WTF Is Wrong with Restraining Orders and the People Who Administer Them?

Posted on February 11, 2016


There are a lot of things about restraining order laws and policies that elicit (and deserve) this reaction: “What the f—?

Defendants’ due process rights are suspended; orders are issued without defendants’ even knowing it, let alone being permitted to respond before possibly being forcibly evicted from their homes; testimony from accusers is accepted at face value (and may even be given under an assumed name); citizens may be accused by strangers who live in different states from them; judges have been conditioned to be suspect of the accused and trusting of accusers; the evidentiary standard applied to allegations that are typically of criminal acts is the lowest civil standard; the fundamental right to cross-examine accusers and other witnesses is often short-circuited and may be outright denied; false accusations aren’t sanctioned (or ever called “false”) and the falsely accused can’t sue for perjury; hearings to finalize orders may begin and end in mere minutes; viable grounds for appeal to a higher court are precious few, and false accusation isn’t among them; even if restraining orders are dismissed, they’re preserved in the public record and cannot be expunged…. I could go on.

A different inspiration for “WTF” is indiscrimination by officers of the court.

There is room for the inclusion of basic intuition and eyeball evidence in judicial decisions. Yet I couldn’t tell you how many times a woman has complained on this site of being falsely accused of abuse by a man who was twice her size (and who was violent to her). Sure, there are men who are harassed and violently abused by women. There absolutely are. But often the same men who are reluctant to defend themselves are reluctant to take their complaints to the court, because that, too, would be “ungentlemanly” or “unchivalrous” (besides humiliating). When a large, confident man accuses a woman half his size of vague, wishy-washy, or sketchy abuses, and especially when ulterior motives like custody of the kids and/or possession of a shared residence lurk in the background, a degree of suspicion is warranted.

monstrousSimilarly, if a woman accusing a man of stalking looks like someone whose best opportunity for attention is accusing a man of stalking, a little ding! should sound in the minds of the people vetting the claim. There are women who are “to die for” (hubba-hubba), and there are women who are “to croak for” (ribbet). How about some discernment?

It may be politically incorrect to judge according to surfaces—hell, it may be unethical—but the whole process is guided by superficialities like, for example, sex: The number of orders issued against men is grossly disproportionate to the number issued against women. So what does ethics have to do with anything? Testimony by the accused is routinely rejected on no more evident basis than that it’s testimony from people who’ve been prejudged to be “abusers” (whose accusers, incidentally, are automatically called “victims”). So the “ethical scruples” argument is DOA.

I’ve heard from a vegetarian single mom, disabled women (here is post based on a petition respondent’s report), and men who’ve been violently abused and shamed by their wives only to be falsely accused of violence. I’ve heard from a little league umpire who was just doing his job. The number of accounts I’ve heard from lucid, articulate, educated men who’ve been casually accused of abuse, including violence to children, is obscene. Here is one such by a man who was falsely accused of burning and kidnapping his son.

Some respondents to this blog have been women in their seventh and eighth decades of life who were accused by “fearful” complainants who didn’t share a household with them and could outrun them on one leg. One says she’s consequently suffered PTSD and has been afraid to leave her house. The only just accusations against women this age I’ve heard about have come after the women accused first—and falsely and repeatedly. One female respondent in her 60s, living alone—the model of feminist self-sufficiency—was driven from her home by persistent accusations from a cranky (female) neighbor to everyone from the police, the court, and PETA. I haven’t heard from her since.

A retired man I communicate with regularly is in his 70s and has a crippled spine and three toy poodles. No slight to his virility is intended but…three toy poodles. He was accused relentlessly by his (yep, cranky female) neighbor (who’s hardly among the hubba-hubba demographic) of stalking, cyber-stalking, harassment, and various “threats” (like inciting invisible hound dogs to bay at her) until years later he finally inspired a judge to chew her a new one. By that time, he’d been jailed and had a cop point her sidearm at him through the front door of his house. His mugshot is on the Internet, and public records nominating him a menace number in the dozens. He’ll have to live with the onus of this sh— for the rest of his life (which will probably be shorter than it might otherwise have been).


Copyright © 2016

*The writer of this post is a lifelong vegetarian who had been a practicing kids’ poet when he was first accused 10 years ago by a woman he encountered around his house with a band of her girlfriends. I’ve been in and out of court several times (and for half a year at a time…each time) over the intervening period. Today I face criminal allegations brought by one of the girlfriends—who also petitioned an ex parte court injunction against me in December. Because she could. I haven’t communicated with her in years, but she told police I’ve “stalked” her since 2005. I’m right now learning how to make audio files of voicemails she left me after writing to me in 2012, inviting me to join her for coffee, hugging me, and telling me how sorry she was about the earlier rounds of lies to the court.