Children depend on adults to protect, provide, and teach them. They are one of the most vulnerable groups in the world. Because most children cannot take care of themselves, they trust adults to obtain food, shelter, health care, clothing, transportation and education. Unfortunately, an adult can violate the trust by abusing the child.
The Centers for Disease Control states that child abuse and neglect are common occurrences, with at least 1 out of 7 children abused or neglected throughout the country. More the 600,000 children in 2020 were victims of child abuse in the United States. In the same year, Oregon had nearly 12,000 reported cases.
Every level of abuse harms a child physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, the worst cases of abuse result in the death of a child. In 2020, approximately 1,750 children died from abuse or neglect nationwide. The exact number of victims is difficult to calculate because many cases go unreported.
Abuse can immediately impact a child, including withdrawal from social interactions, regression of skills, and health consequences. The long-term effects can shape the child’s development, such as exhibiting violent tendencies or behaviors, distrust, depression, or posttraumatic stress.
Child abuse is an act on an unemancipated minor under eighteen years of age by a parent or caretaker that causes death, physical injury, emotional harm, or sexual abuse. The Oregon Department of Justice defines child abuse based on the effects the actions have on the child.
Minors have to rely on adults to protect them from their abusers. When adults are the victims of abuse, they can get a restraining order to keep their offenders away from them. However, in Oregon, the child’s parent must go to court and apply for an order to protect their child.
A restraining order is an order from a judge to protect a person from physical harm. The petitioner is the person that files for the order. The other person, the accused abuser, is the respondent. The petitioner must file with the court in the Oregon county where the petitioner or respondent lives. Filing for the order is free.
A parent can obtain a restraining order when the other parent abuses their child. A person currently married to their child’s parent does not have to wait for a divorce or child custody case to seek a restraining order. In sole and joint custody arrangements, a restraining order against the abusive parent can affect the terms of custody and parenting time.
The Oregon Family Abuse Prevention Act (the Act) allows a victim or parent of the victim to get a restraining order for physical abuse or threats of abuse. The petitioner must meet the following requirements under the Act:
- At least 18 years older (under 18 years old if they are or were married to or in a sexual relationship with the abuser and the abuser is 18 or older.
- Abuse is a family or household member (current or former spouse, domestic partner, or sexual relationship; adult related by blood or marriage; or parent of petitioner’s child)
- Physically injured, tried to injure physically or threatened to physically harm the petitioner in the 180 days preceding the filing for a restraining order
- The danger of further and future abuse
- Show a credible threat of physical danger and harm to the petitioner or petitioner’s child.
The judge may grant the restraining order if the petitioner meets all requirements. The order lasts for one year, but the court can withdraw or change the order to shorten or extend how long it is in effect.
The restraining order may set form terms for the respondent, such as:
- The child exchange between the parents must occur at a protected location
- Supervised parenting time by another person or agency
- Stay away from the petitioner’s residence, children’s school or daycare, and other places specified
- No contact with petitioner unless respondent needs to exercise parenting time
- Must attend an intervention program or counseling program
- No overnight child visitation
When the petition for a restraining order alleges child abuse, the court may enter a protective order prohibiting the abuser from contacting the victim. The respondent may even have to leave their home if the child lives in the same residence. The order can also include a condition that the abuser not possess firearms or ammunition.