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What you need to know about DV, Getting Help, Protection for You and Your Kids, Getting an Attorney, Etc.
October 30, 2006
8:18 pm
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mamacinnamon
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What you need to know about DV, Getting Help, Protection for You and Your Kids, Getting an Attorney, Etc.

This is long, but I feel some need to know their options and what to do. We have several here that have just left or are about to leave or want to leav their abuser. The following is parts taken from a handbook on domestic violence from the state of New York. You need to check your own states as some things differ state to state. Anyway, I do hope this helps some of you. Wish I’d had access to this before I left.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

Domestic violence is abusive behavior - emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual - that one person in an intimate relationship uses in order to control the other. It takes many different forms and includes behaviors such as threats, name-calling, preventing contact with family or friends, withholding money, actual or threatened physical harm and sexual assault. Stalking can also be a form of domestic violence (for further information on stalking, see page 9.) Most domestic violence is committed against women by their male partners or ex-partners. It also occurs in lesbian and gay relationships and is common in teenage dating relationships. In a small number of cases, men are abused by female partners, but because 91 to 95 percent of all adult domestic violence assaults are perpetrated by men against their female partners, this booklet will refer to victims as female and abusers as male. But every victim of domestic violence, whether female or male, gay or heterosexual, has the right to legal relief.

The following checklist may help you decide if you or someone you know is being abused.

Does your partner:

* constantly criticize you and your abilities as a spouse or partner, parent or employee?

* behave in an over-protective manner or become extremely jealous?

* threaten to hurt you, your children, pets, family members, friends or himself?

* prevent you from seeing family or friends?

* get suddenly angry or lose his temper?

* destroy personal property or throw things around?

* deny you access to family assets like bank accounts, credit cards, or the car, or control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?

* withhold medication or deny you access to health care?

* threaten to reveal your HIV status?

* force you to work in jobs not of your choosing?

* use intimidation or manipulation to control you or your children?

* hit, punch, slap, kick, shove, choke or bite you?

* deny you access to your immigration documents?

* prevent you from going where you want to, when you want to, and with whomever you want to?

* make you have sex when you don't want to or do things sexually that you don't want to do?

* control your expression of gender identity or sexual orientation?

* threaten to out you if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or
transsexual?

* humiliate or embarrass you in front of other people?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be a victim of domestic violence. You are not to blame and you are not alone - millions of women are abused by their partners every year. Not all acts of domestic violence are violations of the law. In any case, you do not have to face domestic violence alone. You deserve help, and help is available.

GETTING HELP FROM AN ADVOCATE

There is no one best way to try to protect yourself from future harm by your abuser. Whether you are working on a safety plan, needing in-formation about your legal options, thinking about going to court, dealing with the police, in the middle of a legal proceeding, needing help from the local Department of Social Services or Human Re-sources Administration (DSS/HRA), or anything else, you don't have to figure it all out on your own. In making decisions about what is likely to work best for you, it can be helpful to talk to a local domestic violence advocate. Advocates understand the criminal justice and Family Court systems and the Department of Social Services system, and they are also familiar with your community. You can also speak to an advocate about your immigration status, and they can provide you with appropriate referrals.

In addition to giving you helpful information, domestic violence advocates can often go with you to court, to the police station or to DSS/HRA to guide you through the process and to offer you practical and emotional support. While this Handbook is intended to help you understand your legal rights, using the legal system can be a confusing and difficult process. Getting help from someone who has experience working with victims of domestic violence and who knows how to work with the different systems can make things easier for you.

To contact the domestic violence program nearest you, see the Resource List in the back of this Handbook.

SAFETY PLANNING

Whatever else you may decide to do, one thing that many victims of domestic violence find helpful is making a safety plan. You can make one yourself or you can call your local domestic violence pro-gram and ask them to help you develop a plan. If you decide to write out a safety plan, be sure to keep it in a place where your partner can't find it. Safety plans can be made for a variety of different situations - for dealing with an emergency such as when a physical assault occurs, for continuing to live with a partner who has been abusive, or for protecting yourself after you have ended a relationship with an abusive partner.

