New push by federal prosecutors could help protect domestic violence victims

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There's a new push by federal prosecutors to protect domestic violence victims, and it's happening right here in Charlotte.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray spoke exclusively with anchor Allison Latos about how they're trying to stop the violence.

[ALSO READ: Man arrested days after girlfriend found stabbed to death inside home]

A conviction in federal court can often carry more weight with longer, harsher sentences. The Department of Justice is now making cases tied to domestic violence a top priority across the country -- and Channel 9 found that suspects in Charlotte are already feeling the pressure from federal prosecutors.

Audra Toussaint escaped an abusive relationship but still fears for her life.

“I carry pepper spray with me even in my backyard,” she said. “I worry he will come to my house and try to kill me every day.”

So many women have tragically died. The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 47 people were killed by domestic violence this year.

Domestic violence is something that permeates the society and it has been an epidemic.

Federal prosecutors like Murray are prioritizing cases with domestic violence ties, using federal charges to pursue stronger, tougher sentences -- in some cases a decade behind bars.

[9 Investigates: The cost of domestic violence]

Prosecutors said Charles Browne was under a domestic violence protective order but sent his victim 731 harassing and threatening texts over three weeks.

He's now facing federal cyberstalking charges.

In June, police said officers responded to a domestic violence call where DeAngelo Hicks was actively assaulting victims.

A federal grand jury has indicted him for possessing a gun as a felon, tied to that domestic violence.

Toussaint told Channel 9 the push for tougher consequences makes her feel like victims truly have a voice.

“It’s going to finally get the attention it really deserves,” she said.

Prosecutors said if local police or district attorneys have cases where a convicted abuser should not have had a gun, they want to take them on in federal court.

The Safe Alliance Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline (980-771-HOPE) is staffed 24 hours a day.