Just three years ago “Olivia” had a normal and happy life. She had a husband, two children, a full-time job, a home and everything was fine. Her life changed dramatically however when she suffered a brain aneurysm that left her with significant disabilities. As a result of the changes caused by her disabilities her husband became verbally and physically abusive.
After the aneurysm Olivia began to get terrible headaches and suffer from memory loss. She is partially paralyzed on her right side and has difficulty speaking.Her memory loss disrupts her life the most. It interferes with her daily activities. She has difficulty focusing and will forget things that have happened unless she is reminded repeatedly by someone else.
Olivia’s husband could not cope with the sudden changes in his wife. He became impatient and verbally abusive. After a while he began to physically abuse her as well. He choked her and hit her when he became impatient and angry. During one argument, Olivia was able to grab a broom to defend herself but he took it away from her and beat her with the handle. There were incidents when he would shove her against the wall or knock her down to the floor.
Olivia called the police after several of these incidents. The police would take her husband away but the charges would be dropped when Olivia failed to understand the criminal process.
Olivia sought the assistance of Delaware Volunteer Legal Services to help her get away from her husband’s abusive conduct. The DVLS attorney met with Olivia and spoke to her about her rights as a victim. Olivia agreed to file a Petition for Order of Protection From Abuse at the Family Court. The attorney drafted the Petition and filed it on Olivia’s behalf.
The DVLS attorney found that it was very difficult to represent Olivia in light of her memory loss. The attorney and Olivia would need to repeatedly review key issues concerning her case because Olivia would forget the earlier conversations. The attorney documented the conversations and attempted to use the documentation to review the earlier meetings but Olivia has difficulty focusing on and comprehending what she reads.
Olivia could not remember details about her life. She had only general recollections of the abusive incidents and could not remember the finer points. She could not remember what property she owned or if she had a checking account. Nevertheless, the attorney worked patiently with Olivia, reviewing matters countless times to refresh Olivia’s recollection.
Despite these difficulties, the DVLS attorney holds Olivia in the highest regard. “I just needed to have patience. None of this is her fault. Compared to what she’s doing, what I’m doing is insignificant.” Above all, the DVLS attorney admires the devotion of Olivia to her children. She focuses all of her efforts on their behalf and, as a result, is able to provide them with the stability in their lives that they need.
On the day of trial, the husband agreed to submit to an Order of Protection From Abuse. In the order he agreed not to physically or emotionally abuse Olivia. The Order provided that the husband would not contact Olivia except for the purpose of discussing matters concerning the children.
Unfortunately, Olivia’s memory loss has affected the effectiveness of the protective order. The husband contacts her by telephone on the pretense of discussing the children and then becomes verbally abusive. She forgets that she has a protective order in place and consequently, she does not contact the police or her attorney after these calls. She only is reminded of the order when she meets with the attorney to discuss her divorce and custody cases.
Despite these difficulties the DVLS attorney and Olivia still are working to secure the safety of Olivia and her children. The issues of custody, visitation and divorce remain and they will continue to work together until those issues are resolved and Olivia and her children have a normal and happy life once again.