“Trapped”: Betty’s Story of Restraining Order Abuse

Posted on January 2, 2015


Betty Krachey says she only wishes she had superpowers. She has, nevertheless, been flexing her muscles pretty impressively for a former drugstore clerk.

Betty launched a website and e-petition not long ago to bring flaws in the administration of restraining orders and the need to hold false accusers accountable to the attention of lawmakers in her home state of Tennessee (and beyond). Betty emphasizes that restraining orders can be “taken out on innocent people based on false allegations so a vindictive person can gain control with the help of authorities.” She stresses, too, that “false accusers are being allowed to walk away and pay NO consequences for swearing to lies to get these orders.”

Betty’s charges shouldn’t be revelations; opponents of restraining order laws (and related laws inspired by violence against women) have been saying what Betty is for years. What makes her denunciations eye-opening is that they’re coming from an injured woman who refuses to take her licks and silently retreat into the shadows like she’s supposed to do. Besides that, the typical rebuttals to complaints like Betty’s, rebuttals that play to our sympathies for abused women, don’t apply.

Betty is an abused woman. She was nearly deprived of her home and consigned to the curb, for no reason, like yesterday’s trash (a situation others find themselves in every day). Betty’s story, as she tells it, corresponds moreover to those of women who are considered victims of emotional abuse (which state statutes may classify as “domestic violence”).

I used to be a very private person—till all this crap—and told very few people my business, so everyone thought everything was going good with me and [him]. They had no idea I was living with someone I felt trapped with. I could NEVER talk to him or even ask him a question without him blowing up. That’s not a very happy life to live with someone. Even though I never told others how bad things were at home, I NEVER made it a secret to [him] that I wanted to leave…! I never posted lies on Facebook or emailed my friends telling them lies about [him] like he did me to try to get people to feel sorry for me and think [he] was such a bad person. Now that I think about it, he’s always played the victim….

The counterclaim feminists inevitably reach for to bat away complaints of restraining order abuse like Betty has made is that invisible, voiceless legions of battered women never receive justice, so tough luck, Charlie Brown, if you’re not treated fairly. The argument appeals to pathos, but its influence on our laws and justice system is plainly corrupt. Remarking that there are starving children in India has never made and never will make broccoli taste like cheesecake. It’s not the place of our justice system to punish people for things they haven’t done, let alone to blame them for the imagined crimes of strangers.

The posited pains and privations of unnamed others don’t justify running an innocent person through the wringer, female or male. Publicly implicating people as batterers and creeps based on superficial claims scrawled on forms and mouthed in five-minute meetings with judges shouldn’t be possible in a developed society. On these grounds, citizens are cast out of their homes by agents of the state, as Betty almost was.

Our courts take no interest in the lives they invade and often derail or devastate. The people restraining order judges summarily condemn are just names on forms; judges may never even know what the owners of those names look like—forget about who they are.

Let’s meet one.

Betty’s story begins in 1992 when she moved from Florida to Tennessee with her boyfriend, and the two built a house and life together there.

The circumstances that led to Betty’s being falsely accused by her boyfriend decades later are cliché. He slimmed down in midlife, she says, and began “cheating on me with younger girls…. So he had to figure out a way to get my half of our house from me.”

A protection order fit the bill perfectly: no muss, no fuss, and no division of assets. The boyfriend would be granted sole entitlement to the house that Jack and Jill built. Jill, with a little shove, would tumble down the hill alone, and an empty bucket to collect handouts in is all she’d end up with.

His first plan was to bully and threaten me into signing over my half of the house by signing a quitclaim deed. He had told me he would give me $50K, which…I knew I’d never see, and he promised me this would be my best deal. And if I did not sign the house over to him, he let me know I would lose everything I had worked my ass off for. “You watch and see, I promise you that,” he would tell me over and over.

Betty says she was tempted to sign. One of her dearest companions, her Doberman Dragon, had died, and Betty reckoned she could provide for her remaining dog, Lacy, by herself. “One reason I stayed was for my dogs,” she admits. “I had been wanting to leave…for years.” She and her boyfriend had effectively separated, and Betty intuited her boyfriend “knew he wasn’t going to be able to trick me into staying and paying half the bills much longer,” and she planned to call it quits. But he beat her to the punch.

His next plan, with the advice from his awesome friend, was to get the police involved and then to file the order of protection on me to get me kicked out of the house! If it weren’t for my lawyer, I would have had to leave my home from Aug. 29th to the court date Sept. 12th! [He, the ex] knew and did NOT care one teeny tiny bit that I had NOWHERE TO GO! Plus I had Lacy to worry about. [He] had moved out of our house August 6th and wasn’t even living in the home at the time he did this. [He] has another house to live in that has everything he needs. I had NOTHING else and nowhere else to go!

Betty’s situation mirrors that of many others who are falsely accused by domestic partners. Those not so lucky to have (or to be able to afford) effective legal representation may find themselves abruptly homeless (besides jobless and penniless, in cases), sleeping in their cars, sheltering with strangers, or living on the street. These are people who the day before may have been living normal, comfortable middleclass or even upper-middleclass lives.

On our court date—Sept 12th—the order of protection was dropped. My lawyer told me I was right: “This is all about the house and YOUR money you have coming from your business you sold.” I knew it!! And [he, the ex] wanted ME to pay the court costs for this!

The best laid plans of lice and men go oft astray. Betty quips, “All I can say is [he] had a lot more to be concerned about than me causing him ‘bodily harm’!”

Betty’s been in touch with a Tennessee state representative who’s indicated to her that she has “a good chance at getting [the] law changed. But he said the soonest it will go into effect is July 2015, and he let me know that means it will NOT help me with what my ex did to me, because he filed his false report on me in August!”

Besides singlehandedly pressing for reform of one of the most intransigent legal mockeries ever conceived, she’s considering a lawsuit.

Happy New Year, Betty.

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