One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Judge Orders Dinner and Bowling for Domestic Violence Abuser February 23, 2012

Some thoughts from our Women’s Studies Intern, Amelia, on a recent domestic violence case in Florida—

On February 7, 2012, a Florida judge ordered Joseph Bray, who appeared in court for a bond hearing on domestic violence charges, to take his wife out on a date to dinner at Red Lobster and bowling.  A victim of domestic violence should not be ordered to spend more time with her abuser.  In addition, couples counseling was mandated.  Judge John Hurley, instead of setting a bond for Bray, released him immediately and provided him with an illogical sentence.

Watch the video of the court proceedings here.

While Judge Hurley explains his punishment to Bray, the defendant and his attorney break out into laughter.  Domestic violence is not a laughing matter.  The Judge’s reasoning for the obscure order?  The offense was “very, very minor.”  Joseph Bray pushed his wife onto the couch, put his hands around her neck, and positioned his hand in a fist as if to punch her.  This was the second time that Sonja Bray had called police due to physical attacks she endured at the hands of her husband.

Judge Hurley did not believe that a protective order was necessary.  What about Sonja Bray?  Does she feel unsafe around her husband?  Ideally, victims and survivors should be given time to talk to a member of the court in private about what she or he would like to see happen.  Instead, Judge Hurley questioned Sonja about her husband in front of him and a courtroom full of strangers, asking questions such as: Is she in fear of him?  Does she think that he will cause any harm to her?  Why did he treat her like this?  Ideally, these are questions that should have been asked in private where Sonja could have felt safe enough to answer them in confidence.  A judge should not simply deem that a protective order is unnecessary due to his or her own personal opinions on the matter.

Judge Hurley’s sentence is a prime example that our legal system can actually work against victims at times.  As Haley Cutler, a domestic violence advocate in Broward County where the case was heard, stated in an interview, “Judge Hurley’s ruling makes light of the real risks posed to domestic violence victims, demonstrates a lack of understanding about the dynamics of domestic violence and contributes to a culture and climate where victims feel betrayed by the system and batterers feel empowered by it.”  I could not agree more.  Judge Hurley’s action could conceivably put Sonja Bray into more danger by questioning her in front of her abuser, allowing him to be released from jail immediately without bail and without a protective order, forcing her to go on a date with him, and minimizing the severity of her case in front of the courtroom.

We must also consider what other victims of intimate partner violence in Broward County, Florida who have heard this story might be feeling or thinking.  In fear of being treated in the same insensitive manner, they may feel afraid or uncomfortable to report abuse they may be experiencing.  This can also be extended to all victims and survivors of any violent crime.  Judge Hurley’s sentence is an example of the type of behavior that can potentially silence victims and survivors.

Local domestic violence advocates are asking residents to call Chief Judge Peter Weinstein and demand that Hurley “participate in judiciary training about the dynamics of domestic violence” and apologize.    People across the country can send a message to Broward County that how Hurley handled Joesph Bray’s case is not okay.   If you would like to express your concern about this case, the number for Chief Justice Peter Weinstein’s office is (954) 831-5506.  I plan to begin law school in the fall, and I find it hard to accept a legal system that does not advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence.   How do you feel about this?  Please share your comments!


GPS monitoring & keeping survivors safe November 4, 2011

Filed under: domestic violence,Domestic Violence Protective Order,GPS monitoring,safety — Women's Studies Intern @ 9:51 am

Since 2008, cities and states have begun using GPS monitoring technology for a variety of reasons.  Currently over 12 states use GPS monitoring in domestic violence situations. The GPS tracking device is worn, typically on the ankle, notifying police and the perpetrator’s victim whenever s/he enters an off-limits zone, such as the areas surrounding the house, workplace, and children’s schools. This technology is being used for people who have already violated a domestic violence protective order (DVPO).

DVPOs can be a good form of legal advocacy to offer domestic violence victims. This is not always the case but when our Hotline Advocates meet with clients, we always talk about all of their options.

In North Carolina, if a DVPO is violated, it becomes an arrestable offense…when law enforcement can find the abuser. Once in custody, however, holding time and subsequent jail time (if the DA decides to try the case), vary.  The GPS monitoring, then, is being touted as a way to save victims lives by keeping them potentially safer, longer by eliminating a lag time in which police or sheriff’s office need to find the DVPO violator.  GPS monitoring is one step that some areas (earlier this week, Manitoba and Staten Island became the two latest areas to begin using GPS) are taking toward firmer legal action both against abusers and a stronger effort to protect abuse victims.

