As one of the most underreported crimes in the United States, domestic violence has been identified as the single major cause of injury to American women, exceeding rapes, muggings, and even auto accidents combined. (Surgeon General’s Office) The law defines domestic violence as the use of force, directed toward a spouse or former spouse, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, or a person with whom the abuser has had a dating or engagement relationship. Thus, a domestic violence batterer may include any family member, including siblings, grandparents, or a roommate.
Statistically, ninety-five percent of all domestic violence is committed by men against women. However, men are battered by women as well. Domestic violence is a type of violence that cuts across all cultures, socio-economic groups, religions, ages, gender, or sexual orientation.
What should you do if you’re a victim of domestic violence? If a person is harmed, the first step is to contact the police. Based on their evaluation of the facts, the officer may issue an Emergency Protective Order, which will remain in effect for one week and will prohibit the batterer from coming within a certain distance from the victim of domestic violence.
What happens after the Emergency Protective Order expires? In California, victims of domestic violence can obtain Temporary Restraining orders (“TRO”), residence exclusion orders, stay-away orders and orders relating to child custody, child visitation, child support, property control, payment of debts, attorney fees and costs, as well as other orders geared to the each victim’s specific circumstances, such as retrieving property from the home.
A TRO can protect a victim at home, at work, at school or virtually any place else he or she may feel threatened. A TRO will go into effect as soon as a judge signs the order and it is personally delivered to the batterer. After filing for the TRO, the person requesting the order must appear at a hearing and may at that point request that the TRO be made “permanent”. This permanent order will remain in effect for three years, after which, the protected person can request that it be renewed.
Although a restraining order may lower the risk of ongoing violence, it is important to remember that the order is just a piece of paper which does not create an invisible barrier of protection. Although some may abide by this order, others may choose to disobey it. Always trust your instincts to guide you to safety.