Today’s post will be brief, very brief. I’m writing this in the few minutes I have this morning before heading to Court for a custody trial. But a few things occurred to me over the past couple days that I wanted to post. What to do with a domestic violence protective order?
A lot has been written about the psychology of domestic abuse–both the abuser and the abused. And I have found that the research on the dynamics of DV holds up pretty consistently in the cases I have dealt with. Essentially, domestic abuse is about domination and control. Violence is only a means to that end. Not every abusive relationship even gets to the level of physical violence. Many don’t proceed beyond threats and manipulation. In either case, however, getting a DV order can be incredibly important for the safety of the victim and the children. But once a protective order is in place, what should you do with it?
First, always remember that a DV order is not a bulletproof vest. You can call the police and enforce it, but if you allow yourself to get into a situation where you can’t get to the police or get help fast enough, it won’t protect you. So use your head and don’t do things that expose you to potentially being caught unawares. Make sure you have friends or family who know what’s going on. Make sure someone always knows where you’re going to be. And don’t go places or do things that leave you alone and vulnerable–that is, out of reach of help or at least out of a public setting unless you are at home or some other safe place.
Second, don’t delude yourself that the abuser will change, come around, or otherwise alter his behavior. He won’t, and it is dangerous to think he will.
Finally, enforce the order. If he’s calling you, driving by, going to your workplace, showing up in your backyard, or otherwise violating the order, call the police. The cops and the courts take violations of these orders very seriously. Keep multiple copies of the order: one at home, one at work, one in your car, and one in your purse or pocket at all times. That way, there will be no real argument if you have to call the police. You can simply show them the order and they’ll do the rest. Don’t let violations of the order go. If he’s doing something he was ordered not to do, enforce it. Every time. If you don’t, the harassment or abuse will only continue. A protective order is only as good as your willingness to enforce it. He’ll get the message quickly, or end up in jail.