Home > Notes > ‘Protecting myself with the law’ by Beaumont Todd and Lisa Fox

‘Protecting myself with the law’ by Beaumont Todd and Lisa Fox

Protecting Myself from Domestic Violence with the Law

Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating or within the family. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation.

Many persons suffer silently from domestic violence in one form or the other. This is either due to not being able to break out of the cycle of violence where they feel trapped or not knowing what rights they have to protect them when they do decide to leave an abusive relationship.

Two forms of protection the law offers individuals leaving an abusive relationship or a circumstance of domestic violence are a Protection Order and a Bind Over Order.

What are they and what is the difference?

Often persons use the terms “protection orders” and “bind over orders” interchangeably but even when a distinction is drawn between both terms, it is not necessarily the right one.

The two terms have different meanings in Bahamian Law, and anyone seeking protection whether by way of a protection order or a bind over order should be familiar with the difference. Only by knowing the difference does an individual know what their options are and also know what the parties have been ordered not to do, when a court order is given.

WHAT IS A PROTECTION ORDER?

A protection order is a far more extreme ruling of the Court than a Bind Over Order used to try to prevent domestic violence. It is this kind of order that many people refers to incorrectly as a “bind over order.” Both of these orders attempt to restrain people (that is to have them bound over to keep the peace).

The purpose of a protection order is to protect the life, limb, and emotional well being of people who have been the victims of domestic violence or who are at risk of such violence. Battered persons or emotionally abused persons may apply for them. In addition, parents of abused children can apply for them.

WHAT DOES A PROTECTION ORDER DO?

Protection orders usually prohibit one person from contacting, or getting near, one or more other persons. For instance, a protection order may prevent an abuser from coming within 500 feet of the abused person, or within 500 feet of the children. If such a geographic restriction is included in a protection order, the protection order’s circle of prohibition (the area where the person who is the subject of the Order cannot go) moves with the person (or people) protected. Thus, a person with a protection order can have a 500-foot circle around them that their abuser cannot enter, no matter where he/she goes.

Protection orders usually have additional terms, including a general order not to commit acts of domestic violence.

Protection orders create what is really a new criminal law that applies to one person, the subject of the order. Violations can subject a person to contempt of court, but, far more importantly, violations are a criminal offense. Indeed, a protection order may often contain language addressed to law enforcement officials in the form of what is known as a penal notice, telling them to take violating offenders into custody. In The Bahamas law enforcement officials can generally be counted on to do exactly that.

WHO CAN APPLY FOR A PROTECTION ORDER?

Both men and women can apply for a protection order. More protection orders are issues against men than against women.

Because protection orders restrain people’s liberty – by limiting where they can go, who they can call, who they can talk to, etc. – they are rare, and a person asking for them has to meet a high standard.

First, no one can get a protection order in The Bahamas just on the belief, suspicion, or fear that domestic violence may occur. Rather, the person who is the to be object of a protection order must have already committed one or more acts of domestic violence and the person asking for a protection order must be able to prove it. However, the evidence that can prove domestic violence can be the victim’s testimony, or the testimony of a witness.

The more evidence a party asking for a protection order has, the better chance of getting the protection order. Going to a doctor or hospital, after a prior assault, for instance, is good evidence that domestic violence has occurred. Similarly, a criminal arrest is helpful, but is not required.

The law recognizes that a person who has engaged in domestic violence in the past is more likely to do so again, as compared to a person who has never done so. But, the past is not a guarantee of future behavior. Therefore, a person asking for a protection order has to show past domestic violence, the risk of it and show the court that domestic violence is likely to occur in the future.

DO I NEED A LAWYER?

You do not need a lawyer to apply for a protection order. But, a lawyer is a very good idea if you think you need such an Order.

An application for a protection order has complicated requirements, and the standard of proof is high. It is far better to have a lawyer on your side, to draft the request for a protection order, and to go to court and argue for the protection order on your behalf, including asking you questions in court, “on the stand.” Your lawyer is also able to cross-examine the person claiming that there is no need for such an Order.

YOU DO NOT NEED A PROTECTION ORDER TO CALL THE POLICE

Although the police often respond more quickly and attentively to people who refer to a protection order, a protection order is not needed to call the police if someone is in danger. If you are being threatened with violence, or are scarred that violence may shortly occur, get help – call 911, protection order or not.

The reason the police responds more efficiency and effectively to protection order violations is that they know from experience that convictions for domestic violence are rare. Proving that someone violated a court-issued protection order, on the other hand, is relatively easy. Therefore victims are encouraged to seek protection orders which can prove to have more effective results than reporting incidents to the police and waiting for the Crown to prosecute abusers.

PROTECTION ORDER PROCEDURES

Protection orders should be applied for in the Magistrates Court.

The person who is the object of a protection Order will then have an opportunity to argue that there is no justification for the Order. Eventually, the Court will decide how long the protection order should last, or whether it should last.

WILL PROTECTION ORDERS PROTECT ME?”

Not necessarily. While protection orders are serious matters, and are generally taken very seriously, they are, in the end, a piece of paper. A violent person can choose to ignore a protection order, take his or her chances of going to jail, and attack someone. Just as laws against murder do not stop all murders, protection orders do not stop all people from committing further acts of domestic violence. They are however a strong deterrent.

Protection Orders are useful, because they often stop people, and because they lead to better police responses. However, no one should consider themselves 100% safe because they succeeded in their efforts to get a Protection Order.

WHAT IS A “BIND OVER ORDER”

This term is used to describe the set of orders the court imposes on one or both of the parties in instances of “altercations” usually.

Bind over orders are not enforceable by the police or Sheriff’s Department. Rather, violations of these Orders can be brought to the attention of the Court, which has the power to order an offender to pay a fine, which is usually attached, to the Order or in some instances jail but the latter is very rare. Bahamian courts are more likely, at the first violation, to simply admonish the offender and tell them to behave better in the future. The Court also has many interim sanctions, including fines.

Both protection orders and bind over orders are available from the Bahamian courts. Both restrict the liberty of the people they reach. However, protection orders are far more restrictive, and have far greater consequences in the event of a violation.

No One Deserves To Be Abused and You have the right to be protected.

We are one people created equal by God and for the purpose of loving and being loved. Let us work together to Heal ourselves, families, communities, nation and world.

If you would like to talk to someone about anything that is bothering you, please call 328-0922 or 322-4999. For more information check out our website at http://www.bahamascrisiscentre.org or contact us. Email us at bahamascrisiscentre@yahoo.com or call us.

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