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 Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 838-8238 or text (804) 793-9999 (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 Virginia State Bar’s website or by calling (800) 552-7977. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Virginia Legal Aid at (866) 534-5243.
How to Get Protection
What kind of protective and family abuse orders are available?
Virginia courts can issue six types of protective and family abuse orders. In all of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Family abuse emergency protective orders1*
- Emergency protective orders2*
- Family abuse preliminary protective orders3*
- Preliminary protective orders4*
- (Final) family abuse protective orders5*
- (Final) protective orders6*
Respondents* to all protective orders and family abuse protective orders are prohibited from purchasing or transporting firearms.7
In emergency protective orders, family abuse preliminary orders, preliminary protective orders, (final) family abuse protective orders, and (final) protective orders, courts can also order whatever relief* is necessary to protect you which can include prohibiting the respondent from possessing* firearms and requiring them to get rid of them.8
Respondents to (final) family abuse protective orders are prohibited from possessing firearms and have to get rid of them within 24 hours of being served* with the order.9
How can you get a family abuse protective order or protective order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a family abuse protective order in Virginia. If you are not eligible for a family abuse protective order, including if you and the respondent are dating partners, you are eligible for a protective order.
You can find your local court 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 under a family abuse order but need protection from someone (including a stranger, an acquaintance, or another person not covered under a family abuse order), you can still get an emergency protective order, a preliminary protective order, or a (final) protective order. This is the same type of order that victims and survivors of dating abuse get.
How can the court help protect you?
In Virginia, respondents* all types of family abuse protective orders and protective orders are prohibited from purchasing or transporting firearms.10 Respondents to (final) family abuse protective orders are prohibited from possessing* firearms and have 24 hours to get rid of them after being served* with the order.11
In Virginia, courts can also order whatever relief* they deem necessary to protect you,12 except in emergency family abuse protective orders.13 Some of the things a court can order include:
- Requiring the respondent to turn over his/her/their firearms to local law enforcement immediately;
- Prohibiting respondents from possessing firearms;
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the respondent’s firearms if the respondent does not turn them or get rid of them in as ordered;
- Requiring the respondent to appear before the court to self-report turning over their firearms as ordered;
- 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 respondent 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 respondent to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the respondent;
- Ordering the respondent 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 respondent’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 respondent’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 Virginia State Bar’s website or by calling (800) 552-7977. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Virginia Legal Aid at (866) 534-5243.
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 respondent 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 respondent used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the respondent may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the respondent has threatened to harm him/her/themself. This may be a sign that the respondent 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 respondent has access to.