We like to highlight community agencies that are doing great work in our midst.  The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence is one of them.   They maintain a long list of 42 certified local agencies statewide;  they provide hotlines and a variety of outreach services all over the state.  You can become a member or get involved in support of their good work.  On their homepage, you can sign up for a free email newsletter, to stay abreast of the events and policies that they are involved in.

Domestic Violence is horrible in any degree.  What many victims do not realize is that they do not suffer alone.  The ripples spread and affect everyone.  There is a pattern to domestic violence that survivors and volunteers are experienced with, which enables them to respond quickly for your safety, and that of your family.  Pulling together since 1977, this coalition has created a powerful force for good in our community.   To put a stop to abuse like this requires direct, forceful action.  If you are a victim, you need their resources on your side, to put an end to it.

They address many aspects of this problem, from teen dating violence, to child welfare, immigration-related aspects, primary prevention, and many more.  They provide a number of free resources.

Llabona Law Group practices family law.  Family means home.  We are in support of strong, healthy homes and families for the brighter future of our Florida communities.

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Earlier this year, a sixteen-month-old girl spent her last few hours of life in her Tarpon Street family home after her father allegedly slammed her against a wall. The 23-year-old father swung the toddler ‘like a baseball bat’ and gravely injured her, allowing 16 hours to pass before seeking medical treatment at nearby Florida Hospital Kissimmee – less than a mile away.

The young girl was pronounced dead soon following her admittance to the emergency room. The father has since been jailed without bail on murder and aggravated-child-abuse charges. Sadly, the 16-month-old’s death marks a continued cycle of domestic violence and child abuse within this stretch of Kissimmee, a cycle that has extended upwards to two decades.

Child-welfare experts report that children exposed to repeat violence typically develop emotional problems. Many of these children ultimately grow up only to abuse their own children. In some cases, as evident from the Kissimmee case, these children never have an opportunity to mature whatsoever.

Within Orange County, reports show 5,108 incidents of family violence that were investigated from early 2013 through July 2014. These cases resulted in 257 removals of children from the family home, statistics provided by the state Department of Children and Families.

Carol Wick, director for Harbor House of Central Florida, reports that Orlando has one of the highest removal rates in the state of Florida. Independent shelters for domestic-violence victims like Harbor House suggest the cycle of abuse is exceedingly difficult to stop – it’s not uncommon to care for entire generations of a given family.

The dangerous cycle of violence has prompted Orlando shelters to band together to form Family Violence Threatens the Child, targeting at-risk families and additional communities. The group mainly advocates that domestic abuse is a learned behavior, attributing to child-abuse cases.

For the Family Violence Threatens the Child message to succeed, Wick and others wish to see a sharp decline in child-abuse – particularly those that end in fatalities.

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Domestic violence remains a serious issue in the United States and around the rest of the world as well.  Although laws have changed to increase penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence, millions of women and hundreds of thousands of men are assaulted by their partners every year.

Domestic violence takes many forms and includes physical, emotional, and mental abuse, stalking, threatening and kidnapping.  Any action by one household member or former partner against another that can result in injury or death could be considered an act of domestic violence.

Law enforcement agencies in this nation are seeing a rise in one type of physical domestic violence – strangulation.  Strangulation is being referred to as the ‘Silent Killer’ in domestic violence cases because little evidence is left behind.  According to one Arizona detective, strangulation happens quickly with victims being rendered unconscious in ten seconds.  A forensic nurse examiner said that medical professionals and law enforcement officials are undereducated and uninformed about the dangers of strangulation, and with little or no evidence of physical abuse left behind, a strangulation case is difficult to prove.   Tragically when a victim is repeatedly strangled, he or she is more likely to suffer other health issues, such as a stroke or a heart attack, in the future. 

One victim of repeated strangulations endured years of suffering in silence at the hands of her boyfriend until she finally found the courage to leave him.  She said when her boyfriend assaulted her he knew how to strangle her in such a manner to leave no visible marks on her neck. 

Attempted strangulation cases can leave victims close to death, but leave few, if any, external signs of injury needed to prove a felony assault charge.  It is also hard to prove an attempted murder charge in such a case because the suspect may say he was trying to frighten not kill his victim.

In the past decade, many states, Florida included, have enacted laws making attempted strangulation a felony crime.  Domestic violence advocates say these laws not only ensure offenders will receive tougher penalties, but also promote awareness of the crime of strangulation, a crime that often precedes homicide and is chronically under-prosecuted.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, do not wait to get help.  Contact an experienced Domestic Violence Attorney for advice or representation.

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Domestic violence affects one in four women in their lifetime.  It destroys families and threatens the well-being of spouses and children.  In the United States alone it is estimated that 145 women are domestically abused every hour.  To raise awareness of and end violence against women and girls, October has been designated as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”

Domestic violence takes many forms and includes physical abuse, emotional abuse and such actions as stalking and kidnapping.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994.   VAWA increased the penalties for crimes against women.  These crimes include domesticate violence, stalking and sexual assault.  VAWA also enhanced penalties for repeat sex offenders, and improved laws regarding protection orders, sex-offender registration and interstate domestic violence.

