by Lynda L. Hinkle, Esq.
Professionally, I frequently represent and/or advice domestic violence victims obtaining Temporary or Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey. Personally, I unfortunately have recently seen a spike in friends reaching out for help with assisting friends and loved ones through an increase in domestic violence in their homes. Perhaps they were not quite ready to leave, or were considering it before the global pandemic locked them in their homes with a controlling, abusive person and perhaps even their children as 24/7 witnesses or fellow victims.
We will never know the full toll that the pandemic has had on an increase in domestic violence, because much of it is and will remain unreported.
Now, more than ever, victims have fewer options. Going to a shelter in the midst of a health crisis, particularly with children, may seem as dangerous an option as remaining in the abusive home. Financially, things may have already been challenging and layoffs and other financial challenges with the pandemic could have made it much worse.
If you are going through this, I want you to know what I always tell victims who come in unsure whether they are ready to leave: Only you know your circumstances, and no one knows an abuser better than his or her victim. If you don’t think it’s a safe time to go, take this time to try to safely get as much information and garner as much resources as you can for when you are ready. If you do think it is time to go, there are still agencies and people out here willing to help. Make your plan. The courts are still hearing restraining orders in the regular course. If you need help deciding if you have enough for a final restraining order, who needing to know how to get the paperwork right for the temporary, please call my office for a free consult (856-227-7888) even if you don’t intend to hire an attorney. We will never turn away someone for a free half hour of advice on this issue.
If you have a friend or family member who is going through this, the best help you can give is to listen, to not judge, and to offer shelter and financial help if you are in a position to do so when they are ready to leave. If you are not in a position to do so, point them to resources. They may not be able to freely Google shelters or other information in the environment they are in, and if you can get information to them safely, or stock pile it for when they are ready, do so.
If you don’t think you know anyone going through this, check on the people you love. You may be wrong.
All of us can take a moment to make a donation or pledge of supplies or funds to local shelters and organizations that financially, emotionally and physically support victims trying to leave.
This is an unprecedented time. For men and women who are undergoing the horror of an unsafe home, and their children, it is a dangerous and terrifying time even more than for most of us.
Take care of each other.