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‘It takes a village’ applies for enforcing restraining orders

A common point of view about restraining orders is that they are not worth much. A judge in a court signs a document that orders an abusive partner to stay away. That bears some legal weight. But it is not the same as putting the threatened person into protective custody.

Unfortunately, such a practice would likely be administratively impossible to pull off. According to the Louisiana Protective Order Registry, there are more than 16,000 orders in place currently in the state. But that should not be taken to suggest that someone threatened with domestic abuse should dismiss getting a restraining order out of hand.

As we have observed in this blog previously, research studies indicate that when fully leveraged, such orders can be effective. But it often requires going beyond simply seeking a temporary order and going for long-term protection. When that action step is taken, the data reveals that the consequences of possible incarceration for a violation serve as a deterrent.

To be sure, as a recent article in The Advocate showed, there are instances in which the issuing of an order can have the effect of triggering a violent reaction that can result in a fatal attack. But those situations tend to be outside the norm.

According to prosecutors in East Baton Rouge, the risk of violence tends to rise immediately ahead of and just after a restraining order hearing. But other experts suggest that there are fewer violations when police are prepared to exercise their authority to enforce the orders and arrest suspects when victims call.

Abuse victim advocates say another option that can enhance the effectiveness of orders is if a victim is willing to relocate temporarily or permanently. Sometimes prosecutors are willing to help in this regard. But many victims are unwilling to take that action.

The head of one domestic violence center says what really is needed is for the broader public to be more engaged in helping victims of abuse by knowing the signs of violence, how to guide victims to needed resources and how to report violations when they occur.

In other words, it’s something that really does take a village.

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