Many people think domestic abuse always involves physical violence and that other types of abuse, such as emotional or verbal abuse, are not domestic abuse. That’s how several U.S. states define domestic abuse. However, that’s not the case in California. Read on for more information about what constitutes domestic abuse in Fresno and your rights under the law if you’re a victim of abuse.

What Does Emotional Abuse Look Like?

Emotional abuse takes many forms, whether verbal or psychological tactics. Overall, the intent of emotional abuse is to allow someone to intimidate, scare, and/or control someone else. There are some forms that are overt and easily noticed by others, but some tactics can be subtle and not as easily recognized by the victim or the victim’s friends or family. It’s important to understand that this type of abuse doesn’t always emerge early in the relationship. It can take weeks or months to arise, which makes it difficult for the victim to understand what’s happening. They may fall into the mindset of “They’ve never been like this before” or “Maybe I’ve done something to cause this.” Understand that the victim has not done anything to cause or deserve this behavior, and the warning signs should be heeded.

Call an experienced family law attorney as soon as you notice your partner or spouse using any of the following behaviors.

Threats or intimidation, including threats not just to you but to people or pets in your life, or threatening to harm themselves if you don’t do what they tell you to.

Criticizing or insulting you. Constructive criticism is meant to help people improve in some aspect of their lives or work, but continued criticism with the implication that someone isn’t capable of improving or belittling and insulting comments are forms of abuse, as is blaming you for things that are not your fault (for example, you were delayed returning home from a doctor appointment because the doctor was running late).

Showing signs of jealousy, such as time spent with other people, even if there’s no romantic interest involved. They may try to exert control by forcing you to cancel plans and refusing to let you see specific people anymore.

Isolation. This can take many forms, including refusing to allow you to work (whether outside the home or from home) or visiting or communicating with friends and family.

Allowing no privacy. This can involve forcing someone to allow their partner to have all their online usernames and passwords, including to financial and social media accounts, as well as forcing someone to let their partner control their finances.

Punishing someone by refusing to talk to them. The silent treatment is often joked about as being passive-aggressive, but it can be used as a form of control.

It’s crucial to understand that many people can lose their temper and say something they regret later in the heat of an argument and that by itself doesn’t constitute emotional abuse. But when the other person finds themselves in reasonable fear of potential physical violence from someone, the situation may have become abusive.

What Do California Laws Say About Emotional Abuse?

California’s domestic abuse laws specify several forms of abuse that don’t involve physical, including intimidation and stalking. When these nonphysical actions and words create a sense of an intentional threat to the other person, they could be defined as domestic abuse by the courts. That’s because California courts understand that emotional abuse is all too often a precursor to physical abuse.

It can also potentially affect any children in the household in a few ways. Children are somewhat more likely to be abused if one of their parents is abused too. But even if the abuse focuses only on the parent, children exposed to the abuse are more likely to have mental health issues later in life, including the possibility of becoming abusers themselves.

Does Emotional Abuse Lead to Physical Abuse?

Unfortunately, yes, emotional abuse is often the lead-in to physical abuse. It may not even be a conscious process by the abuser. They use emotional abuse tactics (described above) to exert power over someone else. If that works, they may feel emboldened to take things further and begin inflicting physical violence. Or if they find the emotional abuse isn’t getting the results they need, they may advance into physical abuse to exert control.

If a Spouse is Emotionally Abused, Is it Likely Children Will Be Abused too?

What Should I Do if I Think I’m a Victim of Domestic Abuse in Fresno?

Call us as soon as possible at 559-277-7300 to set up a consultation. If you’re being emotionally abused, you deserve to have an experienced, knowledgeable family law attorney representing you and assisting you in getting out of a potentially dangerous environment. If there are children in the household who are or may become victims of domestic abuse, it’s even more important to seek help. We understand California’s laws regarding domestic abuse and will fight for your rights to be safe and protected.

To prove the abuse, the courts will ask for evidence. There are several forms of evidence that you could provide. If there have been threatening texts, letters, social media posts, emails, or voicemails, preserve those and provide them to your lawyer. If it’s possible to record some of the abusive sessions safely (for example, if you can unobtrusively turn on a recording app on your phone), that is strong evidence. If others have witnessed your spouse being emotionally or verbally abusive, that is valuable too.