In 2014, overall crime in Florida declined by 3.6%, but overall reported domestic violence offenses decreased by only 1% (FCADV, 2015).
In 2014, 106,882 domestic violence offenses were reported to law enforcement. In the same year, 205 people died as a result of domestic violence homicide, almost 21% of homicides in Florida. Domestic violence murder and manslaughter actually increased by 10.2% (FCADV, 2015).
In Florida, domestic violence crimes include:
- sexual battery
- aggravated stalking
- false imprisonment
- aggravated assault
- aggravated battery
- sexual assault
- Any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member
During the 2015 Florida Legislative Session several bills were passed that have effects on the 42 certified domestic violence centers in the state and on survivors of domestic violence and their children (FCADV, 2015a):
- Child Protection Investigation (CPI) Project. This collaborative program between the FCADV, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Children and Families, the certified domestic violence centers, community care agencies, and the criminal justice system received an additional $2 million for program expansion.
- Sexual Offenses (HB 133). Extends the statute of limitations governing prosecutions of felony sexual battery offenses from four years to eight years.
- Tracking Devices or Tracking Applications (HB 197). Result is that it will be a violation of the law for a batterer to install or hide a GPS tracking device on a survivor’s car or phone without that person’s consent.
- Public Records—Audio or Video Recordings (SB 248). Provides public records exemptions and guidance to law enforcement agencies that will offer a level of protection to domestic violence survivors so that any recordings made by a police officer will be difficult for a member of the general public to access.
- No Contact Order (SB 342). Allows courts to impose conditions in a No Contact Order that will better protect victims of domestic violence, make the orders immediately effective, and make them more consistent across the state.
For additional information about bills go to the Legislature’s website. Also, the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Department of Children and Families websites have information and links pertinent to current legislative efforts, as well as legislation and administrative code already in place (FCADV, 2015a).
Background Screening Process
Florida does require a background screening process for those who work with certain vulnerable Floridians, including children, elders, and those with disabilities. In 2012 additional legislative changes to that process were made. Details of the laws and the procedures can be found here.
Florida Reporting Requirements
Florida statute 790.24 requires medical professionals and employees of medical facilities to report to the sheriff’s office gunshot wounds or any life-threatening injury “indicating an act of violence.” There is no specific requirement to report injuries resulting from an act of domestic violence.
Although every person has a responsibility to report suspected abuse or neglect, some occupations are specified in Florida law as required to do so. These occupations are considered “professionally mandatory reporters.” A professionally mandatory reporter of child abuse/neglect is required by Florida Statute to provide his or her name to the Abuse Hotline Counselor when reporting. A professionally mandatory reporter’s name is entered into the record of the report, but is held confidential (§ 39.202, F.S. and 415.107, F.S.) (FDCF, 2013).
Mandatory reporters can make reports by telephone, TDD, fax, or web. See the Resources section for full contact information. For a complete list of mandatory reporters in Florida call the Florida Department of Children and Families at 850 487 1111 or visit their website.
Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes mandates that any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare shall immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the Florida Abuse Hotline of the Department of Children and Families (FDCF, 2013).
Healthcare workers (and others) are required to report suspected abuse of vulnerable adults to the Florida Abuse Hotline. This includes reporting the suspected abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults who, because of their age or disability, may be unable to adequately provide for their own care or protection. Law enforcement takes the lead in all criminal investigations and prosecution (FDCF, 2013).
Legal Rights of Florida’s Victims
In Florida, a person who is a victim or has reasonable cause to believe they are in imminent danger of becoming a victim of IPV can file an Injunction for Protection. There are four types of Injunctions for Protection:
- Against domestic violence
- Against repeat violence (used when the parties are not “family or household members”)
- Against dating violence
- Against sexual violence (CASA, 2016, 2013)
“Anyone who has been the victim of domestic violence, or has reasonable cause to believe they are in imminent danger of becoming a victim, can file for an Injunction for Protection. A Repeat Violence Injunction requires two unrelated incidents of violence or stalking, one of which must have occurred within six months of filing for the petition” (CASA, 2013).
“An Injunction for Protection may order the abuser to immediately stop the violence or harassment, to leave the shared home, to avoid contact with the victim at home, work, or school, to attend batterer’s intervention and/or appropriate counseling. The injunction can also provide for temporary custody, visitation, and child or spousal support” (CASA, 2013).
For more information about Injunctions for Protection and other legal rights, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800 799-SAFE (7233) or visit CASA: Know Your Legal Rights or Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Legal Resources.
