Domestic violence is physical, emotional and economic threats and harm by one person against another person who live together. Perpetrators of domestic violence use power and control to hurt, scare and isolate the victim. A victim of violence may need safety, health care, housing, money, transportation and support to escape the abuse. Domestic violence shelters are often a good place to start getting help.
Victims of physical violence in the last 6 months or whose abuser will be released from jail or prison soon may qualify for help from Legal Aid with civil protection orders, divorce and custody.
How can Legal Aid help a Veteran facing issues with money, housing, family, health or employment?
Are you a low-income U.S. Veteran facing problems with:
- Have your veteran’s benefits been terminated or reduced due to overpayment?
- Have you been denied or terminated from other government benefits? (e.g. Food Stamps, cash assistance, SSI, Unemployment Compensation)
- Do you have debts that cause problems with meeting your needs, for example obtaining utilities, driver’s license, or housing?
- Have you received any letters or notices from the IRS about your federal taxes?
- Have you applied for and been denied a subsidy to help pay for housing?
- Is your rent subsidy being terminated?
- Does your apartment need repairs that your landlord refuses to make?
- Has your landlord given you a notice to leave your apartment or are you being evicted?
- Are you behind on mortgage payments or facing foreclosure?
- Did you receive a shut off notice for your lights, gas, or water?
- Are you afraid for your safety because of your current or former significant other or household member?
- Are you afraid for your child’s safety?
- Do you have problems paying child support?
- Does your child have problems in school with learning or with behavior?
- Do you have trouble accessing health care?
- Do you have trouble filling your prescriptions for medication?
- Do you have a criminal record that prevents you from getting a job?
- Have you been denied a professional license (e.g. barber, day care provider, STNA?)
- Do you need your driver’s license reinstated in order to work?
If YES, contact The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland for help. Click here for a flyer with more information!
Domestic Violence: What Is It? What Can You Do About It?
Are you the victim of domestic abuse or violence? This brochure describes what domestic violence is, provides the numbers of local and national domestic violence hotlines, and outlines steps to take if you are a victim of abuse. It explains the importance of a Criminal Temporary Protection Order (TPO) and Civil Protection Order (CPO), the differences between the two, and how to file for each. The brochure also describes how to press for criminal charges and what to do if charges are filed and the abuser is convicted.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Domestic Violence: What Is It? What Can You Do About It?
This brochure is also available in Spanish at: Violencia Doméstica: ¿Qué es? ¿Qué puede hacer usted acerca de esto?
How Does Ohio’s “Safe at Home” Program Work?
Survivors of domestic violence now have the option to keep their home, work, and school addresses private. Ohio’s “Safe at Home” program keeps a survivor’s address out of public records. By keeping a survivor’s address private, the program tries to prevent a perpetrator of violence from finding out where the survivor is and following him or her to work, school, or home.
Safe at Home is a free program created by the Ohio General Assembly through House Bill 359, which assists people who have experienced domestic violence, human trafficking, rape or sexual battery. Safe at Home allows a survivor to receive a substitute Post Office Box (P.O. Box) address to use in place of his or her home address. Another benefit of the program is that the survivor can keep his or her address private and away from public records. The office of the Ohio Secretary of State will forward any mail sent to the P.O. Box address to the survivor’s home address.
Applications for Safe at Home must be made in person. To find an Application Assistant, visit www.SafeatHomeOhio.com or call (614) 995-2255. Once an applicant is approved, a Safe at Home staff member will give the survivor a P.O. Box address. When asked for an address, the survivor may choose to give the P.O. Box address instead of his or her home, work, or school address. The P.O. Box address may be used for four years. After four years, a survivor may reapply for the program to receive another P.O. Box address.
The Safe at Home program works best for survivors trying to keep their whereabouts unknown. Survivors of domestic violence should only give their home, work, and school addresses to trusted people. Contact information, including addresses and phone numbers, should never be shared on the internet.
This article was written by Courtney Koski and Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 35, Issue 2.
Did You Know? Domestic Violence Survivors can Protect Their Rights to Housing
Survivors of domestic violence often struggle to find and keep housing where they are safe from abusers. Sometimes they need to leave a home quickly in an emergency and have no place to go. Sometimes they are evicted because of property damage caused by the abuser. Sometimes they cannot afford private housing because they have limited or no income.
