RESTRAINING ORDER: A PANACEA FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

INTRODUCTION

Restraining order as a remedy covers a wide range of offences and civil wrongs; however, the focus will be on domestic violence. The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team say 667 cases of domestic and sexual violence were recorded from July to September in 2018. Lagos is just one state in Nigeria; a national statistics will definitely be over the top.

Few years back, a popular Nigerian celebrity who was a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by her husband approached the court. In its ruling, the court stipulated that her husband be restrained from going anywhere within a one-mile radius of the applicant and the two children in her custody. The order of the court in that instance was a “restraining order”.

A restraining order or protective order is an order used by a court to protect a person, business, company, establishment, or entity, and the general public, in a situation involving alleged domestic violence, assault, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault.

The Restraining Order, (also called a “protective order”) is a court order that can protect someone from being physically or sexually abused, threatened, stalked, or harassed. The person getting the restraining order is called the “protected person.” The person the restraining order is against is the “restrained person.” Sometimes, restraining orders include other “protected persons” like family or household members of the protected person.

WHEN TO GET A RESTRAINING ORDER?

If you are in an abusive relationship, you can take steps to protect yourself, such as getting a restraining order. Protection orders, often called restraining orders, are meant to keep you safe from a person who is harassing or hurting you. The police can arrest a person who violates a restraining order and charge them. Restraining orders may also allow you to have sole custody of children, make an abuser move out of a shared home, and make an abuser pay your court and legal fees.

COMMON TYPES OF RESTRAINING ORDERS INCLUDE:

Emergency restraining order: The police may issue this if you are in immediate danger or cannot get to the courthouse right away to file a more permanent restraining order. It usually expires after a few days.

Temporary restraining order: A judge may issue this to help keep you safe in the time before your case goes to court. Temporary restraining orders usually last for about 7-14 days.

No-contact order: A judge may issue this if the case goes to court and the abuser is charged with a crime. It is a punishment for a crime and it means the abuser may not have any contact with you. A no-contact order can last for a short or long time, depending on the facts of your case.

Domestic violence restraining order: A judge may issue this after a court hearing. A domestic violence restraining order lasts longer than emergency or temporary restraining orders, possibly for several years

HOW AND WHERE TO OBTAIN A RESTRAINING ORDER?

Generally, a restraining order can be obtained from the court or some police stations. A person can also get assistance from women shelters, lawyers who offer free legal services, sexual/gender based Non-Governmental organizations and so on. For instance, in Lagos, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) respond to complaints as regards domestic violence and have helped a lot of women obtain restraining orders from the Magistrate courts in Lagos. You do not need a Lawyer to get a restraining order, however, it is advisable to get one.

More specifically, how and where to obtain restraining order depends on the jurisdiction.

LAWS AND JURISDICTIONS
Lagos

The Protection Against Domestic Violence Law of Lagos State 2007 (the Law) was enacted for the purpose of providing protection against domestic violence and providing redress for those who fall victim to domestic violence. Domestic violence is defined under the Law to include, among others, physical abuse, sexual exploitation, entry into the complainant’s residence without consent where the parties do not share a residence, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse and stalking.

In a certain case, (I) v (I) the Applicant was a victim of physical abuse, resulting in bodily injury to her in the hands of her husband, the Respondent, in the course of their marriage. She therefore brought an application in the High Court to seek certain Orders, which included Orders to restrain the Respondent from assaulting the Applicant or contacting her through any means, pending the determination of her substantive petition.

In the aforementioned case, the court granted the Petitioners’ applications after considering the provisions of Sections 5(2), (4), 6 and 7 (1) of the Law in the light of the Petitioners’ circumstances and therefore made interim Orders of protection against their respective Respondents.

It is instructive to note that the Law is not applicable only to spouses in matrimonial relationships (that is to say spouses of marriages celebrated under the Marriage Act, Customary law or Islamic law) but is also applicable to persons who are family members related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption, persons who are or were in an engagement, dating or customary relationship, including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate relationship of any duration; or persons who share or recently shared the same residence, including domestic servants or staff, housekeepers or unpaid licensees. Hence in Lagos, the applicant (victim) can approach the magistrate court, or apply to the High Court via an Interim Injunction supported by an affidavit and thereafter file a substantive (main) suit.

Other Jurisdictions

In Abuja, Kaduna, Anambra, Oyo, Benue, Eboyin, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Osun, Ogun, Cross River, Lagos, Pleateau states where the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law applies, a person can approach the High court with an application supported by an affidavit showing prima facie (reasonable evidence) that he/she might be in danger. The court can then grant an interim (for a short time) restraining order which shall be applicable throughout the federation. A substantive (main) suit can be filed afterwards.

One good thing about this Law is that it is gender neutral, that is, made for both men and women.

Organizations that can be of help –

  1. LawyerUp Nigeria: Managed by a team of young enthusiastic lawyers who educate the average Nigerians about their rights and duties. They also provide pro bono services to indigent Nigerians. Contact: www.lawyerupng.org
  2. The Women Helping Hand Initiative: provide shelter homes for young mothers and out of school girls who are victims of domestic violence, sexual gender based violence etc. contact: twhhi.org, twhhi.thewomensinstitute@gmail.com.
  3. Dorothy Njemanze Foundation: Provides first response services to victims of sexual gender based violence and domestic violence. Contact: dnf.org.ng
  4. The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team: For Lagos state residents. It is a collection of professional service providers and officials that respond as a group and in a timely fashion to the various needs of domestic and sexual violence survivors by providing legal, medical, emergency assistance. Contact: info@dsvtlagos.org
REFERENCES

▪ ‘Beaten by Hajia, Raped by Two Men’ The Punch. (Nigeria, 10 September 2011) 16.
▪ Kunle Falayi, ‘Scarred for Life: Story of Children Raped by their Own Fathers’ The Punch (Nigeria, 28 December 2013) 14.
▪ MaryAnne Franks, ‘Combating Non-Consensual Pornography: A Working Paper’ (2013) www.womenslegalnsw.asn.au accessed 21 June 2020.
▪ Oludotun v The State [2005] SC 272; R v Clarence [1888] QBD 23.
▪ Sola Fagorusi, ‘Revenge Pornography’ The Punch (Nigeria, 15 November 2013) 15.

AUTHOR
Sam Omotoso Esq is a Lawyer with particular interest in writing. 
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