Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Civil Protective Orders - Are They An Effective Tool in Domestic Violence Prevention?

Employers should be interested in this - a study from the National Institutes of Justice (NIJ Journal No. 299) titled "Perspectives on Civil Protective Orders in Domestic Violence Cases: The Rural and Urban Divide" found that civil protective orders can be an effective tool for domestic violence prevention.

This is important information in the discussion about the effectiveness of civil protective orders.  For example, I know people who work with domestic violence victims who tell them "don't even bother to get a protective order because it doesn't help at all."

This study found subtle jurisdictional differences influence how women experience civil protective orders.

It looked at the impact of civil protective orders for domestic violence victims in five Kentucky jurisdictions. Civil protective orders, sometimes known as restraining orders, may cover various situations, such as ordering an assailant to avoid a victim's home and workplace or forbidding any contact with the victim, including by mail or telephone.

Findings from the study suggest that orders make a difference in safety, fear levels and cost savings. Moreover, urban and rural populations reported significant differences in fear. Half of the women who received protective orders did not experience a violation within the following six months. For the half who did experience violations, the levels of violence and abuse declined significantly compared with the six months before the protective order was issued.

Urban and rural women had similar views of the protective orders' effectiveness. However, rural women found more barriers to getting an order and having it enforced, thus experiencing less relief from fear and abuse. The study also explored the role of stalking in protective order violations and quantified the overall cost to society.

For employers, there is also important information about stalking behavior in this study. In prior research, Logan found that about half of the victims who get protective orders are stalked. Overall, protective orders were less effective for stalking victims than for other victims. Specifically:
  • Women who were stalked by their violent partner before getting a protective order had a strong likelihood of protective order violations.
  • Women who were stalked after the protective order were more afraid of future harm, experienced more distress related to the abuse, and endured more violence and more property damage.
  • Women who were stalked after the protective order felt the order to be less effective compared with those who were not stalked.
  • Stalking after the protective order was associated with violence, suggesting those who stalk are more violent and more resistant to court intervention.
The previous study examined victims with no protective order violations, victims whose protective orders were violated, and victims with violations and stalking. Stalking victims experienced higher distress levels and more property loss, lost more sleep, and took more time off from work, contributing to higher societal costs.

Stalking victims were less likely than other women to report a protective order violation. They said they felt the complaint would not be taken seriously or they feared they did not have enough proof.

So what does that mean for the workplace?  An employer shouldn't assume that just because the workplace is listed on the civil protection order it is "safe." An employer with an employee who have a civil protection order would be wise to work with that employee to utilize workplace protections and accomodations to keep the victim and other employees safe. And this is especially the case where stalking is involved. 

To read the full summary and link to the full study, click here:

For resources to address domestic violence at the workplace, visit

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