Can you imagine my expression when I opened the door on Sunday, October 25, 2009 to greet two of Honolulu’s finest. “Do you know a Ms. Mahtab Trueman?” “Uhhh,” I said. My brain was working overtime. Look, I’m not the brightest street light on the corner. But, I did realize that they were here to serve me with another “TEMPORARY” restraining order (TRO). The name was off.
There are two major things wrong with TROs.
1) They are usually filed “ex parte.”
2) They are never temporary.
Ex-parte is a legal term that, in domestic violence situations, permits an accuser to take away basic rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States for a limited period of time. TROs are placed on the fast-track for court hearing because the act of unilaterally finding a person guilty of violence against another is unconstitutional.
The accused, as legal theory would have it, is entitled to an expedient hearing, usually within two weeks of the ex-parte action.
The judges who grant ex-parte TROs are hamstrung, especially in jurisdictions such as Hawaii. An individual need only experience fear to have their ex-parte request granted. There are jurisdictions, such as New York, where a petitioner must cite a violation of law in order for an ex-parte petition to be granted.
Hawaii’s judges typically grant TROs when a petitioner simply declares that they are afraid. Better to be safe than sorry and, BTW, CYA. This is a sad state.
The term “Temporary Restraining Order” is misleading. In general, the word “temporary” means “lasting for a limited time.” Most of us think of temporary as in an interruption of electric service that is restored before the items in our freezer defrost and are spoiled.
In Hawaii, the Temporary in TRO may be granted for up to 25 years. In most cases, a TRO is granted for a three-year term. During this term, the restrained person may not have any contact with the accuser.
Today, my cell phone is set to contact every cell phone tower within its reach. If you know my cell phone number, you can find me, possibly within 100 yards. If a TRO were granted against me, my accuser could find me, call the police, and have me jailed for a violation of the TRO.
A restraining order is tool that can be used in many ways. An abuser can have her victim jailed. The accuser gets bragging rights that she got a TRO against him. It can also be used to convince a child that his or her father is bad. A restraining order is never temporary and it can negatively impact more than one person for a lifetime.
TRO, THE FIRST VOLLEY IN DIVORCE
I sat down for a meal at Big City Diner one day. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I had my own book and was reading, but two women in the next booth were talking story. Their voices became louder as they discussed–you guessed it–Temporary Restraining Orders.
One was pushing the other to get a TRO against her husband or boyfriend or something. Women’s advocates of all stripes hold to the belief that a TRO is the fastest way to be in control. It can be used in situations where there is real domestic violence, with hitting, screaming, vulgar name calling, etc. And, it can be used to get back at man simply for cutting off a woman’s access to a credit card.
Most often, it is used as a precursor to obtaining sole custody of the couple’s children. When a TRO is in place, the man has to leave the house but continue making the mortgage payment. He has to leave his kids but the argument will be used that he has had little contact and influence on the kid’s lives. He has to suffer humility and even job loss because the TRO is in place. Then, he needs to start making child support payments. All this can happen before the divorce action even begins.
There is a small fact that domestic violence victim’s advocates do not share and–though the thought makes me sick–they even count on it. TROs increase the incidence and severity of domestic violence.
A TRO can make it a crime to cross paths with the woman who bore his children. A TRO increases the emotional reaction of a man from the loss of children to losing his identity as a father, caretaker and provider. We’re talking David Banner to Hulk.
In divorce scenarios, most TROs are sustained for at least their three-year minimum.
Consider this statement, “My DV advocate, Mr. Holbrook’s ex-wife, is fearful for me and my family’s safety because he has had several Restraining Orders against him in family court and was on probation for a year for violating them.”
To my accuser, it does not matter that, 10 years ago, my ex-wife abducted our children, bought me a ticket to Hawaii and slapped me with a TRO based on false allegations of domestic violence.
It does not matter that the alleged violation was during the term of a second three-year term when I should have defended myself but for very bad counsel.
It does not matter that the alleged violation was for dropping my kids off at the wrong police station, a parenting matter that was illegally inserted into the TRO by stipulation.
It does not matter that there is no TRO in effect.
It does not matter that my ex-wife has since filed three frivolous TROs against me that were all denied.
My accuser even sounds like my ex-wife in her petition against me. “On May 5, 2009, Mr. Holbrook posted a blog on his website entitled, “State Sponsored Interstate Child Abduction Revealed” where he used my name and made seriously false claims about me and my family.”
I just reported what her DV advocate wrote. Personally, I don’t believe that Ms. Carlin lied about my accuser’s involvement in the child abduction. Further, her involvement with Ms. Carlin and a state-sponsored, interstate child abduction scheme puts her in the category of very abusive people.
I did not know my accuser before writing the article and after having been formally introduced to Ms. Trueman in the Hawaii District Court on Thursday, November 5th, I still did not recognize her. Six months from now, I’m just going to remember her as some crazy haole lady but whether I remember her face in a crowd… Like I said before, even a street light in the dark is not going to shine where shadows fall.
