Debunking Common Myths/Misconceptions about Domestic Violence in the Asian American & Pacific Islander Communities

DVRO is short for Domestic Violence Restraining Order, and it is a type of restraining order that is granted in family court. It is generally to provide protection against an intimate partner or close family member. Domestic violence can be characterized as a cycle of abuse with a power and control dynamic. Below are some common myths/misconceptions about domestic violence in the Asian American & Pacific Islander Communities:

I cannot apply for a DVRO because I do not speak English.

FALSE! You have the right to ask for an interpreter. If the court’s self-help center is unable to provide language support, you may be able to obtain in-language assistance from a nonprofit organization such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles. Further, you have a right to a certified court interpreter for your DVRO hearing at no cost to you.

I am undocumented so I cannot seek legal relief.

FALSE! You can file a DVRO and seek legal relief regardless of your immigration status. In fact, your immigration status cannot be disclosed in your case unless the judge finds that it is necessary to disclose.

There is no such thing as rape between a married couple because sexual intercourse is a right of spouses and expected as part of marriage.

FALSE! Even between a married couple, if one spouse forcefully engages in sexual intercourse without the other spouse’s consent, such an act may constitute marital rape (or spousal rape).

If I apply for a DVRO, I will lose our children to my abuser because he/she is the primary wage earner, and I have little to no income.

FALSE! Any discrepancy in income should be addressed by child support, not denial of custody.

If I apply for a DVRO, I can do it in secret without informing my abuser.

FALSE! Although you may file your initial DVRO request without your abuser knowing, your application will ultimately need to be provided to your abuser so that he/she has an opportunity to respond and defend him/herself. The papers need to be delivered by someone over the age of 18 other than yourself. The sheriff’s office can assist with this process at no cost. If the court believes that you are in immediate danger, the court may provide you with a temporary restraining order (TRO) when you file your DVRO request, so that you can be protected until the hearing date.

I cannot call the police for assistance because the police do not get involved in private family affairs.

FALSE! Domestic violence is a crime in the United States. You may contact the police by dialing 911. If the police feel that you are in immediate danger, they may provide you with an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) to provide you with some time to apply for a DVRO.

I have no income, so I cannot afford to apply for a DVRO.

FALSE! In California, filing for a DVRO does not require a filing fee.

I cannot apply for a DVRO because I live with my abuser.

FALSE! Confidential domestic violence shelters may be an option to consider in these situations. Additionally, you can ask the court for an order to have the abuser move out of your shared residence.

My abuser never actually hit me. I cannot get a DVRO.

FALSE! A DVRO can provide protection for abuse that is not physical abuse. Abuse for purposes of a DVRO may include conduct such as stalking, harassment, or disturbing the peace.

I do not have evidence of the abuse. I cannot get a DVRO.

FALSE! Oftentimes it is difficult to document incidents of abuse. Your testimony of the abuse and what occurred is also evidence. Having additional evidence of the abuse would make your case stronger; however, it is possible for you to obtain a DVRO based solely on your testimony.

I have a child/ren together with the abuser. He/she never hit our child/ren. I cannot obtain DVRO protection for our child/ren.

FALSE! In California, if one parent is abusive towards the other parent in front of their child/ren, this can be considered child abuse. There can be issues of failure to protect if the child/ren have witnessed abuse. Please seek legal advice as soon as possible.

I have a Criminal Protective Order. I don’t need a DVRO.

FALSE! If there is a criminal case open, you may have been issued a Criminal Protective Order (CPO) by a prosecuting agency. However, if the criminal case gets dismissed or the abuser successfully finishes all the terms of his probation, the CPO will automatically be terminated and you will be without protection, whereas a DVRO would be independent of any criminal proceeding. Furthermore, although you can apply for a renewal of your DVRO, it would be entirely up to the prosecuting agency to renew a CPO. In addition, you can ask for various orders beyond protective orders through a DVRO, including custody and support orders. However, these other orders would not be available through a CPO.

I got a TRO on the day I filed my DVRO request. I am fully protected now, and I don’t need to do anything else.

FALSE! A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is only valid until your DVRO hearing date. The hearing date is set about 21 days after you submit your DVRO request. Prior to the hearing, you would need to make sure that your abuser is legally provided with the paperwork that you had submitted to the court. You are not allowed to personally deliver the paperwork. The sheriff’s office can deliver the paperwork on your behalf at no cost. At the hearing, the court will have an opportunity to hear from both you and your abuser to see if a more long term DVRO is necessary. It can be challenging and triggering to face your abuser in court, but you are allowed to have a support person with you during the proceeding. However, he/she can only be there for support and may not speak on your behalf. If you fail to attend the hearing, your TRO will expire, the court will dismiss your case, and you will be left without protection.

Advancing Justice-LA is the nation's largest legal aid and civil rights organization serving the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community