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Protection orders deemed 'mission critical' during COVID-19

DV victims find system still works for them during pandemic
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Posted at 9:39 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 21:40:14-04

In the days and weeks after COVID-19 hit, jury trials were postponed and Tampa Bay area courthouses got much quieter.

It left many domestic violence victims wondering where they could go to get an emergency protective order if they needed one. The Florida Supreme acted quickly. They deemed protective injunctions as "mission critical."

That meant Tampa Bay county courthouses made themselves readily available for survivors of domestic abuse.

"Particularly with COVID, there has been this false sense that everything is shut down and lots of services aren't available and the reality is we've been just as busy as ever," says Mindy Murphy, CEO of the Spring of Tampa Bay.

In Hillsborough County, injunction hearings went virtual and the Spring of Tampa Bay has now helped hundreds of survivors navigate the tempest with free legal help.

Murphy says the new normal with video hearings has been a good thing.

"The survivors don't have to come to court right now. It's all done remotely. It's been done throughout the pandemic and actually, it reduces some of the barriers to getting an injunction because you don't have to worry about how to get to the courthouse. You're doing it from the safety of home. You don't have to be physically present with your batterer so actually, there are some hidden blessings to the process," she added.

In Pinellas County, injunction hearings and services have streamlined to one location. Although the judge wears a mask behind a protective barrier in the courtroom where hearings take place, nothing has changed for the victim and the speed in which they can quickly get a protective order.

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