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West Virginia takes action to demystify protective orders

When you're living under a constant threat of violence and a cloud of uncertainty about your future, the process of obtaining a protective order against your abuser be intimidating.

The West Virginia Supreme Court is taking steps to change that situation. The court has recently released a series of educational videos on its website and on YouTube. The videos are aimed at the victims of domestic violence -- with the ultimate goal of demystifying the process that one has to go through to obtain a protective order.

Domestic violence is a significant issue in West Virginia. In 2017, domestic violence petitions accounted for slightly more than a quarter of all filings before the state's magistrates. Between Oct. 1, 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018, a total of 34 West Virginians died due to domestic assaults.

In West Virginia, protective orders are considered a civil issue. They only become a criminal concern if the person under the order of protection violates the restrictions set in place. At that point, the individual can be arrested and charged with a crime. Typically, protective orders require the person under the order to:

  • Refrain from harassing, abusing, stalking, intimidating and threatening the victim or the victim's minor children
  • Turn over their firearms and ammunition to the police for the duration of the order
  • Refrain from contacting the victim in any way, including through a third party or on social media

A judge can also impose additional limitations on a subject's behavior whenever necessary to protect a victim.

Some people doubt the value of a protective order, but they can be effective. For many people, the threat of imprisonment and a criminal record are enough to cause them to take a step back and leave their victim alone.

If you're worried about your safety or the safety of your children due to an abusive individual's threats or actions, seek help. A protective order can be the first step toward a better future for you all.

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