Highlight #8 – Orders of Protection Provide Safety

Sketch of womanSamantha’s Story*

     *The survivor’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Samantha was emotionally, financially, and physically abused by her boyfriend with whom she had lived several years. After her first stay in the Shelter, she remained separated from her abuser but remained in contact with him as they had children. In one incident that occurred during one of their regular visitations, her abuser became angry and physically assaulted Samantha: punching her, choking her to the point she couldn’t breathe, breaking her phone, throwing keys away, and threatening to hurt her and the children if she tried to leave.

Samantha’s abuser kept her confined, and she could not leave to seek medical help. He initiated filing a report to the police, changing the truth of the story. He reported that Samantha was physically assaulted by one of her ex- boyfriends and that he had tried to help her. Samantha had a sense of hopelessness when that story became the official police report.

After several meetings with advocates at the shelter, Samantha decided to file an order of protection. With the assistance of the NWA Women’s Shelter court advocate and other professional advocates, she compiled all police reports from the past to document the abuse history.

During the process, Samantha hesitated many times as she felt the effort was worthless. “He will get his way because he always does.” Our advocates encouraged Samantha to work through her hesitation each time. She cooperated with police to correct the report and filed the order of protection. The ex parte order (an initial temporary order) was granted, and Samantha received legal representation after her case was accepted by Legal Aid of Arkansas, one of our partner agencies, for the full hearing. At this hearing, the Court granted Samantha a 10-year order of protection for herself and her children.

Samantha’s life and her view of the law enforcement and legal system changed. Her abuser didn’t get his way this time.

Today, Samantha and her children live peacefully in a safe place. We hope it will remain that way!!

 


Each time a situation like Samantha’s arises, the NWA Women’s Shelter court advocate and other professional advocates will provide the same consistent and compassionate support.

As part of our court advocacy work, we assist clients (in-shelter and outreach) with understanding their option to petition for protection and the process for orders of protection. Individuals whose primary language is Spanish receive translation support from our bilingual staff.

In 2015, through court advocacy, 67 clients petitioned orders of protection.

Additional court advocacy efforts include contacts with clients during the process of completing and filing orders, prior to full hearings, and following court hearings. In 2015, a total of 299 contacts were made to 217 clients (including the clients who formally filed petitions during the year).

Among our long-term partnerships are Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Benton County Courthouse.

We expanded strategic partnerships in 2015.

  • Walmart’s Legal Team is providing pro bono legal work for our clients.
  • We also strengthened our existing partnership with the Benton County Courthouse. All orders of protection filed with the Benton County Courthouse that do not involve current or ongoing police involvement in the case are referred to the NWA Women’s Shelter court advocate to process. This allows the court advocate an opportunity to provide resources and education, such as safety planning and referrals to other community services.

 

 

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