12 News is taking a deeper look at domestic violence in the area, what services are available for victims, and how the justice system responds.
12 News finds out the how the civil process offers protection to victims.
“I think it provides them with a sense of safety and a feeling of security,” said HOPE Incorporated outreach coordinator Jackie Ritter.
For over a decade Ritter has worked with victims of domestic violence. Ritter works as an outreach coordinator to provide safety to victims and part of that safety plan could include an emergency domestic violence protective order.
“The first step to get a protective order is to go to Magistrate Court by themselves and fill out a petition to get a protection order,” said Ritter. “They have to get a narrative of what has happened particularly most recently. That would meet the legal definition of domestic violence.”
According to Harrison County Magistrate Tammy Marple, the legal definition includes attempting to cause or knowingly cause physical harm to another with or without deadly weapons.
West Virginia code also describes domestic violence as creating fear of physical harm, by stalking, harassment and sexual abuse or assault.
In order for the emergency order to be approved, there has to be a family or household member relationship.
“People who were or are married… are or do live together,” said Marple.
From there the magistrate reviews the petition before granting the emergency order.
“If there is or has been domestic violence, was it recent, is there imminent danger?” said Marple.
In 2016, Harrison County Magistrate Court received 468 domestic violence petitions, with 399 emergency orders granted.
So far this year 166 petitions have been filed with 159 granted, which averages to be around one a day filed.
If the emergency order is granted, it is immediately passed along to law enforcement.
“The law requires us within 72 hours to make a reasonable attempt and we immediately make that reasonable attempt and try to serve it,” said Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny.
After the emergency order is served, firearms are taken from the alleged abuser or moved to a third party and contact with the victim is prohibited.
“They are not supposed to call them or contact them or be in the immediate environment of where they are at,” said Ritter.
A hearing is then set within 10 days in family court.
“If there is time we refer them to legal aid to get representation,” said Ritter.
Ritter says most of the time the victim presents his or her evidence on their own before the judge with no attorney.
“They can be cross examined by the other party after they testify,” said Ritter. “A lot of people don’t realize that when we prepare them that really upsets them to hear that. “
It is up to the family court judge to grant or deny the order which can last 90, 180 days, a year or lifetime.
If it is not granted, Ritter says she establishes a safety plan with the victim.
“Going to the shelter, living with family,” said Ritter.