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Signs , Signals & Help | Domestic Violence in New Jersey

Signs of Domestic Violence or Abuse:

While domestic violence and domestic abuse can be defined in various ways, the hallmarks are violence, aggression, or controlling behavior toward a current or former intimate partner or adult household member. Although women are more frequently victimized, domestic violence and abuse are genderless problems, affecting both women and men in opposite sex or same sex relationships. Elderly victims may experience domestic abuse from adult children or other household members. Children can be direct victims of abuse or can suffer psychological harm from observing abuse in the home.

Many signs of domestic abuse overlap and early signs may be subtle and easy to dismiss, particularly if a victim feels emotionally close to or dependent on the abuser. Unfortunately, without professional help, signs of abuse rarely disappear and frequently worsen over time. If you see any of the following signs, do not minimize the problem, get help now:

  • Anger issues. A volatile and unpredictable temper, a tendency to scream or throw things when upset. Anger issues may appear prior to actual physical violence as an early sign of domestic abuse.
  • Controlling or jealous behavior. Excessive jealously or possessiveness, limiting a victim's activities outside the home or contacts with friends and family, monitoring or restricting phone or computer use. Controlling behavior is a common early sign of domestic abuse.
  • Economic or financial abuse. Restricting access to finances, abusing credit, stealing a victim's financial identity. Financial abuse is an often overlooked but extremely serious sign of abuse as it restricts a victim's ability to make independent financial choices or leave the abusive situation.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse. Criticizing, name calling, swearing, or threatening to hurt or kill a victim or someone close to the victim.
  • Sexual abuse. Physically forcing or coercing a current or former partner to engage in sex.
  • Physical violence. Hitting, slapping, pushing or physically hurting a victim in any way.
  • Destruction of property. Destroying a victim's belongings is another sign of anger or control.
  • Animal abuse. Abusing household pets is not only animal abuse; it is also emotionally abusive to the pet owner.
  • Child abuse. Harming or threatening to harm children is common in the context of other forms of domestic abuse.

If you are afraid of your partner, former partner, or other household member for any reason, or if your confidence and self-esteem have suffered in the relationship, these are signs that you need help.

Domestic Violence is a Crime:

Domestic violence is prohibited by state and federal law. In New Jersey, domestic violence is specifically defined in the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A.2C:25-17 et seq. (NJPDVA) to include any of the following 14 criminal offenses perpetrated by an adult or emancipated minor upon a current or former spouse, household member, dating partner, or co-parent (including a future co-parent if one party is pregnant):

  • Homicide
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Assault
  • Lewdness
  • Terroristic threats
  • Criminal mischief
  • Kidnapping
  • Burglary
  • Criminal restraint
  • Criminal trespass
  • False imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking

These listed crimes cover a wide range of behavior, including many types of behavior that do not involve actual physical violence. A violation of the NJPDVA is grounds for a temporary restraining order (TRO) as well as grounds for a separate criminal complaint. Through the TRO process, a victim can obtain wide-ranging relief, including temporary orders for financial support and child custody.

Behavior that does not fit neatly into one of the above listed crimes may still constitute domestic abuse and may violate other laws. Domestic abuse tends to develop as a pattern of controlling behavior rather than as a single isolated act; where one sign is present, other signs are usually present as well, and the pattern may worsen over time. Any signs of domestic abuse must be addressed to protect the victim's personal safety and mental health.

Help Lines for Advice & Support:

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of abuse in the context of an intimate or household relationship, a domestic violence hotline responder can answer your questions. Counselors and advocates are available around the clock to help you make a plan to protect yourself, connect you with resources to ensure your safety, and help you re-establish personal and financial independence:


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