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Sunday, December 4, 2022
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Opinion: Domestic Abuse Court Cases

Opinion

Silhouettes of arguing people | Image by Africa Studio

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In 2017 our dog was horrifically abused, and then euthanized by our abuser. While I would like to make this about how the State of Texas did nothing to help regarding this I am going to talk about domestic abuse in the United States of America, because the animal rights article is next. What happened to our dog was the beginning of something that nobody would imagine unless they read about this.

Now make no mistake in knowing that a person who is capable of abusing innocent animals are capable of so much more, because what has followed is years of his continuous abuse of two people. There is a definite link between domestic abuse and animal abuse.

After the abuse, and the death of our sweet dog what followed has been the worst years of our lives. Yes years, because it’s reaching the five year mark. Think about this. Years. We victims not only endure abuse at the hands of other people, but the majority of us can’t get resolution not only because our abusers don’t stop, but because the very people who should be helping us won’t. We went to the police to report being held against our will, threats of physical violence, stalking, theft of money, theft of property, property damage, and much more. When I say, “We,” I am talking about two people. I am speaking about our child. Yes children are victims too. What happened was no proper police reports were ever written, video disappeared, and their chief called it a verbal disagreement. Yes he verbally abused two people, but I know that I am not mistaken that it is against the law to hold anyone against their will, to steal money, to steal property, to incessantly stalk them, and to threaten them with physical violence. What this tells me, and should anyone else who is reading this is that this particular police department is in serious trouble, especially if their chief thinks this way.

No child should ever be required to be anywhere near their abuser. Just one more thing that too many judges fail to understand. When you are talking about domestic violence all fairness towards the abuser should go out the window. If this abuser is willing to harm the child’s parent then of course they will harm the child. Think about it. What would be a way to get at their partner if they no longer have contact with them? When it comes to domestic abuse Family Court judges need to understand this. If you harmed the mom then you must only have supervised visits with your child. If that. End of story. Protect the children. Protect the victims. All too often we have heard about abusers harming, and even worse killing their own children. This must end, and the judges have the power to do this. There is this, and there is also Keira.

Keira’s mom has fought tirelessly to keep children away from an abusive parent.

The majority of us are witnessing the sensationalism of the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. While I haven’t been able to watch this, because it’s too triggering to me, and as it would be for the majority of abuse victims I am forced to see it on television, on social media pages, and in articles everywhere. I’m not only saddened, but I am deeply disturbed by the jokes and the laughter about a situation that involves domestic abuse. Abuse of any kind is nothing to make light of. Besides this if you go on her Twitter page where there’s a clip of their conversation this is not making people at all happy about what took place. So far she hasn’t addressed this, but then apparently it just happened. We also see their situation being videotaped, and we ask why can’t ours, because until there are cameras in the courtrooms we’re never going to see justice, especially in Family Court. We must be able to hold all judges accountable if they fail to act appropriately when abuse has taken place. Since there’s no law yet that requires all judges to document, and appropriately act on domestic violence it’s ignored far too often. This must end, and one way to hold the judges accountable is for cameras, videotaping to be mandatory in all courtrooms. You are allowed to videotape in regular courtrooms as you see with JD vs AH, but you need special permission to record in a federal courtroom, so putting cameras in all courtrooms should clearly not be an issue should it? We must also obviously hold the abusers accountable as well.

After I filed a complaint with Internal Affairs at the police station where we reported our abuser. I asked why IA was not investigating. Why was there no police reports written, and then I learned about what their chief told me that it was only a verbal disagreement, he had told this to IA as well. What I do not understand is why is a chief interfering with an IA investigation, because he shouldn’t be. He should certainly know that holding two people against their will is not a verbal disagreement, and so should the detective in IA. To this very day I still do not have any proper answers from this police department. No proper reports written, and I was told that there’s no videotape footage of our conversation with the officer. Why not? Why wouldn’t he videotape the conversation that he had with both of us on the day that we were forced to flee from our abuser? What I received was a call sheet, but what happened wasn’t a call, because we both spoke to the officer in person. This obviously makes me wonder, as it should anyone who is reading this just how many other abuse victims have had this same thing happen to them? Anytime abuse happens a report should be written. Abuse is not trivial. This is extremely important, and it must be treated as such.

