Impulse: How Restraining Orders Encourage and Reward Tantrum Behavior and Why Feminist Advocates Should Be the First to Push for Their Reform

Posted on June 3, 2014

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It’s often fairly remarked that feminists tend not to acknowledge restraining order abuse, let alone express resentment toward female offenders. There are exceptional instances, however, as you’ll see below.

It’s also remarked that rash or false allegations mock and discredit the suffering of genuine victims. The respondent in the forum exchange that follows, though she doesn’t say as much, clearly agrees.

Notable about the response, whose tone is reproving, is that its writer recognizes that restraining orders may be sought impulsively to gratify a “tantrum” and get their defendants “in trouble” (which recognition fittingly uses the language of the playground).

Notable, contrariwise, however, is that the respondent discourages the petitioner of the restraining order, who’s admitted to proceeding impulsively, from following through with her expressed intention to rectify an act that may have been motivated by spite. The respondent is the executive director of AARDVARC (An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection), and behaviors like those the questioner owns up to undermine her endeavor’s credibility.

Notable, finally, is the respondent’s observation that once the state machine is roused, it can be tough to quiet again—like a swarm of killer bees.

The slack standards applied to the restraining order process cut both ways. Not only do they make it easy to lynch defendants undeservedly based on a few brief statements rendered in minutes; the drive-thru, come-one-come-all policy they authorize urges plaintiffs to proceed full-steam ahead without consideration of consequence to themselves and their families.

Plaintiffs shouldn’t be able to incriminate others impulsively, and those who are baited into doing so have as much reason to fault the state as they do to fault themselves.

Representatives of victims of domestic violence and rape, furthermore, are at least as keenly aware as anyone that people follow vicious impulses when there are no checks on their behavior. Logically, then, feminist proponents should be the first to perceive that if state processes have no reins, they’ll be abused. These activists should, accordingly, recognize restraining orders’ potential for abuse and be at the forefront of advocacy for more rigorous and responsible policy.

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