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Firstly, as a premise, what is the legal effect of expressly asking one not to contact them? Does it alter the nature of any future attempts to do so that are not of a legal-procedural nature? Off the cursory top of my head, I cannot think of any decisive way in which it would (such as a trespass warning in the United States would render future visits to a property a criminal offence) other than perhaps changing potential future police attitudes towards each party in future attendances of disputes, or perhaps in a less clear cut way it could render the future contact arguable harassment under the protection from harassment act.

Onto the meat then, of the question… Alice is in an abusive relationship which she has left many times, always regretting previously again returning to it each time and wishing she wouldn’t be so desperate as to have gone back yet once more.

All of her friends admonish her that the abusive relationship is destroying her and reducing her to sheer ruin over the course of several years.

She begins seeing a therapist who urges her to leave it permanently, but her abusive predator partner always comes back to entice her when she is most desperate.

On one occasion she reports the situation to the police but just knows inside that like so many times before she may succumb again to her desperation.

The two pieces of the solution are discouraging her predatory ex from making future attempts at contact and enticing her to return to him, and obviously, reinforcing her own willpower to resist any temptations that are put forth.

If she is sufficiently strong willed then simply giving a clear and firm do not contact notice would solve the problem but if she can always be tempted to waive and negate it subsequently to issuing one, then it is useless. When Alice is with her friends, or taking stock of the situation in a more sober setting such as with her therapist or the police, she always vows never to go back, and it is only when she is lonely, isolated and desperate that she succumbs to her ex’s demonic temptations.

If while she is with the police she wishes to issue a notice to her ex never to contact her again (ideally that would have some actual fangs in repercussions for violating it) that is not possible for her to later override under temptation, at least insofar as removing the disincentive/repercussions for her ex to recontact her, what wording or device can she use to achieve this?

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    I could be off-base here, but it feels like this question isn't really coming from a place of deep understanding of why victims stay with domestic abusers. Its as if we asked about laws to encourage and expect burglary victims move to a different neighborhood.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 19:31
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    @T.E.D. I think an inability to waive it is the main thing and that is a big factor in protective orders (people subject to them are frequently warned that permission from the protected person is not a defense). "if she can always be tempted to waive and negate it subsequently to issuing one, then it is useless.... she wishes to issue a notice to her ex never to contact her again (ideally that would have...repercussions for violating it) that is not possible for her to later override under temptation, at least insofar as removing the disincentive/repercussions for her ex to recontact her"
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 19:47
  • @ohwilleke - I dunno. I have a bit of experience with this as a bystander, and RO's don't really appear to be much of a deterrent to harassment. I think you mentioned this in your answer too. Sometimes its useful to get the abuser to bug out once he's done a bit more harassing (or arrested if he won't bug out). It doesn't help that abusers are often master BS artists, and can sweet talk the cops. I know of at least one case where cops just laughed and told the victim what she really needed to get it to stop was a cop boyfriend (sadly, they were probably right).
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 20:00
  • This is a forum about law and accordingly any solutions given will inherently be subject to the limitations of legal remedies and of law itself. So, @T.E.D. It seems indeed as you are off base here and I am of no illusions as to why victims return to their abusers with no need to read your linked article. Ohwillele has done a great job of explaining how you are so mistaken. Commented May 23, 2023 at 20:35

1 Answer 1

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Generally, the relief sought in a case like this is a "restraining order" or a "protective order". One might also pursue a criminal prosecution for stalking in the appropriate circumstances.

Typically, if one can meet the high standard for issuance of such an order, a court issues a temporary order ex parte (i.e. based only upon what you have said and evidence you have provided) and then sets the matter for a hearing at which the person against whom the order is sought can defend themselves in court in a fairly short time period.

If the judge finds that the high threshold to issue to order is met after considering the evidence at an adversarial evidentiary hearing, then the order becomes permanent or in force for a long period of time.

The circumstances that can justify the issuance of such an order vary from state to state but usually must involve either a clear risk of serious physical harm or extreme harassment short of physical harm.

Generally a court's restraining order or protective order cannot be waived by the protected person without another court order vacating it.

Unlike most court orders, protection orders can usually be enforced directly by law enforcement rather than solely in an after the fact contempt of court proceeding in the court that issued the order originally. This said, even though the law may say that enforcing a protection order is mandatory, in practice, law enforcement discretion means that it is not. See Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005).

Also, as a matter of practical reality, law enforcement is often not able to stop someone who is violating a restraining order before it is too later, or because law enforcement is unable to confirm that a cyber stalker really is the person against whom a protection order has been issued.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a case from Colorado regarding what kind of evidence that someone's communications amount to a "true threat" that is sufficient to justify legal consequences for this kind of contact.

Simply continuing to contact you after you ask them to not contact you is rarely sufficient. But if someone who repeatedly contacts you in a way that you make clear is unwanted this is one factor among many used to consider if the conduct justifies issuance of an order or a criminal prosecution of some kind such as a stalking prosecution.

