A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Domestic abuse victims share their experiences of obtaining and enforcing protection orders

We love our readers to share their own experiences so that others can benefit. To get the ball rolling, here is what three of our readers have said about the pros & cons of getting protection orders, and tips for those who have not done it before.

Protection order legislation varies from state to state.  And the terminology varies: they can be called Restraining Orders, Family Violence Orders, Domestic Violence Protection Orders, etc.

What our readers recount may or may not apply in your own state. I recommend checking the laws in your own state to avoid disappointment and confusion. Look up the laws online, as well as ask the police. In my experience, some police officers are not good at explaining the details of the law to members of the public — and they’re always busy! So if your state has police officers that specialise in domestic abuse/family violence, seek advice from those officers – they are better trained in the details of the legislation.

It might also be helpful to discuss the pros and cons of getting a protection order with a domestic violence advocate in your area.

A protection order sets limits on future behaviour, as I explained here. Protection orders restrain some abusers some of the time. But abusers who have little regard for the law tend not to be restrained by protection orders.

The pros and cons of applying for a protection order

Here is the experience of ‘Moody Mom’ —

You’re not crazy for worrying that filing a protection order might bring criticism and maybe even some falling away with friends and church members. Trust your gut. I lost my ‘c’hristian counselors’ and church’s willingness to even speak to us after I filed for my order. The church leaders and counselors heaped shame after shame upon my head for taking out the order. It happens. A lot. They (the church) resented that I brought in (the church people used whisper tones for the word…) *secular* authorities into my situation. They wanted to try handling everything in-house with a few trite verses and shaming me with “submit and pray more,” all the while comforting him for his “troubles”.

You know the people around you well. You’ve seen their history, and how they have treated and talked about “those poor women” that were abused or had “difficult marriages” in the past. You know how they view us. Trust yourself. You are brave and wise. You know more than you know.

All that being said, it was absolutely worth it to file for my order. It was gut-wrenching and scary, but worth it. Just the peace of mind that the order gave – that we would have a legal leg to stand on if he showed up – helped me and my kids. And by God’s grace, the judge who signed my order made it even MORE protective than I had asked for! Before becoming a judge, he had been a lawyer FOR THE LOCAL WOMEN’S SHELTER! He had seen these guys all before and “got” the evil we were dealing with. I do understand that this is not always the case. But my experience told me, as many of us have found, that I found much help in the *secular* arena, and damaging betrayal and shunning in the church.

The order also helped us because x knew that if he violated it, he would face legal action, which would tarnish his glittering public persona – having to be fingerprinted and mug-shotted if he violated. My x wanted to avoid the public scrutiny at all costs. So it kept him away.
— MoodyMom wrote this here

If the abuser breaches the order, getting the authorities to prosecute can be difficult

Our reader ‘Psalm 55’ had an order against her abuser, and he breached the order. But because she could not  show evidence of the breach, the prosecutor would do nothing about it.  — click here to read her story.

This five minute video gives tips for How to Collect Evidence if your protection order is breached. It features women from the state of Victoria (Australia) demonstrating simple and practical ways of gathering evidence. It refers to protection orders as “intervention orders’.

Even if the abuser is subject to a protection order, many churches still support the abuser

‘Anon Friend’ supported a Christian woman whose husband was extremely abusive. Even when the victim obtained a domestic violence protection order against her husband, the church still supported the abusive husband.  Here is a condensed version of Anon Friend’s story:

He was my best friend’s husband. He was a church leader, volunteer biblical counselor for individuals and couples and elder in process … I have watched him deceive pastors, leaders, church members… His deceit still continues as I write this. It’s been a daily nightmare and never ending trauma for my best friend.

…I prayed and waited and waited for others in church leadership like myself to “see” what was “right in front” of them…I prayed on my knees, my heart breaking, feeling crushed deep inside that the pastors continued to not “see” the truth of who he truly is and knowing she and her children were being abused daily by him.

