Advocate: Protective orders usually help domestic violence victims

A longtime advocate for victims of domestic violence said the recent domestic homicide in Brooklyn Park is a reminder that orders for protection don't always keep victims safe.

Cynthia Hickman was beaten to death on Saturday, 11 days after receiving an order for protection against her husband. Henry Hickman is now charged in her death.

Nancy Libman, who ran Ramsey County's domestic abuse office before retiring in 2007, said Hickman's case is a reminder that such orders aren't perfect.

"They can be very effective," Libman told MPR's Morning Edition. "But, you know, they're not perfect, they're just one tool in the fight against domestic violence. There's no guarantee that if someone has an order for protection that they're 100 percent safe."

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Libman said orders for protection open doors for victims who would otherwise live and stay in a violent situation. When the order is filed, victims are connected with support groups, safe housing, safety planning, legal aid and other services.

"They get a myriad of resources, and more than anything they're getting a message that 'you don't deserve this; we take this seriously,'" she said.

Violating an order for protection is a misdemeanor that comes with a three-day jail sentence. Anyone who has previous convictions or violates the order while possessing a dangerous weapon faces felony charges and a five-year prison sentence.

But an order for protection doesn't necessarily stop a perpetrator, as Hickman's case illustrates. Still, Libman said many perpetrators want to avoid felony charges and jail time.

"For many, many who don't want to go to jail, it can be really a savior," Libman said.

Minnesota Domestic Violence Crisis Line: 1-866-223-1111

St. Paul Intervention: 651-645-2824