Survivors of domestic violence can protect their rights with respect to housing in some circumstances. First, public housing providers may not deny survivors housing because of domestic violence. The survivor may request the public housing authority review the denial of their application.
Second, survivors can also take steps to prevent denials. Survivors may provide landlords with proof that they were abused. They may also show landlords that the relationship with the abuser is over. Sometimes letters from past landlords could be helpful.
Third, survivors may have a discrimination claim under the Fair Housing Act if a landlord denies them housing because of the violence. Landlords may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. Discrimination against survivors of domestic violence may be sex discrimination in certain situations. A person who believes they have experienced this kind of discrimination should contact the fair housing agency or file a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). Information about OCRC is at http://crc.ohio.gov/.
Financial help with housing is also available for survivors. The Crime Victim Compensation Fund, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program provide financial help to survivors. For information and assistance applying to these programs, and referrals to domestic violence shelters, call 2-1-1.
Legal Aid provides help to low-income survivors of domestic violence in some cases. Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.
This article was written by Megan Hobart and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 2
What is the “Safe at Home” law related to public records?
New law protects victims’ addresses from public records: “Safe at Home” is an address confidentiality program that allows victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking, rape or sexual battery to apply for an address designated by the Secretary of State (SOS) to serve as the person’s address to shield their residence address from public records, including voter registration lists.
Victims may only apply to participate in the program through a certified Application Assistant. When someone enrolls in Safe at Home, they are assigned a P.O. Box address.
There are many entities that may have a person’s name and address on file, and a program participant may request that any governmental or private entity, except for a municipal-owned public utility or the board of elections, use the P.O. Box address designated by the SOS as the participant’s address.
The law does not require a private entity to accept the SOS-designated address, but a state of Ohio governmental entity shall accept it. More information and a link to find a certified application assistant can be found here.
What should I know about Civil Protection Orders (CPOs)?
Civil Protection Orders (CPO) are intended to help protect domestic violence victims and hold abusers accountable for their actions. Under Ohio law, domestic violence victims (“petitioner”) to file a petition against their abuser (“respondent”)to ask the court for relief that may decrease the violence occurring within the family.
Only the court in each county that hears domestic relations matters may issue domestic violence CPOs. A petitioner must provide evidence to the court that he/she or a family or household member is in immediate and present danger of domestic violence. For example, a civil protection order may be considered where a family or household member experiences recent physical abuse, threats to harm or kill or stalking behavior.
A petitioner must fill out forms and complete a sworn statement describing the violence. She/he must appear in court with the forms which will be reviewed by a magistrate to decide if an “ex parte” order should be granted. “Ex parte” means the respondent/abuser is not in court for the hearing. If granted, the petitioner will get a temporary protection order after this first hearing.
There is another hearing within 7 or 10 court days. At this next hearing, the respondent can be present to dispute what the petitioner says or write in his or her statement. The protection order is either granted or denied. Sometimes the parties may agree to the terms of the CPO. If not, there will be a hearing before the magistrate to decide if the petitioner has presented enough evidence to obtain a CPO. If granted, the CPO can stay in place for up to 5 years. It can also be renewed, modified or terminated by further court hearing.
If granted, the court shall order that the abuser is stopped from abusing, threatening, or stalking the petitioner and other family or household members. The court may also stop an abuser from hurting the family pet. The court can also prohibit the abuser from having contact with any family or household member or going to the home, school, or place of employment. The court may evict the abuser and grant immediate possession of the home to the victim. The court may also order support, custody, visitation, or use of property which may include the car.
A CPO may be obtained with or without an attorney. A victim may be accompanied by a victim advocate during all stages of the proceedings. Call the hotline phone numbers listed in this newsletter to ask about availability of DV advocates. Legal Aid helps in some domestic violence CPO cases. Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.
This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Alexandria Ruden and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
Are there housing protections for victims of domestic violence?
Victims of domestic violence are often forced to choose between abuse and homelessness. If a victim of abuse does not have any other place to live, victims many times will stay with their abuser. Victims also face loss of housing and housing discrimination because of their abuser’s behavior.
The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA 2013”) protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. In 2013, the law was expanded to provide more protections.
More People are Protected: VAWA 2013 covers victims of sexual assault in addition to victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Also, VAWA 2013 now specifically protects Native American women, immigrants, LGBT victims, college students and youth.
