred, you may want to find out how they can be reached.

Get Medical Treatment – Sometimes injuries sustained in abuse are not obvious but may be serious and may need medical attention.

File a Police Report – When an incident occurs you can decide to call law enforcement and ask them to file a report.

Protection Orders

Temporary Protection Orders – A Temporary Protection Order (TPO) is available only when a criminal complaint, such as domestic violence, has been filed. A TPO can order the abuser to stay away from the victim’s residence, workplace and school. It can order the abuser to refrain from telephoning, harassing or threatening the victim directly or through another person. It can also include any other terms necessary to ensure the victim’s safety.

A TPO is granted by a Municipal or Common Pleas Court judge and the victim may need to attend the arraignment to receive one. This order is only in effect while the case is pending – until dismissal or sentencing. A TPO is enforceable nationwide and a violation is a criminal offense.

Ex-Parte Civil Protection Order – The victim can ask the court to grant an Ex-Parte Civil Protection Order, or an emergency order, when a CPO is filed. An Ex-Parte CPO is a protection order that goes into effect before a full hearing. If the Ex-Parte is granted, it will remain in effect until the CPO hearing. A full hearing will be scheduled within 7-10 days after filing. At the full hearing, the victim will explain to the judge why a CPO is necessary to protect her/him from further harm. (The victim should bring any documentation of abuse to this hearing including witnesses, police reports, hospital/physician reports, etc.)

If the victim fails to appear at the hearing, the judge will not grant a CPO. The abuser will be given notice of the hearing and will have an opportunity to be heard. If the abuser does not show up in court, the victim can still receive a CPO. The Ex-Parte CPO is fully enforceable until a CPO is granted.

Civil Protection Order A Civil Protection Order (CPO) is issued by the Common Pleas Court. No criminal charges need to be filed but the family/household member must feel that her/his life is in danger. A CPO may order the abuser to stay away from the victim’s residence, workplace or school. (It can also order the abuser to leave the house or apartment the victim and abuser live in, even if it is in the abuser’s name). A CPO may order the abuser to refrain from abusing, telephoning, harassing or threatening the victim directly or through another person.

In regards to the child(ren), a judge may grant temporary custody, order child support and establish a visitation schedule. If one of the parties of a CPO files a divorce action against the other party, temporary custody awarded in the CPO will remain in effect until the divorce court issues a custody order.

Civil Stalking Protection Order – A Civil Stalking Protection Order is similar to a civil protection order. It can protect victims who are NOT family or household members of the abuser. Documentation of at least two incidents is required. A Criminal Stalking Order is comparable to a TPO when criminal stalking/menacing charges are filed.

Restraining Order – A Restraining Order (RO) is granted during a divorce proceeding. It is issued by the Domestic Relations court to restrain one party from selling household goods, withdrawing all the money from the bank accounts, running up debts and from abusing or harassing each other.

It is in effect until the divorce is final and cannot be renewed. Violation of an RO is not a criminal offense and the police are not required to enforce it. However, the victim’s attorney could file a contempt of court motion if the order is violated.

Note – Only a judge can dissolve the order. If you allow the abuser to violate the order, they can be charged.

On September 24, 2003, the Ohio Supreme Court, in Ohio vs. Lucas, ruled that a victim cannot be charged with a violation for aiding and abetting if the offender is found in her presence.

The way courts handle protection orders may vary from county to county.


What is Stalking?

Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention, harassment and contact. It is a pattern of conduct that can include:

  • Following the victim
  • Appearing at the victim’s home or place of work
  • Making unwanted and frightening contact with the victim through phone, mail and/or email
  • Harassing the victim through the Internet
  • Making threats to harm the victim, the victim’s children, relatives, friends or pets
  • Sending the victim unwanted gifts
  • Intimidating the victim
  • Vandalizing the victim’s property
  • Securing personal information about the victim by accessing public records, hiring private investigators, using Internet search services, contacting friends, family, work or neighbors, or going through the victim’s garbage.

Cyber Stalking is the use of the internet, e-mail, or other telecommunications technology to harass or stalk another person. Read the brochure “Protect Yourself from Technology Abuse” from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network for information on how you can protect yourself from this type of stalking.

Stalking is a Crime

Menacing by stalking is the act of a person who knowingly engages in a pattern of conduct that causes you to believe that the offender (stalker) will cause you physical harm or causes mental distress to you.

  • “Pattern of Conduct” means two or more actions or incidents occur in a short period of time
  • “Mental Distress” means any mental illness or condition that would normally require counseling. However, counseling is NOT required to obtain legal remedies.

If a person follows, pursues, or harasses you in a threatening manner on more than one occasion, this person may be guilty of stalking under Ohio law. Contact local law enforcement to report all stalking incidents.

Protection Orders through Criminal Court

  • You can ask for a criminal protection order if someone is stalking you and is charged with one of the following crimes: menacing by stalking, aggravated menacing, menacing, aggravated
    trespassing, assault, aggravated assault or felonious assault.
  • This is a temporary order which only lasts during the criminal case
  • It can order the stalker not to contact you in any way, and to stay away from you, your home, workplace, and your children’s school or day care
  • When the stalker is a family or household member, the order will be called a Temporary Protection Order (TPO)
  • When the stalker is not a family or household member, it will be called a Stalking Protection Order.

Who is a “family or household member”?

  • A relative by blood or marriage who you live with now or have lived within the past
  • A partner you live with now or have lived with within the past 5 years (this includes same-sex couples)
  • Any person to whom you were married
  • Any person with whom you had a child

Protection Orders through Civil Court

  • If someone is engaging in behaviors that may be considered stalking, whether or not criminal charges are filed, you may ask the court for a civil protection order.
  • If the stalker is a family or household member, then you would request a Civil Protection Order (CPO).
  • When the stalker is not a family or household member, it will be called a Stalking Protection Order.
  • This order can last up to five years.
  • It can order the stalker not to contact you in any way, and to stay away from you, your home, workplace and children’s school or day care.

Domestic Violence and Stalking

Three out of five female stalking victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Some women find that when they try to end a relationship, their former partner refuses to leave them alone. Many women who experience abuse in a relationship find that the abuse continues after they try to end the relationship. Abusive partners often begin to monitor and control their former partners by stalking them when they feel the relationship is slipping away.

For this reason, ending an abusive relationship can be difficult and dangerous. It is important to contact your local domestic violence program or victim assistance office for support during this time.

Planning for Your Safety

Even if you choose to seek help from the courts, planning for your safety should be an on-going process. Here are suggestions that may help to improve your safety:

  • Never contact your stalker or try to reason with this person.
  • Document all stalking incidents or actions in a journal. Keep the journal in a safe place. Keep all evidence of the stalking, including answering machine tapes and notes/letters. Ask any witnesses to provide a written statement about what they observed, along with their contact information.
  • Safeguard your social security number. If the stalker knows your social security number, consider applying to have it changed.
  • Protect personal information by keeping as much as possible out of public records.
  • Open a post office box a fair distance from your home and use it as your new address.
  • Ask utility companies to require a password for anyone to access your account.
  • Never give out personal information to anyone who does not have a need for it.
  • Use a different schedule and route of travel each day.
  • Know the locations of police departments, fire stations, or busy shopping centers in the areas you will be in each day.
  • Have an answering machine pick up all your calls.

Remember, it is not your fault. Stalking is violent, abusive, anti-social behavior that is not acceptable under any circumstance.