The sad reality is that in America, a person is physically abused by someone close to them every 20 minutes. That is the equivalent of over 10 million people a year. Although women suffer from domestic violence 85% of the time, men can also be victims of domestic abuse. The hardest part about tackling domestic violence is that often the crime goes unnoticed.
Victims of domestic violence predominantly hide their abuse in shame or are afraid to tell anyone out of fear of reprisal. Until recently, those abused in domestic relationships have had very little recourse or assurance that they would be protected if they came forward. If you are suffering abuse at the hands of someone you love, you don’t have to. There are many things that you can legally do to make sure that you aren’t ever a victim again.
One of the best tools that anyone who has suffered domestic violence has at their disposal is a restraining order. A restraining order is an order of protection that a victim can file with their local law enforcement that sets parameters about how near someone can come to you and other specifications about contact. Although it’s no guarantee that you are safe, it is one step to stopping the abuse and being able to break free from a situation that is likely to end in more pain.
The purpose of a restraining order is to stop harassment, stalking, or violence against a victim of domestic abuse. It is a petition that is filed at the local courthouse where the victim or offender resides. It’s an order that warns the abuser to stop any further violence against the person who filed the petition.
Although each jurisdiction varies in requirements, the paperwork typically has the victim fill out information about their living situation and their reasons for filing a petition. In some jurisdictions, the petition has to go before a family court; in others, the paperwork and explanation are enough.
Reasons for a domestic assault attorney to apply for a restraining order include domestic violence in the form of physical violence, sexual harassment or assault, and in some jurisdictions, stalking the victim. The restraining order might also extend to any minors that are related to the person filing the petition. While some jurisdictions have no time constraints, other have a requirement that an incident must have happened within the past 180 days.
What does the order require?
Restraining orders for domestic violence have a number of instructions for the abuser. The abuser is often required to maintain a specific distance from the victim’s home, their place of employment, and if there are children involved, from the child’s school, along with other places that the victim usually frequents out of necessity. In addition, the defendant may be ordered to surrender any firearms and the ammunition that they own, to law enforcement. If the victim and the abuser share the same residence, law enforcement will accompany the abuser while they collect their things.
Restraining orders can also have implications for other family court matters, like custody orders or child support. They might also decide living situations and who has control over a shared living space.
There is a legal process that follows the petition for a restraining order. Once the application is complete, many jurisdictions will temporarily let the restraining order stand before it has gone through the entire process. The abuser must be legally served and notified that a petition has been initiated.
From there, a hearing is held, where the abuser has the right to defend themselves against the accusations. The case will go in front of a judge, where any evidence will be considered including medical records, police reports, witness testimony and any photos or threatening communication between the abuser and victim.
If the restraining order is withheld, there is an ordered timeframe for the restraining order to hold. In some cases, the abuser may be subject to jail time or other penalties, which could hold them in contempt of court if the restraining order is not followed. At any time, if the victim decides that the restraining order is no longer needed, they can go before the court and ask that it be lifted.
A restraining order is an order of protection that someone has to stop domestic abuse. In a very emotional and difficult situation, the abuser has court-ordered instructions and rules set to protect the victim from further injury.