Fact Sheet #2: The myth of women’s false accusations of domestic violence and rape and misuse of protection orders
Fact Sheet #2: The myth of women’s false accusations of domestic violence and rape and misuse of protection orders
Women routinely make up allegations of domestic violence and rape, including to gain advantage in family law cases. And women use protection orders to remove men from their homes or deny contact with children.
- The risk of domestic violence increases at the time of separation.
- Most allegations of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings are made in good faith and with support and evidence for their claims.
- Rates of false accusations of rape are very low.
- Women living with domestic violence often do not take out protection orders and do so only as a last resort.
- Protection orders provide an effective means of reducing women’s vulnerability to violence.
Note that this fact sheet is also available in PDF. (See below.)
Fathers’ rights groups assert that women routinely fabricate allegations of domestic violence to gain advantage in family law cases and use protection orders to remove men from their homes or deny contact with children rather than out of any real experience or fear of violence. In its submission to a review of legislation regarding protection orders, the Lone Fathers’ Association (2004, pp. 11, 38) states that protection orders “are employed as a routine separation procedure” by women to force their husbands out of their homes, without any actual violence having occurred, “and/or as a vindictive retaliatory act”.
The risk of domestic violence increases at the time of separation.
There is no doubt that family court proceedings often are accompanied by allegations of domestic violence and the use of protection orders. However, this reflects the fact that domestic violence often escalates at the time of separation. Australian data from a national survey in 1996 show that women are as likely to experience violence by previous partners as by current partners and that it is the time around and after separation which is most dangerous for women (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996, p. 8).
Similarly, North American research documents that the risks of nonlethal and lethal violence are highest for women when they are leaving the male partners with whom they have been living in an intimate relationship (DeKeseredy et al., 2004, p. 677). Separated women are at elevated risk of violence by men, whether physical, sexual, or lethal, relative to women in intact unions (Brownridge, 2006), and women are at risk of increasingly severe violence when separating from violent partners (Riggs et al., 2000). The risk of post-separation violence decreases with the passage of time since separation, and is greatest in the first two or three months after the commencement of the separation, at least from homicide data.
Further situational variables influence post-separation violence. Leaving a marital or cohabiting relationship or trying to leave it increases women’s changes of being physically or sexually assaulted especially if they are connected to men with patriarchal and/or sexually proprietary attitudes (DeKeseredy et al., 2004). Women are at greater risk of post-separation violence if they are more ‘available’ for victimisation: if they live in the same city as their former partner, and at risker times such as court appearances and exchanges of or visits to children (Brownridge, 2006). The presence of a new partner can be either a risk or a protective factor, as can children. For example, joint custody may become an opportunity for conflict and violence, may increase opportunities for violence at visitation and the exchange of children, and children may be used as tools for violence by abusive men (Brownridge, 2006).
The relationship between pre- and post-separation violence is shaped by other variables such as the duration of the union and the severity and frequency of pre-separation violence. There is evidence that post-separation violence often is a continuation of violence that occurred during the relationship and that a substantial proportion of such violence is a new phenomenon (Brownridge, 2006).
Most allegations of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings are made in good faith and with support and evidence for their claims.
Existing research finds that most allegations of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings are made in good faith and with support and evidence for their claims. Two studies have examined rates of substantiated allegations of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings, and they find that allegations are substantiated in 63 to 74 percent of cases (Shaffer and Bala, 2003; Johnston et al., 2005). The remainder are unsubstantiated – where either there is insufficient information to support substantiation or where there is a determination that the allegation is false.
A Canadian study of family law cases in which written decisions were produced over a three-year period identified 42 recorded cases of spousal abuse alleged against men. Seventy-four percent of these were substantiated. Only two cases of spousal abuse alleged against women were identified, one of which was substantiated (Shaffer and Bala, 2003). However, as the authors note, in the cases where the courts found the allegations to be exaggerated or unfounded, in some instances the courts gave no reasons for this conclusion, and in at least some cases, judges failed to recognise the existence or seriousness of actual abuse (Shaffer and Bala, 2003).
