What is Domestic Violence?

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WARNING: If you are in danger, be sure to use a safe computer, such as a computer at a public library. Your home computer is not safe or confidential, and your abuser could be monitoring your online activity. Read more about internet and computer safety.


In Kentucky, whether or not an act is legally defined as domestic violence depends on two (2) things:

  1. What kind of act is involved and
  2. Who is doing the act to whom (the relationship between the people).

This matters because if the people don't have one of the required relationships then the acts or threats may still be illegal acts, such as an assault, but would not be classified as acts of domestic violence. This means that the victim would not be able to get a restraining or protective order (called a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) in Kentucky) against the person who committed the act or threats against them.

The What: an act of domestic violence is defined as a physical act (like hitting, pushing, shoving, choking, grabbing, pinching), or sexual abuse (like making someone have sex or do sex acts when she/he doesn't want to), or threatening a person or making that person afraid that the perpetrator or abuser will do one of those things (physical act, sexual abuse) to them.

The Who: In order for one of the acts above to qualify as domestic violence, the act or threat must have occurred between people who have a certain relationship with each other. Kentucky law states that only people who are married or were married (are now divorced); who lived (in an "intimate" relationship - roommates only don't qualify) with the Respondent at any time (now or in the past); who has a child with the Respondent (whether or not you ever lived together); or family members who are closely related to each other by blood or marriage (generally includes, parents, children, brothers and sisters, grandparents, first cousins, etc.) can get a DVO. NOTE: If a child is being abused by a parent or family member, you may be able to get a DVO on the child's behalf, but please also read the section on reporting child abuse.

If a person in one of the relationships above commits one of the acts or threats of physical violence or sexual abuse to you, you may be able to get a protective order [called a Domestic Violence Order (DVO)] to keep that person from hurting or scaring you again. Read more about what a DVO is and how to get one.

Reviewed December 5, 2007
LSC Code 1370100