Q:  I was just physically assaulted. What should I do?

A: You should call the police immediately. The police will remove the abuser from the home if they find probable cause that he was the aggressor. In Virginia, the police can request an emergency protective order (EPO) on your behalf as well, which will give you immediate protection by keeping the abuser away for three days. An EPO can be given on the weekends or after business hours when the courthouse is closed. It can be issued to you ex-parte (without the abuser being present) by the court if you are in immediate danger. An EPO only goes into effect once the abuser has been served (has received written notice of the order).

Q: What should I do when leaving an abusive relationship?

A: Keep a bag of essentials in a place where the abuser cannot find it. In this bag, you should keep cash, change for a phone call, important documents (such as birth certificates, immigration papers, marriage certificate, copies of the abuser’s bank statement/pay stubs, and tax returns), clothing, car keys, and a cell phone if you have one.

  • Plan an escape route. Have a plan developed in case you have to leave the home quickly (e.g., through a window or side door). If you have children, be sure they are aware of the escape route.
  • Keep important phone numbers with you at all times. These should include the domestic violence hotline and the numbers of domestic violence shelters.
  • Take your children with you when you leave. If you leave without your children, you may not be able to obtain custody of them and you will give the abuser an opportunity to continue to exert control over you. It is very important that you keep your children with you.


Q: Where will I live if I leave the abuser? What are my options?

A: You and your family’s safety is our primary concern. Depending on your situation, we may petition the court to order the abuser to leave, and not you. In some situations, we may recommend you go to a trusted family or friend’s home. Where those options are unavailable or unsafe, we may recommend that you go to a domestic violence shelter where you and your children will be at a confidential location.


Q: How can I leave if I do not have money or a job?


Q: What is a protective order?

A: Domestic violence shelters are free. If applicable in your case, you can ask the court to order the abuser to pay you spousal support and/or child support. You can also ask the court to order the abuser to maintain the payments for your current residence or order him to pay for alternative housing for you and your children


A: It is a civil court order that is designed to stop violent behavior and keep the abuser away from you and/or another household member. In Virginia, a protective order is issued when an act of family abuse occurs by a family or household member. Family abuse includes violence, force or threats that result in bodily injury or place you in reasonable fear of harm, sexual assault or any bodily injury or death.