Violence directed at a family member, domestic partner or boyfriend/girlfriend is very common. The news features murder/suicides, beatings and stalking accounts all too frequently. This is a serious problem in our society.
Domestic violence is an equal opportunity crime. A woman in a recent case shot and killed the pregnant girlfriend of her former lover. Another woman in an affluent Chicago suburb broke into her ex-husband's home and attacked him and his new wife. Luckily, the survived the attack.
Recently, a brave police officer in Arlington Heights answered a domestic relations call. A former boyfriend had stalked his ex-girlfriend. She obtained an Order of Protection against him which prohibited him from having any contact with her or her family. He ignored the Court Order and continued his criminal behavior. He was out on bond for violating the Order of Protection when he followed the woman to her mother's home.
The man held the former girlfriend hostage which led to a stand-off with police. The woman's mother escaped unharmed. The man shot the police officer in the face and in turn was shot dead by the SWAT Team which was at the scene.
This is just one tragic incident which illustrates the sad truth that an Order of Protection is merely a piece of paper. Waving it in front of the offender is not going to stop a bullet.
Anyone who is the victim of such a violent bully must obtain an Order of Protection by completing a Petition for an Emergency Order of Protection. These forms are available online for most Illinois counties and/or are available at the local courthouse. Many counties have on site domestic violence counselors and/or attorneys who will assist you to complete the paperwork and direct you to the proper judge. You may be able to have one appear in court with you while you testify before the judge.
Orders of Protection are available in divorce, parentage (paternity), custody, domestic partner relationships and families (such as a mother seeking protection from a violent son) cases.. Elder abuse by a family member is all too common. I was involved in just such a situation where a client's late mother was financially and physically abused by her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend. It was very difficult to obtain necessary protection for this woman because the police and courts did not take it seriously.
An Emergency Ex Parte Petition for an Order of Protection will be heard without notice to the violent party if you are afraid that notifying the person of the court action will cause you and/or your children, family members and friends harm.
The person does not have to have carried out any violence yet, A threat of violence may be enough to cause the judge to issue the Order of Protection. I represented a woman recently whose former boyfriend had placed his hands around her throat and threatened to kill her. The judge did not think that was sufficient to issue an Order of Protection, incredibly enough.
Once an Order of Protection is granted, the paperwork is filed with the Sheriff immediately. The information is placed into a special domestic violence computer system. The Order is then placed for service with the Sheriff where the person from whom protection is required is found. Law enforcement officials can check the computer system to determine if there is an Order of Protection in place if there is further contact initiated by the person towards the protected person.
Violating an Order of Protection is a serious criminal transgression. Unfortunately, many times the fearful person contact the police to report contact but the police merely talk to him or her and give a warning. If the offender is taken before a judge for violating the Order of Protection, sometimes the judge lets the person off with a stern lecture. Time and time again, experience has proven that scoldings do not work. Individuals intent on stalking, harassing, electronic contact, harassment at school and/or the workplace, kidnapping and worse, do not respond to gentle reprimands. They must be dealt with to the full extent of the law.
An Order of Protection may be obtained by a private attorney, a legal assistance organization or by an individual. If the Emergency Ex Parte (meaning without notice to the other person) Order is issued, the Court must set a return date for the other side to come to Court for a full hearing on the Petition. After hearing both sides, the judge may continue the Order for a longer period of time or deny an extension of the Order.
It is not uncommon to require domestic violence victims to file for several Orders of Protection. Some of the people return to the violent partner after promises are made that there will be no further violence. This is not the case. Once a person threatens his or her significant other, there is a great likelihood that it will continue.
All domestic violence issues must be taken seriously by the courts and law enforcement. To do less is to encourage and embolden violent individuals.