Thursday, February 19, 2009

Orders of protection are not bulletproof

Neither are they sword-proof.

Another illustration of this sad truth comes in this AP story out of suburban Buffalo (the link is to WBBM Newsradio 780 in Chicago, where Long Suffering Spouse first heard the story and called it to my attention) about Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan, a cable TV executive, accused of beheading his wife and business partner, Aasiya Hassan.

In happier days, the couple operated Bridges TV, a cable channel which, according to Carolyn Thompson's article, was started to promote understanding between Muslim and American cultures. The resemblances between Mrs. Hassan's murder and "honor killings" allegedly tolerated in Pakistan and India have been noted in several news accounts. I'd like to focus on another aspect of this tragedy.

Mrs. Hassan recently filed for divorce. Police had been called to the Hassan home on domestic dispute calls prior to the divorce filing, according to Thompson's story. An earlier version of her story, and Gene Warner's article in the Buffalo News, confirm that Mrs. Hassan also obtained an order of protection from the court when she filed the divorce action.

The person who has obtained such an order has a piece of paper proclaiming that she (it's usually a woman who obtains such an order) is under the protection of the court; that anyone who violates the terms of the order (by, for example, failing to move out, stalking, making harassing phone calls) will face punishment. Here are links to an Interim/Plenary Order of Protection and an Emergency Order of Protection on the website of the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk. They are sternly worded.

And they are made of paper.

A male who would beat his wife or child will not necessarily change his ways because he has received a piece of paper. It's not as if he didn't know -- however dimly -- that beating one's spouse is frowned upon in polite company. Instead, all too often, the recipient of such an order goes berserk, inflicting even more harm -- maybe even killing -- the person who'd sought the court's protection.

This doesn't mean a victim of violence must continue living with abuse. But I just grieve when I read about another person who's been killed clutching an order of protection. It is not a magic talisman. It is not a shield. It is not bulletproof. It is only a paper. Women who have obtained an order of protection must not believe themselves immune to further abuse; they need to be just as wary as they were before they ever went to court -- just as vigilant, just as cautious. The best protection against an abuser is to get away and stay away.

I believe in the rule of law. I believe in the power of court orders. But I know that these powers are limited.

It is reported that Mrs. Hassan's head was found near her body at the cable TV station. I'd be willing to bet that her order of protection was nearby, too.

1 comment:

Jeni said...

An excellent post -and unfortunately -very true too that so many may believe that are fully protected, nothing to worry about at all, because they have the PFA in place. Granted it is a good thing to file for a PFA and like you, I would not want someone to NOT do that out of fear.
In this area, there have been several instances where the PFA failed, often resulting in not just a homicide but a double death of the spouse with the PFA and the offender committing suicide as well. Two years ago, there was such a tragedy near here which took place at a convenice store/gas station and occurred in full view of the child's three year old daughter as well. One good thing that came out of that was the neighboring county did set up a "safe transfer of custody" place for couples as that was the reason they met that day, had physical contact, etc.