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Protective Orders Live Up to Their Name

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Protective Orders Live Up to Their Name

FRIDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthScoutNews) -- Contrary to earlier research, a new study suggests that women who obtain permanent civil protection orders to shield themselves from abusive partners may be safer than those who don't take legal action.

Civil protection orders are obtained by only about 20 percent of the approximately 2 million women in the United States who have been physically abused, raped or stalked by partners, according to the study. The orders are designed to protect against further abuse, and partners who violate the orders can face civil contempt, misdemeanor or felony charges.

In the study, researchers with the University of Washington and the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle interviewed about 400 women who had been abused or threatened by their partners. One group of women had obtained temporary or permanent civil protection orders and the other group had contacted police about threats or abuse, but had not obtained such orders.

In the five months that followed the initial reports of abuse, the women who had obtained the protective orders were much less likely to have been threatened or subjected to abuse by their partners than the women who had not received the orders, say the researchers.

And in another follow-up four months later, the researchers found the court orders to have been even more effective in protecting the women -- those who maintained the protective orders were less likely to have been sexually abused or injured or to have received medical care for abuse.

The researchers note that one type of harassment the protective orders did not prevent over the nine-month study was unwelcome phone calls.

A prominent 1980 study had concluded that protection orders aren't effective in keeping women safe from abuse. But the authors of the new study say their research looked at women for a longer period of time, and they say protection orders are more effective and more strictly enforced than they were two decades ago.

The study results are published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More information

Visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for more information.

-- Nancy A. Melville

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