Last year, the Texas legislature made changes to the law governing protective orders obtained to protect women from domestic violence. One significant change was the creation of a civil protective order with potentially unlimited duration.
Previously, a two-year limit was imposed on any protective order (unless the offender was in prison), which could be extended by requesting a new protective order after the previous one had expired. However, this would mean the women would have to return to court and relive the violent experience. The new law permits a court, under certain circumstance, to create an order "sufficient to protect the applicant," which is not limited to a specific duration.
Stalking Protective Order
Other changes involved creation of a protective order for victims of stalking. The provision allows an order to be issued if the court finds it likely that probable cause exists that a stalking violation occurred and is likely to reoccur.
A protective order for domestic violence is intended to stop abuse and violence against a women or her family. While the statute is not limited to women, women are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence and have the greatest need for protection.
Studies have found 87 percent of stalkers are men and that 94 percent of women who are stalked, are stalked by men. Fifty-seven percent of women are stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Moreover, three-quarters of all women murdered by their partners had been stalked.
Requirements for a Protective Order
Protective orders can be issued if there is a history of family violence and a likelihood of its reoccurrence. Given the close relationship between stalking and violence, stalking can now provide the grounds for the issuance of a protective order.
. Because a violent domestic incident may have no witnesses beyond the participants, and no means of independent collaboration, protective orders are valuable because of the difficulty in proving some elements of related criminal charges.
A permanent protective order provides the victim with a long-term capacity to act if the stalking or other threatening behavior continues, no matter how much time has passed since the last incident. The order also has the positive effect of placing the law clearly on the victim's side while imposing a societal sanction against the abuser that includes fines, arrest and, potentially, incarceration.
The recent amendments to the protective order statutes are encouraging for victims; they help emphasize that the legislature recognizes the danger presented to women by domestic violence and provides affirmative steps they can take to protect themselves and their family.
If you have been subjected to stalking or domestic violence in your relationship, you should immediately contact a county or district attorney or a private attorney to determine what steps you need to take. Violent behavior or stalking should never be dismissed and Texas now provides victims with multiple avenues to obtain protection.