If you are a victim of domestic violence in North Carolina, you may be wondering what exactly constitutes a domestic dispute. A domestic dispute is an argument or any struggle for control that escalates into verbal threats, harassment, or physical violence. If you feel afraid in your own home, protecting yourself and your loved ones is crucial, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Keep reading to learn about domestic violence and what you can do to protect yourself and any children.

Domestic Disputes are Dangerous

A domestic dispute is a type of domestic violence incident and can range from arguments and verbal abuse to physical violence and even murder. Unfortunately, many victims of domestic disputes involving domestic violence do not realize that they are in a domestic dispute until it is too late.

In North Carolina, the statistics are sobering.

  • In 2022, 42 individuals died from a domestic dispute in North Carolina. In 2016 almost double that amount died, with 82 domestic violence homicides in our state alone.
  • 35% of NC women have experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence. (1)

Nationally, statistics show that domestic violence continues to be a problem.

  • During one year, on average, nearly 10 million people face physical abuse by an intimate partner in the United States.
  • Every 9 seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.  
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes.   
  • 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon. 
  • 43% of dating college women report experiencing some violent and abusive dating behaviors, including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse (Knowledge Networks, 2011).
  • More than half of college students surveyed (57%) said that it’s difficult to identify dating abuse and 58% said that they don’t know what to do to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse. (2)

What is Domestic Violence? Is it Always Physical?

Domestic violence has a legal definition that includes any personal relationship with someone who:

  • Attempts to cause bodily injury
  • Intentionally causes bodily injury
  • Places you or a member of your family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress (Significant mental suffering or distress that may require medical or other professional treatment or counseling)
  • Commits any act defined in G.S. 14-27.21 through G.S. 14-27.33.

The “continued harassment” part of domestic violence can be two or more acts where the abusive person:

  • Monitors
  • Observes
  • Surveils
  • Threatens
  • Communicates to you or about you or your family to others

The harassment can be directly, indirectly, or through other people. The actions can be through any method, device, or means and also include messing with your personal property.

If you fear for your safety or the safety of your immediate family or close personal associates, you’re in a domestic violence situation. Whether there is actual physical violence or not is irrelevant.

According to the NCCADV, “Domestic violence is a pattern of intentionally violent and/or controlling behavior used against a family member or a dating/intimate partner to gain power and control over that person, during and/or after the relationship. Domestic violence is also known as family violence, intimate partner violence, or dating violence.”

Women are often more at risk for violence than men, especially during a breakup or divorce. A husband may verbally or indirectly threaten to hurt her or her children if she leaves. Our state has protective orders to help victims or potential victims of violence.

Finding Help with a Protective Order

A restraining order is a court order which restrains or limits an abuser’s actions. This order limits where the abuser can live or how close they can come near you or your children.

Protections that can help keep you and your family safe include the DVPO and Ex Parte Orders.

Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPO)

Anyone residing in North Carolina, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, can file for a DVPO. If your abusive partner violates this protective restraining order, law enforcement can arrest them on the spot. 

A protective order can also order the abusive partner to refrain from doing any or all of the following:

  • Contacting you directly or indirectly  
  • Threatening, abusing, or following you
  • Harassing you by phone, visiting your home or workplace
  • Treating a household pet cruelly

If you are a victim of domestic violence and obtain a protective order, the court grants you protections often including:

  • Giving you possession of the household and excluding the abusive partner
  • Requiring the abusive partner to provide you (as a spouse) and children with suitable alternate housing
  • Awarding you temporary custody and establishing temporary child visitation rights
  • Ordering eviction of an abusive partner from residence and assisting you in returning home
  • Ordering abusive partner to support minor children
  • Giving you possession of ordering necessary requirements to keep safe combined personal property, including a pet or minor child
  • Ordering an abusive partner to support you as a spouse 
  • Awarding you attorney fees
  • Prohibiting the abusive partner from purchasing a firearm for a specified amount of time
  • Ordering local police or other law enforcement officers to deliver protective orders to school principals named in the order

Ex Parte/ Emergency Order

You can also request an ex parte or emergency order where a judge grants relief to you even before the abusive partner knows about your protection request.

An ex parte DVPO may require your abusive partner to:

  • Leave home
  • Stay away from their own children
  • Give up possession of a motor vehicle
  • Surrender their “firearms, ammunition, and gun permits” to the sheriff

If the abusive partner violates the order to surrender firearms, a court can charge them with felony-level criminal acts. A judge only issues an ex parte order when it is clear that you are in danger of domestic violence at this moment.

Who Can File a Restraining Order?

To file this type of order, you must have a personal relationship with the abusive individual, including:

  • Spouse or ex-spouse
  • Currently/previously lived with you or in the same household
  • A person with whom you have a child
  • A person you had a dating relationship with
  • A parent, child, grandparent, or grandchild

Domestic violence is an all-too-common occurrence in many households and is one of the most common reasons for family members to require police intervention. Domestic abuse can take many forms, from physical violence to psychological manipulation, and victims often feel isolated and helpless.

The criminal identification of domestic abusers is essential to ensuring that those affected by the behavior can go on to live without concern about more violent incidents. When a police investigation into a domestic dispute gives weight to and responds to a person living in fear, their report of abuse matters and can help them take the next step to safety.

Find Help

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Services at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or TTY 1-800-787-3224

Wake County Local Resources

Our Experienced Domestic Violence Attorneys Can Help

At Plekan Law, our knowledgeable North Carolina domestic violence attorneys understand the legalities of what you’re suffering through. Whether you need help filing a DVPO or want to understand how to get through your separation and divorce without fear, we can help you find a way.

We can provide the legal advice and guidance you need to get through your domestic violence situation. Contact us today for a free consultation. We’re here to listen, answer all your questions, and help you plan for safety and security for yourself and your family.

If you feel in immediate danger at any time, do not hesitate to call 911. Help is available. You are not alone!