A letter from Felicia, a reader, about the domestic violence system:
I was reading an article you wrote about Restraining Orders/Protective orders being overused in our judicial system. I wanted to share a story with you that has me really upset and I thought you might be interested.
My husband drank too much one night and we got into a nasty physical confrontation, ultimately resulting in a call to the police. He was taken to jail and charged with domestic violence. I teach Cardio kickboxing classes and when I mean we got into a fight, both of us were involved. I wasn’t a so-called “victim” and protected myself fairly well. As it turned out, my husband had more visible wounds than I did. When he was booked, the officer asked if his wife was arrested too based on his injuries.
He served four days in jail prior to me bailing him out. Since his release, he has gone to AA meetings and is seeing a counselor as well as a couples counselor with me. We are on the right track to making things better and our relationship has taken a positive turn. All this work has been done without any court orders, as my husband decided to do them on his own.
I attended his arraignment with the intention of fighting a restraining order. (I just want to note that I get nervous in court even for a traffic ticket). The commissioner asked me to step up to speak (standing about 10 ft away from my husband and near the sheriff). He said he was required to give me 2 options: file a no contact order or a peaceful contact order. Based on those 2 options, I chose the lesser of the two. I wasn’t given the option of not filing an order at all.
Once we left the courtroom, I felt coerced into filing a no contact order, whether that be a no contact or peaceful. Shouldn’t I have a right to not file one at all? Apparently, an automatic protective order/restraining order is placed regardless of the individual situation. As the “victim” in this case, why are my options limited? I spoke with the DA’s office and they backtracked and talked in circles avoiding my questions.
The state of California doesn’t give the “victim” an option of pressing charges or filing a protection order – the state will do so regardless of what the “victim” wants. Shouldn’t I have a say as to what happens?
As a result, my husband and I cannot have an argument or disagree about anything in public, and if he accidentally breaks something he will go to jail (per the protection order). This protection order makes me feel just as uncomfortable as it does for him. Each DV case is different and protection orders are not always required – but in Ca. there is no choice.
So the victim’s have rights – the right to shut up and let the court system decide what’s best for ALL women involved in domestic violence. As a woman involved in a one-time domestic violence incident, I become a victim (true sense of the word) to the court system.
I am an intelligent, educated, strong-minded woman who knows what’s best for me. As it stands, all DV cases are handled the same way, regardless of the circumstances of the incident or the background of each person involved. It seems the approach is this: women are timid, naive, helpless and don’t know any better. I consider that an insult! This may be true for some women, but not for all women and a cookie cutter approach to every DV case is not the solution. The court system is imposing its authority and taking away my rights as a woman (aka the “victim”).