Skip Navigation

OU Law Students Offer Help with Protective Order Filing Process

OU Law Students Offer Help with Protective Order Filing Process

The student team poses on steps outside

For survivors of domestic violence, the decision to file a protective order can be both empowering and intimidating. To help those seeking guidance with the process, student volunteers with the OU College of Law’s Victim Advocacy Program spend several hours a week at the Cleveland County Courthouse to provide assistance filling out the paperwork.

A victim’s protective order, or VPO, is a court order that orders the perpetrator to stop violent and harassing behavior. A VPO may be issued when a person has experienced domestic abuse, stalking, harassment or rape.

OU Law students have helped individuals fill out and understand the VPO application form at the Cleveland County Courthouse since 2009, where they take turns staffing a designated table. Every year, approximately 50 law students volunteer for the program, and students must commit to volunteering one to two hours a week during the semester.

In most cases, hiring a lawyer is not necessary to file for a VPO, but having access to someone with knowledge of the process is often a useful and reassuring presence, said Samantha Tamura, second-year law student at OU and co-assistant director of the Victim Advocacy Program.

“While volunteering, sometimes it is little things, like explaining what a ‘petitioner’ is, or where things get filed and how the process works,” said Tamura, who has volunteered for VAP since her first semester of law school. “Sometimes, it’s explaining what the different options for relief look like in the real world. And sometimes, the person just needs to tell their story to someone who can help them work through it and organize it in the best way for a judge to read.”

Before partaking in the program, law student volunteers receive specialized training on the dynamics of domestic violence and how to handle the process with professionalism and empathy.

“Students are informed of what types of situations lead to someone filing a VPO and are encouraged to treat victims with understanding and compassion,” said Kaylee Snyder, third-year law student at OU and director of the Victim Advocacy Program. “We often refer individuals to outside resources, like the Women’s Resource Center.”

After filling out the VPO form, volunteers then help individuals go through the rest of the process of filing it with the court clerk’s office and getting a court date.

OU Law Assistant Professor Amy Pepper, who serves as the adviser for the Victim Advocacy Program, explained that the program’s purpose is two-fold: not only does it provide an important service to the community, law students gain valuable hands-on experience that will serve them throughout their legal careers.

“Although our students in the program usually do not see the hearings on these cases, they are honing interviewing skills, including the exercise of empathy and compassion,” Pepper said.

Pepper added that the College of Law is exploring working with a local law firm to identify VPO petitioners who could benefit from pro bono representation. Law firm members would then represent the petitioners, and law students would have the opportunity to observe the hearings on those cases.

Tamura said volunteering with the Victim Advocacy Program has given her and others a unique perspective that can only be found outside the classroom.

“It is one thing to learn about the theories behind the law or to be able to get to work with firms later in school, but it is another to just be there for a stranger, regardless of what area of law our volunteers want to go into,” she said.


Additional Resources

The month of October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, each year in the United States, more than 10 million women and men experience domestic abuse.

At OU, there are places on and off campus that can provide support, as well as additional resources to help individuals take the next steps in their healing process.

  • On Campus:
    • OU Advocates is a free, 24/7, confidential helpline and support service for anyone in the OU community who experiences relationship violence or abuse, sexual assault, harassment or stalking on campus.
      • To Get Help:
        • Norman Campus and OU Health Sciences Center: Call or text the 24/7 helpline at (405) 615-0013; stop by the Gender + Equality Center in the Oklahoma Memorial Union, Suite 207; contact OU Advocates through WhatsApp; or email at for more information.
        • OU-Tulsa: Call the OU-Tulsa Advocates helpline at (918) 660-3163 (Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.) or (918) 743-5763 (after-hours and weekends).
    • Supportive Measures at OU
    • Campus-Specific Resources

  • Off Campus:
    • These organizations can provide additional advocacy services, safety planning, forensic medical exams and emergency shelter.
    • Norman: Women’s Resource Center/Rape Crisis Center  
      • 24-Hour Domestic Violence Crisis Line: (405) 701-5540
      • 24-Hour Sexual Violence Crisis Line: (405) 701-5660
    • Oklahoma City: YWCA Oklahoma City
      • 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline: (405) 917-9922
      • 24-Hour Sexual Assault Hotline: (405) 943-7273
    • Tulsa: DVIS/Call Rape
      • 24-Hour Crisis and Information Line: (918) 7HELP-ME (918-743-5763)
    • Statewide: 24-Hour Safeline: (800) 522-SAFE (7233)
    • Nationwide: National Domestic Violence Safeline: (800) 799-SAFE (7233)


By Melissa Caperton

Article Published:  Wednesday, October 6, 2021