While GPS monitoring is not an option in Orange County currently, we think that it is an interesting way to help keep victims safe, in addition to safety planning, the consideration of a DVPO and options like address confidentiality or 911 cell phones for clients in need. In our new office (207 Wilson St in Chapel Hill!) and on our 24-hr crisis line, our advocates work with domestic violence survivors to meet them where they are at in terms of accessing their own safety and needs for themselves and their families.  While GPS monitoring is not the solution or without flaws, the increasing number of cities and states that are implementing this technology shows an increase of awareness and care towards domestic violence victims.  And we appreciate that!

For more information on safety planning or what you can do to help keep domestic violence survivors safe, contact our office on the crisis line at 929 7122.


Possible Improvement in Judicial Process for Domestic Violence Cases on Indian Reservations September 28, 2011

The 19th annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference on September 13-15, 2011 represented an open dialogue and hope for progress related to victims’ assistance on Native American Indian reservations in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Interpersonal violence is experienced at more elevated levels on reservations than in the general population, and the Department of Justice has reported that Native American women in particular experience violence at an extremely elevated rate – three and a half times more than any other population in the United States. And when we consider the number of sexual assaults and incidences of domestic violence that are unreported [60% according to the DOJ] this number could be much higher. Prosecution is a problem on reservations, as tribes are sovereign nations and determining the jurisdiction for intimate partner violence and sexual assault cases can be complex.

US Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli spoke at the conference on some recent Department of Justice efforts to improve the legal challenges of addressing violence, and in particular domestic violence, on reservations. The pending legislation would do three things:

  1. It would give trial law enforcement more ability to prosecute crimes that happen on reservations regardless of the perpetrator’s membership in the tribe.  Currently, tribal law enforcement officers have difficulty prosecuting non-Native American offenders, even in cases of domestic violence. The legislation would also ensure that tribal law enforcement has the right to enforce protective orders on both members and non-members of Native American tribes.
  2. The new DOJ laws would provide harsher federal punishments to perpetrators of violent crime within reservations. Since the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act, the most severe punishment that can be imposed by native courts is one year in jail or a $5,000 fine, which is a far less significant penalty than most perpetrators receive for convictions outside of the tribal judicial system.
  3. $100 million has also been earmarked by the DOJ for more attorneys, investigators and victim advocates on reservations. Indian Country reported that a DOJ grant that provided more domestic violence personnel resources to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana led to the first domestic violence convictions on the reservation – in only 6 months, 169 domestic assault complaints were filed, and 147 of them have pending court action.

These possible progressive changes to the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault on reservations would also hit close to home as North Carolina is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

You can contact the Department of Justice to express your support for the pending legislation and budget increases by emailing or by calling the Attorney General’s public comment line at (202) 353-1555.


IPV Resources: Back to School Edition August 26, 2011

With students back at the Hill and starting fall semester classes this week, our sleepy summer town is now buzzing with activity. Unfortunately, the beginning of the school year can mean an influx of incidences of interpersonal violence. College students are particularly affected by violence – the National Institute of Justice found that rape or attempted rape could affect as many as 25% of college women by the time they graduate. And around 13% of college women have been affected by stalking, although only 17% of these have reported it to the police.

There are many resources available on campus for survivors of abusive relationships, sexual assault and stalking. Some of these are described below, but for more details about UNC and community resources, check out the brand-new SAFE@UNC website, which combines all of the available information in one place. All resources listed below are available to all survivors, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, but if you are concerned about seeking help because of your identity, contact UNC’s LGBTQ Center for guidance.

