|Q: What is criminal domestic violence?|
Criminal domestic violence is defined in South
Carolina as "causing physical harm or injury to a person's
own household member, or offering or attempting to cause physical
harm or injury to a person's own household member with apparent
present ability under circumstances reasonably creating fear
or imminent peril." (Keep in mind that although some abuse
may not fit the definition for a crime in South Carolina, it
is real and you should seek appropriate help.) Additionally,
there is the crime of criminal domestic violence of a high
and aggravated nature which carries enhanced penalites for
cases with more severe injury. Click
visit the South Carolina General Assembly's homepage to read
the complete text.
Q: Who is a "household member"?
A household member can mean a spouse, former spouse,
parent, child, person related by consanguinity or affinity within
the second degree, a person who had a child with you, or a person
of the opposite sex who lives with you or lived with you.
Q: Who is the typical domestic violence victim?
There is no typical victim. The majority of victims are
women, but they differ widely in backgrounds. Domestic violence
affects all kinds of victims regardless of things such as
economic status, race, religion, education, or age. Unfortunately,
it is happening in all kinds of families in South Carolina, and
at an alarming rate. In 1996 the South Carolina Department of
Social Services reported that 3,660 victims were sheltered, and
shelters handled 14,892 crisis calls. If you are a victim, YOU
ARE NOT ALONE!
Q: What do I need to do to prepare to leave?
You may want to speak with someone at your local domestic
violence program to discuss the safety plan that is best for
you, but some of the things you can do to try to leave safely
Practice how to get out of your home safely if you are involved in an explosive incident. Identify which doors, windows, elevator, or stairwell would be best.
Identify one or more neighbors you can tell about the violence and ask that they call the police if they hear a disturbance.
If possible, open a bank account and/or credit card in your own name, and think of other ways to increase your financial independence.
Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, extra medicined, and some clothes with someone you trust in case you must leave quickly.
Identify people who might be able to let you stay with them, or lend you some money. You should try not to stay with an unrelated adult of the opposite sex because this could later appear to be adultry if you go to Family Court.
Keep the shelter or hotline phone number close at hand and keep some change or a calling card on you for emergency phone calls.
If it is possible to do so safely, take your children with you, even if you are going to a shelter. This may affect your child custody case.
Use your own instincts and judgement. Remember that nothing is more important than keeping yourself and your children safe.
Q: What kinds of things do I need to take with me?
The following checklist, as well as the above safety tops
are provided by the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic
Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA). For a free copy of their
informative pamphlet "Personal Safety Plan," please
call them at (803) 256-2900.
Identification documents such as your driver's license, your and your children's birth certificates, social security cards, and public assistance paperwork.
Financial documents such as bankbooks, checkbooks, copies of tax returns, and proof of your spouse's income if applicable. You should also bring any available money and/or credit cards.
Legal documents such as court orders, lease, deed, car registration and insurance papers, medical record, school records, work permits, green cards or visas, and passports.
Other practical items such as house and car keys, medicaiton, small items that can be sold if necessary, jewelry, address book, phone card, photos and videos, some small children's toys, toiletries and diapers, changes of clothes.
Q: What can I do to be safer after I leave?
If you stay in your home, change the locks and consider additional safety devices.
Discuss a safety plan with the children for when you are not with them.
Inform you children's school or caregiver about who has permission to pick up your children.
Inform neighbors and your landlord that your abuser no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see him on the premises.
Devise a safety plan for at work which includes who you will tell about your situation, and who will provide for your physical safety on the job. When you leave work, have someone escort you to your transportation and try to use a variety of routes to go home.
Get an Order of Protection from Domestic Abuse.
Q: What is an Order of Protection?
Under South Carolina's "Protection from Domestic
Abuse Act," the Family Court may issue an order which restrains
your abuser from bothering you and provides other temporary relief
such as child custody, child support, spousal support, use of
the home, possession of personal property, costs and attorney's
fees, and any other appropriate relief. Click
visit the South Carolina General Assembly's homepage to read
the complete text of the "Protection from Domestic Abuse
Act in Title 20, Chapter 4 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.
Q: Who is eligible to get an Order of Protection?
Any household member (see definition above) who has been
physically harmed or threatened with physical harm, including
bodily injury, assault, or sexual criminal offenses.
Q: Do I need a lawyer to get an Order of Protection?
No. Some domestic violence programs have advocates available
to assist you in obtaining an order, but you don't need to have
anyone represent you. Simply go to the Family Court Clerk's office
and ask to fill out and file a "Petition for Protection
from Domestic Abuse" form. You should go to the Clerk's
office in the county in which your abuser lives, or where you
live if your abuser is a nonresident or can't be found, or where
you last lived together unless you are a nonresident, in which
case you must file in your abuser's county of residence. There
is no filing fee and the Clerk's office will arrange for serving
your abuser and scheduling a hearing. At the hearing, both you
and your abuser will be allowed to address the court. Try to
have as much evidence as possible of your abuse, and your fitness
as a parent if you have chilren. You can bring witnesses, affidavits,
photographs of your injuries, financial information about you
and your spouse if you are married to your abuser, and medical
and police report. If you have children, be prepared to answer
questions about how you can provide a stable enviornment for
them. This can include asking to be allowed to move back home
and have the abuser leave if appropriate. Based on the evidence
presented, the judge will issue an Order.
Q: How long is an Order of Protection valid?
The portion of the order often referred to as the "restraining
order" is valid until the date ordered by the judge. Under
a new law in South Carolina, the judge cannot issue the order
for less than six months nor more than one year. Other provisions
in the order, such as custody, must be enforced until the court
issues a further order regarding those issues either pursuant
to the pending case or a separate actio for divorce or deparate
support and maintenance. It is possible to receive permanent
protection in other proceedings such as a divorce, but not through
the Order of Protection from Domestic Abuse.
Q: How do I enforce the order?
Your local law enforcement must enforce the order if it
is valid. It is a crime for your abuser to violate the order.
Try to keep a copy of your order handy at all times and give
an extra to someone you trust. while it is not required, you
may provide a copy to your local law enforcement agency and they
will enter your information on the National Crime Information
Computer for access by qualified law enforcement officers only.
That way, if you are ever without a copy of your order, the information
will be automaticaaly available ofr enforcement.
Q: If I got a protective order in another state can it be enforced here or do I need to have a South Carolina order?
Under both federal and state law, your order of protection
must be given full and credit in South Carolina as long as it
appears valid on its face. It can be enforced without any kind
of registration or certification in South Carolina; however,
you may want to provide local law enforcement with a copy for
their records. The terms of your order will be enforced even
if the relief you were given would not be available under South
Q: What resources are available?