In 2000, key components were added to VAWA that improved law enforcement responses to domestic violence, enhanced education and training, and provided services for those domestic violence victims that faced barriers to accessing services.

This year, 2013, VAWA was reauthorized once again focusing on assisting LGBTQ, immigrant and Native American victims of domestic violence.

Since VAWA was enacted in 1994, domestic violence reporting has increased 51 percent, and the number of victims killed by intimate partners has decreased by 34 percent.

On September 17th, in his Proclamation on Domestic Violence, Florida Governor Rick Scott writes “domestic violence is a crime that threatens the safety and lives of thousands of Floridians every year.”

The Proclamation details domestic violence statistics in the state for last year: 108, 046 reported domestic violence incidents; 65,107 arrests; and tragically, 202 deaths as a result of domestic violence. 

The State of Florida has 42 certified domestic violence centers that provided emergency shelter to 15,577 survivors of domestic violence and their children, distributed over 86,000 safety plans and responded to 90,927 hotline calls in 2012.

Governor Scott ended his proclamation by encouraging  all Floridians to work collectively to promote healthy and peaceful relationships and prevent domestic violence.

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The first systematic study of available data on assaults of women by intimate partners around the world was released on Thursday.  The study reports that thirty percent of women aged fifteen years and older have suffered domestic violence at the hands of their partner.  In the study, the authors synthesized 141 previous studies from 81 countries, and published their findings in the Science Journal online.

The lead author of the study, Karen Devries from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, stated, “The prevalence is shockingly high … many forms of violence remain hidden from public view … as victims often do not disclose abuse to those people close to them.”

The rates of domestic abuse do vary widely by country, with the Sub-Saharan Central Africa region having the highest frequency of reported abuse, with nearly two-thirds of women victimized. 

One way to assist women who have been abused is to implement programs that allow survivors to become economically self-sufficient so they can live apart from their abusers. 

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) said the 1994 passing of the Violence Against Women Act ”helped shift the culture and the opportunities for women so they’re not dependent on an individual who may turn out to be violent.”  The act extended coverage to male victims, created tougher penalties for repeat sex offenders, and created a federal “rape shield law”, which protects a victim’s past sexual conduct from being used during a rape trial.

This cultural reform, however, has not reached to all corners of the globe.  Although 125 countries have now outlawed domestic violence, 70 countries have not made it illegal. 

Rita Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, stated there is “a whole other layer of violence that happens that isn’t physical – emotional, verbal, economic, stalking, threats with weapons” – and are ways used to control another human being.

Domestic violence destroys families and threatens the well-being of spouses/partners and children.  If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, immediately seek the advice of a competent, experienced domestic violence attorney.

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Since the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in September of 2011, the bill has been in limbo in the House.  Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over the wording of the bill, with each party objecting to each other’s version of the bill.

After a year of bickering, the House finally passed a reauthorization of VAWA.  The legislation passed the House by a vote of 286 to 138, with a majority of the GOP voting against the bill and all Democrats voting for the bill.

President Barack Obama called the reauthorization of the bill “an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear.”  He also stated, “Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community.”

The same version of this bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of the Senate last month. 

VAWA was first sponsored by Vice President Joe Biden in 1994 when he was a senator.  Vice President Biden spoke at a violence prevention event Thursday and thanked those who fought for the reauthorization of the bill.

The passage of VAWA is a major step forward for women’s human rights and the reauthorization of this act now expands protections for Native American women, immigrant women, and for the LGBT community.  This legislation restores tribal criminal jurisdiction over all persons committing violence against Native American women within Indian country, whereas before, tribal authorities had no jurisdiction to prosecute those non-Native abusers.  Another benefit of VAWA is now tribal courts can issue protective orders.

The act also ensures that LGBT victims of domestic violence will not face discrimination based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity and will be able to access life-saving support services.

The expansion of the Violence Against Women Act is a cause for celebration as VAWA has made a difference in the lives and safety of numerous women in the past, and now will have an even greater impact on women in the future.

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On Valentine’s Day, a new policy to protect domestic-violence victims began in both Orange and Osceola counties.  The policy mandates the use of GPS tracking devices in high risk domestic violence cases. The policy only mandates the wearing of a GPS device in those domestic violence cases in which a permanent injunction has been issued.

Orange-Osceola Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., stated, “Those (victims) need to get some warning so they’re not just sitting ducks.”  Judge Perry sought legislative funding for the GPS equipment last year and said that he “knew of no other jurisdiction in the country that has employed the tactic” on domestic violence abusers.

Judge Perry added that after researching domestic abuse cases and talking with experts, they found that  in ten percent of the cases the abuser, despite an injunction being issued, will commit extreme acts of violence upon a victim, acts that at times result in the death of the victim.

The Orange County Domestic Violence Commission and other domestic violence advocates feel the policy is a huge step in the right direction for domestic violence victims.  In Orange County alone, twelve domestic violence murders have been committed since September.

According to Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House, last year saw a 41 percent increase in the number of adult victims and a 36 percent increase in the number of children seeking shelter at the facility.  Wick also stated  92 percent of those individuals arrested for domestic violence receive no consequences for their actions and  Orange County alone spends $24 million a year to arrest domestic violence perpetrators just to turn around and let them go.

