Counties across the United States are under the same orders: stay at home and prevent the spread of coronavirus. While staying home is the best tactic for preventing this public health pandemic from growing further out of control, victims of domestic violence have been trapped with their abusers with no place to turn.
Many in Florida are working from home, homeschooling their kids, dealing with self-quarantine, and facing high levels of risk from being abused. Courts across the nation have decreased the number of restraining and protection orders they’re hearing, making domestic abuse victims all too vulnerable. Many courts hold virtual court hearings to keep business functioning as usual, but the level of efficiency has vastly decreased. A report by CNBC demonstrates this fact all too clearly:
“Normally, domestic violence survivors who reside with their abusers have opportunities for short respites that come in the form of a trip to the grocery store or the need to drop kids off at school. Because of social distancing, these opportunities have been largely eliminated, leading to more periods of time spent with an abuser.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, one in four women and one out of nine men suffer domestic violence in the United States. While this figure is considered underreported, the abuse affects not just victims but also their families, colleagues, and in many ways the entire community. Domestic abuse impacts the physical and mental health of victims and decreases their quality of life. So, at a time of reduced help from the courts and legal mandates to shelter in place – where are domestic violence victims supposed to go?
Under normal circumstances, escaping a situation of abuse at home isn’t easy. When the entire world is in upheaval over the COVID-19 pandemic, fleeing domestic violence becomes harder than ever. In one report by Time Magazine, the National Domestic Violence Hotline shared stories that abusers are using the coronavirus as an excuse to isolate and harm their family members. Communities are mandated to stay at home, and fears are running high. The CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence said, “Abusers now have another means by which they can abuse someone.”
Under normal circumstances, victims of domestic violence can flee to shelters. Shelters, however, are group living environments that now have to sort ways to social distance and how to handle the event of someone falling sick — all while funding and donations for shelters and other public health aids are cut short as the country faces an impending recession and severe economic challenges.
Domestic violence victims in Orange County and nationwide can still contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Despite the complications that social distancing might bring, shelters across Florida and the United States remain open to those escaping abuse at home. Fear of contracting COVID-19 shouldn’t be a reason not to seek help from an abusive situation. The YMCA has been open to those in need.
In Orange County, Florida, many courthouse branches are closed until further notice – including the Winter Park, Ocoee, Goldenrod Avenue, and Apopka branches. However, the downtown Orlando courthouse remains open with limited public access for those seeking restraining orders and essential hearings only. Restraining orders are considered an essential service. That means if you or someone you know is being abused at home, they can file a petition for a restraining order at the downtown Orlando courthouse and seek protection.
According to Florida Statute 741.30,
“A domestic violence injunction may be issued upon notice and hearing, when it appears to the court that a petitioner is either the victim of domestic violence as defined by section 741.28 or has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence.”
To prove that you’re being abused at home and need an injunction for protection, you must show two things:
Evidence can be court testimonies, a journal, photos of your injuries, or your home is in disarray. Anything that demonstrates the abuse can be used as evidence in seeking a domestic violence injunction.
If you’re being abused while under the mandated Stay at Home order in Orange County and other parts of Central Florida, it’s critical to understand that you’re not alone; there is help available to you. While courthouses are open with limited access, hearings for domestic violence remain an essential service, and judges still hear requests for protective orders. If you’re being abused at home, file a domestic violence injunction. After that, call Fighter Law. Our offices remain open, and our dedication is steadfast in fighting for those in need.
If you or a loved one are facing domestic violence, work with the legal experts at Fighter Law to get the justice you need. To speak with one of our injunction attorneys over a private and confidential consultation, schedule an appointment by completing an online contact form or call our office anytime at (407) FIGHTER (344-4837).
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