Why It's Hard To Get Protective Orders Against Stalkers In Idaho

Sep 17, 2015

Last weekend, a shooting in Boise’s North End neighborhood sent a woman to the hospital with serious injuries. The victim – Mikaela Zabel-Gravatt – is recovering, and Christopher Wirfs is facing felony charges. The alleged shooter is charged with felony aggravated battery, use of a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The incident exposes a gap in Idaho's legal code when it comes to getting protection from stalkers.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Zabel-Gravatt tried to get a protective order against Wirfs twice, and was denied both times. The Ada County prosecutor says the man had been stalking the woman for weeks – including at the hair salon where she works.

This kind of story is all-too familiar to Maureen Wishkoski, an advocate for victims of domestic violence and abuse with the Women’s and Children’s Alliance. She says in Idaho, getting a protective order against a stalker is difficult. The statute does not cover stalking unless it's connected to a current or previous domestic relationship, or there's evidence or threat of abuse.

“If a judge is not able to find qualifying domestic relationship or a qualifying event – act of physical injury, sexual abuse, forced imprisonment or threat thereof," says Wishkoski, "the judge may not be able to grant protection order.”

Idaho is the only state in this part of the country where stalking isn’t covered in civil protection orders. Wishkoski says that can create unsafe situations for victims.

“When individuals feel like they can’t get relief from that, it’s hard to be able to focus on everything else in your life.”

But she says there are still things people can do if they feel in danger, like making a safety plan with a victim advocate.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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