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Domestic violence continues to take a deadly toll in North Carolina

Earlier this year, Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a press release noting that 108 North Carolinians died in 2013 due to domestic violence. Since 14 fewer people lost their lives in 2013 due to domestic violence than the year before, the otherwise grim 2013 statistic was taken as somewhat of a hopeful sign. Cooper observed that domestic violence "remains a problem in communities across North Carolina." Fortunately, instances of domestic violence rarely result in death. However, even when it is not deadly, domestic violence is an epidemic in this nation that results in victims sustaining significant physical and psychological harm.

The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence says that domestic violence occurs when two people are in a relationship with each other and one of them begins to use a pattern of coercion and control against the other person. Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, emotional and even economic abuse. It can happen in any type of family relationship regardless of class, culture, religion or sexual orientation. Men, women and children can all be victims.

The Joyful Heart Foundation observes that those touched by domestic violence often experience increased anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. One in seven people who have experienced domestic violence sustains physical injuries. Victims of abuse often avoid speaking openly about their injuries due to feelings of shame or perhaps because they fear that speaking openly about the domestic violence will put them, or their loved ones, at even greater risk for abuse.

Protective orders

One of the primary tools for protecting against domestic abuse is what is known as a "50B order." A 50B Order is a domestic violence protective order signed by a judge that demands that the abuser either stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. A DPVO offers protection to men, women and children who are abuse victims.

Henderson v. Henderson, a case recently decided by the N.C. Court of Appeals, is illustrative of situations where a North Carolina court will grant a DPVO in order to protect victims of domestic abuse. In Henderson, a mother sought a DPVO against her former husband on behalf of two minor children with whom the parties shared custody. There was evidence presented to the trial court that the father sometimes physically struck the children. On other occasions, the father became loud and verbally abusive toward the children, especially when he was intoxicated.

The mother informed the court that her former husband's actions distressed the children emotionally causing them to express an interest in suicide. One of the children had nightmares and headaches on a regular basis. The trial court concluded that the facts warranted entering a DVPO for a period of one year which ordered the father to refrain from any unsupervised contact with the children during that period. After a review, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court was completely justified in issuing the protective order as a way to keep the children safe. Henderson shows that, upon proper facts, the North Carolina courts will not hesitate to protect victims of domestic abuse by issuing a DVPO.

Seeking legal assistance

Abuse should not be suffered in silence since it can rapidly spiral out of control with serious possible consequences. In too many instances, victims remain silent for too long. If you are confronted with domestic violence, you are advised to contact an attorney experienced in handling domestic violence cases. An attorney can seek a 50B protective order to keep you and your loved ones safe.