The new policy will require the offender to wear an ankle GPS unit which is monitored by an outside company.  When the abuser enters the restricted zone around the domestic violence victim, the victim will immediately be called, the local police or sheriff’s office will be contacted, and finally the wearers of the device will be called to give them the chance to retreat from the restricted area in case they mistakenly entered the area.

The pilot program will run through June and will cost the state $316,000.  Lawmakers will then decide whether or not to keep funding the program.

Original story can be found here.

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A Winter Springs man is behind bars for allegedly attempting to strangle his girlfriend, and for also pointing a loaded gun at her head and threatening to kill her.

Winter Springs police arrested Dean Erlandson, a Seminole County firefighter, for domestic violence after he was accused of beating his girlfriend.

According to the police report, Erlandson told police he and his girlfriend had a verbal fight over text messages sent to his girlfriend’s phone by a former boyfriend.

The woman’s story, however, differed drastically from that of the suspect’s.  According to police, Erlandson held her down by her neck, pointed a loaded gun at her and said they were both going to die.

Erlandson has had run-ins with the law in the past.  Just this summer in Orlando, he was arrested by police after he was accused of beating a man in a parking garage. 

The suspect  is being held in Seminole County Jail without bond, and has his first court appearance  scheduled for Monday.

In Florida in 2010, 113,378 crimes of domestic violence were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies resulting in 67,810 arrests. Although this number seems high, in reality the number of domestic violence crimes is higher as there are those survivors of domestic violence that do not report their abusers to law enforcement officials.

Domestic violence comes in many forms and is a growing problem in this country.  If you are a victim of or believe your partner may commit an act of domestic violence against you or your children, immediately contact an experienced Florida domestic violence attorney.

It is also very important to contact an experienced attorney if you have been accused of domestic violence and are innocent of the charges.  The consequences of a domestic violence conviction can be quite steep, and could include mandatory jail time, permanent criminal record, forfeiture of your right to own a firearm, and mandatory counseling. Protect yourself by seeking the advice of a experienced, competent domestic violence lawyer.

 

Read the original story here.

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A lease on a residence, whether it be an apartment, townhouse or a single family home, is a binding contract between two parties, with both parties being  obligated to honor the terms of the agreement.  Even though it is a binding contract, there are certain state and federal laws that do allow tenants to break leases in some situations.  One situation or circumstance in which a tenant can terminate a lease is when they are the victim of domestic violence.

Some states, but not all, have laws that allow victims of domestic violence to terminate their residential lease.

One state which allows a tenant who is the victim of domestic violence to terminate the lease is the state of Washington.  To legally terminate the lease, the victim must meet two requirements.  The tenant must first notify the landlord in writing that she was a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, or stalking.  Then the tenant must also have a valid order for protection or has reported the domestic violence to a qualified third party, who must provide the tenant a signed record of the incident.  The tenant then needs to provide the landlord with either a copy of the order of protection or the report signed by the qualified third party.  The tenant may then terminate the lease and leave the premises without further obligation under the lease agreement.  Although the lease termination law does vary from state to state, the process is similar in most states, though there are those states which require the tenant to be current on their rent and to pay the following month’s rent to be legally released from the lease.

Currently under Florida law, there is no legal basis for a victim of domestic violence to break a lease.  However, due to the volatile nature of the situation, it may be wise for a landlord to release the tenant from the lease.  Even though the tenant may have an order of protection against the perpetrator, this doesn’t ensure the perpetrator will honor the injunction and will stay away from the premises.  He may return to the premise, commit an act of violence upon the victim, who may then hold the landlord accountable for injuries received during the assault.  In Florida, termination of leases on the basis of domestic violence are taken case by case.  It is up to the judge’s discretion, not the law, whether or not the victim will be able to break the lease agreement.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and is celebrated with programs and activities at the local, state and national levels.  The first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in October 1987, and that same year the first national toll-free hotline was started as well. 

In the United States, every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten, and globally, at least one in every three women have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.  More women are injured by domestic violence than by car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.    Research has suggested that approximately ten million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.  Unfortunately, many men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence, were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.

In Florida, there are many programs to promote domestic violence awareness and one program is the “Purple Purse” campaign.  Allstate  Foundation and the YWCA USA have joined together for this program.  This campaign gives hundreds of purses carrying information concerning domestic violence to not only Allstate and YWCA employees, but to  government officials, celebrities, media and domestic violence leaders to distribute to friends and family.  Every time a purple purse is passed and registered on PurplePurse.com, the Allstate Foundation will donate $10 back to the local YWCA.  The YWCA provides shelter to over half a million battered women each year, and has 1,300 locations across our nation.

You can also virtually pass a purple purse by visiting the Purple Purse campaign on Facebook and then pass a  purse with an inspirational message to friends and family.  For every virtual inspirational purse you pass, Allstate will donate $10 to the YWCA.

To learn more about activities and programs promoting domestic violence awareness in your community,  contact the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the YWCA or the Allstate Foundation.

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