Increasing Awareness of Domestic Violence and Legal Remedies to Address this Serious Issue
Article by Allison Sleight
October has been deemed Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is important to note the seriousness of the issue warrants our attention throughout the year. The statistics related to domestic violence are staggering. Across the country, every nine seconds a woman in the United States is beaten. Further, an estimated one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. On average, three women and one man will be murdered by an intimate partner every day. One in five teens has reported being hit, pushed, or slapped by an intimate partner. Locally, the Michigan State Police report nearly 75,000 domestic-related calls per year.
The designation of October as domestic violence month certainly provides an opportunity for the community to recognize the seriousness of this issue and its widespread reach – crossing socioeconomic classes, genders, and geographic locations. The problem of domestic violence has recently been highlighted and received greater coverage by news outlets due to the spotlighting of several recent incidents involving players in the NFL, including Ray Rice who was caught on video knocking out his now-wife in an elevator in Las Vegas. The NFL has also come under fire for its handling of these matters.
Victims of domestic violence in Michigan have legal protections and remedies in the form of a personal protection order (PPO). This type of order provides injunctive relief that protects the victim from domestic abuse or stalking by the respondent or perpetrator. There are two types of PPOs, depending on the identity of the party to be restrained by the order. A domestic relationship PPO is available to protect a petitioner who is in a domestic relationship from abuse (including stalking). A nondomestic relationship PPO is available to restrain anyone who (1) is engaging in stalking, aggravated stalking, or cyber bullying; (2) has been convicted of sexually assaulting the petitioner or of furnishing obscene material to the petitioner; or (3) has threatened the petitioner with, or subjected him or her to, a sexual assault. No particular relationship is required for a nondomestic stalking PPO (i.e. it could be a neighbor, coworker, or stranger). In other states, recognizing the disharmony domestic violence can have on families and the effect the emotional atmosphere can have on healthy child development, there has been a trend toward enacting Domestic Violence Acts. These laws designate abusive actions as serious crimes and thus help prevent harm to individuals and societies.
Once an order of protection is issued, the abusive member of the family or the household will be required to do or to refrain from doing certain actions. A personal protection order will ordinarily permit the court to order any or all of the following remedies, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case:
- Prohibit any further abuse;
- Grant exclusive possession of a shared home to the victim and order the abuser not to enter the premises for a period of time;
- Order the abuser to stay away from the victim;
- Require or recommend that the abuser undergo counseling;
- Award physical care and possession of any minor child;
- Award temporary legal custody of a minor child;
- Determine the visitation rights, if any, of the abuser to the minor child;
- Prohibit the abuser from removing any minor child from the State or concealing a minor child within the State;
- Order the abuser to appear in court;
- Grant possession of personal property to the victim;
- Forbid the abuser from taking, transferring, concealing or damaging the victim’s personal property;
- Order the abuser to pay the victim for any losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse, including medical expenses, lost earnings or other support, repair/replacement of damaged property, reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs;
- Prohibit the abuser from entering/remaining in the residence or household while the abuser is under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Prohibit the abuser from possessing firearms;
- Prohibit the abuser’s access to school records if the abuser is prohibited from having contact with a minor child;
- Order the abuser to reimburse a shelter which provided temporary shelter and counseling to the victim; and
- Order injunctive relief “as necessary or appropriate to prevent further abuse.”
As has been highlighted in recent months, there is no question that the impact of domestic violence extends far beyond the victim and family members. It reaches into the workplace, social settings and the community at large. The heightened awareness recently afforded this issue has not only provided important opportunities to speak out against domestic violence, but has also encouraged many victims to break their silence and seek legal protection from their abusers. In Michigan, a personal protection order is currently the only mechanism to acquire important and often lifesaving relief.