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Verbal Assault: Is It Domestic Violence?

If you have a partner that verbally abuses you regularly, you may react in different ways. If you grew up in an abusive home, it may feel like verbal abuse is a normal occurrence. You may pretend not to hear their insults or you might shout back. However, when someone you rely on to show love is controlling you with anger instead, it hurts. You don’t have to continue living with an abusive partner. Let’s look at whether verbal assault is considered domestic violence under the law and what you can do about it.

Legal Definition of Domestic Violence in North Carolina

Domestic violence in North Carolina is defined as when your partner: 

  • Attempts to physically hurt you or someone in your household
  • Intentionally physically hurts you or someone in your household
  • Places you or your household in fear of a serious injury 
  • Places you or your household in fear of continued harassment that rises to such a level as to cause substantial emotional distress
  • Engages in Sexual Assaults: Sexual assault can happen even if you agreed to a sexual encounter but then changed your mind. Sexual assaults can also happen if you are rendered substantially incapable of knowing what you are doing or resisting a sexual encounter. For example, if your partner commits a sexual offense when you are unconscious and unable to resist a sexual act physically or if you can’t communicate. In addition, domestic violence includes any sexual touch or encounters with you or anyone in your household that are not consensual or involve a child.

Illegal Types of Domestic Violence

Most of us know that hitting someone is a type of physical violence. It can get trickier when you look at someone threatening to hurt you who has not actually touched you. However, the law in North Carolina makes it clear that some threats are domestic violence. 

Examples of clearly illegal domestic violence include these offenses against you or members or your household:

  • Hitting, kicking, or shoving 
  • Using weapons or other objects to hurt 
  • Threatening to use weapons or other objects to hurt
  • Any sexual offense 
  • Threats or intimidation that makes you fear future harm
  • Harassment that causes serious emotional distress

Is Verbal Assault Domestic Violence?

Any assault, including verbal, can be considered domestic violence. However, the law in North Carolina is complicated and open to interpretation by law enforcement officers and the judicial system. Therefore, unless someone has threatened to do bodily harm to you or has harassed you, it may be more difficult to take full advantage of the laws meant to protect you. 

However, if you are a victim of verbal abuse, you still absolutely have the right to seek safety. Because of the complexity of the law, you may choose to seek out help from a counseling center or shelter that understands what might happen if you explored different avenues of coping. 

Discussing your options or concerns with a knowledgeable attorney specializing in domestic violence cases may clarify the legal avenues available in your situation. An informed decision is key to knowing what your next steps are.

What Is Verbal Abuse?

Whether you have legal recourse or not, domestic violence occurs if your partner engages in a pattern of behavior to scare you into doing what they want. Whether this is verbal or physical, the intent is the same: to control you through fear. This can occur through physical or emotional manipulation or other controlling behaviors. 

According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, examples of verbal abuse may include:

  • Threatening to hurt you or others
  • Threatening to have you deported
  • Threatening to disclose your sexual orientation
  • Threatening to tell others personal information
  • Controlling what you do and who you see in a way that interferes with your work, education, or other personal activities
  • Using technology to track, monitor, or frighten you
  • Stealing your belongings
  • Destroying your belongings
  • Constantly criticizing you or calling you names
  • Constant put-downs
  • Making you feel afraid
  • Denying you basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, or medical and physical assistance

You may live in daily fear, thinking there is no recourse for verbal violence and threats. You may believe that you will lose everything, including your children, if you speak to anyone. Often there is also a fear that verbal violence will escalate to a physical level. However, there are many resources to help you define what is happening with your partner and stop the abuse.

Find the Help You Need

Whether or not you can prove in a court of law that you are verbally assaulted in a way that causes fear of bodily injury or fear of continued harassment causing you substantial emotional distress, you do have the right to seek help. 

Depending on what your goals are, there are ways to find help in your situation. Many resources are available to find solutions, even if you “only” face verbal abuse. Whether the law defines your situation as abusive or not, if you are facing a pattern of any kind of domestic violence, you deserve a chance to find out what your options are. 

Check out a list of resources by county at NC Interactive Programs Directory

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we work with domestic violence laws to help you move forward into a life without violence. Whether your partner intimidates you with threatening words or physically hurts you, we are here to stand with you for your basic human right to feel safe. We understand that the situation you face is not your fault. Domestic violence can occur with same-sex or different-sex partners, regardless of age, gender status, education level, religion, or culture. Contact us today to talk about the issues you face with your partner and find out how we can help.