ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Harbor House of Central Florida offers more than just a crisis hotline and emergency shelter for domestic violence survivors. It offers a number of other programs and services including court advocacy.
With its own office inside the Orange County Courthouse, the advocates help survivors through the injunction process.
“Some people call it an order of protection, through our county it’s an injunction processes, but it’s an order for the other person that’s hurting you to stay away from you,” Regina Taylor said.
Taylor has been working for Harbor House for nearly 20 years and said she’s heard every reason why a survivor stays with her abuser.
“Staying because of finances, or trying to stay because of the children, or trying to stay thinking they can change the other party. I am encouraging them to seek us as advocacy,” Taylor said.
Harbor House walks survivors through a safety plan, helps apply for victim relocation funding, referrals to legal aid and assistance in filing injunctions.
“It’s a great thing that it doesn’t cost one penny to file for an injunction, it’s free,” Taylor said.
Nearly 1,000 injunctions were filed in the past fiscal year through Harbor House, that’s up 27%. Harbor House CEO Michelle Sperzel said the numbers are rising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that when the economy goes down, domestic violence goes up so we’re already seeing an increase in domestic violence, but it will increase more over the next several months so that’s why we need your help now,” Sperzel said.
While the need for services for domestic violence survivors goes up, Sperzel said donations are going down and is encouraging everyone to give back their community whether it’s a monetary or food donation, or just having a conversation about the resources available to help someone who may be in a dangerous situation at home.