Teen access to civil protection orders varies across the U.S.

Teen access to civil protection orders varies across the U.S.

By: HIPRC Communications Team Date: February 20th, 2020
Photo by Toimetaja Tõlkebüroo, Unsplash

A new study found adolescents experiencing intimate partner violence may not be able to file a civil protective order across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Researchers found laws vary state by state. Currently, only 48 states allow minors to obtain a civil protective order, or CPO.

The study, “Variation in State Laws on Access to Civil Protection Orders for Adolescents Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence,” published January in the Journal of Adolescent Health, was led by postdoctoral research fellow Avanti Adhia, Sc.D., of Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center.

CPOs are the most common legal remedy used by people experiencing intimate partner violence to prevent reoccurrences. Intimate partner violence includes any form of physical violence, sexual violence, psychological harm, and stalking by a current or former intimate partner. A national survey found that over 60 percent of 12 to 18 year old adolescents who have dated within the past year have experienced some form of intimate partner violence. Another national survey of adults found that 71 percent of female victims and 58 percent of male victims have experienced this type of violence before age 25.

Researchers assessed five different components of the law in this study, each varying from state to state. The study showed 48 states allow minors to obtain CPOs. Fourteen states explicitly allow minors to file for a CPO on their own behalf. Forty-four states recognize dating relationships as qualifying for a CPO. A CPO may be issued in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for physical violence, 46 states allow CPOs for dating violence, 44 states for stalking, and 28 states allow for psychological and emotional violence. In 22 states, an individual subject to a CPO is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm and must surrender firearms they already have.

This study contributes to an understanding of how inclusive state CPO statutes are for adolescents. State laws may be important for recognizing and acknowledging the seriousness and consequences of IPV among adolescents for setting norms around the acceptability of IPV, and for establishing for whom protections are available. CPOs are only one potential option for protection, but if situations arise where they may increase safety, adolescents should have access to this important legal protection.

The authors wrote that improvements in legislation that reduce barriers to legal relief for adolescents experiencing intimate partner violence could be a critical part of comprehensive violence prevention.

HIPRC-affiliated co-authors on the study include core member Mary Fan, M.Phil, J.D., Director Monica Vavilala, M.D., and core member Fred Rivara, M.D., MPH