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Courts, Police and Advocates Use Technology During Pandemic to Help Prevent Domestic Violence

April 21, 2020

Many victims of domestic abuse are currently left no option than to shelter in place and to stay in their home with their abuser to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As a result, many communities are implementing creative solutions, often working remotely and incorporating the use of technology, to protect victims and prevent violence.

Many officials are now utilizing teleconferencing, webinars, and other methods for victims to access protective measures, while also balancing complex issues such as confidentiality and safety.

OVW supports state and territory coalitions across the nation to promote collaboration among the diverse teams that play vital roles in protecting women and others from violence. Courts, law enforcement, advocates, and others are telling us how they are using technology in innovative ways.

By sharing information, communities are learning from each other’s new practices. Of course, in weighing whether to implement a procedure, a jurisdiction must consider whether it meets due process and other state and federal constitutional requirements.  

In Winnebago County, Illinois, protection orders are being filed electronically using a form that prompts the user through each step, making it a user-friendly and guided experience.

In St. Louis, Missouri, protection orders can now be submitted online. Staff from the Adult Abuse Office examine the submissions, looking for missing elements and contact the petitioner to administer and record a sworn oath.

Appearing in court for a hearing is another challenge when public health officials urge everyone to stay home.

Some court systems, including some in Idaho, Florida, New York, Texas and Utah, are using phone and the internet to allow people to “appear” at their hearings, thereby allowing the legal process to continue.

In some cases, states are simplifying the process for extending protection orders.

California, for instance, has issued state-wide rules designed to protect those in dangerous situations in the upcoming months. Courts are working with law enforcement to issue emergency protective orders that span 30 days, up from the original seven. Temporary restraining orders and gun violence-related emergency protective orders are continued for an additional 90 days. Similarly, domestic violence restraining orders have been extended automatically for 90 days, providing more protection.

As the nation continues to adapt to address public health issues, I am thankful for the agility and collaboration and I am inspired by the thoughtful sharing of practices.

At OVW, we are grateful and look forward to continuing to support the front line professionals working to protect victims against domestic violence.

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Updated January 20, 2021