Contributed by SaVannah Reading
We are all painfully aware of the pandemic we all have been living through for the last year due to Covid-19, but what is happening within the confines of quarantined homes, is its own pandemic. Growing evidence shows that domestic violence has increased during the pandemic, and in many cases, gotten more severe. The statistics are startling, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, some U.S. cities are seeing as much as a 22% increase in calls to police departments for domestic violence. The pandemic has not necessarily caused more people to become abusive, it’s just given abusers more tools to manipulate and control their victims. Local domestic violence shelters report a dramatic increase in calls for assistance as victims have been forced into isolation with their abusers, unable to leave and opportunities to seek help severely limited.
It is more important now, than ever, that victims of domestic violence know how the law can help them in these situations. Victims of domestic abuse can seek an Order of Protection from the courts for themselves and their minor children. An Order of Protection can be issued by a judge when a victim has been threatened or harmed by an alleged abuser and is in immediate and present danger of domestic abuse. Under Arkansas law domestic abuse is when a family or household member commits any of the following acts against you:
· physical harm;
· bodily injury;
· the fear that physical harm, bodily injury, or assault is about to happen to you; or
· sexual conduct (of a criminal nature) whether the victim is a minor or an adult.
The abuser is a family or household members if he/she is:
· husband or wife;
· a parent;
· a child;
· any person related to you by blood;
· a person with whom you have (or had) a child in common;
· a person with whom you currently live or have lived in the past; or
· a person with whom you have or have had a dating relationship.
Victims of domestic abuse can file a Petition for Order of Protection in the county where he/she resides, where the abuse occurred, or where the alleged abuser can be served. Your local prosecuting attorney’s office can assist you in obtaining an Order of Protection, you can reach out to local shelters that may be able to help, or you can contact an attorney that can assist you throughout the process. The attorneys at Miller, Butler, Schneider, Pawlik & Rozzell are experienced in handling Orders of Protection. If you are victim of domestic violence and need help, our attorneys may be able to help. If you are not able to obtain an attorney, please know there are other resources such as those listed below.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE OR 1-800-799-7233
Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter Hotline: 800-775-9011.
Peace at Home Family Shelter: Local: 479-422-9811 OR Toll Free: 877-442-9811
Washington County Orders of Protection: https://www.washingtoncountyar.gov/government/departments-f-z/prosecuting-attorney
Benton County Orders of Protection: https://bentoncountyar.gov/prosecuting-attorney/order-of-protection/
Other helpful online information: https://www.womenslaw.org/laws/ar/restraining-orders