I saw things that he was doing that were evil, heartless and he had no empathy for his wife. I saw him have no regard for her life. I held in the tears each Sunday as I had to pretend like I was comfortable near him while we did prayer team because I knew he would question my best friend when she returned home with him. I thought surely another pastor or leader would see his behavior and question him but they never did. I thought how could this man be in the elder process at our church? Did they really know him? They seemed to be more concerned with “feeling good”, welcoming the abuser’s compliments and literal pats on the back. While at the same time, he was not allowing his wife to have the most basic of needs met.

I witnessed him lie to others in the church body including myself. I knew he was lying because I had a unique “window in” to what he was hiding in his home and the contrast of what he was saying and sharing with others because I spent time in his home and I saw things. Once when I was at her home he sent a text to her saying “I want to [physically assault] you, and tell [my name] I want to [physically assault] her too.” I was speechless when she told me what the text said as I stood in front of her.

Many other dreadful, awful things happened. It was very much felt and apparent he wanted me completely removed from her life. He began to make it extremely difficult for us to spend any time together, threatening her regularly as well as heaping guilt, shame and confusion on her. It felt so scary and still does. Over time trust was built between my best friend and I and she began to share specific horrific details of the reality of her life. I’m still grieving all that she has shared with me (all the trauma) and all that I continue to see her go through and how I have seen others respond to her. …

My husband and I sought help for my best friend and her children from the Director of Biblical Counseling for all the association of churches. She had expressed to me that she wished there was a real way out. I helped her escape with one suitcase for her and her children, leaving everything else behind. The church responded to this by supporting her husband financially, legally and emotionally even after a domestic violence protection order was granted for her and her children by the court. The church helped him find ways around the protection order and therefore she and the children had no protection at all. I felt I helped her escape from one nightmare into another.
— read the full comment here

Once you have a protection order, it might be a mistake to drop it

Our reader ‘Round Two’ said—

I dropped the restraining order, that was a mistake I made. I was trusting and believing my stbx loved me and wanted to reconcile, but he had his own agenda. I’m told because I dropped the order, it will be even harder to get another one, even more so, because stbx has not been harrassing me (thank God for that!). But my understanding is he has been lurking in FB of friends and relatives.
read her comment here

I invite you to share your own experience of having a protection order

When sharing your experience, it is more helpful if you comment here at the blog rather than on Facebook. Comments on Facebook are ephemeral; comments on the blog can help others years down the track.

And please stick to your own experience and observations, bearing in mind that other readers may have different experiences than you. If you want tips about how to write your story in a way that will not identify you, read our New Users Info page.

***

Further Reading

“Do not take a brother to court” – does it mean you can’t seek a protection order against your abuser?

Safety Planning

Cyber Safety and Social Networking

 

 

13 Comments

  1. Sarah

    I had to file an order of protection for my dd. Little did I know what it would entail. I was told I would have a slim chance of getting it. You have to go in front of a judge and he will look at you like you are some sort of trouble maker and ask hard questions. I have practiced grey rock for years so I grey rocked his hostile cold looks. The first thing he did was have me sit across from him while he typed in the computer for awhile. So I gave him my own form of quiet staring off and being patient.. I think he was trying to throw me. Then when he started to ask me questions I gave him monotone answers and answered his questions to the point but did not go on and on.. just short answers. Then he stared at me with silence, again to unnerve me but I again gave him silence back and grey rock. No expressions whatsoever. Like we were talking about the weather and I was bored with it. I got the order of protection!
    This is our justice system.. you have to act like you don’t have emotions while you’re talking about violence.. geesh

  2. Sarah

    On another note, The pastor kept bugging me to get the order of protection dropped. He kept feeling sorry for him that he was being treated like a common criminal.. ummm he was. He kept telling me that I needed to know if he had changed or not and how could I know if I didn’t drop it? His lawyer had the gall to call me up and ask me if I wanted to drop it and he could help me????? what???? This world is screwy. Because I was in leadership at the church I really felt forced to drop it way earlier than I was ready. The whole time people seemed to be overly worried about him and his feelings. I get it now.. it was horrible. Would do it differently and take my time and kick all those people out of my life a lot sooner.. what a toxic environment for me

