If you or a family member fear for your safety because you are being threatened with harm, followed, or harassed by a person (relative or stranger), you can apply for a Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order (hereinafter SSOOPO). The governing statute for a Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order is Ohio Revised Code 2903.214. These orders are designed to protect you from someone from harming, attempting to harm, threatening, following, stalking, harassing, contacting, or forcing sexual relations upon you. In this respect the SSOOPO is broader in application and applies to persons who may not be covered under a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order or a Criminal Protection Order. You may apply for a stalking or sexually oriented offense protection order (SSOOPO) regardless of your relationship to the person who is stalking or sexually abusing you. You do not have to know the person or be related to the person. A SSOOPO, once granted by a judge’s order can be enforced for up to five years and is enforceable by the police just like any other protection order.
Obtaining a SSOOPO is very much like obtaining a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order except that the petition is filed in the General Division of the Common Pleas Court instead of in the Domestic Relations Division. Your attorney can help you file, or you can contact the court’s Victim Advocate’s Office. If you do not have an attorney the SSOOPO statute specifically allows for a victim advocate (a non-attorney from a local victim assistance program) to accompany you and be present with you at the hearing.
To get an SSOOPO, you must show that the abuser (known as the “respondent” in court) has:
- stalked you according to the legal definition of the word. Legally, the definition of “menacing by stalking” includes a pattern of conduct* that the stalker knows will cause the victim mental distress or cause the victim to believe that the stalker will cause physical harm to her. Just because the abuser annoyed or alarmed you does not mean you have been stalked in the legal sense. According to the law, menacing by stalking must involve a pattern of conduct. A single incident, no matter how much it may bother you, does not fall under legal stalking.
- committed a sexually oriented offense.
Examples of “menacing by stalking” may include:
- Following you
- Orally threatening you
- Making harassing phone calls
- Sending threatening or harassing letters
- Vandalizing your property
- Hurting your pets
- Any other pattern of conduct that a stalker uses to frighten you or cause you mental distress.
Examples of a sexually oriented offense may include:
- Rape by someone you know or a stranger
- Unlawful sexual contact with a minor
- Drugging the victim before engaging in sexual acts.
When filing for an SSOOPO, you must be specific about what the respondent has done to you.
If you need assistance, please contact the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) at 1-800-934-9840 during the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for a referral to an agency that can best assist you. If you need to contact an advocate immediately and it is not during their regular business hours, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 24 hours a day, at 1-800-799-7233.
Jamie L. Anderson dedicates her practice to representing families through the changes of a divorce or dissolution. Focusing her practice on family law cases in Montgomery, Greene, Clark and Warren Counties, she has made herself one of the Miami Valley’s most prominent matrimonial attorneys and will use her experience to secure your family, your finances and your future. Contact Jamie L. Anderson at (937) 879-9542 or visit www.OhioDivorceAttorney.com to learn more.