What To Expect After You File A Restraining Order: Part 3 - Documentation & Safety
Honestly, I never thought I’d be writing part three. I thought it was done—but it wasn’t.
(The first two posts in this series about restraining orders can be found here.)
So let’s talk about what happens after the restraining order is filed. Many women have reached out sharing similar stories and confirmed that what I experienced AFTER the protective order was filed and delivered is NOT the least bit uncommon. In fact, it just seems to be something to expect.
It got me thinking. I can help the women who have reached out to me (and others who happen upon my blog) by sharing online research techniques I've learned over the years. Working on cold cases with law enforcement has upped my investigative game, big time. Below, I share what I’ve learned from cops, others who are being harassed, and women just like me.
IT WON’T STOP
When I first spoke with the Flagstaff PD, the officer I spoke with said, “You know that when you file a restraining order, it doesn’t guarantee your safety, and you can pretty much bet he will try to get around the order by sending messages somehow.”
And she was right.
A few months ago, I received a message request in Facebook from a man I didn’t know. I accepted it not really knowing what to expect I would read, but at that moment, not expecting it to be something scathing and shaming. Turns out, it was just that. “Scott” told me how horrible I was for talking openly about the abuse I endured and lots of other lovely digs. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that this message could be my ex.
I wrote back that I thought it was so strange that he was writing me about something he had no experience with, and that maybe he should support women who report abuse versus shame them. I still, naively, didn’t think it was a fake profile. After I wrote back, I blocked him.
About an hour later, I received another message request from a woman named “Karen” claiming to be “Scott’s wife.” My jaw was on the floor. Who were these people who were so invested in shaming me for sharing my journey? Did they know my ex? Maybe I was a bit slow that day, or maybe I just generally believe people and what they are presenting, but I still thought it was real. Hours went by with me believing this was legit then suddenly...3…2…1…..it hit me. They aren’t real people at all. They are one person disguised to get the last word and circumvent the law.
Here’s where the tips come in. If something like this happens to you and you want to dive deeper into the fake profiles— proving they are indeed fake and tracing them to the harasser/subject of your protective order—give this a try:
Step 1: Download the profile photo of the profile. In my case, this is the photo attached to “Scott", who sent me the scathing message. (Click the "read more" button on the right to continue.)
I wrote a bit about the emotional rollercoaster I experienced while filing for and being granted a restraining order but I wanted to share a little more in hopes it will help the countless women I know in this position. I had no idea what to expect because I didn’t have any experience with the court system. I hope what I share below is helpful!
Here are SIX THINGS I wish I’d known or I feel are important to know from the get-go….
Do you need a lawyer to file for an order of protection? What does it cost to file?
No lawyer is needed, however; I did consult with law enforcement and one lawyer. It doesn’t cost anything monetarily to file. The forms were easily found online by looking up the Justice Court in our/your area.
What kind of proof do you need to show? (This is my experience in Arizona https://www.allenlawaz.com/order-of-protection-arizona/.)
In order to obtain an order of protection, the plaintiff must present the following to the court:
You will meet with the judge and a court reporter in a closed courtroom. You will be sworn in, etc, and it will take at least thirty minutes, from my experience. I wrote more about my experience in this blog; however, I will say I came to court armed with physical proof in the form of print outs of harassing emails to myself and co-workers, screenshots of online harassment at my place of work, and a police report from a domestic violence call.
What were some key points made by the judge?
The judge, in my case reiterated, that while this order is in place and protects me legally, that it truly does not protect me from domestic violence, if he chooses to come after me. He urged me to be aware at all times. What it DOES do is it makes it illegal for him to contact me in any way, shape, or form.
If the defendant lives out of state (which mine does), you have to pay a process server to serve him the order of protection before it was considered active. It’s not cheap. I paid roughly $500 and that was a steal. If the defendant dodges the serving (does not answer the door, etc), then you might have to pay extra for the server to do surveillance to serve him when he is out and about. This is exactly what happened to me.
What if the defendant doesn’t read the order?
It is still active no matter if he reads it or not as long as he is served. According to the process server (who writes up an affidavit with photos of the defendant when he serves him), he must touch the envelope. In my case—and in the case of many others who are dealing with not-so-ethical folks—they will deny their identity. In my case, he threw the unopened envelope on the ground and denied his identity before driving off. He also denied his identity when Flagstaff PD called to make sure he knew the order was in effect.
