Restraining Orders Hurt Women
December 1, 2010
Consider Grace Krejci of West Allis, Wis., who took out a restraining order on her separated husband. Last week the deranged man broke into her house because their five-year-old son hadn’t been picked up at school. Minutes later Grace lay dead of a bullet wound.
Toni Brown of Washington, DC, had an order of protection, believing that would ward off the escalating threats by her former live-in girlfriend. Then a late-night attack rendered her respirator-dependent, thanks to a close-range gunshot in the back of her neck.
Abused men also have been victimized by these legal devices — like Mauricio Droguett, who was fatally stabbed by his ex-wife in an Iowa shopping mall, despite the existence of a restraining order cradled in his pocket.
Maybe it’s time for a sanity check.
By what crazy logic do persons believe that inscribing the words “Order of Protection” on a sheet of 20-pound paper is going to deter a would-be assailant who is intent on maiming his or her victim?
How can judges dole out such orders when no research shows they do any good in stopping violence?
And when persons with restraining orders keep getting assaulted, what possesses lawmakers to enact even more laws designed to make these flawed tools widely available?
Samuel Goldberg, a Boston attorney who specializes in partner abuse cases, notes that restraining orders are awarded so casually that “this is why they are not taken as seriously as they should be.” The Independent Women’s Forum likewise decries these legal tropes as “lulling women into a false sense of security.”
Restraining orders not only are ineffective, they can also escalate partner conflict. In its Family Legal Guide, the American Bar Association warns, “a court order might even add to the [alleged offender’s] rage.”
This wrath is understandable in light of the fact that some women use restraining orders as a weapon to harass and entrap unwary men.
Consider the Panama City, Fla., woman who took out a restraining order against her ex-husband. On November 17 she was ordered to appear in court for a child support hearing. Fearful she might be incarcerated, she texted her husband, pleading that he attend the proceeding so their 18-month-old daughter would be taken care of.
As soon as the father stepped into the courtroom, the conniving woman advised the court of the injunction, occasioning his immediate arrest.
It turns out that misuse of restraining orders is widespread. Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, has admitted, “Everyone knows that restraining orders and orders to vacate are granted to virtually all who apply…In many cases, allegations of abuse are now used for tactical advantage.”
A 1995 study conducted by the Massachusetts Trial Court reviewed the domestic restraining orders issued in that state. The survey found that less than half of the orders involved even an allegation of violence. And a West Virginia study found eight out of 10 orders were unnecessary or false.
So if restraining orders aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, what can abuse victims who fear for their lives do to protect themselves?
Consider Maria Terrones, 45, who was killed two weeks ago in Fairfield, Calif. The suspected assailant, her former boyfriend, squeezed the trigger as she was walking outside with her new heart-throb at 1:15 am. Even though she too had a restraining order prohibiting any form of contact, she had fallen into an argument with her ex- in the parking lot just hours before the shooting.
So instead of giving her false reassurance in the form of an order of protection, Terrones would have been better served with a detailed safety plan that warned her to not engage in any verbal confrontations with her ex-, and advised her against late-night strolls in public areas.
Each year, 2-3 million domestic restraining orders are issued for the ostensible purpose of curbing domestic violence. In reality, such orders are a well-intentioned but misguided hold-over from our nation’s overblown War on Crime, handsomely underwritten at taxpayer expense.
According to an October 13 Gallup poll, 46% of Americans believe our government poses an “immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” There is no better example of governmental power run amok than our legal system’s unreserved and undeserved reliance on abuse restraining orders.