Nearly 1 in 5 Licking Co. civil protection orders violated in past 18 months

By Chad D. Baus

A recent story in the Newark Advocate headlines the question "Do court restraining orders keep the peace?", and appears to have been intended to instill faith in the restraining order system.

But if you had been threatened, how confident would you be that the person you took out the order against was not among the 1 in 5 who would ignore the order?

From the story:

Restraining orders are simply words on a page. They are not accompanied by body armor, a firearm or a direct line to the nearest police cruiser.

But a review of court records and Newark police data show that those who hold them largely are free of the violence or threats that had shadowed their lives.

However, a handful of individuals are not fazed after being personally served with a civil protection order by a deputy and will continue to wreak havoc regardless, some with worse intentions than others, local officials who deal daily with CPOs told The Advocate.

"I would like to think that the majority of (CPOs) work for what they are put in place to do," said Mary Richards, court advocate for New Beginnings Domestic Violence Shelter. "You just (have) those people out there that don't abide by any law, and this piece of paper is not going to stop them."

It is nice to hear a bit of truth from a person who deals with domestic violence. All too often shelters like these will advise their clients that simple words on a paper are enough, and that they should not to take precautions such as purchasing a firearm and obtaining training.

The fast truly is that some people out there don't abide by any law. A piece of paper is definitely not going to stop them. And according to figures provided in the story for the past 18 months, the number of people willing to ignore the law when a restraining order is filed against them is quite high.

Since 2008, 465 civil protection orders have been issued for domestic violence, the most common type of CPO, but only 83 total cases alleging a CPO violation have been filed in the Licking County Municipal Court.

"Only" 83 out of 465 orders were violated. But wait - that's nearly 1 in every 5! What's more, Richards is quoted later in the story saying she "fears violations are underreported."

Nine felony CPO violations have occurred in the past 18 months, and only four of those involved offenses of violence or threats. But that number belies the terror at least one of those victims felt.

Tonya Swanagin could be heard crying June 13 on a 911 call as her estranged husband, and the respondent on her CPO, allegedly held a knife to her throat.

When police arrived, Phillip Swanagin, 38, was talked into dropping the knife and was arrested. He is facing a four-count indictment, including two first-degree felonies as well as a felony charge of violating a protection order.

Domestic Relations Magistrate Ann Snyder of Licking County Common Pleas Court granted Tonya Swanagin's temporary CPO on May 21.

"My heart just sank. I felt sick," Snyder said of hearing the news of the alleged attack. "There's nothing anybody could do."

When a violation of a CPO is in progress, Snyder is correct. There is nothing anyone can do. When seconds count, the police can be there in minutes. And when the statistics show there is a 1 in 5 chance the person you have sworn out a restraining order against is going to violate the order, those are minutes (and odds) you can ill afford.

If you are in a situation where they have found the need to take a civil protection order out against another, there is more you can do. Click here to find a competent concealed carry instructor. If a friend or loved one is in a similar situation, encourage them to do the same. It's time to take the responsibility for your own protection.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor who teaches concealed carry classes at Northwest Self Defense LLC.

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