Stalking is a crime that affects millions of Americans each year.
That’s why some organizations are taking the opportunity to educate the the public during Stalker Awareness Month, and advise victims of their rights.
One victim’s right deals with personal protection orders (PPOs) and restraining orders.
Both are orders issued by a court telling one person to stay away from and not to hurt, threaten, or communicate with another person.
PPOs mainly apply to stalking or harassment by a person unrelated and outside of a personal relationship. Restraining orders usually apply to domestic violence or harassment by family members.
“We assist people with the procedure involved in getting PPOs and domestic violence orders,” said Crystal McLendon, director of New Horizons, in Rockingham.
The group also assists victims with developing personal safety plans.
“Personal safety plans involve identifying safe and unsafe areas of the home, keeping birth certificates and social security cards in secure locations and keeping extra clothes and cash at a trusted person’s house,” said McLendon. “We even have donated cell phones that have been ‘wiped’ but still have the capability of dialing 911. We can provide those to victims who need them to ensure they always have the ability to make that call.”
McLendon advised that “these situations can be very dangerous.”
There are pros and cons to protective orders, but most experts agree that the step is worth taking when a victim feels threatened.
“Each case is different, but going through with a court order is generally a good idea because the victim is taking a stand for his or her rights,” said McLendon.
Hamlet Police Chief John Haywood agrees.
“The only drawbacks I can think of are the victim may feel a false sense of security after an order has been granted by a judge, and there’s also a chance it could inflame the situation and make the person angry,” he said.
Despite the potential drawbacks to requesting a protective order, Haywood said that the majority of the time it does deter the unwanted behavior.
“It gives law enforcement the teeth to do our job efficiently,” he said. “We can arrest a person on the spot for violating an order. It also goes on their record and is entered into the DCI (the state’s Division of Criminal Information) so that any agency statewide can see the information.”
To get a protective order, victims can reach out to groups like New Horizons for assistance or go directly to the Richmond County Clerk of Court and request the paperwork.
“A person requesting a protective order comes to the clerk of court office and fills out paperwork,” said Sarah Robinson, Richmond County deputy clerk. “The judge will decide whether to grant an emergency order, and both parties will appear in court within 10 days. If a person needs an order when court is not in progress, they can visit the magistrate’s office for a temporary order.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.