Local News

Saturday, Apr 18 2009 11:54 AM

Do restraining orders really work?

BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer sswenson@bakersfield.com

Something goes wrong -- a punch, a shove, a kick, incessant verbal abuse -- and the victim has to get a restraining order.

About 2,400 people a year, mostly women, file domestic violence restraining orders in Kern County.

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RESTRAINING ORDER STORIES

Barbara Galvan did every thing right, but it turned out horribly wrong.

It was nearly 11 years ago when the then 22-year-old mother of two tried with a restraining order and other measures to protect her family.

The Shafter woman stayed at a family shelter in Bakersfield, wouldn't let her children out of her sight and let the police know about the danger she faced from 31-year-old Carlos Revolorio.

But on a cold November morning after she moved to an upstairs apartment in Shafter, she left her kids with a relative and went to a video store.

Her relative opened the sliding glass door to a balcony to let the older child outside. There Revolorio emerged from hiding in a water heater closet and grabbed the child.

Armed with a gun, he went inside and exchanged the older child for 17-month-old Nohemy whom he cradled in one hand while holding the gun in the other.

Then the unthinkable happened. He shot Nohemy to death and then himself.

A sobbing Galvan later warned women to believe the threats. "Don't think they are kidding. Take everything seriously and think of the kids."

***

A scorned Gustavo Ubaldo Soria, 34, wouldn't let a restraining order stop him.

On a September morning in 2004, he found his estranged wife's boyfriend in his pickup in his driveway on East Hosking Road.

Soria snuck up on 43-year-old Jose De La Garza and shot him several times, killing him.

Then 11 minutes later, in front of one of his daughters, he kicked in the door of the master bedroom where he fired several rounds into 39-year-old Pamela Lynn Soria.

He sped in a pickup from the Wyndham Avenue home to Mexico where he has still not been apprehended.

***

Not every restraining order case is cut and dry.

Take the case of Marsha Bishop and Eric Pitts, who have three children together.

Bishop, 40, sought a restraining order against Pitts following an incident last year at a wrestling tournament for her then 11-year-old daughter.

It was Pitts' weekend to have his daughter, but she was upset with him, crying and refusing to go.

What happened next depends on who you ask.

Bishop said Pitts "body slammed" the girl on a storage counter.

Pitts said his daughter kicked him and they lost their balance onto the counter. He believed the incident was "staged" and that once his daughter was outside alone with him, she was fine.

Bishop is also upset that Pitts hasn't been arrested for what she considers violations of the restraining order.

On Feb. 18, she, her daughter and her husband went to a court hearing and Pitts showed up.

Deputies wouldn't arrest Pitts.

Pitts said his attorney, Michael Carlovsky wanted to see him. Carlovsky confirmed that.

Bishop said Pitts also sent mail -- birthday cards and church invitations -- to their daughter and argued those were violations as well.

"I don't think restraining orders are effective at all," she said.

Pitts said, "I don't believe they work. There's a tremendous amount of abuse, especially in our case."

Do they work?

Divorce attorney Don Butz summed it up: "It's like a lock on your door. It works for honest people."

The Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault estimates more than half of the orders keep the restrained person away.

The rest are either violated or the victim allows the offender to come back.

The orders are most effective when both sides show up in court and hear a judge explain the consequences, Butz said.

Even so, it's not uncommon for women to be beaten even though they have an order.

And occasionally, killings have shown restraining orders are just a piece of paper.

Both police and victim advocates encourage use of the orders.

If police have evidence of a violation "you better believe, we go out and arrest the guy," said Detective Herman Caldas.

Bakersfield police average about 250 such arrests a year.

There are other types of civil restraining orders.

An example earlier this was multiple orders by Aera Energy employees against 58-year-old Clyde Bivins who threatened harm to the business.

Aera even put up concrete barriers and hired security guards.

Ultimately, Bivins was jailed as his bail was hiked to $600,000. He has hearings pending on several criminal cases.

Forms to file an application are available at the court or agencies such as the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, said Patty Avalos, sexual assault case manager at the alliance.

No fee is required.

Typically, an order is approved when it is filed, pending a hearing within a couple weeks when the other party could contest the issue.

Orders can remain in effect for days, months or up to five years, depending upon circumstances.

Copies automatically go to police agencies, but victims are encouraged to inform or give copies to friends, neighbors, co-workers and schools.

The law states if police have evidence of a person violating an order, he or she shall be arrested.

But there are gray areas, said sheriff's Senior Deputy Michael Whorf .

For example, if a restrained husband happens to show up at the same place where his estranged wife is, that might not warrant an arrest, Whorf said.

But he would be arrested if he sought her out to harass or harm her, Whorf said.

If the victim lets the person back voluntarily, then wants to enforce the order, police may only tell the perpetrator to stay away without making an arrest.

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