This month organizations across the nation are hosting events to bring attention to a serious issue facing our country: domestic violence. Domestic Violence Awareness Month started as a “Day of Unity” held in October 1981 to bring together advocates who were fighting to end domestic violence. The Day of Unity grew into a week of events and later into a month-long effort that now occurs every October. You may have noticed a lot of people wearing purple yesterday, for Purple Thursday, which aims to raise awareness of this issue.
Here at Hillard Heintze, we spend a lot of time examining people’s backgrounds for various investigations, including supporting law firms during litigation, uncovering adverse information about potential business partners, or determining whether employees exhibiting odd behavior pose a threat of violence to the people around them. Unfortunately, during these efforts we all too often come across instances of domestic violence, an issue that affects people from all walks of life. In fact, nearly a quarter of women and one out of seven men have experienced domestic violence by an intimate partner.
Another Reason to Search Public Records
My colleague Andrew Davis touched on this issue in June, when he discussed the abuse allegations Amber Heard made against movie star Johnny Depp in divorce filings. The allegations serve as an example of why we dig through public records, like divorce cases, to gain insight on individuals for our clients.
Uncovering a history of abusive behavior is particularly important in our threat cases, in which our clinical psychologist reviews the background information we’ve gathered to determine if an individual has a propensity toward violence and a high likelihood of harming our client. It’s also important to discover when conducting due diligence investigations: a company should know, for both ethical and business reasons, if an executive they’re about to hire has committed acts of domestic violence.
Uncovering Violent Behavior: 6 Key Records
A variety of records can help identify whether people have a history of this kind of behavior. These include:
- Criminal Cases – Sometimes we uncover domestic violence cases by searching criminal records in the counties where a person has lived and worked. For example, we may find an individual was convicted of battery and, upon review of the case file, learn that the person had hit his or her spouse, child or roommate. However, often incidents of domestic violence never lead to criminal charges and therefore would not show up during our searches of criminal court records.
- Documents From Public Records Requests – Sometimes, particularly during threat cases, we submit public records requests to various police departments to obtain records of arrests or calls for service related to a particular person or address. Through these requests, we may uncover instances in which police responded to a 9-1-1 call or arrested an individual but these actions never led to criminal charges.
- Divorce Records – As in the Johnny Depp case, divorce filings can reveal a wealth of information about a person’s background. We’ve seen instances in which someone accuses his or her spouse of physical or mental abuse in the divorce petition or in other records related to the case.
- Orders of Protection — If a person has been abused or threatened by an individual, he or she can file a petition for an order of protection, also sometimes called a restraining order or harassment prevention order, against him or her in court. These petitions typically include a summary of the respondent’s alleged harassing or abusive behavior. These petitions can also be found buried in a couple’s divorce filings, as was the case in Depp’s divorce.
- Social Media – As individuals become increasingly open online, they may make domestic abuse allegations or post about harming others on their social media profiles. In one case we worked, for example, we saw a woman make multiple posts on Facebook about beating her young child, prompting us to contact the proper authorities.
- Press — People may discover domestic abuse cases by researching press reports, particularly if the subject of interest is a public figure. In one case we worked on, a simple Google search revealed articles about a subject arrested and charged multiple times with assaulting his wife. However, most of the time this type of information is not so easy to find.
For more information on Domestic Violence Awareness Month or resources for domestic violence victims, visit http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/. Victims can stay informed about whether their offenders are in custody at vinelink.com.