Domestic Violence & Domestic Abuse


Intimate Partner Abuse

“Intimate partner abuse” is a term used to describe different kinds of abusive behaviors that can happen in intimate relationships (such as between people dating or married). However, not all abusive behaviors in intimate relationships can be charged under criminal law. For example, intimate partner abuse may include emotional abuse. While there are not criminal laws for emotional abuse, there may be civil legal options for emotional abuse. 

Intimate partner abuse looks different in different relationships. The following abusive behaviors may happen in intimate partner abuse. Note: Not all of these behaviors can be charged under criminal law.

  • Emotional abuse. For example, when someone threatens, bullies, criticizes, intimidates, or shames a person over and over.
  • Physical abuse. For example, when someone punches, kicks, slaps, pushes, throws things, or uses a weapon against a person.
  • Sexual abuse. For example, when someone forces or pressures a person into sexual acts that the person doesn’t want to do or cannot consent to.   
  • Financial abuse. For example, when someone controls a person’s money or stops a person from working.  
  • Stalking. For example, when someone follows or harasses a person in a way that makes that person feel unsafe.
  • Technological abuse. For example, when someone uses texting, social media, or other technology to harass, stalk, or intimidate a person.

Criminal Legal Definitions: Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence

Colorado’s criminal law defines Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence.  Anyone can be a victim or an abuser regardless of their gender.

  • Domestic Abuse is abuse or aggression by someone with whom the victim is or has been related to, lived with, or been involved in an intimate relationship with. Domestic Abuse includes threats of violence and violence toward the victim, child, and/or a pet.
  • Domestic Violence is an act of violence or threatened act of violence by a current or past intimate partner. An intimate partner is a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, or spouse. Domestic Violence includes crimes against people, pets, and/or property. For example, a partner might threaten a victim’s children or pets.

Colorado’s Domestic Violence laws cover violence, attempted violence, threats of violence, stalking, harassment, revenge, or coercion. Coercion means forcing, threatening, or intimidating someone into doing something they do not want to do. Coercion also means stopping someone from doing something they have a right to do.

Domestic Violence may be added to the charge for another crime. It is not a charge by itself. For example, if a man hits someone, he might be charged with misdemeanor assault. If he hits his wife, he might be charged with a misdemeanor assault as an act of Domestic Violence. Almost always, the prosecutor must charge as an act of Domestic Violence if the violence includes intimate partners.

Examples of Other Colorado Laws to Protect Victims after Domestic Violence

  • Housing. For example, victims of Domestic Violence may be able to end a lease because they fear for their safety. In some situations, victims may not have to pay for harm caused to the property by the abuser. It is best for victims to speak with an attorney about their specific situation. A victim may need a civil attorney who practices landlord/tenant law or someone who specializes in Domestic Violence to assist with these issues.
  • Employment. For example, victims of Domestic Violence may be able to take time off work to seek a protection order or get medical/mental health treatment. If victims have to leave their job because of Domestic Violence, they may be able to get unemployment benefits. A victim may need a civil attorney who practices employment law or someone who specializes in Domestic Violence to assist with these issues.

If you or someone you know needs help on this topic, click here to find local and national agencies that may be able to help.

To see Colorado statutes on Domestic Violence, click here.

More on Intimate Partner Abuse

To read a little bit more about the different ways abuse can look in a relationship, read below. This section is to help people learn how abuse can look in relationships. Note: This section does not give legal definitions of crimes. Not all of these behaviors can be charged under criminal law.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when someone does things such as make threats, bullies, slams, or shames a victim over and over again. Emotional abuse can cause emotional harm.

Sometimes abusive partners:

  • Humiliate the victim in front of other people
  • Control who the victim sees or what they do - for example, saying who the victim can be friends with
  • Threaten to harm the victim, children, or pets
  • Blame the victim for the abuse
  • Say they will kill or hurt themselves

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is when someone touches a victim who did not want to be touched and causes pain or injury.

Sometimes abusive partners:

  • Punch, kick, scratch, strangle (sometimes called choke), slap, or bite
  • Push, shove, or grab
  • Throw things
  • Use or threaten to use a weapon

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when a sexual act is unwanted or a person cannot consent (for example, because the person is unconscious). Sexual abuse can happen once or many times in a relationship. Sexual abuse can happen even after the victim had consensual sex with the partner before.

Sometimes abusive partners:

  • Pressure victims to get sex
  • Have rough or violent sex when a victim does not want it
  • Rape or try to rape
  • Say they will not use condoms when a partner asks them to
  • Have sexual contact when victims are passed out or drunk
  • Force victims to have sexual contact with others for money or drugs

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is when a partner tries to control the victim’s money.

Sometimes abusive partners:

  • Limit access to money, credit cards, joint accounts, bank statements
  • Stop victims from working
  • Try to get victims in trouble at their jobs to get them fired
  • Control and use victims’ money
  • Improperly uses victims’ social security number to help the abuser’s finances
  • Make victims depend on the abusers for money, even if victims used to have money of their own


Stalkers watch, follow, or harass victims over and over again. Victims often feel unsafe. A stalker can be someone the victim knows (such as an ex-boyfriend, coworker, classmate) or a stranger.

Sometimes stalkers:

  • Call or text a victim over and over again
  • Show up or wait around places they are not supposed to be
  • Damage the victims’ things (such as phone or house)
  • Leave unwanted gifts or items
  • Track victims with social media (such as Facebook), phones, or computers

Technological abuse

Technological abuse is when someone uses texts, social media, phones, or computers to stalk a victim. This means that abusers do not have to be physically near victims to harass them.

Sometimes abusive partners or stalkers:

  • Control or watch what victims do online - for example, what websites victims use
  • Keep track of who victims talk to or text with
  • Text or call over and over again
  • Look through victims’ phone without victims’ permission
  • Send victims negative messages online
  • Pressure victims to send texts they do not want to send, such as naked pictures
  • Steal victims’ passwords