IF you are being abused, it is possible to seek the protection of the courts in stemming the physical or mental harm you face. The court is obligated under the Domestic Violence Act to grant you a protection or restraining or occupation order if you are being stalked or ill treated.
You can seek a restraining order regardless of whether you are a man, woman or child, and irrespective of your relationship to your abuser.
The court may grant a restraining or protection order to prevent the other person from entering or remaining in the house you share. It will also outline other areas which are off limits to your abuser such as your workplace, school or in the area in which your house, place of work or school is located.
You can still get a restraining order whether you are a spouse, are in a visiting relationship, or are a parent, since the Domestic Violence Act gives everyone access to punitive criminal actions in the courts and also to protective remedies under the law. The penalty for violating a restraining order is $10,000 or six months imprisonment.
Married women can also seek occupation orders against their abusive husbands from the Supreme Court under the Matrimonial Causes Act. An occupation order, if granted, would result in the husband being put out of the matrimonial home, or restricted to certain parts of it. A person against whom the order has been made would be given the opportunity to show the court why it should be discharged if they are of this view.
For the general public, however, a restraining order is sought through the Family Court. Here is the process for getting one:
1. If you are being abused, you can go to the Family Court — or the Resident Magistrate’s court in your parish if there is no Family Court — and speak to an intake counsellor or clerk. You will be assisted in filling out a form so that the matter can be brought before a judge.
2. The matter will then go before the judge who will grant an interim order to let your abuser know that they are not allowed to come within close proximity of you.
3. If you are afraid to face your abuser, then a bailiff or a police officer within your community may be asked to inform the partner of the interim order.
4. The case would then be tried by the court which will grant a protection order. This order will detail the distance your abuser has to stay away from you and how long the order will be enforced.
5. If your abuser violates the terms of the order, then you would need to inform your nearest police station so that the matter can be investigated and charges laid.