It’s Only Abuse if Someone Hits You ~ Not Under Colorado Law


With the recent focus on the National Football League (“NFL”) and incidents involving Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald the question of what is domestic violence and abuse under Colorado law has become an important issue. Domestic violence and abuse is not something that is limited by a person’s income, education, race, or gender. It crosses all of these lines and it’s good to be informed on Colorado’s definition of domestic violence/abuse.

Under Colorado law “domestic abuse” is defined under §13-14-101(2), Colorado Revised Statutes as:

▸ Any act, attempted act, or threatened act of violence, stalking, harassment, or coercion. Coercion includes compelling a person by force, threat of force, or intimidation to do something which the person has the right or privilege to abstain, or to abstain from conduct in which the person has a right or privilege to engage.

▸ The perpetrator has to be someone whom the victim is related to (past or present), or has lived with in the same house or has been involved with in an intimate relationship. However, having a sexual relationship with the perpetrator is not necessarily a requirement to find that an intimate relationship exists.

▸ These acts, attempted acts or threatened act(s) of violence can also be done against the minor children of either party or an animal/pet belonging to the parties or a child involved where controlling that child/animal/pet means controlling that victim.


The video showing Ray Rice punching his then girlfriend so hard he knocked her out is what most people believe is domestic violence or abuse. Domestic abuse is more than simply hitting a victim. Preventing the victim from leaving during an argument or cutting them off from the means to call for help is another situation which can be classified under domestic abuse. Also damaging their property like taking away a cell phone and breaking it or throwing out the window of a moving car can be considered domestic abuse.

Since 2006 marital rape has been outlawed in all fifty states.  Still it goes largely unreported because people believe that you cannot rape your spouse/significant other.  Coercing a spouse/significant other to participate in a sexual act against their will by threat of violence, violence to the children or pets, or other “exchange”, is a crime that falls under domestic violence/abuse in Colorado.


Verbal and emotional abuse usually goes hand-in-hand with physical abuse, but sometimes there is no physical abuse. In many ways it is a more subtle form of abuse because victims often do not believe they are being abused. However, dictating how the other person dresses, whom they speak to or go out with, who their friends are, or how they keep a house clean where the abuser then flies into a rage when something is not how they would like it is abuse. Over the long term many victims come to believe what the other party has been telling them. In it’s own way it is psychological warfare that affects everyone in the home.

The situation with the NFL shows that domestic abuse happens whether the parties are financially well off or poor. A common misconception can be that domestic abuse only happens when the parties are poor. Not true. Domestic abuse is something that is committed by people with and without financial means, and with and without advanced education. There are many stories of women holding positions as CEO’s for major companies, medical degrees, scientists, secretaries, store workers, etc. living with domestic abuse. Victims can also be highly intelligent and still find themselves in an abusive relationship. Domestic abuse is not choosy about its victims – women, men, children, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender are all affected.


One in three women in their lifetime will be a victim of some sort of domestic abuse. Overall 25 to 32% of all relationships involve domestic violence regardless of sexual identity or orientation. Men are often abused by women and many are too embarrassed to report it.  Many victims lack the resources, support system and determination to leave their abusers. If you think you or someone you know may be the victim of abuse the following resources are available to you in the Denver Metro Area:

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for