Whether you are with your partner or have ended the relationship and regardless of whether you have used the court system or called the police, there are certain things that are helpful to consider in planning for your future safety.

* Where can you keep important phone numbers (police, hotline, friends, shelter) for yourself and your children?

* Is there anyone you can ask to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from your house or apartment?

* If you need to get out of your house or apartment in a hurry, what door, window, elevator or stairwell will you be able to use in order to get out safely?

* If you need a place to stay for a while, where can you go? Can you arrange to stay with family or friends in a crisis? Do you know how to contact the local domestic violence program in or-der to arrange for emergency shelter?

* Where can you keep your purse, an extra set of car keys or money for public transportation, and some change to make a phone call so that you can grab them quickly?

* Do your children know how to use the telephone to contact the police?

* Is there a code word you can use with friends, family and/or your children to alert them to call for help?

* Can you keep some money, some changes of clothes and important papers hidden somewhere your partner doesn't know about, but that you can get to quickly? Can you keep the "escape bag" with a neighbor or in the trunk of your car?

* If you think you and your partner are about to have an argument, how can you get to a room where there are fewer things that can be used as weapons? How can you avoid getting trapped in the kitchen, bathroom, basement or garage?

TELEPHONE PRIVACY & SAFETY

Telephone technologies, such as Caller ID, mean you should think about steps you can take to prevent your abuser from knowing who you call or who calls you. In addition, it can help to know how to use these same technologies to help you plan for your safety.

If you live with your abuser, and your telephone has a Caller ID box, your abuser can track who has called you. If you live separately from your abuser, you can use Caller ID to make sure the caller is some-one you want to speak to, before answering the telephone. If you have Caller ID, you can also get Anonymous Call Rejection Service. This service prevents an incoming call from ringing at your home if the caller has used Per-Call or All-Call Blocking to stop display of their number on your Caller ID box. The caller will reach a recorded message saying that the call will not be accepted unless the block is re-moved.

Call Return Service (*69) allows you to call back the last number that called you, whether or not you answered the call. In some areas, a recording will give you the number you are attempting to call back, even long distance numbers. However, if the last call you received was from someone you don’t want your abuser to know about, you can press *89 after you end the call. This will prevent Call Return from working.

The re-dial button on your telephone also allows your abuser to call the last number you dialed, without knowing the number. Since most domestic violence programs answer their telephone by saying the name of their program, your abuser could learn that you are reaching out for help. Therefore, after hanging up from such a call, you may want to dial the telephone number for weather or some other "safe" number.

Call Trace Service traces the number of an annoying, obscene or harassing call by dialing *57. If your trace is successful, your telephone company will provide the number to the police. You must file a complaint with the police and call your telephone company to request an investigation.

There is a fee for purchasing the Caller ID service and a fee for using the Call Return and Call Trace. More complete information about these and other services is available in the front of your telephone book or by calling your local telephone company.

An answering machine is another good way to make sure the caller is someone you want to speak to, before answering the telephone. If your abuser leaves a threatening message on the answering ma-chine, be sure to remove the tape and save it (do not record over it). Such recordings can be used as evidence of threats and stalking.

If you use a cell phone, be aware there are numerous ways an abuser can use cell phone technology to overhear your calls or locate you. Use a cell phone only if you do not have access to a regular phone, and make sure that you do not give any identifying details on a cell phone. If your abuser works for a phone company or law enforcement agency, use extreme precaution, and discuss cell phone safety with a domestic violence advocate.

A cellular phone in “silent mode” or “auto answer” can serve as a tracking device. Some recent models of cellular phones have GPS (Global Positioning System), which is a location-finding feature. You can check with your phone company to learn if your cell phone has this feature. If you are fleeing from your abuser, either turn off your cell phone or leave it behind.

