By Janet Howard
Finding yourself in an abusive or otherwise volatile relationship can be frightening and disconcerting. When the person you should be able to rely on to have your back turns on you, it is easy for your emotions to run wild, but losing control is the last thing you need.
If you want to protect yourself from the danger, you need a plan of action, and a protection from abuse (PFA) order. A protection from abuse order can provide a legal shield, one that your abuser must respect or face possible jail time. And while this type of protection is not perfect, it can be a vital first step in extricating yourself from a dangerous situation.
Whether your abusive relationship has been going on for years or is still relatively new, the sooner you seek a protection from abuse (PFA) order the better, and safer, you can be. Even so, asking the court for a PFA should not be a snap decision, and it is important to plan carefully. This careful planning can increase the effectiveness of your PFA while affording you an extra layer of personal and legal protection.
If you are planning to file a protection from abuse (PFA) order, it is important to gather the documentation you will need to defend the action in court. While you may be able to get a temporary restraining order based on your word alone, when your court date arrives the judge will be looking at the evidence you provide. Having that evidence in hand before you file, and before you leave the home you share with your abuser, will make everything that follows much easier.
That brings up another important preparatory step – leaving the situation. If you share a home or apartment with your abuser, finding a safe place to stay after the protection from abuse (PFA) order has been filed can be a smart decision. That safe place could be the home of a trusted friend, a shelter for battered women or even a hotel.
If you have children, you will need a plan for taking care of them. If you plan to stay with a friend, you will need to arrange childcare while you are working. If your plan includes a shelter, you will need to make sure the place you have in mind can accommodate your children as well as yourself.
Once you have made your plans and filed your protection from abuse order, you will want to be even more careful, especially if your partner is violent or explosive. While a protection from abuse order can convince some abusive partners to back off and leave their victims alone, others may react with even more rage.
Filing a protection from abuse (PFA) can provide an important protective shield when you are being abused, but as with any legal maneuver the right preparation will be key. If you are planning to file a PFA, following the steps outlined above can keep you safer and protect you in a dangerous world.
Domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.