Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Ever Really Work?


While watching a news story last night, the question came up, “How come all news stories about restraining orders are about ones that are violated?  Does that prove that restraining orders are useless?”

Besides the obvious answer that it’s not news if the restraining order is obeyed and no one is bothered again, I decided to find out if the effectiveness of restraining orders has been studied.

In a quick Google search, I found a large number of hits.  Here are two.

Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Ever Really Work?

But just how effective are restraining orders in these highly-emotional, always-volatile situations, where a piece of official-looking paper is supposed to serve as a figurative bulletproof shield?  Studies on the efficacy of TROs vary widely, with one suggesting they are effective in keeping victims safe about 85 percent of the time, while another report suggests a less optimistic 15 percent success rate. So let us split the difference and say that restraining orders work about half the time and the other half, they don’t. Why or why not?

This is an article by someone involved in the field.  There article has a lot of speculation on why the outcomes are the way they are.

I also found Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges.

Chapter 7. Judicial Responses
Section 11 — Do protective orders work?

The research has not been able to answer this question definitively, mainly because it is not ethically permissible to randomly grant or deny protective orders to compare results. Furthermore, these orders may “work” at different levels.
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Implications for Judges

Victims should be encouraged to take out protective orders and retain them but should also be advised that the orders do not deter all abusers and may be more effective when accompanied by criminal prosecution of the abuser. (Research basis: Numerous studies indicating consistent victim satisfaction with orders, complemented by studies that have consistently found that orders do not appear to significantly increase the risk of reabuse and may deter some abusers.)

This one is just one section of one chapter.  There is a lot more to be learned about the subject from this source.

The upshot is that the topic is the subject of much research.  Laws are not passed completely blindly with no tracking of the results of the law.

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