One woman’s story

By Ruthann Carr

(The names in this story have been changed)

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Just a year and a half ago Beth thought she’d found the love of her life: Bob. Now she stood in the bucolic village of Palmyra carrying in her pocket a phone recording of him threatening to kill her.

Beth needed a protective order against Bob. She was scared he’d hurt her or damage her home and business. She didn’t have time to waste and didn’t know what to do next.

This is the story of one woman’s effort to get out of an abusive relationship – of what it’s like to try and get a protective order in a small rural county – in Fluvanna County.

When they met in the fall of 2017, Bob was a skilled tradesman with a job. Beth said they talked for hours about everything. She thought he was the one.  Life was great.

Neither of them were starry-eyed kids. Far from it. Beth was in her late 40s and owned a successful business. Bob was the same age.

Soon after they met Bob moved in with Beth. Bob was waiting on a court settlement from a pharmaceutical company. He told Beth he expected to get hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions.

Bob had several chronic illnesses; had them, Beth said, since he was a child. Shortly after moving in with Beth, Bob decided to quit his job and help Beth with hers. Bob loved to cook and work on cars. He would support Beth in that way.

In December 2017, Bob asked Beth to marry him. She said yes. They planned a late 2018 wedding because Bob’s divorce wasn’t final.

When the wedding date rolled around, they went ahead with the ceremony even though his divorce still hadn’t come through. They’d get married legally later.

But Beth said she knew the night of the wedding it was over.

Things had been going downhill for a while.  Beth paid for the entire wedding and had been paying Bob’s bills for months as he waited for his settlement. But she just couldn’t bring herself to admit she’d made a mistake.

On the advice of friends, Beth did not legalize her marriage to Bob when his divorce was final.

Over the next few months things got worse. Bob’s behavior was erratic. They argued constantly.

After a particularly troublesome episode, Beth decided she had enough.

Hoping things would change was foolish.

Armed with the recorded threat, Beth went before a magistrate. The magistrate did not grant her an emergency protective order.

She had to go back home and regroup.

That’s what brought Beth to the Village of Palmyra that hot summer day. She had little time to be away from her business before Bob got suspicious. Time was of the essence.

Not knowing where to go, she went to the courthouse.

One of the clerks told her to go to the court services unit in the same brick building as the treasurer’s office. She walked up the street to that building, walked through the hallway until she came to a door.

It was locked. There was a note on the door. It said if the door was locked, to call the phone number listed to make an appointment.

She didn’t have any more time to waste, so she wrote down the phone number and went back to her house where Bob was.

The next day Beth met with the court services officer and filled out the paperwork. They then went straight to court where the judge granted the protective order. It gave Beth control over her residence, her business and her entire property.

Later when sheriff’s officers came to serve Bob the order, it took him more than an hour to get his things and leave.

According to the protective order, Bob was not allowed to contact Beth. Within an hour she began receiving texts from him, which was a violation.

Beth notified the police. Eventually Bob was arrested and found guilty of violating the protective order and sentenced to jail.

Months later, Beth is trying to move on.

She wonders how a younger person without the resources she had goes through such situations. And why it isn’t easier to get a protective order? Beth wants to change that so no one else has to go through the shame and confusion she experienced.

That’s why she’s telling her story.

How and Where Do You Get Help?

It’s a hard truth that rural counties often have only one full or part-time employee serving victims.

When those people are in court, people needing their services must wait. In Fluvanna, Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Court is held each Wednesday.

The JDR Court deals only with crimes against or committed by children and crimes among family members or those co-habiting.

The JDR Court Services Unit does intakes (reviews and creates a document) on all juvenile offenders, child victims of abuse or neglect and conducts all investigations ordered by judges in cases involving children, including questions of custody. They also provide probation and parole services for offenders as well as domestic relations complaints.

Fluvanna shares one full-time JDR Court Services Unit worker and one part-time administrative assistant with Louisa. When that one worker is in court or is in Louisa, there is no one immediately available to help a person write out a petition for a protective order. There are three types of protective orders: Emergency, Preliminary and Permanent orders.

Magistrates provide services 24-hours a day, conducting hearings in person or through the use of videoconferencing systems. In order to get an emergency protective order, a person must go to the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office and appear before the magistrate via videoconferencing.

