“There’s no changing a person if that’s the way they are.. You think you’re going to change them..” -anonymous
In the state of Nevada victims of domestic violence are allowed to obtain up to three temporary protection orders (TPO) against an individual, that last up to a year. It is very hard for victims of domestic violence to get protection order after a third one is granted. I spoke to a victim of domestic violence who is on her third TPO and still in fear for her safety. Nevada only allows TPO’s to last up to a year each time one is granted. Other states such as California allow victims to obtain a TPO lasting a lifetime of protection.
Speaking with Court Master Casey Campbell at the Reno Courthouse, she explained to me the process of which a victim of domestic violence would go about getting a Temporary Protection Order (TPO). There are many types of domestic violence in which someone could go to court to request a TPO. As physical violence is a given, mental and verbal violence are just as severe. In many cases Master Campbell has seen she says a lot of the time woman will not show up to prosecute the offender. In years before she was harder on the victims to prosecute their abuser, now she has a different stance on the issue. She states “You can’t judge, you don’t know. You have to put yourself in their shoes, and many can’t do it because they haven’t been in that situation before; or they’re protecting the children.” In cases where children are involved, it makes it harder for the victim to have the courage to get a TPO and get out of the relationship. They will make excuses for someone they love. It’s hard to follow through with legal actions.
For many victims they don’t see the warning signs of domestic violence and how it can escalate from verbal, to physical abuse. “I didn’t trust my first instinct on it” said anonymous. A man who had been stalking her for 10 years. He was extremely persistent on being with her. She let him down time after time explaining she was married. After her first marriage had ended she was at a loss. At a time of vulnerability her stalker had found out about her ended marriage and suddenly started popping up again. A year and a half after her divorce she gave him a chance taking it as maybe a sign from God that this could be a good thing.
Coming from a family that held marriage to such high standards and divorce wasn’t a reality for them, she wanted this relationship to last for the long hall. “I didn’t realize he was pretty much lying the whole time, because it’s very hard to recognize when a man is lying, they can charm you.” she said. After living together for over a year he insisted on eloping. With invitations sent out to both families about the ceremony, no one showed up from either side. Immediately after the ceremony was done something switched in her new husband. Not opening the door for her she was taken back that her now husband was not being very gentleman like. He got in the car kicking her side of the door open telling her “Get inside! This is going to be my way or no way, and if you don’t like it you can go right back inside and let’s get a divorce right now.” Telling her over and over “You better get used to it bitch”, she was too embarrassed to tell her parents or anyone involved.
She thought if she just took a step back things would get better. If it was going to be his way, or else she wanted to try it out thinking it may not be a bad thing. After the first three years of marriage, it has become his way all of the time. She says she felt very scared, but knew she could handle it. She felt she needed to change herself being involved with this man. It was a twelve-year marriage filled with nothing but stress and fear for her life.
Two months shy of two years he started to show a serious drinking problem she had not been aware of prior to the marriage. “Drinking set him into a bipolar state, and he was never honest with me that he had mental issues.” She explained how he filled the kitchen cupboards with numerous medications he was taking with alcohol. He started threatening her life and the lives of her parents, an unbelievable violence she had never been exposed to. His obsessiveness over being in control made her walk on eggshells, not even being able to touch the remote because it would set him off.
“He grabbed a sledgehammer from the garage and started pounding it on a pole. Sparks were coming off of this poll and he started threatening my life if I left. I was scared to death. He came after me, he went for my throat, he tried punching me. I got out into my car and he held the garage button. Grabbing the sledge hammer, and again pounded it on the pole. As he hit the poll he told me this was what was going to happen to me if I left. So, I didn’t.. I was so scared for my life I didn’t leave.”
This set the precedent for him to get away with things like that for the next 10 years. She jotted down terrible things he did, said, or threatened on pieces of napkins, paper bags, anything she could find and would stuff it in her pocket, and shove it in a filing cabinet. She wanted to make sure that if anything happened to her that they would find this as proof of whatever lies he would have created to say it was her fault, to get away with it.
His words of terror started to redirect from not just her, but to her family the children she taught. Stating that he would rape her students and her parents. He was always around the house watching her almost every move. Her home that she had lived in for over eight years before marrying him was starting to be filled with his belongings, as he started to throw things that belonged to her. What started to seem like a plan to get her out of the house one way or another, so he could take over everything.
Constant violence brought her to the decision of either letting him kill her, destroy her mentally, or to somehow get away. Finally, after 10 years of this every 3 month out explosion she was able to get him to go on a vacation with his family. Relief struck her when he agreed to go on the vacation without her. He made sure to explain he would be keeping tabs on her, and that he did. Sending her about 20 texts a day throughout the whole vacation. She was careful to act like everything was fine, but little to his knowledge she was in the process of getting out and fighting for her life.
She got in contact with a lawyer, and the police department of how she was going to get a restraining order on him. As the eight days came to an end she was full of fear as she moved all of her belonging into storage and changed all of the locks on the doors along with getting a new security system. The thought still stuck in the back of her mind if he was going to come home early and kill her. She was doing this all by herself with little to no support from anyone. She put a big emphasis on that when you make the decision to free yourself, you will be doing it all on your own. The people around you won’t take you serious enough or feel that you chose this spouse and it’s your fault. With no one to believe her, he had manipulated people around her. Charming them, and making them believe she was a liar. She had been stuck living with an insane person that no one even knew existed behind his facade.
Finally a call came in at 10:01 pm that he has been served with the legal documents which consisted of divorce papers, and a TPO. She was free knowing she never had to see him again. Shortly after he got the papers, he continued to stalk her. With a 17 page journal documented of the violence during the marriage, she had an additional five page journal of the stalking he did after the divorce. She came to realize this was going to be the rest of her life with her ex husband, him stalking her.
She is now on her third restraining order from the original TPO. Even with all of the legal actions, she still see’s his car driving by her house three times a week. Telling her neighbors that he can’t wait until September when the order is up, she still lives in fear.
The state of Nevada makes it extremely hard to obtain more than three restraining orders against a person. Once you have reached three, they do not grant much protection to further help a victim.
Victims like the one I spoke to live in fear not knowing if their attacker will come after them again and potentially kill them. Awareness for domestic violence needs to be made into a more serious issue. Our legal system needs to stand up for the victims and protect them through life long protection orders. Unless our legal system changes, we leave all victims at high risk of mental and physical damage.
I hope this will help other victims get out before it is too late. By this woman sharing her story I aspire it will bring more awareness to those who know little about domestic violence. We need to teach young children about the dangers of domestic violence, and help bring awareness so that future generations will know when to leave a relationship the second it starts to become violent in any way. We need to stand up for victims and support anyone going through this type of violence.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or want to know more, please visit http://www.thehotline.org/ or call 1.800.799.SAFE
Photo Credit: http://www.ingridrichter.org/cheese/fear.html