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One Problem, Two Very Different Outcomes

By Ellen Wickham
Women's Issues Chair for People's Rights Organization

Tecia Coleman and Sue Devoe had something in common.

Both women filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the abusive men in their lives. Both women sought protection from further abuse within the confines of the law. What happened to these women, however, while under the protection of a TRO was very different.

Tecia Coleman’s husband stabbed her to death in the middle of a bright Spring day this year on a very busy west side street in Columbus, Ohio. Several witnesses left their cars and tried to intervene, but they, too, were threatened by her attacker. Those at the scene were powerless. They could not stop the attack without probable injury or even death to themselves.

Sue Devoe, on the other hand, is still alive. Was it the TRO that protected her from her abusive and violent ex-boyfriend? No. It was a 91-year-old neighbor with a loaded .380 semi-automatic. The same week as Tecia Coleman’s murder, Mr. Shirley Becraft was with Ms. Devoe when her ex-boyfriend kicked in the door. He began attacking Ms. Devoe. When Mr. Becraft tried to protect Ms. Devoe, he, too, was attacked. In self-defense, Mr. Becraft pulled the trigger on his .380, mortally striking the assailant in the chest.

Temporary restraining orders are a “paper wall” of protection. In both these cases, that “paper wall” failed to protect these women. It is, however, currently the only legal protection option women in Ohio have against abusive partners, ex or otherwise. Would Tecia Coleman be alive today if Ohio had a conceal-carry law? It is hard to say. But maybe, just maybe, had Tecia Coleman or one of the witnesses been armed, her children might still have a mother. 

One thing is for sure –- Sue Devoe is alive today because a neighbor took a chance, concealed his firearm (which is currently against the law in Ohio), and walked across the street.

I raise my glass to Mr. Becraft. But I say to Ohio legislators, shame on you for not allowing women the legal right to even the odds with the ultimate equalizer. How many more women will have to suffer the abuse and/or die before we will have that right?

Ellen Wickham, a Central Ohio educator, is Women’s Issues Chair at the Columbus, Ohio-based
People's Rights Organization. Her columns appear in The PROponent, a monthly publication of PRO.

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Restraining Orders archives


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