Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text "loveis" to 22522.

How to Obtain a Restraining Order Against an Abuser

If an abusive relationship has reached a point of danger, it may be time to seek a restraining order, also known as a protection order. This makes it a crime for an abusive partner to come near or contact the victim in any way, including seeing them in person, calling, emailing, texting, posting on social media, visiting them at work or school, or coming to their house.

There are lots of ways in which a protection order can bring some security and peace of mind to anyone suffering from dating abuse. For example, restraining orders can encourage law enforcement and school officials to help protect them from the abuser. This way, they do not have to wait for the abuser to cause harm, physical or otherwise, before calling the police. It also allows for a police officer to come directly to their home as soon as the abuser makes contact in any way. They also help assist with getting custody and visitation orders that protect the victim’s children, and may be able to force the abuser to move out of a shared home.

Despite all they can do, restraining orders cannot guarantee a person’s safety or change an abusive partner. They cannot guarantee the abuser will not intimidate, harass or scare the victim, or that they will be out of their life, especially if a child is involved.

Generally, young people have to follow the same process as adults, but may face some unique issues. Most states will allow victims to get a restraining order against someone they live with or are married to, but not every state will. Some states allow teens under 18 years of age to apply for protection without a parent or guardian’s help, but many states need an adult present. Each state varies in terms of what it offers and uses different terms to describe their laws. The best thing to do is find  out what specific requirements apply to your state.

To file a restraining order, the victim must be at least 12 years old. Victims can ask for a restraining order against an abusive partner, which includes: dating or used to date, married, divorced, separated and registered domestic partners. Relatives including parents, grandparents, siblings and in-laws can help obtain a restraining order with the minor as well.

The victim (and their relative, depending on the state) need to go to local courthouse and file a petition or request for a temporary protection order. A court clerk usually provides forms and asks for their name and contact info plus the name of the abusive partner. The victim needs to provide as much contact info about the abusive partner as possible. Courts may not deal with the issue of an abusive partner attending the same school as the victim, so it’s necessary to ask the court to address school issues in the protection order.

After completing the forms, a judge will determine if they qualify for a protection order. They have two business days to decide whether to grant the request for protection. If the judge believes they’re in immediate danger, they will issue a temporary order of restraint, which lasts for a short period of time, usually until the hearing date. At the hearing, both sides will present their case, and if the judge sides with the victim, they will receive more permanent protection with a restraining order.

If it seems as though the victim may not qualify for a protective order, don’t give up! There are other options to stay safe, like going through the criminal justice system.