Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2011). The abusive behavior is normally characterized within five main categories: physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological. While different agencies vary in how they categorize the abuse, they overwhelmingly agree that most victims experience multiple types of abuse. Leaving an abusive situation is often frightening and dangerous, and it is often necessary for victims to obtain the help of the court system in their pursuit to remain safe. One safety tool the victim can request is an Order of Protection. The purpose of this fact sheet is to describe what an Order of Protection is, the process followed to obtain one, and the need to report order violations.
Orders of Protection
An Order of Protection is a formal, legal document issued by a court. It is designed to help keep an individual safe by specifically instructing another individual about what they are prohibited from doing. In the state of Nevada, the court system follows the laws outlined in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS). These statutes formally capture a legislative decision used to govern its residents and contain laws regarding protection orders. Orders of Protection are issued in non-domestic violence instances. However, Orders of Protection as they relate to Domestic Violence include 1) Protection Order Against Domestic Violence, and 2) Protection Order Against Stalking and Harrassing. A Protection Order Against Domestic Violence is issued by the court to a victim for personal protection and the protection of minor children. To qualify for this type of Order, a “domestic” relationship must exist. Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 33.018 clearly defines what acts constitute domestic violence and lists relationships qualifying the act as domestic. Acts that constitute domestic violence include battery, assault, compelling another person by force or threat of force, sexual assault, a course of conduct intended to harass, false imprisonment and unlawful entry. Categories that define a domestic relationship include spouses, relatives by blood or marriage, cohabitants, dating relationships, parents who have a child in common, or a minor child that is related to one of the parties or parties in a custodial/guardian relationship. The NRS also states that the relationship can be a current or former one. Please refer to the NRS website ORDERS FOR PROTECTION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE for a complete listing of qualifying acts and relationships.
An Order of Protection Against Stalking and Harassment is also issued to protect one person from another. While this type of order does not require that a domestic relationship exist, it can be requested when one does exist. Harassment is when a person threatens you and you are reasonably fearful that they will carry out their threats. These threats can be made against you personally, or against another, and include physical, mental or safety concerns, (NRS 200.571). Stalking encompasses a series of acts that over time have made you feel intimated, frightened, harassed or fearful for you or a family member’s immediate safety. This course of conduct would make a reasonable person feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassessed or fearful for their immediate safety or the safety of a family or household member. Depending upon the severity of the incident, one event may constitute stalking and/or harassment. Aggravated stalking is when the stalker also threatens someone with the intent of causing a feeling of fear of death or substantial bodily harm, (NRS 200.575).
How to Obtain an Order of Protection
Should a victim decide that she or he needs an Order of Protection, the first step is to contact the jurisdictional court to obtain an application form. A jurisdictional court is one that has the legal authority to decide an issue presented to it. Your location and the size of your community will determine the court with jurisdiction. In smaller communities, those offices may be located in the courthouse. Other counties have family courts where applications can be completed. For help in finding the location where Orders of Protection are obtained, call the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1556. Your local phone book should also have the listing of local domestic violence programs, if available.
The type of Order needed, as described in the previous section, will determine which application must be completed. Both application forms are similar in that they require the victim, known as the applicant, to provide certain information about the adverse party and the acts that have caused the victim to request an Order of Protection. The application is a document of public record and will be provided to the adverse party upon service of the Order. However, applicants can request that certain information they provide on the form remain confidential and not be shared with the adverse party. An example of confidential information would be residence and employment location. As part of the application process, the applicant can also request that the judge schedule to have a hearing to extend the order beyond its initial 30 days.
In addition, the applicant is asked to provide data about the adverse party. This information is kept confidential and helps in the service of the Order of Protection.
Remember, that court employees cannot give legal advice. For assistance in completing an application for an Order of Protection, the victim may contact their local, state or national domestic violence intervention program. For a listing of victim resources in Nevada, contact the Nevada Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1556.
Once completed, the victim submits the application through the appropriate office for the judge’s consideration. Within 24 hours, the judge may decide to issue a temporary order of protection, depending upon the merits of the application. While some courts notify the victim when the judge has signed the order, other courts require that the victim call to check on the status. Therefore, after submitting an application, ask the office staff what number you should call to find out whether the order was granted. If the order is granted, it is important that you pick up the order immediately.
The order is considered valid and enforceable once signed by the judge. However, the temporary order must be served (formally delivered and service documented) upon the adverse party before the adverse party can be charged with the crime of violating the order. “Being Served” indicates that the adverse party is informed of the restrictions she or he is legally required to comply with, as well as a hearing date to extend the order beyond 30 days. Often times, a police officer or sheriff’s deputy serves the temporary order at the request of the court. Once service is complete, an Affidavit of Service is completed and a copy provided to the applicant to prove that the adverse party has been given the order. Any violations after service made by the adverse party are punishable offenses. It is important that the applicant keep a copy of the order, and a copy of the Affidavit of Service, with them at all times to show that they have the legal right to protection and that the order was served. If the temporary order cannot be served upon the adverse party, the order will terminate on the expiration date listed on the order. The adverse party has a legal right to know the restrictions of the order as well as the date for the hearing.
Even though the order of protection has been issued, it is in temporary status. At the scheduled hearing, the adverse party and the applicant go before the judge to state their side. Should the judge agree with the applicant’s need for continued protection, the temporary order may be extended beyond its initial 30 days for up to one year.
