Feminist Reports Conclude Restraining Orders Don’t Work: Time to End the Experiment

Posted on June 16, 2014


The Internet is awash with images like these.

Restraining orders are defended on the basis that they protect female victims of domestic violence.

The most recent posts on this blog have stressed the constitutional violations that are necessarily entailed by the process. One of them reprints a 1995 New Jersey Law Journal exposé: “N.J. Judges Told to Ignore Rights in Abuse TROs” by Russ Bleemer. In various of the article’s quotations, the “epidemic” nature of domestic violence is emphasized. Almost 20 years later, you’ll discover by a casual Google search that domestic violence is still broadly termed “epidemic.”

If domestic violence was “epidemic” at the start of the restraining order boom, and it’s still “epidemic” two decades later after the issuance of millions or tens of millions of restraining orders, there are only a couple possible conclusions to be drawn: (1) restraining orders aren’t doing the job, or (2) restraining orders have exacerbated the problem.

Either of these conclusions leads to an inevitable third: the dividends of restraining orders are negligible if not negative. Juxtapose their negligible effectuality against the untold suffering they’ve wrought and continue to wreak, and legislators’ duty is clear: back to the drawing board.

The manifest unfairness of restraining order policy toward individual defendants is justified according to the belief that the overall benefit of restraining orders to society excuses large-scale civil rights’ violations and the abrogation of the most basic ethical tenets of law, like impartiality, diligent deliberation, and due process.

If the blanket benefit of restraining orders to the society as a whole is none, as feminists and others report—that is, if restraining orders haven’t actually downgraded the alert status of domestic violence from red after 30 years—then money is being flushed down the toilet along with the lives of restraining order defendants for no reasons but maintenance of appearances and appeasement of special interests.

No buts about it.

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