If you’re in a marriage or other relationship where you regularly experience abuse, you understand interpersonal violence on a personal level. You may wonder about your options to feel safe again in North Carolina.

In this blog, we’ll look at how to obtain a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) in North Carolina and why it can help in your situation. We’ll also look at the distinctions between restraining orders and criminal charges. We’ll see which types of abuse you can press criminal charges for and provide practical guidance to empower you to find safety and justice.

What is Interpersonal Violence? Is it the Same as Domestic Abuse?

In North Carolina, domestic violence is a common type of interpersonal violence.

In 2016, North Carolina collected alarming statistics showing the need for help from local and state resources for interpersonal violence:

  • Abuse hotline staff answered 513 calls in one 24-hour period, averaging 21 hotline calls every hour.
  • 812 domestic violence victims found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs.
  • 690 adults and children received non-residential assistance and services, including counseling, legal advocacy, and children’s support groups. (1)

How Is Domestic Violence Defined in North Carolina?

Domestic Abuse in NC is legally defined as abusive behavior between individuals who have or have had a personal relationship. The state’s domestic violence laws encompass various forms of abuse, including physical violence, sexual assault, threats, stalking, and emotional harassment.

It is important to note that interpersonal violence is considered domestic if there is a personal relationship involving:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Individuals of the opposite sex who live or have lived together
  • Individuals who have a child in common or those who are in or were in a dating or intimate relationship.

North Carolina takes domestic violence seriously and provides legal protections to ensure the safety and well-being of victims.

How Can I Legally Protect Myself and My Loved Ones?

If you or your loved ones face the threat of domestic violence in North Carolina, legal measures are available to help protect your safety. Here are some key steps you can take:

Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO)

Consider obtaining a DVPO, also known as a restraining order. This court order prohibits the abuser from contacting or approaching you and may provide additional protections such as granting you exclusive use of the home or awarding custody of children.

Consult a domestic violence attorney to understand the process and requirements for obtaining a DVPO.

Safety Planning

Create a safety plan to ensure your immediate well-being. This may include identifying a safe place to go, informing trusted friends or family members about your situation, and having emergency contact numbers readily available.

Reporting to Law Enforcement

If you are in immediate danger or have experienced an act of violence, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency. Report the incident and provide them with all relevant details to initiate a criminal investigation.

Document Incidents

Keep a record of all domestic violence incidents, including dates, times, descriptions, and any evidence, such as photographs or messages. This documentation can be crucial in legal proceedings.

Seek Support

Reach out to local domestic violence organizations or helplines for emotional support, guidance, and resources. They can provide information on shelters, counseling services, and legal assistance.

Consult with an Attorney

It is advisable to consult with an experienced domestic violence attorney who can guide you through the legal process, help you understand your rights, and represent your interests in court if necessary.

Remember, your safety and well-being are paramount. Do not hesitate to take legal action and seek help from professionals specializing in domestic violence cases.

Is A Protective Restraining Order a Criminal Charge?

A protective restraining order, such as a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO), is not a criminal charge in North Carolina. It is a civil court order that provides legal protection and imposes restrictions on the abuser’s behavior.

A DVPO aims to prevent further acts of domestic violence, ensure the safety of the victim and any children involved, and establish boundaries between the parties involved. Violating a DVPO can have legal consequences, but the order does not result in criminal charges.

However, if criminal acts have occurred, law enforcement may pursue separate criminal charges based on the evidence and applicable laws.

It’s essential to consult with a domestic violence attorney to understand the distinctions between civil protective orders and criminal charges and how they relate to your situation in North Carolina.

Which Types of Domestic Abuse Are Criminal Behavior? Can I Press Charges?

In North Carolina, several types of domestic abuse are considered criminal behavior. Here are some common charges related to domestic violence, along with their definitions:


Assault refers to intentionally causing physical injury or attempting to cause injury to another person. It can involve punching, kicking, or using a weapon to harm someone.

Simple Assault

Simple assault is a misdemeanor offense that involves engaging in physical or verbal conduct that puts someone in fear of immediate bodily harm or causes physical injury of a non-serious nature.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is a more severe form of assault that involves intentionally causing serious injury or using a deadly weapon with the intent to cause harm.


Battery involves unlawfully and intentionally causing physical harm or offensive contact with another person. It typically refers to situations where physical contact is made, resulting in injury or harm.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual Assault and Battery

Sexual violence of any kind is always a criminal act. A sexual battery occurs when someone engages in non-consensual sexual contact or touching without the person’s consent. A sexual assault offense encompasses a range of non-consensual sexual acts categorized into different degrees based on the severity of the crime.


Stalking involves willfully and repeatedly harassing or following another person, creating a reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family members.

Violation of a Protective Order

Violating a protective order, such as a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO), is a criminal offense. It occurs when the abuser fails to comply with the terms and conditions outlined in the protective order, such as contacting or approaching the victim.

It’s crucial to note that these are just a few examples, and there may be other charges and offenses related to domestic violence under North Carolina law. The specific circumstances and evidence in each case will determine the appropriate charges brought by law enforcement and pursued by the prosecuting authorities.

