Defining Domestic Violence: Are You Living In An Abusive Home?

abusive homeThe idea that we may be living in an abusive home can be a tough reality to face. When we love the people who don’t treat us as well as they should, it can be easy to make excuses for them, or even blame ourselves for their behavior.

In fact, that’s one of the biggest red flags that you may be living in an abusive home – when your partner downplays the importance of the abuse, denies it, or blames you for it.

The problem is this: you are never responsible for someone else’s actions. Their choices are their own and no one else’s. No amount of willfulness or thoughtlessness on your part justifies anyone else hitting you, threatening you or your loved ones, or trying to control you.

If you’ve been thinking you might be living in an abusive home, here are some things to consider:

Physical Violence

Physical violence is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we think of domestic abuse. It can be anything from hitting you to attacking you with a weapon – and keep in mind that almost anything can be considered a weapon. Just because a hardcover book isn’t on a standard list of weapons doesn’t mean someone couldn’t do serious damage with one if they wanted to, which brings us to our next clue to look out for:

They Scare You

You should never be afraid of anyone you live with. If they look at you or behave in any way that scares you, don’t try to brush it off as paranoia. Trust your instincts and get out of there, if you can. If you can’t get out, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

They Threaten You and/or Your Loved Ones

Abusers don’t always have to physically hurt you or anyone else to be considered abusive. Threats can be just as powerful, if not more so, especially if they’re threatening your loved ones – and remember that’s not limited to humans. It can be just as terrifying to have someone threaten to hurt, or even kill, a beloved pet, and if that’s the case, you may be living in an abusive home.

They Control You

Again, abuse isn’t always physical. Oftentimes, it’s more about control than anything else. Sometimes they exercise that control with physical violence and/or threats, other times it’s by controlling the money for the house and/or controlling what you do, where you go, and whom you see.

Anyone who takes your money, makes you ask for money, and/or refuses to give you money for things you need while they’re going on spending sprees, is abusive. By the same token, cutting you off from friends and family is a classic abuse tactic. If they forbid you, or try to stop you, from seeing your friends and family members, they’re abusing you. They want you to be completely dependent on them for everything and that’s never a good situation for you to be in.

No matter your relation to your abuser, you have rights. If you think you may be living in an abusive home, contact a qualified family law attorney today to talk about your options.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

My Ex Violated Their Restraining Order – What Are My Options?

ex violated their restraining orderWhile a restraining order (or Order of Protection) can offer some protection from those who have been physically and/or emotionally abusive, it’s not fool proof. Those who are restricted by a restraining order often violate the order, and there are few things more frustrating (or more frightening) than when that happens. But a restraining order is still legally binding, so there are ways you can take action in the event your ex violated their restraining order you filed against them.

First make sure you are familiar with the terms of the restraining order. This will give you a step up as soon as your ex violates the order so you can let them (and the authorities) know they are breaking the law.

Call the Police

The first thing you should do any time someone violates a restraining order is call the police. Don’t engage with your ex if you can avoid it, and don’t try to handle the situation yourself. You filed a restraining order for a reason: to get the law on your side, so use it.

Even if your ex does not attack you or get violent in any way, but rather tries to contact you or otherwise violates the “stay away” provision in your order, you should still call the police right away. It’s better than waiting until things do take a turn for the worse, by which time it might be too late to call anyone.

Tell Them about the Restraining Order

When you call the police, tell them you have an active restraining order against your ex and they are in violation of that order. It will help if you have the actual documentation of the order in your possession, since the police will need to verify its existence before they can go further with any proceedings against your ex.

Filing Charges

If you want to file criminal charges against your ex for violating their restraining order, you will need to speak with someone from the police department in the county or city in which the violation occurred. The authorities will then usually refer the case to the prosecutor’s office in your county for purposes of filing criminal charges. In some cases, you can also go to the Courthouse and officials there can help you file a violation petition to help enforce your restraining order, which is one way to take your ex to court.

