Frequently Asked Questions
Why focus on the courts?
A person who is severely abused by an intimate partner has two main ways to protect themselves. Shelters save many lives but they are only a temporary answer, and wrench victims and their children out of their neighborhood.
Court protective orders are the most important tool we have to help survivors safely continue life’s important routines and grow toward self-sufficiency. We need to ensure that every victim who deserves a protective order gets one, and every order is strong, complete and effective.
Protective orders establish a “no contact” barrier. Protective orders can require needed services for the entire family so that the cycle of violence can be broken.
Protective orders save lives and give thousands of domestic violence victims the chance to begin healing each year. They can provide the space and resources to create safe, self sufficient families. To be effective, protective orders need to be paired with a safety plan. Additional safety measures, such as temporarily moving to a shelter, changing the locks at home, or filing criminal charges, may be essential with certain abusers. Victim advocates are available to help survivors make comprehensive safety plans.
Protective orders can, and usually do, break the cycle of violence and prevent worsening assaults. Even when orders are violated, the majority of victims say that their protective order lessened the frequency and severity of the abuse and that they would get an order again if they needed one.
What do Court Watch volunteers do?
Our trained volunteers observe 1,000 protective order and criminal domestic violence hearings each year and fill out a standard four-page set of questions about each case. Volunteers observe judges, interpreters, bailiffs and clerks. Court Watch staff analyzes the data and identifies systemic problems or gaps in services that put victims and their children at risk. We share our data and recommendations with the courts, media, County Executive, County Council and state legislators. We advocate for needed changes at all levels of government and the courts.