This clip from the movie Enough (2002) starring Jennifer Lopez pretty much sums up how a restraining or protective order works. (Or doesn’t.)
What can the police really do for people in these potentially fatal situations? Certainly not much if they don’t show up fast enough to enforce an order. And if they do show up and arrest them, what about the next time?
Like the clip above alludes, stalkers, psychopaths, and domestic abusers are not always dissuaded by restraining or protective orders. Any arrest or charge laid against them by the police can lead to as Slim puts it, “pissing them off”.
Plus, like the cop tells Slim here, it is up to the city attorney’s office (basically the government) to prosecute.
Restraining and protective orders are not completely useless. But, in these kinds of situations, you need to get all your ducks in a row, and a solid plan in place, before you explore police involvement and restraining or protection orders. There is a lot of work involved in actually compiling evidence, catching them and having them prosecuted. And even after, if you are successful, there is no guarantee that they will be locked up and not come after you again.
Many times, obtaining a restraining or protective order can trigger a violent situation. I think it is important to consider this because although I always avoided any physical contact with my stalker (other than having to face him repeatedly in court), my circumstances did escalate when I made an application for a restraining order (very stupid suggestion by the police in Canada that I believed would work in my situation).
The stalker just chose to turn things up a few notches to the next level. And the police could never help out each time I showed up on their door step, begging for assistance. That is when things started to really get scary for me because my hopes that the justice system could work for me, failed.
I found that when I withdrew my request from the court, things subsided a bit. The harassment and abuse still continued, but in ways different than the weird phonecalls, physical attacks or destruction of my property. It was kind of like my stalker realized at that point that he was put on notice. Anything more that he did to me, as far as criminal harassment, would be noted by the police. So he had to get a little more creative in his approach to making my life hell.
He evolved into that of the legal bully in the courts, making dozens of vexatious claims against me, to drain me financially and emotionally. He used his computer engineering degree to try to hack my computer on a regular basis – even the police tech forensics team could not trace the source of it back to him. False and anonymous complaints made against me to the police and social services were other attempts made to abuse my son and I. Since all of his harassment activity continued in those types of ways, there was no legal recourse available that could help me with that kind of harassment.
Police wanted to see physical evidence, and without bruises and broken bones, the abuse continued. They kept telling me it was a civil matter, not a police matter, so deal with it in the court through a civil claim. Yeah, right.
I consider myself lucky – I was not in a situation where I was physically beaten and assaulted on a regular basis. I always stayed far away from my stalker and never ever considered putting myself in a situation that I could be harmed again. Once was enough.
Slim also realized when was enough. She is like many of us, working class and just wanting a simple life with a loving, stable man. But when our dreams are shattered, discovering our so-called man in shining armour is anything but perfect, and entirely the opposite, we are forced to make life-saving decisions.
In Enough, she is forced to go on the run, and elude her increasingly obsessive husband, Mitch (and his lethal henchmen). When, despite Slim’s efforts to make a new life, Mitch finds her and threatens her again, she puts her five year old daughter Gracie in safe keeping. Then she toughens herself mentally and physically and sets out to prove to Mitch she’s had enough too.
This movie mirrors what some women have really had to do in real life. Although Slim gets to actually kick Mitch’s ass for good, not every woman needs to take it to that extreme.
I believe that the trick is to not let things escalate beyond your control. If you are in danger, take immediate steps to find safety and security from harm. You need a plan, and you need the work the plan. The plan has to have a number of options and scenerios to fall back on if one or another does not work for you.
The courts will be of no help by typing up a statement to your stalker or abuser on your behalf. You have to put yourself in a safe position first.
If you have the intention of getting a restraining order or any sort of charge laid against a stalker or abuser, do so only with extreme caution, and after consulting a lawyer or attorney to learn exactly how stalking or domestic violence laws work in your jurisdiction.
Also, a lengthy discussion with a threat assessment specialist can be a good idea, as most of the police officers I have ever encountered have not been trained or experienced in dealing with these situations. Police usually give bad advice or not handle the case properly. Plus, if it does actually get prosecuted, like I said, stalkers and abusers get released from being incarcerated only to wreak havoc on their victims again.
There are numerous stories out there of women who have been granted (or refused) a restraining order to later be found attacked, kidnapped, or dead shortly after. Think about where the gaps in safety were for other victims and see what you can do differently to protect yourself.
Here are a just a few of many noteworthy stories in the news:
2007-April-05 – How do You Stop a Stalker from Killing you? – ABC News
2009-December-31 – Woman, 32, Killed by Alleged Stalker
2010-June-25 – Stormy Relationship at centre of Edmonton house blast
And, I hate to say it, but the justice system in Canada is absolutely useless for long-term stalking victims. Take a look at this sad case:
2011-January-13 Regina Stalker arrested in Saskatoon
Think about it seriously – a piece of paper is not going to be the only solution for you. There have been countless women, killed by their stalker or abuser, and found dead with a copy of the restraining order on them.
There are two things I did to handle my psychopathic stalker (also what Slim did instead of relying on a protection order):
1) Became untouchable – I moved and decided to live and work in a place the abuser could not find me. I went rogue. I have a privacy and security plan in place at all times, even here in Mexico.
2) I trained in self-defence – there are many well-known personal protection strategies taught throughout the world that women can learn quickly and effectively – Krav Maga and Crazy Monkey Defense are two martial arts programs that I enrolled in and studied. Mastering the art of self-defence not only gave me skills to kick my stalkers ass, but helped me become more alert and confident on the street, ready to defeat any potential attacks, even here in Mexico!
If you have not had the chance to watch the movie Enough, I highly recommend you do so. It inspired me in watching how Slim took back her personal power and created her own happy ending. Her success is a result of the time she spent preparing and training for the inevitable.
I urge you to take action in ways other than just applying for a restraining or protection order. You can conquer your abuser, you just have to find a way that works in your personal situation.
Until next time… keep safe and sane…