Police, anti-domestic violence advocates and organizations, and our family and friends will likely tell us to obtain a protective order, a “restraining order”, when we fear potential violence or continued violence by someone in our lives – a partner or spouse, ex-partner or spouse, estranged friend, or a stranger that has begun stalking us. This is a step I have also recommended once or twice when a friend has confided in me about violence or potential violence in their life. But, are protective orders enough? The short answer is no.
- A few weeks ago, a special education teacher in Washington state was killed right outside of the school she works at by the man that had begun stalking her. She was waiting to hear back about the status of the protective order that she had recently filed against him.
- A woman was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend who had just been released on bail two days before the murder for – he had been arrested for violating the protective order she successfully filed against him after their 5-week-old baby died in his care.
- Women have also been failed when protective orders are not issued. In early February, a woman was denied a protective order against her ex-boyfriend who she feared could harm her and her 9-month-old her son. One month after the judges denied her request for a protective order, her ex-boyfriend killed the 9-month-old and then committed suicide.
- New York Governor David Paterson is catching heat for intervening in a domestic violence charge against one of his aides, David W. Johnson. Apparently, he attempted to reconcile the two the night before Johnson’s ex-girlfriend, who he has been charged for “choking her, smashing her into a mirrored dresser and preventing her from calling for help”, was to appear in court to file for a protective order against Johnson.
When issued or denied, protective orders may not be serving the purpose for which they are designed. So, what other solutions exist, besides the obvious restructuring of social norms regarding masculinity, femininity, gender, violence, and intimate relationships? France is moving in the direction of tagging violent men who have a history of abusing and assaulting their wives and girlfriends. This tag, like a house-arrest bracelet, would alert the police when a man has violated the protective order filed against him. This is at least a step in the right direction, but we must acknowledge that protective orders are not always sought by victims of violence, nor are they always granted or upheld, and some victims of violence with these protective orders may live in places where police response is spotty and slow. But, it is a step in the right direction nonetheless.