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OUR VIEW: Orders of protection not just a piece of paper

Nicol Scolaro wanted to use her experience of being in an abusive relationship to help others protect themselves.

In an online photo album, she shared photos of herself beaten. She reflected on her own missteps but also how she tried to break away from the abusive relationship.

“This last time just ended for me and of course he’s telling everyone I fell but most people with a brain cell can tell the truth. Believe me when I say it’s not an easy thing to do, to walk away, but it’s so worth it,” Scolaro wrote.

“Now I have a new lease on life and intend on living it to the fullest!” she added.

Those last comments are difficult to read now, as Scolaro was murdered, along with the man she intended to remarry, last month, by her abuser.

That doesn't mean she didn't do enough to protect herself. That doesn't mean her words no longer serve a purpose. This was the worst-case scenario, and even a statistical anomaly, according to Safe Journeys Executive Director Susan Bursztynsky.

Scolaro had filed two previous orders of protection against her killer, and a battery complaint was filed about a month prior to the murders.

One theory some of our readers posted on social media stood out to us – orders of protection are just a piece of paper and won't stop abusers.

Our newsroom wrestled with this line of thought, and sought out those who work with domestic violence victims to ask them whether orders of protection are a waste of time.

They're not.

However, as the experts noted, orders of protection are just one piece of a safety plan.

“The vast majority of orders are followed. Most people want to follow what the law says,” Bursztynsky said. “Once they know a judge is watching, the most critical parts are generally followed but is just part of a larger safety plan.”

While statistics weren't immediately available regarding the number of orders of protection and violations, an attorney with the La Salle County State's Attorney's Office said she believes they're beneficial to victims.

"I do think it's an effective tool and I think that more orders of protection are respected than they are not," said Leila Siena.

She added those who bond out on domestic battery charges are required to have no contact with the complainant, which they've found to be most effective.

Protection orders do several things, including create a record for authorities which can be useful in criminal and civil matters, and the abuser can be arrested if the order is violated.

She reiterated such orders are one part of a larger safety plan. But at what point should someone start making such a plan? What exactly is a safety plan?

There are multiple resources available to help victims of abuse – organizations such as Safe Journeys welcome both those leaving relationships as well as those currently in relationships into their offices for discussions about relationships as well as information on how to best protect themselves.

More information can also be found online through the National Network to End Domestic Violence at nnedv.org or The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence at ilcadv.org.

Hopefully, Scolaro's words leave a lasting impression and inspire those who need it to seek help.

“No one, woman or man, should ever have to endure the physical and emotional pain that comes from abuse! I wish you all the luck in the world to find your peace and safety.”

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