What followed was us going to a domestic violence shelter for our safety, but also because the judge would not order our abuser to put back the money he took from a joint account, several other accounts, and from the college funds that he stole from. He was also hiding money, because he locked several other accounts as well. The judge knew about everything that our abuser was doing. The Family Court judge did nothing to help us. This left us homeless which the judge was fully aware of as well. You know who wasn’t homeless? Our abuser. I went to court with a Legal Aid attorney, and our abuser had a well known high paid divorce attorney. Another sign the judge chose to ignored. Financial abuse is domestic abuse. It’s called coercive control.

In the process of trying to get as much help as we possibly could I spoke to the DA, and asked for a protective order. She said that she couldn’t give me one, and her explanation was that it was because I made the decision to go to a domestic violence shelter. Of course I did. I was trying to keep us as far away as possible from our abuser. That does not mean that we are safe. What I said next was, “So are you actually saying that I, or my child have to wait to be physically harmed before you’ll give me a protective order?” She so much as said yes, and refuses to give a PO. Now let this sink in. Domestic abuse victims should apparently get a protective order before going to a domestic violence shelter. Beyond ridiculous! Why a protective order, and not a restraining order? Protective orders are meant for domestic abuse situations.

Domestic abuse happens every 9 seconds. 1/3 of all homeless people are victims of abuse. Abuse happens to men too, and often when it does they are the ones who are leaving with their children. At the DV shelters we stayed at we met some men and their children. They did not stay at the same facility as us, but would come there to do their laundry. All of these things people can research on highly credible domestic violence sources, so why is it that Family Court judges don’t understand these things? Why won’t they do what is right and actually help the victims of abuse? Domestic abuse is not only physical or sexual abuse. Domestic abuse is verbal, mental/emotional, and it’s financial abuse, coercive control. Many people think that if they don’t see a mark on you then you really weren’t abused. Just as I was told by the chief at the police station. Think about this. A chief not fully understanding domestic violence, because his team listens to what he says, and this is yet another reason why anyone who is in a position to help abuse victims must be properly trained by highly trained professionals who work closely with victims of abuse.

Even after our abuser said many expletives about the judge, and his orders, and about me, and even threatened to disappear once the he was released from prison guess what the judge did? That’s right…. the judge did nothing yet again. This was all on a voice message, but the judge still refused to acknowledge his constant abuse. Was he just a bad judge? Well definitely. Then with the next judge it is more of the same things, and what about the other people who should be helping, the dispatchers, the police, the chief, the DA, etc.? You cannot just chalk this up to bad Family Court judges. This is a systematic problem in the United States of America.

Now let’s talk about housing for the homeless. If you are familiar with John Oliver then you know that he talks about North Texas when he was discussing homelessness in America. This particular city, like so many others does not have adequate housing, but they should, they could, because just like a neighboring city they built new housing for their homeless. Regardless of what others think not all homeless people are bad, because just like I said a large population of homeless people are domestic abuse victims. My child and I have waited four and a half years to get into housing, and we see no hope of getting in anytime soon. This is only two of the many waitlists that I tried to sign up for that I actually got on. I know that we are not the only people who are suffering from this. Why isn’t HUD addressing this, especially since they announced that they are getting more funding to help with homelessness?

For anyone who has ever stayed in a domestic violence shelter you can understand what I am saying when I say that things are chaos personified. We watched Netflix’s “Maid,” and both said, “Where is there a shelter like that?” Because obviously that was not even close to what we both experienced. There was no caring staff members, no true support after you transition. Do you want to know who provided them with information about transitioning? It was me who did all of the research that they should have been providing to the abuse victims who were in their care.

The domestic violence shelter that we stayed at is the last place that anyone would want their child. While we are without a doubt grateful for the help nobody should be made to feel like they’re in a detention facility. The people who were there with us were doing drugs, drinking, violent, and wouldn’t follow the rules. It was in your room before 10:00, lights out, no excuses. I do not know anyone who would want their children around people who are violent and doing drugs. We even had an incident where one of the moms threatened to physically hit a shelter employee who was pregnant at the time. While they stood there listening to her yelling I was the person who said, “Aren’t you going to call the police?” I would hope that not all domestic violence shelters are like this one, because it was obviously extremely unsettling to be there. I was even told by their COO that they didn’t care if either of us went to counseling, because she didn’t get her funding unless we saw our case manager.

