Do you know that the rate of domestic violence in California is higher than the national average? According to the California Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, approximately 40 percent of California women experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.

Look a little deeper and you’ll find that nationwide, 93 percent of women who were murdered knew their killer – and 63 percent of those women were murdered by their husband or boyfriend.

At some point in your life, you or someone you care about – a friend, your sister, even your daughter – may struggle with domestic violence. Here are four things you should know.

What is considered domestic violence?

According to California Penal Code, it is against the law to willfully inflict unlawful force or violence upon your intimate partner.

So, who is considered an intimate partner? You are considered to be an intimate partner if you are:

  • A current or former spouse
  • A fiancé or fiancée
  • A co-parent of your child
  • A person with whom you have or have had a dating relationship
  • A person with whom you live

You should note that California specifically defines intimate partner as being either heterosexual or homosexual, and also includes dating relationships.

What are the signs of domestic violence?

There are obvious signs of domestic violence, such as bruises, cuts and other physical injuries. There are many more subtle signs of abuse that are not as obvious:

  • Your friend doesn’t go anywhere or do anything without his or her partner.
  • If the person does go out, he or she receives excessive phone calls from his or her partner.
  • A friend or family member doesn’t attend family gatherings or get-togethers.
  • When you do see the person, he or she seems anxious, withdrawn, and lacking confidence.

If you see these signs, talk to your friend or loved one – he or she may need your help.

What is the difference between domestic violence and emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is often a precursor to domestic violence – or goes hand in hand with it – so you should consider it a serious problem.

Where do you draw the line between simple rudeness and emotional abuse? If an abuser makes a negative comment, it is not considered emotional abuse. On the other hand, if an abuser makes a comment that is meant to intimidate a partner, that person is committing emotional abuse.

What is digital abuse?

Your partner doesn’t have to be in your physical presence to abuse you. As our world becomes more digitalized and computerized, your partner has even more ways to carry out abuse, including:

  • Demanding passwords in order to monitor a partner’s online activity
  • Sending threats and harassing someone online via email and social media channels
  • Texting constantly and expecting immediate replies

If you are experiencing digital abuse (sometimes called cyber stalking), keep a digital trail. Save all the abusive and threatening emails and text messages, and take screen shots of social media posts.

While digital abuse can happen to anyone, it is particularly common among teenagers. If you are the parent of a teen, you should talk to the child about the signs and ramifications of digital abuse.

Domestic violence is a major issue in California. Knowing what constitutes domestic violence and being aware of the signs of abuse can help stop it, whether it is happening to you or someone you love.