COMPUTER AND E-MAIL SAFETY

It is important to remember that computer technology can put your privacy and safety at risk. Computer hard drives are capable of re-cording every action taken on the computer and Internet, and it is virtually impossible to completely erase these “foot prints”. Even if your abuser is not an expert at computers, he may be able to trace what you have done on the computer or can easily find someone who can. If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, it may be safer for you to stop using that computer. Computers that are located in a public library, community technology center, Internet cafe or at a trusted friend’s house may be safer options if you wish to use e-mail or browse the Internet.

Other precautions you can take include the following:

* Never share your e-mail password(s). However, if you believe your abuser knows your password, before changing it, consider whether that may cause more danger by arousing suspicion.

* Passwords should be difficult to figure out. Never use birth dates, street addresses, names etc.

* Consider having more than one e-mail account so that you have an alternative if your abuser forces you to close an account.

* Ask friends and family to not share your new e-mail ad-dresses.

* Never register your personal information such as your real address or phone number when you sign up for web e-mail accounts such as Yahoo or Hotmail.

Computers can also be a useful tool in accessing information about what you are going through and what you can do to seek help. How-ever, keep in mind that some domestic violence websites are not legitimate and may give you misleading information. Your local domes-tic violence advocate can help sort out any information that may be confusing. Finally, e-mails from your abuser can provide excellent evidence in a court case. You might want to consider saving his e-mails even if you don’t have a case pending, so they are available if you ever need them.

IF YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE

If you decide to leave, even for a very short period of time, take your children with you if it's at all possible and you can do so without ex-posing them to harm or risk of harm, and without violating a custody order. Not only can you better ensure the safety of your children if they are with you, having physical custody of your children may help you get temporary or permanent legal custody of your children if you decide to file a custody petition with the court.

If you decide to leave, try to take the following things with you, be-cause it may be difficult to get them later. However, the safety of your children and yourself is always more important than any of these documents or things.

* Orders of Protection

*Custody Orders, paternity documents

*Identification for yourself

*Birth certificates - yours and your children's

*Social Security cards

* Marriage, separation or divorce papers

*School and vaccination records

*Money

*Checkbook, Savings Account Passbooks, Automatic Teller Ma-chine Card, PIN numbers

*Credit Cards and/or account numbers

*Keys - house, car, office, post office box, safety deposit box

*Driver's license, car registration and title

* Medications and prescriptions

*Public Assistance Benefit Identification Card

* Passport, green card, work permit and any other immigration documents

* Several changes of clothes

*Children's favorite toys, security blankets

*Lease/rental agreement, house deed

* Mortgage payment book, current unpaid bills

* Insurance papers

*Address book

* Pictures, jewelry, items of sentimental value

* Pictures of injuries you may have gotten from your abuser

* Any evidence that might help police investigating your case, such as threatening letters or phone message tapes

Make copies of important documents and keys and find a safe place to keep them in case you decide to leave. A safe place can include a hiding place in your home or with a friend, neighbor or family member that you trust.

STALKING

Stalking occurs when your batterer, or anyone, intentionally and repeatedly does things that cause you to fear for your safety, the safety of an immediate family member or someone you know, or your property. If he causes harm to your mental or emotional health, he may also be guilty of stalking if he has been previously warned to stop his behavior.

Stalking is a criminal offense that requires a pattern of repeated acts. Individual acts within the pattern do not have to be criminal offenses. When a pattern of non-criminal behavior is directed at a particular person, it becomes the criminal act of stalking. Stalking can also consist of a criminal act like assault in addition to an otherwise non-criminal act like sending you flowers. Examples of stalking behavior may include:

* unwanted phone calls, letters, gifts, flowers, email or faxes;

* following you or showing up at the places that you frequent (such as home, work, school, etc.);

* verbal, written or implied threats directed at you, an immediate family member or someone you know;

* acts that cause you to fear that your business, employment or career are threatened;

* vandalism of property that belongs to you, an immediate family member or someone you know;

* actual assaults or other acts of violence directed at you, an im-mediate family member or someone you know, including sexual assault.

These are only a few examples of stalking behavior. Any repeated unwanted contact, harassment or violent act directed at you, an im-mediate family member or someone you know may be stalking.

