Many cases of domestic violence (DV) result in an order of protection being issued. The protection order is based upon the personal report of the victim which is substantiated by police report and perceived risk and may be implemented 24 hours a day. The approval of a court judge or magistrate is generally required for its issuance. This order requires that the abuser “stay away” from the victim and is based on the totality of circumstances presented to a district or family court judge at the time of arrest. Police officers use report narratives to construct the details of the protection from abuse (PFA) or restraining order (RO). Different states utilize differing nomenclature to define what is the substantive court directive that provides the underpinning of a victim safety plan. They are granted on an emergency basis for 24-48 hours and are sustained for up to 6-12 months following a review by the court.
What happens between the time the initial PFA is granted and when the victim is expected in court to chronicle his or her intimate partner violence is often a mystery. Victims often fail to show for the initial hearing that allows the initial PFO to go away. Why? In some cases they become intimidated by their violent spouse who has made promises to straighten up and fly right. This is the core dynamic of intimate partner violence and it is well-described in these pages and elsewhere.
“Domestic violence is not random and unpredictable. There are red flags that trigger an emotional undulation that bears energy like the movement of tectonic plates beneath the sea.” according to Michael Sefton (2016).
In all states a protection order requires that no contact be made via telephone, through acquaintances, text messaging, or in person. By violating a PFO requires that law enforcement make an arrest of the person in violation. This information becomes the grist of the underlying risk to the victim. The marginalized abuser sometimes becomes obsessed with his loss of control and may take to cyber stalking in order to keep tabs on his partner. As just mentioned any violation of the protection order renders the abuser subject to arrest and should require a high amount of bail before he is released from jail. This is rarely the circumstance as violators easily make bail ironically blaming the victim as the root cause of the marital strain. These are the hubristic remarks of building tension and frustration described in the cycle of violence.
It is important to note that social media has given abusers extra means to “creep” into the privacy of estranged spouses without detection. It played a significant role in the domestic violence homicide according to the psychological autopsy report of the Dexter, Maine homicide/suicide in 2011 (Allanach, R. et al., 2011). Social media may also be used to intimidate and unfairly influence friends and family.
Bail amounts differ from state to state and sometimes even from county to county within a single state. The amount of bail should be high enough to inconvenience and deter the abuser from being tempted to coerce and manipulate his victim and family. Most often the bail amount is low and inconsequential to the abuser who often has no criminal record. However, changes in bail conditions and risk assessment must be integrated into orders of protection – especially when a single abuser has had more than one PFO filed against him. This sets the stage for measuring the degree of violence one might expect as the abuser becomes further marginalized and feels his control over the victim begin to collapse. “Someone with a history, particularly a continuing history of violence, can be presumed to be dangerous.” according to Frederick Neuman, MD.
The order of protection belies the fundamental safety plan that is crafted by police and domestic violence experts and is designed to prevent further victim injury or death.
Sefton, M. (2016) Blog post: DVH in MA: 4 year old child begs his father. https://msefton.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/dvh-in-ma-4-year-old-child-begs-father-not-to-murder-his-mother/. Taken 8-20-2018
Allanach R. et al., (2011). Psychological Autopsy of June 13, 2011, Dexter, Maine Domestic Violence Homicides and Suicide: Final Report 39 (Nov. 28, 2011), http://pinetreewatchdog.org/files/2011/12/Dexter-DVH-Psychological-Autopsy-Final-Report-112811-111.pdf.
Neuman, F. (2012) Is it possible to predict violent behavior? https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/fighting-fear/201212/is-it-possible-predict-violent-behavior?collection=113345