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Tips for Dealing with Law Enforcement and Emergency Situations

Please note, SAGE is NOT an emergency service.  If you are in immediate danger, call 911.  Also, go to our resources tab to find links to local and national emergency services.

Although SAGE is designed for those who are out of danger and ready to focus on their own healing, we do recognize that people will come to us for direction.  For that reason, with the help of local law enforcement services, we have compiled some tips for you in emergency situation:

Call 911 if…

you feel you are in physical danger or if someone has assaulted you, please call the police.  NOW!

If your partners behavior scares you…

Ask a trained professional.  Whether the alleged behavior is criminal or just frightening, you can contact your local police department or victim’s advocacy group to help you.  They will aid you in processing the behavior and help you determine the best path forward.  If stalking is your concern, please check out the stalking article posted on sage. community

Victims Advocate Groups are…

nonprofit organizations staffed with professionals and volunteers who are trained to support victims of crime.  They generally offer emotional support, counseling services, legal services, and guidance on how to navigate the court system. The police department can book you with a victim advocate, but you can also search your local community groups and reach out on your own.  They are always friendly, ready to help and full of great information

Ask for a Domestic Violence Officer

Each police department is different, and some departments have specialized officers just for domestic violence.  It doesn’t hurt to ask for a specialized officer to help with your case.  Their training and level of understanding will be invaluable.  If your police department does not have specialized officers, don’t fret, there are many qualified detectives outside of special victims.  Your victims advocate will be able to help you with this as well

Tell a Friend

I get it, you’ve been keeping this a secret for quite some time.  Its normal to want to do this alone and continue to hide the truth.  BUT don’t be afraid to tell someone.  More than likely friends and family will want to help you with moral support, and you are going to need it.  If you don’t have a friend you can trust, your victims advocate can provide emotional support as well. 

Are you seeing a theme here of how important victims’ advocates are?

Tell Everything

When you are speaking with police and giving your testimony, there is no detail too small.  To help you, the police need to know everything.  Its hard to say out loud, but you can do it. 

How do I get a Restraining Order/Protective Order?

This is a very complex question.  Do not expect this process to be simple.  Each jurisdiction is different but in Virginia, this is a general overview of the path to a Permanent Protective Order:

  • Depending on the severity of the incident, a police officer (or you) can go to the Magistrate to request an emergency (typically 72 hour) order.  Be prepared to be sworn in under oath and recount why you are in fear for your safety.  The magistrate evaluates your testimony and will issue an emergency protective order.  Once the offender is served, the order is valid.
  • Before the emergency order expires, you need to obtain a temporary protective order.  You may have to go in front of a judge, but your local rules and regulations will take precedence.
  • Next before your emergency order expires, you’ll need a Permanent Protective Order.  First, it’s not permanent.  Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t know of any state that has a lifetime protective order.  In Virginia, the most you can get is 2 years and you must go in front of a judge with new evidence to renew it.   The offender usually has the right to appear in court and testify on their own behalf.  This will be entirely dependent on the circumstances of your case and whether it is criminal or civil in nature. 

Do I need evidence?  Will they think I am lying?

A judge once said to me, “You are the evidence.  You are sworn in, under oath and give your testimony about the events that transpired.”  The offender gets that same opportunity.  It is then up to a judge to decide the truth and it is their job to determine whether a ‘reasonable person’ would fear for their safety.  Most domestic violence cases do not have physical evidence or outside witnesses.  If all you have is your honesty, that is good enough.  The justice system isn’t always fair, but don’t let that deter you from trying to seek justice.

Do I need a Lawyer?

Again, the Victims Advocate office can advise you based on the locality you live in and the specifics of the incident.  Lawyers for victims in these cases can be difficult to find, so keep that in mind.  Personally, I didn’t need a lawyer for my court appearances but do your own research and ask the advocate office for guidance.

Research. Research. Research.

Know your rights.  Knowledge is power so remain strong and learn everything you can.  Head to the resources tab and get started.

Lastly, I wanted to shine a light on a very important question: What if I want to drop the charges?

It happens.  You love your offender and don’t want to see them in jail or punished so you change your mind.  In some areas that may be possible, but each jurisdiction is different.  Some counties have a ‘no drop’ rule in place that ensures the perpetrator is investigated regardless of the victims wishes.  Before you drop charges, remember, you are worth justice.  It’s not your fault.  There were days when I was completely done with going to court, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the next girl.  If I stopped pushing, there would be no record of what transpired, and it would all be for nothing.  How could I put the next girl through this if I could make a difference now?

We have a lot more Law and Order information yet to come on The Sage Advice Podcast. Send any questions for Detective Meg to hello@sage.community and we will try to answer them in an upcoming episode.

Stay Safe. Stay Strong. Know the whole SAGE Community is behind you.

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