You should keep track of all acts of stalking. Even if your batterer is being prosecuted for other crimes, he can also be charged with stalking since it is separate and distinct from other criminal acts like assault or harassment.
Stalking can be extremely dangerous so you should talk to your local domestic violence program about specific steps you can take to protect yourself.

WHY ORDERS OF PROTECTION CAN BE HELPFUL

While an Order of Protection cannot guarantee your safety, it can help in several ways.

* Police are likely to take your calls more seriously if you have an Order of Protection. An abuser can be arrested and put in jail if he violates an Order of Protection.

*If the police have reason to believe an abuser violated a “stay away” provision of an Order of Protection, they must arrest him.

*If an abuser is convicted of violating an Order of Protection and has violated one in the past, even against a different victim, he
can be charged with Criminal Contempt in the First Degree, which is a felony.

* If an abuser violates an Order of Protection by causing physical injury or property damage over $250, he can be charged with a felony.

*If you have left your home, an Order of Protection can make it easier for you to get the police to go with you to get your per-sonal belongings.

*If you are being stalked or harassed at work, an Order of Protec-tion can protect you at your job.

Specifically, criminal, Supreme and Family Court Orders of Protection can:

*direct the abuser to stop the abusive behavior toward both you and your children;

* tell the abuser to leave and stay away from your home, your job, and your family;

*direct the abuser to have no contact with you - meaning no phone calls, email, letters or messages through other people; and

*order the abuser to stay away from the children, their baby-sitter, day care or schools.

Family Court Orders can also do other things. See Family Court, Getting the Evidence Together.

Orders of Protection can also order the suspension or revocation of a license to carry or possess a gun, rifle or any type of firearm. If your abuser has access to such weapons, it is important that you tell the judge and ask that these weapons, and the gun permits, be taken away from your abuser. If your abuser carries a weapon for his job (such as a police officer or a corrections officer) and if he has ever used that gun to threaten you, it is especially important that you report that to the judge.

In general, an Order of Protection from Family or criminal court is in effect for two to five years. While Orders of Protection can be helpful, they cannot guarantee that your partner will stop being abusive or violent. Some abusers choose not to obey them and the Orders have to be enforced. You may have to call police for help, and you may have to go back to court. This should not discourage you from using the law to help make you safe. Know your rights. You are the best judge of whether getting an Order of Protection will be helpful in your situation. Members of abused women's support groups and domestic violence advocates can help you decide whether getting an Order of Protection is a good strategy for you. Your local domestic violence program can also provide help and information if you need assistance in getting an Order of Protection or in having an existing Order en-forced. See Enforcing An Order of Protection.

Whichever court you choose to use, it is important to remember that you have a right to keep your address confidential. If you have moved to a new, safe location or if you are staying in a domestic violence shelter, you do not have to give the judge or the court your ad-dress. They routinely ask for this information, so you will have to say that you are afraid to let your abuser know where you are now living.

MUTUAL ORDERS OF PROTECTION

A judge may encourage you to agree to a mutual Order of Protection (also known as Orders by consent) since it seems like a quick and easy way to settle a case. This means that the judge would issue an Order of Protection against you, in addition to the Order of Protection against your abuser. If you accept the Order, you may be arrested for violating it at a later date. For example, if you call your abuser, you would be in violation of the Order and the police may arrest you. It is actually against the law for a judge to grant a mutual Order of Protection unless your abuser has petitioned for such an Order and the judge has made a finding on the record regarding the need for such an Order. This can be a very confusing issue and if you have questions, you should talk to a domestic violence advocate or an attorney before agreeing to such an Order.

HOW TO FIND AN ATTORNEY

If you are ineligible for a court appointed attorney, and you are able to hire an attorney, these are some questions you should ask before you decide whether or not to hire him or her:

*How much do you charge by the hour? For a first meeting or consultation?

*What is your minimum fee for my kind of case?

* What is covered by your fee?

*How many court appearances are included?

