What is Restraining Order Abuse?
The type of restraining order referred to here is the civil protection order used in cases where domestic abuse has been alleged. This court order requires one individual to refrain from contacting or being in a specific, distance-defined proximity to another.
The overall goal in the awarding of this restraining order is the prevention of the subject (the person being ordered away) from perpetrating any act of violence or damaging harassment against the holder (the person being protected.) The vehicle of prevention is the legal establishment of a mandated buffer zone of physical distance and prohibition of contact between the subject and the holder. The intended effect of that vehicle is to provide the holder with a means to prevent contact with the subject, with that prevention being achieved by legal mandate and threat of legal penalties for violation. If the order is violated by the subject, the holder has the power to enforce that mandate by calling for assistance from law enforcement.
The logic of the restraining order is based on a series of concepts; that damaging harassment or a violent attack cannot be perpetrated by the subject if he is not in contact with the holder, that in most cases legal mandate will compel where ethics and morals do not, that in many cases threat of penalties will compel where legal mandate is not enough, and in the few remaining, application of those penalties will enforce where the subject cannot be simply compelled.
By virtue of the purpose for which it is granted, a restraining order is an official accusation, made against the subject, of malicious action or intent. It is the legal statement that the court recognizes the subject as a damaging harassing nuisance, or physical threat to the holder of the order due to evidence that the subject either has previously exhibited this behavior toward the holder, or has been conclusively shown to have intent do so in the future. If there is not such a confirmed threat, there is nothing to prevent, and no point in obtaining or granting a restraining order. A restraining order is not merited when the individual named is not a threat to the person filing the request.
Restraining order abuse is the act of requesting an unmerited restraining order against an individual, and/or the misuse of that order for any sort harassment, malicious mischief against the subject, or personal gain for the holder, rather than its intended purpose of protection. For a more complete description and discussion on the topic of restraining orders, check out Talking back to restraining orders.
An individual awarded a restraining order in an alleged domestic abuse case has significant capacity to abuse the state’s protection. The holder can manipulate circumstances, fudge facts, and even outright lie to achieve the arrest of the subject. Any time the holder of the order alleges to law enforcement that the subject has violated any of the conditions of the order (including fleeting proximity at the maximum allowed distance) the police are required to arrest the subject for the alleged violation regardless of existence, level, or lack of evidence offered by the involved parties.
How Are Restraining Orders Abused by Women in Domestic Conflicts?
Abuse of the restraining order may take one or more of few different paths.
Just in Case
Obtaining an unmerited restraining order is easy for a woman. At this time, the system is designed to favor the decision to err on the side of the female, on the basis that it is better to hand out multiple unmerited temporary restraining orders and let the courts sort them out than to risk leaving one woman unprotected from her abuser. When break-ups are less than amicable, women are often encouraged by friends and family to file, “just in case,” under the assumption that all men are potential domestic abusers.
Failure of a man to comply with all of his ex’s wishes during a break-up is interpreted by her feminist friends and family as an indication that he is abusing, or intends to abuse her. Communicating or demonstrating the expectation that the estranged couple will view each other as a fellow human beings with equal rights and equal responsibilities and treat each other with any level of fairness and consideration will be viewed as failure to comply.
Upon ending a relationship, the restraining order abuser will be encouraged to file a request for a restraining order against her ex. When she does this, an “emergency” temporary restraining order will be put into place pending the hearing to determine the validity of the request. The holder does not have to offer any credible evidence at this time. All she has to do is state reasons why she feels harassed or threatened, the veracity and/or validity of which will rarely be questioned. She may do this on her own, but in many instances this is done with the assistance of a domestic violence advocate.
Having an advocate is an advantage, as it lends credibility to the request regardless of any other evidence. Even claims that would have been questioned in the absence of an advocate will be accepted if an advocate is present. The clerk of courts will assume that the woman is an abuse victim, because she is making use of abuse victim’s services.
Once the temporary order has been granted, the status of the subject in the eyes of the legal system and the view of law enforcement is changed from “some guy we never heard of” to “perpetrator.” He is guilty of abuse until such time as his name is completely cleared, and even then if he is accused again, this incident will still be seen as evidence of a pattern of behavior.
Once a restraining order is in place, the holder can have the subject arrested at any time, regardless of evidence, by calling law enforcement and alleging any type of contact. The holder does not have to provide any evidence of the subject’s guilt. In some jurisdictions, it does not even matter if the subject can prove his innocence. Due to the legal environment created by the activity of women-centered domestic abuse shelters and feminist organizations, the initial outcome of this type of complaint is largely predetermined.
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