Protections from Evictions: Under VAWA 2013, victims cannot be denied housing in federal housing programs because of being a victim of violence. Victims also cannot be evicted from federal housing programs due to their status as victims or due to the actions of the abuser.
VAWA 2013 also created emergency housing transfer options in all federal housing programs. Victims should be able to transfer to a different unit to have safer housing. Plans for these options are being developed by local housing authorities.
VAWA 2013 also protects college students. Schools must create a recording process for incidences of dating violence and report the findings. Schools also must create plans to prevent dating violence and educate victims on their rights, including the right to contact law enforcement.
Preferred Waiting Lists
Some public housing authorities and subsidized housing providers provide a preference to domestic violence victims on their waiting lists. Victims may be able to secure subsidized housing more quickly than if they were on the regular waiting list.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking, and you believe that you have been denied housing or that you are being evicted due to your abuser’s action, you should seek legal counsel. Legal Aid provides assistance in some housing cases. Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.
This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorney Abigail Staudt and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
I know or am an immigrant suffering from domestic violence. Can I get help?
Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, including immigrants. In fact, abusers often try to use a person’s immigration status as a method to control or abuse an immigrant victim. For example, a U.S. citizen husband who constantly threatens to call the immigration authorities on his undocumented immigrant wife and have her deported is abusing her.
The government recognizes that immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be particularly vulnerable. There are special immigration laws that help protect immigrant victims of domestic violence. One allows immigrant spouses of US citizens (USC) or lawful permanent residents (LPR) who have a green card to file a petition for themselves to remove conditions of residency. A second allows victims who do not have a green card to file a self-petition if they meet certain criteria under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). A third option allows victims of violent crimes, including domestic violence, to apply for a U-Visa if they can demonstrate cooperation with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
Option 1: Self-petition to remove conditions of residency
When a USC or LPR applies for permanent residency status for their immigrant spouse, the immigrant spouse is granted a green card with conditional residency for two years. Before the end of the 2 years, the immigrant spouse typically must file a joint petition, with their spouse, to remove the conditions. However, in abusive relationships, the USC or LPR spouse often refuses to file the joint petition. Abused immigrant spouses may file to remove the conditions on their residency by themselves if they can prove that they got married “in good faith” (not for immigration purposes), but during the marriage their spouse abused them. If the immigrant spouse is successful in their self-petition, they then receive permanent residency status and a 10 year green card.
Option 2: Violence Against Women Act Self-Petition
The VAWA self-petition is for immigrants who do not have a “green card, but who meet one of five categories:
1) they are married to an abusive USC or LPR spouse;
2) their USC/LPR spouse is abusing their child;
3) they were married to an abusive USC or LPR (as long as the divorce was within the last 2 years or the spouse lost their immigration status in the last 2 years);
4) they are the child of an abusive USC or LPR; or
5) they are a parent who is abused by their USC adult child.
Immigrants who complete a VAWA self-petition must show that they married their spouse in good faith, and if they were deported it would cause extreme hardship to themselves or their child. If the self-petition is approved, the immigrant victim gets a work permit and can apply for a green card.
Option 3: U-Visas for victims of crimes
A U-visa is a type of visa available to immigrants who are victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence. Other eligible crimes include rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation. The immigrant victim must show that they were helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If a U-visa application is approved, the applicant gets a work permit valid for four years. Also, after having U-visa status for 3 years, an immigrant can apply for a green card.
More information about the immigration benefits available to domestic violence victims is available at www.uscis.gov. Legal Aid provides assistance to immigrant victims in some cases. Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help. Legal Aid is not a government agency and does not share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This article was written by Legal Aid Staff Attorney Katie Laskey-Donovan and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
Where can I go to escape domestic violence and get help?
Cuyahoga County, in partnership with the City of Cleveland, recently opened the new Family Justice Center, a one stop center for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and stalking. The center is designed to help victims and survivors access the professionals they need, while in a comfortable, healing environment. Cuyahoga County is excited to join the Family Justice Center movement, which has launched over 120 centers worldwide in the last fifteen years. Family Justice Centers are considered to be state of the art and let victims of crime choose better coordinated services that will help them live safer lives.
