Protective Orders and the Importance of Safety Planning

05/29/2015 02:41 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2016

Police in Santa Clara, California arrested former NFL player Ray McDonald this week on a domestic violence charge and violation of a restraining order. Police say he "physically assaulted the victim while she was holding a baby." At the National Domestic Violence Hotline, we answer calls 24/7 from many seeking safety for themselves and their children. Most of the time, restraining orders are extremely effective. Unfortunately, there are other times when a restraining order is only as strong as the paper it's printed on. Seeking a protective order or filing a police report can even increase the level of danger for a victim. It is important to remember, when dealing with domestic violence, every situation is unique.

A restraining order (a.k.a. protective order, injunction, and order of protection) is an official legal order issued by a state court and enforceable by police. It requires the abusive person to stop the violence and abuse and maintain a certain distance from the victim. The Hotline's blog has more information on legal protections including how to get an order filed and what to expect when you do, as well as legal resources for the protection of domestic violence victims.

Many who contact The Hotline want help navigating the complex legal issues around domestic violence. They are in search of answers that will yield a safer, more peaceful life for their family. During 2014 The Hotline provided resources to 25,000 victims who disclosed legal issues, such as protective/restraining orders (57%), custody and visitation (32%), divorce (23%), and other legal matters.

Leaving can be one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship, and there are countless reasons that victims are unable to leave. Staying safe requires a unique approach. For some victims taking legal action against their abusive partners is a part of their safety plan, and for some it is not. A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan our advocates can help victims develop and it includes ways to keep safe while in a relationship, how to safely leave a relationship and how to stay safe once you've left. Safety planning involves learning how to cope with emotions, telling friends and family about the abuse, taking legal action and more. A good safety plan will include making sure you have all of the vital information you need to stay safe whether you are leaving your relationship or not and it will be tailored to your unique situation.

If you or anyone you know would like to learn more about safety planning, or provide assistance to The Hotline's life-saving programs, visit or to reach out for help call the hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

About loveisrespect (link to: and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (link to:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization providing victims and survivors with life-saving tools and immediate support. Loveisrespect is a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle where highly trained peer advocates offer free phone, text and chat services to young people 24/7/365. Callers to the hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in more than 200 languages. Visitors to and can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources, and ways to support the organization.

The Hotline relies on the generous support of individuals, private gifts from corporations and foundations and federal grants. It is funded in part by Grant Number 90EV0407/03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, a division of the Family and Youth Services Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of HHS.