Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence can be a crime, but many victims feel that their spouse or partner has the right to abuse them or that they must live with violence. The first step in confronting an abusive relationship is to recognize that such violence is unacceptable.

Domestic violence consists of a wide range of behaviors, some of which are criminal and all of which are unacceptable. Some behaviors, while not physical and therefore criminal, are part of an abuser’s controlling behavior. Abusive actions that are not physically violent may include: making degrading comments, controlling access to family/friend resources, and controlling a victim’s time and activities. These abusive behaviors can accompany physical violence or lead to it.

Physical “abuse” includes pushing, hitting, punching, choking, and other forms of assault, a legal term for an unwelcome physical contact that involves some injury or offensive touching. It also includes verbal threats of physical abuse, made with the apparent ability to carry out the threats.

Warning signs: Does your partner…

  • Control or try to control your money?
  • Check up on you to see where you are, what you are doing, when you will be home?
  • Call friends/family to see where you are?
  • Get jealous easily?
  • Try to manipulate or control your decisions/actions?
  • Get angry when you want to spend time with friends/family or insist on always accompanying you out?
  • Embarrass you in public?
  • Degrade you and tell you that you are nothing without him/her?
  • Damage your home or possessions?
  • Harm/threaten to harm your pets?
  • Force you to have sexual intimacy?
  • Prevent you from calling for help during arguments?
  • Prevent you from leaving the home during or after arguments?

Who is eligible for a Protective Order?

You may obtain a protective order only if you are:

  • The current or former spouse of the abuser;
  • A person who has had a sexual relationship with the abuser and lived with the abuser for at least 90 days within the past year;
  • Related to the abuser by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • A parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild of the abuser, and has lived with the abuser for at least 90 days within the past year;
  • A physically or mentally disabled adult; or
  • A person who has a child in common with the abuser, regardless of whether you have ever been married or lived with the abuser.

If you do not belong to any of the above categories, but you would like to seek protection from the Courts you may file for a Peace Order in any District Court in Maryland.

Peace Orders

If you are not eligible to file for a Protective Order, you can seek protection through the Peace Order process. This process allows individuals such as dating partners, neighbors, or a former friend of an abuser to petition the court for emergency protection. A person may use the Peace Order to protect him- or herself from abusers who are stalkers, regardless of whether that abuser is known to the victims, who target another person for harassment or abuse. (Note: If you are eligible for a Protective Order, you may not file for a Peace Order.)

In order to obtain a Peace Order, the Petitioner must allege and prove that the person who has abused him or her has committed one of nine specified acts within 30 days before filing of the Peace Order petition. In addition, the Petitioner must prove that the specified act is likely to occur again. Those acts include an act which causes serious bodily harm, or that places the Petitioner in fear of imminent serious bodily harm, assault, rape or sexual offense, false imprisonment, harassment, stalking, trespass, and malicious destruction of property.

A person seeking a Peace Order can apply to the District Court or, if the courts are closed, at the District Court Commissioner’s Office. A Peace Order may be granted for up to 6 months and can instruct an abuser to stop committing the abusive act, to stay away from the Petitioner, his or her residence, school, and place of employment.

 

Maryland Family Law Services »