Face Mask or Baseball Bat?: Abuse of Domestic Violence Laws and Restraining Orders

Posted on March 26, 2014


“As a male victim of domestic violence, my voice was never heard by any responding police officer. In fact, when they arrived my batterer made false allegations against me [that] led to my arrest. Three years later, the Eloy Police Department settled out of court, admitting wrongdoing. Still, I lost my career, my name, and three years of income because of the sexist actions taken by Arizona law enforcement.”

—E-petition respondent

“As strange as it sounds, the very laws designed to help victims sometimes hurt them. After I spent over a year as a lead attorney in a specialized felony domestic violence court, I realized the potential for abuse of the domestic violence system. Often, perpetrators of domestic violence would twist the system by accusing their victims of domestic violence. On the theory that ‘the best defense is a good offense,’ batterers accused the victims to neutralize any claims they feared their victims would make against them. In addition, I have seen parties to family law cases make allegations of domestic violence to try to gain an advantage in a divorce proceeding as relates to custody or property settlements.”

—Family attorney Samantha D. Malloy

Everything that’s wrong with restraining orders becomes emphatically pronounced when you observe that a process originally conceived to provide relief to victims of domestic violence may easily be abused to magnify and compound their torments.

That abusers should eagerly embrace the opportunity to heap further pain on their victims (while simultaneously exculpating themselves) should hardly be shocking to anyone. What’s shocking is how readily this opportunity for offenders to reverse roles with their victims presents itself (which role-reversal, readers will note, the quoted attorney remarks occurs “often” not rarely, as is commonly posited by those hostile to exposure of the rampancy of false allegations and abuses of restraining orders).

To get a protective order, one must only complete and sign a petition “under oath” or “penalty of perjury.” The petition is given “ex parte” (in the absence of the accused and without their notice) to a judge, who will enter the order if certain necessary allegations are made. There is no trial or requirement of further evidence before the initial order is entered.

The subsequent hearing of testimony and evidence, typically prejudiced by the preconception that the accused is guilty, is furthermore answerable to no strict standard of proof (hence Ms. Malloy’s advertisement of her services). It’s too often the case that procurement of an “initial order” represents a fait accompli, because calculated histrionics, finger-pointing, and concocted allegations from a persuasive plaintiff (particularly a female plaintiff) are all but certain to clinch a favorable judgment.

Noteworthy finally is Ms. Malloy’s acknowledgment that false allegations of violence, which are devastating in the emotional oppression, humiliation, and social and professional havoc they wreak on the falsely accused, are used strategically to gain leverage in divorce proceedings.

None of this information is new. Its potency, however, is defused by feminist dogmatists and their sympathizers—who refuse to concede that false allegations are commonplace—with the claim that men’s rights or fathers’ rights groups sensationalize the frequency of false allegations or purvey false information about their frequency. If feminist hardliners were sincerely invested in social justice, they would ask practitioners in the field of law, particularly family law, what their impressions and perceptions are (based on real-life experience).

Ms. Malloy, who may well be an exceptional attorney but isn’t exceptional among attorneys in her acknowledgment that restraining orders are abused, advertises her services both to victims of domestic violence and victims of false allegations of domestic violence. If the dogmatists were right about false allegations’ being rare, or if the restraining order process were anything approaching fair and just, she wouldn’t have to switch-hit, would she?

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