Restraining Orders Fail Victims, So Why Does the Abuse Industry Push for Them?, WAVE Columnist Asks

WASHINGTON / March 12, 2012 – Restraining orders don’t help victims and waste taxpayer resources, claims Crystal Smoot in her recent editorial (1). So why aren’t abuse-reduction advocates pushing for criminal justice programs that work?, she asks. Smoot’s article was recently published at the Women Against VAWA Excess (WAVE) website.

Smoot highlights an early Colorado case in which a restraining order failed to prevent the killing of three young girls.

The case, Gonzales v. Castle Rock, was eventually heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, with Department of Justice officials arguing restraining orders are issued too frequently and often unnecessarily. In 2005 the Court ruled that Gonzales did not have a constitutional due process right to enforce the order.

Prosecutors, researchers, and women’s advocates believe restraining orders are ineffective:

1. Prosecutors have concluded, “Many stakeholders do not believe that orders of protection are an effective means of securing the safety of the complainant.” (2)

2. One research study found that having an order had no impact on threats of property damage, severe violence, or other forms of physical violence. (3)

3. One report states, “All observers agree that—at least until they are violated—a civil protection order is useless with the ‘hard core’ batterer.” (4)

4. The Independent Women’s Forum notes that restraining orders only “lull women into a false sense of security.” (5)

Given these experiences, Smoot calls for the development of local resources and better police protections, not more restraining orders that fail to halt the violence.

Women Against VAWA Excess fosters open discussion and debate about the effectiveness and social impact of the federal Violence Against Women Act.

(1)   Smoot C. The Gonzales tragedy: Wouldn’t it have been better to campaign for more police? March 9, 2012.

(2)   Gavin C and Puffett NK. Criminal Domestic Violence Case Processing: A Case Study of the Five Boroughs of New York City. New York: Center for Court Innovation, 2005, p. 30.

(3)   Harrell A and Smith B. Effects of restraining orders on domestic violence victims. In Buzawa C and Buzawa E (eds.): Do Arrests and Restraining Orders Work? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1996, p. 229.

(4)   Finn P. Civil protection orders: A flawed opportunity for intervention. In Steinman M (ed.): Woman Battering: Policy Responses. Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing Co., 1991.

(5)   Independent Women’s Forum. Domestic Violence: An In-Depth Analysis. Washington, DC, 2005.

Contact: Teri Stoddard, 301-801-0608,