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Providing Safety & Advocacy to Victims of Intimate Partner Violence in South Central Iowa


Your Rights Under Iowa Law


These are the rights of domestic abuse victims according to Iowa Law (Section 236.12):

As a victim, you have the right to:

  • Keep your attacker away from you, your home, and your place of work.
  • Remain in your house. (Your abuser can’t kick you out).
  • Keep custody of your children and get support from your attacker (if he or she is legally required to provide such support.)
  • Professional counseling for you and anyone else who is involved.
  • A Protective Order (a legal document saying your abuser can’t come near you).
  • Receive free help from the courts.
  • Be given or paid back for anything taken from you.
  • Apply for crime victim compensation (a program that repays victims for bills, lost wages, and other costs due to a crime)
  • Transportation to the hospital for medical treatment.
  • Have the officer remain at the scene until you are safe from physical harm. 
  • File criminal charges for threats, assaults, or other related crimes.

These are the rights of all victims according to Iowa Law (Section 915.20):

 You have the right to request the presence of a victim advocate* at any event related to the offense. 

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Medical examinations
  • Sexual assault forensic exam (rape kits)
  • Police interview/investigation
  • Court hearings
  • Trials

*A victim advocate is a professional trained to support victims of crime. 


Protective Orders – A protective order is a court document that orders a person to stop abusing or stalking you. (Chapter 236 of the Iowa Code)

A victim can ask the court for relief from domestic abuse with or without an attorney. Forms are available for victims to fill out.

The people involved must have a relationship where at least one of the following applies:

Family/household members living together at the time of the assault.

Married persons (even if they are under 18).

Separated spouses or persons divorced from each other.

Biological parents of the same minor child (regardless of age, marital status, or whether they have ever lived together);

Unmarried persons who are cohabitating (the relationship does not need to be sexual but must be more than just living under the same roof); or

Persons who were cohabitating within the past year but were not at the time of the assault.

Please note: If the victim and abuser have never married, they must have a child together or have lived together at the time of the assault or within the past year.

When persons under 18 years of age are seeking protection, they may have to have a parent or guardian file on their behalf. The clerk of court has forms for this situation.

If an abuser ignores the order, the abuser can be arrested immediately.

Anyone listed on a protective order should read and understand the terms of the order.

If you no longer want the protective order, you must ask the court to change or stop the order.

Orders from the judge normally last for one year. They can be extended for another year if you ask for an extension before it expires.

Finally, a no-contact order should protect you anywhere you go in the United States.

To find out more about how civil no-contact orders work, contact your victim advocate.


Types of charges – While charges in domestic abuse situations vary, the three most common are assault, stalking, and harassment.

Domestic abuse assault – Chapter 708 of the Iowa Code.

Domestic abuse assault is when a person:

  1. Intentionally causes pain or injury to another,
  2. Threatens to cause pain or injury to another (and can follow through with that threat), or
  3. Points a gun or firearm at another in a threatening way.

To be considered domestic abuse, the two people must be in one of the following relationships:

Family/household members living together at the time of the assault

Married persons (even if they’re under 18).

Separated spouses or persons divorced from each other.

Biological parents of the same minor child (regardless of age, marital status, or whether they have ever lived together).

Unmarried persons who are cohabitating (the relationship does not need to be sexual but must be more than just living under the same roof); or

Persons who were cohabitating within the past year but were not at the time of the assault.

Abuse in a dating relationship is not covered under Iowa’s criminal domestic abuse law. However, if a person in a dating relationship assaults his or her intimate partner, the judge can order that person to attend the Batterers’ Education Program.

Stalking – Section 708.11 of the Iowa Code

Stalking is acting in a way to terrorize, intimidate, or make a person fear they will be hurt or killed.

Stalking is generally a more serious level of crime than harassment. There is no required relationship between the stalker and the victim.

Harassment – Section 708.7 of the Iowa Code

Harassment is acting in a way to annoy, intimidate, or alarm another person.

There are many kinds of harassment. It is not only physical touching or communication and does not require a relationship between harasser and victim.