    • It sounds to me like that pastor didn’t know much about protection orders. The existence of the order does not mean someone has been convicted of a crime. It does not even mean they are being charged with a crime. It only means they are required to restrain their future behaviour so that they do not commit a crime in the future. That is quite reasonable. Every responsible citizen does that already: you and I restrain our behaviour so that we do not commit crimes. You and I would have no problem agreeing not to commit abuse against our partners or ex-partners in the future! We know that is the expectation on us if we want to live in a civilised society.

      But people like that pastor of yours claim that being subject to a protection order is the same as being treated like a criminal. They are WRONG. They are ignorant fools, or they are misled, or they are promoting the spin and lies of abusers.

      • Sarah

        The abuser was manipulating everybody especially the pastor and he was happy to take his side, show up for his court etc.. They were friends long before I came in the picture.

    • Trying Again

      In our state, it is illegal to ask the victim to drop the protection order! Is it the same by you? That pastor was out of line!

      • Sarah

        Yes in the new state I live in it is illegal, in Wisconsin they highly favor toxic people in the courts.

  3. Icare

    I was forced to have many restraining orders on my first ex-husband. I dropped them and took him back each time because he threatened to take my only child away from me. DSS was involved at one point and just when I thought we were rid of them, he told them some lie I was not privy to and they were entrenched again. So we moved in the middle of the night to another part of the country closer to my mother. I ended up having to get another restraining order after he busted my nose and dragged me around by my neck while I was trying to escape with my then [very young child] whom I was carrying, along with [the] diaper bag and my purse at the time of the physical abuse.

    There’s too much to write here, but eventually we moved back closer to his family and things didn’t change. We had divorced, but he still had visits and was still manipulating and causing chaos however he could. Over time, the state decided I would have a permanent restraining order. That did not stop him from taking me to court for [more than one decade] and thousands of dollars, while he was pro se and it cost him nothing. He was also bipolar. He even committed crimes to put himself in jail for a while so the first judge would go away, who saw through him. When he got out, the second judge let him throw all kinds of dirt on the wall to which I had to defend myself. My [child] grew up with this and it has ruined our relationship, not only because of this, but because I ended up being manipulated into marrying a man I did not want to be with and then was too scared to leave (he also was abusive). I never got a restraining order on him right up to the bitter end, because I was so scared of what he might do and how he might retaliate. So he got away with it. I could have done a history on him when I first went to get one and backed out. I could have brought up all his abusive actions against me from day one. Now it’s too late. I wish I’d done that regardless.

    I can only say, even if you don’t get a restraining order right away, you need to remove yourself to a safe place and then get the order after he has no idea where you are, and don’t think another man will solve your problems. He may be the devil himself. I believe I married the devil twice.

    It has been very hard work getting my life back and I am far from it. The best advice is don’t be fooled, be educated about how abusers manipulate and get you hooked in the first place. If you are in that relationship, be educated so you can see through them and get safely out. I think, once out and in an unknown location, then would be a good time to get the order.

    I can’t go back in time, but I regret so much. I hope and pray everyone who is suffering will find their refuge in God and be free of their abusers.

    [Details airbrushed for protection. Editors.]

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Icare.

