If you’ve ever dealt with a stalker or the threat of physical harm from someone, you might have considered seeking a restraining order. But do you know what it takes to execute a legal no-contact order or order of protection, as they’re also called?
It’s not as easy as popular culture might make it appear to be.
Reasons to Pursue a Restraining Order
You might think about getting a restraining order for any number of reasons. One of the most common is that you’re being stalked by or receiving threats from a former romantic partner.
In other cases, you may find yourself being harassed by a casual contact or even a stranger, including an individual you encountered online who turns to cyberstalking. Whatever the reason, if you decide to seek a restraining order, you must be subject to more than just irritation and unwanted contact.
Rather, you must feel terrorized, threatened, or intimidated due to the individual’s activities. There are plenty of people we would avoid if we could, but a restraining order is a tool for when the situation has reached a higher level of intrusiveness. You have to come armed with all the relevant facts if you’re going to establish cause.
Tips And Strategies
- Make Changes. One of the best ways to prove you’re being stalked is by changing your phone number, email, and other contact information, even going so far as to move, if possible. Make sure all your new information is unlisted and inform your friends and professional contacts that, due to privacy concerns, they shouldn’t share your information.If the threatening individual continues to track you down and contact you, you have incontrovertible proof that the person is stalking you and monitoring your personal life to an unreasonable degree. Harassers are remarkably sneaky and inventive when it comes to tracking their target, and this makes them very dangerous.
- Record All Contact. If someone is steadily stalking, harassing, or threatening you, the most worthwhile thing you can do is record all interactions: digital, verbal, or otherwise. Take screenshots of text messages, chats, or emails and record any phone calls or voicemails. Do not respond to these messages, however, because that may encourage contact, no matter what you say. You also should avoid using third parties to deliver messages to your harasser, because this sets a dangerous precedent.In addition to recording all contact, be sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses to interchanges or stalking encounters. These individuals can provide supporting testimony when you formally pursue a restraining order.
- Know Your Options. There are many types of restraining orders. Depending on your situation, you’ll want to pursue a particular type. For example, if you’re being harassed by a former partner and a child is involved, the court will typically set a temporary custody arrangement to be reevaluated at a later date.Other restraining orders include support provisions, if you’re receiving mortgage payments or child support from an ex, for example; or specific stay-away or no-contact provisions that ban the individual from online or telephone communications, or from dropping into your workplace, home, or school. If you know the individual harassing you has access to firearms and you fear physical harm, you might also ask about relinquishing firearms provisions that require the individual in question to give up all guns and ammunition and possibly even undergo counseling.
- Call the Police. Barring extenuating circumstances, you should contact the police every time your abuser or stalker makes contact with you during the period leading up to filing for the restraining order. This enables the police to open a file on the individual, which can be a valuable reference during the trial phase of the process. The police can also take over the process of requesting an end to contact, since any contact initiated by you can invalidate the process.
Bullying, Youth, And Other Unusual Circumstances
Not all stalking and harassment cases are cut and dried, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue legal protections if you feel threatened. One example of this is the following common situation: if your child is being bullied at school and normal interventions don’t work, can you file a restraining order against another student on behalf of your child?
Getting a restraining order against a minor can be challenging, but it’s possible. You can document the behavior in a similar way: keep a record of bullying messages, maintain copies of any medical documents that offer proof of physical or psychological damages, and contact staff at the school and ask them to monitor behaviors and report any concerns.
After that, you will file the same paperwork employed in typical restraining order cases, and a court date will be set. Be prepared, however: This may be followed by social backlash from children and parents alike. There are often simpler ways to protect your child from bullying than filing a restraining order.
Technology has brought added challenges to the once straightforward practice of restraining orders. One Illinois family was harassed for years by a faceless stalker who made his actions appear to be the family’s doing: sending bomb threats to the police, framing their son for hacking a website.
Another couple was subject to a complicated attack that included revenge porn and deliveries of illegal goods from a former romantic partner determined to destroy their relationship … and then their lives. It took a cyberforensics team to unravel the case.
Luckily, few stalkers have the skills to take a situation that far, but more would if they knew how.
Protect Yourself: Get Help Today
Being stalked, harassed, and threatened can be terrifying, and is unfortunately common. It’s vital to respond swiftly before the situation escalates.
If someone is repeatedly contacting you in an unwanted manner, threatening you with violence, or invading your privacy, you may be able to obtain a restraining order against him or her, even if the aggressor is an ex-spouse or member of your family.
For help documenting harassment and obtaining a restraining order, contact Rowdy G. Williams Law Firm today. With experience in prosecution and criminal law, we recognize the serious harm that can result from such harassment, and will put the full array of our expertise behind your case. You don’t have to suffer in silence.