Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges
Published June 2009
Chapter 7. Judicial Responses
Section 8 — Who obtains civil protective orders?
The research suggests that abusers brought to court for civil protective orders differ little from their peers arrested by police for domestic abuse. Studies have found that they have equivalent criminal histories, ranging from 65 percent in a study of respondents in Denver, Delaware and the District of Columbia  to a little more than 70 percent in a Texas study  and 80 percent in a Massachusetts study.  Another Massachusetts study of protective order violators found that 80 percent had a prior record, including 69 percent who were charged for a prior nondomestic but violent offense. 
One of the reasons for the substantial overlap between abusers brought to court for civil orders and those arrested for abuse by police is that many petitioners come to civil court as a result of police encouragement following an abuse incident involving police. In a multicourt study, 43 percent of victims who obtained civil protective orders said they either learned of the orders or were encouraged to apply for them by police responding to a domestic violence incident. 
Implications for Judges
Victims seeking civil remedies for abuse are at the same level of risk for reabuse as victims of abusers arrested for abusing them. (Research basis: Extensive research of civil petitioners that was conducted in disparate jurisdictions.)