Domestic Violence

You should not live in fear of being hurt by someone you know.

Domestic violence occurs when a past or present family or household member:

  • Causes or tries to cause bodily harm by hitting, pushing, beating, physically abusing or forcing unwanted sexual relations
  • Threatens harm
  • Abuses children in the family or household
  • Commits acts of stalking or trespassing

A member of the family or household includes:

  • Current or former spouse
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Person related by blood or marriage
  • Persons living together, or who have lived together within the past five years
  • Persons who have children together


How can I protect myself now? Close

  • 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

Ashtabula County

Homesafe Domestic Violence Office

Cuyahoga County

Witness/Victim Service Center

Domestic Violence Center
216-391-HELP or

Geauga County


Lake County

Forbes House

Lorain County

Genesis House

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:

  • Cash
  • Credit cards
  • Medications
  • Telephone numbers
  • Extra car and house keys
  • Copies of birth certificate
  • Social Security cards
  • Medical cards

What happens when the police arrive? Close

Tell them what happened and ask for their assistance. Police must do the following if responding to the incident:

  1. Conduct separate interviews with the victim and the abuser
  2. Ask about the history of abuse
  3. Provide the officer’s name, badge and report numbers
  4. Provide the telephone number of a domestic violence shelter, a number to call for information about the case and provide information about any local victim advocate program
  5. Make a written report of the incident even if an arrest is not made

Be sure to ask for the officer’s name, badge and report numbers, and also request that a police report is filed.

An officer should arrest an abuser who causes serious physical harm or uses a weapon during the incident. The police may request that domestic violence or other charges be filed if an arrest is made.

What legal options are available to protect me and my children? Close

Temporary Protection Order (TPO)

Ask the Prosecutor to file criminal charges against the abuser in the city where the abuse occurred and request a TPO at the same time. 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

If the TPO is violated, the victim should:

  • Go to a safe place
  • Call police and show the officer the order
  • Go to the Prosecutor’s Office to file a complaint
  • Contact a victim advocate

If the abuser violates the TPO, bail can be revoked or the abuser can be charged with the additional crime of violating the TPO.

Civil Protection Order (CPO)

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). 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

If the CPO is violated, the victim should:

  • Go to a safe place
  • Call police and show the officer the order
  • Go to the Prosecutor’s Office to file a complaint
  • Contact your attorney or a victim advocate

An abuser who is found guilty of violating the order can be sentenced to jail, probation, court supervision, community service or counseling or a combination of any of these.

How do I press criminal charges and obtain a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) against my abuser? Close

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 do I obtain a Civil Protection Order (CPO) against my abuser? Close

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.

Next Steps

Contact Legal Aid.

What are some tips for representing myself in a family matter? Close

It is always best to have an attorney help you in court, but if you find you must represent yourself, here are some suggestions.  Two courts handle family law issues, Juvenile and Domestic Relations.  Start by reading the court’s website.  Some courts post forms and instructions.    For example, the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division, has a complete packet with instructions and forms on how to file a divorce and your divorce decree.   See,  If you visit the clerk’s office, remember that clerks are not permitted to give legal advice.

If you seek a specific outcome, start by filing a complaint or motion.  The other party must receive a copy of the documents that you file with a court.  This is called “service.”  You can ask the clerk of courts to “serve” the other party by completing a “service instruction” form.  You will need a complete address for the other party.  Failure to provide an accurate address for the other party will postpone your hearing.  The clerk will send you notice of the date, time, and location for your hearing.  Remember to notify the scheduler of any changes to your address or phone number.  Mark your calendar for deadlines and hearings in your case.

The court expects you to be ready for your hearing.  Keep your papers organized with paper clips or folders.  Bring to court whatever proof you have that supports your case.   For example, to prove your income for child support, you should have recent paystubs, w-2s and tax returns.  Include three (3) copies of all documents that you plan to present to the court:  one copy for the judge, another for the other party, and the third copy for yourself.   Also, have copies of any documents that were filed by you and the other side.  You can refer back to these papers as necessary.  Invite witnesses that can help you prove your case.  The court will expect you to present testimony by asking questions during the hearing.   Make sure you know what your witnesses will say when deciding who should testify.

When a case concerns children, courts will not permit your children to come into the court room, so it will be important to plan for child care ahead of time.

When it is time to present your case, stand and follow the directions of the judge or magistrate.  Make sure to dress appropriately.  Explain what you would like the court to do for you and your family.  Most importantly, point out why this action is needed and how it will serve you or the best interest of your children.


This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorneys Davida Dodson and Tonya Whitsett and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What is domestic violence and how can I recognize it? Close

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 should I do if I am experiencing domestic violence? Close

Emergency Info for Web





This information was compiled by Legal Aid Social Worker Dani Lachina 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? Close

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 and…/domesticV.

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!

Where can I go to escape domestic violence and get help? Close

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!

I know or am an immigrant suffering from domestic violence. Can I get help? Close

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  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!

Are there housing protections for victims of domestic violence? Close

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.

College Students

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!

What should I know about Civil Protection Orders (CPOs)? Close

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!

What is the “Safe at Home” law related to public records? Close

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.


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