Tag Archive for: DuPage Family Law

Divorce and Sexual Assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, shedding light on a sensitive topic often surrounded by silence and stigma. Within the broader context of family law, divorce can intersect with issues of family violence and sexual assault, requiring delicate legal handling. 

Nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and assault in their lifetime. The effects of sexual assault and harassment can cause physical harm and emotional wounds that are endured for years.

In such instances, seeking assistance from a family law attorney can prove crucial for navigating the complexities of divorce and obtaining necessary protection orders. In today’s blog, we will explore the significance of legal support in these situations and how it can empower individuals to protect themselves and their families. Here’s what you need to know.

THE ROLE OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH

Sexual Assault Awareness Month serves the critical purposes of shedding light on the severity of domestic violence, debunking myths, and dispelling stereotypes. Through education about the signs and impacts of abuse, individuals gain the tools to recognize and address it effectively. This month reinforces the message that survivors have support and resources.

Moreover, Sexual Assault Awareness Month underscores the importance of prevention through community engagement and educational initiatives. It encourages discussions about healthy relationships, consent, and bystander intervention. Let’s learn more about domestic violence and how it can be prevented.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

Domestic violence/domestic abuse is typically manifested as a pattern of abusive behavior toward an intimate partner in a dating or family relationship, where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim. Domestic abuse can be mental, physical, economic or sexual in nature.

Regrettably, domestic violence transcends boundaries and can affect individuals of any gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Its wide-ranging repercussions impact not only the immediate victims but also the children who witness such abuse.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA) identifies several forms of abuse, including:

  1. Physical abuse (including sexual abuse)
  2. Harassment
  3. Intimidation of a dependent
  4. Interference with personal liberty
  5. Willful deprivation
  6. Exploitation
  7. Stalking

The warning signs of abuse may not manifest immediately and can evolve as the relationship progresses. However, it’s important to recognize that each relationship is unique, and domestic violence can manifest in various forms. One common trait among abusive relationships is the abuser’s attempt to establish power and control through various methods at different stages. Fortunately, there are strategies available to help protect you from this abuse.

ORDERS OF PROTECTION: A VITAL LIFELINE

Divorce proceedings can intensify tensions within a relationship, potentially worsening existing instances of family violence or leading to new forms of abuse. Additionally, survivors may disclose incidents of sexual assault during this tumultuous period. It’s crucial to recognize that survivors of sexual assault may face heightened vulnerability during divorce proceedings, often encountering threats, coercion, or manipulation from their abuser.

Fortunately, Orders of Protection (restraining orders) serve as a legal mechanism to shield survivors of family violence and sexual assault from further harm. These court orders can establish boundaries, prohibit contact, and provide security for individuals and their children. Survivors need to know that they do not have to face this process alone. Getting an order of protection requires a comprehensive understanding of legal procedures, evidence requirements, and advocacy skills.

A family law attorney can help provide legal resources and support services to assist in navigating an order of protection. By seeking the assistance of a compassionate and dedicated legal team, survivors can take crucial steps towards reclaiming their autonomy and finding security and peace of mind.

IF CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED

Unlike allegations of domestic violence, accusations of sexual abuse, particularly child molestation, are typically not made lightly. Such accusations are infrequent and receive intense scrutiny. The courts typically respond by appointing a Guardian ad Litem to investigate, with an expectation that the accusing parent has made every effort to investigate, document, and halt the sexual misconduct as soon as suspicion arose.

If accusations of sexual abuse, especially concerning children, arise within your marriage, immediate arrangements for a medical examination of the victim or alleged victim, even if that victim is yourself, are imperative. Subsequently, contacting an attorney should be a priority. Taking swift action can be pivotal in establishing the truth in court.

THE ROLE OF A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY

In the face of such challenges, the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can be valuable. Family law attorneys have experience in navigating the complexities of divorce cases involving family violence and sexual assault. At Masters Law Group, we aim to protect you and your children’s best interests. Here are some of the areas that we can help you navigate: 

  • Parenting Time: If you have children, work closely with your attorney to determine the best parenting time plan. This helps to ensure that the agreed-upon arrangements prioritize your children’s well-being and best interests.
  • Mediation: Explore options such as mediation or collaborative divorce to help you and your ex-spouse reach mutually beneficial agreements outside of court. Your family law attorney can help guide you through these processes and represent your best interests during negotiations.
  • Post-divorce disputes: After the divorce is finalized, circumstances may require modifications to allocating parental responsibilities, visitation, or support arrangements. Stay in touch with your attorney to address any changes or issues that may arise in the future.
  • Orders of Protection: In cases where an order of protection is granted, attorneys monitor compliance and take swift action against any violations. This proactive approach reinforces the efficacy of legal measures and prioritizes the safety of survivors and their families.

In addition to representing clients, Senior Partner Erin E. Masters is also a court-appointed Child Representative and has experience advocating for children in these high-conflict matters.  Furthermore, Senior Partner Anthony G. Joseph is also on the list of approved Guardian Ad Litem/Child Representatives for the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Remember, during this challenging period, Masters Law Group is here to support you and your legal rights. Working with our trusted attorneys can help alleviate the stress associated with domestic disputes, helping ensure a smoother transition for both you and your children.

COMMUNITY RESOURCES

In Chicago, there is a wide range of community resources available to support survivors of sexual assault. The Domestic Violence Legal Clinic provides legal assistance and advocacy services, helping ensure survivors can access legal remedies. The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network serves as a comprehensive resource hub, connecting survivors to various shelters, counseling, and legal aid services throughout the city.

Hospitals like the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago also provide comprehensive medical care and forensic exams for survivors seeking immediate assistance. These community resources play a vital role in supporting survivors to help them heal and seek justice in the aftermath of sexual assault.

LAST THOUGHTS

As we observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s crucial to recognize the intersection of divorce, family violence, and sexual abuse. Shedding light on these issues can empower survivors to take proactive steps toward safety and justice. 

At Masters Law Group, our skilled family law attorneys are here to help navigate the complexities of divorce while prioritizing the well-being of survivors and their families. Let us strive to create a society where survivors are heard, supported, and empowered,

Contact us here today.