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#Voices: A resource guide for victims of domestic violence.

By Elle Klein

Love doesn’t have to hurt. In fact, it shouldn’t (unless you count the stomach stitches from laughing so hard when you’re together or sore feet after dancing the night away). However, for a lot of women, this isn’t the case. 1 out of every 3 women has been victims of domestic violence in their lifetime, and in South Carolina, 1 in 4 women are affected by domestic violence. In 2017, S.C. was 5th in the nation for number of women killed by men. These women could be your best friends; your neighbors; the shoppers behind you in line at Publix; the servers at your favorite restaurants.

Domestic violence is willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior, including financial and emotional abuse, as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. For how to spot the red flags of an abusive relationship, see GVLtoday’s article here.

If you or someone you know is being subjected to abuse and wants to seek protection, there are options. In South Carolina, there are three major civil remedies available to someone seeking protection from abuse:

  1. orders of protection,
  2. restraining orders,
  3. and permanent restraining orders.

A civil remedy is different than a criminal remedy – the latter which involves law enforcement intervention, criminal charges, and the potential for a criminal conviction. With civil remedies, law enforcement invention isn’t necessary and a person can decide whether and when to seek protection.

So, how does someone get these remedies and protections?

Orders of Protection

What are they?

  • A court order issued by the Family Court for the purposes of protecting a household member from abuse. After filing a Petition for an Order of Protection, there is a hearing before a judge in the Family Court where the judge will determine if the person filing the petition, known as the “Petitioner” is eligible for relief against the other party, known as the “Respondent.”
  • Download a copy of a Petition for an Order of Protection here

Whom do they protect?

  • Current and former spouses, current and former co-habitants, and individuals with a child in common.
  • Keep in mind who they don’t protect: intimate partners *not* living together.

What must you show to receive this protection?

    • Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, threat of physical injury, or sexual criminal conduct
  • What *isn’t* enough to receive protection: emotional abuse or financial abuse.

What protections can they provide?

  • No abusing or threatening to abuse
  • No contact with the Petitioner
  • Stay away from the Petitioner
  • Temporary custody/visitation
  • Temporary child support
  • Temporary financial support
  • Respondent has to move out of the home
  • Assign possession of personal property
  • Law enforcement assistance in removing Petitioner’s property from residence
  • Costs & attorney’s fees
  • No harming pets

How long do they last?

  • 6 months to 1 year.

Restraining Orders

What are they?

  • An order from the Magistrate’s Court awarded to someone who has been subjected to stalking or harassment. After filing a motion for a Restraining Order, there is a hearing before a judge in the Magistrate’s Court who will determine if the person filing the motion, known as the “Plaintiff” is eligible for relief.
  • Download a copy of a Motion for a Restraining Order here

Whom do they protect?

  • Someone who has been stalked or harassed, by anyone.

What must you show?

Harassment: A pattern of intentional, substantial, and unreasonable intrusion into the private life of a targeted person and causes the person/would cause a reasonable person to suffer mental or emotional distress

  • This includes unwanted physical or visual contact; surveillance of/presence at the victim’s place of occupancy; vandalism or property theft; and repetitive verbal, written or electronic communication.

Stalking: a pattern of words or conduct that causes and would cause a reasonable person in their position to be fearful.

  • This includes a person in fear of: death, assault, bodily injury, criminal sexual conduct, and damage to personal property.

What protections can they provide?

  • No abusing, threatening to abuse, molesting Plaintiff or member’s of the Plaintiff’s family
  • No entering/attempting to enter the Plaintiff’s home, job, school, or other location
  • No contact with the Plaintiff

How long do they last?

  • 1 year.

Permanent Restraining Orders

What are they?

  • Orders awarded by a Circuit Court to provide long-term protection to someone who has been a victim of certain crimes. After filing a complaint for a Permanent Restraining Order, there is a hearing before a judge in the Circuit Court who will determine if the person filing the complaint, known as the “plaintiff” is eligible for relief.
  • Download a copy of a Complaint for a Permanent Restraining Order here

Whom do they protect?

  • A person who is a victim of a qualifying crime in South Carolina may seek a permanent restraining order against the person convicted of such crime.  
  • A person on behalf of a minor child who is a victim of a qualifying criminal offense that occurred in S.C.
  • A witness who assisted the prosecution of a qualifying criminal offense

What must you show?

  • Defendant (person whom the Plaintiff is filing against) was convicted of criminal domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or harassment.
  • That the Plaintiff suffered direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the criminal offense or attempted criminal offense

What protections can they provide?

  • No abusing, threatening to abuse, molesting Plaintiff or members of the Plaintiff’s family
  • No entering/attempting to enter the Plaintiff’s home, job, school, or other location
  • No contact with the Plaintiff or members of the Plaintiff’s family

Support resources

If you or someone you know in the Midlands needs support, here are a few organizations that can help:

    • Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands – (803) 771-7273
    • Sistercare – (803) 765-9428
    • South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault – (803) 771-7273
    • South Carolina Legal Services – (803) 799-9668
    • USC School of Law Domestic Violence Clinic (803) 777 – 2278

In a perfect world, these remedies wouldn’t be necessary because there would be no abuse. But with statistics like ours in S.C., it’s better to be armed with the knowledge to help those who might need it. The more you know, right?

Elle Klein is a third-year law student and student attorney with the Domestic Violence Clinic at the USC School of Law.

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