If one of your loved ones is the victim of domestic violence, you may want to help her break free from that situation, but she may be too afraid to leave. Although you probably worry for your loved one’s safety, you may recognize the validity of her concerns.
This can feel like a hopeless situation for your loved one and for you. However, there may be options. It may be possible for your loved one to obtain a victim’s protective order (VPO).
How can a VPO help?
A VPO is a legal order that can protect your loved one and her children from abuse or harassment. It can legally limit the abuser's actions.
For example, it may require the abuser to:
- Stop abusing your loved one or her kids
- Stay away from certain locations, like a house, workplace, daycare or school
- Have no contact with your loved one, her family or her kids
- Surrender any weapons the abuser has
An emergency ex parte protection order can protect your loved one until her hearing for a final protection order. This usually takes about 20 days. The permanent protective order is not truly permanent, but it can last up to three years. Your loved one may extend the order at that time, if necessary.
If the abuser violates the VPO, your loved one can call police. Penalties for violating a VPO can be very severe and often include jail time.
A VPO can also make it easier for your loved one to receive other protections. For example, it may be easier for her to get police assistance when collecting belongings, and, in general, police may take her calls more seriously.
Who qualifies for a VPO?
Only certain people may request a VPO. Most of the time, someone qualifies based on the relationship she has to the person she is seeking protection from.
Your loved one may qualify, if she:
- Was raped by that person
- Is a biological parent of the abuser’s child
- Is currently or was previously dating the abuser
- Is married to or divorced from the abuser
- Is divorced from the abuser’s spouse
- Used to live in the same household as the abuser
- Is related to the abuser by blood or through marriage
- Is the abuser’s child
- Is the abuser’s parent
If none of these situations apply, your loved one may still qualify if she is the victim of harassment or stalking.
It can be difficult to watch a loved one struggle in a dangerous situation. While you want to help, you also don’t want to make things worse. Sometimes, the circumstances can make you feel powerless. However, situations like these aren’t hopeless.
Your loved one may not know about the community resources available to her, and it may not be safe for her to research these options on her own. You may be able to help by connecting her with appropriate community resources. No one deserves to be abused, and options like VPOs can help your loved one safely leave an abusive situation.