If you are involved in an abusive relationship:

  • If you have been physically assaulted, consider seeking medical attention at UNC Campus Health or UNC Hospitals, which houses Beacon, a program specifically for relationship violence survivors.
  • Consider reporting any assault to the University through the Dean of Students office or to law enforcement. There are several types of reports available, depending on your comfort level and whether you want to press charges through Honor Court and/or the criminal justice system.
  • If you have questions about your rights under the law, give us a call: 929-7122.  FVPC offers court accompaniment and advocacy for folks in an abusive relationship who are trying to negotiate the legal system or obtain a 50B– a Domestic Violence Protective Order.
  • Seek counseling at UNC Counseling and Wellness Services. CWS accepts walk-ins Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

If you have been sexually assaulted:

  • If you have been sexually assaulted, consider seeking medical attention at UNC Campus Health or UNC Hospitals, which has a care program specifically for sexual assault survivors. You will be given the opportunity to undergo forensic testing for evidence, as well as STI testing and a course of preventive medication, the costs of which are covered for UNC students through the Victims’ Assistance Fund.
  • Consider reporting any assault to the University through the Dean of Students office or to law enforcement. There are several types of reports available, depending on your comfort level and whether you want to press charges through Honor Court and/or the criminal justice system. If you have questions about the legal process, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
  • Seek trauma counseling at UNC Counseling and Wellness Services. Also available is an open support group, Courage to Heal, for survivors to share their experiences on the journey to recovery.

If you are experiencing stalking:

  • If you feel unsafe in your living environment, safe rooms are available for short-term stay through the Residential Housing and Education office. Talk to your RA or community director, or call the Dean of Students office at 919-966-4042 during business hours for more information.
  • File a no-contact order through the University via the Dean of Students office.
  • Seek counseling at UNC Counseling and Wellness Services.

If you are struggling with academics because of any of the previous circumstances, discuss your options with the Dean of Students office.

If you’re interested in becoming a more effective supporter for loved ones who are survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking, become a UNC HAVEN ally this fall! New training dates have just been announced, and you can register online. And becoming trained by the One Act program will empower you to prevent interpersonal violence in the first place.

Thanks for your efforts to help make the campus community a safer place for students, faculty and staff!


New DV Laws Have Mixed Results August 15, 2011

New laws intended to better protect victims of domestic violence have been passed in Connecticut and Kentucky.  Connecticut’s state legislature recently passed a bill that implements several critical measures aimed at protecting domestic violence victims from future harm.  The law gets rid of a provision which exempted abusers in dating relationships from being arrested for domestic violence.  Similarly the law allows people of any age, including minors, to get restraining orders against abusive partners.  This is particularly good news for teenagers because until now minors could only obtain protective orders against adults.  Lastly, the new law requires domestic violence offenders, who have been banned from possessing firearms, to surrender their weapons to police or federally-licensed firearms dealers.  Shockingly, before this bill was passed, these abusers had the right to surrender firearms to friends or family members.  This new law represents a major victory for domestic violence programs around the state.  Susan DeLeon, the director of Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven stated, “This is going to prevent people from dying.  It’s going to save lives.”

Similar efforts are being made in Kentucky.  In late 2009, Amanda Ross was fatally shot by former state legislator Steve Nunn.  Ross had obtained a protective order against Nunn six months before the murder.  Her death prompted House Speaker Greg Stumbo to propose Amanda’s Law.  Stumbo’s initial proposal would have allowed victims to request GPS monitoring of an abuser as soon as a domestic violence charge was filed in civil or criminal court.  However, the State Senate modified the bill.  Under the altered bill, an offender must commit a “substantial violation” of the protective order before GPS tracking can be requested.  A “substantial violation” includes kidnapping, terroristic threatening, or assault.  However, Amanda’s Law has had some positive effects.  The law requires judges, if requested by the petitioner, to review criminal backgrounds of offenders to determine if they have a pattern of violent behavior.  Since the law was enacted one year ago 25,843 background checks have been processed.

It will take more than legislation to end domestic violence, but improvements in the laws are necessary.  What do you think a good domestic violence law looks like?  How can you get involved to implement change?  Leave us a comment!


Colleges and Congress Take Steps to Addressing Sexual Assault December 17, 2010

A recent NPR news story discusses a nationwide effort from Congress and universities to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.   Sexual violence is a common and persistent problem on nation’s college campuses.  A study by the U.S Department of Justice estimates that one of out four women will either be physically abused or sexually assaulted in her lifetime.  As a result of these chilling statistics Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education called in NPR and The Center for Public Integrity to discuss her latest steps in responding to sexual discrimination.