Repeatedly contacting someone against their wishes can also get someone banned from an online platform outside the court process. Many online platforms have developed filters, blocking, and privacy controls in an attempt to make it harder to engage in this kind of conduct.

The cycle of behavior of a victim in this case is a common one and it can make it very frustrating for lawyers, law enforcement, and other supportive people to help someone in this situation. I've certainly seen it play out first hand.

In Colorado, the primary statutes are found at Colorado Revised Statutes, Sections 13-14-100.2 to 13-14.5-111. Colorado also imposes protection orders on a temporary basis during the divorce proceedings, many kinds of criminal cases, and certain other family law cases. Under the most common kind of case under these statutes, an order may be issued to:

(I) To prevent assaults and threatened bodily harm;

(II) To prevent domestic abuse;

(III) To prevent emotional abuse of the elderly or of an at-risk adult;

(IV) To prevent sexual assault or abuse; and

(V) To prevent stalking.

Some select definitions used include:

“Abuse of the elderly or of an at-risk adult” means mistreatment of a person who is sixty years of age or older or who is an at-risk adult as defined in section 26-3.1-101(1.5), including but not limited to repeated acts that: (a) Constitute verbal threats or assaults; (b) Constitute verbal harassment; (c) Result in the inappropriate use or the threat of inappropriate use of medications; (d) Result in the inappropriate use of physical or chemical restraints; (e) Result in the misuse of power or authority granted to a person through a power of attorney or by a court in a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding that results in unreasonable confinement or restriction of liberty; or (f) Constitute threats or acts of violence against, or the taking, transferring, concealing, harming, or disposing of, an animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by the elderly or at-risk adult, which threats or acts are intended to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or exact revenge upon the elderly or at-risk adult.

“Domestic abuse” means any act, attempted act, or threatened act of violence, stalking, harassment, or coercion that is committed by any person against another person to whom the actor is currently or was formerly related, or with whom the actor is living or has lived in the same domicile, or with whom the actor is involved or has been involved in an intimate relationship. A sexual relationship may be an indicator of an intimate relationship but is never a necessary condition for finding an intimate relationship. For purposes of this subsection (2), “coercion” includes compelling a person by force, threat of force, or intimidation to engage in conduct from which the person has the right or privilege to abstain, or to abstain from conduct in which the person has a right or privilege to engage. “Domestic abuse” may also include any act, attempted act, or threatened act of violence against: (a) The minor children of either of the parties; or (b) An animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either of the parties or by a minor child of either of the parties, which threat, act, or attempted act is intended to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or exact revenge upon either of the parties or a minor child of either of the parties.

“Sexual assault or abuse” means any act, attempted act, or threatened act of unlawful sexual behavior, as described in section 16-11.7-102(3), C.R.S., by any person against another person regardless of the relationship between the actor and the petitioner.

“Stalking” means any act, attempted act, or threatened act of stalking as described in section 18-3-602, C.R.S.

The referenced section defines stalking as follows:

A person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, the person knowingly:

(a) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship; or

(b) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues; or

(c) Repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress. For purposes of this paragraph (c), a victim need not show that he or she received professional treatment or counseling to show that he or she suffered serious emotional distress.

(2) For the purposes of this part 6:

(a) Conduct "in connection with" a credible threat means acts that further, advance, promote, or have a continuity of purpose, and may occur before, during, or after the credible threat.

(b) "Credible threat" means a threat, physical action, or repeated conduct that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear for the person's safety or the safety of his or her immediate family or of someone with whom the person has or has had a continuing relationship. The threat need not be directly expressed if the totality of the conduct would cause a reasonable person such fear.

(c) "Immediate family" includes the person's spouse and the person's parent, grandparent, sibling, or child.

(d) "Repeated" or "repeatedly" means on more than one occasion.

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  • While I like this answer, it seems to mostly be about straight-up restraining orders? The question seemed to be more asking about something like a reverse-restraining order, where the victim is somehow prohibited from engaging in any further contact with the offender. The only thing like that I'm aware of is the occasional court order to keep one's kids away from an abusive parter (basically, if you want custody of your own kids, you can't live with the abuser).
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 19:41
  • @T.E.D. I don't actually think so. See my comment to the original question in response to your comment there.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 19:48
  • That is an angle I didn't think of, true.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 20:04
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    The OP has not given us details about the "abusive relationship"; in particular, there is no mention of criminal behavior like physical assault/injury. I suspect that the situation of the victim in the original question does not quite meet the high threshold of "clear risk of serious physical harm or extreme harassment". It is hard to use the law against a-holes in general and even more so in relationships. Commented May 23, 2023 at 21:08
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica A not small share of cases are close ones. Often whether or order is granted or not will come down to how vividly and specifically the conduct can be articulated by the person seeking relief. It turns out to be much harder to explain precisely what facts cause you feel threatened or creeped out than it is to state in a conclusory fashion that this is the case.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 1:29

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