TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Legal resources are available to women who are trying to escape from abusive relationships.
Randy Roberts of the Tyler law firm of Roberts & Roberts Attorneys at Law tells KETK News there are simple steps women can take and places they can go where they will be safe when they need to get away from abuse.
“First of all, the most important thing is if you are in danger, leave,” Roberts says. “That is the most important thing you need to know. And there are plenty of resources here in East Texas for helping you get away from that abusive environment where you can safely live until you can get back on your feet and take advantage of the legal resources that are available here in East Texas.”
Roberts specifically praised the East Texas Crisis Center in Tyler as a resource offering help.
IF IN DANGER, SEEK SHELTER
Women in danger can call the center at 903-595-5591 or 800-333-0358 and receive a safe place to stay for themselves and children. Since opening in 1978, the center has helped thousands victims of family violence, dating violence, sexual assault and violent crime.
“Programs emphasize both prevention and intervention,” Executive Director Lana Peacock says on the center’s website. “Resale store operations provide clothing, household goods and furniture at no cost to families in extreme need.”
SEE OUR SPECIAL REPORTS ON HOW WOMEN CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES
“Abuse of any kind, particularly family violence and sexual abuse, is not something people are comfortable talking about. But, in order for victims of family violence, dating violence and sexual assault to receive intervention, there must be advocacy available in the community,” Peacock says.
Women in danger also can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
IF HARMED, FILE POLICE REPORT
The action women who are being abused or harassed can take fall in two categories.
“First, if you have already been abused or assaulted, then you should go straight down to the police station — it doesn’t cost anything — and file a criminal complaint,” Roberts says. “The police will ask you to sign an affidavit so you have to swear to it and you need to be right.”
Once that takes place, Robert says the police will “issue an arrest warrant and see that the person is brought to court, warned not to be around you further and have his case set for trial.”
IF IN FEAR, GET PROTECTIVE ORDER
Roberts says women can who have not yet been abused but fear they will be abused or are being harassed can file a protective order.
“In that situation, a person should seek a protective order,” he says. “And here is the good news. You don’t need a lawyer to get a protective order. You can literally go to the Texas Supreme Court website and download the protective order kit and it shows you how to fill out the form.
“And once you fill it out, you just take it down to the courthouse, and they will show you where to file it or who to give it to,” Roberts continues. “Once that form is prepared and filled out at the courthouse, not you but the police will serve it on the person who is abusing you or threatening you and that way you will not have to deal with them at all.”
Roberts says the protective order is a legally binding court order “telling them (the man in question) not to come near you, not to bother you, and warning them that there are criminal penalties such as jail time and heavy fines for breaking that order.”
Most people do not violate protective orders, Roberts says.
“I know that people scoff at the paperwork but when someone is served with that order basically telling them … that they are going to jail or paying a heavy fine if they violate it, 99% of the time, that ordered is followed and it is effective in serving it’s purpose.
“But now and then a protective order is violated and once someone is found to have violated it, they are taken before a court and put in jail,” Roberts says.