Every person has the right to feel safe. There are times, however, when a person is given cause to fear for their safety. Individuals who are bullied or are being stalked by another person can often be made to live in fear, depending on the level of harassment they are subjected to. In Victoria, over 33,000 restraining orders were issued through the courts in Victoria in 2012/2013. So, What Is A Restraining Order?
In Australia, a restraining order is a court ordered document that is filed by the victim against their stalker/bully. It is granted on the premise that the victim has offered verifiable proof that the stalker has harassed the victim either through personal contact or using another form of communication. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Telephone calls
- Text Messages
- Voice messages
A restraining order can also be issued in cases of cyber harassment. Even though the harassment occurs over the internet, it can still cause fear and feelings of uneasiness, especially if the stalker makes the person feel as if they are being watched.
When a restraining order is in place, the person accused of stalking/harassment or bullying must stay a specific distance away from the victim at all times. No attempts can be made to contact the victim. It is also against the law for the stalker to enlist the help of another person to gain access or make contact with the victim. In Western Australia, over 5,000 orders were issued. Out of those, there were almost 1,950 breaches during the same 2012/2013 time period. In 2005, magistrates in Queensland were faced with over 600 violations.
If any contact is made, in any form, the stalker can be arrested and charged. Violating a direct order from the court can result in jail time and hefty fines. If a restraining order is in place and the victim or stalker enters an establishment while the other person is present, one of them will have to leave or face the legal consequences. Each case is different when it comes to the distance to be kept between the two parties as well as the ramifications if the order is violated in any way.
There are two types of restraining orders one can obtain. The first one pertains to threats of physical violence. The second involves misconduct, such as peeping in windows, following a person or sending unsolicited emails and messages. Both are serious offenses and a person must provide substantial proof of each one before an order is issued.
What Is A Stalker?
A stalker or bully is someone who invades another person’s life. This can be a physical intrusion, such as actually stalking the person or it can be over the internet in the form of cyber stalking. Unwanted advances of any kind can be considered stalking. Bullying and harassment can also be considered forms of stalking.
In some cases, the stalker is not being malicious or harboring an intent to harm the person being pursued. Celebrities often deal with this kind of unwanted attention. While it is not harmful in any way, it is considered an invasion of privacy and can a restraining order can be obtained against an overzealous fan or admirer.
Whether a person is a misguided admirer or is stalking a person to seek revenge or inflict harm, the end result is the same. The victim feels unsafe and is threatened by the constant, and unwanted attention of another person. Even if the stalking is performed over the internet, a person can feel violated and fearful. Their quality of life begins to suffer and they may begin to feel as if they have nowhere that they can feel truly safe and free from harm.
With the introduction of the internet, stalking has taken on a dramatic twist. A person who is being cyber stalked is often caught up in a game in which the stalker has the advantage. One of the most frightening things about cyber stalking is that the victim has no real idea of who the stalker is. Unlike a physical stalker, the person cannot be seen. They communicate through messages, Facebook posts,, emails or chat rooms. Although they can’t be seen, they can make themselves known in subtle ways.
Students often use the internet to stalk or bully other students. The anonymity it provides allows them to harass their classmate with little fear of reprisal. Fake emails, Facebook accounts and chat room profiles can provide an alias that can only be traced back to the computers that were used to gain access to the accounts. When school equipment is used, software is often installed that blocks offensive websites and monitors the students’ usage.
Cyber stalking can also occur in the workplace. Harassment can take on many forms while a person is on the job. Many companies have limited the use of their electronic devices (laptops, personal computers, cell phones, pagers, tablets, etc.) to business use only to prevent this type of situation from occurring. As a way to ensure their equipment is only used for business purposes, many devices are equipped with trackers that record key strokes as well as any images or messages that are received.
When Should A Restraining Order Be Considered?
It has often been said that a restraining order is only a piece of paper and that it cannot truly protect anyone from harm. The fact is, it gives the victim power. By obtaining a restraining order, they are given the power to press charges against their stalker or bully and have them arrested. If an individual continues to follow, contact or harass another person after a restraining order has been issued, they can be arrested without warning.
Once the order has been signed by a judge, the individual in question is served a copy of the papers giving them explicit instructions on what they can and cannot do in relation to the victim. The court order states an exact distance that must be kept inbetween the stalker and their victim. It also states the various types of communication and whether or not they can be used. It will also give the person receiving the papers a detailed list of possible punishments they may face if they violate the order in any way.
Restraining orders are valuable tools when they are used correctly. A judge or magistrate will only grant an order of protection if the person being victimized can prove they are being stalked or that they have valid reason to fear their lives or property is in imminent danger. Threats or other comments sent via text message, letter or email can be used to determine whether or not a person could possibly be in danger.
A person who is continually being harassed by another individual should seek to protect themselves and their property by filing an order that prevents the offender from getting to close. With a court order in place, law enforcement officers will take special note that threats have already been made. This makes the victim’s case a priority because there has already been reported and substantiated instances of violence, aggression, invasion of privacy or intimidation.