Barriers Women Face Obtaining Orders for Protection

By KBJR News 1

November 13, 2012 Updated Nov 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.COM) -- Orders for Protection help survivors of domestic violence build a "Legal Wall" between them and their abusers.

But one study suggests rural woman face more barriers in getting an OFP.

Now, Minnesota state funding cuts are threatening to make it more difficult to help victims in the Northland.

As we found out, it could put some rural women in a vulnerable position.

"The order for protection goes for two years," said Amanda, a Domestic Abuse Survivor.

When Amanda fled a violent marriage she came here to Range Women's Advocates in Virginia.

"R.W.A. has given me so much support...with this and understanding on violence you know...understanding that it wasn't my fault and that was hard to take in because I felt so guilty," Amanda said.

An advocate helped Amanda receive a court order for protection.

Depending on circumstances an OFP may order the abuser to leave the home.
...Prohibits the abuser from going near your residence or work.
...And prevents them from contacting you in person, by telephone, letter or through a third party.

"In some of these cases you have a long history of domestic violence between the victim and the suspect...other ones it might just be a one term incident," said Timothy H. Koivunen, a Chief at the Eveleth Police Department.

It is estimated that one in every four women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime.

A study funded by National Institute of Justice indicates half the women who receive protective orders did not experience a violation within the following six months.

But it also found rural woman were more afraid of future harm than their urban sisters.

Victims seeking orders often turn first to organizations like R.W.A.

"We had a loss of close to $100,000. Our state funds for our basic crime victim services has not been renewed," said Pat Dunlave, the Executive Director at Range Women's Advocates.

RWA was one of two organizations serving rural women in the Northland to lose their Minnesota Department of Public Safety grant.
As a result the Virginia agency may be forced to end its court advocacy program.

It's already happened in Carlton County.

Carlton County's domestic violence and sexual abuse advocacy program shut down in October after it lost its long standing grant with the state of Minnesota during a competitive bid process for state funding.

"It was a huge, I would say...slap in the face."

Court Administrator Judy Isaacson says Rural Women's Advocates provided one on one support for victims 24/7.

"I think the advocates gave some people the back bone to actually come fill the forms out. And then actually come back if there was a court hearing," said Judy Isaacson, an Administrator at Carlton County Court.

Forms to apply for an OFP are available at your nearest county court house...but having an advocate can reduce the stress in an already stressful situation.

The greatest fear...women in Carlton and northern St. Louis County already victims of violence and traumatized...may simply choose not to seek help on their own.

Back in Virginia R.W.A. is scrambling to replace its lost funding and keep its advocacy program in place.
Amanda says there is a lot at stake.

"Shutting these doors and cutting down the phone lines would be deadly...it would...you know...hearts would lose hope," Amanda said.

In some cases orders for protection fail.

Tuesday night at 10, we'll take an in-depth look at a recent Northland case where a court order failed to keep a Virginia Woman safe... sparking a nationwide manhunt and federal kidnapping and interstate Domestic Violence charges.