State Update: California Cries for Help: Domestic Violence Restraining Orders in Orange County

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2018

Publication Title

American Journal of Family Law


domestic violence, restraining orders, California


There are many studies of domestic violence— what causes it, how prevalent it is, and what should be done about it. A lot, too, has been written about the role police, courts, and law can play in coping with this epidemic of violence. One step has been to raise legal consciousness about the problem. The idea is that police and courts, until rather recently, were extremely loath to interfere in family situations; men (especially husbands) were deemed rulers of their little kingdoms; patriarchy was the norm; and outsiders had no business invading the family’s privacy. Hence the law paid little or no attention to “wife beaters.”

Recent research has cast at least some doubt on the conventional account, at least on the historical side of it. Carolyn Ramsey, for one, has shown that (in the jurisdictions she studied), the law did indeed take notice of violence against women, and dealt with it rather harshly. The findings may seem surprising. They have to be understood, of course, in context. Men have typically been the dominant figure in their families; most people in the 19th century probably felt that this was only right and proper. Or even thought that this was God’s plan. But men, people thought, had duties and responsibilities as well as rights and privileges. Just as a king could be either benevolent, or a tyrant (but in either case, still king), a man could be a wise, gentle ruler of his family; or a despot. Many people—perhaps most people—thought it was shameful and dishonorable for a man to harm a woman; and especially his wife; a woman he had sworn to love and protect.


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