Violators of an Order of Protection in Illinois can be charged with a misdemeanor, or even a felony, if it’s not their first time violating the order. Depending on the judge’s sentence, that means they can face a hefty fine, or even significant jail time, and it will go on their permanent record. Because orders of protection are issued by a judge in a court of law, judges who see offenders who violated such an order can also hold them in contempt of court, which is a serious offense in its own right.

Tell the Authorities Every Time

Because courts are especially hard on repeat offenders, it’s important to tell the police every single time your ex violates the restraining order. That way, even if you don’t file charges against them the first time, if/when you do decide to do so, there will be a record to prove it’s not the first time they violated the order.

Any time an Illinois judge grants an Order of Protection, it’s an indication that the law is on your side. That is a valuable asset you don’t want to waste, which is why it’s important to keep all documents related to the restraining order and to call the police as soon as your ex violates that order.

If you would like assistance with your Order of Protection, please contact the Law Office of Barbara Sherer. We provide you with expert legal advice while making sure that the outcomes will protect you and your family.

My Child Is Dating Someone Who Is Harming Them – What Should I Do?

dating abuseAs a parent, you watch over and protect your child throughout every stage of life, especially as she/he engages in relationships with friends and romantic associations that begin to develop during the teenage years. At times, these relationships can evolve quickly and intensely, and they can cause concern or provoke action from parents, as patterns of controlling behaviors are identified. Youth dating abuse is more common than you may think, happening among young people from all walks of life.

Forms of abuse in a relationship can be obvious or very subtle at times, depending on the behavior.

  • Verbal Abuse: Instances that involve name calling, humiliation of the abused partner, verbal intimidation, screaming, threatening, constantly blaming the abused partner or obsessive verbal behavior toward the abused partner’s actions
  • Emotional Abuse: Instances of emotional manipulation such as isolation from friends and family, making the abused partner feel guilty, excessive possessiveness, jealousy, monitoring phone calls or emails or any other communication
  • Physical Abuse: Instances that involve bullying, forcing an abused partner to participate in unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, unlawful actions, hitting, beating, stalking, unreasonable physical expectations toward the abused partner, threats of physical violence, throwing objects, restraining the abused partner, destruction of partner’s property, hitting, pushing, grabbing, choking, intimidation using weapons
  • Sexual Abuse: Instances of sexual assault, rape, date rape, using date rape drugs, initiating sexual rumors, sexual jokes or humiliation, sabotaging birth control, refusing to use protection during sex

Warning Signs of Teen Dating Abuse

Learning to identify patterns in behavior that include control over another person in a dating relationship can lead to early detection of dating abuse. Look for psychological, emotional and verbal abuse and keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • The abuser isolating your teen from family or friends
  • A sudden change in your teen’s emotions
  • Excessive text messaging or phone calls
  • Extreme jealousy when your teen talks to other people
  • Coaching your teen on what to wear or how to act
  • Your teen making continual excuses for their abuser’s behavior

If you have identified with several items from this list, there are things you can effectively do to help your child cope with an abusive partner.

Take Charge of the Situation

First of all, be the person to whom your child looks to for guidance by offering mature advice. Guide your conversations with the understanding t hat the child may be afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed about the situations they confide in to you. To a certain extent, a teen could also erroneously believe that the abuse is his/her fault, that you will be disappointed in them, or that you may even blame them for the tumultuous relationship. Because they have little experience with healthy dating experiences, teens may not recognize the relationship as an abusive one.

Offer Your Help

Listen as your child talks to you. Believe them without judging them. Do not interrupt. Use your opportunity to talk to your child and calmly describe,as clearly as possible, what you are seeing with regard to the relationship. Convey that you understand they are in a very frightening situation, and that you care about their safety. Make it clear you are concerned for their well-being, and keep communication ongoing,letting your teen know they can reach out to you at any time.

