Boiling the frog—at what point do I need to get a protective order?

The nature of domestic violence means it is almost always hidden from public view. It happens in secret, behind closed doors, late at night, and around people who inherently have an ax to grind and who might use it to gain a personal advantage both inside and outside the home.

 It also is one that, for victims, makes it hard to take a step back and see when it is finally time to take a personal conflict with a loved one to court: at what point have things gone too far? When have things taken such a turn for the worse that I need to do something?

 Every situation is different. And no fact pattern will flawlessly predict when things have crossed a line and to not take action will result in injury or death – but one action that experts agree is a good indication that the violence will continue and eventually escalate—when one partner strangles another.

 Under Code § 18.2-51.6, “Any person who, without consent, impedes the blood circulation or respiration of another person by knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully applying pressure to the neck of such person resulting in the wounding or bodily injury of such person is guilty of strangulation, a Class 6 felony.” Under Ricks v. Commonwealth, 290 Va. 470 (2015), it is not necessary that you show an “observable wound”—merely losing consciousness, for however brief a time, is enough to show a strangulation. Experts continue to state over and over again that strangulation is one of the best predictors for more future violence.

 Additionally, police increasingly understand that other events are also predictive of much worse future events, which include not just a death, but a serious injury that could send you to the emergency room and result in years of pain and suffering:

·       Has he/she ever threatened you with a weapon?

·       Has he/she ever threatened to kill you or your children?

·       Do you believe he/she might try to kill you?

·       Does he/she have access to a gun?

·       Is he/she violently or constantly jealous or does he/she control most of your daily activities?

·       Have you left him/her or separated after living together or being married?

·       Is he/she unemployed?

·       Has he/she ever tried to kill himself/herself?

·       Does he/she follow or spy on you or leave threatening messages?

Even if you don’t want to prosecute the person, if you are answering “yes” to  these questions, you need to seriously consider at least obtaining a protective order—just to keep the status quo and for everyone to get a break from each other. Your safety is truly at risk when enough of these start happening. And with the current stay-at-home order, people being confined to their homes is increasingly resulting in more tempers to flaring and domestic violence happening.

Most people do not realize that the courts are not closed for getting protective orders! However, the courts also have a number of measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the process to get a protective order has shifted. Moreover, an attorney can help you in these stressful and unprecedented times to gather the evidence needed to maximize your chances of keeping yourself, your children, and other loved ones safe from domestic violence.

At Winslow & McCurry, we have years of experience helping victims obtain protective orders when their lives are being turned upside down, and we work hard to keep costs down when money is tight—a common issue these days with the pandemic. If you or someone you love is stuck in a situation where they need the law’s help to separate from an abuser, and you live in the Richmond, Hanover, Henrico or Chesterfield area, call our office today at 804-423-1382 or email us at, and we can immediately begin helping you keep yourself safe.​