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.