About half of all women killed in the United States each year are killed by a man who was their lover, boyfriend, husband or ex-husband. And for almost all of these women, they had suffered from domestic violence — physical and emotional abuse prior to their death. And their children may have been suffering too.
Physical abuse can take many forms. Hitting, slapping, pushing, punching, shoving, pulling hair, kicking to stabbing and shooting are commonly seen in domestic violence court. No one should have to tolerate this behavior from someone else, and there are laws to protect the victims and to try and keep the victim safe from further abuse.
North Carolina Chapter 50B is the civil law that addresses Domestic Violence. Civil restraining orders, or Domestic Violence Protective Orders (“DVPOs”), that result from this law are commonly called “50B Orders”. The statute defines domestic violence as certain acts upon an aggrieved party or upon a child living with that aggrieved party by a person with whom the party has or has had a personal relationship. These acts include attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentional acts that do cause bodily injury. The statute also gives aggrieved parties and their family protection against acts that place the aggrieved party or a member of the aggrieved party’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily harm or continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress.
If a judge signs an order granting you a temporary DVPO against the accused, the sheriff’s department will attempt to serve the perpetrator with the DVPO. A date for a hearing will be set within ten (10) days from when the DVPO is entered. This hearing is called the 10-day return hearing. At this hearing, the judge will hear evidence about the acts of domestic violence and rule on whether the DVPO should stay in place for up to a year.
Since many domestic violence acts are also crimes, there are North Carolina criminal laws that are often filed at the same time as civil DVPOs. Assault on a female, communicating threats, and assault with a deadly weapon are criminal actions that often accompany a civil 50B action. These cases are usually tried separately in criminal court.
If you or your children are being abused, it’s important to quickly seek help. The law allows you to file a DVPO without an attorney. In Wake, Durham, Chatham, Johnston and Orange counties, the process is relatively simple. A victim should go to the courthouse in her county and ask where information is offered for domestic violence. There is often a victim’s rights advocacy volunteer available to help in the process of filling out the forms and filing the documents.
What To Do If You Get Served with a Restraining Order
If a judge signs an order allowing you a restraining order against domestic violence, the sheriff’s department will attempt to serve the perpretator with the restraining Order. A date for a hearing will be set at the time the order is entered. This hearing is called the ten day return hearing. At this hearing the judge will hear evidence about the acts of domestic violence and rule on whether the temporary restraining order should stay in place for up to a year.
What to Do if You are Experiencing Domestic Violence
If you are suffering from domestic violence, call 911 immediately! Ask for help. If you feel unsafe at home waiting for the police, immediately leave the home and call the police from a neighbor’s or friend’s home, or another safe location away from the abuser.
If you remain at home and have called the police, then you should tell the officer exactly what has happened. The officer will usually separate the two of you so that he or she can hear each side of the story. Some abusers are very good at convincing police that there is no abuse. So you will need to show the officer any bruises, marks or any other evidence of a struggle such as broken items, smashed in walls or doors, etc. If you have a witness, then try to have that witness present.
You should immediately seek medical attention for any physical violence that occurred against you, and you should ask the hospital staff to take photographs of any marks, bruises etc. Sometimes in the emotional process you are hurt but do not feel the pain. You should seek medical help to make sure that you are not injured, and you should request a copy of the records. These records can be used in court to prove your case.
If the officer does not make an arrest when he or she arrives at the location, you should consider leaving the home to remain safe. Just because an officer doesn’t make an arrest at the location doesn’t mean that you should not bring criminal charges yourself. It may not be safe for you to remain in the home with the abuser.
There are two kinds of relief for you as a domestic violence victim. One is criminal. You can go down to the magistrate’s office at the County courthouse and swear out a warrant for the violence – whether it is assault, communicating threats, etc.
The second kind of relief is through a Domestic Violence Protective Order, or DVPO. This involves going to the courthouse in your county and bringing charges asking for an order to protect you from the abuser. If the judge issues a DVPO, the DVPO will be served on the abuser and he will be escorted out of the home by an officer. You will have a return hearing within ten days where you go in front of the judge to try and get the Order extended for a year.
