From my experience speaking with victims domestic violence, a fear they seem to share is that they are utterly alone. There is no one else who understands what they are going through. What they don’t see is that this is so far from reality- According to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
Many of these victims seek and are able to get the help they need. Many do not seek help, many do not receive it.
In 2013, there were 108 domestic violence-related homicides in North Carolina alone. (North Carolina Health News).
What does “Domestic Violence” even mean? Under current North Carolina Law:
(a) Domestic violence means the commission of one or more of the following acts upon an aggrieved party or upon a minor child residing with or in the custody of the aggrieved party by a person with whom the aggrieved party has or has had a personal relationship, but does not include acts of self-defense:
(1) Attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury; or
(2) Placing the aggrieved party or a member of the aggrieved party’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment, as defined in G.S. 14-277.3A, that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress; or
(3) Committing any act defined in G.S. 14-27.2 through G.S. 14-27.7.
(b) For purposes of this section, the term “personal relationship” means a relationship wherein the parties involved:
(1) Are current or former spouses;
(2) Are persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
(3) Are related as parents and children, including others acting in loco parentis to a minor child, or as grandparents and grandchildren. For purposes of this subdivision, an aggrieved party may not obtain an order of protection against a child or grandchild under the age of 16;
(4) Have a child in common;
(5) Are current or former household members;
(6) Are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship. For purposes of this subdivision, a dating relationship is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.
As you can see, domestic violence is not just physical violence- it can also include harassment which makes you fear for your safety. And notice that North Carolina recognizes that domestic violence does not just include violence between a husband and wife- a variety of other relationship types are protected under the statute such as persons of the opposite sex who are living together or have lived together.
Okay, so you’ve come to the realization that something needs to change. You know you need help but you don’t know where to start. Here are a few basic steps that you can take to help yourself if you believe you might be the victim of domestic violence.
1. Start with SAFETY. If you are able, physically remove yourself from the environment where the violence occurs. Go and stay with a friend, family, hotel, or at a local shelter . If you are not able to get yourself out of your environment safely- then it’s even more reason to try and get to the next step below.
2. SEEK A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDER FROM YOUR LOCAL COURT. While each county varies slightly in the procedure in which to obtain one- all domestic violence protective orders are meant to do just that- protect. Protective orders, or “DVPO’s” are issued by a judge and limit the type of contact that the perpetrator of the domestic violence can have with you (if any at all) and any children and pets that are in the home or are a part of the family. If you are able, speak to an attorney who is knowledgeable about DVPO’s and the best way to obtain one in your county. An attorney can help guide you through the process as well as point you to resources for victims of domestic violence. Some counties even offer free legal services for those who cannot afford to hire attorney.
3. ATTEND THE FIRST HEARING. After you file your petition for a DVPO, whether on your own or with the help of an attorney, you will be given a hearing day and time. The hearing is usuallywithin 24-48 hours of filing the paperwork for the DVPO. Do not let fear keep you from attending this hearing. If you do not show up, the complaint will be dismissed. If you appear, the judge will hear from you or your attorney about the reasons you are seeking protection and make a decision as to whether to issue the DVPO. If he or she decides you have a qualifying case- then you will be issued a temporary protective order. Then the judge will assign you a hearing date approximately 10 days away. Your temporary protective order will be effective until that hearing date. During those 10 or so days, the defendant ( the perpetrator of the domestic violence) will have to be served with your request for a DVPO and a summons to appear in court on the date set by the Judge.
4. ATTEND YOUR 2nd HEARING. If you do not show up for the second hearing, the Judge will dismiss your request for a DVPO. If you appear, then the judge will review your case based on the evidence that you or your attorney present, and decide whether your temporary DVPO should be made permanent. If the Judge decides that this is warranted, the DVPO will be effective for one year. The Judge can order that the defendant stay away from you, your children, and even your pets- at home and at work. He can require that that defendant not have any firearms in his possession during this time as well.
5. REPORT VIOLATIONS OF THE ORDER. If the defendant violates the order in anyway- whether by direct or indirect contact with you ( say he or she will not stop following you, or shows up at your residence), then youneed to 1. Call the Police, and 2. Contact your attorney if you have one, or 3. Consider hiring an attorney if you don’t have one already. The court does not monitor the compliance of each and every DVPO, so it is up to you to report violations.
If you are the victim of domestic violence- You cannot wait to get help. You do not deserve to live a life of fear, but rather, of freedom. If you are, or think you may be the victim of domestic violence- contact our firm. Our family attorneys have experience getting victims and their families the protection they need.