News and Commentary

Should I Get a Restraining Order?

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A restraining order (sometimes called a “protective order”) can get your partner to stop being verbally abusive. However, research shows that restraining orders are not effective if your partner intends to physically harm you – remember a restraining order is just a piece of paper!

And some believe a restraining order can make a situation go from bad to worse. One study found that obtaining a restraining order or arrest warrant was the most common precursor to a tragic homicide-suicide incident (Morton E, Runyan CW, Moracco KE, & Butts J. Partner Homicide-Suicide Involving Female Homicide Victims: A Population Based Study in North Carolina, 1988-1992. Violence and Victims, 13(2), 91-106.. 1998).

And by all means, do NOT request a restraining order to gain the upper hand in a custody dispute or to “teach my boyfriend/girlfriend a lesson.” That will take away resources and services from victims who truly need help!

If you believe a restraining will help your situation, follow these steps:

  1. Find out what types of actions your state considers to be “abusive.”
  2. Find out how to obtain a restraining order in your state.
  3. Find out how to get legal help.
  4. In cases of physical violence, it’s a good idea to also develop a safety plan.


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