Protect Yourself From Threatening Behavior in a Relationship

There’s no single template for a violent or abusive relationship. Anyone can fall victim to domestic violence or threatening behavior from someone with whom they have a relationship.

Abuse of this type can turn your life upside-down, disrupting your routines and peace of mind at home, work, and out in the world.

Whether the danger is from a spouse, family member, a former co-worker or friend, you have rights and options for protecting yourself. In addition to legal recourse, protecting yourself includes safeguarding your assets, your mental health and your future.

How do you know if you’re in an abusive relationship?

Identify whether you’re in a volatile and abusive relationship. Danger within abusive relationships manifests in many forms, and isn’t limited to physical violence. People experience threatening behavior and abuse from spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, domestic partners, children, the mother or father or your child, step-children, parents, siblings, caregivers and others.

Abuse can include a number of things, including:

  • Physical violence or threats of violence
  • Sexual violence or threats of sexual violence
  • Restraining (not letting you leave the house or talk to people)
  • Following you, showing up at your work or loitering outside your home
  • Installation of tracking devices on vehicles or mobile devices
  • Threats of taking children
  • Purposeful sleep deprivation

If threatening behavior comes on quickly, you might understand right away that you’re in an abusive relationship and potentially dangerous situation. However, in some situations, abuse or threats increase slowly, possibly making you more likely to justify or normalize the behavior in your mind.

Listen to your instincts, trust your feelings and get advice from people who truly care about you.

Consider pursuing an order of protection against threatening behavior

When abuse escalates and efforts at private remediation fail, some people find they must resort to filing an order of protection against their abuser.

Commonly called a “restraining order,” an order of protection is a legal document issued by a judge that prevents an abuser from contacting or visiting the person they have subjected to abuse.

People who believe they are in imminent danger can apply for an emergency order of protection, a temporary document that lasts for only 14 to 21 days. Due to the immediacy of the situation, an emergency order of protection is issued by a judge in an “ex parte” hearing, which means the person committing the abuse, called the respondent, doesn’t need to be notified of the hearing.

When an emergency order of protection is issued, the judge sets a hearing date to consider a plenary order of protection. Plenary is a word used in the legal system that means comprehensive and absolute. A plenary order of protection bars the respondent from coming on contact with the petitioner — the person suffering the abuse — for up to two years.

The petitioner must be present for the plenary order of protection hearing. The respondent must be notified of the hearing, but the order may still be issued if they fail to show up in court.

A parent or guardian may file an order of protection case on behalf of a child, and an adult can file a case on behalf of another adult who may be unable to do so on their own, such as an elderly individual who is being abused by a child.

Just like any legal action, embarking on an order of protection case requires time, patience and endurance. However, regaining your safety and control over your life is an invaluable gift to give yourself.

Protecting other aspects of your life

Along with guarding your physical safety, take time to assure your well-being in other aspects of your life. Just as you might engage with a lawyer to help with your order of protection filing, consider contacting other professionals for help.

First and foremost, care for your mental health by getting immediate or “crisis” domestic violence counseling. Even threats of violence can severely shake your sense of personal safety and confidence in future relationships.

Local domestic violence agencies offer these services at no cost to those who have suffered violence. Take advantage of their counseling and referral services, and if possible engage additional long-term counseling to work through your feelings from the abusive relationship.

Ending an abusive relationship — especially doing so with an order of protection — can trigger a range of reactions from the abuser. They might try to escalate the abuse, destroy your property or withhold or hide assets. A consultation with an attorney, therapist, financial counselor or other professionals can help you understand your options.

Enlisting help from a group of professionals will make you feel less alone and position you to move your life in a more positive direction. Our firm offers free consultations to discuss the details of your specific case. Please contact our office at 815-600-8950 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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