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Editorial | Island Voices

Filing for a TRO over the Internet is open to abuse

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The tragedies are unbearable. The precious girl, and her wonderful mother, whose lives were stolen from them and their community of beloved friends and family.

Of course, it is our hope, every time, a life is lost, that we are presented with new opportunities to examine what we do, how we do it, who needs us, what they need, and how to prevent dating violence, domestic violence and death.

The proposal to implement electronic filing for temporary restraining orders may or may not be a solution to anything. A recent news article captured an abbreviated excerpt of the longer conversation I had with the reporter ("Silent vigil will honor slain mom, daughter," Star-Advertiser, Aug. 25).

Electronic filing of a petition for a restraining order by a victim — those lucky enough to have access to a computer and able to use it effectively, and are English speaking — may create an option.

It may also contribute to further isolation, often experienced by victims of domestic violence.

If an abuser has similar access to electronic filing of petitions for a restraining order — which, of course, they will — the ability to pose as a victim is increased. Anyone can say anything on a computer.

The Judiciary, in its infinite wisdom, recognized many years ago the need for victims to receive information and support when they are filing for a temporary restraining order.

Taking the step of going to court, revealing the personal details of an intimate relationship, facing the abuser and abandoning the hope that the violence will stop are terrifying moments for a victim.

Seeking court protection is singularly the biggest first step a victim has to take.

Having your abuser served with a restraining order, appearing in court at the hearing where your abuser will be sitting less than 20 feet away, and suppressing the ambivalence, as well as the terror, is enough to make anyone shiver.

When victims go to court for a restraining order, they have the benefit of a conversation with a trained professional able to assist with safety planning, risk assessments, crisis intervention and referrals. Sitting alone in front of a computer screen eliminates all that assistance.

Obtaining a restraining order is a quick process in Hawaii now. If you are a victim, you can file the petition ex parte (you alone explaining why it is needed) and receive the order that same morning.

We are always asked about the effectiveness of restraining orders. At the Domestic Violence Action Center, and throughout the community of domestic violence professionals, they are viewed as important tools for safety.

They aren’t perfect for every victim. That is why victims are encouraged to call domestic violence programs for support, information and guidance.

The Family Court grants thousands of restraining orders annually. The vast majority of them work very well. The judge is able to convey a strong message about the abuse, the victim has been able to communicate the unwillingness to live with the abuse any longer, and the criminal justice system can intervene if there are violations.

Let us not rush to solutions that may not be effective, or cost-effective. Working together in the best interests of island families is our goal.

Nanci Kreidman is chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center in Honolulu.


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