ORLANDO, Fla. - Domestic violence is a big issue these days, and even when victims have filed injunctions to keep abusers away, the offenders will sometimes violate those court orders and go after the
But as Channel 9's Deneige Broom learned, one group of advocates was just given more authority to quickly get help for those victims when that happens.
The Harbor House advocates are sometimes the first line of defense for domestic violence victims.
"They're scared, they're scared for their life, for their children," said Jessie Motley of Harbor House.
In 2012 in Orange County, more than 5,000 injunctions were filed against accused abusers and Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports show more than 8,000 offenses were reported.
Even more alarming, Harbor House CEO Carol Wick said, is the number of abusers most likely to seriously harm or kill their victims has drastically gone up.
Earlier this week, Channel 9 reported about a Seminole County woman allegedly killed by her
on-again, off-again boyfriend.
"It's scary for me to know that a survivor today might have the possibility of being murdered tomorrow," said Maribel Ojeda of Harbor House.
This week, more than 30 advocates became deputized by the court, which means they can help a victim file court documents at any time if an abuser violates an injunction.
Before, a victim could only get it done at the courthouse.
"Coming to the courthouse can be a very intimidating,
time-consuming process," said spokeswoman Mary Kogut-Lowell.
Advocates warn victims need a well-rounded safety plan.
"An injunction by itself can never guarantee a person's safety," said Kogut-Lowell.
That's why Harbor House hopes victims reach out to an advocate before it's too late.
Victims can call the Harbor House 24-hour crisis hotline at 407-886-2856 or 800-500-1119.