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Domestic Violence Increases Due to COVID-19 Part II: How the Court Can Help

undefinedOregon’s statewide stay-at-home order during the coronavirus outbreak has led to an unintended but growing consequence: for people that are living with domestic violence, staying at home and being isolated with an abuser is potentially putting them at a greater risk of abuse.

Portland police are reporting a spike in the number of domestic violence cases as more people spend extended periods of time at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Law enforcement officials and domestic violence advocates in Oregon are concerned that the number of domestic violence incidents will continue to rise because victims are in a uniquely vulnerable position due to stay-at-home orders and isolation.

Not only are these increases occurring in domestic violence cases where there has been a history of violence, but also in cases where there isn’t a history of violence. The loss of employment, increased financial difficulties, being ordered to stay inside and a natural fear of becoming sick work together to increase family stress. When confined to a small space, people tend to lash out far more than usual. There is no opportunity for abuser and victim to separate from each other to cool down, and as the restrictions tighten - not being allowed to go to work, children not allowed to go to school – this ends up creating a “pressure cooker” environment.

In addition to physical abuse, instances of mental, financial, and psychological abuse are also expected to surge over the coming weeks and months. These methods of abuse and control, while leaving no physical marks, are equally dangerous and destructive.

The coronavirus may also be producing other situations that abusers can utilize to assert control over their victim. Such scenarios include: sharing misinformation about the virus to control or frighten the victim, preventing the victim from receiving adequate medical attention, withholding insurance cards, and using social distancing and travel restrictions to their advantage.

If you believe that you are a victim of domestic violence, it is important to know that in these times of lockdowns, business closures and reduced access to services, there are still legal venues available for you to get help.

You may have heard that local courthouses are paring back their services and cutting down on the amount of cases that they are hearing during this time. While this is generally true, it is very important to know that, even with these restrictions on what types of cases that courts are hearing, they are still open and hearing cases for people who are being abused or in danger of it happening,

undefinedAs a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault, you may qualify for a protective order, which can require your abuser to stay away from you and your family, and to stop contacting you.

In Oregon, there are four different protective orders that you may be able to get, depending on your situation:

  • Family Abuse Prevention Act Restraining Order (FAPA). Pursuant to the FAPA, a victim can file a Petition with the court requesting a restraining order if the abuser is a spouse, former spouse or a person with whom you are cohabiting or have cohabited. You can also petition for a restraining order if the abuser is a person with whom you have a had a sexual relationship within the past two years.
  • Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act Restraining Order (EPPDAPA). An elderly or disabled person who is being abused can apply for a restraining order by filing a petition for protection of the elderly or disabled.
  • Stalking Protective Order (SPO). Stalking protection orders provide protection from someone who is stalking you or your immediate family or household member.
  • Sexual Abuse Protective Order (SAPO). A sexual abuse protective order is a restraining order that provides protection if someone who is not your family or household member sexually abuses or sexually assaults you.

As a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if you are renting a house, apartment, condominium or other type of residence, you also have the following rights under the Oregon Landlord and Tenant Act:

  • You may be able to terminate your lease early without having to pay an early termination fee.
  • If you qualify for a protective order, you can ask the judge to order the person abusing you to move out of your rental home.
  • You can request your landlord to terminate the tenancy of your abuser without terminating your tenancy or being required to pay additional rent or an additional deposit or fee due to exclusion of the perpetrator.

Domestic abusers appear in many forms, and victims often worry their story will not be believed if they come forward. If you fall under any of these categories, please know that our firm has significant experience in representing clients who have survived the unimaginable, and we will never silence victims of domestic abuse. Rather, we are passionate about fighting for justice and providing a voice for those who have been made to feel that they don’t have one.

Do not wait to take action against your abuser and understand that you have not been forgotten during this time—domestic violence is a priority, and courts are still accepting cases for those who are in danger and need help. Attorneys at Landerholm Family Law can support you and encourage you to have the confidence and strength to take action to protect yourself and your children. If you are someone you know has been abused, please do not hesitate to contact our firm at (503) 227-0200 for the help you deserve.

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