Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)

Adult Abuse Protections Are Not Just For Spouses and Lovers

A couple columns back, I wrote about the locally famous divorce, Vinson v. Vinson, a dispute so acrimonious it’s reminiscent of the Michael Douglas movie, War of the Roses. I recounted how Ray and Diane Vinson, of American Equity Mortgage fame, fought tooth and paw over everything, including the family spaniel.


Today, I want to revisit one element of this case: the sideline skirmish between Ray Vinson and Joe Adams, the bodyguard hired by Diane, who morphed into her lover and bedmate as well. 15 months ago, Ray Vinson sought an Order of Protection under Missouri’s Adult Abuse law against Mr. Adams, and that order was issued by the Family Court in March 2005. Mr. Adams appealed that order and its subsequent renewal to the Missouri Court of Appeals, but he lost on both counts in rulings issued last month.


Why do I find Vinson v. Adams worthy of note? Because it illustrates how the state’s adult abuse law provides protection to more than married couples or adults that are, or have been, living together or in an intimate relationship with each other. Two other broad classes fall within its purview: adults related by blood (i.e. siblings, parent/adult child, etc.) and an adult that is the victim of “stalking” by another adult.


By all accounts, Vinson and Adams are not kin of any kind. It was Vinson’s allegation that Adams “stalked him” and placed him “in fear or apprehension of immediate physical harm” that qualified Vinson to seek the court’s protection. According to Vinson’s testimony, Mr. Adams accosted Mr. Vinson at American Equity Mortgage saying, “I will cut you up”. At a later date, while at the courthouse, Vinson testified that Adams told him that “I’m going to get you” or “I’m going to kill you.”


Under the Adult Abuse Act, “stalking” is when an adult engages “purposely and repeatedly” in an “unwanted course of conduct” that “serves no legitimate purpose” and that causes a reasonable “fear of physical harm” in the other person. Thus, when the court concluded that Adams had made threatening statements on two occasions and that Vinson was legitimately fearful for his safety (after all, Adams is a bodyguard), it issued the protection order.


So, how does this relate to our gentle suburban readers? Certainly, domestic violence between spouses or lovers is as an unfortunate fact of life in the “burbs” as it is in the “hood” and court intervention is essential to protect the safety of the abused.  But, how many of us are likely to have an acquaintance or colleague threatening to “cut us up”, much less the work history and physique to make it credible?


Few of us would knowingly seek such relationships. Yet, we are all subject to chance encounters, and many….those single and unattached…are actively seeking to meet new people. In many cases, these meetings turn into nothing more and both go on with their lives. Sometimes, though, the first meeting leads to a second, then a third before one or both decides to break it off.


But, what happens when one person just won’t let go? When gentle hints and firm admonishments are met with relentless phone calls, emails, and unwanted visits to home and work? At what point does a pest become a threat to your mental and emotional well-being? At what point would it be legitimate seek an order of protection under the adult abuse law?


Next week, we’ll discuss how that law may or may not apply depending exactly on the nature of your relationship with the other adult. Are you protected if you were never intimate and can’t prove that you are a victim of stalking?