How Effective are Restraining Orders with an HCP?

©2017 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Question: Based on your experience and knowledge of BPDs and HCPs, how effective are ROs if one is filed and granted against a person with possible BPD or HCP traits?  Do ROs stop these types of people who show signs of being BPD or HCP?

I was just granted a RO but according to an article I read on HCP, I should never underestimate the behavior or actions of a BPD or HCP.   I know about Betty Broderick so I’d like to know how common this behavior is after a RO is granted.

Answer: Excellent question. HCPs in general and those with BPD have a hard time managing their emotions and their behavior. The success of the restraining order usually depends on which pattern of behavior the restraining order is intended to restrain. If it’s regarding a strong pattern of “coercive controlling violence,” which includes using violence to have power and control over the person, a restraining order on its own may have limited impact. It usually helps to have a “safety plan” so that you can protect yourself when you are concerned, such as places to go, people to be with, money to get you through. Betty Broderick had a severe borderline personality disorder (according to both the prosecution and defense at her trial), went to target practice and stalked her husband. He had a restraining order at some point, but it made little difference.

If it’s what’s called “situational couple violence,” then the person is more likely to follow the RO, because this is more likely insufficient conflict resolution skills, so that the person pushes and shoves, rather than talking it out. After a separation, they mostly follow ROs and leave you alone in terms of safety.

The third kind of violent or harassing behavior occurs around the time of separation. This is known as “separation-instigated violence,”and it usually involves one or two incidents, but stops once it’s clear that the separation is really going forward. A restraining order for this is usually followed as well.

I hope that’s helpful. HCPs have a wide range of how severe their behavior can be. But they generally change very little, so that a concerning pattern of behavior will not necessarily stop just because there is a restraining order. Most communities have resources regarding restraining orders and domestic violence, so I encourage you to look into those.

BILL EDDY, LCSW, ESQ. is the co-founder and chief innovation officer of the High Conflict Institute. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high conflict personalities. He is the author of 20+ books and has a popular podcast and a blog on Psychology Today.

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