A US study drew on documentary records describing 120 divorced families referred for child custody evaluations and custody counselling, collected over 1989 to 2002 from family courts within San Francisco Bay Area counties. Multiple allegations of child abuse, neglect, and family violence were raised in the majority of cases. Allegations were assessed on the basis of detailed interviews with family members, information from professionals, and analysis of written documentation. This study found that 63 percent of allegations of abuse by one adult of another (including domestic violence and substance misuse) were substantiated (Johnston et al., 2005). Allegations were more likely to be substantiated against men than against women (67 versus 55 percent). In other words, counter to some popular perceptions, men rather than women were more likely to make allegations of domestic violence (and substance abuse) in family law proceedings which were not substantiated. However, this study cannot determine rates of false allegations, as it could not distinguish among ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations between those which were false and those which could not be determined due to lack of evidence (Johnston et al., 2005).
Rates of false accusations of rape are very low.
The evidence is that rates of intentionally false and/or malicious accusations of rape are very low. For example, the most recent British study determines that only three per cent of rapes reported to the police were either ‘possible’ or ‘probable’ false allegations (Kelly et al. 2005). Australian studies are similar. For example, in an analysis of 850 rapes reported to Victoria Police over three years, only 2.1 per cent of reports were identified by police as false (Statewide Steering Committee to Reduce Sexual Assault 2006: 5). Three earlier studies in Australia, based on police data from 1986 to 1990, find rates of false reports of sexual assault of 1.4 per cent, 4.8 per cent, and 7 per cent (VLRC 2004: 112).
Some other studies claim that rates of false allegations of sexual assault are much higher. However, as a recent review notes, there is considerable diversity in definitions of falsity, in how allegations are judged to be false, and in methods for collecting data regarding the extent of false allegations (Rumney 2006: 130-132). For example, some studies which find apparently high rates of false rape allegations take at face value the judgements made by police officers on the basis of stereotypical assumptions regarding rape victims and their responses to victimisation (ibid: 142).
There is no doubt that false allegations of rape and domestic violence sometimes are made. At the same time, there is nothing to suggest that these are common or that women make them more often than men (Davis, 2004). In addition, false allegations of violence and abuse are far less common than false denials of their perpetration (Jaffe et al., 2008).
Women living with domestic violence often do not take out protection orders and do so only as a last resort.
There is further evidence that most allegations of domestic violence express women’s genuine concerns for their and/or their children’s safety. Research in Australia finds that women going through family court proceedings and living with domestic violence do not routinely take out protection orders in response. In a study of 176 files in which children’s matters were contested, while 95 of the files (54 per cent) included evidence of domestic violence Apprehended Violence Orders had not been obtained in over a third of these (Melville & Hunter, 2001, pp. 127-128).
In addition, women often only take out protection orders against domestic violence as a last resort after being subjected to repeated and serious victimization (Melville & Hunter, 2001). Among young women aged 18 to 23, women are more likely to seek legal protection if they have experienced more severe levels of violence (e.g. including being beaten, choked or shot at), have been injured, and have children (Young et al., 2000, p. 3). Earlier research into the use of apprehended domestic violence orders found that the majority of complainants had experienced physical violence on more than one occasion (Trimboli & Bonney, 1997).
Legal authorities themselves reject the view that women routinely fabricate allegations of domestic violence. For example, bodies such as the Criminal Law Review Division of the NSW Attorney-General’s Department reject the view that women use protection orders in family law proceedings to gain a tactical advantage (Simpson, 2000, p. 18). In New Zealand, reviews by the Law Commission and the Ministry of Justice find no evidence to support the claim that women are making strategic use of protection orders, based for example on false allegations of domestic violence, to gain strategic advantage in family law cases (Davis, 2004).
In fact, Australian research finds that most women who have experienced violence in relationships still want their children to have some contact with the other parent, but what they seek (and often do not receive) is an arrangement which ensures safety for their children and themselves (Kaye et al., 2003).
Protection orders provide an effective means of reducing women’s vulnerability to violence.
The Australian evidence is that protection orders provide an effective means of reducing women’s vulnerability to violence. An early study in New South Wales found that the vast majority of complainants experienced a reduction in violence and abuse from the defendant in the six months after the order was served on the defendant, and over 90 per cent reported that the order had produced benefits such as reduced contact with the defendant and increased personal safety and comfort (Trimboli & Bonney, 1997). Finally, research among young women aged 18 to 23 and subjected to violence by intimate partners found that “preventive strategies for young women at the early stage of a relationship can eliminate, or at least reduce, physical violence by a partner” (Young et al., 2000, p. 5). The severity of violence was reduced after legal protection, but the benefit was not as marked unless women sought help from the courts as well as the police.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (1996). Women’s Safety Australia (cat. no. 4128.0). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Brownridge, D. A. (2006). Violence against women post-separation. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11(5): 514-530.
Davis, W. (2004) Gender Bias, Fathers’ Rights, Domestic Violence and the Family Court. Butterworths Family Law Journal, December: 299-312.
DeKeseredy, W. S., Rogness, M., & Schwartz, M. D. (2004). Separation/divorce sexual assault: The current state of social scientific knowledge. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 675-691.
Jaffe, Peter G., Janet R. Johnston, Claire V. Crooks, and Nicholas Bala. (2008). Custody disputes involving allegations of domestic violence: toward a differentiated approach to parenting plans. Family Court Review, 46(3): 500-522.
Johnston, J. R., S. Lee, N.W. Olesen, and M.G. Walters. (2005). Allegations and substantiations of abuse in custody-disputing families. Family Court Review, 43, 283–294.
Kelly L, Lovett, J & Regan, L 2005, A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University, Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, London.
Lone Fathers Association Australia. (2004). Protection orders legislation review. (ACT). Discussion Paper: Comments by Lone Fathers Association. (Australia). Inc. Canberra.
Melville, A., & Hunter, R. (2001). ‘As everybody knows’: Countering myths of gender bias in family law. Griffith Law Review, 10(1), 124-138.
Riggs, D. S., M. B. Caulfield, & A.B. Street (2000). Risk for domestic violence: Factors associated with perpetration and victimization. Journal of Clinical Psychology 56(10): 1289-1316.
Rumney, N.S. (2006). False Allegations of Rape. Cambridge Law Journal, 65, March, pp.128-158.
Shaffer, M., and N. Bala. (2003). Wife abuse, child custody and access in Canada. In R. Geffner, R. S. Ingelman, & J. Zellner (Eds.), The effects of intimate partner violence on children (pp. 253–276). New York: Haworth Maltreatment & Trauma Press.
Simpson, R. (2000). Incidence and regulation of domestic violence in New South Wales (Briefing Paper 4/2000). Sydney: NSW Parliamentary Library.
Statewide Steering Committee to Reduce Sexual Assault. (2006). Study of Reported Rapes in Victoria 2000-2003: Summary Research Report. Melbourne: Office of Women’s Policy.
Trimboli, L., & Bonney, R. (1997). An evaluation of the NSW apprehended violence order scheme. Sydney: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
VLRC 2004, Sexual offences: law and procedure: final report, Victorian Law Reform Commission, Melbourne.
Young, M., Byles, J., & Dobson, A. (2000). The effectiveness of legal protection in the prevention of domestic violence in the lives of young Australian women. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 148, 1-6.
This Fact Sheet may be circulated. It may be reproduced with acknowledgement to Dr Michael Flood. Direct correspondence to mflood [at] uow.edu.au.
False Accusations DV Rape 2010.pdf
Date / Time: 7/29/2010 5:00 PM Central 6:00 PM EST
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Do you think that an abuser would never get custody of a child? Think again! Thousands of Mothers each year are losing custody to former abusers that also abuse children. How could this happen? Government funding in the form of Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives is part of it. This show we will continue to expose the criminals of the family court system, the federal government that funds it and the court whores that run it. Tune in for lively discussion, information and resources on how you can avoid the family court snake pit. If you are a Mother who is facing any of these challenges against your former abuser..this show is for YOU!
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THERE’S NOTHING FRIENDLY ABOUT ABUSE Children are at risk when custody cases rely on a meritless theory of parental “alienation”
FILED IN: AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION, BARRY GOLDSTEIN, BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD,CENTER FOR JUDICIAL EXCELLENCE, CHILD CUSTODY, CHILD CUSTODY BATTLE, CHILD CUSTODY ISSUES,CHILD RAPE, CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE, CHILD CUSTODY FOR FATHERS, CORRUPT CUSTODY EVALUATORS,CORRUPT PSYCHOLOGISTS, DR. RICHARD GARDNER, JOAN ZORZA, NONCUSTODIAL MOTHERS, PAS,PARENTAL ALIENATION DISORDER, PARENTAL ALIENATION DISORDERS, PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME,CUSTODY EVALUATIONS, PARENTAL ALIENATION
Here is an article from the current issue of Ms. Magazine, written by someone who gets it…Dr. R. Dianne Bartlow:
There’s Nothing Friendly About Abuse
Children are at risk when custody cases rely on a meritless theory of parental “alienation”
It’s a statistic so unbelievable that it’s difficult to wrap your head around: A research review by lawyer and domestic violence expert Joan Zorza found that in about half of the 100,000 contested child custody cases each year in the United States, custody goes to the father – even though at least one-third of these fathers reportedly committed domestic violence against the mother or the child. In fact, women are actually more likely to win custody if they do not allege abuse.
The force behind these rulings are the innocuous-sounding “friendly parent” statutes on the books in at least 32 states, which mandate that courts, in deciding custody, consider how willing each parent is to facilitate a “close and continuing” relationship between the child and the other parent. This is one factor in determining what custody arrangements are “in the best interests of the child.”
“Friendly parent” statutes are a dressed-down form of a theory called Parental Alienation Syndrome. PAS theorizes that most accusations of child abuse (especially sexual abuse) made during a custody battle are actually fraudulent. Not only are the charges false, says the theory, but they are deliberately undertaken by one parent (in most cases, the mother) to “alienate” the child from the other parent (generally, the father).
Never mind that the American Psychological Association has said PAS has no valid merit, nor that PAS inventor Richard Gardner has also said that society “overreacts” to sexual abuse and that pedophilia is an honorable lifestyle choice. PAS lives on in “friendly parent” statutes and in the testimony of many court-appointed evaluators and mental-health professionals. Those who diagnose PAS often recommend that full custody go to the “alienated parent” (usually the biological father) and that unsupervised visitation with the “alienating parent” (usually the mother) be cut off.
Ultimately, these outmoded ideas maintain their grip because of a long-standing tradition of discrediting women’s concerns and believability in comparison to men’s, wrote Zorza in Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody (Civic Research Institute, 2010). Their effect is to lend powerful leverage to abusers.
“Severely abusive fathers may deliberately escalate their abuse to force the woman to complain, flee, or bargain away valuable marital assets, alimony or child support. They then retaliate by filing for custody, knowing they will likely be able to deprive the mothers of the children,” writes Zorza. “Other abusive fathers use the “friendly parent” concept to force the mother to pay them child support and to deprive her of any visitation.”
The consequences can be dire. According to the Center for Judicial Excellence, a court advocacy organization, an estimated 75 children nationwide were murdered between June 2009 and April 2010 by abusive fathers who won custody battles.
Currently, about half of the states in the U.S. have laws requiring courts to consider domestic violence on an equal basis with factors such as “friendly parent” statutes when making custody determinations. But family courts have wide discretion in how heavily to weigh domestic violence. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the American Bar Association recommend that abuse be given more consideration than other factors in custody cases – and that courts withhold sole or joint custody from anyone with a history of domestic violence.
It’s high time for parents and the public to know what’s going on in these situations, says Barry Goldstein, co-editor of Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: “I believe that if the public was aware of the frequency in which courts make fundamental mistakes and send children to live with abusers, the practice would quickly end because it would not be tolerated.”
R.Dianne Bartlow, PH.D., is associate professor of gender and women’s studies at California State University, Northridge.
Here we go again. I’m sure that this blog post will piss off more than a few men and women, but I’d like to speak for the rights and welfare of hard-working primary caregiving mothers for a change, since they don’t seem to get much attention in the media these days. Too often I see puff pieces exalting the role of fatherhood that either ignore the day-to-day contributions and sacrifices mothers have always made or these articles find a way to debase mothers, especially single and divorced mothers and poor mothers. It’s about time someone stood up for the moms out there who don’t get the glowing media attention they so richly deserve.
The last time I wrote about stay-at-home dads was June 20, right around Father’s Day because I figured – rightly – that there would be a fair share of articles out there about how the dads who lost jobs in this economy have turned into the mother’s dream of the helpful and attentive Stay-At-Home Dad. Now the stay-at-home dad story has made it to The Huffington Post (a publication I thought would know better, but then again progressive publications are just as likely to publish fatherhood exaltation puff pieces as are conservative publications), written by a stay-at-home mom of four kids.
I can safely report that the Stay-At-Home Dad remains a rare and mythic figure, despite all the media attention he has been getting.
Stay-at-home dads are all the rage in the media since this rotten economy has forced many unemployed men back in the ranks of the homestead. Judging from the plethora of Father’s Day articles celebrating stay-at-home-dads, you would think that dads across the United States are turning into Mr. Mom at an unprecedented rate.
From a profile in Michigan’s Lansing State Journal:
[For Chris Singer], raising Tessa, who has huge, Gerber-baby blue eyes, adorably chubby legs and a smile that could melt the hardest of hearts is mission one. That means nights without sleep, trips to the library and zoo, loads of diapers, bottles, burp cloths and the conviction that doing the right thing right now.
From columnist Jeff Gillenkirk in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The number of stay-at-home dads rose nearly 60 percent between 2003 and 2008 and is expected to keep rising as the economy and family roles continue to change.
And now we have Kari Henley, who positively basks in the glow of her own fatherhood exaltation. I found it interesting that in comments she admits she does not have a relationship with her own father. I don’t know whether the relationship has been distant or if her father has died but it’s a very telling statement. She also wrote this: “You seem to echo a similar theme here that is so important…. fathers need space to become the parents they can be.” When did dads need permission to be dads? Why not just take the reins and do the damned job? And don’t tell me that your wife won’t “let” you. That’s only an excuse. When it comes to parenting, most couples work things out that one takes the lead and the other follows that lead. Most often, the one taking the lead is mom, whether or not she works outside the home. There can’t be two generals running the homestead.
Most dads have no problem taking orders from mom in this capacity. They recognize that she is the primary caregiver of the children and they follow her lead. When it comes to the cultural drive for “shared parenting” in America, I firmly believe that parents should “share” parenting after divorce the way they did when they were married, and most often that meant mom taking the lead and dad following. Most dads are not and were not primary caregivers of their children. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s not a failure on dad’s part to not be his children’s primary caregiver. It’s simply a style of parenting that works for most couples and has worked for a very long time.
Most divorces don’t end up being heard in front of a judge and most dads agree that mom had been the primary caregiver all along, so they agree mom should continue in that capacity after a divorce. That’s 85% of divorces. If both parents agree to try “shared parenting”, nothing is stopping them. It’s that 15% of troublesome cases including domestic violence, affairs, abandonment, child abuse, ne’er do wells, passive aggressive jerks, anger issues, drug, alcohol, and gambling problems, and other serious “issues” that cause problems for the rest of the folks who can make up their own minds about their divorces and custody issues. This minority should not drive the court experiences of the majority who are capable of working things out on their own without meddling from “experts” who feed off divorce and custody cases such as custody evaluators, psychological evaluators, “shared parenting” proponents, “experts” who tout junk science such as “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (which just got rejected from the DSM-V, by the way), “experts” who support “friendly” parent provisions, parenting coordinators, mediators, those who work in visitation centers, guardians ad litem, etc., etc., ad nauseum.
Court-imposed “shared parenting” has been proven to be an abysmal failure. It’s so bad that Australia, which has experimented with mandatory “shared parenting” for the past three years, is now reverting its laws back to when primary caregiving moms were awarded custody or when both parents decided mom should have custody because she had acted as the children’s primary caregiver all along.
