Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Court takes stand against domestic abuse

Published Dec. 26, 2012

For all the awareness of the danger Americans face from random violence, for many victims — young and old — the bigger threat is in their home. But the insidious nature of domestic violence makes it far harder to address. Now a low-cost court program being initiated in Pinellas County offers some hope for victims by better holding abusers to account.

It's been clear for decades that the courts are ill-equipped to deal with a crime that for many centuries wasn't recognized at all. Even as domestic violence crosses all social and economic boundaries, it is rarely a discrete, isolated act that can be simply addressed. In Pinellas County, only half of the roughly 3,500 people who seek emergency injunctions against their alleged abuser in a given year prevail in eventually securing a permanent one. And even for those who do, the court's ability to ensure the abuser meets the terms of that injunction is nearly nonexistent short of the victim reporting a breach — which could be another violent act.

That reality has all kinds of ramifications, from victims who walk away from seeking a permanent injunction because they fear it will only make their abuser angrier and spur a new attack, to providing no legal incentive for an abuser to actually take part in the counseling or drug treatment program that could change a family's trajectory.

Now with the help of a nearly $300,000 federal grant, the 6th Judicial Circuit starting next month will attempt a new strategy in Pinellas County. A new civil domestic violence court opens with a docket limited to allegations of abuse by a spouse, family member or intimate partner. The most significant change: Now when a judge hands down a permanent injunction, the abuser will have to return to the judge and prove compliance with the restraining order and any additional conditions — such as attending anger management sessions or substance abuse treatment. Two case managers, one fulltime and one parttime, will monitor the cases.

As part of the grant, the Pinellas County Commission has entered into a contract with CASA, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit, to place victim's advocates in the Pinellas Clerk of Court office to assist victims seeking protection orders through the process.

Courts can't solve domestic violence on their own. It's a problem far too complex for that. But at least starting next month, Pinellas victims who go to court to seek protection won't feel like they're the only ones keeping tabs on their abuser.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A house for rent in St. Petersburg.  [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times] SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN  |  Susan Taylor Martin
    The City Council has afforded renters more protections from discrimination and unjustified late fees.
  2. Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Here’s what readers had to say in Thursday’s letters to the editor.
  3. Leonard Pitts undefined
    No controversy ever ends quietly on social media, writes Leonard Pitts.
  4. In this Oct. 11, 2018, photo, rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach. GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    While it is too late to stop global warming, we can prevent it from getting worse, two scientists write.
  5. Florida's toll roads
    Here’s what readers had to say in Wednesday’s letters to the editor.
  6. President Donald Trump talks to the media before leaving the White House, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    President Donald Trump’s conduct is the issue as House begins public phase of impeachment inquiry.
  7. Pasco County community news TMCCARTY80  |  Tara McCarty
    Pasco County letters to to the editor
  8. Two people use a pedestrian crosswalk on Fowler Avenue at 22nd Street in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
  9. Hernando County community news Tara McCarty
  10. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives at the Capitol to review transcripts of his earlier testimony in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, in Washington, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The president’s personal pick as ambassador to the European Union all of a sudden could recall conversations that he’d previously claimed didn’t happen, writes columnist Carl Hiaasen.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement