Q. My boyfriend is starting to scare me. His drinking has started to get out of control since I got pregnant, and several times recently he has yelled right in my face and raised his fist like he was going to hit me. Later he says he’s sorry, and I believe him, but I’m still scared. What can I do, since he hasn’t hit me … yet?
A. Domestic violence often starts out just like this with threats, apologies, and then more threats. Your boyfriend needs help, and you may need protection to keep things from getting out of control. Please do not wait before getting help.
You should immediately obtain information necessary for your safety. This is available at local domestic violence agencies— such as the Domestic Violence Intervention Center in Idaho Falls — or from a local attorney experienced in domestic relations issues. This article is no substitute for that information. Please go right away.
You do not need to be hit or hurt before you can get protection through the courts or from the police. Domestic violence includes threats of physical violence as well as physical violence itself. The threat can be verbal or non-verbal, but it must be by someone with whom you now live or once lived (such as a spouse) or with whom you have had a dating relationship. Your boyfriend’s raising his fist to you in anger in a threatening way may be enough to qualify, even though you haven’t been hit.
If you obtain a restraining order your life will change dramatically. You will be safer, but there will be severe restrictions on your interaction with your boyfriend. He will not be allowed to live with you, or even to come within 300 yards of your home or place of work. You will not be allowed to talk to each other or to contact each other in any other way. The restraining order will last initially for two weeks, at which time you will need to appear in court to extend it for another three months. You do not need a lawyer to get this order. Just ask the clerk of the court at the courthouse in the county where you live for an application.
If your boyfriend violates the order he is subject to immediate arrest. A call to the police will bring them quickly to establish the peace and to make sure you are safe. Your boyfriend may be ordered to attend an anger management class, which is the type of help he needs to change his behavior and to fix the problem in the long run.
Your safety comes first. These problems usually only get worse until the one with the anger problem gets professional help.
Stephen D. Hall is an attorney practicing in Idaho Falls. This column is provided by the 7th District Bar Association as a public service. Submit questions to “It’s the Law,” P.O. Box 50130, Idaho Falls, ID 83405, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is for general information. Readers with specific legal questions should consult an attorney. A lawyer referral service is provided by calling the Idaho State Bar Association in Boise at 208-334-4500.