To restrain or not to restrain . . . that is the question.
Professionals often suggest abuse victims get a restraining order (also known as a Personal Protection Order) as a way to reduce the contact (and abuse) from their abuser. Is this a good idea for you? That depends.
I will share my experience today, and in my next blog, I will share information about restraining orders from Domesticshelters.org.
In the last days of my abusive marriage, I finally had the courage to see a lawyer who specialized in domestic violence. I told her my story, and said, “I want him to move out, but he refuses. What should I do?” She said, “We will make him leave.” “How?” “We will take out a restraining order against him,” she said.
I had never heard of a restraining order before! My lawyer explained that this was a legal document a judge could order, where the abuser must keep a specified distance away from you. The abuser is also ordered not to contact you in any way, or try to contact you through a third-party. If s/he breaks the order (goes against its confines), s/he can go to jail.
This sounded wonderful to me! I was all for it. My lawyer and I worked together to list all the abusive behaviors he had committed against my children and me, and a week later, I stood before a civil court judge, and listed off the behaviors. The judge granted me a temporary restraining order. The judge also added my kids to the order. My lawyer’s office then served my husband with the papers, (had a person hand-deliver them to him). The process-server called me immediately, and said, “Watch out, he’s really hot!” One second later, my husband called me. Before he could say a word, I said, “You’ve just broken the restraining order, I’m calling the police,” and I hung up, then called the police.
A police officer came to me in my car (where I was hiding, waiting for my kids to get out of school), and took my statement. Unfortunately, because my husband hadn’t actually spoken, they determined he hadn’t broken the order.
The temporary order was only good for two weeks. But since we started divorce proceedings with the court, I was allowed to hold onto the order until our divorce was final, (over a year later). My husband had two supervised visits with our kids with a private counselor we hired. After two visits, the counselor decided he didn’t need to do supervised visits with them, since they “weren’t in danger” from their dad. So, our children were taken off the order.
In the next few weeks, my husband broke the restraining order many times. He called my kids, (before he was allowed to contact them), my parents and our pastors, asking them to intervene with me to get me to go back to him. He also emailed me, (again, breaking the order), telling me how much he loved me, how wrong he had been, and would I please take him back?
Then, a week later, he actually walked into our gym, where I had gone with one of our kids. He stood 10 feet away from me! I was pissed. I called my lawyer and asked her what to do. She said, “Call the police”. Sadly, I was too embarrassed to do that.
Eventually, I took all the emails he had sent to me and to others, and brought them to the police station to make a report. I thought they would call him and say, “Sir, you need to leave your wife alone.” Nope. Instead, they said they would investigate, and then if they found just cause, put a warrant out for his arrest! I was shocked! Obviously, I didn’t fully understand that breaking the order was considered a criminal action, worthy of being taken to jail.
Over the next few weeks, I was on pins and needles. Would they arrest him? If so, when? After several long weeks, I contacted the officer in charge, and he told me a warrant had been put out for my husband’s arrest.
I then waited several more weeks. Nothing happened. I called the officer again who told me since my husband’s offense was not a physical one (the only proof I had were emails he had written), they would not make the effort of actually going and arresting him. He said, “If he gets stopped for a traffic violation, they will arrest him then.” WHAT?? That could be 3 months from now, or never! Police could stop him for running a stop sign, and my kids could be in the car as their dad was carried off to jail!
Freaked out, I called my lawyer. She said, “Don’t worry, when we go for temporary orders (in our divorce), they will arrest him then.” That was 4 months away!
Four months later, we were standing outside the door of a civil judge’s courtroom. My attorney told my soon-to-be ex and his attorney there was a warrant out for his arrest. My husband basically said, “Bring it on!” He and his attorney said they would, “talk to the judge about it.” Obviously, they didn’t understand how this worked either. We were about to see a civil judge, but the warrant was a criminal warrant. My attorney slipped into the judge’s office and told her about the warrant.
We all walked into the courtroom. The judge was standing there with a bailiff. She said, “Apparently, everyone but the court was aware that Mr. _____ has a warrant out for his arrest. Is there any reason this bailiff shouldn’t take him off to jail right now?”
My eyes were bugging out of my head! I was gleeful, and also terrified. I knew my kids were staying with my husband that week, and I was going to have to get them, and tell them their dad was in jail.
We all agreed we should try to get temporary orders filed before he was taken away, so we agreed on what we could, then the bailiff handcuffed my husband, and took him away.
He only spent one night in jail, but he never broke the order again.
A year later, when we went for final orders for our divorce, our judge (a different one, but still a female), ordered that I shouldn’t be granted a permanent restraining order, since he hadn’t done anything violent. After that ruling, my husband was able to work a deal with the assistant district attorney to get his charges dropped. I think he was ordered to go for some “Anger Management” courses. Gag me! He already knew how to handle his anger! I had asked that he would be forced to go to a batterer’s intervention group, but they denied that request. And yet . . .
If I had to live that part of my life over again, would I still get a restraining order? YES! My husband terrorized me every minute of the day when we lived together. The restraining order got him out of our house, which would never have happened any other way. Tweet This
Because I took out the restraining order, I was able to stay in our home with our kids. Yes, my husband broke the order several times, and I didn’t fully understand what to do about it. But, from the moment he left, my life improved 100%. He was out of my house and life, and I never looked back.
What about you? Is getting a restraining order against your abuser the best thing for you to do? I can’t answer that. I recommend you contact the U.S. National DV Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224, or call your nearest DV crisis center for advice.
In Galatians 6:7, Paul says,
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
Often, we don’t get to see abusers reaping what they’ve sown. In my case, my ex lost his wife, his home, his clean police record, his kids (half-time), and many other things that were important to him. I’ve spoken to many DV victims that believe their abuser has never reaped what s/he has sown. However, we don’t know the end of the story do we? God cannot be mocked, and He will dispense justice in the end.
Question: Have you ever taken out a restraining order against your abuser? If so, what was your experience?
Please check in with me next week when I talk more about restraining orders. Until then, may the Lord bless you.