Abuse of Power
How to Get Out of a Violent Situation
By Ward B.B. Davison, J.D. & Courtney Catherine Hall, JD
Originally published in the Texas State Bar Journal
We all know someone in an abusive relationship. One out of every three Texan adults has been in an abusive relationship in some point in their life. You are not alone. It’s a delicate situation. It’s an emotional situation. You can help them. You can help yourself. By utilizing the knowledge found below, you can have the abusive person removed from your home today. Access to these solutions often costs little or no money. Let’s explore them together.
What is Family Violence?
Family Violence occurs when one member of a family or household physically hurts another member of that family or household. It also occurs when a member of your family or household verbally attacks and threatens you to the point where you are scared that physical violence may occur in the future. You deserve to feel safe in your home. If you are afraid of your family or home situation, please get help.
What is Dating Violence?
The State of Texas recognizes that not all abusive relationships occur between family members or people sharing a home. Sometimes you may be dating someone who is physically abusive or threatens you with abuse. Take every opportunity to protect yourself before the violence escalates. If you are currently dating someone who exhibits these behaviors, many of these legal options are also available to help you safely exit the relationship. Even if you’re no longer dating that person, if a former partner is still harming or threatening to harm you, please get help. Recently Texas also extended the definition of family violence to include people who have experienced violence or been threatened with violence by their new partner’s ex-partner, or their ex-partner’s new partner.
Request an Emergency Protective Order.
If your abuser is arrested for committing violence against you, ask the police for an Emergency Protective Order. An Emergency Protective Order is designed to prevent the abusive person from coming near your place of work or home, even if the abuser resides there too. It also prevents the abuser from harassing or threatening you, but it does not prevent that person from contacting you. It must be filed at the time the police arrest the abuser. This means that in order to get one, you must call the police! If the order is issued and the abuser violates that order, call the police and the abuser will be arrested. If you don’t want to wait for an emergency (we encourage you not to!), then you can apply for a Protective Order.
Apply for a Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order and then a regular Protective Order.
In order to get an Emergency Protective Order, there has to be an occurrence where the police are involved and someone goes to jail. Unfortunately, calling the police is not always a realistic option when the violence is occurring. That doesn’t mean you must go unprotected. If family violence has occurred and is likely to occur again, you can apply for a Protective Order to keep you safe. It is free to apply for a Protective Order, because it is for safety. You will have a hearing before a judge within two weeks of applying. You can represent yourself at this hearing, hire a private attorney, or you may be able to get the county or district attorney to represent you. If you believe there is a clear and present danger of violence, you can ask a judge to issue a Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order. This will protect you while you wait for your hearing, and can require that the abusive person vacate the residence so that you may be safe in your own home. The regular Protective Order may have any or all of the following provisions:
- Prohibits person from committing further family violence,
- Prohibits person from directly or indirectly harassing you or your family,
- Prohibits person from going near your home or place of work or school,
- Prohibits person from going to school or day care of your child,
- Prohibits person from possessing a firearm,
- Prohibits person from harming or threatening to harm your pets,
- Requires person to attend counseling program,
- Prohibits person from coming within 200 yards (two football fields) of you.
If you’ve read everything to this point, you’ve digested a ton of information in a short amount of time. You may need some clarification. Listed below are some resources you can use to get more information. We encourage you to find time to explore every single one.
Texas Advocacy Project’s Family Violence Legal Line
If you are a victim of family violence, you can learn more about your legal rights by calling the Family Violence Legal Line. You will receive free and confidential legal advice from licensed attorneys. They answer questions about Texas family law and domestic violence, provide safety planning, and refer you to the best local resources for further assistance. 800-374-HOPE - www.TexasAdvocacyProject.org
Texas Law Help
This website has a Protective Order Kit that is free to download. It has been approved by the Texas Supreme Court and can be used in any county. www.TexasLawHelp.org
.If you try your best to complete these forms before contacting your local county office for a Protective Order, you will have all of the information they will need to help you. If the office is unable to assist you, you can file these forms with the court, and you’ll be on the fast track to escaping your dangerous situation.
Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Texas
The OAG may help cover the costs that victims of a crime might incur. Coverage for victims of family violence might include medical bills, counseling fees, and relocation/rent costs, setting up a safe mailing address and collecting child support. (800) 983-9933 - www.GetChildSupportSafely.org
Texas VINE (victim information & notification everyday)
Victims of violence can sign up to be notified if someone gets released or transferred from county jail. (877) 894-8463 - www.TexasVINE.com
WARD B.B. DAVISON practices civil & criminal law in Austin.
COURTNEY CATHERINE HALL is a staff attorney for Texas Advocacy Project in Austin. Texas Advocacy Project is a statewide non-profit organization providing free legal help to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The Project provides invaluable legal services– helping thousands of Texans and their children across the state. Their vision is for a Texas where no child has to see one parent harm the other. For more information please visit their site at TexasAdvocacyProject.org.