I want to thank Ms. Trueman for allowing the TRO to be dismissed. I think she understood that the judge was being very patient with her and was trying to understand the fuel that motivated her ex-parte action against me.
Fear may be reason to request a TRO. For two weeks, I was not allowed to cross paths with a woman I did not know. But it does not have to be the reason to grant a TRO.
In my opinion, it was important for the judge to understand where the fear came from. In Ms. Trueman’s petition for TRO, she pointed directly to the statements of her domestic violence advocate, Dara Carlin, my ex-wife, as the source of her fears.
No less than three times, Ms. Trueman credits Ms. Carlin with escalating her own fear to the point where she filed this TRO against me.
Am I surprised? No.
Though, after meeting her, I suspect Ms. Trueman has the qualities of an abuser, I also suspect that she was a victim and a pawn.
Long ago, I understood that my ex-wife was highly intelligent. That’s one of the reasons I married her. It was my misfortune that her intelligence would be warped into a father-bashing nightmare for my children that she has drawn into the Halls of Hawaii’s State Capitol.
Abusers, even abusive women, seek each other out.
In Ms. Carlin’s fear campaign against domestic violence, she is driving fear into her clients to the point where her client files an abusive TRO against a man who does not know her. If a domestic violence advocate can coerce her clients into filing TROs against her ex-husband, can you imagine what she has done to her children?
CONFRONTATIONS PERMIT SOLUTIONS
Ms. Trueman has a few unique opportunities. But from her behavior in court, I fear that she may not be aware. Even after the judge explained the precariousness of her request, Ms. Trueman continued to make wild accusations that I obtained confidential records of attendees at the FETCH program and that I was in direct contact with her ex-husband.
She can’t support these allegations because they are false.
Some bone-head, or maybe more than one, is sending emails to Ms. Trueman containing language that is terroristic threatening under Hawaii law. It is no small matter and I suggested to Ms. Trueman that she pursue John Doe subpeona’s rather than looking to shut down my right to free speech.
Her first opportunity is to identify the perpetrators of violence against her.
Second, Ms. Trueman should be keenly aware of Ms. Carlin’s breach of ethical conduct. Once Ms. Carlin hit the send button on that email, it was in the wild. Ms. Carlin is more dangerous to her and her child than anyone she has dealt with so far.
Third, the email written by her domestic violence advocate–which unethically disclosed her personal information–describes a clandestine, government sponsored, interstate, child abduction program. Major bells should be going off in the Hawaii’s Congress. Domestic violence is already a crime. Answering that with another criminal activity does two things; 1) It violates the trust of every honest taxpaying citizen in our government and 2) It creates an emotional tsunami for the targeted parent. HELLO, Mr. B, B, Buh, HULK?
Whether Ms. Trueman sought out this program or was coerced into making bad choices, she has exacerbated problems in her own life.
People who complain that domestic violence is a problem often don’t seem to understand that it happens whenever two people are trapped in an escalating conflict. Their own personal egos fuel conflict and their children suffer life-long emotional scars.
People who escalate, like Ms. Trueman, may themselves be children of parents with conflicts. Studies have proven that people seek out others who have similar past experiences. The children of domestic violence families repeat domestic violence in their own lives over and over. She can stop.
And here is Ms. Trueman’s fourth opportunity. Break the cycle. Resolve the conflicts with your daughter’s father and bring her back into his life.
FINDING THE CURE FOR DV
My ex, Ms. Trueman and I have a single purpose; to reduce the incidence of domestic violence in our communities. Our methods are different.
Ms. Trueman chooses conflict and escalation. She chooses to fear. She chooses to give her personal power away and to capitulate to other abusers like Ms. Carlin.
Ms. Carlin chooses to manipulate others and distort the truth for her personal gain. She chooses to deny our children access to their father. She chooses to prey upon vulnerable people like Ms. Trueman.
I choose dialogue. I choose resolution. I choose the courage to stand up for what I believe. It takes two to tango. No one is perfect. And, our children need both parents.
The roots of DV run deep in our society yet there are ways to short-circuit our predispositions for conflict and anger.
Learning to respect one another is the first step. Learning the “think, feel, act” cycle and how to change thinking to implement responsible and respectful actions. Then, teaching these values in our families. While we can use the principles in our own lives, our children are going to live the values that we teach.
Programs like the Family Education Center of Hawaii (efetch.org) teach us that every family has the same problems with their kids. Every couple has the same kinds of problems that men and women have had through the ages.
Every community has the same kinds of problems across the United States and across the world. We can teach each other to reduce the incidence of domestic violence. We can show the world by our own successes.
I HAVE ONE WISH.
I want the best for Ms. Trueman’s child. That child is made up of one-half her mother and one-half her father. Hiding the child from her father is teaching her one of the worst possible ways of dealing with problems she will have to face her whole life.
I wish for Mr. and Ms. Trueman’s child to know and feel safe with both their parents.
This is the same wish I have for my children.
To find out more about domestic violence and unwarranted TROs, stop by my web site at www.LiveBeatDad.com.