Using observational data obtained from a sample of 303 protection order hearings in a large Southwestern city, the current study explores the impact of formal (i.e., presiding Hearing Master, legal counsel, courtroom-employed translator) and informal actors (i.e., victim advocate, family members, friends) on civil protection order (CPO) decisions. Several multivariate analyses were conducted to assess the net and context-specific effects of these legal and informal actors on the likelihood of receiving an order of protection and its length of time. When examining the effectiveness of courtroom actors in assisting domestic violence (DV)/ intimate partner violence (IPV) victims with their CPO cases, this study finds that whether or not a victim successfully obtains a protection order, and for how long, depends on a range of case attributes as well as who is actually present in the courtroom with the victim. As these findings suggest, gatekeepers matter depending on a range of case attributes. States should allocate additional resources and funding to non-profit agencies to continue to promote affordable/free legal services through legal aid and other similar legal entities as well as offer continued support for victim advocacy and self-help centers.
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The terms “applicant/survivor/plaintiff” and “adverse party/abuser/opposing party” are also used in this literature to describe victims and offenders, respectively. For sake of brevity, we use the term victims and offenders to describe these groups.
Pro se means “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf” and was established in Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975).
Grauwiler (2008) also notes that women seeking protection orders are frustrated and dissatisfied with the process, specifically when they feel like they have an unfair burden to secure safety when children are involved.
In order to preserve this courtroom’s anonymity, neither the name nor the location or any other identifying information will be referenced throughout this paper. This is done, as to protect the privacy of the victims and offenders as well as the legal and informal actors that frequent this courtroom.
Reviewed/approved by Institutional Review Board (IRB) and compliant with human subjects protection rules and regulations.
Initially, the “abuse” variable was coded using multiple categories of abuse including sexual assault, stalking, destruction of property (acts which constitute domestic violence in this jurisdiction). However, since there were not enough cases within some of the categories, they were collapsed in one category, namely “Other”.
Logistic regression analyses were performed on other potential variables of interest, such as other demographic factors (e.g., race). This variable was not included in the final regression model because it substantially reduced the sample size. Nevertheless, when race of the offender and victim were included in the regression model, the net impact of race was not statistically significant (p > .05).
This official acknowledgment of victim advocate’s work, however, might be specific to this courtroom’s particular subculture.
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Bejinariu, A., Troshynski, E.I. & Miethe, T.D. Civil Protection Orders and their Courtroom Context: the Impact of Gatekeepers on Legal Decisions. J Fam Viol 34, 231–243 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-018-9999-7
- Domestic violence
- Intimate partner violence
- Civil protection orders
- Civil court
- Courtroom context