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Key Findings

Civil Interventions

Victims often pursue safety and accountability for their abuser through civil remedies. Civil interventions may represent a victim’s only course of relief through the court system due to a lower percentage of perpetrators in murder-suicide cases having a violent criminal history prior to the fatal incident.

In reviewed cases ending in a murder-suicide or an attempted murder-suicide, 33% victims were involved with civil or juvenile court systems five years before the incident, a significant increase from the 18% in reviewed homicide cases. In 34% of reviewed murder-suicide cases, the parties were in the process of divorce. Additionally, 30% of victims in reviewed murder-suicide cases accessed relief via a TPO, higher than the 20% who filed for a TPO in reviewed homicide cases.

CHART: COURT CONTACT

TPOs represent an effective tool which can significantly reduce danger to victims. Research found between 30% and 77% of victims who obtain an order of protection report the TPO ended the violence they experienced (Logan & Walker, 2009). Even in cases where violations of the order occurred, the majority of victims report a decrease in severity and frequency of violence and a reduction in their fear of harm (Logan & Walker, 2009).

While a TPO remains a great resource for increasing victim safety, simple access to a TPO is not enough. In a case where risk of suicide is present, additional measures must be incorporated into the standard language of an order to increase opportunities for enforcement and reduce the likelihood of future, possibly lethal, violence.

CHART: TEMPORARY PROTECTIVE ORDER

Take Action

Judges, Courts, Attorneys, Domestic Violence Programs

  • Provide Pro Se resources so a victim can file for contempt on a civil action if criminal charges have not been filed against the abuser.
  • Ensure victims seeking to file for contempt have been referred to a domestic violence program for safety planning and advocacy.
  • Clearly enumerate dates, times and locations for child visitation along with special circumstances such as third-party assistance. If any contact is allowed within the Order, set clear parameters, such as the time of calls or texts for allowed contact from abuser to victim.

Attorneys

  • Construct divorce documents and other civil filings with the level of clarity recommended for TPOs to bolster victim safety. This is particularly important in cases where parties share children.
  • Discuss pros and cons of child support collection options, including clearinghouses and income deduction orders with victims. Ensure the method of child support collection is made clear in court orders.

Child Support Services

  • Inform victim about increased risk correlated with filing for child support and provide a referral to a domestic violence program or hotline for assistance with safety planning. The Georgia Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-33-HAVEN.
  • Provide advance notice of hearings to victims and encourage victims of abuse to receive safety planning around increased risk associated with the looming accountability of court.

Judges

  • Directly state arrangements for child support and visitation. If your order references or incorporates a prior order, it should be attached.
  • Require appropriate mental health assessments for parties who are alleged to have co-occurring mental health and domestic violence issues.
  • When the Court determines mental health issues should be addressed, clarity of language is paramount. Provide a clear method of achieving completion of the provisions; add to standard language the specific type of evaluation that should be completed, in what time frame it should be completed and how the abuser can provide proof of compliance with the provision.
  • List children as protected parties on the order, so they are entitled to protection during the victim’s custodial time.
  • From the bench, inform abusers of enforcement by criminal action or contempt if the TPO is violated.
  • Inform victims of the process for taking action when a violation occurs. Additionally, inform victims of the process to apply for a Three Year/ Permanent Protective Order, prior to the expiration of the 12 Month Order, if the perpetrator violates the 12 Month Order.
  • Never require or suggest victims file for divorce or combine a divorce with a TPO.
  • Ensure all victims of domestic violence seeking relief from the courts under the Family Violence Act receive a referral to a domestic violence program to complete a safety plan. • Set timely compliance hearings for TPO Respondents. Refer to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ “Checklist to Promote Perpetrator Accountability in Dependency Cases Involving Domestic Violence,” available at www.ncjfcj.org/

Domestic Violence Programs

  • Offer services beyond the TPO and check in with victims during the course of their TPO to determine if emerging safety issues have developed, if contempt or violations have occurred and whether the victim would like to extend the order.
  • Provide an adequate number of legal advocates to assist victims who wish to file a TPO and conduct survivor-centered safety planning and risk assessment that incorporates suicide indicators.
  • Provide legal advocates with additional training on intersections of domestic violence and suicide, including strategies for working with victims who are suicidal.
  • Partner with law enforcement agencies to develop materials about services, which can be distributed to victims on-scene.

Law Enforcement Agencies

  • Never mediate an alternative to an existing order. If an abuser violates an order, immediately take action to arrest when probable cause exists.
  • Receive training on where/how victims can obtain a TPO and on procedures and safety considerations when serving and enforcing them.
  • Ensure all officers are aware of the breadth of local domestic violence resources, particularly services beyond shelter.
  • Provide information to victims about local domestic violence resources when responding to a domestic violence incident. Partner with your local domestic violence agency to develop materials.
  • Prioritize service and enforcement of TPOs.
  • Ensure all officers know any sworn officer can serve a TPO