      As a victim-advocate and supporter of victims, I have been involved a bit with women who work in high-security women’s shelters (aka women’s refuges). The workers told me that the victims who are at highest risk are put in high security refuges that are very far away from where the woman lived with her abuser. And if the woman is applying for a restraining order, they take her to a court that is located well away from the refuge the woman is staying in, and well away from where the abuser and the woman had been living. The workers told me they are familiar with how some courts treat applicants for restraining orders better than other courts do. It depends on things like who the Clerk of Court is, and who the magistrates (judges) are who regularly deal with those applictions in that court. Some of them are more sensitive to the needs of victims of domestic abuse than others are. And some courts are more victim-friendly and safer in terms of the layout of the court and the waiting areas. The best courts are designed to provide separate waiting areas and the staff try their best to confine the abusers to one waiting area and the victims to another waiting area that is out of earshot and eye-shot from the abusers. So if the abuser shows up for a court hearing, the victim only has to see the abuser IN the courtroom itself. I have been in a court with that kind of set up. And I’ve been in a court where an abuser could have been waiting in the same corridor only metres from where the victim was waiting. I know which kind of court made me feel more safe!

      And in Australia, when you apply for a restraining order, you fill out a form which includes writing a narrative about why you are afraid of the person and why you want to be protected from them. You give that form to the Clerk of Courts. The Clerk of Courts takes it into their office and reads it, while you wait outside their office. If the Clerk of Courts thinks your application is reasonable, he or she types up condensed version of your narrative about why you feel you need protection. That becomes document is then given to the magistrate. The Clerk of Courts tells you to be in the courtroom at such and such a time, when the Magistrate will deal with the Application. So you show up in court at that time and them magistrate may ask you a few questions. Then if the magistrate things the application has merit, you are granted an Interim Restraining Order.

      That Interim Order is then served by the police on the person the order is against. The police have to know how to find and physically serve the Order (the hard copy document) on the abuser. That can be hard. It can be hard for the police to find out where the abuser is. And in my state, the police are not allowed to serve the order on the abuser at his workplace. So often the police have to make several attempt to serve the order before they are successful.

      In my multiple experiences of having protection orders, I have often had to chase up the police to ask them if they have served the order, and politely pester them until they get the order served. Police are always busy and I bet it’s a rough job having to keep trying to serve an order on an abuser who is good at hiding from the police.

      The Interim Order is not legally in force until it has been served on the abuser.

      And once an Interim Order has been served on the abuser, the abuser can choose to contest it or not contest it. If he wants to contest it he much show up at court at the ‘mention’ date and say he is contesting the order. The court then sets another date for what is called a ‘directions hearing’. This is a five minute hearing before the magistrate at which both parties can tell the magistrate if they will be brining witnesses to the full hearing. If it then goes to a full hearing, the order may or may not be converted into a Final Order.

      If the abuser does not show up at the ‘mention’ hearing, the magistrate will convert the Interim Order to a Final Order, because the abuser did not show up at court.

  4. Mike

    This is very helpful. Several things I was not aware of.

    • Trying Again

      I did get a restraining order. It was necessary for our safety. My church was not too happy about it and they even tried (as did my husband’s family) to get me to remove it. When my brother (my strong tower and guardian!) told them it was illegal for them to even mention to me to remove the order, they stopped asking. But they still were not happy and spread stories about me. Oh well. I knew I needed safety for me and my children.

      First I had to get a temporary restraining order. That was not too difficult. I just had to explain to a court officer why I wanted it, and it was granted immediately. But within 3 days I had to appear in court for it to become a final restraining order. I did appear with my lawyer, and did my abuser with his lawyer, and the order was granted.

      The court was very helpful, including giving me a victim’s advocate (volunteer, I believe) to sit with me and help me through the whole process. They also make sure that the abuser sits in the front of the courtroom and the victim in the back, so that the victim can feel in control, knowing where the abuser is and what he is doing the whole time in court.

      After the final restraining order, the court helped set up information on supervised visitation for the children, support, health insurance, required psychological exams, etc. My new address was to be kept secret to prevent the abuser from seeking us out. (However, the post office told him my new address!! That was very upsetting!)

      The restraining order remained in place until his death a few years later. All interaction was by email only, with regards only to the children. Despite the negative attitude from church and friends, the restraining order was needed and it was helpful for the situation. I am very glad I did it. I can’t imagine what might have happened without it.

