Rhode Island law provides for persons subject to physical violence or threats that create a reasonable fear of imminent physical harm to obtain from the court an Order of Protection for that physical violence or threat of imminent physical harm.
This Order is most often sought by women who represent to the court that they are in fear of their husband or significant other based upon some recent conduct he has done. The Order typically restrains and enjoins the man from harassing, molesting, stalking, cyber-stalking or in any way contacting the complainant at home, at work or on the street. The Order may also require the threating party to leave the marital home or the residence where both parties may reside until the matter may be heard within three (3) weeks after the judge grants the initial Order based solely upon the claimant's affidavit.
Perhaps the biggest mistake serious complainants who have been threatened or harmed make is to appear at the hearing three (3) weeks later without a Rhode Island family law lawyer and dismiss the complaint. This could be for any number of reasons, including a change of heart, a continued hope that the abuser will change, guilt associated with excluding the father from his home or children, or pressure from other family members.
I mention this because most often what occurs is this. The abuser is allowed to continue the course of conduct he or she has caused or is not taught that this conduct is unacceptable. Abusers typically will continue to contact the complainant even after they have been served with the Protection from Abuse Order. Regrettably, the complainant who has obtained the Protection from Abuse Order allows this conduct and does not call the police to have the Order enforced. Unfortunately, it is often because the "contact" is often apologetic, endearing and pleading by the abuser in an effort to get the complainant to do exactly what I have mentioned here, namely to go to the court hearing in three (3) weeks and drop the Protection from Abuse Order.
What the complainant should be considering are questions such as the ones listed below in order to avoid making a big mistake.
1) How long have you had a relationship with the abuser?
2) How extreme was the conduct of the abuser when compared to the length of the relationship
3) Is this a one time instance of abuse or has the abusive conduct been gradually increasing?
4) If you have children, will this choice be the best for the child or children or will you be subjecting them to further abuse?
5) Are you being guilted into this decision? Or are family members pressuring you to drop this?
6) Do you honestly believe that the abuser has changed in just a few short weeks
Complainants should seriously question their decision to drop a Protection from Abuse Order. The law is there to protect you. If your complaint is genuine, the use of the law is appropriate and you could return to court in the future to ask the court to remove the Protection from Abuse Order. However, it is unwise to disillusion yourself into thinking that the abusing party has changed in such a short period of time.
To the contrary, if you have used the system simply to teach the "alleged abuser" a lesson, then do the court and everyone else a favor and drop the restraining order. You are wasting your time, the court's time and resources and misusing the law for your own purposes which the law wasn't intended to address.
Christopher A. Pearsall
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West Warwick, RI 02893
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