April 01, 2014 Introduction

Domestic Violence Cases: A Highly Emotional, Volatile Judicial Caseload

By Judge Stephanie Domitrovich

I admire judges in domestic violence court because of the highly emotional and volatile nature of their caseloads. In domestic violence cases, observers can easily feel frustrated with victims who may walk bravely through the courtroom doors, but then ask to withdraw their protective orders. Judges hear victims testify to myriad reasons for withdrawing their petitions for protective orders only to see the victims soon return for new protective orders against the same abuser.

Judges with training and experience in domestic violence understand and confront these challenges every day. They recognize that victims are entitled to make their own choices, including returning to their abusive partners. They understand that victims’ attempts to leave abusers are more a process than a single act. Studies indicate that it may take up to six court petitions for a victim to break away from the abuser permanently. For the most part, a victim gains strength and awareness from each domestic violence court appearance; the victim begins to realize the tremendous negative impact domestic violence has, not only on the victim’s life but also on those closest to the victim such as the most vulnerable—our children.

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