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What constitutes domestic abuse in Wisconsin?

When you think of an abuser, you probably imagine a man beating up his spouse every day. If you do not fit this picture, you may not understand why you are facing domestic violence charges.

While physical harm is one type of domestic abuse, there are many others you can commit. Knowing what they are can help you in your defense and prevent the situation from happening again.

Definition of domestic abuse

Wisconsin law defines domestic abuse as intentionally causing physical pain, injury, illness or impairment, or committing sexual assault. It also includes any physical action that could result in the victim to believe you will commit one of the previous acts. For example, you may have never laid a finger on your spouse, but punching walls or breaking things can instill fear of escalation to assault, causing your spouse to call for help before it leads there. Additional crimes may be:

  • Stalking and cyberstalking
  • Economic control
  • Emotional and psychological abuse

Furthermore, domestic abuse is not limited to just your spouse. It can involve an ex, the parent of your children or any other adult you currently live or formerly lived with.

Prosecution of domestic abuse

The charges for domestic abuse depend on your actions. Physically hurting another person qualifies as battery, the severity depending on the extent of the harm you inflict and any other relevant circumstance (age, disability, pregnancy). Sexual crimes fall under sexual assault laws. If you do not cause bodily harm but have a heated argument full of screaming and threatening, you are likely to face charges of disorderly conduct.

Penalties for domestic abuse

The legal consequences vary according to your situation, but penalties generally entail arrest, jail time, fines and protection orders. You may also experience negative effects in other areas of your life, such as divorce, loss of child custody, employment challenges and firearm restrictions.

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