The center was launched after years of planning and coordination amongst multiple partners, including the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Teams of professionals, survivors, and funders met regularly to ensure that Cuyahoga County’s Family Justice Center was built with victim needs in mind.
Onsite service providers include the Witness/Victim Service Center, Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Frontline Services, City of Cleveland Division of Police, and City of Cleveland Prosecutor’s Office. The Family Justice Center also has relationships with the County’s Division of Children & Family Services, the County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Legal Aid attorneys. Although there are Cleveland specific services, any Cuyahoga County resident can come to the Family Justice Center for assistance with protection orders, linkages to counseling and supportive services, and assistance navigating the justice system.
No appointment is needed! The Family Justice Center is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. The address is 75 Erieview Plaza, 5th Floor, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. Free parking for victims of crime is available at the Hamilton Parking Garage, at E. 12th Street, between St. Clair and Lakeside Avenues. For more information or if you have questions, call the Family Justice Center at 216-443-7345.
This article was written by Jill Smialek of the Cuyahoga County Family Justice Center and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
How can domestic violence affect children?
Domestic violence affects everyone in a household including children. Children may suffer physical injury or threats, but also experience emotional distress when they witness violence between their parents or other adults in the home.
If a child is not safe at home because of domestic violence, the adult victim should be supported. Victims of violence may be able to leave the abuser and remove the children from danger, if they are able to secure emergency shelter, financial assistance, food and other basic necessities. When a child is injured, some victims need help getting the child to a doctor, hospital, or prescribed medical treatment. In any life threatening situation, always call 9-1-1 for help.
Many children who witness violence experience immediate and long term effects on their well- being. Young children may experience problems sleeping, nightmares, and bedwetting. Older children may be aggressive toward other children or the parent they live with. Some children don’t feel hopeful about the future while other children experience learning and behavior problems. Parents and caregivers should let others involved in the child’s life know about the violence – if it’s safe to do so. Then, teachers, coaches, and friends will understand the negative changes in behavior.
Long-term effects of domestic violence may cause children to experience shock, fear, guilt and anger. These are normal feelings for children under the circumstances. But, the feelings can be difficult to cope with, both for the child and the adult. Often professional support and counseling is needed to manage a child’s normal reactions to witnessing violence.
Sometimes it is necessary to engage the legal system to assist children who experience domestic violence. Parents may file a complaint to determine custody in Juvenile Court (if the parties are not married) or the Domestic Relations Court (if the parties were or are married). Additionally, parents may file a motion to obtain a Civil Protection Order that also covers the children in order to stop future violence. These petitions, complaints, or motions should be supported by an affidavit (a written statement that a person signs, swearing it’s the truth) to explain why a court order is needed to protect the children. Forms to make these filings to protect children are available online at here and here.
Domestic violence affects the well being of children. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the resources listed in this newsletter for immediate help. Legal Aid provides representation in some cases. Call 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.
This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorney Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
What is domestic violence and how can I recognize it?
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of repeated physical, sexual and emotional violence and behaviors that one person in a relationship uses to exercise power and control over the other. Domestic violence is never a random or isolated incident and it often increases in severity and frequency over time.
Abusers control family or household members with verbal insults, emotional abuse, financial control and threats. If these tactics do not work, the abuser then enforces his threats with physical and/or sexual violence. The consequence of the abuse for a victim depends on the tactics, but all abuse emotionally and psychologically hurts the victim. Abusive behaviors always create fear in the victim, force the victim to do what s/he does not want to do, and prevents the victim from doing what s/he wishes to do.
Domestic violence occurs in all communities among people of all income levels, racial and religious backgrounds, gay, lesbian, straight, transgendered, and people with disabilities.
Why do partners abuse?
In the most simple terms, they abuse because they can and it works. Hitting, kicking, choking, threatening, name calling and more are deliberate decisions based on what the abuser has learned through observation, experience and reinforcement. Abuse is not caused by illness, genetics, or substance use. It is not caused by “out of control anger.” Victims do not make their abuser hurt them. Abusers decide when to be abusive to their partners and often choose which part of the victim’s body to hit so as not to leave noticeable marks. Others choose the place and time to carry out their assaults in an effort to exert the most power and control over the victim.
Are you in an abusive relationship?
You may be a victim of abuse if:
1) Your abuser’s failure to accept responsibility forces you to compensate for his behavior.
