Domestic violence, which impacts approximately one in three women (and one in four men) is a near silent epidemic. Terrified to leave or speak out, victims often live behind the facade of a happy home, despite being in constant danger. Sadly, the longer they stay in the relationship, the more they risk serious injury or death at the hands of their abuser. Thankfully, there are legal steps that victims can use to protect themselves when they find the strength and courage to leave.
How a Restraining Order Can Protect You and Your Child
Restraining orders are designed to provide legal protections to victims of domestic violence. More specifically, they:
- Prohibit your abuser from intimidating, harassing, stalking, exploiting, or negatively impacting your personal liberty;
- Mandate that your abuser stay away from you and anyone else listed on the order of protection;
- Prohibit your abuser from removing your child from the state, or hiding them away from you within the state;
- Order your abuser to stay away from your school, place of employment, and other specific places you may frequently visit;
- Prohibit your abuser from destroying or getting rid of your belongings;
- Prohibit your abuser from possessing a firearm;
- Require that your abuser reimburse you for shelter and counseling services (when applicable);
- Exclude your abuser from the home in which you are living (even when owned or leased by the abuser);
- Mandate that your abuser return all personal belongings to you;
- Prohibit your abuser from causing any harm to your child (mentally, physically, or sexually); and
- Prohibit your abuser from removing a shared child from your physical care.
Emergency Orders of Protection
While most victims need long-term protection from their abuser, such orders take time to put into place. Emergency orders help to fill the gap by providing immediate protection to the victim. Based solely on the testimony of the victim, these orders can be obtained at any time - even on holidays or at night, when the courts are closed. However, they only offer you protection for 14 to 21 days. Therefore, it is critical that victims begin the process for obtaining a long-term order of protection (known as plenary orders of protection) while the emergency order is still in place.