Most people do not realize that across the country, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Locally, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department responded to more than 35,000 domestic violence related calls last year alone. In our family law practice, too often we see first-hand the devastating effects domestic violence has on our clients, their children, and the community as a whole.
In addition to assisting our clients to navigate through the court system to obtain Domestic Violence Protective Orders, for me and our firm, we also believe it is critically important to support the organizations in our community that assist and support victims in a broad range of ways. This is the reason I volunteer my time to support Safe Alliance, and Dozier Miller Law Group is a sponsor of Art With Heart (an annual event that raises funds for Safe Alliance).
Safe Alliance provides hope and healing to those impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault through a variety of life-saving services. They have a 24/7 phone line for Mecklenburg County residents seeking help for parenting support, domestic violence and sexual assault. They operate the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter, which is an 80-bed facility that is rarely (if ever) at less than capacity. Safe Alliance’s Victim Assistance/Legal Representation Program (VA/LRP) assists victims of domestic violence who seek Domestic Violence Protective Orders.
The North Carolina statute defines domestic violence as the commission of one or more of the following acts upon a party or upon a minor child of the party by a person with whom the party has or has had a personal relationship: (1) Attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury; or (2) Placing the aggrieved party or a member of the aggrieved party’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress; or (3) Committing any act defined in G.S. 14-27.21 through G.S. 14-27.33 (i.e., rape, statutory rape, sexual offense, sexual activity, or sexual battery). Any person residing in North Carolina may seek relief by filing a civil action alleging acts of domestic violence against himself or herself or a minor child, and a party may move the court for emergency relief if he or she believes there is a danger of serious and immediate injury to himself or herself or a minor child.
If the court finds that an act of domestic violence has occurred, the court grants a protective order restraining the defendant from further acts of domestic violence. The Order may also include additional relief such as granting possession of the residence, awarding temporary custody of minor child(ren), ordering payments for child support, ordering a defendant not to assault, threaten, abuse, follow, harass (by telephone, visiting the home or workplace, or other means), and prohibit a party from purchasing a firearm.
If you or your child is in danger, it is time to seek help, make a plan, and leave. Here are some immediate steps to take:
- Call 911: If you or your child is in danger, call 911, and do not hesitate to do so. Remember it is better to be safe than sorry.
- Seek Help and Talk to Someone: Talk about what is happening with family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. To get help or information in Mecklenburg County, call the Greater Charlotte Hope Line at 980-771-HOPE(4673).
- Make a Safety Plan: A safety plan is meant to keep you and your child safe. In general, when making a safety plans, ask yourself the following questions: who can I call, where can I go to be safe, and what should I include in my emergency bag (e.g., money, clothes, copies of important documents, and copies of keys).
- Seek a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO): Contact a family law attorney or Safe Alliance’s Victim Assistance/Legal Representation Program (VA/LRP) to seek a DVPO and do it sooner rather than later.
Domestic violence does not discriminate. No gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status is exempt. Whether you, a friend, or family member is suffering from domestic violence, remember you are not alone. There are organizations like Safe Alliance, and law firms like Dozier Miller Law Group that can help. Take action and work towards becoming a survivor.
To support Safe Alliance, please join us for the 19th annual Art With Heart event on February 23, 2019 at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art. Maureen O’Boyle, anchor of WBTV News, is our Emcee, and our Juror is Sybil Godwin of Shain Gallery. To learn more about the event, see Amanda B. Cannavo’s interview with Caroline Hicks on WBTV at https://bit.ly/2TILwoS. Tickets to the event are available at www.safealliance.org/artwithheart