Domestic Violence Protective Orders
Unfortunately, domestic violence exists in our society and will probably continue to exist. The Texas Family Code authorizes courts to issue a family violence protective order in situations that involve actual or threatened violence. To obtain a protective order, the applicant must sign an affidavit that states the facts related to the threats and/or injuries and the reasons the applicant fears there will be future improper behavior. If the affidavit is sufficient, the judge can sign an order requiring the perpetrator to stay away from the victim, including orders that the perpetrator not come within a given distance of the victim’s house, automobile, place of work, etc.
After the perpetrator has been served with a copy of the protective order, a hearing will be held. At the hearing, the judge will consider the evidence offered by the parties and decide whether the protective order should be continued or terminated.
The District Attorney’s office also has authority to seek a family violence protective order. That type of order is different from the form described above.
Domestic Violence Personal Safety Plan
Although it is important to know that there are remedies available through the courts in domestic violence situations, the first concern of a potential victim involves how to handle the confrontation and potential violence. The following are suggestions in formulating plans to preserve one’s personal safety.
A word of caution – make the plan and arrangements NOW – there will be no time to do it during a confrontation.
Safety During An Explosive Incident
- If an argument seems unavoidable, try to have it in a room or area where there is an exit you can reach. Try to stay away from the bathroom, garage, and kitchen. Try to stay away from weapons, or any place where weapons might be available.
- Practice how to get out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, elevator, or stairwell would be best to use in an emergency.
- Have a packed bag ready and keep it at a friend’s or relative’s house so you can leave quickly.
- Identify friends or neighbors you can talk to about the violence, and ask them to call 911 if they hear a disturbance coming from your house.
- Figure out a code word you can use with your children, friends, and family to let them know when to call the police.
- Plan where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you don’t think you will need to do it).
- Use your own judgment and feelings. If the situation is dangerous, consider giving the abuser what he or she wants to calm him or her down.
- You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
- Always remember – You don’t deserve be hit or threatened.
Safety When Preparing To Leave
- Open a bank account and get a credit card in your own name.
- Get your own post office box so that you can receive mail and checks.
- Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important papers, extra medicine and clothes with someone you trust so you can leave quickly.
- Know ahead of time who you can stay with or turn to if you need to borrow money.
- Call the Center for Battered Women for help in safety planning.
- Keep the Center for Battered Women’s Hot Line number and some change with you for emergency calls. Using a calling card is not safe.
- Remember – Leaving a controlling person is the most dangerous time.
Safety In Your Home – After You Have Separated
- Change the locks on the doors as soon as possible. Buy additional locks for your windows and patio doors.
- Talk to your children about what they should do if you are not with them.
- Advise your children’s school or daycare teachers of who has permission to pick up your children from school.
- Tell your neighbors and landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see your partner near your home or car.
- Never call your partner from your home. If he or she has caller ID, it will be easy to locate you.
Safety With A Protective Order
- Keep your protective order with you at all times. When you change your purse or wallet, it should be the FIRST thing that is moved.
- Give a copy of the protective order to a trusted friend or relative.
- Call the police immediately if your partner breaks the protective order.
- Think of ways to keep safe if the police don’t come right away.
- Tell your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, landlord, and health care provider that you have a protective order in effect.
Safety On The Job & In Public
- Decide which co-worker you can talk to about your situation.
- Tell the office or building security people of the situation and provide them a picture of your partner.
- Use an answering machine or caller ID, or have someone else screen your calls.
- Implement a safety plan when you leave work. Ask someone to walk you to your car, bus, or train. Take different routes home. Think of what you would do if something happened to you on the way home.
Your Safety & Emotional Health
- If you are thinking about going back to your abusive partner, first talk to someone you trust about another plan.
- If you must communicate with your partner, figure out the safest way to do it.
- Think highly of yourself and be assertive with others about what you need.
- Decide who you can call to talk openly and who will give you needed support.
- Plan to attend a victims’ support group for at least two weeks to gain support from others and learn more about the effects of abuse and control.
Checklist – What to Take When You Leave
- Driver’s license
- Children’s birth certificates
- Your birth certificate
- Social Security card
- Welfare identification
- HMO card
- Money and/or credit cards
- ATM card
- Bank books
- Savings books
- Your protective order
- Lease, rental agreement, deed to house
- Car registration and insurance papers
- Health and life insurance papers
- Medical records for you and your children
- School records
- Work permits/green card, visa passport
- Divorce papers
- Custody papers
- House and car keys
- Small objects to sell
- Address book
- Phone card
- Pictures of you, your children, and your abuser
- Children’s small toys
- Toiletries, diapers
Important Phone Numbers
- Police & Emergency Services – 911
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-7233 or TDD 800-787-3224
- Family Violence Hotline – 800-374-4673
- Legal Hotline – 800-777-4673
- Texas Department Of Human Service Abuse Hotline – 800-252-5400