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Domestic Abuse: you do not need physical harm says RI Supreme Court

Domestic Abuse can occur in the homes of good people when emotions run high. Some people believe that the Rhode Island Family Court will not issue a RIl Restraining Order unless a person has been struck or been subject to the threat of immediate physically harm. On June 16, 2014, the RI Supreme Court clarified that physical harm or an immediate threat of physical harm is not the only requirement to obtain protection from the court.

The Supreme Court reviewed a case where she sought a RI Restraining Order from the Family Court.  The former wife testified that the other parent made several telephone calls using a gruff tone of voice and vulgar language; these calls may have been about the parties' children and in the aftermath of a motion in Family Court.  His words did not threaten specific physical harm during these calls, though his tone of voice and the vulgarities did. The former husband admitted that they had telephone conversations including vulgarities and a gruff tone of voice in arguments.

The Magistrate who heard the case indicated that it was not a case of physical violence or threats of physical violence. She further explained that this case was one that sounded in "harassment and intimidation".

The RI statute defines domestic abuse in several ways. One definition of domestic abuse is "stalking" which means harassing another person or...; and "harassing: is defined as "following a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person with 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".

The Supreme Court found that since one person was harassing the other with vulgar language in a threatening tone (demeanor) and had placed her in fear of physical harm, a civil restraining order was appropriate.

Whether you are harassed by a former spouse, former lover or someone with whom you have had a relationship, feel free to contact us for helping you through a tough time.

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