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When Orders Of Protection Don't Protect

The Justice Department says about one-third of female murder victims are killed by a husband or boyfriend.

Many of the victims had orders of protection, also known as restraining orders, against their eventual murderers.

Those orders, issued by a judge, are meant to draw a line of safety around a potential or threatened victim. If an abuser crosses it, he or she gets arrested.

The Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith says the problem is that orders of protection don't always work.


, is what happened in one tragic Long Island case two years ago this month.

Merline Port-Louis, 23, was murdered in June 2005. Her ex-boyfriend — the father of her now 5-year-old daughter, Jasmine — was convicted in her death.

Port-Louis had been issued an order of protection when her ex-boyfriend, Marlon Fann, was sentenced to two years in prison for stabbing her. Sixty days after he got out of prison, Port-Louis was murdered.

Port-Louis' mother is suing Nassau County for failing to protect her daughter who, she says, went to police almost daily with recorded threats left on her voicemail by Fann.

Jasmine is living with her grandmother in Mineola, Long Island.

Fann was sentenced to 23-years-to-life for killing Port-Louis.

Rita Smith, of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says she's seen cases such as Port-Louis' far too often.

"Women are getting those orders expecting us then to respond to the violations, and, most of the time, women are frequently calling and calling and calling and reporting the violations, and nothing is done about his violation."

According to the Justice Department, 1.1 million crime victims get restraining orders annually. About 60 percent of those orders are violated.

If law enforcement, for whatever reason, doesn't follow up on those violations, the orders are meaningless, Tracy Smith says.

Lorna Goodman, an attorney representing Nassau, says flatly that orders of protection "cannot be a guarantee of safety."

But efforts continue across the nation to make orders of protection more effective.

In San Diego, a unique program has had remarkable success at lowering instances of domestic violence.

Every person who has received a protective order since the program's inception in 2002 is alive and thriving.

The San Diego Family Justice Center is the brainchild of former county prosecutor Casey Gwinn and his colleague, Gael Strack.

The idea behind the center is to pool together all the resources for domestic violence victims under one roof, so victims can go to one place for help.

For example, most police departments have a domestic violence unit, and that unit in San Diego is housed at the Family Justice Center, along with appropriate medical and legal personnel.

Another key to the center's success is that it conducts a danger assessment for every client. The assessment is then used to help the client establish a personal safety plan, something that, experts say, might have helped Merline Port-Louis.

Just this month, Gwinn and Strack left the daily operations of the San Diego center to a colleague, to put their time toward the National Family Justice Center Alliance, with the goal of opening other centers around the world.

Gwinn and Strack spoke with The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Friday about the programs, and offered advice to women who are, or might be, in danger.

For more on domestic violence and orders of protection, check out these resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline — Safety Planning — domestic violence and abuse help, treatment, intervention and prevention

Crisis Support Network

Criminal Justice Intervention — Getting an order of protection

VICTIMS OF ABUSE CAN CALL 1 800 799-SAFE — the National Domestic Violence Hotline

TO START A FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER IN YOUR COMMUNITY, CALL 1 888 511-FJCA, the National Family Justice Center Alliance