Posted November 8, 20211:28 pm
By John B. Pinney, Opinion contributor
If you found the pandemic shutdown of 2020 inconvenient and stressful – even stifling – imagine what it meant for people in abusive domestic relationships. Whole families confined at home raised tensions, increasing the likelihood of abuse. It became even harder for abuse survivors to get away from their abusers long enough to seek help.
I serve on the board of Ohio Legal Help, and I am pleased to say we have added domestic violence and dating violence civil protection order forms on our website, giving people trapped by abuse a safe pathway out.
Our organization was launched in 2019 for the express purpose of making it easy for all Ohioans to seek and receive legal help, no matter their income or education level. Our website, OhioLegalHelp.org, provides information in plain language to help people with legal problems involving families, debt, housing, education and more.
When advocates for domestic violence victims and survivors reached out a year ago seeking help for those whom the pandemic left more trapped than ever, we realized we needed to make it easier to file for a domestic violence or dating violence civil protection order.
Working with the Ohio Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network and The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Ohio Legal Help designed an online tool with the needs of domestic violence victims and survivors in mind. A survivor under duress can get on the site whenever the opportunity arises, such as in the middle of the night or when the abuser is unexpectedly away. The victim can stop and restart as many times as it takes to complete the forms, and can access the information from a phone, tablet or computer at any time. In case the abuser unexpectedly appears, a "safety exit" button redirects to a benign site but saves the user’s progress.
Grim statistics bear out the need for this service in our community. In June, Cincinnati police officials told The Enquirer that, while domestic violence usually lies behind 5% to 6% of homicides in the city, in the first five months of this year it accounted for 16%. Women Helping Women, an organization whose volunteers accompany police to domestic violence calls and provide support to victims, had a record 12,000 calls to its hotline in 2020 and has seen no slowdown in 2021.
Yet, amid all that, Cincinnati police saw no rise in reports of domestic violence. And for the first five months of 2021, reports actually were lower than the same period in 2020 and 2019. Advocates believe the drop is related to pandemic-induced isolation: fewer chances for a sympathetic ear – a child’s teacher, a co-worker or a friend – to notice something and offer help. That makes easier access to forms and information through OhioLegalHelp.org even more important.
Life for the past year and a half has been more challenging than ever for people trapped in abusive relationships. I’m gratified that Ohio Legal Help offers new hope for change.
John B. Pinney is a senior trial lawyer at the Graydon Law Firm in commercial litigation and dispute resolution and chairs the firm’s International Practice Group. He is secretary and treasurer of Ohio Legal Help.
Read original story at Cincinnati.com/The Enquirer: Opinion: Domestic violence victims benefit from new online tool (cincinnati.com)