April marks Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Throughout the year many people work with law enforcement agencies and District Attorney’s Offices across the United States to file sexual assault charges or domestic violence charges so their safety is restored and justice is served.
This month aims to increase everyone’s awareness about domestic violence and how, as a community, we can support victims and survivors.
If you’re interested in getting or giving help, these four ways can get you started:
1. File Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence Charges
If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, you can ask a prosecutor to file charges against your abuser. Under North Carolina state law, domestic violence includes:
- Physical harm
- Attempts to cause physical harm
- Harassment causing emotional distress
- Sexual violence
Filing sexual assault or domestic violence charges presents myriad emotions for a person, from guilt to fear, hopelessness to shame. If you’re the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, those feelings are understandable. You, however, deserve to be safe.
It’s better to file these charges sooner rather than later. For some, waiting to file sexual assault or domestic violence charges and get protection puts their lives at risk: In 2013 alone, more than 100 people died in domestic-violence-related homicides in North Carolina. Wake and Moore counties had some of the highest rates of domestic-violence-related deaths in the state. Statewide, nearly 43 percent of those victims were male, and the remaining were female.
If you need assistance filing sexual assault or domestic violence charges, you can find online resources to help you understand what steps you need to take. You can also contact an experienced attorney. An attorney can lead you through your rights, explain how to file documentation and evidence, and be an advocate for you and your right to safety.
2. Get Emergency Protection
Getting a protection order in North Carolina is classified under two laws:
50B – Domestic Violence
Under this chapter, you have the option to file a motion for emergency relief. Motions for emergency protection can be filed against someone you’re in a personal relationship with or were previously involved with in some manner. Examples of this include:
- A current or former spouse
- A partner of the opposite sex you live with or have lived with
- Someone related to you as your parent or child
- A current or former household member
- Someone with whom you share a child
You may be able to get emergency protection if you believe a danger of serious and immediate injury to yourself or a minor child is present. If you are not eligible for a 50B protective order because of your lack of relationship to the perpetrator, you may be eligible for a 50C order.
50C – Civil No-Contact Orders
Civil No-Contact Orders can be initiated by filing a verified complaint or filing a motion in any existing legal action. Usually, the summons must be issued to and served on the person who is being accused. If danger is immediate or present, however, you may file for a temporary order before any judge or magistrate for emergency protection, much like a 50B. If the judge or magistrate finds an immediate and present danger is possible, he or she may issue a temporary civil no-contact order.
You do not have to pay any money to file these orders. If you need to relocate for your safety, the abuser will not have access to your address; only the court will so a representative can contact you if needed. For your safety, you may want to consider managing your social media privacy settings or avoiding social media altogether so your abuser does not discover your location.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, the law is here to help you get safe and stay safe.
3. Seek Counseling
Sexual assault and domestic violence affect everyone differently. Whether you’re a woman or a man, and whether the assault occurred once or many times, you will likely experience complicated emotions. You may experience changes to your physical and mental health such as:
- Stress – Chronic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder following the event can lead to severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
- Dissociation – After a traumatic event, a person may appear not present in everyday conversations or events, often referred to as being “checked out.”
- Depression – A traumatic event can lead to depression. Signs of depression include unexplained crying, significant weight loss or gain, loss of energy and feelings of hopelessness.
- Physical injuries – A victim of domestic violence or physical abuse often has bruises on the wrists and arms, black eyes or bruises on the neck.
- Physical effects – A traumatic event can have physical effects such as chronic fatigue, involuntary shaking and shortness of breath.
Seeking individual or group counseling can help you manage some of these resounding effects so you can continue your life. You can find support groups in North Carolina here.
4. Volunteer at or Go to a Support Center or Event
Prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence is everyone’s responsibility. As a survivor or volunteer, you can visit a support center or work with other advocates in the community to organize an event. April is Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with a variety of opportunities to help increase awareness in your community. Because domestic violence and sexual assault are a problem throughout the year, awareness and prevention events are also hosted throughout the year.
You can volunteer or organize an event even if it’s not the official month for awareness. We can all stand up and be advocates for victims and survivors of abuse. An event could include:
- A raffle fundraiser for a local shelter.
- A panel discussion with experts or survivors who can explain the signs of domestic violence or sexual assault and what to do if you see them.
- A collection of items needed for your local abuse shelter. Items can vary from toilet paper and canned food, to clothing like socks and sweatpants.
The team at Wilson, Reives & Silverman is here to guide, advise and advocate for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. If you’re a victim and need legal assistance, contact us for a consultation.