It is our sincerest hope that, once a survivor successfully obtains a domestic violence protection order, an abuser will not violate it. For many abusers, the existence of a protection order is enough to keep them from continuing to contact or hurt the survivor. But, sadly, this is not always the case. Sometimes, an abuser will violate the terms of the protection order. This is a criminal offense, meaning the abuser could be criminally charged. Below are a few tips on how “prepare” for and recognize a violation, as well as what to do in the event of a violation.
How to “Prepare For” and Recognize a Violation
Always keep a certified copy of your protection order with you. If you call the police because your abuser violated the order, the police may ask to see the protection order that’s currently in place. (If you don’t have the order with you, the police can look it up, but it will expedite everything and make the process more straight-forward if you have the order with you.)
If children are covered by the order, their schools and daycares should also be given a copy of the order. (Again, if you don’t have the order with you, the police can look it up, but it will expedite everything and make the process more straight-forward if you have the order with you.)
Make sure that you understand what exactly the protection order prohibits / restrains, so that you know immediately when a violation is occurring. Protection orders can have a variety of different terms. For example, if there are children involved, the protection order can include visitation provisions. If you are worried that the abuser may come to a place where you spend a lot of time, you can ask that your abuser be prohibited from going to that place. If you are scared that your abuser may attempt to pass messages to you through a third party, you can ask that that your abuser be prohibited from doing so.
What to Do in the Event of a Violation
The most important thing to do, whether or not a violation is occurring, is to keep yourself safe. Aside from that, there is no right or wrong way to respond.
If possible, gather evidence of the violation. For example, if he called or texted you, take screenshots of the text or call logs. If he followed you somewhere, make note of the time and location.
Consider reporting the violation to law enforcement. Some people report all (potential) violations, and some people don’t. You’ll have to decide the best course of action for you. If your abuser follows you, threatens you, or does something that makes you feel that your immediate safety is at risk, you should contact the police right away.
Whether or not you decide to contact law enforcement, be sure to keep a record of all violations, as you may want to reference them at some point (like, if you decide to ask the court to renew the protection order, which we will discuss more next week).