I often hear people say, “She just needs to get a protective order.” Unfortunately, like just about everything with domestic violence, it is not as simple as that. For some survivors, a protective order is what will keep them most safe. But, I have also sat across from clients who have said “If I go forward with a protective order, he will kill me.” In the literature from the Dallas County District Attorney’s office it states, “A protective order is not a bulletproof vest or a safety shield. You must remain careful and take precautions for your safety.”
We at Genesis support a survivor’s decision whether or not it is safe for her and her family to pursue a protective order. We also believe in giving survivors as much information as we can so she can make an informed decision about her safety and future. If you or someone you know is curious about how to get a protective order in Dallas County, here are a few things that you should know.
In my experience working with survivors through this process, I usually explain that there are three “steps” to apply for a protective order in Dallas county. (This is the process through the Frank Crowley criminal court, not family court. These steps are for an individual who does not have an open family court case.) It is not a guarantee that a survivor applying for an order will obtain one, and an individual can stop the process at any time.
Step One: There is an initial screening that must be completed by a survivor requesting a protective order. There are multiple satellite offices throughout the county that someone can go to and fill out this screening. Two of the most important things to know about this step are 1) the screeners will ask about incidents of physical violence or threats of violence in the last 90 days, and 2) the survivor needs to know where the abuser lives/can be found so he can be served with paperwork. After the screening is submitted, an advocate in the Protective Order division of the District Attorney’s (DA) office will reach out to the survivor to discuss whether or not they will be able to go forward with the protective order process through the DA’s office.
Step Two: The survivor must go down to the Frank Crowley Courthouse and complete an affidavit. This is a longer narrative about the violence that has occurred. The survivor will have to swear under oath that this narrative is the truth.
Step Three: The survivor will come back to the Frank Crowley Courthouse for a hearing. This step can be very stressful and long, I encourage any survivor to bring a supportive and safe person with them to the hearing. The advocate will direct the survivor and her supportive person to go to the 10th Floor Victim Waiting Room before the hearing. Before the time of the hearing, an officer will walk everyone down to the courtroom. Anyone who has a hearing that day will be brought into a side room outside of the courtroom to minimize the amount of time the survivor has to sit in the same courtroom as the abuser. This room is locked so as the abuser, his family/friends or attorney cannot bother the survivor before the hearing. There is not a bathroom in this room, so try and make a stop beforehand. It can take a few hours, so feel free to bring a snack or water as well.
There are few potential outcomes that can result from this:
- Sometimes at this point, the abuser has not been served, so the survivor will have to return to the courthouse generally in 1-2 weeks.
- If he has been served, but does not show up for the court date, the survivor may be granted the protective order by default.
- If the abuser arrives for the hearing he (or his attorney) may request a reset for the hearing. Both sides can request a reset, so again, the hearing might be reset to another date 1-2 weeks out.
- The abuser might agree to the protective order.
- Another possibility is that the hearing will go forward. The district attorneys will discuss with the survivor her testimony and help prepare her for the hearing. During the hearing, the district attorney will question the survivor about the statements made in her affidavit. After the district attorney finished their questioning, the survivor will be cross examined. If the abuser has an attorney, the attorney will question the survivor. If the abuser does not have an attorney, he has the right to question the survivor.
The protective order process can be scary and overwhelming. If you or a loved one is interested in pursuing a protective order, please give Genesis a call at 214.946.HELP (4357) or call the Dallas District Attorney’s Office at 214-653-3605. An advocate can help you safety plan and explain more about the process.
Written by Krista Fultz, director of advocacy and education at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.