Philip J. Outhier, Attorney at Law

 

The YWCA has identified the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and for good reason.

The organization reports that a person is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes. That includes

both women and men! This alarming rate of abuse demands that we help the general population understand what

steps to take in the event they find themselves, a friend or a family member a victim of abuse.

 

If you find yourself as a victim of abuse or you know someone who has been abused you should report

the incident to law enforcement immediately. The quickest way to report is to call 911. You can also report an

incident in person at the local police department, sheriff’s office or YMCA. A victim of assault should also

consider applying for a Victim Protective Order (VPO). A VPO is an order from a judge used to end violent and

harassing behavior and to protect a victim and their family from the person causing the harm.

 

To apply for a VPO you should report to the third floor of the Garfield County Courthouse and speak to

the receptionists at the Garfield County District Attorney’s office. If the courthouse is closed I recommend you

visit the YWCA at 525 S. Quincy or call the office at 234-7581.

 

A VPO may be issued by a judge when a person is a victim of either domestic violence, stalking, and/or

harassment. Under Oklahoma law, domestic abuse is defined as any act of physical harm or a threat of imminent

physical harm committed by a family member or a person in a dating relationship. In order to be granted a VPO

for domestic abuse, you must be a victim of actual physical harm. Without the presence of physical harm or an

imminent threat of physical harm, a Court cannot issue a VPO for domestic abuse.

 

Secondly, a VPO can be used to protect you when you are a victim of stalking. In this instance, a person

must be willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly stalking you. In short, the stalking may not be an isolated incident.

In fact, the stalking must also be in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated,

harassed, or molested, and the stalking must actually cause you to have one of those types of feelings. A judge will

consider you a victim of stalking if a person follows you, approaches or confronts you, appears in your home or at

your workplace, contacts you by telephone or communicates with you either in writing or electronically. In order

for you to be successfully in obtaining a VPO for stalking, you must actually have suffered one of those feelings.

If you have not, you may not obtain a VPO.

 

In the final instance, a VPO may be issued to protect you or a family member from harassment.

Oklahoma law defines harassment as a knowing and willful course of conduct by a family member or household

member or other individual who is involved in a dating relationship with another. In order to successfully obtain a

VPO which alleges harassment, the behavior must have been directed at you and the behavior must also seriously

alarm you. The harassing behavior must be a type of action that would cause a reasonable person to suffer

substantial emotional distress and must have actually done so.

 

If a Court grants a VPO in your favor, the Court may require the perpetrator to cease abusing you, cease

threatening you, avoid contact with you, avoid contact with your children, vacate the home, pay for your attorney

fees and costs associated with seeking the VPO, and attend certain counseling programs. A VPO can last for up to

four years.

 

If you are granted a VPO and the perpetrator violates its terms, that person can be found guilty of a

misdemeanor. In addition, they may be made to pay fines up to $1000 or incarcerated in the county jail for up to

one year. The fines and periods of incarceration become greater for subsequent violations.

 

If you believe that you have been a victim of domestic abuse, stalking or harassment, you may contact one

of the attorneys at Outhier & Caruthers a call at (580) 234-6300, to help you evaluate the facts in your unique case.

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