Peace Orders & Racism

Yesterday I filed for my first protective order with the Howard County District Court. No, I’m not involved in an abusive relationship, no one is threatening, stalking or intimidating me. In fact, I feel safer and more grounded than ever before in my life.

My dog, on the other hand, has been being taunted and threatened (to the point of attempted physical violence) by a neighborhood man for months. This past weekend, my husband and I had enough. We caught the man on camera attempting to hit our dog with a large stick from the other side of our backyard fence and then called the police to report him.  april 2013 104

An officer arrived at our home within minutes. The officer took our concerns seriously, wrote a report, went down to the man’s house and collected the information we would need to file an affidavit with animal control (for “cruelty”) as well as petition for a peace order. The officer then returned to our house to inform us of all his findings and made recommendations on how we might proceed. He made sure our family felt safe.

When I arrived in court yesterday afternoon for my case to be heard before the judge, I had the opportunity to listen to the case before mine. An African American woman similar to me in age began to describe the intense scene that lasted for hours at her home that very morning. She explained how her fiance had threatened her, screamed at her, put his nose to her face while he spat abusively. He demanded money, argued about their children, and verbally degraded her. The woman then explained that she had to call police three times during the long morning, each time they arrived and explained there was “nothing they could do.”

I sat in the courtroom with my mouth open, previously thinking I knew something, anything, about racism.  After all, I’m a Jewish woman. I’ve experienced my share of religious discrimination, of minimization, disrespect and unfair treatment. And yet, this woman, this person was being directly threatened by her partner and three times her call for help resulted in, essentially, a write off.  My dog, under the care of a white family, was stalked by a neighbor and the police officer practically handed me my case.

I’m grateful for the excellent quality of support from which my family benefited and it should be noted that both of us received our emergency peace orders, but I’m sad and disgusted on behalf of my fellow complainant. Of course, maybe something was miscommunicated or perhaps her description of the responding officers was inaccurate in some way; there is surely more to the story that I don’t know.

I can’t really know much of anything about what it is to be the woman sitting beside me in the courtroom…which, after all, is maybe the whole point.