The United States Department of Education is announcing “voluntary resolution agreements” with two schools (Eastern Michigan University and Notre Dame College of Ohio) that had been criticized for the way they handled reported assaults.  The most prominent cases of sexual assault in recent memory include the 2006 assault and murder of Laura Dickinson at Eastern Michigan University,  the sexual assaults of  two students at Notre Dame of Ohio whose assaults were not reported to police until two weeks after school officials were notified, and most recently the suicide of student Elizabeth Seeberg after her alleged sexual assault from a Notre Dame football player.

Secretary Ali entered into agreements with Eastern Michigan University as well as Notre Dame College of Ohio to lay out steps that the schools must take to actively prevent sexual assault and investigate assaults when they do happen.  Ali’s department has also begun similar investigations at Ohio State University.

Last week Congress introduced legislation that would expand upon and more explicitly state what colleges and universities are expected to do to prevent sexual assaults and how to respond when an allegation is made.  The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act) was introduced by Republican John Duncan and Democrat Thomas Perriello.  The bill requires that anytime a student reports a sexual or physical assault  that schools be required to explain their right a) to notify law enforcement and b) receive help from the school to report the incident.  Schools must also inform students of their right to obtain a civil protective order from a local court.  Schools would also be required to hold prevention campaigns to raise awareness about sexual and relationship violence and to know to report it and where to get counseling if a victim.

Legislative actions like these illustrate the importance of a community and national commitment to ending interpersonal violence.  In particular, the “bystander education” piece of the bill is critically important as it teaches everyone, men and women, not only that they can prevent sexual assaults and relationship violence, but that they have a responsibility to do so.

If you’re a student at UNC consider attending a  One Act or HAVEN training to learn ways that you can be an active bystander in prevention sexual assault and relationship violence on campus! Also starting in February, FVPC will be having our volunteer training for hotline advocates as well as community educators.  Volunteering with FVPC is a great way to do your part in interpersonal violence prevention and serve the community in a meaningful way.


A New Law in Town: New NC Legislation Aims to Aid DV Victims December 10, 2010

Filed under: domestic violence,Domestic Violence Protective Order — Johnson Intern @ 11:12 am

Durham Crisis Response Center, a domestic violence & sexual assault agency serving Durham and surrounding counties, is one of the many statewide DV shelters that will be covered under the new law.

On December 1st,  a new set of laws went into effect, regulating a number of different ranging from handgun permits to Medicaid fraud.  But one of the provisions in particular was aimed at assisting victims of domestic violence, by giving them one more tool with which to protect themselves and their loved ones.

According to The Daily Tarheel, the new law makes it a felony to trespass into a shelter where a recipient of a restraining order (also known as a 50(b) Domestic Violence Protective Order) is currently residing. Beverly Kennedy, FVPC’s Executive Director, was quoted in The Daily Tarheel by saying she was extremely pleased with the new law, but lamented that it only extended to victims staying in government-approved shelters and not temporary shelters found in hotels, secondary residences, or the homes of friends and family members.  Kennedy also pointed out that homeless shelters, a common source of refuge for victims seeking to flee domestic violence situations, are also not covered by the provision.

This is of particular worry for victims of domestic violence in counties like Orange, which does not have a domestic violence shelters within its jurisdiction.  Unlike Durham and Wake counties, Orange is the only county in the Triangle that is not served by a designated domestic violence shelter.  The implications of this are that victims fleeing abusive relationships in Orange County are either forced to put themselves up in hotels or motels (if they can afford them), or seek refuge in adjacent counties that do maintain DV-shelters–Chatham, Alamance, Durham and Wake among them.   Those who cannot find haven in a DV shelter are often left with few options aside from area homeless shelters (often full) or the residences of friends, family, and co-workers–none of which are covered by the new law’s provisions, even where they are available.

It is important to note that even independent of court orders, it is illegal to trespass on private or state property once the legal occupants have made it clear an individual’s presence is unwelcome and unwanted. And regardless of restraining orders, both bystanders and victims of domestic violence  can always call for police assistance to either arrest a trespassing individual, or at a minimum, provide closed patrols and escort unwelcome parties off the property with instructions not to return. Trespassing on the grounds of homeless shelters and private residences that offer shelter to protective order recipients remains a misdemeanor, whereas trespassing on one of North Carolina’s domestic violence shelters now becomes a felony.

To learn more about domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs), call our 24-hour hotline at 919-929-7122.