December 5, 2023 Dec 05, 2023 8 min read
If you are experiencing imminent or ongoing violence or abuse and would like to request an emergency order for protection, call 911 or the equivalent emergency number in your area immediately.
Commonly referred to as “restraining orders,” protection orders are an important legal tool available to victims of interpersonal violence, abuse, and harassment. Keep reading to learn what a protection order is, how it works, and who can qualify.
A protection order is a court order designed to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, and other forms of violence, harassment, and abuse. These orders function by restricting an abusive or violent person from contacting or engaging with the victim(s), although specific requirements and restrictions vary by order.
Protection orders are issued on a case-by-case basis and may be temporary or permanent. Permanent protection orders typically require that a perpetrator has been convicted of a crime relating to the abuse in question, while temporary and emergency orders do not.
The person who applies for or is granted a protection order is typically referred to as the “petitioner,” while the person an order provides protection from is referred to as the “respondent.”
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Protection orders are issued by a court and enforced by law enforcement. Although the stipulations of each protection order may vary, they typically restrict an abuser’s ability to legally contact, approach, or engage with the person protected by the order.
For example, if a protection order bars someone from contacting you, you can call the authorities if you receive phone calls, text messages, social media follow requests, etc. from that person. Based on the terms of the order, these contact attempts may be punishable by law.
Many protection orders also restrict respondents from being within a certain distance of the petitioner. Other common restrictions include contacting or being near one’s children, entering one’s workplace, or engaging in any violent or abusive behavior.
Generally speaking, the term “restraining order” is used interchangeably to refer to various types of protection orders. However, in some places, restraining orders and protection orders are two different things.
The term “restraining order” is sometimes used to refer to a protection order applied for by an individual and granted by a court. A protection order, on the other hand, does not require an application and can be requested by law enforcement on behalf of an individual. In other places, “restraining order” may refer to a permanent or long-term protection order. Restraining orders may also allow for more specific restrictions, while protection orders follow more general terms.
Check the legal definitions of these terms in your area to be sure of the tools and resources available to you. For the purposes of this article, we will only use the term “protection order” moving forward.
Emergency protection orders (EPO) can be granted quickly and do not require an application. EPOs serve to protect people in active crisis situations involving physical or sexual abuse, typically from a partner or family member.
To request an emergency protection order, simply call 911 or the equivalent emergency number in your area. The law enforcement officer you speak with can request an emergency protection order from the court on your behalf if they believe you are in imminent danger.
Emergency protection orders are available in Canada, the US, and the UK. They can last anywhere from one week to one month depending on where you live and how long it takes law enforcement to investigate your situation. These orders are designed to protect victims temporarily while law enforcement and the court system investigate a crime and determine whether a longer-term protection order is warranted.
In some cases, a victim may not be granted an EPO and must apply for a temporary protection order instead. Temporary protection orders must be applied for with the court directly, although many people choose to work with an attorney or advocacy organization to complete and submit these applications. If you have access to this type of assistance, your attorney or legal advocate can acquire the necessary paperwork, help you complete it, and submit it to the court on your behalf.
Applying for a temporary protection order requires providing a detailed account and timeline of the abuse you’ve experienced. The person applying for the order may also be required to appear in court and speak about their experiences directly to a judge. Having the help of an attorney or advocate during this experience can be extremely helpful both practically and emotionally. To find legal help or advocacy anywhere in Canada, use the Go Thrive Go search tool.
Depending on where you live, the terms “temporary protection order” and “emergency protection order” may be used interchangeably.
Although definitions vary, permanent and long-term protection orders (also known as criminal protective orders) are granted by the court when and if a perpetrator is convicted of a crime related to the abuse. This typically happens when a temporary order was previously in place and the victim has expressed interest in long-term protection.
For example, a victim may be granted an emergency or temporary protection order while the perpetrator awaits trial. If the perpetrator is then convicted of an abuse- or harassment-related crime, the judge may establish a permanent order for protection.
Permanent protection orders are typically only granted by criminal courts and can be used to protect both victims and witnesses.
If you believe you are in imminent danger of experiencing violence or abuse from anyone in your life, you may qualify for an emergency protection order. Call your local authorities to explain your situation and find out what your options are.
Depending on a variety of circumstances, protection orders may be available to:
Victims of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment
Victims of stalking or harassment
Victims of intimate partner violence or family violence
Children of adult victims of abuse and violence
Victims of incest
Witnesses to violent crimes
For temporary protection orders granted via an application process, applicants must demonstrate a clear and detailed narrative of the pattern of abuse they’ve experienced. Courts typically err on the side of caution when granting protection orders, so applicants are not expected to provide hard evidence.
Permanent protection orders are only available to victims whose abusers have been convicted of a crime associated with the abuse. They are typically only granted if an emergency or temporary order was in place previously.
Protection orders are crucial legal tools available to victims of violence and abuse. While not everyone qualifies for a protection order, anyone in need of legal protection from ongoing violence or abuse should contact their local authorities to request an emergency order for protection.
To learn more about legal options for survivors, visit our article “Legal Options for Victims of Sexual Assault and Rape.”
Protection orders are issued by a court to protect victims of violence and abuse. These orders are enforced by law enforcement and typically restrict abusers from contacting, approaching, or otherwise engaging with their victims. When a protection order is in place, a victim can contact the authorities and receive assistance any time an abuser breaks the terms of the order. Although definitions vary regionally, protection orders are typically divided into three categories – emergency orders, temporary orders, and permanent orders. Emergency protection orders can typically be acquired without an application, while temporary orders require an application submitted by the victim or “petitioner.” Permanent protection orders, also known as criminal protection orders, are only issued by criminal courts in the event that a respondent (the person charged with abuse) is convicted of a crime related to the abuse. Anyone in the US, Canada, or the UK can request an emergency order for protection by contacting their local authorities and explaining their situation.
Dana Anastasia (they/them) is an independent writer, editor, podcaster, and artist. With a degree in interdisciplinary sociology and a background in domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, Dana brings a keen awareness of victim and survivor needs and experiences to their work. Learn more at www.danaanastasia.com.