Column: Protecting yourself from domestic violence
I have tried all month to keep myself from writing this, but I could no longer keep inside valuable information on my recent experience with domestic violence that may perhaps benefit just one person.
Domestic violence has become an epidemic that is completely out of control.
One day early this last May, I had to immediately flee my home that my now ex-fiancee and I shared, in a flight for life.
Luckily, I had somewhere to go and never had to consider a shelter. Somehow, my call to 911 was never logged, recorded, or addressed.
Dazed, I realized that I was, and was going to be, completely on my own. I was absolutely lost. I had no idea what to do or where to start.
Having no knowledge of victim’s witness programs or women’s services, I consulted my first of three attorneys, and entered into a world of which I knew nothing, and didn’t want to. Where was the manual? (I found out much later there are brochures and books, but if you miss a turn like I did, you’ll never find them until it’s too late.)
So I learned the hard way. If you need help, don’t do it the way I did.
Do it this way:
– Leave. Plan on being gone for as long as it takes to have him served with the restraining order. Take with you all important papers: certificates (birth, health, inoculations), checkbook, phone numbers.
– Get a restraining order, no matter what. Make sure you add the kick-out clause: you will get your home back, even if you’re not married. You can do this yourself. Keep reading.
– Document! Document everything in writing, even if it seems unwarranted at the time. I promise you will need it later. Record your important phone conversations. You will need these.
Very recently, a new statute has been entered into California law with regard to domestic violence. A woman in Sonoma County had a restraining order against her very violent husband. He ignored the order, called her at home and threatened to come to the house and shoot her. She called 911 repeatedly, but the calls were ignored by the deputy on duty. Her husband carried out his threat – he shot and killed her. Upon researching the complete situation, it was discovered that this deputy on duty blatantly chose to ignore her calls.
Now the California statute holds a no-tolerance policy towards 911 domestic violence calls – if any peace officer does not respond immediately and accordingly to any 911 domestic violence call, that officer will be named as an accessory to any crime committed associated with that call.
Documentation is also very helpful when your friends, neighbors and co-workers conveniently forget the events of a particular day. It’s mandatory to have in court, or it’s your word against his.
– Evidence, anything that may help you in court. The district attorney will need it to help you.
– Trust and depend on no one but yourself: you have good intuition, trust it.
– Get to your nearest domestic violence or women’s services office immediately – every town and county has them. You can find them in the phone book and the local paper. This is the place to start everything, including your legal work, not at an attorney’s office.
Even if you love your attorney, they are not prepared to handle these kind of emergencies and delicate procedures. That’s what the Tahoe Women’s Services does. These people are trained in domestic violence. Most of the people involved are victims themselves and know all about what is happening to you. They’ll help you with the restraining order and other things. There are excellent programs designed to help victims – legal, financial, counseling and support.
– Don’t be afraid to represent yourself. This was my biggest lesson. All three of my attorneys convinced me that I would destroy my case if I attempted to represent myself. So I paid these three attorneys a lot of money to basically take my power from me. After the third attorney went away with my money, I finally got it. Ding, I was on my own (but I wasn’t, I was just finally getting where I needed to be, I soon learned).
Domestic violence doesn’t have “criteria.” It is everywhere. Every ethnic, income, and religious community has it.
Ever since Nicole Simpson gave her life, new agencies, programs, and monies have emerged and organized, and California is leading the country in this aggressive movement to end domestic violence.
Should a woman’s quality of life change because of domestic violence?
Yes, she gets her life back.
“JW Horton” lives and works in Truckee.
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