Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Recent Law Changes Expand Protections for Survivors

On December 15, 2020, the D.C. Council passed the Intrafamily Offenses and Anti-Stalking Orders Amendment Act of 2020. The new law, which took effect on April 27 of this year, significantly expands protections for domestic violence survivors. Legal Aid is proud to be part of the group of advocates that drafted and supported these reforms.

A few of the many reforms in this bill are:

One of Legal Aid’s clients testified in support of this bill, bravely sharing her story with the D.C. Council. She spoke about the years of abuse she suffered, including punches, scratches, and strangulation. The year her CPO was in place went by quickly, and a custody battle was still ongoing when the CPO neared its expiration date. Going back so soon for a CPO extension left her nerves shattered, and having to share such intimate details in open court was humiliating. In her testimony, she told the D.C. Council, “If only my restraining order had been two years instead of one, if only I had a judge that had the ability to extend protection even further for the safety of my daughter and I, I might still be protected today. I imagine how my life might be different. I think about it almost every day.”

Since 1970, CPOs in the District of Columbia have been limited to a duration of one year, with the possibility of a one-year extension if a survivor so requests. Now, D.C. joins more than 25 states that allow for initial orders longer than a year, and many other states that leave open the possibility of a permanent protection order. Survivors seeking help today can rest a little easier knowing they may be protected long enough to truly reach safety.

Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence and Family Law Unit represents domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. If you need help leaving an abusive relationship, please contact D.C. SAFE or call Legal Aid at (202) 628-1161. You can also find us in person weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Domestic Violence Intake Center (DVIC) located in Room 4550 of the D.C. Superior Court. Attorneys and advocates at the DVIC are available to discuss options and help with safety planning.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so please join us in spreading awareness! We invite you to get involved with Legal Aid’s work to support survivors; join us tomorrow, October 21, in wearing purple for Purple Thursday, and follow our social media as we continue to spotlight domestic violence and sexual assault throughout the month.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and needs help, call or text the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC, contact DC SAFE, or call Legal Aid at (202) 628-1161 or apply for assistance online.

Get Help 24/7 from the National Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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