• Domestic violence shelter workers deputized to speed paperwork process


    ORLANDO, Fla. -
    Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez deputized 16 workers from the Harbor House domestic violence shelter Thursday.

    Harbor House officials said it will allow them to get help to domestic violence victims more quickly.

    One of those sworn in on Thursday, Maribel Ojeda, said she's making a pledge to domestic violence victims to be there around the clock.

    "(The victim) doesn't know what to do because she's scared. The fact we're able to provide these services can save her life," said Ojeda.

    Domestic violence victims typically need to get out of a dangerous situation immediately. Right now, if a victim in Orange County wants to get an injunction after 5 p.m. he or she will find the doors to the clerk's office are closed and locked.

    Harbor House employees work around the clock providing shelter and other services to victims of domestic violence. Now those employees can help a victim start the legal process, despite the time of day.

    They'll be able to help victims begin injection paperwork 24 hours a day and reach an on-call judge to ask for court-ordered protection against an abuser.

    "Occasionally you'll hear about the case that someone has an injunction and they're still murdered, but in the vast majority of cases, where you do get an injunction the person does leave you alone," said Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House.

    Last year more than 6,100 victims filed for a injunction, according to court officials. This year it's nearing 2,000 requests so far, they said.

    "It's unfortunate that this need exists. With 6,100 last year, 1,800 this year, those injunctions are necessary.

    The fact that they can be access outside of the court, in private, is crucial for these victims and survivors," said Fernandez.

    If a victim already has an injunction and the abuser violates it, the oath the workers took Thursday will allow them to report the violation.

    Nine more Harbor House employees are expected to take the clerk's oath next week.

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    Domestic violence shelter workers deputized to speed paperwork process