Some New York residents may be surprised to learn what the the number one concern for Americans’ health today. The U.S. Surgeon General noted that domestic abuse is the number one threat to individual health. In understanding its definition and the many forms it takes, more people will be able to help take action against this threat.

Domestic abuse is defined by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women as a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner.” There are many forms of abuse that fall under this umbrella, including physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological abuse, as well as threats and stalking. Even cyberstalking — through the internet or email harassment causes significant emotional distress to the recipient and may also be considered domestic violence.

The definition also stipulates that anyone can be a victim, regardless of his or her education level, socioeconomic background, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. It used to only refer to “wife abuse,” but that term was later abandoned in recognition of the fact that there are many more victims. This includes spouses of either sex, intimate partners, cohabitants, family members and children.

Some individuals may not realize that they are causing domestic abuse while victims may not know how to take action against those abusing them. Additionally, loved ones and friends of victims may not always know what domestic violence really looks like. When New York residents feel that they might be the victims of domestic violence, an attorney can help assess the circumstances and take action to safeguard the interests of those affected by threats or acts of domestic violence.

Source: FindLaw, “What is Domestic Violence?“, Accessed on May 2, 2016