Not only are restraining orders extremely hard to obtain, they’re fairly useless. Sure, if the person being restrained violates the order he or she can be carted off the jail (more likely, slapped on the wrist), but that’s once the police get there. And when a woman is being beat or attacked, two minutes can be a long time to wait for police to arrive (no, I’m not being sexist. Statistically, women are more likely to get restraining orders).
Take the case of 30 year-old Sophia Garcia, a Chicago woman who was found dead in her home Monday evening. A bag over her head, Sophia spent the last moments of her life gasping for air. Sophia’s three children (ages 6-11) are missing, alleged taken by their father, Benito Casanova. Despite the order of protection granted to Sophia and her children in 2006 and again in February 2007 (which extended until March 2009), Sophia’s cold, dead body is lying in a Chicago-area morgue and her children’s faces are plastered everywhere thanks to the Amber Alert system (full story).
According to an article in the Chicagon Sun-Times, Sophia told police time and again that Casanova allegedly threatened to kill her. The article also states the the order of protection granted to Sophia was lifted because she missed a court day scheduled for last month giving Casanova the perfect chance to go after his prey (allegedly). Of course, if she had made her court date, this could have all been avoided, right? Probably not. Eventually, Casanova was going to make good on his promise–he was going to kill Sophia (allegedly). A piece of paper would have allowed Sophia a bit of protection, but really if the guy tried to strangle her, what could she do? Give him a paper cut? The guy is 6’1″ and weights 230 pounds–my guess is that he could easily have overpowered Sophia.
At least a restraining order gave Sophia legal protection as well as proof that Casanova was violent in the past. But it wasn’t enough to save her life, not when it really counted. Who knows why she didn’t appear in court that day? Perhaps she had to work (she was a single mother of three!) or maybe she was threatened or maybe she forgot. Whatever the reason, Sophia Garcia didn’t deserve to fie–not at 30 years of age, not with a bag over her head, not at the hands of her estranged husband, and not because the system failed her.
The truth is that restraining orders, even when in effect, offer false protection. A piece of paper isn’t an armed guard or a gun or a pit bull; it just states the obvious–violent people are violent and dangerous. It says that women and children should not endure the abuse given to them by a husband and father. It states what we all know to be true; this type of behavior is deplorable, unexcusable, and disgusting. But it can’t do what it’s supposed to–actually protect victims from abuse.