WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Legal Information: Federal


View all
June 25, 2013

I have heard the terms “domestic abuse” and “domestic violence” used by military personnel. Is there a difference?

Yes.  In the military, “domestic abuse” and “domestic violence” mean two different things.  In both cases, the abuser can be of the same-sex or of the opposite sex, and s/he must be one of the following:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • a person who you have a child in common with; or
  • a current or former "intimate partner" who you live/lived with.

Domestic abuse is defined as a pattern of behavior resulting in emotional/psychological abuse, economic control, and/or interference with personal liberty.  There does not have to be any physical violence involved.

Domestic violence in the military is a crime (under the United States Code, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or state law) that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force or violence OR a violation of an order of protection.*

If your relationship with the abuser does not meet any of these requirements, you could still qualify for a civilian protective order (CPO) in the state you live in.  Go to the Know the Laws tab on the top left of the page, enter your state in the drop-down menu and click on Restraining Orders to see if you qualify for a CPO.

* Department of Defense Directive 6400.06, sections E2.13, E2.14