How Men Lie on Restraining Orders: A Tutorial for Feminists

Posted on May 18, 2014


The topic of this discussion is vicious men—not real men but the kind who’d make false allegations against a woman and ruin her for self-gratification or -gain.

Below is an excerpt from a standard restraining order form. Apply your imagination and consider how a man might exploit the opportunity it affords to trash a woman’s life. I’ll guide you. See the tick boxes and blanks? What he’d do is flick the cap off his Bic and write lies in the spaces provided. It only takes a few minutes.

A false complainant might allege, for example, that his girlfriend stalked him, coerced him into having sex, threatened to kill him, beat his daughter or made her smoke crack, etc. His motive might be revenge, or his motive might be to deflect blame from himself for actually engaging in the same or worse activities. Restraining order petitioners may be the real offenders, and the courts graciously provide them with the chance to compound their victims’ torment and walk away scot free. The first one up the courthouse steps is the “good guy.”

Besides a pen and a few minutes to kill, the only requisite for upending a woman’s life this way is a malicious will. For men to apply for false restraining orders against women is usually free (that is, the cost is covered by the taxpayer), as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) mandates it be.

All there is to making allegations on restraining orders is tick boxes and blanks, and there are no bounds imposed upon what allegations can be made. A false applicant merely writes whatever he wants in the spaces provided—and he can use additional pages if he’s feeling inspired. The basis for a woman’s being alleged to be a domestic abuser or even “armed and dangerous” is the unsubstantiated say-so of the petitioner. Can the defendant be a vegetarian single mom or an arthritic, 80-year-old great-grandmother? Sure. The judge who rules on the application won’t have met her and may never even learn what she looks like. She’s just a name.

The worst that happens is a fraudulently accused woman appears for a hearing after a week or two of sleepless nights (possibly spent living out of her car) and manages to persuade a judge that she’s not a stalker, child-beater, or whatever. Although even this won’t ensure the judge finds in her favor and dismisses the order, let’s say the judge does dismiss the order.

The false accuser is subject to no sanctions from the court and is at no risk of prosecution from the state, and it isn’t guaranteed that the dismissed restraining order will be expunged from the woman’s public record, which may be the public record of a kindergarten teacher, a therapist, or a police officer (even dismissed orders are stigmatizing and cost people jobs).

The man’s just out a little time and may still have cause to smirk.

And, anyway, he can always file for another restraining order later on. There’s no statutory ceiling on how many times he’s authorized by the state to do this. The sky’s the limit. He could even reapply for multiple restraining orders from different jurisdictions to up the fun.

High-conflict litigants can consume years of their targets’ lives like this. Between rounds of false allegations, their targets may languish in a personal hell, unable to reconcile themselves to betrayals and lies, unable to work in chosen professions because unable to rinse those lies from their public faces, and never knowing what to expect next or when. Whatever familial and social infrastructures depend on them may obviously crumble, besides.

How men lie on restraining orders and make wrecks of women’s lives—and how easily—should be clearer now.

How women lie on restraining orders and make wrecks of men’s and other women’s lives is exactly the same way.

Copyright © 2014