Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Laws of Eve | Making protection orders more effective

Published:Monday | November 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Victims of domestic violence often suffer in silence for a long time before taking a stand against their abusers. In many cases, the victim's response is to obtain protection and occupation orders (commonly referred to as restraining orders) which are intended to prevent the abuser from entering the places that the victim is known to frequent, such as the home, workplace and school, and to refrain from making telephone calls to harass the victim.

Although these orders are known to be effective, because the abuser can be immediately arrested and charged for violating them, breaches of the orders are also common. Regrettably, in many instances, when the orders are breached, victims complain that the police are either slow to respond by arresting the abuser or do not respond at all; and this is unacceptable because the victims may suffer gave harm, because the abusers are

unrestrained.

Victims of domestic violence need to continue to be encouraged to obtain protection orders, because they do have the effect of deterring abuse, but greater education is needed as to the ways in which the effectiveness of the orders can be increased. Below are some suggestions:

A person who obtains a protection order should not keep it a secret. It is necessary for family, friends, neighbours, employers, the guards at the workplace and home to be made aware of the existence of the order and given copies of them so that they know to alert the police and the victim if the abuser is violating the order. By doing this, the victim will give the abuser less of an opportunity for surprise and decrease the chances that the abuser will be able to make contact.

The victim of domestic violence must limit contact with the abuser by not accepting telephone calls or responding to text messages. Otherwise, the abuser may feel encouraged to continue to make contact and may even accuse the victim of inviting the interaction. If a victim wishes to reconcile with the abuser while a protective order is in effect, an application should be made to the court to discharge the order.

 

GETTING COUNSELLING

 

Both the victim and the abuser who participate in the court proceedings when a protection order is made may benefit from counselling in order to overcome the issues that led to domestic violence. It may be necessary to amend the Domestic Violence Act to make mandatory counselling a consequential order when protection orders are granted in an effort to encourage rehabilitation and to minimise the chances of the offence being repeated.

In serious cases, it may be necessary to monitor the abuser so that the police can be alerted if he or she enters restricted zones. In some countries, electronic ankle bracelets are utilised and private security companies are hired to monitor abusers. There are obvious cost restrictions to employing these methods; but unless the state has the resources, it may be worthwhile for them to be considered for use by those victims who can afford to pay for them.

It is very important for judges to carefully consider the appropriate duration of protection orders so that they are of appropriate length to give the victim a true sense of protection, and reduce the need to return to court too frequently to seek to renew them. If the order expires too soon, the abuser may simply wait to pounce on the victim.

In the end, the victim's vigilance and ability to steer clear of the abuser may be the most effective ways to avoid further abuse, but employing other available methods, such as the ones listed above, can also be helpful.

- Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner, mediator and arbitrator in the firm of Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co. Please send questions and comments to lawsofeve@gmail.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.