By Julia Miller, Legal Intern
The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is a time to shed light on what domestic violence is, who it affects, and provide resources to help victims of domestic violence get out of an abusive situation. Personal Protection Orders (PPOs) are orders, signed by a judge that prohibit abusers from doing any number of things that could harm or frighten their victims. These orders can be granted ex parte, which means without a hearing, and the person you are filing an order against will not know until after the order is in place. A judge will grant your PPO ex parte in emergency situations in which you fear you may be in danger from your abuser. If the judge does not grant your order via ex parte, a hearing can be scheduled during which the judge will hear each side and decide whether or not to grant the order.
There are three types of PPOs you can get. The first type is for domestic relationships. A domestic relationship is considered a current or previous partner, the other parent of your child, or someone that you live with or have lived with at some point in time. To be granted this type of PPO, you must be able to prove to the court both that you have a domestic relationship with this person, and that they are likely to assault, threaten, harass, or stalk you.
The second type of PPO you can get is a Non-Domestic Relationship Sexual Assault PPO. This type of PPO can be taken out against a person who has been convicted of sexually assaulting or threatening to sexually assault you but with whom you do not have a domestic relationship.
The third and final type of PPO is a Non-Domestic Relationship Stalking PPO. A PPO of this type will be granted against someone with whom you do not have a domestic relationship so long as you can prove at least two incidents of stalking. To be considered stalking, it must be ongoing harassment that would scare a reasonable person, which includes things like following you or making repeated unwanted contact with you.
While each PPO may vary slightly by type and the exact prohibitions that it contains, most PPOs will restrict abusers from making contact with you, in person or otherwise, buying or having a gun, or doing anything else that would reasonably cause you to fear for your safety and wellbeing. During the process of applying for a PPO you can ask the judge to prohibit any other specific behaviors that you want to keep the abuser from doing, however it is up to the discretion of the judge whether or not they will include these on your PPO.
To get a PPO, you must file an application through the court. As soon as your PPO has been signed by a judge it becomes enforceable throughout the state of Michigan. When your PPO has been served to the person you are taking it out against, it becomes enforceable anywhere in the United States. While you cannot serve a PPO yourself, you must file a proof of service as soon as it has been served. You should keep a copy of your PPO and the proof of service with you at all times, just in case. If your abuser violates the PPO, call the police immediately and if they are found to have indeed broken the terms of the PPO they are subject to arrest.
If you or a loved one is involved in an ongoing abusive situation it is important to know that you are not alone and that help is out there for you. For more information on PPOs, contact a qualified attorney. For more information on domestic violence, or for more resources for victims of domestic violence, contact the national domestic violence hotline by phone at 1-800-SAFE (7233), or online at www.thehotline.org.