The denial of a request for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) was an abuse of discretion where the trial court failed to adequately consider the summation of evidence presented by petitioner or appreciate the varying responses of battered women. Vinson filed a request for a DVRO against Kinsey, the father of her two children. Vinson listed the most recent abuse as an incident where Kinsey had threatened her about a month prior. In addition to this incident, Vinson included prior incidents where Kinsey had punched her, destroyed furniture in the home, and sent threatening text messages. In support of her request, Vinson submitted signed “sworn statements” from relatives and friends who had witnessed the abuse or injuries resulting from the abuse. The trial court denied the request for the DVRO, taking issue with Vinson waiting over a month to file the request for DVRO after the most recent threats and surmising that Vinson was not actually afraid of Kinsey because she chose to be alone in a vehicle with him. The appellate court reversed the denial of the DVRO. The trial court’s conclusion that Vinson was not afraid of Kinsey because she agreed to get in a car alone with him does not appreciate that all women exposed to violence and abuse in their intimate relationships do not respond similarly. Battered women differ in the type and severity of their psychological reactions to violence and abuse, as well as their strategies for responding to violence and abuse. While the court was entitled to consider the length of time between the most recent abuse and the request for DVRO, the length of time since the most recent act of abuse is not, by itself, determinative. The trial court’s focus on the month-long delay ignores the parties’ overall history over the decade-long relationship and the recognized difficulty in leaving an abusive relationship. The evidence provided by Vinson that Kinsey had physically abused her and repeatedly threatened to hurt or kill her compels the conclusion that the denial of her request for a DVRO was an abuse of discretion.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A166582.PDF