2) You often feel that you have no control over your life. Decisions about family, friends and activities are based on how the abuser will react.
3) You may feel guilty over the failure of your relationship. This is reinforced by the abuser who blames you for all that goes wrong. Guilt over failure may be accompanied by shame for “putting up” with the abuse.
4) The abuser blames you and you begin to believe it over time.
5) Your behavior may be reinforced by economic dependence and increasing feelings of helplessness and fear as the abuse continues.
6) You may fear the abuser’s anger but you may also deny or minimize this fear. Denial and minimization are common coping strategies for surviving abuse.
7) You become isolated form friends, family or neighbors and other forms of support. This is not by choice.
Your abuser may:
1) Be extremely jealous and suspect you of being unfaithful without any rational reason or evince to support such a belief.
2) Control your access to money, social relationships and job opportunities and may monitor all your activities by making you account for any time apart or money spent.
3) Be emotionally dependent on you and make constant demands for reassurance and gratification.
4) Have poor self-esteem and feel inadequate about his masculinity, sexuality and parenting. These feelings may be masked by an extremely “tough or macho image.”
5) Enforce rigid gender roles or believe in the traditional male “head of household” role.
6) Blame you or others for their behaviors, feelings and problems.
7) Was abused as a child.
8) Have few friends and poor social skills.
9) Be cruel not only to you but to children and pets.
10) Be preoccupied with gun, knives, etc.
11) Respond to situations with unpredictability.
12) Use inappropriate displays of anger if they do not get what they want which includes physical touching without consent, threaten violence, verbal abuse and breaking objects of value to you.
If you think any of the above may be true for a relationship you have, call the numbers listed in this newsletter for help. Click here to access the information online.
This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Alexandria Ruden and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
What Legal Options are Available for Protection from Domestic Violence?
Ask the Prosecutor to file criminal charges against the abuser in the city where the abuse occurred and also request a Temporary Protection Order (TPO).
File for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) in the county Domestic Relations Court, or the general division of the county Common Pleas Court if there is no Domestic Relations Court.
Criminal Temporary Protection Order
A TPO is issued only in criminal cases and orders the abuser to:
- stay away from the victim and family members
- stay away from the residence and workplace
- not damage or remove property
- not carry a weapon
- not phone or otherwise contact the victim
Civil Protection Order
In addition to the TPO orders listed above, a CPO may award temporary custody, grant or suspend visitation with the minor children, and also may order the abuser to:
- Give the victim exclusive use of an automobile
- Attend substance abuse, anger management or batterer’s counseling
- Pay support for the victim and the children
- Be removed from the residence
How to File for a Civil Protection Order
Victims of domestic violence can file for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) with the help of an attorney, or without an attorney (also called “pro se”). It is more helpful to have an attorney. Legal Aid attorneys can assist victims who qualify for assistance. Phone the Legal Aid office in your county.
Do you need to file papers in court but cannot afford the fees?
You might be able to reduce or avoid paying the filing fees up front with a “poverty affidavit” (or “affidavit of indigency”). Courts generally require a fee whenever a person files a new case or asks the court to do something by filing a “motion” in a pending case or files a “counterclaim” in a pending case.
But if you have a low income, you might be able to file your documents in court without the payment or with a lower payment if you first file a “poverty affidavit.” A poverty affidavit is a written, sworn statement that you have a low income and do not have enough money to pay fees.
To see a sample poverty affidavit and instructions on how to fill it out, click here.
Once you fill out the poverty affidavit, you must have your signature notarized and file the completed affidavit in the court where your case is being heard.
After you file a poverty affidavit in a case, the clerk will either not charge you any money or will charge you much less to file other documents in the same case. Even though you do not have to pay the fees up front, you may still be responsible for the fees at the end of the case.
Most Ohio courts have their own affidavit forms for you to fill out. You can request these from the clerk at your local court. Here are links to poverty affidavits forms for the courts that post the form online:
- Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas: http://coc.cuyahogacounty.us/pdf_coc/en-US/affidavit_of_indigence.pdf
- Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court: http://domestic.cuyahogacounty.us/pdf_domestic/en-US/Misc/Affidavit%20Waive%20Cost%20with%20Chart.pdf
- Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court: http://juvenile.cuyahogacounty.us/pdf/miscellaneous%20forms/2013-Forms/PovertyAffidavit-JuvCrt-form2013.pdf
- East Cleveland Municipal Court: http://www.eccourt.com/pdf/poverty_aff.pdf
- Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas: http://courts.co.ashtabula.oh.us/forms/COC/PA.pdf
Some courts, for example Cleveland Municipal Court, will accept a generic poverty affidavit. You can download a blank poverty affidavit form here:
For additional information related to using a poverty affidavit to access the court system, click here to read an article from Legal Aid.