According to the Fluvanna County website: “If you have an emergency protective order, it expires on the date and time shown at the bottom of the form. If you want a protective order beyond that time, you MUST contact the Court Services Unit at 434-591-1990 in order to request a petition for a protective order. The petition must then be filed with the Fluvanna County Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court no later than 4pm the Tuesday before your current order expires in order for it to be placed on the Court’s docket the following day.”

Much of this is difficult to follow or understand for anyone, let alone when a person is in crisis.

That’s where Domestic Violence Agencies such as the Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE) can help. Located in Charlottesville, SHE serves Fluvanna residents and offers more than just shelter.

Employees are trained in crisis management and know how to help people involved in domestic violence. They are available by phone 24-hours a day and a SHE advocate can accompany a person to court.

While they do not represent the person legally, the advocate can be a vital support to people going through the court process.

All counties have a Victim Witness Assistant to help victims of all crimes. Sherri Stader is Fluvanna’s Victim Witness Advocate. She invites people to call her office and ask for copies of two brochures she created. One is about protective orders – the legal way to keep an abuser at bay. The other, about what happens after charges are filed and includes information on staying safe.

To reach Fluvanna’s Victim Witness Assistant, call 434-591-1985

To get it touch with Fluvanna’s Court Services Unit, call 434-591-1990.

Call the Shelter for Help in Emergency at 434-293-8509.

To find out more about protective orders, go to:


What if it’s not you but someone you love?

It is hard when you suspect someone is in an unhealthy/abusive relationship. The first and most important thing is you care. For someone who feels unworthy, that is golden.

There are things you can do and things you can’t.

You CAN’T:

  • Stop the abuse;
  • Make the person end the relationship;
  • Put down or be openly hostile to the abuser;
  • Give advice;
  • Place conditions on your support.

You CAN:

  • Learn about domestic violence;
  • Talk to the person privately. Tell them what you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned;
  • Listen nonjudgmentally;
  • Offer to keep the person’s packed exit bag in your home;
  • Create a code word or phrase they can use to let you know when they need help;
  • Ask about their hopes and dreams;
  • Help them identify their strengths and things they like to do that build up their self-esteem;
  • Offer to keep a log of abusive incidents (this can prove useful in getting a protective order);
  • When they signal they are ready to take steps to leave, offer to accompany the person to get a protective order;
  • Let them take the lead. It is a vital component to them reclaiming their power. Just be there for them.


How Big is the Problem?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and is represented by the color purple.

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. October is awash in the color pink, which represents breast cancer awareness. From Panera’s signature cherry vanilla bagel offered only in October, to the ubiquitous pink ribbons, breast cancer awareness is everywhere.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, about 335,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

But that is eclipsed by the number of adults in the United States this year who will become victims of domestic violence: 12 million, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

That works out to be around one in three women and one in four men who will experience domestic violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The next time you are in a room full of people, or even in a long check-out line, count those around you. Then do the math. If there are 12 people, statistically three or four are likely to have been or will become victims of domestic violence.

And contrary to what you may think, it doesn’t affect only certain people or cultures. A judge, doctor, CEO, waitress or mechanic is just as likely to be victims of domestic violence.

According to “Domestic violence can happen in any relationship, regardless of ethnic group, income level, religion, education or sexual orientation. Abuse may occur between a married people, or between an unmarried people living together or in a dating relationship. It happens in heterosexual, gay and lesbian relationships.”

Sarah Ellis, who works for SHE, said in the past year her agency served the following in Fluvanna:

  • shelter staff and volunteers responded to 84 individuals;
  • The hotline responded to 62 people requesting support and/or information;
  • Direct services were given to 22 individuals including three adults and one child from Fluvanna who stayed in the residential facility for a total of 172 nights.

“SHE offers training to all agencies throughout our area and would be happy to do so for any groups or agencies requesting it,” Ellis said.  “We do have a Prevention Services Coordinator who focuses primarily on children, youth and schools. We can also work with any county departments that want this service.” ;

Interested in being a part of the solution?

  • Learn about domestic violence – one Google search brings up scores of helpful websites. A few of the best are:,,;
  • Find the resources/non-profit agencies that serve your area;
  • Support those organizations financially;
  • Ask your local domestic violence agency to train workers at your place of business and in the county where you live.

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