Domestic Violence: Addressing Safety

Domestic violence occurs within a family intimate relationship as a way to control another person. Victims suffer physical injury, live in fear in their homes and lose power over their lives. Domestic violence includes:

Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, kicking, punching, burning, choking, not allowing you to leave home or using objects to cause injury (guns, knives, baseball bats, etc.).

Mental Abuse: Threats, telling you what you can or cannot do, name calling or put-downs.

Sexual Abuse: Rape, unwanted touching, forced sexual acts, refusal to practice safe sex or sexual activity involving a dependent child;

  • Being forced as the caretaker/relative of a dependent child to engage in non consensual sexual acts or activities;
  • Threats of or attempts at physical or sexual abuse; or
  • Neglect or deprivation of medical care.

Property or Economic Abuse: Stealing or destroying personal belongings, hurting pets, taking money, withholding basic needs such as food and clothing or not allowing you to work.

If you need help about domestic violence problems, call the national helpline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or a local agency. Local agency information for The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence is available at

Everyone involved in a support action needs to understand how the process works. this helps you make informed decisions about whether and/or how to pursue support.

The Support Process

  • The parent or individual with custody of the child, who is called the custodial parent or the caretaker, will be asked to provide information about the parent(s) not living with the child, who is/are called the noncustodial parent(s).
  • An individual will be asked to provide information to locate the noncustodial parent or spouse.
  • It is necessary to go to the DRS or court to determine if the noncustodial parent or spouse will be ordered to pay support and, if so, how much.
  • If the mother is not married when the child is born, paternity must first be established,
  • Both adults in the support action will receive court papers that contain the addresses of each party.
  • Both adults involved in the support action will be required to attend conferences and hearings.


Addressing Safety Risks

Pursuing support may present safety risks for some individuals or families. The support process provides the following safeguards.

  • If domestic violence is reported, the DRS or court can place a Family Violence Indicator on PACSES for the custodial parent and/or non-custodial parent, as appropriate, so that addresses and other confidential information will not be given out or printed on any papers that are sent to others. The following factors reported by an individual or reliable source(s) are used to decide whether to mark the case with a Family Violence Indicator:
    • There is an active Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, either temporary or permanent, against the person from whom support would be sought.
    • There is reason to believe that the release of information on the whereabouts of the individual or child may result in the physical or emotional harm or the individual's or family's safety would be endangered by this disclosure.
  • The DRS or court may provide safeguards if domestic violence is reported. Each county has different safety options and procedures available
  • Individuals applying for or receiving cash assistance may be excused from the requirement to pursue support based on domestic violence or other good cause. See "Child Support and Cash Assistance section".

Note: Many government agencies and groups that work in the prevention of domestic violence use the phrases "domestic violence", "domestic abuse" and "family violence" to mean the same thing.

Victims or potential victims of domestic violence may include: children, custodial parents, noncustodial parents, caretakers and spouses. Any individual with safety concerns  should talk to the DRS or court staff at least one week before a scheduled conference or hearing to review safety options.