When It Is Time to Seek Help

If you know your child is in an abusive relationship, it is wise to arm yourself with the knowledge of what legal steps you can take to keep your child safe from an abusive partner. If date rape is suspected, or the use of date rape drugs have been used, get immediate medical attention for your teen and consult with your attorney as soon as possible. For information about date rape drugs and sexual assault from the Illinois Attorney General, visit Advocating for Women.

If your teen seeks protection from their boyfriend or girlfriend, an EmergencyOrder of Protection can be obtained on the same day you file a petition requesting relief. The order will provide protection for your teen against someone who has committed acts of violence, and the Order can actually prevent the abuser from attending school while in effect, thus keeping your child safe while away from home as well. Sexual abuse, physical force, stalking, harassment, threats and/or any other behavior that can be identified as an act of “abuse” can be reported to your attorney and local law enforcement. The order of protection will be issued by the Court and outline how and if an abuser can interact with your teen. Click Orders of Protection for more information for the State of Illinois.

The following helpful links and information are provided by the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and can be found here: http://www.opdv.ny.gov/whatisdv/tdvinfoparent.html

Also, see below for more guides as you seek more information for your teen.

Parents:

  • Love is Respect – Help your child fact sheet
  • Respect Love – Advice for Parents
  • iPhone App – Love is Not Abuse App for parents

Helplines and Online Chats: 24 Hours / 7 Days per Week:

  • National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1.866.331.9474 TTD/TTY-1.866.331.8453
  • Love is Respect Peer Advocates: 1.866.331.9474 or Text “loveis” to 22522
  • Love is Respect – Online Chat

When it comes to any type of abuse in a relationship, it is important to actively look for support and education about your legal options to protect yourself and your family. Arm yourself with the knowledge that you need to make the best decision for your teenager. One of the best resources you can have is a lawyer who is experienced with teen dating abuse cases. The attorneys with Sherer Law Offices can provide expert guidance as they steer you toward the most appropriate legal option for your teen’s situation. Don’t hesitate to call us.

Domestic Violence During The Holidays – When To Seek Help

o-SAD-CHRISTMAS-facebookAs we approach the holiday season, there is excitement in the air! However, with the busy schedules and activities the holidays are also a time of great stress. Unfortunately, many things can trigger a stressful reaction that can occur from family members, partners and children. If you are in a relationship that is defined as one of “domestic violence”, there are some ways you can guide yourself towards safety.

Domestic Violence – Defined

First, it’s important to consider what is an act of domestic violence. Domestic violence is defined as acts or threats between two people who have an established relationship, including marriage, domestic partnerships in which the couple may have a child or children or anyone sharing a mutual, close relationship.

Domestic violence includes many types of abuse. The most obvious is physical abuse. Emotional abuse and stalking may also be considered forms of domestic violence.

When to Seek Help for Victims of Domestic Violence

If you or someone you know experiences any of the following occurrences, you need to get help immediately.

An incident of domestic violence is when someone intentionally causes the following to another person:

  • Physical pain
  • Physical injury
  • Intentional illness
  • Sexual assault
  • Fear that an above incident may be repeated
  • Evidence of beating – bruises, broken bones, etc.

If you are the victim or know a victim that has experienced any of the above, you need to seek help. Listed below are places where you can report domestic violence:

  • Oasis Shelter: Oasis is a safe place for abused women and their dependent children who need to escape the cycle of domestic violence.
  • 911 Operators: Operators are available in emergency situations. The 911 system is in place in many communities for emergency access to medical and police assistance.
  • Domestic Violence Victim Services: Services are free and private and are available to all victims of domestic violence, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. A 24-hour hotline service is available for support and information, and offers counseling, safety planning and education about domestic violence. This service also provides temporary food and housing for victims of domestic violence.
  • Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence:  A non-profit organization that strives to eliminate domestic violence throughout the state of Illinois.
  • Restraining Orders and Orders of Protection: Victims of domestic violence can go to a local court to secure protective or restraining orders that work to keep an abuser from coming into close contact.

