It is common to see individuals obtaining restraining orders against another person for protection. But what happens when the restraining order is against you? What are the psychological challenges that come with this situation? You may feel a whole range of emotions, including guilt, anger, shame, and fear—especially if the person with the restraining order is someone you care about. Let's discuss how being hit with a restraining order can affect you mentally and emotionally, how to cope with these challenges, and what you can do to protect your rights.
Dealing with Negative Emotions
Receiving a restraining order can feel like a real blow to your self-esteem. Think about the restrictions this court order imposes on you: it limits your ability to interact with someone you used to be close to, and it also limits your personal space and freedom of movement. You may even feel like a prisoner being watched over by an outside force because the restraining order imposes such tight boundaries on what you can and can't do. As if that weren't bad enough, you might also feel a sense of guilt about something that happened in the relationship that caused the restraining order. Maybe you made the mistake of getting into an argument with them right before they sought out protection from law enforcement, or maybe something else happened that led to their request for restraint.
Whatever the case, getting hit with a restraining order can unleash many different emotions at once, some of which may be difficult to process. Some emotions you might be dealing with include:
Guilt and Shame
If there is any valid reason for the restraining order—in other words, if you did something to warrant it—you may feel a sense of guilt and shame for being called out by the restraining order. It might fill you with embarrassment to think of yourself as someone tagged as an “unsafe” person to be around. This feeling may be strengthened if you broke a promise to change your behavior but lost your temper at a critical moment. Whatever the case—and even if you're innocent of the accusations that prompted the restraining order—feelings of guilt are natural.
Anger is a natural reaction to having a restraining order slapped against you. There are many reasons why you might feel angry when confronted with the order, especially if you are innocent of the claims. You may feel like your rights are being violated, especially if the restraining order blocks you from seeing your kids. You may feel resentment because your loved one took this step without discussing it with you first. You may feel incensed because the restraining order effectively punishes you unfairly, effectively treating you as guilty until proven innocent.
The restraining order may make you feel isolated from the outside world. You might be feeling cut off from loved ones or people who have been supportive in some way to your life up until now, only to feel like they have now turned on you or changed their opinion of you. If the restraining order prevents you from seeing your kids, the isolation can be even worse.
The Stress of Complying with a Restraining Order
If you're like the majority of restraining order recipients, you were probably caught off guard by this court order and don't know how to comply with it. You might not understand what is expected of you or which actions are forbidden. There may be specific instructions in the restraining order about contact between parties, where you can and cannot go, etc., and you may not know how to avoid violating these stipulations. Consider what may be involved in keeping the terms of a restraining order:
- You may not be able to go to the same places you used to because the other person goes there often--or you may have to leave if you find them there.
- If you see the person walking on the street, you may have to cross to the other side of the street--or worse, turn around to avoid violating the order.
- If you live with the person who got the restraining order, you may not be able to go home.
- If you work with the person who got the restraining order, you may not even be able to go to the office—which might, in turn, jeopardize your job.
Bear in mind that failing to comply with the restraining order in any way could result in criminal charges against you, possibly accompanied by fines and jail time. That in itself is enough to overwhelm you with stress. The constant threat of making a mistake may feel as though you're sitting on a bomb, and one wrong move could set it off.
Tips for Dealing with the Fallout of a Restraining Order
Knowing the psychological impact of a restraining order against you, what can you do to blunt the effects of it, or at least cope with it? Some tips to help:
- Talk to a mental health professional, if necessary. At different times, we all need help processing difficult emotions or traumatic experiences. There's no shame in seeking professional help, and a therapist will help you deal with your feelings confidentially and without judgment.
- Put it in perspective. A restraining order may feel like a declaration of guilt, but it's actually in place to make the other person feel safer. You're not the first person to have a restraining order against you, and you won't be the last. Furthermore, restraining orders aren't permanent, and a lot can change that can result in having the order rescinded.
- Don't let your emotions get out of control. Strong feelings can cause us to act impulsively sometimes. Be careful about acting on your emotions: remember, you could still face criminal charges if you violate the restraining order.
- Hire a good attorney. A skilled attorney can help present your side of the story at the restraining order hearing and help you find options for having the order reversed. The attorney can also defend you in court if you're accused of violating the restraining order.
If you have been served with a restraining order in New Jersey, or if you are accused of violating one, the Lento Law Firm can help. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your situation.