Every client encounter is unique to the individual seeking help but there are definitely recurring themes, according to Charlotte Ray, Family Safety Center (FSC) Client Services Manager. Ray says all the victims arrive with mixed emotions about reaching out for help and they are overwhelmed about the different options that are available. In addition to their obvious physical and emotional trauma, Ray says victims are often confused about the orders of protection and the legal process in general.
“They come to us in a state of disbelief, they are in denial that things have been escalating. They’ll say, ‘that was not the first time I answered in that manner…I don’t know what set him off this time,” says Ray.
A victim-centered process
The Family Safety Center became involved with the orders of protection in 2014. Before then, victims had to go to 201 Poplar to file an order of protection. FSC Executive Director Olliette Murry-Drobot says the decision to move the process to the FSC was a game-changer.
“Imagine the trauma of having to go to 201 Poplar, given the victim’s state of mind everything else going on there at 201 Poplar. It was more of an administrative process with no other support for the victim,” says Murry-Drobot. “At FSC we’re totally focused on the victim and whatever services they may need in addition to the order of protection. The FSC is based on a national model for family justice centers, which co-locates domestic violence services for the victim’s benefit.
“It’s hard to sum up the Family Safety Center in a sentence or two since they changed my life,” says survivor Kamillia Barton. “I came in just for a protection order, however I left with the hope, healing and courage I needed to move on and never look back. The storm is over now; I will be forever grateful for the FSC!!”
Because FSC brings to one location the agencies necessary to help someone safely leave a violent situation, a victim can file an order of protection, obtain an arrest warrant, seek legal advice, and arrange for emergency shelter all in one visit. Working closely with partners in law enforcement, justice, and local community services, Ray and other FSC staff create a plan specific to each client.
Each case is unique
The orders of protection are not automatic, and what may work for one client, does not work for another, says Ray. The order of protection is more than a police report, and it requires the abused to prove to the courts that he/she is in immediate danger. If the court rules the individual is in immediate danger, an ex-parte order may be granted within hours (if filed during the court’s normal hours of operation), until a hearing is held within two weeks for a permanent order.
According to Ray, victims are sometimes discouraged by the process, the long form, and the evidence needed to successfully file for an order of protection, because among other things, it requires them to provide details of the abuse and re-live the trauma. Navigators often recommend proceeding with the order of protection so they document the abusive behavior more completely than the police report
“Without documentation, it’s your word against theirs,” Ray tells clients. “If you are in an abusive relationship, you are pretty certain that it was your intimate partner who slashed your tires. But without documentation, there is no real proof in the eyes of the law.” But getting the police and courts involved is a very big step, adds Ray, who has had victims call a day later to say they do not want to go through with the permanent order of protection.
DV or IPV? Violence is violence.
Domestic violence is increasingly being described as intimate partner violence (IPV). As opposed to violence among extended family members or neighbors, the victim of intimate partner violence has had a romantic or sexual relationship with his or her abuser. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines intimate partner violence as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner (current or former spouse or current or former boyfriend, girlfriend.)
Even when violence occurs beyond the confines of a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend, victims can file for an order of protection. In Memphis and Shelby County, orders of protection for family violence such as this can be obtained at the Crime Victims Center and Rape Crisis Center.
NOTE: The Crime Victims Center and Rape Crisis Center, currently housed at 1750 Madison Ave. together with FSC, will be relocating in February. When the Crime Victims Center and Rape Crisis Center moves to their new home at 1060 Madison Ave., victims of violence not defined as domestic or intimate partner violence, will have to go to that new location for orders of protection.
“The Crime Victims Center and Rape Crisis Center is a great partner. We are working together to minimize confusion for our respective clients, particularly during the early days of their move,” says Murry-Drobot.
Whether victims face intimate partner violence or violence from family members or neighbors, help is available. For everyone who walks through the door at FSC, Navigators are the calm after the storm. Ray says it is their mission to arm victims with the information and tools they need to leave their abusive situation.
“We try to smooth the way for them. People always ask them ‘Why do you stay?’, but I get it. It’s not that easy,” says Ray.