Domestic Violence and Abuse


Getting through the day with an abusive partner is something no person should have to experience. The National Institute of Health estimates that as many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the United States are victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence comes in many forms, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and financial abuse. Victims include spouses, intimate partners, elder family members, incapacitated adults and children.

Protections are available through the Virginia court system and local agencies. Virginia has enacted several laws to protect victims from abuse.

Protective Orders

If someone has physically harmed you, or has threatened you with harm, you may be able to obtain a protective order against your abuser. A protective order can be issued against your spouse, former spouse, parent of your child, cohabitant, or person with whom you cohabited at any point in the 12 months prior. In addition to protecting you from further physical abuse or threats of abuse, a protective order can also protect your children, other family members and household members.

  • A protective order can be granted for up to two years and can include many different kinds of protection, including:
  • Prohibiting the abuser from engaging in further acts of abuse or threats of abuse;
  • Prohibiting the abuser from contacting you, your family and other household members;
  • Requiring the abuser to stay a certain distance from you at all times;
  • Granting you exclusive use and possession of your residence or, alternatively, provide you and other family and household members with suitable alternative housing;
  • Requiring the abuser to establish and/or maintain utilities for your residence;
  • Granting you exclusive use and possession of a vehicle;
  • Requiring your abuser to maintain your cell phone account;
  • Granting temporary custody, visitation and child support; and
  • Requiring the abuser to engage in mental health treatment, including counseling and anger management.

A protective order is a civil matter, as opposed to criminal, but violation of a protective order is criminal and results in mandatory jail time.

Domestic Assault and Battery

Assault refers to a credible attempt or threat to inflict bodily harm on another, while battery refers to the actual use of force or violence which causes harm to another. Domestic assault and battery occurs when a person commits assault and battery against a family or household member.

A person who is convicted of domestic assault and battery is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Three convictions for domestic assault and battery in a 10-year period is a Class 6 felony, and can result in up to 5 years in prison.


Stalking occurs when an “aggressor” acts in a way, on more than one occasion, that causes you fear of death, sexual assault or bodily injury. The aggressor must know, or should reasonably know, that his or her conduct places you in such fear. Communicating to the aggressor that his or her behavior is causing you this kind of fear can be enough to put the person on “notice.” If the aggressor acts that way again, then he or she could be guilty of stalking.

A first conviction for stalking is a Class 1 misdemeanor and can result in up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A second conviction for stalking within 5 years of the first conviction is a Class 6 felony, and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

If a court finds your aggressor guilty of stalking, the court will also issue a protective order prohibiting him or her from having any contact with you, your family or your household members. Violation of the protective order can result in a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

If you have been or are a victim of abuse, or if you have been charged with abuse, it is important that you know your rights and your options. Call us at 703-215-4400 or email us at so we can help you.