Hastings Women’s Law Journal


Claire Wright


The great majority of U.S. states do not include mental abuse in their definitions of domestic violence, even though mental abuse the most dangerous and pervasive form of domestic violence. Based on a comprehensive review of the psychological theory of domestic violence and numerous laws outlawing bullying, hazing, and torture, this article proposes a new, psychologically sound definition of domestic violence which encompasses mental abuse and at the same time provides protections against infringements of individuals' privacy, free speech, and parental rights. This article concludes that the states' failure to treat mental abuse as domestic violence is greatly facilitating the perpetuation of domestic violence in U.S. society, as each generation is permitted to suffer emotional trauma at the hands of family members and intimate partners and then inflict similar trauma on the next generation.