This story came across my feeds earlier today: Robert Vann Marshall Killed By Wife 15 Minutes After Leaving Jail; She Acted In Self Defense, Police Say.

There is a huge amount of stuff to discuss in relation to this, including matters of incarceration of abusers, legal protection, gun control/gun rights, and domestic violence as a whole. What caught my attention, though, was that the wife had filed a restraining order (I think they call it an order of protection in Tennessee, apparently) prior to this situation, and then dialed 911 during the actual incident.

So many times I hear the argument, “What good is a restraining order? It’s just a piece of paper!” and it makes me cringe.

Yes, it IS just a piece of paper. It won’t kept a predator from your door; after all, if the abuser was that concerned about propriety and law, they would not try to hurt you in the first place.

But it’s setting up a precedent of behavior that’s on record, legally. That is why it is so important. In the case above, it’s why the wife is being investigated rather than carted off to jail to be tried, and almost certainly convicted, as a murderer.

The reason this hit home for me is my almost-finished book Damaged Goods deals with this very situation, in a gay relationship. My character Templeton has let his abusive, controlling boyfriend (Cory) rule his world for years, and he’s convinced he can’t escape. When Cory lashes out at one point in the book, which is a violent scene, Templeton realizes he has to protect himself and file a restraining order.

It would have been easy to write that scene and the following ones without that, but I wanted to show Templeton stepping up and not just fighting back emotionally or physically, but planning ahead. Filing that restraining order is one of the first times in Templeton’s life that he’s thinking about the repercussions to his own future outside of Cory’s influence.

It’s a good thing he takes that step (although I won’t say why here, you’ll have to wait for the book!), although to me it’s less a helpful plot point than a sign of character development.

Some domestic abuse victims cannot even do that much, for a variety of reasons; and while I’m saddened that Robert Vann Marshall is now dead, I’m glad that his wife took the steps to protect herself and her children from the repercussions of his actions by filing a restraining order.


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