In my last blog, I shared my story of taking out a restraining order against my abusive ex-husband. For me, that was definitely the right thing to do.
Should every abuse victim get a restraining order? Not necessarily. Tweet This
According to Domesticshelters.org, sometimes getting a protection order will make the abuser so angry, the violence actually increases. They say that there is ample evidence that the act of getting the protection order does not protect the victim. What does protect her/him?
- The abuser’s decision that s/he doesn’t want to go to jail, and therefore will abide by the order
- The victim’s willingness and ability to report to the police any action forbidden by the order, and
- The police department’s willingness and ability to prosecute the abuser if s/he breaks it.
If any of these three things doesn’t happen, the protection order is just a piece of paper. Some abusers just don’t care if they go to jail or not. Regaining power and control over their victim is more important to them. One study found that the abusive behavior got worse in 21 percent of cases where stalking had been a factor in the past. Research found that the risk of the order being violated was greatest soon after its initiation, but decreased over time. That study noted that the most common type of violations were unwanted contact, unwelcome calls, threats and other psychological abuse tactics, with physical abuse occurring only about 17 percent of the time.
Often, the victim is too timid or afraid to report to the police when her/his abuser breaks the order. Since more than half of all orders are violated, (50% obtained by women whose partner had previously assaulted them, and about 66% obtained after the victim was raped or stalked),* the victim must understand how, and be strong enough emotionally to report to the police each time the abuser violates the order. If the victim doesn’t report a violation, there are no consequences to the abuser for violating it. And even though a text to say “I love you,” may sound benign, it’s important to report all violations to the police. “The orders are only effective when defendants are willing to report violations,” Greene says. Otherwise, your abuser may continue to violate the order and escalate interactions.**
And if the victim does report a violation, the police department in her/his area must take the violation seriously, actually investigate the victim’s claim, and be willing to enforce the order by putting the abuser in jail. Respondents to a survey by DomesticShelters said that their abusers received legal consequences as a result of the violation in only about 25% of those instances. While enforcement of violations is imperfect, the order is a tool that can be used to hold abusers accountable.***
So, there are several instances where having an order won’t do any good, but for those victims who are willing to report violations, who live in an area where the police are vigilant and will enforce the order, and when the abuser cares about not going to jail, a protection order can be very helpful.
What about those times where getting a protection order makes things worse, and the abuse escalates?
This could happen, but it could also happen if you leave without an order. Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim. That’s because the abuser is about to lose something s/he wants very much – someone to control. Whether or not you think your abuser will respect a protection order, it’s important to take safety precautions very seriously, (make a safety plan) before you leave. To get started making a plan, read “When It’s Time to Go.”
Even though getting a protection order isn’t a magic pill, they reduced risks of injury in about one-third of the total cases. Tweet This
“It is important to get one if you feel you’re not safe,” Greene says. “Obviously you can’t hold up a protection order if someone is coming to assault you. But they are effective in showing that you are serious about getting out and getting help.**
For help getting a protection order, contact your nearest domestic violence crisis center, and talk to an advocate who can help you navigate the sometimes confusing legal system. You can find crisis centers in your area by searching DomesticShelters.org.
Proverbs 22:3 says:
The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
and Proverbs 15:22:
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
Question: Do you think getting a restraining order would help in your situation?
If you believe you are in danger from your abuser, I pray you will be prudent, seek help, and take precautions.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
* National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” (2000)
**Abdula R. Greene, Esq., a former domestic violence prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/will-my-abuser-retaliate#.V5ZiCFfk2-L