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January/February 2001Vol. 2, No. 1Domestic Violence Definitions Are Newest in State Statutes Series

Over half of all 50 States have enacted domestic violence legislation that specifically recognizes children as a class of persons to be protected.

These statutory definitions are summarized in a new publication of the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information's State Statutes Series, produced in cooperation with the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse. This series contains excerpts from specific sections of each State's code on key civil and criminal child maltreatment laws. These include laws on reporting, central registries, investigations, child witnesses, crimes, and permanency planning. Domestic violence is the 40th element in the series.

The domestic violence statutory provisions identify which particular children are protected from abusive behavior. While the majority of States require that a special relationship exist between the child victim and the perpetrator, such as a relative, a few States protect any children victimized in the household.

These definitions also specify the type of conduct that is prohibited towards children. Such behavior usually includes physical, sexual, and emotional attacks against a child. It may also involve stalking, threatening, harassing, and placing a child in fear of physical harm.

A small number of States provide exemptions in their definitions of domestic violence for corporal punishment deemed "disciplinary" and for self-defense.

To download the Definitions of Domestic Violence online, visit: (Note: this is no longer available, but relevant information can be found in Children and Domestic Violence at

For more information on civil statutes or additional publications related to child abuse and neglect, contact:
National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
330 C St., SW
Washington, DC 20447
Phone: 800-FYI-3366
Fax: 703-385-3206

For training or technical assistance, research services, publications, or other information about criminal child abuse and neglect statutes, contact:
National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse
99 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 510
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-739-0321
Fax: 703-549-6259