Legal Guide

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic violence is a prevalent problem in the United States and affects an estimated 10 million people annually, most of the victims being women. According to the NIH, 1 in every four women and 1 in every ten males in America have experienced violence. 

Unfortunately, most victims of domestic violence suffer repeated abuse in the hands of the abuser before they speak out for several reasons, one of which is fear of retaliation from their abuser. 

While retaliation is possible, there do exist laws that protect victims, referred to as domestic violence orders.

What Are Domestic Violence Protection Orders?

To understand domestic violence protection orders, it is best to first define domestic violence. Domestic violence refers to a pattern of abusive behavior perpetrated by a member of the same household as the victim. Types of conduct that can fall under domestic abuse include battery, assault, rape, and stalking, among others. 

Domestic violence protection orders are legal orders issued by the court to protect domestic violence victims from their aggressors. “Domestic violence protection orders cannot guarantee absolute protection from violence; however, they act as deterrents, since there are penalties for order violations,” says Attorney Mark Sherman of the Connecticut Domestic Violence Information Center

Types of Domestic Violence Protection Orders

There are three types of domestic violence protection orders: emergency, temporary, and final protection. Emergency protection orders (EPO) are issued in situations of an immediate threat of harm. In most cases, EPOs are applied in cases where children are involved and empower authorities to take action to ensure the safety of the individual while they conduct further assessments of the situation and usually last several days. 

EPOs may not cover a victim until a court decides on a more permanent protection order. However, the law allows the victim to apply for a temporary order, which typically lasts until the court decides. After the court hearing, a victim gets a permanent protection order.

Provisions of a protection order can include prohibiting the abuser from contacting, harassing, menacing, disturbing, or making any form of physical conduct with the victim. It may also have provisions on how close the abuser can get to the victim, which can sometimes mean having the abuser move out of the shared residence. In some extreme cases, the abuser can be required to surrender their firearm or be barred from purchasing one. 

Restraining Order

Restraining orders serve the same purpose as protective orders. The only difference is that a restraining order applies to situations with an underlying lawsuit. For example, if a couple is going through a divorce and there is a child custody dispute, one parent can request the court to prohibit the other parent from accessing the child. 

However, whether the court grants or denies the request is based on the nature of the evidence presented in court. Restraining orders are not applied to domestic violence cases only. They can also be applied to other instances of violence, including workplace harassment cases and harassment perpetrated by any other individual. 

Getting Legal Help

Obtaining domestic violence protection orders can be significantly challenging for the layperson, so you should consider contacting a lawyer when navigating one. 

Many organizations are focusing on helping victims of domestic violence access justice and protection. So even when you may not be able to afford to hire a lawyer, check out such an organization for help. 

Such organizations include The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The National Coalition against Domestic Violence, and The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network.

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