KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Most people know that some victims of abuse get orders of protection, or restraining orders, against their abusers.
But what you may not know is that, in Missouri, those orders need to be updated every two years. And sometimes victims must go to court annually.
But that protocol could soon be changing.
A bill is headed to the governor’s desk that would give judges more discretion on orders of protection. So instead of every two years going to court, it might be every 10 years. A judge could even make the order permanent.
Lisa Saylor said it’s an important change, pushed by victims of abuse.
“This is what it looks like to go through domestic violence in the state of Missouri,” Saylor said during a Zoom interview, shuffling through plastic totes.
The bins are full of police reports and court documents collected by Saylor. She said she left her abusive husband of seven years in 2011. She ended up in the hospital for a health issue a year later.
Saylor said that’s where her husband arrived saying he wanted to be around the kids.
“I allowed him to stay in the room but asked that they not allow him to stay in the room if I have to be sedated. And unfortunately, through a series of events, I was sedated and left alone,” Saylor said.
“And a few days later I was having some nightmares and some visions that didn’t make sense. And so, I contacted the hospital and upon review of their camera system they were able to find that I had been sexually assaulted. That was the day that that switch was finally flipped, and I realized we’re done here. And I went into survival mode.”
“This represents $42,500 in court lawyer fees,” she said, again flipping through the bins.
Since that moment she has been to court 68 times — often for orders of protection.
“In April of 2023 I will be faced with going back to court to tell my story again. To ask another judge and to possibly face my abuser again for another order of protection,” Saylor said.
At the Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City, which helps victims of abuse, Annie Struby, their Blueprint for Safety Coordinator, said she used to represent people at those hearings.
“It’s stressful because their physical safety can be in danger – getting in and out of the courtroom. That’s one of the only times that abuser may know exactly where they’ll be and when,” Struby said.
The bill before the governor, giving the option to extend restraining orders by years, also would include protections for pets.
Rose Brooks Center has a kennel on-site to address that issue.
“Abusers tend to be really unfortunately very creative with how they maintain power and control,” Struber said.
“Somehow using that pet to control the victim. So they’ll say, ‘If you leave, I’ll let the pet go and just let it run.’ or ‘I’ll kill the pet if you try to leave,'” Struber said.
Struby said these reforms are important for people with persistent abusers – where stalking and violence are a part of the past and a risk in the future.
“So victims know he’s probably not going to respect it but this is – at least there will be a consequence for him violating this order,” Struby said.
Saylor said she’s proud that a change is coming.
“I know for me, these scars and the wounds that I will carry. And I know that there are more out there. And maybe they haven’t found their voice yet. And they’re discouraged. This is giving them hope,” Saylor said.
Rose Brooks Center said that they guide hundreds of people through the process of getting protection orders annually and that thousands are filed in Jackson County every year.
You can learn more about Rose Brooks Center and their services here. If you are in crisis, you can call their 24/7 crisis hotline at 816-861-6100. If you are located outside of the Kansas City area, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).