Leigh Goodmark


"I will not allow him to beat on me," the woman stated.' The judge hearing her petition for a temporary protective order seemed skeptical of her explanation: After her partner assaulted her, she hit him back to stop him from battering her further. While she was clear and truthful about having fought back, she continued to insist that she was the victim of the assault, that his violence was vastly disproportionate to hers, and that she needed the assistance of the court to ensure her future safety. The judge expressed disbelief: Why would a woman who fought back need protection? Why should he find her eligible for a remedy that is intended to stop violence when she had admitted to violent behavior? The advocates in the courtroom grimaced at the exchange you never let a client tell a judge that she fought back unless it is absolutely necessary. Ultimately, after much back and forth about what exactly she had done, the judge granted the woman a temporary protective order. Given the lesser burden of proof required for temporary order-as opposed to final protective orders and the ex parte nature of the hearing, his decision was hardly surprising. But if that petitioner were to tell the judge hearing her request for a final protective order the same story she had shared with this judge, the odds are good that her petition would be denied. She simply would not have looked enough like a victim to be believable.

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