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 Vermont Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 228-7395;
- 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 relief from abuse order. You can find a lawyer using the Vermont Bar’s website or by phone at (800) 639-7036. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Vermont Law Help at (800) 889-2047.
How to Get Protection
What kind of domestic violence relief from abuse orders are available?
Vermont courts can issue two types of relief from abuse orders. In one of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Emergency relief from abuse orders1*
- (Final) relief from abuse orders2*
In (final) relief from abuse orders, courts can order whatever relief*they believe is necessary to protect you, including prohibiting the defendant* from purchasing or possessing* firearms and requiring him/her/them to get rid of their firearms3.
How can you get a relief from abuse order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a relief from abuse order in Vermont.
You can find your local court here.
Court forms and more information 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 Vermont Bar’s website or by phone at (800) 639-7036. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Vermont Law Help at (800) 889-2047.
How can the court help protect you?
It is common practice for Vermont courts issuing emergency relief from abuse orders to order law enforcement to retrieve a defendant’s* firearms if the defendant used or threatened to use a firearm against the plaintiff.*4 However, this is not mandated by law.
In a (final) relief from abuse order, a court can also order whatever relief*they believe is necessary to protect you.5 Some of the things a court can order include:
- Requiring the defendant to turn over firearms to local law enforcement immediately;
- If the court orders the defendant to get rid of their firearms, the defendant is required to turn their guns over to local law enforcement or a federally licensed firearms dealer immediately. The court can also order the defendant to give the gun to another third party, but only if that is safe for you.6
- Prohibiting the defendant from purchasing or possessing* any other firearms while the order is in effect;
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the defendant’s firearms if the defendant does not get rid of them as ordered by the court;
- Requiring the defendant to appear before the court to self-report turning over the guns to law enforcement or whoever is chosen by the court;
- Directing law enforcement to follow up with the respondent to make sure the respondent 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 Vermont Bar’s website or by phone at (800) 639-7036. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Vermont Law Help at (800) 889-2047.
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.