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Protection order remedies

Protection orders are the cornerstone of civil protection against domestic violence. They are one of the most important and effective legal remedies available to complainants/ survivors of domestic violence. All states in the United States and many countries have adopted protection order remedies. See UN Handbook, Ch. 3.10; Orders for Protection, StopVAW.

Many states have created protection order remedies for victims of domestic violence in their criminal and civil legislation.  In the criminal system, orders for protection may be called domestic abuse or criminal no contact orders, and may be a part of the criminal process when a violent offender is accused of a crime. (For example, see: Domestic Abuse Act of Minnesota, Minnesota, §518B.01 Subd.22.)

Civil protection orders may take the form of emergency or ex parte orders (temporary orders issued without notice to the respondent), which last a short time, or longer-term orders which can require a full hearing before a judge with the respondent present. The Minnesota Law, enacted more that thirty years ago, was among the first laws providing for domestic abuse protection orders in the world. The protection order remedy has proven to be one of the most effective legal remedies in domestic violence cases. See: Orders for Protection, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights.

See Petitioner’s Affidavit and Petition for Order for Protection, Minnesota, USA.

Example: The Protection against Violence Women Act (1997) of Austria provides that the police may impose an expulsion or ban from the home immediately upon request of occupants of the residence. The police may also impose the orders when complainant/survivors turn to them after abuse or under threat of violence.  This Act was evaluated in 2002 and is identified as a good practice and a promising example of legislation mandating protection orders by the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on violence against women (2006). The Secretary-General’s database on violence against women states: “The Protection against Violence Act was identified as a promising example of legislation mandating protection orders, also known as restraining or removal orders…Protection orders aim to protect women from the immediate threat of violence by restraining the perpetrator from contacting the victim/survivor during a specified period or removing the perpetrator from the home.  The Austrian Protection against Violence Act has now been replicated in other European countries, including Germany.”

CASE STUDY: Orders for Protection:  Are They Effective and Cost-Effective?

In September 2009, a U.S. Department of Justice study entitled “The Kentucky Civil Protective Order Study: A Rural and Urban Multiple Perspective Study of Protective Order Violation Consequences, Responses, and Costs,” addressed whether a civil protection order was an effective remedy for victims of violence and whether the benefits of having a protection order were worth the costs of obtaining and enforcing the orders. The study took place in Kentucky, USA, which allows protection orders to be filed against any family member, including spouses and former spouses, or, for unmarried parties if they are or have been living together or if they have a child in common. (Kentucky Statutes 403.720)

Conclusions:

The study concluded that protection orders are effective in reducing violence. Even for those who experienced violations of the orders, both the severity of the violence which recurred and the fear of future harm were significantly reduced during the follow-up period. The majority of the victims believed that the protective order was effective; only 4.3% of them dropped the order by the end of the follow-up period. 

The study also concluded that the cost to society of a protection order is very small (about USD$354) when compared to the many costs of domestic abuse (USD$17,500 for the 6 months of violence before was issued; USD$13,000 for the 6 month period after a protection order was issued.)  The study reported that protection orders saved the state of Kentucky $85 million in one year. Thus, a protection order costs little but creates a large benefit for victims and society.

The report, the most comprehensive in the US to date, surveyed over two hundred women in both rural and urban areas, and examined their responses at the time they sought a protection order, three months after it was issued, and 6 six months after it was issued.  The study also considered the opinions of “key informants,” such as criminal justice officials and victim service representatives, on issues relating to protection orders. The study examined victim decisions on whether or not to report a violation, and determined the costs of protection orders for victims and the costs of domestic violence to society.

To determine if protection orders were a cost-effective method to combat domestic violence, the study established the costs of domestic violence both before and after a protection order was obtained. Victims were surveyed about services they received associated with the domestic abuse. Costs were measured, including the costs of emergency room visits, shelter stays, legal services and ? incarceration fees. The victims were asked about time lost from work and family responsibilities. The value of lost or damaged property was reported. Finally, victims were asked to recount their experiences with serious stress, anxiety or depression due to the abuse, both before and after the issuance of the OFP.

The study also addressed other issues, including the responses of the criminal justice system in rural and urban areas and how stalking cases escalate costs to victims and to society. For the complete report, click here.

Other findings:

The report found that women face numerous obstacles to obtaining and enforcing protection orders, such as confusion about the process, court employees who were rude or discouraging, having to take time off work and arrange for child care, and judges who seemed to rush them and not listen to them. The report found that “…obtaining a protective order and seeking enforcement of a protective order take courage and persistence…” (p. 6)

One-half of the women surveyed reported no protective protection order violations during the 6 six-month follow-up period. Protection order effectiveness was also measured by violence severity before and after the protection order, the number of victims who were afraid of future harm before and after the issuance of the order, and the victim’s own perception of the effectiveness of the order. Respondents were also asked why they chose to report a violation or why they did not. 

The study found that victims reported 51% of the protection order violations. The main reason for not reporting violations was that the victims did not believe that the justice system would respond adequately, either because they hadn’t received help previously, they did not perceive the violation to be serious, they had no proof of a violation, or they believed that they would somehow be blamed for the violation. The study concluded that “…women appear to do a kind of cost-benefit analysis for whether or not to report the violation, trading off the seriousness of the violation with the probability that anything, or nothing, would come from reporting the violation to the justice system.  Women also appear to consider whether reporting a violation might result in retaliation… Other reasons some women indicated they did not report violations included statements about not wanting to harm the perpetrator and not wanting the children to see their father in trouble.” 

When the victims were asked why they thought the abuser did not violate the protection order, the majority responded that it was because he was afraid of going to jail. (p. 116)

Recommendations:

The report issued a number of recommendations on:  increasing access to protection orders; addressing gaps in victim safety and offender accountability; training law enforcement personnel; improving protection order enforcement; and responding more effectively to domestic violence cases which involve stalking.