This information and the information provided on any court’s website cannot take the place of individual advice from a lawyer. Each person’s situation is different. You should contact a lawyer if you need legal representation or if you have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities.
If you need further help, and plan to visit a Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic – click here for upcoming clinic dates. Remember to bring all the documents with you. Attorneys will need the documents in order to advise you.
How do I obtain a Civil Protection Order (CPO) against my abuser?
Victims of domestic violence can file for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) with the help of an attorney, or without an attorney (also called “pro se“). It is more helpful to have an attorney. You must file for a CPO in the county Domestic Relations Court or in the general division of the county Common Pleas Court (if there is no Domestic Relations Court).
When a request for a CPO is filed:
- A hearing will be held the day the CPO petition is filed with the Court.
- The abuser will not be present for the first hearing. You will be asked to tell the court about the most recent incidents of domestic violence. The court will then decide whether to grant the CPO.
- Once granted, obtain several certified copies of the CPO from the Clerk of Courts. Certified copies of the order are free.
- The second hearing will be held within seven to ten court days. The abuser will be notified and may be present for this hearing.
You must be in court at both hearings and you must bring:
- Copies of any police reports
- Any records of medical treatment for the abuse
- Any records of the abuser’s prior convictions for domestic violence, or a crime of violence
- Anyone who witnessed the abuse
If the abuser does not agree to a CPO or the abuser does not appear at court, testimony will be taken at the hearing, and the court will then decide whether to grant a CPO that may remain in effect for up to five years.
It is important to keep a certified copy of the CPO on you at all times and have it ready to show to the police if the abuser violates the order.
How do I press criminal charges and obtain a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) against my abuser?
Go to the Prosecutor’s Office to press charges against the abuser and take:
- Copies of any police reports or incident report numbers
- Any pictures taken of the incident
- Any information about medical treatment for abuse
- Names and addresses of anyone who witnessed the abuse
If criminal charges are filed:
- A Motion for Temporary Protection Order may be issued by the court. It is important to ask the court for a TPO.
- A court hearing will be held on the next court day after the filing of a motion requesting the TPO.
- It may be helpful to have a victim advocate at court for support during the proceedings.
- If the abuser is not present, the abuser may receive notice of the TPO at his or her first court appearance.
- At this hearing, the judge will decide whether the Temporary Protection Order will remain in effect. Any TPO will end at the conclusion of the criminal case or when a Civil Protection Order is issued based on the same facts.
If convicted of the crime of domestic violence, the abuser may be sentenced to jail or be placed on probation. It is important to ask for a “no contact order” to keep the abuser from contacting you after the case is over.
How can I protect myself now?
- Get medical help, if you are injured
- Call the police
- Go to a safe place
- Contact a Victim Advocate from the list of agencies below
Homesafe Domestic Violence Office
Witness/Victim Service Center
Domestic Violence Center
All Other Counties
National Domestic Violence Hotline
If you are staying in the home with the abuser, practice an escape plan with the children to use in case of an emergency. Make sure to have on hand for a quick escape:
- Credit cards
- Telephone numbers
- Extra car and house keys
- Copies of birth certificate
- Social Security cards
- Medical cards
Legal Aid Attorney provides perspective on domestic violence law
A Cuyahoga County jury wasted no time determining Thomia (Mia) Hunter’s future on a cold Friday afternoon in January 2005. With less than two hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Hunter, 26, of murder and felonious assault in the stabbing death of Andrew Harris, her on-again, off-again boyfriend. She was given a life sentence.
Melanie GiaMaria remembers the day judgment was rendered. As Hunter’s social worker and a freshly minted lawyer, GiaMaria had followed every moment of the trial.
“The verdict was mind-blowing. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. The medical examiner had concluded that Mia was credible. It was an affirmative defense. It was clear that she was fighting for her life when she stabbed her abuser. She chose to live.”
