Restraining-order applications and no-contact orders based on criminal complaints have foreshadowed the violent deaths of at least 11 Rhode Islanders since 2000, including the stabbing deaths of two abusive men slain by fearful women in self-defense, reports the Providence Journal. During this period, such orders, and the allegations of abuse that accompany them, preceded at least 20 percent of 55 domestic violence-related homicides involving men and women who had either lived together or engaged in romantic relationships.
A restraining order does not guarantee the safety of an abuse victim. “It's not a bulletproof vest,” says Deborah DeBare of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It's an order. That's what the advocates will make sure the victims understand.” Court orders do deter some batterers, but the papers serve another purpose: they document an escalation of domestic abuse in advance of lethal violence. Law enforcement and judicial systems in Rhode Island have stepped up efforts to identify high-risk cases and take effective preventative action, but there's also room for improvement, says Providence Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl.