Why Do Victims Feel Trapped? Why Don’t They Just Leave?
Many people who are abused by their intimate partners don’t want the relationship to end. They just want the violence and abuse to stop.
Even under the best of circumstances, it is not easy to end a relationship with an intimate partner. Love, family, shared memories, and commitment are bonds that are hard to break. Cultural or religious beliefs may be barriers to ending a marriage. Immigration status may be another obstacle. While ending a relationship is hard for anyone, women who are abused face the added risks of physical, emotional and psychological harm. There are risks that come with every decision a victim of abuse makes.
By: Undisputed Legal/Family Court Process Service Department
Stalking is a crime in New York State. Despite the now commonplace use of the term“stalking,” it is a serious safety risk and should be treated as such. Stalking is oneperson’s unwanted pursuit of another person. While some stalkers are strangers oracquaintances of those they target, most are current or former spouses or intimate partners who “just won’t let go.” Stalking can occur during a relationship or after it hasended. Many intimate partner stalkers also physically or sexually assault their victimsor threaten to do so.
Stalking often involves the perpetrator:
following you or showing up wherever you are;
driving by or hanging out near your home, school, or workplace, or any other place you normally go;
communicating with you or trying to do so after you’ve told them not to, including:
calling you on the phone (including hang-ups);
texting you or sending you messages via social networking sites;
sending you unwanted letters, cards, e-mails, or gifts;
asking your family, friends, co-workers, children, or others to leave messages for you or to find out information about you;
monitoring your phone calls or computer use;
damaging your home, car, or other property (or threatening to do so);
accessing your online accounts and other secure personal information; or
taking other actions that control, track, intimidate or frighten you.
While some of the stalking behaviors listed above may not seem dangerous orthreatening to an outsider – and may not be illegal on their own – a pattern of stalkingis serious and should be treated that way. If you are being stalked, it is important tokeep a record of what is happening. This can become useful evidence if you decide toget help from the police or court. Every time something happens, you should record:
the date, time and location of the incident;
a description of the incident, including photos, if relevant;
any witnesses, including their names, addresses, and phone numbers; and
any police or legal assistance you seek and the documentation and outcome of that service.
Note: If you have texts or e-mails from the stalker on your phone, save them. If you goto the police, they may want to take photos of the messages as evidence.
By: Undisputed Legal/Family Court Process Service Department
Often people think of domestic violence as physical or sexual assault. While that is true, it is only part of the picture. Many victims are never physically or sexually assaulted but are controlled and terrorized by their partners using non-physical tactics such as:
• Verbal, emotional/psychological abuse • Coercion and threats
TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDERS. After the Petition is filed, the judge must decide whether to issue a “Temporary Protection Order” based on the Petition. If this Temporary Protection Order is issued, it may include some or all of the following:
Order the victim’s home or work address, the phone number, or other related information deleted from all records filed with the court concerning the Protection Order.
Restrain the defendant from committing or threatening to commit acts of abuse, or from harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting, or otherwise communicating directly or indirectly with the victim, victim’s minor children, or any other designated family or household member.
In a crisis situation, a call to the police is a good place to start. Many people complain that police do not take accusations of domestic violence seriously. That can be true in some circumstances, but on the whole, police are treating domestic violence situations more seriously, and police officers are receiving increased training on the subject.
The local state attorney or district attorney also may be able to offer some help. An increasing number of hospitals, crisis intervention programs, domestic violence shelters, and social service agencies have programs to help victims of domestic violence. Agencies offering help in cases of domestic violence might be found on any search engine under “Domestic Violence Help,” “Human Services Organizations,” or “Crisis Intervention.”
If one is working with an attorney in connection with a divorce, the attorney also should be able to initiate the appropriate legal proceedings.
In 1994 Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act. The more formal title of the new law is the Civil Rights Remedies for Gender Motivated Violence Act. Prior to this statute, laws against domestic violence were almost exclusively at the state level.
The Violence Against Women Act allows a person to sue for damages if another person “commits a crime of violence motivated by gender.” The new law is part of the federal government’s civil rights statute. If the crime of violence constitutes a felony against the person or the property of the victim, the victim can sue the assailant for both compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the victim for the loss. The damages could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Punitive damages are an added amount of damages not for the purpose of compensation but rather for the purpose of punishing the assailant and deterring future abusive conduct. Punitive damages, however, are still paid to the victim.
In recent years, state legislatures and courts have been paying increasing attention to domestic violence. Many states have elaborate laws designed to protect individuals from domestic violence by their spouses, other family members, and people with whom the victim may have had a social relationship.
Acommon remedy is for a court to issue an order of protection (also known as a protective order) that orders the alleged abuser to stop abusing or harassing someone else. In addition, the orders often will direct the abuser to stay away from the spouse, the spouse’s home, or place of work. If the person continues to abuse his or her spouse (or another person protected by the order), the abuser can be charged with a criminal violation of the order in addition to being charged with other offenses, such as assault and battery. Penalties include fines and incarceration.
The domestic violence statutes in most states apply not only to physical attacks, but also to other types of conduct. Some examples of conduct that could be considered domestic violence: creating disturbance at a spouse’s place of work, placing harassing telephone calls, stalking, using surveillance, and making threats against a spouse or family member (even though the threat may not have been carried out).
If your relationship to the abuser does not allow you to file a petition in Family Court you must seek relief in the Criminal Court. The procedure for obtaining an order of protection in Criminal Court is completely different than in Family Court. In Criminal Court the District Attorney, based on an arrest must bring a criminal case against your abuser in order for you to obtain an order of protection. The order will be temporary and you will receive it in the mail. If your abuser is convicted of the criminal offense against you, the temporary order of protection can be made “permanent”. For more information about a Criminal Court order of protection contact the Westchester County Domestic Violence & Child Abuse Bureau, or Attorney’s Office at (914) 995-3000.
In order to receive an order of protection from the Family Court the abuser must either be someone you are married to or divorced from; the parent of your child(ren); related to you by blood, such as a child, parent or sibling; or someone who you are or have been in an intimate relationship with, regardless of whether you have lived with the abuser or whether the relationship is of a sexual nature. Initially the order that you obtain in Family Court is temporary and only becomes effective once the alleged abuser (“abuser”) is served with it. You cannot serve the order of protection yourself. The order of protection must be served by either the police or anyone other than you who is over the age of 18.
On the same day that you receive the temporary order of protection you will get a future court date. On that date, both you and the abuser will have to go to court to appear before the judge. The abuser may either opt to admit to the allegations in the petition and consent to abide by the order or deny the allegations. If the abuser admits to the allegations in the petition and consents to abide by the order, the order will become “permanent” (meaning that the order will last for a fixed amount of time, usually one or three years). If the abuser denies the allegations a date will be set for a “fact finding hearing”, which resembles a trial. If after the fact finding hearing the court finds that the abuser did indeed commit the allegations in the petition, your order of protection will become “permanent” (meaning that the order will last for a fixed amount of time, usually one or three years). If after the fact finding hearing the court finds that the abuser did not commit the allegations, the case will be dismissed and the temporary order of protection will end. If the abuser is served and fails to appear in court the judge will either adjourn the case and schedule another time for the abuser to appear or will grant your petition in the abuser’s absence.