Last week, Indiana became the third state to allow domestic abuse victims to apply for wallet-sized cards intended to help police take action against abusers who violate court orders.
The free Hope Cards will include the abuse victim’s information and details about protective orders or restraining orders they have obtained, along with the name, photo and description of the abuser it covers.
This is a major safety move for domestic abuse victims. When police are called, officers immediately know that a protective order is in place, and they can act accordingly.
Without evidence of a protective order, the officers are placed in an almost untenable position. They can’t simply rely on a person’s word in those cases. They must respect the rights of each party.
A Franklin woman who was the victim of an abusive husband carried her papers with her wherever she went in case her ex-husband showed up in violation of the restraining order the court issued against him. Fortunately, she never had to produce the sheaf of papers. Had she been able to carry a Hope Card, she wouldn’t have been forced to tote around the documents.
In announcing the program, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that in crisis situations, such as a confrontation with an abuser, victims can’t always find or access the multipage court orders police must see before arresting someone for violating an order. Hope Cards will allow abuse victims to more quickly give officers the essentials of their order — and specifics about the person it covers, he said.
Zoeller said between 10,000 and 12,000 Indiana victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking likely would meet the criteria to obtain one of the cards.
“It’s not a small problem. It’s a significant thing for the courts and for law enforcement,” he said.
Indiana is the third state after Montana and Idaho to offer victims the cards. The program is open only to people who have been under protective orders for a year or longer.
Michelle Bumgarner, director of victim advocacy programs for the attorney general’s office, said more than 75 victim advocates and others who aid domestic violence victims already have received training to help eligible residents apply for the cards.
She said her father, a retired police officer, told her the cards would be a valuable tool for law enforcement to quickly confirm information in volatile domestic abuse scenarios.
“Time is of the essence in those situations,” Bumgarner said.
The Hope Cards are not an absolute guarantee of a victim’s safety, no more than the protective orders they represent. But they do offer a more practical and transportable way for victims to show police whose word can be trusted during emotional confrontations.
We urge all victims of domestic abuse who are eligible to apply for a Hope Card and to carry it. It could help defuse a potentially life-threatening situation.
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