How do we support our abused friend and her daughter?
September 15, 2008 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Last night, a close friend of ours was the victim of a domestic dispute. Her live-in boyfriend became convinced of infidelity in the relationship (a relationship that was headed to the dumps anyway), came back to their apartment, violently pulled her off of the couch screamed at her and repeatedly punched her in the stomach. Police were called, no charges filed (Red flags here). Now she and the daughter are staying with us, but are afraid to return home. Where do we go from here?

Lets call the adult female friend Lisa, the daughter Molly and the boyfriend Joe. Joe recently moved to this city to start a relationship with Lisa about three months ago. Molly is Lisa's daughter, but not Joe's. Before Joe arrived, Lisa and Molly shared the apartment with Lisa's adult male friend, Ken. Ken and Lisa are the leaseholders and only rent payers. This is taking place in Atlanta, GA.

I was not a witness to any of this, we just picked up Lisa and Molly late last night and brought them here to be safe. Lisa called the police after Joe became violent last night (they had a history of vicious arguments but no physical violence). Because Lisa defended herself and left scratch marks on Joe, but no evidence (bruises, etc) were yet visible on her, the police told her that if she pressed charges, they would be forced to arrest her as well. Joe refuses to leave the apartment and the police told Lisa that because he has been allowed to stay in the apartment for more than a week, he has legal rights as a resident and can only be removed through a lawful eviction process. From the bit of research I have been able to do, this appears to require a 30-day notice in the state of Georgia. However, it seems to me that domestic abuse law should take precedence over tenant's rights.

This website: seems to suggest a Temporary Protective Order, and that seems like a way to go. Where does Lisa go from here? How can we be of the best assistance to her? I understand that you are not my lawyer, doctor, etc. etc.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Try the Women's Resource Center to End Domestic Violence in Decatur.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:43 AM on September 15, 2008

I'd suggest getting her in touch with a family law-type lawyer and helping her find a place to stay if she can't stay with you. And maybe get her in touch with a domestic violence support agency for some strategies and counseling.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 11:46 AM on September 15, 2008

Here's a good list of domestic violence resources for the state of Georgia, broken down by counties (scroll down, bottom of the page). A protection order is a good idea but I'm not sure how it would work with their sharing a primary residence, though this information should be easy to get from a local DV agency. She also needs to know that protection order violations go both ways. If she gets a protection order, subsequently violates it and then draws law enforcement into the picture again there can be consequences like contempt of court. If she cannot return to her home and fears that he can track her down and harm her, that's the point at which she wants to enter the domestic violence shelter system. DV shelters are often black sites with no public address listings; some agencies go so far as to ship women and their children out of state if the risk is bad enough.
posted by The Straightener at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2008

Oh, and before following any recommendation to retain a lawyer for getting a protection order she should know that it's relatively easy to do so without one, and that there are advocates who will give her assistance with the process if she needs it. Atlanta Victim Assistance has such advocate services. In Philly getting a protection order is as easy as going to the family court branch of municipal court; there's literally a window set aside specifically for this where you just walk up and say, "I want to file for a protection order" and the rest of the procedure will be explained to you.
posted by The Straightener at 12:08 PM on September 15, 2008

1. Get a TPO (and a CPO, a longer-term TPO), and ask that he be ordered to stay away from the apartment (this should trump any tenant's rights that he has)

2. Go to the doctor, and get any injuries (visible or not) documented.

3. Get a lawyer. She should be able to get free legal help from one of the groups mentioned above.
posted by god hates math at 12:45 PM on September 15, 2008

Are you physically able to protect her if he should come to your house looking for her? Does Joe know she's there? Can the kid stay with a family member, preferably in another state?
posted by desjardins at 12:51 PM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

All the metro counties , Fulton , Dekalb, Gwinnett , have family law departments that can help.
The assault could be enough to arrest the guy on a warrant.
Usually , the TPO for family violence is a 6 or 12 month order. And Temp. order can be granted ex-parte on just her sworn testimony pending a hearing , which will require more proof.
posted by Agamenticus at 1:54 PM on September 15, 2008

2. Go to the doctor, and get any injuries (visible or not) documented.

This. Emergency room is better--they are (sadly) much more conversant with the level of documentation that court proceedings require.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:06 PM on September 15, 2008

Some things that are useful:

- Be available to her, and let her know that you're there for her (even though you've already shown that, re-iterate it). Be supportive without being judgmental, and focus on her strength and courage.

- Help her create a safety plan for herself and her daughter. Some examples from the National coalition, the ABA, and a printable one to fill out by hand (highly encouraged) from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Creating a safety plan outside of the crisis is one of the most important things that a victim can do to stay safe.

- Depending on the laws in ATL, there might be ways to get a faster eviction in cases of domestic violence. The Atlanta Victim Assistance program mentioned above looks like they might deal with this sort of thing.

- Don't tell her what to do, but help her sort out what she wants. For instance, don't assume that a protection order (or whatever it's called in GA) is the right way to go. Sometimes such orders make the situation worse. She needs to be able to assess the situation and what's involved, and decide whether it makes sense, is safe, etc. As several people pointed out, there are groups that can help her decide what makes the most sense.

- Allow her to use your computer to find resources and information, if she hasn't been able to use the computer at her place. There are some good national resources, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, the previously mentioned National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Your friend is lucky to have you in her life.
posted by Gorgik at 5:18 PM on September 15, 2008

In Georgia the police are required by law to investigate and write a report on any allegation of domestic violence. As Joe and Lisa live together this would meet the criteria for domestic violence under Georgia law. When police respond they must determine who is the primary aggressor. This generally means the person who escalated the situation to violence or some other crime such as false imprisonment or simple assault. It can be hard to determine who the primary aggressor is unless there is another witness (maybe Ken or Lisa) or the injuries or scene supports one side of the story more than the other. If the verbal argument led to Joe pulling her from the couch and punching her then he would be be the primary aggessor even if she scratched him in defense and left visible marks. If during the verbal part of the arguement she scratched him to make him back up and then he pulled her from the couch and punched her things get murkier but I might still call him the primary if she could articulate that his demeanor made her fear for her safety. If the primary aggessor can be determined at the scene then Georgia law requires an arrest be made.
IN any case a report should have been written which will then be turned over to detectives.
She always has the option of taking that report and seeking an arrest warrant on her own.
posted by prjo at 5:55 AM on September 16, 2008

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