Family Court Finds Emotional Abuse Equally Harmful as Physical Abuse

Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

Words can hurt. It is a reality understood by most people but an empty statement if the courts are not willing to protect New Jersey’s citizens from verbal abuse. In J.C. v. B.S. the Chancery Division of Ocean County did just that back on September 14, 2015 when it approved a restraining order from a senior citizen mother to her live-in adult son. As with most family court cases, the names are reduced to initials to protect the identity of the parties. This case involved an adult’s son with an alleged alcohol abuse problem who lived with his elderly mother. The son had a recurring patter of becoming intoxicated and calling his mother profane names such as “bitch”, “whore” and other names and insults so vulgar they need not be published again here. In addition to the verbal abuse the son occasionally engaged in threatening physical actions such as placing his hands on his mother’s throat as if he were going to choke her but not actually choking her.

N.J.S.A. 2C:15-17 is the New Jersey Domestic Violence Act allows for two types of relief for domestic violence–criminal and civil. This case concerns the civil relief which is a restraining order. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19 domestic violence may refer to any one of the following:

  1. Homicide
  2. Assault
  3. Terroristic threats
  4. Kidnapping
  5. Criminal restraint
  6. False imprisonment
  7. Sexual assault
  8. Criminal sexual contact
  9. Lewdness
  10. Criminal mischief
  11. Burglary
  12. Criminal trespass
  13. Harassment
  14. Stalking

Vulgar insults of a repetitive nature can definitely constitute harassment even if they are not accompanied with physical actions as they were in this case. Furthermore the court here recognized that “domestic violence does not have to be physical to be real.” The court notes that vulgar insults do not necessarily amount to domestic violence but in this context they do because there was a pattern and there was an immediate danger of further abuse absent a restraining order because even at court the defendant was hostile and showed no signs of changing otherwise. The restraining order was granted and the adult son was permitted to remove his items from his mother’s house under police supervision.

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