Violations to the Order of Protection
While Domestic Violence, often referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), is characterized by frightening acts and threats of violence, leaving an abusive situation may be just as terrifying as remaining in one. When a victim leaves, the violence may escalate as the abuser attempts to control the victim’s behavior. Victims who leave IPV relationships increase their chances of being murdered by their abusers by 75 percent (White and White, 2005). While victim safety is the top priority while in the relationship, keeping the victim safe when leaving an abusive relationship is critical. Therefore, victims, family and friends must immediately report violations of Orders of Protection to law enforcement. While fear of reprisal from the abuser often intimidates victims from reporting violations, reporting violations documents the pattern of abusive behavior and the abuser’s disrespect for the court. As frightening as it may be to report, it may be more frightening to remain in a situation where the violence may escalate.
In addition to reporting to law enforcement, the victim should personally document the violation. Victims should write down what occurred, what the adverse party said or did, the date and time it occurred, the location, witnesses, and how the incident made them feel. If there was any need to seek medical assistance, the victim should obtain copies of the medical report. Any evidence that is not retained by law enforcement should be kept in a safe place by the victim. If the City or District Attorney determines the need to file a criminal complaint, this documentation and evidence will be important items to reference in court.
Hearing to Extend the Temporary Order
Appearing in court is an anxious experience. For victims of domestic violence and/or stalking and harassment, the experience can be terrifying. Having to be in the same courtroom with the adverse party who has inflicted abuse may cause the victim to relive past trauma. Therefore, preparation and understanding of the process is important to help the victim maintain composure when responding to the judge’s questions. It is acceptable to have family, friends and/or trained advocates attend the hearing with the victim to provide support. However, it is important that the people providing support understand their role as silent observers during the hearing.
Steps to Obtain an Order for Protection
- Determine the jurisdictional court.
- Complete an application and submit to the court.
- Get the court’s phone number to check on the Order status.
- Pick up the signed order.
- Review the order, comparing it to your application to ensure accuracy, i.e. names are correct, addresses, etc.
- Determine date for hearing to extend the order, and put on your calendar.
- Document any incidences, reporting to law enforcement. **write down date, time, location, what occurred, witnesses and how the actions of the adverse party made you feel.
- Obtain copies of any police reports or documentation to show to the judge.
- Do not hesitate to seek the help and support of domestic violence advocates.
Prior to the hearing, the victim should obtain and organize any documentation to present to the judge. The victim should arrive at the courtroom at least 15 minutes prior to the hearing, checking in with the court clerk. Most courtrooms have private conference rooms where victims can stay with supportive friends and family, so that they do not have to sit in the waiting area with the abuser. Before going into a private conference room, victims should make sure the court clerk knows where they are, so that when the judge is ready to hear the case, they are notified. The court clerk or bailiff will instruct the victim and adverse party where to sit. All parties will be sworn in, assuring they will tell the truth. When requested by the judge, the victim will be asked to present any information why the order should remain in effect, as well as any violations that have occurred since the temporary order was served. The adverse party will also have the opportunity to state her or his side. It is important for the victim to remain calm, responding in a concise manner. While this is extremely difficult, it is important so that the judge can clearly understand the victim’s concerns. If victims write down the points they want the judge to know, along with supporting reports and documentation, they can read and/or refer to the information, helping them to stay composed. After the judge has obtained enough information to make a knowledgeable decision, the judge can decide to extend the order for up to one year.
Nevada’s DV homicide ranking
In 2009, Nevada ranked No. 1 in the nation in the rate of women killed by men in single homicide/single offender homicides, (Violence Policy Center, 2011). From 2000-2009, Nevada has ranked as one of the top five states in nine of those 10 years. (For further information on domestic violence, please read the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension publication “Domestic Violence: An Overview” FS-11-76.) While the awareness for domestic violence and its impact on the victim, family and the community is growing, there is still a tremendous incidence of IPV in our communities. In order to help victims remain safe, the victim can apply to the court for Orders of Protection. If granted, these orders may help prevent further violence by the adverse party. Orders of Protection are important legal tools that recognize the victim’s need for protection by a court of law.
While not all instances of domestic violence end in injury or death, the fact that domestic violence occurs at all is appalling. For victims seeking to leave an abusive situation, safety must be the No. 1 concern. As indicated earlier, abusers often escalate their violent behavior when they feel they are losing control of the relationship. Victims need to use all the tools and resources available to stay protected. One such tool may be an Order of Protection. While some abusers may ignore the court order, others may realize that violations are punishable and cease their abusive activity. Unfortunately, that does not always happen and should not be assumed. Should violations occur, the abuser is subject to fines and/or incarceration for their actions. If not reported, the abuser maintains their controlling behavior over the victim, and is once again in a position of power.
References and Resources
- Nevada Revised Statutes, 33.018. Retrieved from website April 26, 2012 NRS: CHAPTER 33.018
- Nevada Revised Statutes 200.571. Retrieved from website April 26, 2012 NRS: CHAPTER 200.571
- Nevada Revised Statutes 200.575. Retrieved from website April 26, 2012 NRS: CHAPTER 200.575
- U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, (2011) Domestic Violence OJP Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 26, 2012 from website OJP
- Violence Policy Center (2011). Nevada Ranks #1 in Rate of Women Murdered by Men for Second Year in a Row According to VPC Study Released Annually for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Retrieved Dec.6, 2011 from website VPC
- White, H. and White, J (2005). Testifying about lethality risk factors. Southwest Center for Law and Policy & Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved May 3, 2012