Other terms to know:

  • Law enforcement response – The role of the peace officer is to enforce the law and protect the victim. When a peace officer finds probable cause of a domestic abuse assault, the officer must arrest when:
  • The assault resulted in physical injury to a victim,
  • The assault was intended to seriously injure the victim,
  • A dangerous weapon was used or displayed during the assault, or
  • The abuser violates a restraining or protective order.
  • A peace officer may arrest if there is probable cause of a domestic abuse assault, but the victim was not injured.
  • County attorney response – After charges are filed, the case goes to the county attorney in the county where the assault occurred. The county attorney will review the case and make an initial decision. He or she decides whether the case will go to court and which charges will be used. Because domestic abuse can range from harassment to murder, the resulting charges vary.
  • Charges include:
  • Misdemeanor assault
  • Willful injury
  • Sexual abuse in the third degree
  • Terrorism
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Going armed with intent.
  • See Chapters 236 and 708 of the Iowa Code for domestic abuse assault criminal penalties.
  • No-Contact Orders – After an arrest for domestic abuse assault, the abuser is kept in jail until seeing a judge. The judge may give the abuser a “no-contact” order before the abuser leaves the jail.
  • Most no-contact orders tell the abuser not to contact the victim under any circumstance. The judge may also order the abuser to stay away from family members of the victim.
  • Each order is different, so you should read it carefully and ask questions. The county attorney can explain what can or should happen.
  • Many victims fear that the no-contact order will only make the abuser angrier. If this is your concern, talk to your victim advocate and the county attorney. They may help you develop a safety plan or ask the judge to change the order to make it less upsetting to the abuser.
  • A no-contact order from a criminal case cannot give you custody of minor children. To get legal custody of children, you need to start a different case in civil court.
  • Finally, a no-contact order should protect you anywhere you go in the United States.
  • To find out more about how no-contact orders are enforced, contact your victim advocate.

Iowa Domestic Abuse Program – When an abuser is found guilty of domestic abuse, the Iowa Code requires the judge to sentence the abuser to the (IDAP).

The Department of Corrections manages IDAP throughout Iowa. In most areas of Iowa, IDAP up to 24 weeks. The abuser is expected to pay for the program and is required to attend every IDAP group session. If the abuser does not follow the rules of the program, the judge may send the abuser to jail.

IDAP teaches abusers how to have relationships without using fear, intimidation, or violence. The success of IDAP depends upon the abuser. Some abusers are ready to change their behaviors and others are not. Attending IDAP classes does not guarantee the abuser will stop their abusive behavior.

Some abusers become more violent while attending IDAP. Other abusers stop being violent but increase their threatening and intimidating behavior. For a person with a history of violent and abusive behavior, long-term change is a process and usually occurs over several years. IDAP may start an abuser on the path to non-violence, but to stay on that path, abusers need to commit to change.

Victims should keep in contact with the IDAP facilitator, especially when in contact with the abuser. The facilitator cannot tell you specifics about the abuser’s discussion or behavior, but he or she can talk about:

The abuser’s attendance in group sessions,

What topics are being covered,

If the abuser will be asked to leave the group, or

If the abuser completes the group work successfully.

Divorce – For married persons experiencing domestic abuse, there are special protective orders. Iowa Code chapter 598 allows you to file for an order while getting a divorce.

Your attorney can request a temporary order before there is a hearing set. In this way, the abuser receives divorce papers and a protective order at the same time. This can offer some added protection at a dangerous time.

If you want an order like the protective order above, be sure to ask your attorney to use a uniform domestic abuse protective order for Chapter 598. Then if the abuser violates the order, he or she will be arrested.

Also, Chapter 598 protects children who are secondary victims of domestic abuse. As long as the abuse is confirmed, the judge must grant custody of minor children to the victim of abuse. But before the judge gives custody to the victim, the abuser has an opportunity to present evidence about being a better parent. If this evidence is convincing, the judge may grant custody to the abuser regardless of domestic abuse.

Mediation – Mediation is when the two people in the midst of divorce work together toward a common goal.

When there is a history of domestic abuse, mediation is unlikely and cannot be required by the judge. If the parties still want to mediate, they may find a mediator by themselves.

The mediator should be knowledgeable about domestic abuse. His or her mediation techniques should be specific to domestic abuse situations.

Victims of domestic abuse should meet privately with the mediator before sessions begin. They should be specific about what types of abuse occurred and what is needed to make mediation safe.

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Family Crisis Center Serving 12 Counties

Appanoose, Davis, Jasper, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lucas, Mahaska, Marion, Monroe, Poweshiek, Wapello, and Wayne

Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.464.8340

Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 800.270.1620


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