Clerk and Comptroller is here to help victims of Domestic Violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In Sarasota, your Clerk and Comptroller actively works with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, and the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) to support members of our communities to ensure that both safety and justice are achieved for victims—and their families—when domestic violence occurs.
By the Numbers: The Prevalence of Domestic Violence
This past fiscal year, (October 1 through September 20, 2018), 1,162 domestic violence petitions were filed at the Clerk and Comptroller’s office—an increase of almost 4%, compared to the prior year. Of those, 621 were for domestic violence, 312 were for stalking, and 128 were for repeat violence.
Looking over a five year period, the average is 1,150 injunctions for protection, or petitions, filed each year. Bottom line is, domestic violence petitions are continuing to be filed at approximately the same rate. What we have noticed, though, is the significance and rapid increase in the number of petitions for stalking.
Deputy Clerks in our office work very hard to be a reliable, responsive, and sensitive resource to those who come to us, requesting the court review their petition for protection against domestic violence. For your protection, we use complete confidentiality and discretion throughout the process, whether filing your report or offering victims resources through local advocacy programs.
An injunction for protection process can be complex, and scary, particularly for those under enormous stress, who fear for their safety. This is a civil court process, not a part of a criminal court proceeding, and different than a criminal “no-contact” order: It’s a court order against another person who has been physically violent with you, or has placed you in fear of physical violence. Injunctions can order the other person to stay away from you, your home, your car, your place of employment, and can include not contacting you by phone, in writing, or by email. Petitions are filed at the Clerk and Comptroller’s office, or at the Sarasota County Jail after hours, and on weekends. There are five types of injunctions for protection that the court will review for approval.
An injunction against Domestic Violence means assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment--or any other criminal offense resulting in the victim’s physical injury or death when the perpetrator is a relative, family member, or lives with the victim.
In Dating Violence, the act of violence is between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship (romantic or intimate). Dating violence does not include violence in a casual acquaintanceship or violence engaged in during an ordinary business or social context.
Repeat Violence means that two incidents of violence have been committed against you or a member of your immediate family by another person, one of which must have been within six months of filing the petition.
Sexual Violence means any one incident of sexual battery, lewd or lascivious act committed upon or in the presence of a person younger than 16 years of age; luring or enticing a child, sexual performance by a child, or any other forcible felony wherein a sexual act is committed or attempted.
Stalking or Cyberstalking means the repeated following, harassment, or cyberstalking of one person by another. Cyberstalking means to communicate words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
Although by law a Deputy Clerk cannot complete the petition for you, we can offer support and discretion, and direct you to free, confidential, state-certified centers for domestic violence and sexual assault services.
Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, affecting all people regardless of their age, status, race, orientation, gender, or religion. Some people—the elderly, disadvantaged, or financially unsafe—join countless silent victims who do not report their abusers. Physical violence is often accompanied by the emotional abuse and controlling behavior that holds them captive. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations, and last a lifetime.
If you, or someone you love, needs help, go to SarsotaClerk.com to see how we can help, or visit us in Sarasota (2000 Main Street) or Venice (4000 South Tamiami Trail). We are here to help.
Karen E. Rushing
Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller
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The Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller's office publishes alerts, articles, and e-mail notifications covering topics of importance to our customers. Clerk's Corner, a monthly column for the legal community, is published in The Docket , the official newspaper of the Sarasota County Bar Association, while other business and community outreach topics are shared through state, regional and local media, and public events.