The media has a tendency to report more heavily on negative stories, thus skewing the outlook on the effectiveness of restraining orders. Are personal protective orders truly enough? Or are they just paper-thin solutions to a serious issue? A reoccurring question among citizens and lawmakers alike is whether personal protective orders, also known as restraining orders, are enough to combat domestic violence and stalkers. The short answer is a clear and decisive "no." However, this issue is far from simple and it's difficult to find support for expanding personal law in these areas.
Personal Protective Orders
The steps to receiving a personal protective order (PPO) vary slightly from state to state, though the main steps remain the same. First, you need to file some forms that are provided at the county courthouse and meet with a judge to discuss your case. If your PPO is accepted by the judge, they will sign the forms and you will need to return them to the Clerk's Office. From there, the restraining order will be entered into a database that is shared with the local police department. The Clerk's Office will also provide information about having the PPO served. There is a good explanation of this process for residents of Oakland County on their website. Even if you don't live there, they provide some helpful information that is equally valuable in other places. For example, their website suggests that you should not include your address on your forms if you don't want the other party to have access to this information.
Stronger Combative Measures
One argument made by groups that feel restraining orders are not enough is that "It's not going to stop bullets." While it's true that restraining orders don't stop bullets, they do alert your community and local police department to a potential problem. In most cases, simply filing a personal protection order is enough to deter escalations in domestic violence and stalking. However, the media is full of examples where this is not the case. Still, it is important to note that the many instances of effective PPO acquirement and enforcement do not usually make the news. This is why you don't hear about the tens of thousands of people that receive a PPO in states across the U.S. and never have an incident.
When a PPO is not Effective
What happens when a restraining order isn't effective at deterring domestic violence or stalking? Unfortunately, there are many examples of the limitations on personal protective orders. There is no way to know how someone will react to a restraining order. In most cases, people will accept a PPO as a strong signal that they're not welcome. However, some people will react violently to this information. The best way to protect yourself is with a heightened level of security. You could take a personal safety course, carry pepper spray or call a friend or family member whenever you feel vulnerable. These steps can help reduce the likelihood of violence and prepare you to respond effectively. The best thing to remember is that the police are there to help and you should call any time the restraining order is violated - no exceptions. It is unlikely that a restraining order will solve all domestic violence and stalking problems - rather, it's one more tool to consider when dealing with these situations. A restraining order is best thought of as one component of a larger safety plan.