Persons subject to domestic violence (or violence in the context of any relationship) may need protection from the perpetrator of violence.

To protect oneself, one can go to a place of greater safety (no place is 100% safe, although most women’s shelters offer a number of safeguards to provide a very high degree of security.) If living together, the perpetrator of abuse may leave voluntarily or may be required to leave the residence.

In either case, stay or go, the target of abuse may apply to the court for a Protection Order, also known as a Restraining Order. In a situation where a perpetrator has been charged and/or convicted and is not incarcerated, a term of release may also include stipulations such as found in the Protection Order, which is to say the perpetrator may be ordered to:

Stay away from or stay a particular distance from the person named as the target;

Not call or communicate directly with the person named as the target;

Not follow or come anywhere near any place you frequent (work, child’s school, family home, etc.)

Turn over any weapons to police.

The intention of the Protection Order is to provide for the safety of the person targeted by the perpetrator. However, like locks on doors, Protection Orders are only as useful as they are followed by the person subject to the Order. Locks on doors do not keep criminals bent on breaking into your home from entering. Protection Orders do not keep perpetrators bent on perpetrating unwanted/abusive/dangerous acts from behaving inappropriately.

Simply put, some people subject to a Protection Order do not stop their abusive or violent behavior, they just may become more sneaky about it.

People are cautioned not to believe that a protection order actually provides protection. It does not. It can in some instances improve the likelihood of one’s safety, assuming the person subject to the Order actually follows the Order.

What a protection Order can do is provide some degree of recourse when a person acts against the protection order. As such there can be a consequence to contravening the Order, but not necessary a deterrent. If a person contravenes their Protection Order, it is generally advisable to notify police immediately. Given at least an opportunity of recourse in the event someone contravenes a Protection Order, there is still value to the Protection Order.

Persons who need or have a Protection Order to provide for their safety are cautioned to still be aware and consider other protective measures. To determine protective measures for yourself in your situation, you can contact Police, Victim Services or a women’s shelter to discuss the particulars of your needs and seek guidance.

To add, the period of separation is one of the most dangerous with regard to matters of domestic violence. While you may be managing a separation issue in Family Court, it is important to know that Family Court and Criminal Court are two different entities that in Ontario and many other jurisdictions do not communicate with each other. If there is an ongoing criminal matter or a Protection Order brought through Criminal Court, you must inform the Family Court of this yourself lest the Family Court inadvertently make an order that conflicts with the Criminal Court order. Yes, this happens as odd as it may seem.

Protecting oneself from a violent partner or former partner is at times a team effort. Your team may include, family and friends. Consider also including police, a women’s shelter (at least for guidance, support and information) and a family law lawyer. You may also benefit from personal counseling. If you see a counselor ask if the counselor has any experience or training in matters of domestic violence and policies as regards service in view of domestic violence. We want you as safe as possible.


Author's Bio: 

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America and was the first social worker to sit on the Ontario Board for Collaborative Family Law.