One in four women and one in nine men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner or family member. Family and domestic violence is estimated to affect 10 million people each year.
In addition to physical violence, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that:
- 81% of women and 43% of men will experience some form of sexual harassment or assault during their lifetime
- 51% of assaults on women are perpetrated by an intimate partner
- 41% of assaults on women can be attributed to an acquaintance in the woman’s life
In response to these statistics, states have passed legislation over the past four decades that largely broadened the protections afforded to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Legal protection orders are decrees signed by a judge to protect victims of abuse from physical battery, sexual assault, or harassment. Victims have the right to request protection from the court.
How Can I File for a Domestic Abuse or Sexual Assault Protection Order?
Requests for protection from abuse can come from the victim, his or her parent or guardian, or a representative for a vulnerable adult victim. Individuals requesting protection can fill out paperwork through the district court in the county where they live.
It’s important to keep in mind that protection orders don’t go into effect until law enforcement presents a copy of the order to the person from whom a victim is requesting protection. The alleged abuser will receive a copy of all paperwork the victim completed when requesting the protective order.
If a victim is afraid to share his or her current location, they may request a confidential address listing. It’s important to ensure that the court clerk has accurate information so that victims can be contacted regarding the dates and times of any future hearings.
When does My Protective Order Expire?
A temporary protection order is in place until both parties appear before a judge during a hearing. An alleged abuser has the right to ask the judge in writing for a hearing so that both sides can relay their side of the story. During the hearing, the judge will decide whether the protection order will be allowed to lapse or continue for up to one year.
A victim should appear in person for this hearing. If he or she fails to show up, the judge may dismiss the protection order entirely. If the abuser doesn’t request a hearing, the protection order generally remains in effect for a year.
Upon expiration, protection orders may be renewed for one year, and then annually after that as necessary. In order to renew a protective order, the victim must file a Petition and Affidavit to Renew that states the reasons that the renewal is being requested.
Where Is My Protective Order Recognized?
If you’re granted an order for protection, carry a copy on your person at all times. These orders are acknowledged in every state, so take it with you when you travel or if you move. Should you move out of the county where the order was issued, contact law enforcement in your new location and make them aware that you have an order of protection from abuse.
What’s the Difference Between Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault, and Harassment Protection Orders?
Depending on an individual’s specific circumstances, there are several options when filing for protection against abuse or harassment. Each has benefits and drawbacks that should be discussed with your attorney to determine which option is best for your situation.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders
These orders are granted when an assault occurs by a current or former intimate partner, family member, or member of a victim’s household. They’re designed to protect victims who have been in close familial relationships with their abusers, including spouses, former spouses, and cohabitating couples or relatives.
Domestic violence protection orders are typically granted when someone in the household has attempted, threatened, caused bodily injury, or intimidated another person in the house with a credible threat or engaged in sexual contact or sexual penetration without another person’s consent.
The courts can provide immediate protection to victims through a temporary restraining order, which can later be extended to a long-term protection order following a hearing.
Temporary restraining orders direct an abuser to stop threatening, harassing, or harming his or her victim. They can also provide temporary custody (up to 90 days) of minor children and order the abuser to avoid all contact or interference with the victim and his or her children during that time. Under these orders, an abuser must stay away from a victim’s place of residence, employment, and school.
Other stipulations of a temporary restraining order may:
- Bar the accused and his or her victim from giving away, selling, or destroying mutually-owned property
- Require the abuser to move out of a shared and jointly-owned residence
- Order the abuser to return the victim’s personal property and effects (this could include returning the victim’s pet or direct the abuser to stop abusing the pet if it continues to reside with the accused)
Nebraska law may prevent a person subject to a domestic assault protection order from owning firearms. Federal law almost always prevents those subject to domestic assault protection orders from owning firearms.
Sexual Assault Protection Orders
The main difference between a domestic abuse order and a sexual assault order is that Sexual Assault Protection Orders are for victims of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration by another party with whom they are not or were not in an intimate relationship or is not a member of their family or household.
Sexual assault protection orders were designed for victims who don’t meet the domestic relationship requirement necessary to qualify for a domestic violence protection order.
A victim of sexual assault is eligible for many of the same protections as victims of domestic violence. Sexual assault is defined as:
- Non-consensual touching of another person’s genitals, anus, or breasts, either directly or through clothing; or
- Non-consensual penetration, regardless of how slight, of the genitals, anus, or mouth by another person’s body part or by an object
- It can also involve a forced display of the genitals, anus, or breasts to another individual for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification
Sexual assault protection orders are civil orders issued by the court on behalf of sexual assault victims and are granted when a person is subjected to sexual contact or sexual penetration by another person without giving them consent.
These orders prohibit offenders from having any contact with their victims or frequenting their victims’ places of residence or work. They’re signed by a judge and can provide other protections a victim may require as needed. Offenders who violate sexual assault protection orders can face legal repercussions.
Adult victims of sexual assault over the age of 16 can petition the court to obtain a sexual assault protection order for themselves. Victims who are under 16 must have a parent or guardian petition the court on their behalf. A third party may also file on behalf of an adult victim who is otherwise unable to file for themselves due to age, disability, health or inaccessibility.
Sexual assault protection orders can be part of a criminal case when:
- A victim has reported an assault to law enforcement and the assault is being investigated
- The assailant has been charged with a crime, and he or she faces prosecution
In such a case, the judge may order the accused to stay away from a victim when he or she is released from custody.
Even though protection orders may follow criminal charges, a victim can file for a sexual assault protection order regardless of whether or not charges are pending. They also don’t have to have filed a lawsuit, complaint, petition, or other prior action to qualify for protective status under the law. However, if litigation is pending, or if another protection order exists between the parties, the petitioner and his or her attorney should notify the court.
Harassment Protection Orders
A third type of protective order is a Harassment Protection Order. These directives also are not dependent on the degree of relationship between the harasser and the victim. Instead, they require that multiple contacts have occurred with the victim that seriously terrified, threatened, or intimidated them and served no other legitimate purpose.
For example, an individual who is being stalked by a co-worker or someone else attempting to persuade his or her actions through the use of fear or harassment might petition the court for protection from harassment.
How Can I Prove My Need for a Protection Order?
When requesting a protection order from the court or when appearing at a hearing, it helps to provide proof of the abuse or harassment, including:
- Photos of the victim’s injuries, and the person who took the photos depicting the signs of abuse when possible
- Threatening notes, emails, and voicemails (print information from electronic sources like cellphones or computers so that the court has access to those copies)
- Witnesses who have seen or overheard the abusive behavior
- A local domestic abuse or victim’s advocate support person
- An attorney who can advocate for you and act on your behalf in court
If your abuser violates an existing Domestic Violence Protection Order, Sexual Assault Protection Order, or Harassment Protection Order, you should call law enforcement and report the violation. That individual will be arrested and jailed for violating the terms of the order, and you can rest assured that he or she is not an immediate threat.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to File for Protection?
Although hiring an attorney to file for protection from abuse is not required, having legal representation often leads to better outcomes. This is especially true when minor children are involved and you expect the other party to seek custody. If your abuser has a lawyer and you don’t, it may put you at a disadvantage.
Contact the legal team at Berry Law for a consultation. They’re familiar with domestic violence and sexual assault protection orders in the state of Nebraska and can thoroughly explain the laws governing these protections so that you can find the best solution for your situation.