Department of Justice changes definition of domestic violence

Mar 13, 2019

Credit National Domestic Violence Hotline

“The term domestic violence includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim.”

That is Heidi Bott. She is a psychotherapist specializing in domestic, gender based and sexual violence at the YWCA of West Central Michigan. 

Unlike the definition the Obama Administration implemented, this one applies only to individuals who can prove to have experienced physical violence that led to a criminal charge – but Bott says its not always that simple. 

“Your every move has been controlled. You aren't allowed to see your family. You have to ask for money…those kinds of things have been happening or he yells at you constantly or you're constantly being berated and told how terrible you are. So the new definition definitely doesn’t take those things into mind.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 43 million women in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner. 

For Kent County Prosecutor, Chris Becker, the change in definition really has no effect in the prosecution of domestic violence cases locally. 

“There is no domestic violence for economic abuse or if there is something along those lines. A lot of the Michigan Statutes, which we are bound by, relate to some sort of physical violence.” 

Michigan’s definition for domestic violence is like the Department of Justice’s, in that it only applies to acts of physical violence that a warrant a criminal prosecution.  

But for organization like the YWCA that rely on federal acts from the Office on Violence Against Women, the change in definition could mean some of their programs may no longer be funded. 

According to a statement from the Department of Justice office, all funding requests will be examined through the lens of the new definition. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU news.