When a romantic relationship between teens become violent, things can escalate quickly. Teens who are the victims of teen dating violence may feel trapped. This feeling can prevent teens from reporting dangerous behavior and put them at an increased risk of harm. Teens who are being abused by their romantic partners should know that there are ways to get help. Asking a court to issue a restraining order against a violent partner is one powerful tool available to victims.
Domestic Violence Can Affect Teens
When we think about domestic violence, we tend to think about married couples, parents, and children. However, domestic violence is actually defined more broadly. Certain acts of abuse, violence, and neglect can be escalated to acts of domestic violence when there is a special relationship between the abuser and the victim.
In California, domestic violence laws and procedures apply when the involved parties are dating or have dated in the past. According to attorney Steven Fernandez, who handle domestic violence cases in Los Angeles, CA, teens who experience teen dating violence are actually considered to be victims of domestic abuse in California. “Violence can occur between dating partners of any age,” Fernandez explains. “Victims should know that they have legal options available to them to keep them safe. This includes teens who are physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by their dating partners.”
Victims of Teen Dating Violence Can Request an Order of Protection
In California, victims of domestic abuse and teen dating violence have the right to request an order of protection. This order, which is commonly known as a restraining order, can be issued if a victim provides reasonable proof of:
- Physical violence
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse, or
- Other violent/dangerous conduct.
When the court approves your request for a restraining order, your abusive dating partner will be legally required to follow the terms of the order. These terms will generally prohibit and/or restrict their behavior in some way. When you are protected by a restraining order, your abusive partner may be:
- Prohibited from contacting you via phone, email, or social media,
- Required to maintain a certain distance from you at all time,
- Restricted from participating in school events where you are present, and/or
- Prohibited from visiting your home or place of work.
The terms of your specific restraining order will depend on the type and severity of the abuse in your dating relationship. Since teens involved in romantic relationships are often confined to the same building during school hours, courts may have to get creative and create customized orders that ensure the safety of the victim.
Why Teens May Not Want to Ask for Help
While restraining orders can be a great tool for keeping victims of abuse safe, teens may be apprehensive about asking for legal protection. Teens may not want to request a restraining order if they:
- Fear retaliation from their dating partner or other teens at school,
- Do not understand the seriousness of the abusive behavior in their relationship,
- Do not fully understand how a restraining order can help,
- Think that the process is too complicated,
- Are not supported by friends and family members, or
- Mistakenly believe that they are blowing the situation out of proportion.
If you are a teen who is struggling with an abusive relationship do not be afraid to ask for help. If you think that your dating partner is engaging in abusive, harassing, or otherwise dangerous behavior, you have the right to protect yourself. If you are the parent of a teen who is the victim of teen dating violence, make sure that they understand the gravity of the situation and that they have your full support. Teens should be encouraged to take any steps – including asking the court for a restraining order – that will protect their health and well-being. If you suspect that your teen is the aggressor, make sure you explain to them the serious criminal consequences of such actions.