What do you need to know about protective orders and escaping abuse?

A protective order is an effective tool that may help victims of domestic violence escape from abusive relationships.

It is rarely easy to get out of an unhappy marriage in any situation, but for victims of domestic abuse, escaping can be a nightmare. Domestic abuse is a problem concerning millions of people throughout the country, including in The Woodlands. According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 185,453 incidents involving family violence were reported to state authorities in 2013.

Countrywide statistics show just how pervasive domestic violence is. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that more than 10 million American adults, including men as well as women, are victimized by intimate partners every year. One out of every three women and one out of four men have been victims of some type of domestic violence during their lifetime. Perhaps most disturbingly, one out of every 15 children in the country witness or experience domestic violence each year.

What is domestic abuse?

Family abuse is not necessarily limited to physical attacks. Domestic abuse can also include the following:

  • Intimidation, causing fear, making the victim feel like he or she constantly has to "walk on eggshells" to keep from upsetting the other person
  • Insults, belittling, putting down the other person to destroy his or her self-esteem and increase dependence on the abuser
  • Restricting the victim from seeing family and friends or having access to transportation, phone, employment or money
  • Increasing tactics that may or may not eventually end up causing physical harm

Fortunately, victims of abuse have numerous options to help them escape their tormentors, including protective orders.

How does a protective order work?

A protective order, also known as a restraining order, is a document that provides legal protection from an abuser. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, this is usually a temporary order issued by a judge that restricts the abuser from going near or contacting the victim while it is in effect. The victim may later obtain a permanent protective order by proving or convincing a judge that abuse was present during the relationship.

An escape plan is essential

It is usually helpful to have an escape plan in place before obtaining a protective order. This would include telling a trusted family member or friend about the abuse; documenting evidence of physical attacks and reporting them to authorities; placing emergency cash, clothing and other items in a safe place; and contacting an abuse shelter for help.

A family law attorney with experience in protective orders and handling domestic violence cases can also be a strong advocate for victims. There is no reason that vulnerable victims should have to stay in a relationship where they are being controlled and hurt.