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Experts say injunctions help domestic violence victims, but aren't a one-size-fits-all solution

Sheryl Laird got a domestic violence injunction against her ex-husband in 2005. That didn't stop him from killing her last October, putting her in the trunk, and setting the car ablaze on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Donna Wood sought injunctions against her husband, William, in 2002, 2005 and 2007. That didn't stop him from shooting and killing her on St. Petersburg's Snell Isle.

Laura Taft got a domestic violence injunction against her boyfriend earlier this month, after he became a suspect in the death of their baby in Clearwater. Now Craig Wall sits in the Pinellas County Jail, accused of murdering them both.

The piece of paper called an injunction does not stop bullets or knives. Should a victim bother getting one?

"Injunctions are valuable," said Susan Rozelle, a professor of criminal law at the Stetson University College of Law. But, she stressed, "They are only one piece of the puzzle. Injunctions are court orders — they are not police protection details."

A person who has been threatened can seek an injunction. If a judge grants a temporary or permanent injunction, the person who made the threats is not allowed to continue contacting the victim.

This can be key to breaking an abusive relationship. Wall, for example, was arrested when he drove to the parking lot of the church where his son's funeral was being held. It was considered a violation of an injunction that prevented him from having contact with Taft.

"Getting one can deter some people," Rozelle said.

But the Wall case highlights something else about injunctions in domestic violence cases.

"You may be at very high risk because you're now taking out a legal document," said Joanne O. Lighter, president and CEO of The Spring domestic violence center in Tampa. "It's an embarrassment to the abuser. The larger issue is that that abuser has lost control."

That's why Lighter and other experts say it's crucial to have a safety plan when taking out a domestic violence injunction.

For some, this means moving into a shelter. But others can take simple steps: make sure to have friends around; always have car keys handy; hang on to a cell phone.

For help, look in the phone book under "domestic," dial 211 (where available), or try a national number, 1-800-799-SAFE. In Pinellas, CASA can be reached at (727) 895-4912, and in Hillsborough, The Spring can be reached at (813) 247-7233.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Experts say injunctions help domestic violence victims, but aren't a one-size-fits-all solution 02/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 26, 2010 11:32pm]
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