Domestic Violence and the Importance of Documentation

Evidence is the lifeblood of our legal system, no matter what area of law is involved. This is especially true if you are a victim of domestic violence. Allegations and claims won’t get you very far. Credible, verifiable, well-documented evidence along with strong legal arguments should carry the day in any courtroom. When domestic violence occurs, evidence can be the difference between it continuing or stopping, minor or severe injuries, getting a protection from abuse order or not.

If you or a loved one suffer from domestic abuse, contact the domestic violence lawyers at Martine, Katz Scanlon & Schimmel, P.A. in Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, and Princeton. Our domestic violence attorneys give victims a voice, get them through a potentially daunting process, and advise them of their rights. Call us today at (856) 396-9500 if you have questions or need help.

Domestic violence can be defined as any physical, emotional, or psychological abuse or violence between two people who share a family or emotional relationship. It can be cyberstalking, breaking and entering into your home, physical or sexual abuse. The abuse need not cause physical harm or happen within your home.

What Should I Do If I’m Being Abused?

We protect victims of domestic violence by fighting tirelessly to make sure their right to live safely is protected. We take a three-pronged approach with our clients:

  • Getting to safety
  • Documentation
  • Legal Protection

Two and three are connected, like legs to a table. The more and better documentation you have, the more likely you’ll get legal protection, including a protection from abuse order.

The types of evidence you have depend on the abuse you’re subject to. You need to do all you can to keep yourself and your family safe. However, if something bad happens, as frightening and stressful as the situation may be, you should think about how to document what happened.

How Should I Document Abuse?

If you’ve reached the point where things have started to get out of control, you should keep physical and or electronic files to organize and store evidence. Whether it’s harassment, intimidation, physical violence, or threats, do your best to document your situation. 

Think about who may review what you’re keeping. It could be your attorney, a police officer, or a judge. What would they want to see? What would make your evidence more credible? You should obtain, keep, copy, and store all relevant:

  • Emails, texts, and transcribed voicemails
  • Voicemails
  • Social media posts
  • Notes or letters
  • Accounts from witnesses
  • Medical records
  • Photos or videos of injuries or damaged property
  • Police reports

You should also keep a journal of what you’re going through, along with descriptions of the abuse and names of witnesses. If you called the police, note that, along with the names of the officers who responded and what they did. You should also keep notes from your therapist.

How far you want to go to document your situation is up to you. Under federal law, phone calls can’t be legally recorded unless all those on the call are aware of it and give consent. If you’re suffering abusive phone calls and warn your abuser the call is being recorded. If the person continues anyway, you’ve got more evidence. A secretly recorded video of violence can be highly effective, but if an abuser learns they’re being videoed, it could spark more anger and violence.

How Should I Keep this Evidence?

Store this material safely. What that means depends on whether you’re living with your abuser or whether the person has access to your home. If it’s on paper and physically in your home, given the chance your abuser may find and destroy it, give copies of everything to a friend or our office so you have backup copies. 

You could keep this on a PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. But if your abuser has access to these devices, they may erase it, or steal the device. He or she may plant malware on your device, allowing them to see everything on it without your knowledge. 

Protect your devices with a password. Also, make it hard for your abuser to find your evidence should they successfully breach your security. Mislabel documents and put them in an unrelated electronic file. Consider storing this information on a password-protected cloud service, like Dropbox or Google Drive.

How Can Martine, Katz Scanlon & Schimmel, P.A., Help?

A domestic violence lawyer can help you get relief from a bad domestic violence situation. We may be able to help you obtain a restraining order which could keep your abuser away from you. If you live in Pennsylvania or New Jersey and are dealing with domestic abuse, call our office at (856) 396-9500 or fill out our online contact form today.