The Office on Violence Against Women defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that's used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner. This behavior can include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and even economic abuse. Stalking and threats may be classified as domestic violence as well. And although we normally think of battered wives in the context of domestic abuse, non-married partners, family members, children, and other cohabitants can also be victims of domestic violence.
Every state has criminal statutes prohibiting domestic abuse. New laws requiring arrests and mandating harsher penalties have led to an increased rate of response and prosecution. Tort law allows victims of domestic violence to sue their abusers in civil court, and possibly recover damages for their physical, economic, and emotional injuries. Victims can also file for orders of protection, more commonly known as restraining orders, to prevent further abuse.