National Domestic Violence Hotline Had Its Busiest Year Ever

The National Domestic Violence Hotline received more than half a million calls, texts and online chats in 2018 — marking its busiest year ever.

The 573,670 calls and other communications were a 36 percent increase from 2017, according to the hotline, which has provided 24-hour, year-round support since 1996 for individuals affected by relationship abuse.

Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones attributed the uptick to several major news stories, such as the allegations of domestic violence against the R&B singer R. Kelly and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter — allegations Kelly and Porter have denied — but also to an evolving cultural mindset in which survivors no longer feel a need to stay silent about abuse, prompted by the #MeToo movement that began in 2017.

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The Startling Toll on Children Who Witness Domestic Violence Is Just Now Being Understood

New research is giving scientists more insight into the far-reaching and long-lasting harms of domestic violence to the children who grow up around it – including a startling finding: Witnessing abuse carries the same risk of harm to children’s mental health and learning as being abused directly.

Brain imaging in infants shows that exposure to domestic violence – even as they are sleeping, or in utero – can reduce parts of the brain, change its overall structure and affect the way its circuits work together.

Studies show that when babies born to mothers who were subjected to violence during pregnancy become adults, they have three times as much inflammation in their bodies as those whose mothers weren’t. Inflammation causes a much higher risk of poor health, and a far greater likelihood of depression.

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US Congress

Violence Against Women Act May Be Dying A Slow Death In US Congress

US CongressIn 1994, the US Congress passed, with bi-partisan agreement, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, became the first Federal legislation to tackle the issue of domestic violence in the United States. Although certainly not perfect, this Act gave Federal resources and recognition to law enforcement’s efforts to protect victims of domestic violence. The Act also gave survivors of domestic violence pathways to remove themselves and their loved ones from violent relationships, such as funds to move into new homes/apartments and gave funds to train police officers and prosecutors across the country in domestic violence prevention.

Congress reauthorized this Act, again, with bi-partisan support, in 2000, 2005 and 2013. Now, however, this bi-partisan agreement regarding VAWA has seemingly vanished. The reauthorization bill currently in the US House of Representatives, would continue many of the current Act’s grants, while strengthening law enforcement’s ability to remove firearms and weapons from perpetrators of domestic violence, along with making it harder to evict survivors of domestic violence from public assisted housing due to the criminal acts of their abusers.

VAWA is set to expire September 4, 2018. Whether the reauthorization bill currently in the US House simply tries to implement common-sense solutions or is more radical then prior efforts, the fact that the US Congress has refused to even debate the bill is shameful. Without reauthorization, many survivors of domestic violence, along with the many individuals currently working to curb the scourge of domestic violence throughout this Country, will be left without the support necessary to continue the good fight. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, urge Congress to do their job and debate the current bill and then reauthorize VAWA, now.

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Bill Allowing Breaking of Lease Without Penalty for Domestic Violence Victims a Step in the Right Direction


The Georgia House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 834, which would eliminate early termination penalties for victims of domestic violence who break a lease. The proposed law would allow the termination of a residential lease 30 days after providing a landlord written notice of the issuance of a protective injunction for the protection of domestic violence. The measure passed the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote (166-0).

Fears of financial hardships are often cited by victims as the primary reason for staying with an abuser. However, laws such as those passed in Georgia would help ease this fear, in at least one area. Here in Florida, domestic violence victims can access relocation assistance programs through the Florida Attorney General’s Crime Victim Compensation Program. Under Florida Statute, Section 960.198, an award of $1,500 per claim, with a lifetime limit of $3,000, can be awarded to those domestic violence victims who cooperate with law enforcement authorities investigating the crimes, such as the police or the State Attorney’s Office. In order to receive these funds, these law enforcement officials must certify that a victim is assisting in their efforts to punish the abuser.

However, more assistance is needed to fully aid victims in their often-desperate attempts to free themselves and their loved-ones from an abusive relationship. Bills such as those passed a few days ago in Georgia can provide some small comfort to these victims looking to leave a dangerous situation. Of course, the proposed Georgia law would require a victim to show proof of the incident of domestic violence, such as a police report or a protective injunction. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, applaud the members of the Georgia House of Representatives for passing this proposed law, and urge the members of Florida’s Legislature to follow their example.–regional-govt–politics/domestic-violence-victims-could-escape-homes-under-georgia-bill/yVTbzURHwgICHz4qRGmEaP/

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The Connection Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings


While many states, including Florida, have temporary bans on firearm possession and ownership for individuals who have active domestic violence injunctions, Oregon recently took things a bit further by passing legislature that would outright ban anyone with a domestic violence or stalking conviction from ever buying or owning a firearm.

