Help if you’re being threatened or harassed
No one should have to live in fear. If you have been physically harmed, threatened, stalked, or harassed, a Restraining Order may help you gain traction through the criminal justice system.
When someone has been physically harmed or threatened by another person, it can make them feel that they have lost control over part of their life. Stalking and harassment can have the same effect. This impacts a victim in all aspects of life, and taking legal steps to regain a sense of control can be empowering.
What it does
A Restraining Order is issued by a court and mandates that perpetrator who has been harming, threatening, or stalking and harassing a victim to refrain from contacting them in any way and maintain distance from them. If the perpetrator violates the order, they risk being arrested.
Document the threatening behavior
Before seeking a Restraining Order, You need to document events involving the perpetrator to help build your case for obtaining an Order and alert law enforcement if they violate an existing Order.
- Download the Stalking and Incident log here. Keep the log in a safe place or with someone you trust. Document every instance of harm, threat, stalking, harassment, contact, or attempt to contact, even if you have already gotten and Order of Protection.
- Notify the perpetrator in writing that you no longer want them to contact you, outlining the methods they have been using. If they have been stalking you or harming you in other ways, indicate clearly that you want this to stop immediately as well. Sending correspondence by certified mail is a good idea, as it provides you with a receipt and allows you to track the delivery of the letter. Make a copy for yourself before sending, and keep in a safe place.
- Take screen shots of threatening or unwanted mobile communication, and print digital correspondence. Keep these somewhere safe or with a trusted person.
- Document and photograph all instances of vandalism or damage to personal property
For a victim to file for a Restraining Order, the perpetrator must have committed two acts of stalking, harassment, or other threatening behavior within the past 90 days.
Remember – Victim Services is available to help you complete the paperwork to file for a Restraining Order.
- Fill out the forms and file for the order. Contact the Magistrate’s Office in the county where the perpetrator resides to find out how to get the necessary paperwork. There is no fee to obtain the paperwork or file the request.
- Notice and service of process. A hearing date will be set for five to 15 days from the date your paperwork was filed with the Magistrate’s Office. During that time, the perpetrator (defendant) will be served with a Complaint informing them of the hearing by law enforcement. The defendant MUST be served before the hearing can take place.
- The hearing. The hearing will take place before a judge, and you and the defendant will both have the opportunity to testify. You and the defendant may appear with or without attorneys. The judge will decide whether there is cause to sign the restraining order or not.
- After the hearing. If the restraining order is signed, you will make decisions about how to resolve the circumstances that warranted the hearing in the first place. This may involve criminal charges or other steps to protect yourself from further harm.
- A Restraining Order from the Magistrate’s Court is good for six months. If you need it beyond that time, contact the Magistrate’s court where it was issued to get a renewal hearing.
If you have a Restraining Order against someone and they violate it, call the police immediately and document exactly what happened. However, even if you do not have a signed restraining order, if at any time you feel that your safety is at risk or you or that you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
- You are the best gauge of your own safety; trust your instincts.
- Consider changing your locks and phone number. Always lock your car and house.
- Have a safety plan in case the perpetrator does not obey the Restraining Order.
- Make several copies of your Restraining Order. Leave copies at your work, home, with family members, a close friend, or other people you trust. Also give a copy to your local law enforcement agency.
If you are being stalked, harassed, threatened or harmed and you are thinking about filing for a Restraining Order, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact Victim Services at 803.777.6472, call the 24 hour number at 803.777.4215, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individual and group counseling are available to all USC students at Counseling Services. Crisis intervention and walk-in appointments are available, too. Call 777.5223 or visit the Close/Hipp Building, fifth floor, located at 1705 College Street.
To view the full brochure developed for the University Community, click here.