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Domestic violence has an impact on many families across the United States. Domestic violence is a series of behaviors where an abuser administers physical or mental abuse on his or her domestic partner. The victim has no control on the violence that is inflicted, and the victim often does nothing to spark the attack. Although it is not often made public, domestic violence is more common than most people want to believe.

The Missouri Adult Abuse Act
Missouri has laws that regulate how an individual who is accused of domestic violence is punished. Missouri has an Adult Abuse Act, which is the primary law that enables Orders of Protection. An Order of Protection is known as the civil legal procedure for help with domestic violence occurrences. The Adult Abuse Act states that abuse is considered an act of assault, battery, sexual harassment, coercion or other forms of abusive acts. Under this act, stalking is also considered assault. According to the Adult Abuse Act, there are specific definitions of what encompasses the types of abuse, which include:

Assault is when an individual knowingly or intentionally places or attempts to place another individual in physical harm or fear of physical harm.
Battery is when an individual knowingly or intentionally causes physical harm to an individual with or without using a deadly weapon.

Coercion is when an individual forces another individual to engage in an act unwillingly by force or threat.
Harassment is when an individual engages in an intentional act that involves more than one incident that threatens or causes fear to another individual and has no legitimate purpose. In order to be an act of harassment, a victim must show signs of extreme emotional distress. This could include a victim being followed in a public place or being violated through the harasser lingering outside the victim’s home.

Sexual assault is when an individual attempts to force a victim to participate in an involuntary sexual activity by using force or threat of force.
Stalking is when an individual continuously uses unwanted conduct that causes fear or alarm to an individual when he or she feels there is a chance of physical harm through repeated contact. Under Missouri law, repeated contact is when an incident happens more than two times.

The Legal System
There are two primary ways an individual in Missouri can be protected from acts of domestic violence, which is civil law and criminal law. There are times when the two coincide in the legal process against those accused of domestic violence.
An Order of Protection can be issued by a judge to the accused abuser, which states he or she must immediately stop assaulting, harassing, or stalking a victim. An Order of Protection can also be issued on behalf of a child if the child is being abused or in danger of abuse. There are two kinds of Orders of Protection, which are an Ex Parte Order of Protection and a Full Order of Protection.

Ex Parte Order of Protection
An Ex Parte Order of Protection is issued under a temporary emergency through the court system to protect the victim. There does not need to be a court hearing for a judge to issue this type of order. When issued, an Ex Parte Order of Protection will be upheld until the time of the court hearing, which is usually within 15 days from when the order was issued. There are instances when a continuance is filed, which is when there is additional time given to a victim or abuser before a court hearing. In the case a judge does not issue an Ex Parte Order of Protection, then the victim is still entitled to a court hearing to obtain a full order of protection.

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