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Legal Matters: If you are in an abusive relationship a civil protection order could help you get away, offer a sense of safety

Anastasia Basquin, chief victim liaison and community outreach specialist for the Linn County Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids. Photographed at the Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, April 25, 2018.  (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Anastasia Basquin, chief victim liaison and community outreach specialist for the Linn County Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids. Photographed at the Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

“Jane” and her boyfriend had been in a relationship for a little more than a year.

Shortly after the birth of their first child, everything changed. They frequently argued about money since she was the only one working outside the home. Soon they were arguing about everything.

He wanted her to spend all of her time with him instead of with family and friends. He demanded to know where she was at all times. If she took too long to come home after work, he would call her phone repeatedly.

Soon the verbal arguments turned physical. There were many days Jane could not go to work because she was unable to cover her bruises. After the abuse, the boyfriend would apologize and promise to never hurt her again. She wanted to believe him. She wanted to be a family, and she needed his help in raising their child.

For a while, things would be good in their relationship but eventually the controlling behavior would continue along with another act of violence.

Jane had tried to end the relationship a few times. After asking him to move out of the home, she would often come home to find him at her home, refusing to leave.

If she stayed with friends or family, he would continually call her and send threatening text messages. He also showed up at her place of employment and assaulted her in the parking lot.

Jane did not feel safe any place she went. She was scared, and she did not know what to do.

protection

She called the Linn County Attorney’s Office for help and learned she could ask the court for a civil protection order. A civil protection order commands the abuser to stop acts of domestic abuse. The abuser must stay away from the victim’s residence, school or place of employment.

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The protection order prohibits communication with the victim. This includes all forms of communication, such as phone calls, text messages or email.

The civil protection order can make determinations as to who gets to continue living in a shared residence and who has to move.

The order also can address temporary child custody and/or visitation rights of children, as well as possession of pets.

Lastly, the abuser is prohibited from possessing firearms.

when it applies

A civil protection order can be issued between two people if they are in one of the following types of relationships: 1) an intimate relationship, 2) married, 3) divorced, 4) living together, 5) parents of the same child or 6) adult family members living in the same residence.

A law passed in 2017 also allows victims of sexual assault, incest, sexual exploitation of a minor and lascivious acts with a child to obtain protection orders.

In these cases, no relationship is required between victim and abuser. This means the order can cover date rape incidents or cases where the person may be under age 18 because the parents can ask for an order for their child.

how it works

Anyone seeking a protection order can fill out the petition paperwork by describing the abuse in specific detail. A district judge will review the application and, if approved, an order will be granted.

You can do this on your own or complete the process with the assistance of a domestic violence advocate, Iowa Legal Aid or a private attorney.

Individuals who have received a protection order come back to me and say they no longer live in fear that their abusers will show up or continually threaten them.

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If the protection order is violated, they can call the police and know the abusers would face contempt action with the possibility of jail time. It gives them a sense of safety.

Victims of domestic violence may request a civil protection order at no cost at the Linn County Clerk of Court’s Office at the Linn County Courthouse on the Third Avenue Bridge.

Business hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you or someone you know is in a violent or controlling relationship and needs help, please call Waypoint’s 24 Hour Resource & Support Line at (319) 363-2093 or 1-(800) 208-0388.

l The author is the chief victim liaison and community outreach specialist for the Linn County Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids.

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