When you have the full ten-day hearing, you will need to prove your case. A nonprofit agency assisting victims of domestic violence—a list for Wake, Orange, and Durham counties is below—may be able to provide an attorney through their referral program. If you can afford your own attorney, it’s best to contact an attorney that has experience in Domestic Violence Court. You should contact the attorney as soon as you can after the incident; so that the attorney can obtain proof and prepare for court.
The number for the Domestic Violence office at the Wake County Courthouse, 316 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, is (919) 792-4100.
The number for the Domestic Violence office at the Durham County Courthouse, 510 South Dilliard St., Durham, is (919) 808-3003.
If you need more information and seek support for bringing a criminal charge or obtaining a DVPO, you should reach out to the following nonprofit agencies in Wake, Durham, and Orange counties assisting the victims of domestic violence navigate the process:
- The number for Interact in Wake County, a nonprofit agency providing support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, is (919) 828-7501 and is located at 1012 Oberlin Rd, Raleigh, NC.
- The number for the Durham Crisis Response Center in Durham County is (919) 403-9425, and is located at 206 N Dillard St, Durham.
- The number for the Compass Center in Orange County is (919) 968-4610, and is located at 210 Henderson St, Chapel Hill.
- In addition you can find more information on the website for Hopeline from Verizon.
If you are a woman and feel you may be the victim of domestic violence, learn about abuse and take action now to protect yourself. Even if you do not feel that you are ready to leave the abuser, learn about domestic violence so that you can get out of the situation at some point.
Know the signs of being an abuse victim – it is not just physical abuse.
Bruises, cuts, swelling from strikes and broken bones are the signs of physical abuse, and if you have any of these, or have had them in the past, then you are a victim. But also know that there are other forms of abuse:
• Being told you are worthless or regularly being told that you are at fault;
• Not being allowed to visit your family and be with your friends;
• Not being allowed to leave the house without a valid reason; and
• Being threatened. Being called names. Being cursed at.
Get Medical help
If you are physically abused, go to your doctor, an emergency room or an Urgent Care Center. Although you don’t have to tell the health professional treating you who caused the injury, it is important that the professional know how you got hurt so he or she can properly treat you. Keep a diary of the abuse if you decide not to leave on the first attack – it may be useful later to tell the court what happened in the past.
Don’t blame yourself.
Abusers are very effective at telling their victims that the abuse was her fault. It’s not. No one deserves to be abused. It doesn’t matter if you were also drinking, lost your temper, or said something harshly, there is no excuse for someone hitting you. Even if an abuser apologies and you have a honeymoon period where he acts loving, the abuse will continue and in his mind its your fault, so it’s okay.
Think about your children.
Domestic Violence doesn’t just affect the abused. Your children are severely affected. Your children may grow up thinking that domestic violence is normal and that violence is a way of life. When they grow up they will decide that abuse is the way families are. If the abuser is abusing your children, you can call Child Protective Services and get help and advice. All calls are protective when you call Child Protective Services and a worker will be assigned to you.
Confide in someone that you trust that you feel you are being abused.
Whether it’s a relative, a neighbor, a friend, a counselor, or a minister, it’s important to not suffer in silence. Once you tell others, you can get help normalizing the situation so it helps you feel comfortable taking action to get away from the abuse. That person can also help document the occurrence of violence if needed in court in the future.
Get prepared to leave.
If you intend to leave the house at some point, you should gather together certain items and documents, and keep them in a safe place that is hidden and you can access if you are in a hurry. But don’t stop and gather them if it will endanger you. The most important item to gather is money. This will allow you to take care of yourself without support. Court can take weeks and months before you receive support. Collect these items:
• birth certificates, passports, citizenship papers, and/or immigration papers;
• child custody papers (if there are any);
• the abuser’s social security number;
• money, credit cards and insurance cards;
• checkbook and checking account records, bankbook and banking records, savings bonds, valuable jewelry;
• address book, medicine, house and car keys, drivers license, children’s favorite toys, and clothing for a few days.
Make a safety Plan
Establish a safe place to go in case the abuse occurs again. Plan to go to a friend’s home, neighbor’s home, hotel, church, or relatives. Plan your escape route. Give a relative or a friend a second set of keys to your house and your vehicle.
Know where you can go to get help:
• Police stations;
• Women’s shelters; and
• Interact in Wake County, (919) 828-7501;
• Durham Crisis Response Center in Durham County, (919) 403-9425; and
• Compass Center in Orange County, (919) 968-4610,