Reaching a safer place.
For some survivors, the criminal legal system may offer options for protection from abusive partners. The Hotline doesn’t give legal advice — nor are we legal advocates — but there may be legal resources available in your community that we can help you identify.
Contact us to talk through legal resources suited to your situation:
- Call 800.799.SAFE (7233)
- Or chat live now
Protective orders and restraining orders
- A protective order is a legal document intended to prohibit your partner from physically coming near you or harming or harassing you, your children, or other loved ones.
- You can apply for a protective order at courthouses.
- Protective orders may be able to put a stop to physical abuse but they depend on your partner’s adherence to the law and law enforcement’s willingness to enforce the protective order. Psychological abuse is still possible, and a protective order should never replace a safety plan.
Other legal resources
- WomensLaw.org has state-by-state information about laws including protective and restraining orders and child custody laws.
- Legal Services Corporation is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 134 independent nonprofit legal aid organizations in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories.
- VINE allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day. Victims and other concerned citizens can also register to be notified by phone, email or TTY device.
- The National Defense Center for Criminalized Survivors addresses the unique needs of victims of gender-based violence who have been criminalized as a result of their experiences of being abused by providing specialized technical assistance, resources, and support for victims and their defense teams.
- Ask a volunteer legal services provider (attorneys who offer free legal services to low-income individuals) or a local advocacy group about actions against your partner for behaviors like criminal assault, aggravated assault, harassment, stalking, or interfering with child custody.
Protections for non-U.S. citizens
- The Immigrant Legal Resource Center and WomensLaw.org offer information about your rights as an immigrant. Further information about resources available to non-U.S. citizens can be found here.
- The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) states that people without citizenship status who are experiencing domestic violence and are married to abusers who are U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents may qualify to self-petition for legal status. Learn more about USCIS guidelines concerning VAWA.
- Victims of certain crimes including domestic abuse and trafficking may be eligible for specific visas based on certain eligibility requirements.
- Legal actions to escape abuse can come with their own risks of immigration consequences depending on the findings of the judge who presides over your petition. A specialized immigration attorney should always be your first point of contact for immigration questions and concerns.
Safety and law enforcement
In assessing decisions about your safety, it’s important to consider as many aspects of your situation as possible. This includes accounting for ways that law enforcement may threaten your safety depending on circumstances of race, gender, ability, class, and more. Decisions about your safety should always include considerations of the potential risks that come with contacting law enforcement.
- If possible, identify non-law enforcement emergency service providers in your area before violence occurs to minimize interactions with the criminal legal system during an emergency. This can include local organizations, networks of trusted friends and neighbors, or other groups working towards transformative justice solutions.
- If you determine that it’s safe for you and others for you to do so, call 9-1-1 during a life-threatening emergency.
- For non-life threatening situations, consider contacting us 24/7 to speak confidentially with one of our expert advocates.