New Hanover County court officials today announced the launch of a new eCourts Civil Domestic Violence System to provide a safer way for victims of domestic violence to get protective orders. Provided by the Judicial Branch's Administrative Office of the Courts, the new system provides electronic filing for protective orders with the assistance of a domestic violence advocate, and the victim has total access to the district court community, including law enforcement, without the need to leave the safety of a secure remote location or compromise their privacy and confidentiality. Instead of multiple stops, the victim has one safe stop to seek protection.
"Domestic violence eFiling is more efficient for victims, law enforcement, and the courts, and it improves public safety and access to justice," said Judge Marion Warren, director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. "The system follows in the Judicial Branch's vision for eCourts and modernizing court technology systems statewide."
The domestic violence system in New Hanover runs in partnership with Domestic Violence Shelter and Services, Inc. (DVSS), Coastal Horizons Rape Crisis Center, University of North Carolina at Wilmington CARE Office, New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, New Hanover County Clerk's Office, and New Hanover County District Court. Victims may seek protection at The Open Gate location for DVSS, Coastal Horizons, as well as on campus at the UNCW CARE Office, a first in the state.
"This system increases safety for domestic violence victims and may help save lives," said New Hanover County Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening. "It offers an alternative method to report domestic violence incidents that otherwise may go unreported for fear of threats of violence without coming to the courthouse."
The award-winning system started with judicial and local officials of Alamance County in June 2013 and is now in Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford and Wake counties. Nine additional counties are expected to go live with the system by 2019, including Onslow (January 2018), Mecklenburg (March 2018), Buncombe, Carteret, Cumberland, Haywood, Orange, Pitt, and Robeson.
Once implementation concludes in 2019, the system will serve more than half of the state's population, half of domestic violence protective order filings statewide, and more than half of domestic violence homicides statewide. Additionally, it will be integrated with North Carolina's warrant repository system, NCAWARE, which will allow for real-time review of domestic violence protective orders by all members of law enforcement statewide. Expansion and integration are provided through a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The system has won several prestigious awards, including the 2014 Government Innovation Award and the 2014 GCN Award.
In 2013, North Carolina ranked 20th in the country for domestic violence homicides with 55, or 1.09 deaths per 100,000 females. In 2013, the N.C. Attorney General's office reported 108 domestic violence homicides, of which 62 were females. In 2015, the N.C. Council for Women reported 110,319 calls for service upon statewide domestic violence service providers by victims. Also in the same time period, N.C. district courts reported 31,172 applications for permanent domestic violence protective orders and 29,483 assault on a female and assault by strangulation charges filed statewide. In the U.S., 1.3 million women and 835,000 men experience domestic violence each year. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in North Carolina.