With a shaky voice and a pit in my stomach, I told the judge what happened and why I needed an order of protection.
It was a surreal August day. The 18th of August, to be exact. After waiting hours to speak with a judge, I was ushered into a cold courtroom and led to a seat up front with a lone glass of water and a microphone. Much to my surprise, “you will meet with a judge” meant you will testify in a courtroom before a judge. I had it all worked out in my head hours earlier as I sat patiently on the hard benches of the courthouse—I would simply be meeting with him in chambers.
That was not how it played out.
I sat nervously next to my pile of harassing emails, a police report from a domestic disturbance call in May of 2016, and screenshots of online harassment that my employer shared with me. While I waited for the judge to enter the courtroom, I read over the papers for the thousandth time. I took deep breaths. I teared up a few times as the weight of the situation covered me like a heavy blanket. I willed myself to be strong no matter what I had to go through.
Just a few days earlier, unbeknownst to me, the man I gave my heart to for three years was reaching out via email to about 50 colleagues at the university (including the President) where I work, performing acts of cyber harassment on university-owned Facebook pages and much to my surprise, posting the article I wrote multiple times on my in-laws Facebook page under different page names he owns, like Ottomology and Question Mark. He was trying to defame me by sharing my personal blog post about how we met and the relationship that followed where I openly shared abuse I allowed, mistakes I made, and revelations that came (from other women telling me they had experienced similar) after the break-up. The university supported me 100% and blocked him on their servers. Publicly, he had written he was moving on from me—the woman he claimed suffers from borderline personality disorder—with peace and clarity. Privately, he was clearly quite busy behind the keyboard.
In addition to reaching out to the University, I was also threatened with an email stating that he was going to press charges against me for me writing about the relationship and “he would NEVER stop until he gets justice.” That was a day or two before he started his email campaign to the university.
Lawyers and local police took a look at what I was dealing with and advised me to go to the Justice Court and apply for an order of protection stating he could not contact me whatsoever anymore.
After I nervously spoke with the Judge and the court reporter for about thirty minutes, based on what I presented, the Judge agreed that an order of protection should be granted. I don’t know about other states, but here in Arizona, it’s not easy to get one of these. With mixed emotions, I gathered up my pile of papers and waited for the order to be handed to me by the court reporter. In those moments between the announcement that the order would be granted and when I walked out the door, I saw his face in my mind’s eye and I teared up. No matter what he had done to warrant a restraining order, I didn’t want to hurt him further. It was as if my heart and my head were in a tug of war.
Now that I had the official order in my hands, it was time to have it delivered to him and the only way to do that is through a constable (if he was local) or a process server in his area. All of this was new to me. I’ve never been through the court system so I asked a cop friend of mine if he knew anyone in that area. He recommended a great guy who held my hand through the process via email and text.
It took four tries, hours of surveillance, and close to $500 to serve him the order of protection. When he was finally served the document, he denied his identity when asked who he was, took the closed envelope, and left it on the ground. Photos of him were taken at the scene when he was served and are in the affidavit that the server sent back to me to file with the court and police.
On September 14, Flagstaff Police called him to reiterate the protection order—which he had not read because he left it on the ground—was active. He again denied his identity and the fact he was served. The cop emphasized that no matter what his thoughts were on the situation, the order was active now that he’s been officially served and there’s legal record of it.
Being a human really hurts, sometimes. Being a person who loved a person who is now legally prohibited from communicating comes with a mixed bag of emotions. My head knew I needed to stand up for myself and my heart still wanted to protect him. Maybe that’s part of recovering from an abusive relationship or maybe that’s just who I am—I don’t want to hurt others.
I am not comfortable being the proverbial bitch but I’m realizing that in some cases, standing up for myself no matter how scary or uncomfortable, is what is needed. And for the first time in my life, I realize doing so does not make me a bitch.