The Court Advocacy Program offers support and assistance as survivors navigate complex and sometimes overwhelming court systems. This program provides an advocate to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence as they proceed through the criminal justice system. Hope Haven’s court advocates do not work for the state, the city, the county or the police department and are therefore not motivated to assist other agencies. The court advocate works solely to help victims understand the choices available.
Court advocates can assist with the following:
• Crime Victims Compensation process
• Filing for an ex parte or order of protection
• Help survivors understand basic information about the courts, criminal prosecutions, and the role of the survivor/witness
• Provide access to information for victims of their rights under current laws.
• Monitor the response of the court system
• Improve victims’ access to the court system
• Provide objective and knowledgeable information about the court process
• Offer information about survivor rights
• Facilitate the provision of services or other forms of assistance
• Support and empowers survivors to understand options and make choices
• Assist in dealing with survivor’s feelings as a result of the crime
• Communicate as a liaison within the system
What is an Order of Protection?
Protection orders sometimes referred to as restraining orders and injunctions, are available to those experiencing domestic violence as one safety tool. A protection order forbids and attempts to restrain a perpetrator from doing something, such as contacting you, threatening you, entering your property, going to your place of work, residence or any other place know to be frequent by you.
There are different ways in which these orders can be obtained. For instance, a victim of domestic violence can request a protection order from the civil court for free, even if there has never been a criminal charge against the abuser. Usually, in order to qualify for a domestic violence protection order, the person you wish to have restrained must have engaged in some of the following behaviors: harassment, stalking, physical violence or threats of physical violence.
Other ways that protection orders come into play are in criminal court, where some felony charges carry with them a mandatory restraining order. Misdemeanor criminal charges may give the victim/witness the option of requesting a no-contact order, which could be made a condition of bond or probation.
Laws vary from state to state, and it is important to understand how your jurisdiction operates. There is a handy drop-down menu at womenslaw.org that lists each state and its relevant laws. Help to secure a protection order can be obtained through many domestic violence programs, including Hope Haven.
In fact, an advocate at a domestic violence program can assess if requesting an order is right for your specific circumstances, as well as provide emotional support and information on how to obtain the protection order. Your advocate can also assist you in developing a more comprehensive safety plan and might be able to accompany you to court. Ask your advocate if she can make arrangements with the court’s security for an escort while in court and other areas around the court.
It is always a good idea to be well-prepared for the court process, including having documents (journals, physician reports, police reports, pictures, etc) about the abuse. You should also have your photo ID, as well as a description and the license plate number of the abuser’s car, and information about his or her history of drugs and gun ownership. When it comes time to provide your own information, give a safe mailing address and phone number, preferably one that your abuser does not know. If you’re staying at a shelter, ask if they have a P.O. Box that you can use.
Penalties for violating a protection order also vary by state but may include jail time or fines. A protection order does not give a survivor the legal ability to press charges if the abuser does not obey the order. It is up to law enforcement to assess whether a crime has been committed related to an existing protection order. Law enforcement will look for a probable cause that the order was violated and it is up to them to file charges, regardless of a victim’s wishes.