October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but efforts to stop domestic violence don't just end when the calendar flips to November.
Part of the cycle of violence is that the abuser makes the victim feel isolated. But the law won't leave you out in the cold. If you're ready to get out of an abusive relationship or you know someone who is, there are legal ways to keep the abuser away.
Even if the person you know isn't ready to leave the abusive relationship yet, know that when she (or even he) is, you can provide more than just moral support.
Requesting a TRO
For those on the receiving end of domestic violence, one of the first things you can do (after you get yourself to a safe place away from your attacker) is to request a temporary restraining order (TRO).
Unlike a full restraining order, a TRO doesn't last very long -- generally only until a hearing on a permanent order. In some cases, it can also be requested without the abuser present, something courts call ex parte.
You then have to notify your abuser of a TRO and inform him or her of the hearing date set for a full restraining order. But you don't have to do this yourself; you can get the sheriff's office to do it for you. Ask the judge about that when you get the TRO.
When you're asking for a TRO, the judge will want some evidence of abuse. Gather any photographs, hospital records, police reports, witnesses, and other evidence you might have.
You likely won't have all the information listed above, but anything you have will help your case.
A Few More Considerations
If you leave during the night when courts aren't open and you feel like a TRO will help keep you safe, then consider calling the police. Many police stations are able to grant emergency protective orders that last until the courts are back in session.
Even if they can't grant an emergency order, in most cases they can help get you to a safe place and provide with the name of an attorney who can help.
Having the TRO may not be enough, though, since it will expire. You may want to gather a support network and go to the hearing on the full restraining order. Having friends with you is good, but it can also be comforting to have an experienced domestic violence attorney help you through the court process.
Leaving a domestic violence relationship takes courage, but you don't have to do it alone. The law is always on your side.
- Domestic Violence: Orders of Protection and Restraining Orders (FindLaw)
- What is a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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