Domestic Abuse and First Responders
Written by Moses & Rooth on May 9, 2017
Domestic violence is a complex issue. Many victims are afraid to come forward because they fear being judged. And many first responders train to render assistance, such as firefighters and paramedics, may not be properly trained to identify and properly deal with potential domestic violence situations.
Orlando Joins Other Local Governments in Protecting Firefighters, EMTs
It is important to remember that domestic violence is a crime. It is not simply a squabble or a “family matter.” Florida law defines domestic violence as any act of assault, battery, sexual assault, kidnapping, or any related crime against a family or household member.
Because domestic abuse often involves physical violence, first responders need to be prepared for anything. Recently the Orlando Fire Department announced its firefighters will start wearing bulletproof vests when responding to emergency calls. Officially, this move was prompted by the June 2016 terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub. But according to WFTV, OFD policy will also require use of the vests when its officers “show up to a domestic violence scene” and police “don’t have a suspect in custody.”
One Orlando fire chief told WFTV that first responders are at risk in such scenarios because there may be an active shooter. The vests allow first responders to provide medical treatment for a domestic violence victim while still protecting themselves.
Orlando is not alone in moving to protect its first responders. Last year NBC4 in Washington, DC, noted there were more than “60,000 domestic disturbance” cases in the national capital region annually. NBC4 said there were a number of cases where “officers responding” to a domestic violence call “were assaulted, injured,” and even killed. Similar to Orlando, many police departments in the area have outfitted their first responders with bulletproof vests.
Do Florida First Responders Take Domestic Violence Seriously?
But there are also concerns that first responders are not adequately trained to deal with potential domestic abuse cases. According to a January 2016 report on the media website Fusion, “too many EMTs and paramedics buy into the same myths about domestic violence as the public—namely, that the victim is somehow responsible for the abuse.” Fusion cited a study conducted by Florida State University of more than 400 Florida first responders. Of note, 1 out of 5 respondents “were neutral or agreed that ‘battered women secretly want to be abused.’” Similarly, about one-third of respondents thought domestic violence was a “normal reaction to day-to-day stress and frustration.”
Protecting the Rights of the Accused
Domestic abuse is never acceptable as a reaction to stress or any other provocation. But neither is unfairly charging someone with domestic violence without sufficient evidence. Unfortunately, just as some first responders are too dismissive of victims, some prosecutors and police are too eager to railroad an accused defendant. That is why if you have been accused of domestic violence you need to speak with an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney who will stand up for your rights. Call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150 if you need immediate legal assistance.