Danielle spent 13 years of her life “walking on egg shells” around her husband. His anger was explosive. One minute he would hug her and tell her how beautiful she was. The next minute, he would slap her across the face and tell her she was pathetic and good for nothing.
The slightest thing could set him off. She didn’t do this right. She didn’t do that right. She gave him a look he didn’t like. Whatever she did, it didn’t matter. The result was the same.
But the other night was especially bad. He left her in the bathroom lying on the floor while he went outside to smoke a cigarette. She lay there on the cold, wet tile alternating between craddling her swollen jaw and bloody leg. The jaw, he punched. The leg, she cut on a piece of the hallway mirror he broke over her head. After about 10 minutes of nursing, she gathered her strength and pulled herself up. It surprised her when she looked in the bathroom mirror to see finger-sized bruises all over her neck. Then she remembered him chocking her until she passed out several times on the bed about 3 hours earlier.
She had to get out. She had to leave. She tried to get her phone earlier in the night but he got to it first and broke it in two. Now, she saw her opportunity while he was outside on the back porch. She ran through the front door to her neighbor’s house as fast as she could go.
They took her in and called the police. The police charged him with assault on a female and took him to jail. She was free from him for the night. But what about tomorrow? And the next day? What would stop him from coming back and hurting her again?
The police advised her to file for an emergency protective order. Also known as a Domestic Violence Protective Order or “DVPO” for short.
Survivors of domestic violence are often told to get a DVPO. Some of the benefits of getting a DVPO include:
- Court ordered no contact from your abuser;
- No one is aloud to pass you a message on behalf of your abuser;
- Misdemeanor criminal charge for violating a DVPO;
- Possession of the house granted to you (even if the house isn’t titled in your name);
- Possession of the car; and
- Custody of the children.
But there is one great big, giant problem with getting a Domestic Violence Protective Order:
It’s only a piece of paper.
It’s only a piece of paper. It doesn’t stop your abuser from calling you, texting you or coming back to the property.
BUT … It does provide consequences.
So, if your abuser violates the protective order, in North Carolina, that is a criminal offense. He or she can be arrested for violating the protective order. A DVPO violation is a misdemenor charge in North Carolina. But, after a few convictions, continued violations result in felony charges. This is very important. Because it means your abuser must stop or face jail time.
So what can you do to make sure you’re protected? Find out below:
1. File for a Domestic Violence Protective Order
Wait a minute. Didn’t we just say it’s only a piece of paper? Yes, we did. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t file for one.
A DVPO can help you a lot as discussed above. It orders your abuser to stay away from you. It can award you the house and car and short-term custody of your kids. Basically, it can give you some room to breathe. If granted, it should last for a year and can be renewed each year.
2. Contact a Domestic Violence Shelter
Even if you don’t need to stay in the shelter, there are tons of resources available to you. Check out your local domestic violence shelter to find out what help is available. They can offer financial support, employment opportunities, child care, etc. These supports are crucial at this time. Without these in place, you may be tempted to go back to your abuser. Make sure you have a support system in place, including your friends and family, to help you in this time of need.
3. Create a Safety Plan
Once you have the protective order, it’s important to make sure you are safe. You may need to stay in a domestic violence shelter for a while. If you don’t, you should take steps to protect the house. Make sure to change the locks as soon as possible. Consider installing a security system and video cameras outside. If your abuser shows up, calls or emails you, call the police immediately. Do not let him or her inside the home. You may feel you have to keep tabs on him or her to feel safe but avoid trying to text or call your abuser. Don’t reach out to friends or family loyal to your abuser either. Even if they seemed sympathetic, odds are, they will continue to be loyal to their friend or family member.
4. Bonus Step: Contact a Family Law Attorney
The odds are your abuser has told you a lot of lies to keep you from leaving. You’ve probably been told:
- “CPS will take your kids.”
- “You’ll never get custody of the kids if you leave.”
- “It’s not domestic violence because I’m not using an open fist.”
- “You hit me too so I can take domestic violence charges against you too.”
These statements are filled with misinformation and downright lies. You should talk to a family law attorney immediately to find out what is true and what is false. You should also find out your rights and make a plan to get out and move forward.
If domestic violence is affecting you, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.