* What is your rate for appearance in court?

*Do you have a written agreement that I can sign and a copy of it for me to keep?

* Are you willing to help me get necessary court Orders, such as custody, visitation and/or protective Orders?

*Will you seek changes in final Orders and judgments if new cir-cumstances justify the changes?

* Are you willing to assist me if my abuser violates a custody or protective Order? What are your fees in those circumstances?

*Do you charge for time spent when I telephone you or when you respond to letters I send?

Also ask:

* Are you willing to talk and coordinate with a domestic violence advocate?

* What should I do to help you with my case?

*What do you expect of me?

*What papers, documents and witnesses should I get for you?

*What do you think are my chances for success in court?

From the very beginning you should feel comfortable when you talk to your lawyer and be sure that she or he understands your situation and knows how to help. If you do not have confidence in the first lawyer you speak with, you have every right to go to another one. Your local domestic violence program may be able to refer you to a lawyer.

GETTING THE EVIDENCE TOGETHER

You should bring to court whatever and whomever you can as evidence to help you show that the violence took place. Maybe a neighbor, a friend or relative heard you call for help or saw that you were bleeding or bruised. If you have medical records from a doctor or hospital that treated your injuries, you should bring them. A police report can also be important evidence.

One of the strongest pieces of evidence you can have is photos of yourself that show bruises or other visible injuries. In some areas, the police carry Polaroid cameras and will take a picture of your injuries, or someone working in an emergency room can take a picture. It's a good idea to have pictures taken again a few days after a physical assault as it sometimes takes a while for bruises to show up. If possible, it is best to get film that has a date on it. If you don't have a camera, you can ask a domestic violence advocate to take pictures for you.

While witnesses and physical evidence strengthen your case, the most important evidence is what you tell the judge. Going over what you plan to say ahead of time and writing it down is a good way to prepare. Make a list of things you would like the court to do for you and specifically ask the judge to include those things in the Order of Protection. The list should include things you need to help you be safe. Among other things, the judge can:

* order the abuser to leave you alone and not threaten, harass, injure, or intimidate you or your children;

* order the abuser to leave your family home and stay away from your job, your family and friends;

* direct the abuser to have no contact with you - meaning no
phone calls, letters, flowers, gifts or messages through other people;

* order the abuser to stay away from the children, their baby-sitter, day care or schools;

* require the police to accompany you into your home to retrieve personal belongings;

* decide issues related to custody, visitation and child support;

* order your abuser to pay for expenses related to the abuse such as medical care, property damage, etc.; and

* decide issues related to dividing up certain kinds of personal property.

The judge can also order your abuser to go to a batterer’s education program and/or to an alcohol or drug treatment program. However, even if he stops drinking or using drugs or goes to a batterer's pro-gram, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the abuse will stop. Even if he agrees to get help, you may still want to have an Order of Protection in case he doesn't keep his agreement or he disobeys the law.

Be prepared to explain why you need each type of relief you are re-questing. If you are asking that your abuser pay for your expenses, bring bills, receipts or other proof to show what these expenses were. YOU MUST APPEAR IN COURT ON THE DATE SET FOR THE HEARING. The judge cannot issue an Order of Protection unless you are there. If you don't show up, he or she may dismiss the case and you would have to start all over again. If there is a reason you can't come to court on the hearing date, call the clerk right away to ask for a continuance and explain why you need it. The hearing will be set for another date.

October 30, 2006
10:56 pm
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armyleo
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Mamacin,

I will print this out tomorrow at work, and keep it there for now. I promised I would read it, and I will, just can't tonight.

Thank-you for researching all this, and taking the time to call, someday maybe calling ny from calif. won't seem so threatening and scary. I'll feel a little safer, like they can't come get me.

ArmyAngel

November 4, 2006
12:05 pm
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mamacinnamon
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bumping up for Army or any other to read.

Army, the lady in New York I spoke to said it doesn't matter what state you are in... that you are welcome to call and talk to them anytime. if it would help the number is....

1-800-942-6906

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