• Sarah Strong

Fighting DV with an Appeal

It has been five months since the hearing for the renewal of my domestic violence restraining order against my abuser. I have talked about what happened that day, but I have struggled to write about what happened and what has been happening since. September 11, 2018 was a really shitty day. There just isn’t a more eloquent way to put it.


I represented myself in court, which definitely hurt me. There were numerous things I didn’t know about trials, despite my best efforts to read and research. My ex had an attorney, and she was relentless defending him and tearing me down. Over the previous year, my ex had violated the DVRO in place numerous times. Clear cut violations that I had proof of. Yet, at the end of the day, Judge Warren stopped the hearing and said that NO violations had taken place. I also had significant evidence of continued emotional abuse and intimidation. But Judge Warren did not acknowledge that either.


I was devastated. And more than that, I have been afraid. The ruling to deny my DVRO renewal has put me and my children in danger. I have to see and speak to my abuser regularly, despite past physical abuse and ongoing emotional abuse. I send our infant son to unsupervised visits with him because that is what I have been ordered to do. The fact that this man physically assaulted me while pregnant means nothing to the court in regards to our child’s safety and well-being.


I knew this decision was wrong. So I immediately started looking into an appeal. I found that appeals are on very strict timelines. I had to file right away, even though I really didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t afford an attorney, so I had to figure it all out on my own. This involved about a half dozen trips to courthouses around the county. Three different courthouses, none really close to home. Filing this appeal became like a second job.


The appeal was officially filed November 1, 2018. Now in February of this year, I have come to a point where I do not know how to continue without representation. And in addition to fighting the appeal, I also have an on-going family court case with my abuser (almost 2 years later and our divorce is still not final! And experiencing many issues with child support and custody). I have met with and talked to quite a few lawyers. For the appeal, I wasn’t getting anywhere. Most appeals lawyers wanted around 10 grand just to get started. Some wanted a few thousand just to LOOK at my case, not even to take it. I contacted a few non-profits in the DV realm, but their resources are tapped and they were not able to help.


I finally found an attorney who could help in both my appeal and my family law matters. I started a gofundme, and I was able to come up with part of the retainer for his services. However, I am struggling to come up with the rest. I am still raising funds for this, and everything donated will go right to the attorney fees. This case in the court of appeal has the potential to change the law for DV victims in California. I know that my case is not an isolated incident; victims of DV are continually being wronged and endangered by our court system.

I will continue to fight for justice and for safety, regardless of what happens with this appeal. I have been fortunate that in telling my story, I have already helped others. My goal is to change policy on DV in family court, especially when it comes to contested custody with an abusive parent. Perhaps God gave me this mountain to show others it can be moved. I believe that together, we can end DV and protect victims and give them the justice that is deserved.


Link to gofundme HERE




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