“I went to the lobby of the Justice Center and waited by the elevator. I knew where the jurors would come down. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I yelled at them. I let them know that they had made an awful mistake. They had just ruined someone’s life. They were sending a woman to prison for defending herself. I wish I could confront those jurors again today and tell the same thing,” said GiaMaria in a phone conversation Friday.
Ohio Governor John Kasich just sent a message of his own to the criminal justice system that tried and convicted Hunter: Abused lives matter. Last week, Kasich commuted Hunter’s life sentence to time served.
The Ohio Parole Board, which advises governors on commutation decisions, was particularly disturbed by the reality that a battered women’s syndrome defense (a form of post-traumatic stress disorder) was not mounted to explain Hunter’s reaction that fateful night.
Hunter stabbed Harris in the leg and severed his femoral artery as the man choked, beat, and attacked her with a knife in her apartment. Hunter, who had no prior criminal record is now set to be released on July 15 after completing a reentry program run by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Call it a small step forward. But, in Ohio, how far have we actually evolved in our understanding of the horrors and prevalence of domestic violence? Are we really getting better at not looking the other way or simply ignoring it?
“I believe we are getting better at identifying how a history of abuse affects the life or death decisions that people in crisis make,” said Alexandria Ruden, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
“Our social understanding of domestic violence is starting to catch up with the law. Efforts like the Time’s Up and Me Too Movements help. But, we still have a long way to go,” she added.
In 1990, Ohio became one of the last states in the Union to pass a law allowing expert testimony of battered woman syndrome as evidence in a claim of self-defense. At the time the new law was created, it was derided by some Ohio prosecutors, police, and media outlets as a license to kill.
Then Governor Richard Celeste jumped into the middle of the domestic violence debate on his way out of office in December 1991. At the urging of his wife Dagmar Celeste, and others, he granted clemency to 25 woman who were serving time for murder or felonious assault. These were all women who were convicted before a defense was permitted to introduce expert testimony of battered woman’s syndrome in court.
The Plain Dealer published an editorial shortly after the mass clemency, calling Celeste’s decision “either an act of generosity or gross misjudgment.” I remember the commentary well, as I was a member of the editorial board at the time.
Thankfully, we’ve all evolved, including Celeste, 81, living somewhere in Colorado. Even after using his power of clemency to free inmates serving time for violence — a courageous and proper act justice — Celeste sent the women home with this extraordinary warning:
“This is not a license to kill someone who comes home and takes a swat at you from time to time,” said Celeste.
A swat or two is often how the nightmare begins.
Yes, we all continue to evolve.
Spanish-Speaking Attorneys Help Domestic Violence Survivor Feel Safe After Distressing Experience
Isabel Ramirez Blancas left her home in Mexico for a new life in the United States, where she thought her U.S. citizen husband would petition for her residency status. But instead, he gave her a false ID card and forced her to work.
Compounding her disappointment, Ms. Ramirez suffered domestic violence at home. She never reported her situation because she was afraid to go to the police. Instead, Ms. Ramirez endured her husband’s abuse until the day she came home to find he had taken his own life.
With no husband, no income to support the couple’s young son, no documented status, and little English language ability, Ms. Ramirez was emotionally distraught. Her provider at MetroHealth’s McCafferty Clinic referred her to Legal Aid, where she met a Spanish-speaking staff attorney.
“I was very happy to come across a lawyer that spoke Spanish,” Ms. Ramirez said. “It made me feel I could trust her and the organization to do good work on my behalf.”
The Legal Aid attorney found that Ms. Ramirez was eligible to self-petition for legal permanent residency under the Violence Against Women Act, and helped her begin the process.
Immigration cases often span many years, and Ms. Ramirez’s was no exception. Initially, the petition was denied in 2013 because her abuser was no longer living, but Legal Aid helped her appeal the decision. After the appeal was granted on the self-petition, Legal Aid attorney Agustin Ponce de León filed for Ms. Ramirez’s adjustment of status and work authorization.
Three years after Ms. Ramirez first filed, the government approved all her petitions, giving her lawful permanent residency and work authorization. Mr. Ponce de León personally delivered her green card to her door.
As for Ms. Ramirez, she is working on her English via a course, and she and her son are setting down roots in the only hometown her son has ever known.