Let’s be perfectly clear that counseling is essential to all domestic abuse victims. If that is the state, or a nationwide standard then this too must change. However when I tried to address this with the director at HHSC, Health and Human Services Commission, Office of Family Services, Family Violence not a single thing was done about this. Instead they wanted me to talk to the owner of the domestic violence shelter. Now why would I do that? Just what exactly could she do to help us, especially since we had already left her facility? Not forgetting that it is she who runs this DV shelter, so how can she possibly not know what her COO, her CEO, and her Director are doing? I even asked if just my child could continue counseling, because I obviously cannot afford to pay for either of us to talk to counselors. They said no, and they still have not helped us to find a facility that would continue to provide the much needed counseling for the both of us. Full well knowing that we both have PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from what we have experienced. I would suspect that it’s CPTSD, Complex PTSD for my child, because she has grown up not only witnessing his abuse, but being abused herself by him. I don’t know how to categorize myself, because I have been seen by multiple therapists, but I’ll admit that I didn’t know that CPTSD existed until I recently read about this.

Is our circumstances unusual? I certainly hope so, but I would not be surprised to learn that it is very similar to what other abuse victims have had happen to them. This is what our system in the United States does to victims of abuse. What will it take to change things? The re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act is not good enough as it is now, especially not when you know about everything that happened to us.

Recently the State of Washington passed the Goodman Bill to add coercive control to the definition of domestic violence. This must be included as a part of the VAWA, so that this is required nationwide. Domestic abuse is not only physical or sexual abuse. Domestic abuse is verbal, mental, emotional, and it is financial abuse. Until all of these are recognized by the VAWA victims do not stand a chance at getting the proper help that they truly need. In states where it’s 50/50 why even bother to do this too, especially if FC judges are not going to follow this? This must change as well, so that it is what that rule is supposed to be about. It is about fairness. How could any judge know that there is domestic abuse, and then think that giving their abuser 90 of the 50/50 would ever be considered fairness?

So if you’re a dispatcher, an officer, the chief of police, IA, a judge, the DA, the judiciary committee, HUD, a senator, the FBI, the DOJ, the Vice President, or the President of the United States what are you going to do to make changes that actually work to help all victims of abuse? Many of us witnessed what happened with Gabby Petito, and the officers who laughed off her abuse. I often think that if only the dispatcher had told them that it was Brian who physically assaulted her. Perhaps they did, and the officers didn’t listen, because the last thing that you do is to threaten to arrest the person who has been abused. It broke my heart to witness the video of Gabby crying while sitting in the back of a police car, because you see the anguish on her face. While she’s visibly upset she’s begging for help, and we all know that she didn’t get help that she needed on that day.

Nobody should ever be going through what we are. Nobody! If you are a victim of abuse please be vocal about what is happening, or what has happened to you. Write to your local news. Write to a national news. Keep talking. They cannot ignore all of us, especially if we get the support of people who never want to go through what we have had to endure.

If you are family, or even a friend who is like their family support them in anyway that you possibly can. Our so-called family still communicates with our abuser. You cannot have it both ways, because when it comes to domestic abuse no there is not two sides to this. Completely strangers have helped us more than our own so-called family, and because of this they’ve become our friends, and they’re our family now. You create any pocket of strength wherever you can, because as abuse victims we need this more than ever.

There has been a debate on whether it should be survivors of abuse, or that we’re victims of abuse. How I see this is that we’re definitely victims from not only our abusers, but from the very system of people who are supposed to be helping us, but they’re not. I have often said to my child that I don’t feel like a survivor, because I am still trying to survive his constant abuse to this very day. I believe that she feels the same as I do, because we’re living this nightmare together.

