Granting Restraining Orders to Stalkers: On How the Courts Are Abused to Abet or Conceal Stalking (or Label Conduct “Stalking” That Hardly Qualifies)

Posted on December 10, 2013


Restraining orders, which some have called blank checks to do malice, are marvelously versatile instruments. Consider, for example, that while they were conceived to deter stalkers from, say, hanging around other’s homes at night and propositioning them in the dark, they’re also easily obtained by stalkers to legitimate the same or similar conduct.

Because restraining orders place no limitations on the actions of their plaintiffs (that is, their applicants), stalkers who successfully petition for restraining orders (which are easily had by fraud) may follow their targets around; call, text, or email them; or show up at their homes or places of work with no fear of rejection or repercussion. In fact, any acts to drive them off may be represented to authorities as violations of those stalkers’ restraining orders. It’s very conceivable that a stalker could even assault his or her victim with complete impunity, representing the act of violence as self-defense (and at least one such victim of assault has been brought to this blog).

A stalker who petitions a restraining order against his or her target can toy with him or her like a cat might a mouse. Even if the target had solid grounds for some type of reciprocal or retributive legal action, the uncertainty and apprehension inspired by having received a restraining order would likely work a paralytic effect on him or her. No one who hasn’t had the state rapping on his or her door can appreciate the menace and uncertainty that linger after the echo has faded.

A reasonable person would expect there to be a readily available recourse in place to redress and remedy such a scenario. That reasonable person would find his expectation disappointed. Neither laws nor the courts officially recognize that abuses of restraining orders occur.

Granted, in most situations like this, the “stalker” is a girlfriend who impulsively procured a restraining order but still nurses amative feelings for the boyfriend she obtained it against—or a grudge. (Both defendants complaining of being stalked by those who’ve petitioned restraining orders against them and petitioners concerned to know whether they’re “in trouble” for violating their own orders are brought to this blog weekly.) This situation is less sinister than a source of constant anxiety for the target, who has no way of questioning or interpreting his or her stalker’s motives, or anticipating what further menace to expect.

A variant theme is represented by the person who becomes infatuated with or fixated on someone and later seeks to disown his or her feelings and conduct. For whatever reason—maybe the person is married—s/he professes apprehension of his or her target to the police and courts (and others) to generate a smokescreen. S/he flips the truth and alleges that the person s/he stalked stalked him or her. This is accomplished with particular ease by a woman, who can have every man she knows walking her to her car like a Secret Service entourage with a few hysterical attestations of terror.

There are in fact few more effective ways for stalkers to imprint themselves on the lives of objects of their (current or former) interest or obsession. For a stalker, a restraining order may even represent a token of love that its object is powerless to refuse.

Stalkers are driven by obsession. Realizing some consummated idyllic relationship with the objects of their fixations may not be their earnest goal at all. The source of gratification may be the stalking (the proximity, real or imagined: the connection).

Of course, a great deal of what’s called “stalking” isn’t, and the absurd over-application of this word is mocked by its use by one of a pair of acquaintances when they repeatedly bump into each other unexpectedly: “Are you stalking me?”

Restraining orders and the culture of hysteria that they nurture and reward, and which at the same time ensures their being both offhandedly approved by judges and reflexively credited as legit by everyone who’s informed of them, have invested the words stalking and stalker with talismanic foreboding: “Ooh, a stalker.” I can’t count the number of women I’ve been told have or have had a “stalker” or “stalkers” (and the veracity of the woman who most recently impressed upon me her “stalker ordeal”—and hugged me afterwards for my sympathetic responses—I’ve been given exorbitant reason to doubt). Their eagerness to share sometimes reminds me of the pride people used to derive from having full dance cards.

Just last month I caught a story about a former Baywatch babe who was issued a restraining order petitioned by a woman whom the TV actress had labeled her “stalker” and gotten a restraining order against years prior: a mom with a young son who’d brought the actress presents (gasp!). The recent restraining order case had something to do with the two encountering each other at a community swimming pool.

I can certainly appreciate the karmic turnabout (and do), but enough already.

Real harm is caused by hyped and fraudulent allegations used to set state machinery in motion, and our being conditioned to respond to hysterical trumpery as if it signified something more than its purveyor’s egotism and self-exaltation has clouded detection of genuine mischief.

When someone casually drops that s/he’s being or has been “stalked,” we should be at least as suspicious as sympathetic.

Copyright © 2013