Have a Plan

If you are in a domestic violence relationship or related situation, have a plan to guide you and your family to safety.

Inform neighbors and family members of a potential situation. Provide them with code words so that you can communicate the danger clearly when the abuser is present. Teach your children how to call 911, and what to say when the call is placed, reminding them to stay focused on providing the facts.

Having a savings account of your own is a priority. This will allow you access to funds whenever you need them. Leave personal belongings with a person you can trust and where you can have instant access to them. Make arrangements for a safe place where you can go that only a few key members of your family know exists. Keep a set of phone numbers with you. In the cell phone age, it is too easy to rely on your phone for contact info. Be proactive – if you have to leave the cell phone behind or if it is taken from you, you will still have your list of numbers.

Practice the best route to get out of your house. You will want a pathway that leads straight to the outside where you can call for help. Pack bags in advance for you and your children, if applicable, in a place where you can get to them easily and swiftly. Review your safety plan often with your children.

Decisions made during a domestic violence situation can often be the difference between life and death, which is why you need an experienced attorney.  The family attorneys at Sherer Law Offices will help you make the safest choice for you and your family and help you get the counsel your family needs. Contact our office if you have questions.

Do I Need A Lawyer to Get a Restraining Order?

shutterstock_123698749A Restraining Order, also known as an Order of Protection, is a civil order issued by a court that is designed to protect you from being harmed, abused or harassed by an abuser. It can also keep an abuser from the scene of domestic violence, which may include your home or where you work.

If you believe you need protection from an abuser, you must first complete paperwork that is filled out and filed at your county courthouse for a judge’s signature. You may complete the paperwork yourself, or contact your attorney to ask for assistance and to make sure your situation qualifies for a restraining order or if you should seek police or other assistance. You do not need an attorney to complete the paperwork but like all legal situations, it’s never a bad idea to have a legal advocate on your side.

To qualify for an Order of Protection, typically a relationship must exist between you and the other person who harmed you. Some of the situations that apply include:

  • You were married to the person who hurt you;
  • Separated or divorced from the person who hurt you;
  • Related to the person who hurt you (that is, a parent, stepparent, child, aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, or someone with whom you have a child, or someone with whom you say you have a child);
  • Dating (or formerly dated) the person who hurt you;
  • Engaged to (or formerly engaged to) the person who hurt you;
  • Living with (or formerly lived with) the person who hurt you;
  • Or you are an adult with disabilities.

Once filed, a restraining order is effective upon completion of the judge’s signature and lasts until the court date, which usually occurs a few weeks from the filing date.

The person who is requesting the restraining order must attend the initial hearing, even though the abuser may not yet have notice of the proceeding. You will appear before a judge on an assigned court date, or the same day you file the Petition depending on the jurisdiction, and you will have the opportunity to outline your situation to the judge at that time.

The restraining order will provide a date for a second court appearance, during which the abuser has a right to be present. During this second appearance, both parties will have an opportunity to explain each side to the judge. It is highly recommended that you bring a lawyer to this hearing, as the judge will determine if you receive a final order, called a Plenary Order of Protection, as well as the length and conditions of the order. An experienced family law attorney will have the skills and know-how to properly present your case and increase your chances of successfully obtaining a Plenary Order of Protection, which can be in effect for up to two years in Illinois.

In the instance an abuser does not appear at the hearing, the judge may keep the existing temporary order in effect until the abuser can be brought to court. If the abuser was properly served with proof of service, the Court may enter the final order at that time.   If the Petitioner does not appear, the temporary Order for Protection and/or the Petition filed will be dismissed.

Restraining order is in place – now what? How does it work?

The person who requested the restraining order is the enforcer of the order. Do not allow the abuser access to your home or workplace and never accept phone calls. All violations of the restraining order must be reported to the police immediately. A violation of an order is considered a misdemeanor, a criminal offense, and an abuser can be arrested even though the police may not have witnessed the violation. Contempt charges may also be brought against the abuser in civil court when a restrained person violates an order.

