Know Your Rights

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Right to an Advocate

When going to the hospital or talking with law enforcement, survivors have a right to have a trained advocate with them. Click here to find an organization providing in-person advocacy near you. Survivors also have a right to an interpreter if needed.


As defined by Iowa’s Domestic Abuse act, an assault committed between:

  • spouses living together or apart; or
  • divorced spouses living together or apart; or
  • people living together at the time of the assault or who lived together within one year before the assault occurred; or
  • people who are parents of the same minor child, even if they have never lived together; or
  • people who are in an intimate relationship, or have been in such a relationship and had contact with the year preceding the assault.*

Please see the Iowa Legal Aid website to learn about this section of the law.

Domestic Abuse Protection Orders

(Adapted from Iowa Legal Aid)

There are two types of protective orders: Civil and Criminal.

A civil protective order…

  • Is part of a court case filed by a victim of domestic abuse.
  • May be granted temporarily or permanently by a judge after the victim of domestic violence files a “Petition for Relief from Domestic Abuse.”

A criminal no contact order…

  • Is part of a criminal case for domestic abuse.
  • Is issued when police file charges against a person.

Civil and criminal cases are different, and provide different kinds of assistance. Civil cases can order temporary custody, visitation, possession of home and vehicle, and even financial support. Even if the police do not file charges, a victim can still start a civil case. A person can have both a civil no contact order and a criminal no contact order at the same time.


(Adapted from Know Your IX)

Gender violence is a harmful act committed against a person because of their gender or sexual orientation. The act can be committed by a boyfriend, girlfriend, classmate, friends, parents, guardians, teachers, family members or any other adults. Such acts can include:

  • Pressuring to perform sexual acts or performing sexual acts near
  • Touching without consent
  • Verbally abusing (calling you names, belittling you)
  • Physically abusing (kicking, slapping, punching, choking)
  • Forcing or attempting to have oral, vaginal or anal sex without consent
  • Constantly texting or calling and making sexual comments or requests
  • Making sexual comments on social media or to classmates, friends or family

To help identify any behaviors that you might be unsure about, check out this fact sheet from the ACLU.

Legal options

  • File a formal complaint if you are a student with your school against your perpetrator. An investigation would most likely take place and the disciplinary action can be filed against the perpetrator for harassment.

You can also file a protective order, as described in the domestic abuse section above.

  • A civil no-contact, also known as restraining order, with the local authorities (and assistance of a parent or guardian if you are under 18) would prevent the perpetrator from contacting you or being a certain distance from you.
  • A criminal no contact order would require an investigator to meet with you and other law enforcement to investigate the abuse.


(Adapted from Iowa Attorney General’s Office brochure)

According to the Iowa Attorney’s office, stalking is considered a crime. It involves intentional and repeated behaviors that place an individual in reasonable fear and safety for one self. Stalking can include by following someone home from work every day and harassing them over the phone or social media which leads to CyberStalking [See Cyberstalking section]. A stalker exercises power and control over another individual.

Stalking is a serious crime and if convicted is a serious misdemeanor. If you are being stalked and feel that you are in immediate danger CALL 911!

Always trust your instincts and if you feel like you are in danger, contact a victim services organization to create a safety plan. Communicate with your friends and family and tell about the dangers that you are facing and document every incident and keep it as evidence!


(Adapted from

Cyberstalking is a serious crime which invades online privacy. This includes harassing, intimidating, embarrassing, or tormenting someone by using electronic communication to the person or a third party. Characteristics include:

  • Use of obscene words, images, or language
  • Intent to cause injury to the person, their family members, or someone in their household
  • Done anonymously or repeatedly with the intention of causing injury, with or without conversation with the person