My Restraining Order Was More Than 'Just A Piece Of Paper'

by Aussa Lorens
Originally Published: 
A restraining order document and a hand holding a pen, ready to sign
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After I wrote about how it was easier for me to buy a gun than get a restraining order and how this is a problem, I expected to get some backlash — because you know, some people don’t think women should do things like speak and have opinions — but I didn’t expect to read this sentence over and over in the comment section:

“A restraining order is just a piece of paper.”

Where did this broken record of victim-blaming garbage even come from? It’s one of those actually-not-true ideas that’s seeped its way into our collective consciousness, like the belief that Napoleon was short (false) or you can’t touch a baby bird or its mom will reject it (also false).

And that wasn’t even the point of my article. It was saying, yes, previous domestic violence convictions often signal an increased likelihood of committing a large act of violence (like a public shooting), but the number of men who actually abuse women is mammoth compared to the number who are convicted for it, which means we should make it harder for people to get ahold of guns, because just screening (often without success) for previous domestic violations is clearly not enough to identify people with a propensity for going into a public place and killing as many people as possible.

Yet somehow everyone decided this was a great time to go yee-haw, get yerself a gun cuz the gubment ain’t gon protect you with a piece of paper.

Humans: Please, go on the internet. It is called the World Wide Web for a reason, and with it you can clue yourself into what appears to be a little known fact: The United States does not exist in a vacuum. This isn’t Planet ‘Murica where everything beyond our borders is a mysterious wasteland. There are dozens of other developed countries you can compare statistics with. Statistics are part of maths, and the maths don’t lie — they let us do things like walk around on the moon.

But here I am complaining about broken records, and I’m becoming one: because there isn’t a single person who will read this who hasn’t heard the exact same arguments before. So clearly there’s a reason you don’t want to believe it. Maybe you should just skip the next part and go to my FAQ. I wrote them for people just like you.

Here’s the thing: I get that if someone decides to hurt you, “damn the consequences,” it won’t matter whether you have a restraining order against them. That is literally why I bought a gun, humans. I also get that, for some women, enforcement of the restraining order was difficult or lacking. But please, for the love of god, don’t tell a woman who is being abused that it isn’t worth her trouble to seek legal protection. I shouldn’t have to strap up like I’m living in a war zone just because our country is full of fragile ego’d people who are terrified of facing their own insignificance by not being able to carry their very own but I could kill you if I wanted” trump card.

And don’t try to to tell me, someone who benefited from getting a restraining order, that it wasn’t worth it. Here’s why it’s more than just a piece of paper:

1. He actually left me alone.

This was after one single violation, where he called me on the phone. Guess what I did? I called the police to tell them he violated the restraining order. Guess what they did? They pressed charges. Guess why? Because that’s why restraining orders exist. Guess what would have happened if he did it again? It would have been a felony.

2. I didn’t have to work with him anymore.

My employer fired him because I’d gotten a restraining order against him. The internal affairs investigator told me “I don’t think we can do anything unless you get a restraining order against him” because they needed the legal clout of a judge’s discretion on their side.

3. I could insist on my right to safety.

When my ex sued for wrongful termination and I was subpoenaed to testify, I was able to have him removed from the courtroom because I had a restraining order against him. Hi, we all know I don’t shrink down from a fight, but I still didn’t want to have to look at his face just because he’d found yet another way to try to humiliate me. But hey, he had to sit in the hallway, and I got a police escort. Why? Because I had a restraining order.

4. I didn’t have to hear this bullshit question.

“Why did you wait so long to report it?” This is victim-blaming, and it needs to change, but until it does it’s on you to document everything, report him every time, and lovingly tend to the cultivation of a paper trail. Believe me, mine has its own box in my closet and folder on the cloud. It transforms “your word against his” into “now, if you’ll flip to page 82, I’ve included screenshots.”

5. It was a warning to every other woman he got involved with.

When he got a bit crazy, his next girlfriend googled him, saw my restraining order, and reached out because she was concerned for her young children. I sent her a Facebook message longer than this post, and she was like buh-bye to him. I wonder what would have happened if that hadn’t popped up when she googled him?

6. It was validating.

Standing up to my ex in a courtroom and telling the truth — about things I was irrationally ashamed to admit I let happen — and then hearing the judge rule that my concerns were warranted was an incredibly validating experience. This is what the naysayers don’t want you to know: It’s hard to control women and make them center their lives around you when they realize their thoughts, fears, and desire for safety and security are actually valid.

7. It helps you move forward.

If you have a restraining order, you can participate in a program that prevents your address from being published anywhere public.

And finally, if you’re still reading, here’s your FAQ ABOUT GUNS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

“But Aussa, if a man can’t get ahold of a gun, won’t he just kill you with his bare hands?”

It’s strange that instead of trying to come up with a way to stop men from killing women, you’re justifying their murderous behavior as inevitable. I’m pretty sure some impotent piece of human garbage like Devin Kelley would’ve been knocked out with a hymnal before he was able to kill anyone with his bare hands, much less 26 people.

Also, show me a person who can injure 500 people from his hotel room, using only a knife, and I will say, oh my god, wizards are real.

“Well, I’m such a badass I would never cower in fear like that. I’d take matters into my own hands. Don’t you think it’s better to just blow him to bits before he can kill you?”

Right. Because living in 2017 is apparently a kill or be killed situation. Are you really saying the burden should be on women to kill another human being? Possibly the father of their children? Possibly in front of their children? I bet you’re going to pay for their legal fees, daycare, and loss of employment when they have to go to court for killing someone. Don’t tell me “yeah, but they can say it was self-defense” because good luck proving this when you never sought legal help because “a restraining order is just a piece of paper.”

“But Aussa, what if the person you want to get a restraining order against is someone I like, like an NFL player or a popular actor. Don’t you think we should #forgive him like #jesus and be #blessed?”

I can’t wait until natural selection weeds out whatever part of your brain has made you like this.

“But Aussa, it’s more important for me to not feel wrong than to actually think about ways we could make the world safer and not have little children being murdered after Sunday school. Don’t you know how fragile my sense of self is?”

Oh, don’t worry. I can feel your fragility from here.

“But Aussa, don’t criminals just buy guns on the streets anyway?”

Hi, I’m not sure where you wandered in from, but we’re having a conversation about men who like to beat up their wives and girlfriends, not rehearsing a line of dialogue from The Wire. Why would anyone bother going “on the streets” when they could just pop by a sporting goods store and browse fish-shaped Bluetooth speakers whilst awaiting their 15-minute background check to go through?

“But Aussa, why do you hate America. Don’t you know how dangerous the rest of the world is?”

Dwight, you ignorant slut. I have never felt so safe as when I get outside this country, and I do very little to actually be safe while traveling. Let’s go back to the maths: The Bible Belt state from whence I came has a lower life expectancy than Mexico — 93 people are killed by guns every day in America, and in domestic violence situations, the presence of a gun makes it five times more likely for the woman to be shot and killed, leaving us with an average of 50 American women shot to death by an intimate partner every single month.

TLDR: Telling someone not to bother getting a restraining order because they might get killed anyway is like telling someone not to wear their seat belt because it won’t save them if they drive into a large body of water. And it’s victim blaming. It’s telling someone who’s being mistreated that the onus is on them to not get murdered because we care more about their abuser’s whining over their Second Amendment rights than we care about the victim’s life. Do better, humans.

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