No one plans to be a victim of domestic violence. No one expects to be harmed – physically or emotionally – by someone they consider a partner. When a person is victimized at the hands of a romantic partner, it is earth shattering. Many victims, understandably hurt and confused, don’t know where to even begin. Here are a few things to consider if you ever find yourself in need of protection from your spouse or significant other.
First and foremost, if you are physically hurt or feel threatened, you should not hesitate to call the police even though the perpetrator of this harm is your partner. Many victims struggle with this. Some victims don’t want to see their loved one in trouble. Some victims don’t see the situation for what it really is; they forgive and forget, until it happens again. These are understandable responses, but do not hesitate to call the police if you need protection.
North Carolina provides protection to domestic violence victims through a Domestic Violence Protective Order, commonly referred to as a DVPO or 50B. The decision to file for a DVPO is easier for some victims than it is for others. Many victims worry about the effect it will have on their abuser. If you feel you need the protection of a court order, limiting or prohibiting your abuser’s ability to contact you, you should file as soon as possible after the incident of domestic violence. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to collect evidence and convince the court of the urgency of the matter.
Do not have contact with your abuser. Do not initiate contact with your abuser and do not respond if he or she attempts to contact you. This is the easiest way to jeopardize your case for a DVPO. Continued communication with your abuser is contradictory to this request and, from a judge’s perspective, continued communication raises questions about the sincerity of your request.
Domestic violence cases move through the court system more quickly than other types of cases. Once you file, an initial court date must be scheduled within 10 days. For this reason, you should begin gathering your evidence immediately.
Your testimony – your rendition of events – is evidence and, sometimes, that’s enough, but it may not be. If your abuser successfully refutes your claims, the judge will deny your request because you have the burden of tipping the scales in your favor. If you have physical injuries, take pictures. If someone witnessed the actual incident of domestic violence, consider calling that person to testify. Gather any and all evidence you have that supports your testimony.
Consider consulting an attorney to advise or represent you. Consulting an attorney in this type of situation can be helpful for a number of reasons. For purposes of the domestic violence case, an attorney can assess the merits of your claim, evaluate the strength of your evidence and ensure the necessary evidence is admitted for the judge to consider, and guide you through the legal process.
If this is a situation that will evolve into further court action through a divorce or child custody proceeding, an attorney can be even more valuable. An attorney can advise you of any implications your current case may have on a future case and can ensure your interests are protected now as well as in future proceedings to help you achieve the best result.
Above all else, do not be embarrassed to seek help. There has been a stigma surrounding domestic violence for a long time. Only recently, through campaigns of major organizations such as the National Football League, have large-scale efforts been made to change the way our society views domestic violence and its victims.
The truth is domestic violence knows no boundaries; it affects people of all walks of life. Take the necessary steps to put the precautions in place that will protect you and your family.
For more information or to reach Amanda, visit www.sodomalaw.com or call (704) 442-0000.