A restraining order – sometimes called a personal protection order – is a document that makes it illegal for your abusive partner to come near or contact you in any way. In an ideal world, a restraining order would always do its job to protect you and your family. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Alarming, 50% of restraining orders obtained by women against intimate partners who physically assaulted them were violated. According to experts, here are three steps you should take if someone violates your restraining order to keep yourself safe:
1. Document everything
One of the best things you can do if an abuser violates your restraining order is to document all violations. Even if the police don’t arrest your abuser for their offenses, a thorough record and timeline of the violations can help build your case to petition the court to change the terms of your restraining order, for example, making them stricter.
If your abuser contacts you electronically, be sure to take screenshots that capture the date, time, and phone number or email address. If they call you, write down the time and phone number. No matter what, don’t engage in conversation with your abuser.
2. Report to the police
Even if the contact is otherwise harmless, violating the terms of a restraining order is a crime. If your abuser violates your protection order, report all incidents to your local police department right away. If your abuser threatens you or makes you feel unsafe, call 911 immediately.
If the abuser made contact via text or email, provide the police with documentation of the incident for their investigation. Keeping your restraining order with you may also be smart to save time if police need to make an arrest.
3. Consider your safety
Since not every violation of your restraining order will be prosecuted, it’s essential to keep your safety at the forefront of your mind. If you feel you are in danger, you may consider staying with a friend, relative or domestic violence shelter. If possible, don’t stick to your known routine to avoid making it easy for your abuser to find you.
Unfortunately, restraining orders don’t always stop abusers from reaching survivors. If your abuser violates the terms of your protection order, following these tips can ensure you and your family remain safe.