Experts: No-contact orders may not prevent domestic violence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In the state of Rhode Island, judges automatically issue a no-contact order in the event of a domestic violence arrest, but experts say sometimes that’s not enough to protect the victim.

Robert Bethea, 45, was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife Sunday after she was found stabbed to death in the kitchen of her Valley Street apartment. The victim, Shelina Moreno, had a no-contact order against the suspect, but experts say that’s not enough to put an end to domestic violence.

On Monday we spoke with a survivor of domestic violence that knows the limitations of a no-contact order first hand.

Jackie, a Providence resident, said her ex-husband violated the order at least ten times, and it nearly cost her her life.

“My ex-husband broke into my house and tried to kill me,” she said. “I had left him for another man, and that man was luckily in the house and defended me until the police came.”

Jackie’s case isn’t unique, though. The National Institute of Justice published a study in 2005, which found that 48 percent of Rhode Islanders with no-contact orders against them ended up re-abusing their victims. Deb DeBare from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence said it’s important victims work with advocates to develop a safety plan, with options “such as a shelter or transitional housing if they need to relocate, looking at how to protect themselves and their children.”

Jackie said it was hard for her to leave her ex-husband, but to prevent a tragedy, it’s critical for victims to get away.

“My best advice is to love yourself and get ahead of it, that’s what I did,” she said.

The coalition said there were 4,700 cases of domestic violence arraigned last year. Even though a few of them ended in death, the agency said the no-contact orders helped keep most of the victims safe.

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