*Side note: The cop I was working with here in Flagstaff told me immediately that with these types of DV (Domestic Violence) cases, most of the time, the defendant will try to get around the system by sending some kind of message to the plaintiff. And sure enough, he did. He sent messages via fake Facebook profiles. I was able to trace the profiles back to him and provided the cops with the information.
If the defendant violates the no-contact order of protection, then a warrant for his arrest is issued.
With a shaky voice and a pit in my stomach, I told the judge what happened and why I needed an order of protection.
It was a surreal August day. The 18th of August, to be exact. After waiting hours to speak with a judge, I was ushered into a cold courtroom and led to a seat up front with a lone glass of water and a microphone. Much to my surprise, “you will meet with a judge” meant you will testify in a courtroom before a judge. I had it all worked out in my head hours earlier as I sat patiently on the hard benches of the courthouse—I would simply be meeting with him in chambers.
That was not how it played out.
I sat nervously next to my pile of harassing emails, a police report from a domestic disturbance call in May of 2016, and screenshots of online harassment that my employer shared with me. While I waited for the judge to enter the courtroom, I read over the papers for the thousandth time. I took deep breaths. I teared up a few times as the weight of the situation covered me like a heavy blanket. I willed myself to be strong no matter what I had to go through.
Just a few days earlier, unbeknownst to me, the man I gave my heart to for three years was reaching out via email to about 50 colleagues at the university (including the President) where I work, performing acts of cyber harassment on university-owned Facebook pages and much to my surprise, posting the article I wrote multiple times on my in-laws Facebook page under different page names he owns, like Ottomology and Question Mark. He was trying to defame me by sharing my personal blog post about how we met and the relationship that followed where I openly shared abuse I allowed, mistakes I made, and revelations that came (from other women telling me they had experienced similar) after the break-up. The university supported me 100% and blocked him on their servers. Publicly, he had written he was moving on from me—the woman he claimed suffers from borderline personality disorder—with peace and clarity. Privately, he was clearly quite busy behind the keyboard.
In addition to reaching out to the University, I was also threatened with an email stating that he was going to press charges against me for me writing about the relationship and “he would NEVER stop until he gets justice.” That was a day or two before he started his email campaign to the university.
Lawyers and local police took a look at what I was dealing with and advised me to go to the Justice Court and apply for an order of protection stating he could not contact me whatsoever anymore.
After I nervously spoke with the Judge and the court reporter for about thirty minutes, based on what I presented, the Judge agreed that an order of protection should be granted. I don’t know about other states, but here in Arizona, it’s not easy to get one of these. With mixed emotions, I gathered up my pile of papers and waited for the order to be handed to me by the court reporter. In those moments between the announcement that the order would be granted and when I walked out the door, I saw his face in my mind’s eye and I teared up. No matter what he had done to warrant a restraining order, I didn’t want to hurt him further. It was as if my heart and my head were in a tug of war.
Now that I had the official order in my hands, it was time to have it delivered to him and the only way to do that is through a constable (if he was local) or a process server in his area. All of this was new to me. I’ve never been through the court system so I asked a cop friend of mine if he knew anyone in that area. He recommended a great guy who held my hand through the process via email and text.
It took four tries, hours of surveillance, and close to $500 to serve him the order of protection. When he was finally served the document, he denied his identity when asked who he was, took the closed envelope, and left it on the ground. Photos of him were taken at the scene when he was served and are in the affidavit that the server sent back to me to file with the court and police.
On September 14, Flagstaff Police called him to reiterate the protection order—which he had not read because he left it on the ground—was active. He again denied his identity and the fact he was served. The cop emphasized that no matter what his thoughts were on the situation, the order was active now that he’s been officially served and there’s legal record of it.
Being a human really hurts, sometimes. Being a person who loved a person who is now legally prohibited from communicating comes with a mixed bag of emotions. My head knew I needed to stand up for myself and my heart still wanted to protect him. Maybe that’s part of recovering from an abusive relationship or maybe that’s just who I am—I don’t want to hurt others.
I am not comfortable being the proverbial bitch but I’m realizing that in some cases, standing up for myself no matter how scary or uncomfortable, is what is needed. And for the first time in my life, I realize doing so does not make me a bitch.