If you know someone who you suspect is in an abusive situation risk your friendship, and talk to them about your suspicions. If you know something say something. It’s better that the authorities get involved with this then you ignoring what you think you may or may not have heard. I wish that our neighbors would have helped us, because there’s no way that they didn’t hear him constantly yelling at us and breaking things. Even concerning our dog, because if you saw his physical appearance anyone would know that he was being abused. Even the veterinarian who examined him did not call the police. If he had our sweet boy would still be alive today.

I know that you’re thinking why didn’t the veterinarian, or anyone on his staff call the police? We will never know. Next you’re asking why would he euthanize your dog knowing that he was abused? In Texas it is a state rule that if a caregiver tells a veterinarian to euthanize an animal they are supposed to do this. What should have happened is this particular veterinarian should have risked his job to save our dog. I mean after all why would you be a veterinarian if you didn’t love animals?

Abuse victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, and in some cases this can cause severe brain damage. Trauma from abuse can cause physical problems, headaches, trouble sleeping, and more. Let’s make this part of the conversation about domestic abuse, so that it is not “a health crisis cloaked in secrecy and shame.”

There are so many questions that we are waiting to get answers to. Now we are asking anyone who is reading this to ask the questions for us. Why did these things happen? Why are they still happening today? What is being done to correct these things? How quickly can someone make this happen, and what is our elected officials going to do to make certain that these kind of things never happen to another single person ever again? If you have had as many problems as I have perhaps this might help as a way to hold your Family Court judge accountable.

To all abuse victims I fully understand, and support you. My child fully understands, and supports you. Know that you are not alone. If we all ban together they cannot keep ignoring us. Speak up. Speak out. Please do whatever it takes to help. As a victim of abuse write to your local news. Write to your national news. Keep the conversations going. Write an Op-ed just like I did. There is definitely power in numbers, so keep speaking your truth.

If you are reading this, and you are in immediate danger please call 9-1-1.

You can also text:

88788

Or you can call:

1-800-799-7233 (1-800-799-SAFE)

TTY: 1-800-787-3224

Make a plan to get out. Pack a bag. Hide it. Take it to a trusted friend if you have to. Make sure that you have money, so things aren’t as difficult as they are for us. Believe me when I say abusers do not change. In fact it is proven that over time things will get worse. The one thing that abusers hate the most is losing control. Get proof. Once you leave file those reports, talk to an attorney, talk to the judge, so that your abuser knows that they are not in complete control any longer.

Make certain the police write up that report. Make the judge listen to you. Do not be afraid to question the people who are supposed to be helping you. Yes even if you anger them, because at that point what do you have to lose? You’re already in a horrible enough situation right?

Based on our experiences this is fairly typical of Family Court. Go on Twitter and type in Family Court, and on any given day you will see hundreds of posts talking about their experiences with FC judges. What do you think the common thread is in almost every single tweet about FC? Yes you guessed it. They’re on there discussing their own experiences with domestic abuse, and how the FC judges are not helping them, or their children properly.

We never want anyone else to endure anything that we are going through. Do not be afraid to get help from someone who is higher up. With our situations this has not worked for us yet, but it might work for you, and especially now because of starting this conversation we are hopeful that it will work for all domestic abuse victims. I encourage more people who have experienced abuse of any kind to write to your local news, to national news, to anyone who will listen. Write to your local representatives, to your state congressmen or congresswomen, and make them listen to what you have to say, but even more importantly make them act on something, on anything. Right now in the United States of America, which is supposed to be a country that other countries emulate we are weak at best when it comes to helping all people who have experienced abuse. We go state by state, and domestic abuse is a problem that adversely affects people in every single state, and that’s why we must only be handling this at a federal level. We need federal laws to help all victims of abuse in the United States. Talk, and then talk some more, because there’s power in numbers. They’re eventually going to have to listen to us, especially if we can make the general public aware of the travesty of justice that victims of domestic violence experience on a daily basis. Abusers don’t just go away. They must be forced to listen to a judge who tells them that unless you do as I say you’re going to prison for a very long time. Why judges don’t understand this is beyond me, but this narrative is a start to making them.

Lilli is a Mom, a Photographer, and an Advocate for victims of domestic abuse. She, and her child are victims of domestic abuse. They resides in different locations throughout Dallas, and North Texas due to homelessness, because of the forced ongoing battle with their abuser. Something that they’re desperately trying to fix.

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