Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Three days after Zina Haughton’s request for a restraining order against her estranged husband was granted by a Milwaukee County judge, the Brown Deer woman was dead.
Radcliffe Haughton went on a shooting rampage at a Brookfield spa on Oct. 21, killing his wife and two others before killing himself.
It was a grim reminder of the limitations of restraining orders in preventing deadly acts.
“At the end of the day, it’s a piece of paper,” said Julie Fevola, executive director of Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services Inc.
Still, Fevola thinks restraining orders serve a valuable purpose for those who are coping with abusive situations.
“It is a piece of paper, but there’s teeth behind it,” said Fevola, whose agency assists more than 100 people every year in getting restraining orders.
The first step is obtaining a temporary restraining order; the second — and final — step is an injunction, which lasts up to four years. They are civil, not criminal, orders that prohibit perpetrators from contacting victims. Those who violate the orders are subject to criminal penalties.
“As (the Brookfield) incident shows, the restraining order isn’t the end-all, be-all,” Fevola said. “But it can be followed up on if it is violated. It really is (intended) to protect the victim from having contact with the perpetrator.”
Beth Schnorr, executive director of the Appleton-based Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, said restraining orders must be accompanied by safety measures to be effective.
“It can be just a piece of paper unless you include it in an overall safety plan,” she said.
Those plans typically include having an escape route from a residence in case a dispute arises, having a bag packed and kept at a relative or friend’s home in case a victim has to leave quickly, and telling neighbors to call police if they hear a disturbance at a victim’s home.
Schnorr said restraining orders typically are granted when physical abuse has occurred and when individuals believe they are in imminent danger.
Annually, Harbor House assists 100 to 120 domestic abuse victims in preparing the paperwork for a temporary restraining order. There is no fee to file such a request with the court.
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