If you are a victim of domestic violence in Virginia, you may be unclear about what protections are available to you and what you can do to enhance your future safety. The Lynchburg Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court states that domestic violence cases, also called family abuse cases, can be either civil or criminal in nature. In a civil case, you seek a protective order against your abuser, asking that he be prevented from doing certain things. In a criminal case, such as for domestic assault and battery, your abuser is charged with a crime by a prosecutor and can be jailed or otherwise penalized if he is convicted.

Virginia defines family abuse as any act committed by a family or household member that results in your physical injury or puts you in reasonable fear that you will receive serious bodily injury. Family abuse can include such things as physical violence, force, detention, threats, stalking and harassment.

Your family or household members are any of the following:

  • Your spouse or former spouse, whether or not he lives with you
  • Anyone with whom you have had a child, whether or not he lives with you
  • Anyone with whom you are currently living or with whom you lived in the past
  • Any of your in-laws who live with you

Orders of protection

Civil courts can issue protective orders that stop your abuser from having any contact with you and/or other members of your household. If your abuser violates the protective order, he could spend up to a year in jail. The following three types of protective orders are available to you:

  1. Emergency Protective Order
  2. Preliminary Protective Order
  3. Protective Order

This information should not be taken as legal advice. Nevertheless, it can help you understand the process and what to expect.