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Can words rise up to a charge of family violence?

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2024 | Firm News

When we think of domestic violence, we typically picture a spouse hitting their significant other or some other altercation involving violence. However, domestic violence encompasses more than just a physical act.

What is domestic violence?

In Georgia, the law refers to domestic violence as “family violence.” The term includes not only married or romantic partners but also children, parents or anyone living in the household where the altercation takes place.

Family violence

In Georgia, family violence includes offenses such as:

  • Battery
  • Assault
  • Stalking
  • Criminal damage to property
  • Unlawful restraint
  • Criminal trespass

It is not just hitting a person. There are many other activities that fall under the umbrella of “family violence.”

Now, an important and often-asked question is whether words can lead to a domestic violence (family violence) charge. The answer is that it depends.

While words alone rarely lead to these types of charges, threats of violence that cause fear for one’s safety, made intending to intimidate or harass and instill genuine fear of imminent harm, can lead to family violence charges.

What we just described is the offense of assault, which does not require physical touch but a credible threat to hit, injure or cause bodily harm to another person if the victim believes the perpetrator will carry out the threat immediately.

Requirements for family violence charges

Under Georgia law, there must be an act of violence or a credible threat of violence. For example:

Physical harm

Actual physical harm, such as hitting, pushing, slapping, punching or any actual physical contact or injury,. This is the easiest type of charge and the most clear-cut case of family violence.

Threats of harm

Credible threats to harm another person who put that person in fear of imminent physical harm can also be enough for charges to be brought.

For example, if an individual restrains another person and says they are going to kill them while holding a knife, that could potentially lead to charges.

Patterns of abuse

Sometimes, a pattern of controlling or abusive behavior can amount to a charge of family violence. This is up to the court, really, and it depends on the individual’s record and the actions committed in the case.


As you can see, context is critical in determining whether words rise to the level of family violence. Law enforcement will typically inspect the family dynamics, the history between the parties, phone calls to the police, reports made to the police by the person being victimized, and other factors.

While words alone rarely rise to the level of domestic violence, words that communicate an imminent, believable threat of physical harm can.

If you or someone you know is in this type of situation, it is vital to seek legal guidance. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the law and ensure your safety.