If you are a victim and your abuser has a gun or you feel unsafe for other reasons, it is important to work with a victim advocate. The following organizations can help you find an advocate free of charge:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE;
- VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846;
- The Iowa Victim Service Call Center Hotline at (800) 770-1650 or text IOWAHELP to 20121 (available 24/7);
- Any of the local domestic violence programs listed here.
It is also helpful to have a lawyer assist you, particularly when you are seeking a protective order. You can find a lawyer using the Iowa Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Iowa Legal Aid at (800) 532-1275.
How to Get Protection
What kind of domestic violence protective orders are available?
Iowa courts can issue three types of domestic violence protective orders. In each of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Emergency orders1*
- Temporary orders2*
- (Final) protective orders3*
Courts can order whatever relief* they believe is necessary to protect you,4 including requiring the defendant* to get rid of his/her/their guns and prohibiting them from getting new ones. Iowa law also automatically prohibits some defendants subject to (final) protective orders from receiving or possessing* firearms and requires them to get rid of their firearms.5
How can you get a protective order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a protective order in Iowa.
You can find your local court here.
Court forms and Iowa’s official guide to getting a protective order can be found here.
What do I do if I do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but I still need protection from someone?
If you do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but need protection from someone (including a stranger, an acquaintance, or another person not covered under a domestic violence protection order), you might qualify for some other type of order. Contact VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846 or a lawyer for more information. You can find a lawyer using the Iowa Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Iowa Legal Aid at (800) 532-1275.
How can the court help protect you?
Iowa law says that if you are married, separated, or divorced from the defendant*, live or have lived with the defendant, or have children together, the defendant is prohibited from receiving or possessing* firearms once the court issues a (final) protective order.6 In this case, the court will:
- Order a defendant to sell or give their firearms to a qualified person* or to local law enforcement or the local sheriff; and
- Order a defendant to get rid of their firearms within a specific time period decided by the court.7
Iowa courts can also order whatever relief* they believe is necessary to protect you – this means that if your case is not fully covered under the law cited above, a court can still protect you from gun violence.8 Some of the things a court can order include:
- Requiring the defendant to turn over firearms to local law enforcement immediately;
- Prohibiting the defendant from purchasing or possessing firearms while the order is in effect;
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the defendant’s firearms if the defendant does not turn them in as ordered by the court;
- Requiring the defendant to appear before the court to self-report turning over their firearms as ordered;
- Directing law enforcement to follow up with the defendant to make sure the defendant turned over their guns as ordered;
- Scheduling a follow up compliance hearing* to ensure that the defendant has not accessed additional firearms since the order was issued;
- Ordering law enforcement to go to your home at scheduled times to check in on your safety;
- Ordering the defendant to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the defendant;
- Ordering the defendant not to hurt you or threaten to hurt you in the future;
- Anything else you need to be safe.
How will the court know what you need to protect you from the defendant’s firearms violence?
In your petition* and during any of the hearings* you participate in when you are seeking protection, you will have the opportunity to tell the court about the defendant’s* threats or acts of abuse, especially ones involving firearms. Every situation is different, and it is important to talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. You can find a lawyer using the Iowa Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Iowa Legal Aid at (800) 532-1275.
Your story will help the court decide what relief* to give you. Whether you are filling out court forms or speaking directly to the court, it is important to tell the court about the violence you experienced (working with your lawyer, if you have one), especially if the defendant used or threatened to use a firearm against you, a member of your family, any member of the community, or your pet. Among other things, this may include telling the court:
- About incidents of physical violence or threats of physical violence and include dates wherever you can;
- How the defendant used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the defendant may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the defendant has threatened to harm him/her/themself. This may be a sign that the defendant intends to use a dangerous weapon like a firearm against you, themself, or other people;
- If you can, the type(s), number, and location of firearms the defendant has access to.