      My husband did not listen to advice or even commands from anyone, including the church, but he did heed the law. For the most part he followed the conditions of the restraining order, and I made sure to counter any slight move on his part to violate it. The court told me (in front of him) if I did not also adhere to the order and make sure that he did, they would take that to mean that I really did not need the restraining order, and it would be easy for him to get it removed.

      For example, if he spoke to me, he broke the restraining order. If I replied to him and spoke with him, I was breaking it, and it would seem to mean I really was not afraid of him. So for the whole time, I was careful not to ever speak to him. That was very hard, because, yes, there is always that hope in your heart that he would repent and change. But I had come to realize that change had to come from him. I could not help him change. I could not talk him into change. I had tried that for YEARS. So now it was up to him, without anything from me, to do what he needed to do. Sadly, as you probably can figure out, he could not do it. He did not do it. We could never reconcile. That is still a great sadness for me, but it was not my fault. I tried the best I could until his behavior demanded that I get the restraining order, and his behavior continued to require it. Again, great sadness for me, especially when his unexpected death took away any chance of ever speaking again.

      A counsellor that my husband asked me to speak with, asked me what I did wrong. I said the only thing I did wrong was wait too long to get the restraining order and leave. My dear children still bear the results of that — they all struggle after the years of abuse. Of course, that was not the right answer for the counsellor (Biblical nouthetic counsellor (NO GOOD)), but it was the truth and I refused to swerve from my answer.

      I did have an excellent domestic violence lawyer (at a price, which thankfully my parents paid), but I found my state to be very good with domestic violence and restraining orders. I am very thankful for that, and because of it, getting a restraining order was definitely the right thing to do and definitely helped me and my children.

      (For privacy, I will not put my state, but if you would like to know, Barbara, I could email that to you.)

      • Trying Again

        Sorry, I think my reply nested in the wrong place….

      • Thanks so much for your comment, Trying Again. I’m confident it will help other readers.

        I don’t need to know your state. But it certainly sounds like your state, and the court officials you dealt with, had pretty good protocols and policies in regards to restraining orders.

        I’m so glad the restraining order helped you. I’m glad your brother told the church they were wrong to urge you to remove the order. Your brother must have done his homework about the laws in your state!

        And I’m glad you resisted the temptation to speak verbally to your abuser. Your iron resistance is admirable.

        I remember how I steeled myself to not even make eye contact with my abuser when I had to hand over our daughter to him for fortnightly visitation. The protection order I had against him forbade him communicating with me except for the purposes of child access or joint guardianship.

        He had been granted fortnightly access to our daughter by the family court, so I had to drop her at his place every second Friday night. I learnt from hard bitter experience how easily he could intimidate me with a scathing look, and how he would try to guilt me with a ‘hang-dog’ look. So I decided that when I dropped our daughter to him every second Friday, I would NOT make eye contact with him. I made a vow to myself to that effect, and I stuck to it religiously! It was hard putting on such an icy front. I had to resist all those voices in my head (implanted by conditioning from society and the church) that told me I was a cold vicious b&#*# for behaving that way. But I knew it was the only way to survive. I had to present to him as the Ice Woman, in order to guard myself.

        If necessary, I would give him a hand written note when I handed her to him. For example if our daughter was on a course of antibiotics at the time, I would give him a note explaining the reason why and the medication routine, and I would say to him, “She’s on antibiotics for an infection. Make sure she takes the medicine as written on the bottle!” But when saying those words, I would not look at his face or look him in the eye. I would not give him the opportunity to shoot daggers at me through his eyes.

  5. Trying Again

    I understand, Barbara, how hard that would be for you. Exactly the same for me. To this day, it is hard for me that I had to do that. But I HAD TO.

    So maybe to others we seem hard and cold and evil and wicked and unreachable. But if you experience it, you understand you HAVE TO. And always remember–THEIR actions have caused us to have to act like that. Place the blame where it belongs!

    Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. It is so helpful to hear how others have been through the same!

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