Doorways Celebrates New Dating Protection Law

by ARLnow.com July 6, 2011 at 10:51 am 2,874 14 Comments

Arlington-based women’s shelter Doorways for Women and Families is celebrating a new state law that went into effect on Friday.

Until the legislature acted earlier this year, Virginia was one of only six states that did not offer protective orders — a legal means of preventing contact with abusive partners — to men and women in dating situations. Now, as of July 1, the state allows individuals who are not married and not living with their partner to obtain a protective order.

Yesterday, Doorways issued the following press release about the new law.

Women ages 16 to 24 are at the greatest risk of experiencing an abusive relationship. Yet for the vast majority of those women — specifically those in dating relationships — the legal system offered little defense. That is because protective orders, a civil order issued by a judge to protect one person from another’s threatening behavior, were previously only available to those in a “domestic” situation — married, living together or having a child together.

July 1st marks a historic day for the protection of those previously unprotected as a bill passed in the Virginia legislature goes into effect, allowing survivors of dating abuse to be eligible for protective orders against their abusers. Until the beginning of this month, Virginia was one of only six states that did not afford this legal protection to dating partners. Doorways for Women and Families, one of Arlington’s leading providers of services to women and families experiencing homelessness and abuse, encourages all in our community to spread the word that help is now available to survivors of dating abuse.

“This is a huge step forward in protecting our community from intimate partner violence” explained Caroline Jones, Executive Director of Doorways. “ Given the incidence of violence in younger relationships, Doorways has been actively partnering with schools, universities and community partners to bring greater education and prevention strategies to our youth. The toll of violence in relationships is far too great to become complacent in our efforts.”

[ … ] With the implementation of the new protective order law, a whole new segment of the population should know that there is help available. One in five teens in a serious relationship has experienced physical abuse with an estimated 33% of high school students having been a survivor of dating abuse.

Doorways encourages any survivor of dating abuse to call their 24-Domestic Violence Hotline at 703-237-0881 to find the help they need to be safe. Any survivor seeking a protective order can speak with Doorways’ Court Advocate by calling 703-244-5165 and be guided through the legal process.

“We want everyone to know that they are not alone in the pathway to safety,” Jones concluded.

  • Emily

    It’s about time!!! Really glad to hear they’ve pushed this through – just wish it had happened last year…

  • CrystalMikey

    Wow, what the heck took us so long? 😛

  • Evil

    Unfortunately, protective orders don’t do a whole lot of good for the majority of cases.
    A piece of paper won’t stop a sociopath; rather it gives these poor women an unrealistice sense of “protection”. Read The Gift of Fear (by Gavin DeBecker (?)) – great book with great teachings

    • novanglus

      No a piece of paper won’t stop a sociopath. But it will give the police cause to lock a harmful person up _before_ he causes further harm.

      • Evil

        only if said harmful person somehow (in a non harmful way) violates the order. The point is that if a person wants to harm another, they most likely will succeed (to some extent), therefore the person could be taken into custody due to the harm they inflicted – the paper does little to actually “protect” a person from harm.
        I certainly don’t explain it as well as the book does 🙂

        I use to “understand/agree/believe in” protective orders too – until I saw an experts side of it. It’s a sad, scary thought, but they really only work in certain limited cases

  • doodly

    Shouldn’t anyone have the right to a protective order from anyone else, if they are threatening or stalking or harassing the person? Why should it matter what the relationship was? A total stranger can stalk you.

    • Sam

      You do. A restraining order can be filed for domestic abuse, stalking, sexual battery, or bodily injury protections. Currently, anyone who does not qualify for domestic abuse protection can still file for a restraining order for stalking, sexual battery, or bodily injury protection. It appears as though this new protection allows non-domestic partners to file for domestic abuse protection. But it makes it appear like this is the first time they can receive those legal protections, which is false. They’ve always been able to file for one of the other three protections afforded to everyone.

      • Although this is partially correct, the legislative changes have opened the doors for non-domestic partners to file for Civil Protection Orders in ways that previously did not exist. For instance, although civil injunctions issued by the Circuit Court, sometimes referred to as “restraining orders,” have been previously available to the general public, the legal standard required to obtain such an order is extremely high and they are rarely granted. The process to file is also rather complicated. These orders require a hefty fee to file, and they also usually require an attorney to file the petition and orders with the court, as there is no user-friendly paperwork for survivors. Stalking orders have also previously existed, but the legislation has in fact opened a new door for stalking victims, as the changes previously required survivors to involve law enforcement first and obtain an arrest warrant. Without an active warrant issued for the stalker’s arrest, a survivor did not have access to a stalking order. The requirement of involving law enforcement in order to obtain a protective order for stalking certainly served as a deterrent. Sexual battery and bodily injury protective orders, similarly to Circuit Court injunctions, also have an extremely high standard and are very rarely sought and/or granted.

        The current changes now allow survivors to seek such an order with no police involvement whatsoever. Further, this new legislation opens doors for non-domestic partners to file for protection in ways that are much easier than before, including a user-friendly process with pre-drafted Petitions, Affidavits and Court Advocates to assist with filing the paperwork. The new Protective Orders in General District Court are much easier to obtain, as they do not require serious bodily injury and additionally, there are no fees to file for these Orders.

        Doorways for Women and Families continues to serve all survivors of intimate partner violence, regardless of the relationship between the parties. Court Advocates are available to assist survivors of intimate partner violence with filing for protective orders, offering court accompaniment, and providing information about protective orders, custody and child support. Court Advocacy services are available by calling (703) 228-3749 or by walking in and speaking with a Court Advocate in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Intake Office located on the fourth floor in the Arlington Courthouse.

  • JimPB

    Now the question is whether the law on the books will become law in communities. Too often implementation is poor.

    Consider the use of DNA to identify perpetrators of sexual assault. A powerful resource. But to be useful, the DNA needs to be properly collected and processed, then used. Too often — not collected, not processed, not used. So too many perpetrators go unidentified, and innocent men are arrested, convicted and sentenced when available DNA could free them.

    Here as often elsewhere we have a problem of not following through with the money and expertise required.

  • Rosslynite

    If the legislature keeps it up, they may find that they will lose their status of being on the wrong side of every issue.

  • Chris M.

    How is this deferent than a restraining order? Is it just easier to obtain?

    • Sam

      I made a similar comment above but to clarify:

      A restraining order is a general type of protective order. In Virginia, restraining orders fall under one of four categories: protection from domestic abuse, protection from stalking, protection from sexual battery, or protection from serious bodily injury.

      Until now, non-domestic partners were not able to file for protection from domestic abuse. And now they can. BUT, they’ve always been able to file for protection from stalking, protection from sexual battery, or protection from serious bodily injury.

  • Arty

    An important step in the right direction that will hopefully keep young women from getting caught in the nuances of a bureaucratic definition. The more resources, legal and otherwise, organizations like Doorways have to combat abuse, the better.

  • exalted vivene

    I wish this wasn’t framed as ‘man vs. woman’. Women can and do stalk men, to say nothing of people in same-sex relationships.


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