There are different types of “abuse” and harassment defined in the law.  Most “abuse” scenarios have a civil and criminal component. Because of the media, we are most familiar with the criminal aspect of sex crimes and abuse. This discussion will only address abuse issues from a civil standpoint; however, upon recognizing that you or someone you are acquainted is or was the victim of abuse, we encourage you to report the abuse to your local law enforcement office immediately. Female-DV

The victim of harassment and abuse, whether physical, psychological or sexual, may also be able to file a civil lawsuit. A civil suit would be separate from a criminal case, if law enforcement files the case with the local district attorney’s office. In a civil case, the perpetrator will not be sentenced, or re-sentenced to serve jail time but, if found guilty, would be subject to a restraining order to stop the harassment and abuse, and a monetary judgment in favor of the victim.


Many forms of non-violent harassment, like stalking, threats, unwanted telephone calls or emails can be considered just as abusive as a black eye or broken rib. Domestic violence laws protect you from physical, emotional or verbal abuse by someone with whom you are intimately connected (i.e. present or former spouse/partner, someone you are dating or used to date or living with or used to live with (more than a roommate) or a close family member (i.e. parent, child, sibling, grandparent or in-laws). Civil harassment laws on the other hand will protect you from physical, emotional or psychological abuse from a stranger or farther related relative, i.e. cousins, uncles, aunts.

From a civil standpoint, there are four types of abuse or harassment: domestic violence, civil harassment, workplace violence, and elder or dependent adult abuse. The difference in the “title” of the abuse or harassment depends on the relationship between the perpetrator and victim; the age of the victim; the type of abuse or harassment, and the location of the threatened credible violence.

1.    Workplace 

Workplace violence and harassment in the workplace is similarly defined as “civil harassment”; however, in this case, the harassment and violence takes place in the workplace and it is the employer (not the employee victim) that seeks a restraining order and other protection on behalf of the employee, and if necessary, on behalf of the employee’s family.

In order to obtain a workplace restraining order, the employer must show reasonable proof that the employee was assaulted, stalked or hit (battery) or that there is a credible threat of violence against the employee; that the violence or threat of violence can reasonability be carried out (or was carried out) at work; that the conduct was not allowed as part of a legitimate labor dispute; and the person accused of the violence is not engaged in a constitutionally protected activity.  Upon a reasonable showing of these elements, the court will typically grant the requested restraining order. Additionally, the party harassing the employee can be ordered to pay fines and other monetary sanctions.

2.    Online Harassment

Online harassment has become rampant. The media has identified many large problems, but the vast majority has to be dealt with by the individual. First, take a few steps yourself to document the problem and try to make it stop. [Read more]

3.    Civil Harassment & Stalking

Civil harassment is similar to domestic violence, except that the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim are not intimate or as close as that defined in the domestic violence statutes. Persons in this category include friends, neighbors, work-acquaintances, non-romantic roommates, uncles, aunts, nephew, nieces, or cousins.