Chris Benoit Tragedy: What About Protective Orders?

Posted on Jun 26, 2007 in Celebrity Justice

chris-benoit_169×171.jpgChris Benoit killed his wife and seven year old son this past weekend, before taking his own life.  You’ve heard about this already — everyone wants to know why, and the details are leaking out, a drop here and a drop there.

Today, authorities revealed that the wife had been bound: both her hands and her feet were tied up.  The boy was smothered to death.  And, there were Bibles left by each body.  Tomorrow, more horrific information will fill the media.  There’s probably a True Hollywood Story already in the works.

What about that 2003 request for a protective order that Nancy Benoit made?  Divorce papers show that Chris Benoit was barred from the home, or from coming within 100 yards of his wife and son.   The order was effective until Nancy requested the Judge to dismiss the whole thing a few months later.   What about it?  Do these things ever help?

The Louisiana Supreme Court has an online FAQ page referencing a study of these protective orders.  The study found that 60% had violations in the year following the Order being entered, and half (29%) involved severe violence.  These were instances where the Order remained in place, unlike Nancy Benoit’s.

It’s not necessary to file for divorce to get a protective order.  It’s true that sometimes, these things are filed as strategy in messy divorce proceedings.  However, the language of Nancy Benoit’s order restraining Chris Benoit doesn’t sound like legal manuevering:

“[Chris Benoit] lost his temper and threatened to strike the petitioner and cause extensive damage to the home and personal belongings of the parties, including furniture and furnishings. Petitioner is in reasonable fear for petitioner’s own safety and that of the minor child.”

Pretty eerie reading, isn’t it?

There are lots of arguments for getting a protective order: even if it doesn’t end up in an arrest, it sends a message to the violent person and it helps empower the victim of abuse.  Additionally, it provides a formal record in the event that proving a history of domestic violence is ever needed.

There’s lots of criticism, too.  Unfortunately, a judge’s order on paper is not necessarily sufficient to control an emotionally charged domestic situation.  Some argue that getting a protective order can incite further acts of violence.  There’s also the need for prompt police response: if the authorities do not act promptly to enforce the order, then the victim is 5 to 6 times more likely to be hurt again (according to the National Center for Victims of Crime). 

Would things have been different if Nancy Benoit had an effective protective order in place?  Who knows.  We don’t know at this point if she would have had time to call the cops even if there were an active order on file.

We do know, however, based on that 2003 filing that there was a history of domestic violence in this family and that the husband was a man who achieved great success in demonstrations of violence on a worldwide basis.   Nancy Benoit’s 2003 protective order tells us that this past weekend’s abuse wasn’t the first time she felt “reasonable fear for [her own] safety and that of the minor child.”

Should you get a protective order?  While it depends upon your situation, I vote yes.  Maybe that paper won’t stop the violence, but it does expose domestic violence in the relationship.

In these situations, denial can be deadly. �

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