If you need legal advice or information specific to your situation, it is recommended to consult with a domestic violence attorney in North Carolina.

What Are Red Flags to Avoid Intimate Partner Violence?

To avoid getting into a violent intimate partner relationship, it is important to be aware of certain warning signs and behaviors that may indicate a potential for violence. While not exhaustive, here are some red flags to watch out for in a relationship:

Controlling Behavior

It could be a warning sign if your partner displays excessive control over your actions, decisions, or interactions with others. This may include monitoring your whereabouts, isolating you from friends and family, or dictating your appearance and choices.

Jealousy and Possessiveness

Excessive jealousy or possessiveness can be a precursor to abusive behavior. It may indicate an unhealthy pattern if your partner constantly accuses you of infidelity, becomes excessively jealous over innocent interactions, or demands constant reassurance.

Verbal or Emotional Abuse

Pay attention to how your partner speaks to you. It could indicate future violence if they frequently belittle, insult, demean, or manipulate you emotionally.

Explosive Anger and Temper Issues

Be cautious if your partner has a quick temper, displays frequent anger outbursts, or resorts to physical violence during arguments. This suggests a lack of control and an increased risk of physical violence.

Disrespect for Boundaries

A healthy relationship involves respecting each other’s boundaries and consent. If your partner consistently disregards your boundaries, engages in non-consensual activities, or pressures you into sexual acts against your will, it is a significant concern.

Past History of Violence

Suppose your partner has a history of violence or abusive behavior in previous relationships. You may see this as a potential warning sign for your future safety.

Manipulative Behavior

Avoid manipulative tactics such as gaslighting, guilt-tripping, or playing mind games. These tactics can erode your self-esteem and make you more vulnerable to abuse.

Escalating Tensions

Pay attention to the escalation of conflicts within the relationship. If arguments or disagreements become increasingly intense, with threats or physical aggression, addressing and seeking help is crucial.

Trust your instincts and prioritize your safety. If you observe any of these warning signs or feel uneasy about your relationship, consider contacting a trusted friend, family member, or professional for support and guidance.

Organizations specializing in domestic violence can provide resources and assistance in assessing the situation and creating a safety plan if necessary.

You can better recognize and respond to potentially abusive situations by understanding the warning signs and red flags.

Creating Safe Relationships

To help create a safe space in your relationships, try to create a relationship that avoids intimate partner violence:

Healthy Communication

Promote open, respectful, and honest communication within your relationships. Effective communication can help address conflicts and misunderstandings before they escalate into an abusive relationship.

Mutual Respect

Foster an environment of mutual respect and equality within relationships. Both partners should value and honor each other’s opinions, boundaries, and autonomy.

Addressing Power Imbalances

Recognize and actively work to address power imbalances within your relationships. Promote equality and shared decision-making. Avoid acting with controlling or manipulative behaviors. Avoid tolerating those behaviors in another person.

Support Systems

Work to create strong support systems in your life, including friends, family, and community resources. Having a network of trusted individuals to provide emotional support and assistance during challenging times.

Anger Management and Conflict Resolution Skills

Promote the development of healthy anger management and conflict resolution skills within your relationships. This includes finding non-violent ways to express emotions, seeking professional help, and learning constructive problem-solving techniques. It means getting out of a relationship where someone commits violent acts. And it means finding appropriate services to help create protective factors for you and your loved ones.

Access to Resources

Ensure you can access counseling, therapy, helplines, and support groups. If you or your loved ones face any of the following, call an abuse hotline to talk about how to find help:

  • Physical abuse or assault
  • Dating violence or abusive relationships
  • Psychological abuse causing mental health problems
  • Gender-based violence or abuse related to sexual orientation
  • Child abuse
  • Physical force and controlling behavior
  • Sexual abuse or harassment
  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical or sexual violence or any kind

Facing relationship challenges or experiencing abuse means it’s past time to talk with others about how to handle the sexual or physical abuse in your life.

For help considering whether your situation is abusive or to find help and resources, reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or talk with The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV) at  919-956-9124

The fact is that you can’t guarantee complete prevention of intimate partner violence, as the responsibility for violence lies solely with the perpetrator. However, you can prevent interpersonal violence in your life and your family’s life by contacting violence prevention organizations.

By promoting healthy relationships, raising awareness, and providing support, we can work towards reducing intimate partner violence in North Carolina and beyond.

Our Experienced Domestic Violence Protection Order Attorneys Can Help

At Plekan Law, we understand the gravity of domestic violence situations and the need for immediate legal protection. Our team of experienced domestic violence protection order attorneys is dedicated to assisting you in finding safety and security from abusive relationships.

We are here to guide you through obtaining an emergency protection order or Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) in North Carolina. With our in-depth knowledge of the legal system and our commitment to client advocacy, we provide the compassionate support you need.

Your safety is our priority, and we are ready to stand by your side, offering our expertise and unwavering support throughout this challenging journey. Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us help you reclaim your peace of mind.