How do orders of protection work?

It may be difficult to leave an abusive relationship. A protective order provides legal protection against an abuser.

Domestic violence is a tragedy that affects countless families throughout America. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that every year, more than 10 million people are victimized by some form of intimate partner or familial abuse. In Arkansas, as well as the rest of the country, an average of one out of three women and one out of four men have been victims of domestic abuse. Children are among the most vulnerable victims of family abuse, with one in 15 children exposed to abuse or witnessing violence against a parent each year. Domestic violence is such a problem that it accounts for 15 percent of all incidents of violent crime.

Those who feel trapped in a marriage by an abusive spouse may wonder if there are any options to help them escape. Fortunately, there are organizations devoted to helping victims of domestic violence find safety and peace, such as abuse shelters and counseling centers. Law enforcement officials also have tools to help domestic violence victims. One of these is the protective order, which victims may seek to protect them against an abuser.

Benefits of an order of protection

In Arkansas, an Order of Protection can provide certain legal protections quickly, effectively, and proactively. Their benefits include:

• Prohibiting an abuser from going near the victims' home, workplace or school

• Forbidding the abuser from attempting to contact victims through the phone, text messaging, email, social media or even through a third party

• Allowing the abused parent time to seek a parenting arrangement that protects children against the abuser

• Giving victims a sense of empowerment and courage to take the additional steps toward ending the relationship

An Order of Protection gives a victim time to get divorce paperwork started or take other measures to stay safe, such as moving to an abuse shelter. If the person accused of abuse violates an order of protection, he or she may face fines and criminal charges.

Will orders or protection always protect victims?

Orders of protection may be a powerful deterrent against an abuser who does not want to go to jail. However, it is important to remember that the order is just a piece of paper that is only as strong as the abuser's willingness to abide by the law. It would be wise for the victims of abuse to take their abuser's personality into consideration and think about whether he or she would be more likely to retaliate when served with an order of protection. Documenting evidence of physical abuse, such as taking pictures of injuries after an attack, may give law enforcement a better idea of what the abuser is capable of. If a victim thinks an abuser may become more violent after a protective order is issued, it may be a better idea to seek safety at an abuse shelter, as well as to alert law enforcement of the issue.

An Arkansas family law attorney with experience in family violence may be able to help victims of abuse seek an order of protection and take the steps necessary to escaping abuse.