With the number of mass shootings on the rise this will likely be the first of many new gun control measures that will be passed at the state level.   And while it may not appear on its face to address the increase in mass shootings, there is a very real connection between domestic violence in the home and the individuals that commit these shootings.

Statistically, in the majority of mass shootings in the US (54%) one of the victims was either a family member or intimate partner of the shooter.  With domestic violence being the cycle that it is, it is unlikely that these acts of violence were the first one’s directed at these family members or intimate partners.

Some of these individuals, like Devin Kelley who killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, TX, had prior domestic violence convictions.  If a law similar to the one just passed in Oregon was on the books in Texas, Devin Kelley would have had a much harder time getting his hands on the firearm(s) he used to kill those 26 people

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Eddy Piniero to the Rescue – A Gator’s Fight Against Domestic Violence

As a life-long fan of the Florida Gators, it always fills me with pride to say that I am a part of the Gator Nation. I received both my undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida, and my Wife, Father and Sister are all Gator Alums.

However, I take to this forum today to say that I cannot remember being as proud of a Florida Gator as I am of former Gator place kicker Eddie Pineiro. Pineiro came to the rescue of a woman being attacked by her boyfriend. This crime of domestic violence could have ended in tragedy but for the quick actions of Piniero, who rushed downstairs to the woman’s aid. He was joined in the rescue by his Father.

Too often these days, we hear only of the negative actions of sports stars. It is sometimes the case that even Gator and former Gator athletic stars have been the perpetrators of these vicious acts, much to the horror and embarrassment of Gator Nation. However, Piniero, who’s name is often chanted during Gator football games as he kicks fifty-plus yard field goals, has now shown us all that true glory is found in the selfless actions of aiding victims of domestic violence.

The Gainesville Police Department awarded Piniero and his Father with the Police Service Award. Piniero himself took to Twitter to encourage respectful behavior. I’m sure Piniero will fill the hearts of Gator Nation with pride on Sunday’s in the NFL excelling in football. But, it will be his act of heroism in Gainesville on October 15, 2017, that may end up being his true legacy as a human being. Cheers to you Eddy from all those here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, for your actions in the struggle against domestic violence.


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Revictimizing the Domestic Violence Victim

Often times, in cases of domestic violence, victims come to the justice and court system seeking help or guidance to extricate themselves from difficult situations. Unfortunately, far too often, the very system set up to help victims serves to revictimize them in dangerous ways.

Take, for example, the situation of the unnamed victim depicted in Jerry Iannelli’s Miami New Times story. A Miami Police Officer seriously and grossly mishandled a potentially dangerous situation of domestic violence by discounted both the history and facts of her encounter with the domestic violence victim. Often times, situations of domestic violence are not given the respect they deserve by those in law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Many times, those on the front-lines fighting domestic violence become numb to the signs of danger right in front of their faces.

Such tendencies must be fought by those first responders dealing with domestic violence every day. Training of police officers and prosecutors, often done by attorneys right here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, is critical to safeguarding victims of domestic violence and our community. Overlooking crimes of domestic violence can often have tragic consequences. Many recent mass shootings, from Sandy Hook, to the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings, to the recent Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church mass shooting, had perpetrators who committed acts of domestic violence that were overlooked by authorities.

We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, given our training and background as prosecutors and attorneys representing victims of domestic violence, understand that education of first responders, police officers and others involved in our justice system, is a critical component toward changing misguided attitudes like those of the Officer depicted in this article.


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WHO Finds Violence Against Women Is 'Shockingly' Common

“Thirty-five percent of women around the world have been raped or physically abused, according to statistics the World Health Organization released Thursday. About 80 percent of the time this violence occurs in the home, at the hands of a partner or spouse.”
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Former 'Peanuts' voice actor Peter Robbins pleads guilty to threats, stalking

“An Oceanside man who as a child performed the voice of Charlie Brown in several ‘Peanuts’ animated television specials and movies pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of making criminal threats and stalking in connection with disputes with his girlfriend and a doctor who performed breast-enhancement surgery on her.”
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