Florida Programs and Resources
Batterer Intervention Programs
Batterer Intervention Programs (BIP) are community-based programs intended to provide standardized training, hold batterers responsible for their violence, and provide tools for establishing and maintaining non-abusive relationships. The basis of the BIP is to identify power and control as the central issue related to abusive behavior. The program is funded through fees from program participants.
Legislation in 2012 removed the requirement that BIP service providers be state-certified and monitored. However, most other requirements regarding program length and content, payment by batterers, and requirements to attend after convictions were not changed. Full information is available from the Department (FDCF, 2014, 2007).
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) “serves as the professional association for the state’s 42 certified domestic violence centers, and is the primary representative of battered women and their children in the public policy arena” (FCADV, 2016).
FCADV is statutorily responsible for delivering and managing services for the state’s domestic violence program. The FCADV provides training and technical assistance for the centers, communities, and organizations, as well as multi-lingual and other resource materials. It also is involved in numerous partnerships to provide assistance to and gather information from survivors of domestic violence (FCADV, 2016, 2015).
The FCADV also operates and manages the statewide Florida Domestic Violence Hotline (800 500 1119). Hotline advocates provide support, advocacy, information, and referral services for survivors of domestic violence, their children, families, and friends. During 2014–2015 the hotline received 31,646 calls, of which 4,091 were handled by the legal hotline (FCADV, 2015).
Domestic Violence Centers
Florida’s 42 certified domestic violence centers are community-based agencies that provide services to the victims of intimate violence. Florida Statute 39.905 outlines basic requirements necessary to meet the certification standards to be included as a domestic violence center recognized by the State of Florida. These centers range from 15- to 132-bed facilities and provide more than 2,126 beds statewide for survivors and their children who are in imminent danger (FCADV, 2016a).
During fiscal year 2014–2015, emergency shelter was provided to 15,397 individuals for 546,658 nights, and there was not always a bed available for everyone who needed it. However, in 2013 increased funding appropriated by the state legislature meant that in 2015, 278 additional beds became available across the state (FCADV, 2015).
According to Florida’s Administrative Rule 65H-1 Program Standards for Certification, each of the centers must provide a minimum of core services, which include:
- Information and referral
- Case management
- Emergency shelter
- 24-hour hotline services
- Child assessment
- Professional training
- Community education
- Safety planning (FCADV, 2016a)
These centers also provide a host of additional services such as: transportation, rent and utility assistance, transitional housing, legal and court advocacy, work skills and job readiness training and placement, financial literacy education, and training and education programs (FCADV, 2015).
Rural Statewide Initiative Project
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) Rural Statewide Initiative Project “supports direct services for survivors in Florida’s most isolated communities.” The programs are designed to address the unique situations of rural survivors. The Initiative uses a community organizing model to bring community, judicial, and law enforcement partners together to provide coordinated services to survivors (FCADV, n.d.-1).
In 2002 CDC used Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA) funding to develop the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancements and Leadership through Alliances (DELTA) Program whose focus is the primary prevention of IPV at the community level. Through the DELTA Program, CDC provides financial support to fourteen state-level domestic violence coalitions for prevention-focused training and technical assistance. Local coalitions then develop and implement strategies focused on preventing first-time perpetration and victimization.
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) participates in the DELTA program, overseeing six local primary prevention projects focusing on underserved youth, communities of color, and immigrants. The programs involve seven counties: Orange, Pasco, Palm Beach, Okaloosa-Walton, Alachua, and Pinellas. The goal of the DELTA program is to reduce the number of new cases of domestic violence. For more information visit the FCADV Delta Project website (FCADV, n.d.-2).
The Economic Justice Initiative
The FCADV also supports the Economic Justice Initiative, which addresses economic and housing issues that threaten the long-term independence and safety of survivors and their children. For more information about the Economic Justice Initiative call 850 425 2749 or visit FCADV: Economic Justice Initiative.
The Disability and Accessibility Project
The Disability and Accessibility Project was created to support domestic violence centers in creating accessible services and effectively serving survivors living with disabilities. For more information, visit the FCADV Disability and Accessibility Project.
The INVEST Program
The Intimate Violence Enhanced Services Team (InVEST) “was created specifically to reduce and prevent domestic violence homicides in Florida.” The program has implemented batterer accountability measures and increased advocacy for survivors at high risk of being murdered by their intimate partner. Since the program’s inception in 2009 no InVEST program participants have been homicide victims. For more information, visit the FCADV InVEST Program website.
These and other programs have increased awareness of the effects of intimate partner violence in Florida and throughout the United States. Shedding light on the devastating effects of intimate partner violence, improving training for healthcare workers and law enforcement professionals, and providing ongoing public education is designed to achieve the goal of a reduction and eventual elimination of this pervasive and expensive public health problem.