You will get a copy of the order that should be carried with you at all times. Call the police if the abuser violates the order. The police will arrest an abuser who violates any part of the order in place to protect you from threats or harm. By carrying your order with you at all times, it will be easier for the police to validate the order and understand your current situation. In the event you lose your order, or it’s destroyed, you are to return to the court to get another copy.

Court Violations and Criminal Charges

Criminal charges can be filed with your local police department against the abuser. You do not have to file criminal charges, but the law does allow you to file them if you so choose. In most states you have at least a year after any incident to file criminal charges. If the abuser is found guilty of the charges, the court can impose punishment in the form of fines, probation, or even jail.

If you would like assistance in filing an Order of Protection, please contact the Law Office of Barbara Sherer. We provide you with expert legal advice while making sure that the outcomes will protect you and your family.

Obtaining a Restraining Order – How Do I Get The Process Started?

restraining-orderAn order of protection (also sometimes called a restraining order) is a civil court order that can be requested against a member of your family or household who is abusing, harassing or intimidating you, or interfering with your personal property.  A restraining order can also be obtained to protect a minor child or a disabled adult from abuse or neglect.

Types of Restraining Orders

There are three types of orders of protection.  For temporary, short-term protection, you can request an emergency order or interim order. For longer-term protection, you will need a plenary order.  An emergency order typically lasts for 2-3 weeks and an interim order can be obtained to protect you in between the time that your emergency order expires and when you can appear in court for the plenary order.

Steps for Obtaining a Restraining Order

For expert guidance on protecting yourself or a loved one from harm, contact Sherer Law Offices to help get the process started.  We will help you complete all necessary paperwork and provide you with advice on effectively obtaining an order of protection. This can be a complicated process, so we strongly urge you to let us help you.

If you choose to petition for the order yourself, these are the steps you will need to complete:

1. Go to your local circuit court and find the circuit court clerk.

Request a petition for an emergency order of protection. The clerk will give you forms to complete. It is useful to bring the following information about the abuser:

  • A recent photo for identification when serving the order
  • Current addresses of the abuser’s residence and place of employment
  • License plate number and description of the abuser’s vehicle
  • Information regarding his/her gun ownership

2. Carefully complete the petition paperwork.

On the forms, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.” Write about the most recent incident and be very specific and descriptive. If possible, include dates and location details.

When giving your address or listing the schools that your children attend, you can request that the information be kept confidential to prevent any further danger. If you are staying at a shelter, do not give the physical address, on the P.O. Box number is necessary.

3. Sign the petition in front of the clerk; then it will go to a judge.

Your petition may need to be notarized, so be sure to check with the clerk before you sign the paperwork. The clerk will then forward the petition to a judge. The judge may want to ask you questions during the review. The judge will then decide whether or not to issue the emergency order. if granted, the emergency order is only valid until a full court hearing for a plenary order can take place. you will be given papers that state the date and time of the hearing for a plenary order.

4. The order of protection and notice of the hearing date must be served by the police or other law enforcement personnel.

After a judge has granted you the order of protection, allow time for the order to be officially served to the abuser. Do not try and serve the abuser with papers yourself. The abuser may only be charged with violating the order and arrested after s/he has been officially given notice that the order exists. There is no charge to have the authorities serve the order.

5. Attend the court hearing to maintain protection.

You MUST attend your scheduled hearing if you want to keep your order of protection. If you do not show up in court, your emergency or interim order will be canceled and you may have to start the process all over again. Be advised, if you miss your court hearing, it may be more difficult for you to be granted another oder of protection in the future.

Orders of protection in Illinois are only available for situations covered under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.  If you feel that you or a loved one is in danger, please contact the legal experts at Sherer Law Offices for a consultation.  We can advocate for you and help get you the protection you need.