Possible bill could help North Carolina abuse victims in court

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It’s the first of its kind.

A possible bill in North Carolina could help abuse survivors find the courage to act against their abusers by allowing them to appear virtually in court.

The bill is in the very early draft stages currently, but it could be a game-changer for domestic and sexual abuse and harassment victims.

Guilford County courts currently allows virtual appearances for emergency restraining orders.

Leaders at the Family Justice Center are hoping that if the bill does go through, not only will it make these video appearances more mainstream, but help encourage other survivors to come forward.

“I came in from work and my husband came in and he started stabbing me. I ended up with two stab wounds to my chest, two to my back, my neck, my face, and twice in my arm,” Brenda White said.

That was back in 2012.

It took two and a half years for her ex-husband to go through the legal system.

It was only at his trial for attempted first-degree murder that she had to come face-to-face with him again.

“It frightened me to see him. This was a man who I was married to, who actually put these stab wounds in my body,” White said.

She told FOX8 that seeing him was like going through the assault all over again.

“When he walked in the door, tears just started flowing. It was as if he had no remorse whatsoever,” White said. “He blew a kiss to his family and sat down.”

That’s one of the reasons why the now domestic violence advocate said she hopes this proposed bill, only in the early stages of the North Carolina Legislature, passes.

Sonya Desai, a client services coordinator with the Guilford County Justice Center, said there are also other benefits.

“I’ve accompanied dozens of clients to court where they are scared and they see their abuser across the way and they have a meltdown,” she said.

Desai has helped domestic violence survivors, including White, face their abusers in court.

For emergency restraining orders, clients can come to the virtual courtroom at the Family Justice Center.

Desai said the virtual setting makes things easier on everyone.

“A lot of times, clients are able to give better information via the virtual courtroom,” she said. “For them to tell their story, in a more efficient way where they feel safe, I feel like that would be more helpful to the courts.”

She said it’s a benefit to the legal system, and for other victims of abuse, who are deciding whether or not to take action.

“That’s one of the determining factors if they want to pursue [justice] or not,” White said. “Just by being in the room with them and to actually see their face.”

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