Definitions of Domestic Violence - Rhode Island

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Defined in Domestic Violence Civil Laws

Citation: Gen. Laws § 15-15-1

'Domestic abuse' means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between present or former family members, parents, stepparents, a plaintiff parent's minor children to which the defendant is not a blood relative or relative by marriage, or persons who are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past 1 year in which at least one of the persons is a minor:

  • Attempting to cause or causing physical harm
  • Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm
  • Causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress
  • Stalking or cyberstalking

'Cyberstalking' means transmitting any communication by computer to any person or causing any person to be contacted for the sole purpose of harassing that person or his or her family.

'Harassing' means following a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person with the intent to seriously alarm, annoy, or bother the person and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress or be in fear of bodily injury.

'Stalking' means harassing another person or willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following another person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

Defined in Child Abuse Reporting and Child Protection Laws

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Defined in Criminal Laws

Citation: Gen. Laws § 8-8.1-1

'Domestic abuse' means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between cohabitants or against the minor child of a cohabitant or the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between persons who are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past 1 year or against a minor child in the custody of the plaintiff. 'Domestic abuse' shall be determined by the court's consideration of the following factors:

  • The length of time of the relationship
  • The type of the relationship
  • The frequency of the interaction between the parties
  • Attempting to cause or causing physical harm
  • Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm
  • Causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress
  • Stalking or cyberstalking

'Stalking' means harassing another person or willfully, maliciously, and/or repeatedly following another person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

'Cyberstalking' means transmitting any communication by computer to any person or causing any person to be contacted for the sole purpose of harassing that person or his or her family.

'Harassing' means following a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person with the intent to seriously alarm, annoy, or bother the person and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress or to be in fear of bodily injury.

Persons Included in the Definition

Citation: Gen. Laws §§ 15-15-1; 8-8.1-1

In civil law: 'Parents' means persons who together are the legal parents of one or more children regardless of their marital status or whether they have lived together at any time.

'Present or former family member' means the spouse, former spouse, minor children, stepchildren, a plaintiff parent's minor children to which the defendant is not a blood relative or relative by marriage, minor children of substantive dating partners, or persons who are related by blood or marriage.

'Substantive dating' or 'engagement relationship' means a significant and personal/intimate relationship that shall be adjudged by the court's consideration of the following factors:

  • The length of time of the relationship
  • The type of relationship
  • The frequency of interaction between the parties

In criminal law: 'Cohabitants' means emancipated minors or persons age 18 or older, not related by blood or marriage, who together are not the legal parents of one or more children and who have resided together within the preceding 3 years or who are residing in the same living quarters.