Restraining Order Madness
By: Carey Roberts
Word has gotten out that CBS talk-show host David Letterman has been involved in a secret liaison these past several years. It began back in 1993 when Colleen Nestler of New Mexico began sending Mr. Letterman “thoughts of love,” and Letterman responded with televised code words and seductive eye gestures.
According to Ms. Nestler’s 6-page complaint, Letterman soon began to send her mental messages seeking her hand in marriage. But the relationship went sour. Alas, she found herself unable to sleep at night and was forced into bankruptcy.
Determined to fight back, Nestler sought legal protection. So this past December 15, Santa Fe judge Daniel Sanchez issued an order instructing Mr. Letterman to not “think of me, and release me from his mental harassment and hammering.” [source]
One might hope such bizarre events are rare. But it turns out they are commonplace. Each year, 500,000 domestic restraining orders are issued without even an allegation of violence, according to a recent report from R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting. [source]
These orders are often used as a legal tactic designed to gain an unfair advantage during a divorce proceeding. Columnist Cathy Young explains, “The advantages of a restraining order to the complainant — exclusive possession of the home (with the alleged abuser often required to continue paying the rent or mortgage), temporary and probably permanent sole custody of the children — can be tempting.” [source]
Case in point is actress Tawny Kitaen, who happened to be addicted to prescription drugs. In April 2002 she was arrested in Newport Beach, CA for attacking her husband, Cleveland Indians pitcher Chuck Finley, after repeatedly kicking him with her high-heeled shoes. [source]
Following her arrest, Finley filed for divorce and was granted temporary custody of the kids. So she dropped the nuclear bomb of family destruction, accusing Finley of domestic violence, even though she was the one who had been arrested and he had no prior history of abuse.
Domestic restraining orders were originally designed to protect persons from actual or imminent harm. But over the years, feminists convinced state legislators to expand the definition of domestic violence.
So now if you live in Michigan, placing a family member in fear of mental harm could get you thrown out. In New Jersey, interfering with your spouse’s “well-being” might get you the boot. In Illinois, be careful not to cause any form of “emotional distress,” that could get you in trouble with the law.
Now judges crank out orders like counterfeit one-dollar bills. “I think judges grant the restraining orders without asking too many questions,” admits former state Rep. Barbara Gray, a sponsor of the Massachusetts Abuse Prevention Act.
Once you’re out of the house, a broad range of once-normal behavior becomes off-limits. If your wife calls and leaves a message, don’t call her back – that’s considered a violation of the order. If one of your kids has a birthday, don’t send him a birthday card – that’s prohibited, too.
In most cases, the victim of restraining order abuse is a man. But in about 15% of cases, women are the victims of drive-by restraining orders.
How would you react if a friend of yours was fired from his job merely because a co-worker feared – but had absolutely no proof — he might do something violent? What would you think if a girl was expelled from school merely on the basis of an allegation that she was somehow harassing her classmates?
But with domestic orders the stakes are much higher – loss of family and home. New Jersey attorney David Heleniak puts it this way: “In 10 days, the hypothetical husband has gone from having a normal life with a wife, children and home to being a social pariah, homeless, poor, and alone, trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare.”
In the next few days, March Madness will reach its climactic finale. The victorious basketball team will bask in its newly-found glory, the colored streamers will be swept off the court, and college students will go back to their books.
But for the rest of us, the threat of another type of madness looms.
Carey Roberts is a Staff Writer for The New Media Alliance. Columns by this author can be read regularly on TheRealityCheck.org.