HUD STRENGTHENS PROTECTIONS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

New Rule marks conclusion of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today new, stronger affordable housing regulations that protect victims of domestic abuse as the nation concludes National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

To read the final regulatory requirements under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), visit HUD’s website.

“This rule recognizes the need to protect victims of domestic abuse from being evicted just because they were victimized. No one should be afraid of losing their home if they report abuse” said Donovan. “The Obama Administration has strengthened the existing interim regulation to further protect victims and ensures that current or former victims of domestic violence will not be turned down from HUD programs.”

“The 2009 U.S. Conference of Mayors annual report on Hunger and Homelessness identified domestic violence as the third leading cause of homelessness among families,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Sandra Henriquez. “This regulation protects victims housing so they are not forced to choose between staying with their abuser and becoming homeless.”

VAWA, which was enacted in 2005, provided legal protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. These protections apply to families receiving rental assistance under HUD’s public housing program, Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, and multi-family project-based Section 8 program. HUD published the VAWA Interim Rule in November 2008 and allowed for public comments until January 2009.

The rule announced today addresses many concerns advocates raised with the 2008 interim rule by clarifying and aligning HUD’s statutory language with VAWA; providing more detailed guidance to housing authorities and Section 8 property owners on how to implement VAWA and making a commitment to provide further guidance in the future.

For example, guidance in the new rule requires that housing authorities or management agents exhaust protective measures before eviction. Evictions can only take place after the housing or subsidy providers have taken actions that will reduce or eliminate the threat to the victim, including, transferring the abuse victim to a different home; barring the abuser from the property; contacting law enforcement to increase police presence or develop other plans to keep the property safe; or seeking other legal remedies to prevent the abuser from acting on a threat.

The new rule also broadens the definitions of “actual and imminent threat,” to help housing or subsidy providers understand that to use “imminent threat” of harm to other residents as a reason for eviction of the victim, the evidence must be real and objective – not hypothetical, presumed or speculative.

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HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.

Orders of Protection

An Order of Protection, more commonly know as a Protective Order, is a legal document signed by a judge that orders someone to not commit family violence against another person. The order might also specify how close an abuser can come to the victim’s residence or place of employment. Some facts you might need to know about Orders of Protection include:

  • An abuser is someone who has committed family violence against another person and who meets the relationship requirement. A victim is the person who was abused.
  • You must meet the relationship requirements in order to file for an Order of Protection. Relationships include persons who are married, have lived together, had a child together, are divorced, had a dating relationship, or are related by blood or marriage. This also includes foster parent and child.
  • Orders of Protection remain in effect until they expire or are terminated by a judge. Victims cannot just decide they don’t want the protection any more or that everything is all right now. Abusers are in violation of the Order and can be arrested even if you give him/her permission to violate the Order.
  • You can request the Order to be changed if your situation changes, if the situation gets worse or if you decide to reconcile your relationship, but only the judge can make the change.
  • Keep a copy of the Order with you at all times and make sure there is a copy on file at the local Police Department. It is usually printed on very delicate paper. Keep it in a freezer zipper bag to help keep it from tearing and keep additional copies in a safe place at home.
  • If there is a violation, call the police immediately. You will need to file a report and you might need to go back to court.
  • Orders of Protection are free and usually take several weeks to obtain and they are usually good for 2 years. Emergency Orders can sometimes be obtained in several days. Your local District Attorney’s Office can help you.
  • An Order of Protection is a piece of paper. Abusers can violate the order. It is your responsibility to be cautious and remain alert regarding your surroundings. Use common sense and listen to your gut instinct. Call the police if you feel unsafe.
  • Violating an Order of Protection can result in jail time and/or fines.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is behavior – emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual abuse – that one person in an intimate relationship uses in order to control the other. It takes many different forms and includes behavior such as threats, name-calling, isolation, withholding of money, actual or threatened physical harm and sexual assault. Most domestic violence is committed against women by their male partners. It also occurs in lesbian and gay relationships and is common in teenage dating relationships. In a small number of cases, men are abused by female partners, but because 91 to 95 percent of all adult domestic violence assaults are perpetrated by men against their female partners, this booklet will refer to victims as female and abusers as male. In any case, every victim of domestic violence, whether female or male, gay or heterosexual, has the right to legal relief. The following checklist may help you decide if you or someone you know is being abused. Does your partner:

  • constantly criticize you and your abilities as a spouse or partner, parent or employee?
  • behave in an over-protective manner or become extremely jealous?
  • threaten to hurt you, your children, pets, family members, friends or himself?
  • prevent you from seeing family or friends?
  • get suddenly angry or “lose his temper”?
  • destroy personal property or throw things around?
  • deny you access to family assets like bank accounts, credit cards, or the car, or control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?
  • use intimidation or manipulation to control you or your children? hit, punch, slap, kick, shove, choke or bite you?
  • prevent you from going where you want to, when you want to, and with whomever you want to?
  • make you have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually that you don’t want to do?
  • humiliate or embarrass you in front of other people?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a victim of domestic violence. You are not to blame and you are not alone – millions of women are abused by their partners every year. Not all acts of domestic violence are violations of the law. In any case, you need not face domestic violence alone. You deserve help, and help is available. Please call us at 817-284-8464.

Definition of Family Violence

“Family Violence” is defined in the Texas Family Code (Section 71.004) as:

An act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.

TCFV defines battering as:

A pattern of coercive control that one person exercises over another. Battering is a behavior that physically harms, arouses fear, prevents a woman from doing what she wishes or forces her to behave in ways she does not want. Battering includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation.

Barbara Hart, a nationally recognized expert on family violence, defines domestic violence as:

“domestic violence involves a continuum of behaviors ranging from degrading remarks to cruel jokes, economic exploitation, punches and kicks, false imprisonment, sexual abuse, suffocating actions, maiming assaults and homicide. Unchecked, domestic violence usually increases in frequency and severity. Many victims suffer all forms of abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse may be subtler than physical harm, but this does not mean that it is less destructive to victims. Many have said that the emotional scars take much longer to heal than the broken bones.”

Used by permission of Texas Council on Family Violence.

Why Do Women Stay?

All too often the question “Why do women stay in violent relationships?” is answered with a victim blaming attitude. Women victims of abuse often hear that they must like or need such treatment, or they would leave. Others may be told that they are one of the many “women who love too much” or who have “low self-esteem.” The truth is that no one enjoys being beaten, no matter what their emotional state or self image.

A woman’s reasons for staying are more complex than a statement about her strength of character. In many cases it is dangerous for a woman to leave her abuser. If the abuser has all of the economic and social status, leaving can cause additional problems for the woman. Leaving could mean living in fear and losing child custody, losing financial support, and experiencing harassment at work.

Although there is no profile of the women who will be battered, there is a well documented syndrome of what happens once the battering starts. Battered women experience shame, embarrassment and isolation. A woman may not leave battering immediately because she realistically fears that the batterer will become more violent and maybe even fatal if she attempts to leave. Her friends and family may not support her leaving. She knows the difficulties of single parenting in reduced financial circumstances. There is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear. She may not know about or have access to safety and support.