Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

I Called My Local Sheriff’s Department (Non-Emergency)

darkened silhouette of a police officer - you can tell by the hat

What I Did

I called the sheriff’s department and spoke with a person in charge of domestic violence cases.

What I Hoped to Accomplish

I wanted to find out about the process that occurs after calling the police about a domestic disturbance. Knowing what could happen if you call the police takes away the mystery and fear. The officer I spoke to explained things like what would happen if I needed a safe house. He also explained what my abuser could (and couldn’t) be arrested for.

The night I left, the officers could not arrest my husband. My bruises didn’t show yet, and my husband didn’t threaten my life. He said a bunch of nasty things, but no death threats. The officers asked me if there was somewhere I could go, and they would have driven me there. But they stayed until I had my things together and drove away.

And I was really okay with it soon after driving away. Why? Because I called the sheriff before the emergency. I pretty much understood what had happened. I wasn’t surprised, and I knew what I had to do next. Go to the magistrate when they opened in the morning. Then write up the complaint in the DV office and see the judge. The judge granted a restraining order and had my husband arrested.

Keep in mind that this information is good for Cumberland County, North Carolina. Call your county’s sheriff’s department or city’s police department to discover what options are available to you.


Talking to the right person makes all the difference. The head guy explained:

  • Where I live, if the victim of a domestic assault shows no visible marks, the sheriff cannot arrest the perpetrator. If the perpetrator makes threats to the victim’s life in the presence of the officers, off to jail. If the deputies cannot remove the perpetrator, they can drive the victim to a shelter or to a friend’s home.
  • Calling the police and/or leaving the home creates a Police Report (begins a paper trail). However, there are no charges brought unless the officers arrest the perpetrator.
  • A victim can go to the Magistrate’s office and press charges against the perpetrator at any time, with or without a Police Report. It is up to the Magistrate to decide if the complaint has enough evidence to hold up in court.
  • Police Reports are valid for one year. After that year, they cannot be the basis for pressing charges.
  • If the magistrate creates the charge, it is the State of NC charging the perpetrator, not the victim. The victim becomes a witness in the case. If the victim does not go to court to give testimony, the case will most likely be dismissed.
  • A victim of domestic violence or abuse can call the Sheriff’s Department at any time to request transportation to a safe house. Calling the Sheriff is the only way to find a safe house in my county.


I definitely recommend calling your Sheriff or Police Department! The information they give you will help you during safety planning. Also, knowing in advance what to expect if you do call the authorities is invaluable. Knowing what to expect saved me from extra panic and stress. I hope your sheriff’s office or police department is as helpful as mine.

Featured photo base by Jacky Lam