An man appealed his restraining order, which prevented him from contacting his ex-wife, arguing that the lower court did not properly establish a finding of domestic abuse despite his ex-wife’s testimony that he repeatedly used vulgar and threatening language towards her, at times placing her in fear of physical harm. The Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the restraining order and underlying finding of domestic abuse, citing the definition of domestic abuse in Title 15, Chapter 15 of the General Laws of Rhode Island: “Among the acts specified in . . . the statute as constituting ‘domestic abuse’ is ‘stalking,’ [which means] ‘harassing another person.’” Because the court found that the ex-husband was “harassing” (and thus “stalking”) his ex-wife, the ex-husband’s conduct fell within the plain meaning of the statute defining domestic abuse. This case is important because it provides that the “unambiguous language” of Rhode Island’s domestic abuse statute does not require a finding of actual physical harm or threats of physical harm as a predicate for domestic abuse—other harassing language is enough.
Cavanaugh v. Cavanaugh