Going to Court

Civil Stalking & Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Orders

A civil protection order can help keep you safe if you have experienced stalking or sexual violence. Learn more about getting a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order.

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Understanding the Basics

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A protection order is an official document from a judge. When a judge issues a protection order, they are ordering an abuser to stop certain actions which help keep the victim safe. The protection order can tell an abuser to stop actions like:

  • Hurting you
  • Threatening you
  • Contacting you
  • Coming to your home or workplace

The Court can also order the abuser to wear an electronic monitoring device.

The judge can order protection for up to 5 years. The order can also protect your children or other family and household members if they are in danger.

Anyone who is the victim of stalking or a sexually oriented offense can request one of these orders. There does not need to be a specific type of relationship between the victim and the offender. Criminal charges or convictions against the offender are not required to file for the civil protection order.

Civil Stalking Protection Orders

A Civil Stalking Protection Order protects victims of “menacing by stalking.” Menacing by stalking is when a person knowingly engages in a “pattern of conduct” that makes you believe that the stalker will hurt you physically or that causes you “mental distress.” Examples of stalking conduct include, but are not limited to:

  • Following you or repeatedly driving by your home
  • Making harassing phone calls; sending threatening or harassing letters, texts, emails
  • Monitoring your phone use, social media or email
  • Tracking your location with GPS or your cell phone
  • Trespassing or breaking into your home, business or property
  • Threatening you or your family, friends or pets
  • Other actions that control, track or frighten you

A “pattern of conduct” means two or more actions or incidents that are closely related in time. “Mental distress” means any condition that would normally require mental health treatment, whether you received it or not.

Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Orders

A Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order protects victims of “sexually oriented offenses.” Under Ohio law sexually oriented offenses include rape, sexual battery, statutory rape, gross sexual imposition, child enticement and violent acts committed with a sexual motivation. You can find the complete list of sexually oriented offenses in Ohio Revised Code Section 2950.01.

Filing for a civil protection order does not guarantee your safety. Learn about the other types of protection orders in Ohio and the risks of filing for a civil protection order here.

How to get a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order

There is no cost to file for a protection order. You do not need a lawyer to apply for a protection order, but a lawyer can be helpful. Some lawyers can help you for free. Some courts also have special departments that can help you through the civil protection order process. Community advocates can also assist you for free. Check Local Government and Community Resources to see if your court has a Domestic Violence Help Center or other resources.

To get a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order:

  • Get the forms and fill them out. You can get the Petition for a Civil Staking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order here. You can attach additional pages. The court may limit your case to the incidents described in the forms. So, be sure to include all events.
  • Talk to an expert. Before you file, talk to an experienced lawyer or an advocate from a local domestic violence or sexual violence organization. A lawyer can help you understand your complete legal situation and the risks of taking different legal actions. Advocates can help you understand any additional safety risks you might have, connect you with services and help you complete the forms. Advocates may be able to go to court with you. 
  • File the forms. Contact the local Court of Common Pleas where you live. Your court may have other local forms that you have to file with your petition, so ask the Clerk if there are more required forms before you file. You must go to the Clerk's office in person to file.
  • Attend the ex parte hearing. On the day that you file or the following day, the court will hold an emergency hearing, called an "ex parte" hearing. The abuser does not attend the ex parte hearing. At this hearing, you (and your lawyer, if you have one) meet with the judge. The judge reviews your forms and may ask you some questions. Then, the judge decides if you need an emergency “ex parte” protection order that starts immediately. 
  • Complete service. “Service” is when the Court officially tells the abuser about your filing. When you fill out your civil protection order forms, you will complete the “Request for Service” on the last page of the petition. This is where you will tell the Court how you’d like service to be completed, either through in-person service by the Sheriff, certified mail or both. After you file, you will need to follow up with the Clerk’s office to make sure that service was completed. Your case cannot be heard at the full hearing until service has been completed.
  • Attend the full hearing. Whether or not you are given the emergency, "ex parte" protection order, the court holds a full hearing, usually within 10 business days. At the full hearing, you testify and present evidence including any witnesses to show the judge why you need a protection order. You must show that the abuser’s actions have met the requirements for the civil protection order. For Civil Stalking, that means showing evidence that the offender has committed “menacing by stalking” which caused you “mental distress," or made you believe that the stalker would hurt you physically. For Sexually Oriented Offenses, that means showing evidence that the offender committed a sexually oriented offense. A lawyer can help you prepare evidence. If you want protection for your children or other family or household members, you must show why they are in danger, too. The abuser also has a chance to present evidence.
  • Be careful with agreements. While the law does not allow for consent agreements in these cases, many courts ask the parties to make an agreement instead of going to a hearing. The agreement would explain what the abuser, and sometimes you, are allowed or not allowed to do. Getting an agreement means that the Court does not have to make a finding that the violence occurred, only that the parties agreed to the order. An agreement may give the abuser a legal advantage. Some courts may consider a “mutual stay away order” which is different from an agreement. If the other party wants to negotiate an agreement or “mutual stay away,” you should consult with a lawyer first to see if it could put you at legal risk. 
  • Get a court order. The Court issues the order at the end of the hearing or soon afterward. Keep your protection order with you in case you need to call the police to enforce it. Give copies to people who may need it (like your child’s school). You can also share it with your employer if you feel comfortable disclosing that information.

How to enforce a protection order

If the abuser breaks the rules of a civil or criminal protection order, it is a “violation of the protection order” and they can be arrested or face other consequences.

If there is a violation of a civil or criminal protection order:

  • You should call the police. The police can enforce protection orders by arresting the abuser.
  • The police or prosecutor can file criminal charges. If convicted, the abuser can face fines, probation or jail time.
  • For civil protection orders, the court that issued the order could also find the abuser in contempt of court. When someone violates a civil protection order, you can ask the court that issued the order to find them in contempt. If found in contempt, the abuser can face fines or jail time. Filing for contempt is complicated, so you should talk to a lawyer or advocate before filing.

If you do not feel safe calling the police, contact a lawyer or an advocate to determine your best options.

Renewing a civil protection order

To extend or renew a protection order, you must file before the original protection order’s expiration date.

Some courts require new violence or threats to extend or renew a protection order. Other courts allow you to extend or renew a protection order if you are still afraid of the abuser.

For help extending or renewing a protection order, talk to a lawyer.

This project was supported by Grant Nos. 2019-WF-VA1-8855 and 2020-WF-VA1-8855 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.