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Civil Protection Orders: The Benefits and Limitations for Victims of Domestic Violence, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
112 pages
In 1994, the National Center for State Courts initiated a study of the effectiveness of civil protection orders (CPOs) for victims of domestic violence; at that time, CPOs had become available in all 50 States but many States still placed significant restrictions on their availability and the scope of relief provided in them.
The study was designed to build on the prior research of others who had explored reasons why CPOs might be more or less effective in providing safer environments for victims of domestic violence and in enhancing their opportunities to escape violent relationships. Earlier studies concluded the effectiveness of CPOs depended on the comprehensiveness of relief provided in such orders, the specificity of CPO terms, and how well and consistently CPOs were enforced. The current study looked at factors that might influence the effectiveness of CPOs, including accessibility to the court process, linkages to public and private services and sources of support, and criminal records of abusers. The CPO process was examined in three jurisdictions: Family Court in Wilmington, Delaware; County Court in Denver, Colorado; and District of Columbia Superior Court. Data were obtained from initial telephone interviews with 285 women petitioners for CPOs, follow-up interviews with 177 of the same group of petitioners about 6 months later, civil case records of petitioners who participated in the study, and criminal history records of men named in CPOs. Two primary measures of CPO effectiveness were applied, improvement in the quality of women's lives and extent of problems related to the CPO. Study findings revealed CPOs helped victims of domestic violence regain a sense of well-being. In most cases, CPOs deterred repeated incidents of physical and psychological abuse. Study participants experienced severe abuse, and most abusive partners had criminal records. Temporary protection orders were useful even if the victim did not obtain a permanent order. Victims did not use the contempt process to enforce CPOs, and the potential for linking victims to services through the court process was not achieved. It was determined law enforcement agencies can do more to assist prosecutors and improve victim access to the CPO process. Footnotes and tables

Date Published: January 1, 1997