My long-winded point is that any dad can say he “wants” to be a stay-at-home dad or a primary caregiving dad, but a divorce-bed conversion is not the place for experimentation. If he was actually a stay-at-home dad or actually the primary caregiver of the children, he should get custody. If he wasn’t, then all bets are off. The best of intentions and “wanting” custody doesn’t mean that you should get what you want. Courts and dads need to recognize the contributions and sacrifices mothers already make when tending to their children’s lives. “Shared parenting” is a slap in the face to those moms who have taken on the primary caregiver role and all the sacrifices that go with it.
Don’t be fooled. These feel-good stay-at-home dad stories are trotted out for Father’s Day and other times of the year, but the reality is not so rosy. It’s true enough that the tide of layoffs hashit men harder than women. But bona fide primary caregiving fathers are still rare, and a man doesn’t automatically become a primary caregiver of the children simply because he’s unemployed or underemployed. The horrid worldwide economy has simply created a larger number of unemployed/underemployed men who aren’t picking up the slack at home.
In The New York Times, author Catherine Rampell describes the more complex reality:
On average, employed women devote much more time to child care and housework than employed men do, according to recent data from the government’s American Time Use Survey analyzed by two economists, Alan B. Krueger and Andreas Mueller.
When women are unemployed and looking for a job, the time they spend daily taking care of children nearly doubles. Unemployed men’s child care duties, by contrast, are virtually identical to those of their working counterparts, and they instead spend more time sleeping, watching TV and looking for a job, along with other domestic activities.
So despite media fantasies, men getting laid off means that many moms are now acting as both the primary caregiver and the primary wage earner. Most mothers are already the primary caregiver of their children and that fact needs to be recognize in the media and in court. I know this point of view is not popular these days but it needs to be voiced, recognized, and addressed.
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AMPP is a social movement seeking justice and accountability within the family court system which includes DHHS/CPS, psychologists and other so called experts.
We as mothers demand CITIZENSHIP and our Rights to our Children. We demand that our children not be used as pawns by our abuser in a custody dispute. We demand that Mothers and Children be equally protected against court ordered visitation with an abuser. We demand that Mothers and Children be given the same rights, privileges and voice that the abuser gets in family courts!
We demand that our President take action now as can no longer afford to be silent and we won’t. We demand the same "rights and freedoms" to which all humans are entitled.
Behind the closed doors of the dirty little secret of the family court system, thousands of women each year lose child custody to violent men who beat and abuse Mothers and Children. Family courts are not family-friendly and betray the best interests of the child. Until Mothers and Childrens voices are heard we will never shut up, give up or go away!
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Asshole –of the Week—Journalist and Fathers Rights Promoter Russ Baldwin of TheLocalBuzzLamar Colorado
Oh yippy kia yay!! We got more money to kill moms!!! her in po dunk Lamar, Co. I’m An ASSHOLE
This one is from Colorado—their lil po dunk ‘rag’ is on line but not accessiblewww.TheLocalBuzzLamar.com
roflmfa!!! the local BUZZZZ?? is that from the high from the ‘Mari-Jane’—or just man gossip in bee fashion?
ohhhhh— and here is the editors email address-TheLocalBuzzEditor@yahoo.com oh come on already a yahoo email??? sounds like the good ole boys are keeping the patriarchal oppression in full chains.
What do ya bet this jerk is divorced and pays child support? …..and NOW he has found (or likely already knew) that he can keep fucking with mom through the Fatherhood Initiatives –learn to be a good dad (cuz ur a sack of shit now) ANDGET REWARDED FOR BEING A ‘BAD DAD’. WTF?????
Well, as of now- we can’t stop the funding be we sure as hell can expose the assholes who support the funding.
The images below were sent to American Mothers Political Party @Chairperson@AmericanMothersPoliticalParty.org and from that address the reporter RUSS BALDWIN of the below story will get this link. Or I meaneditor@yahoo will thinking perhaps they are one in the same—seems RUSS BALDWIN covers Marijuana stories to (from the below scanned article-
does he do Obituaries—does he report dead mommies and their children? hmmm
If he did he would NOT have published the below- I am anxious to hear if he publishes a AMPP members very well written response which we are publishing here above his trash mag images.
I am writing in response to the article that was published on (July 12, 2010 of the Local Buzz,) and (July 16, 2010 of the Lamar Ledger). “Article on Promoting Responsible Fatherhood.” As a responsible and loving parent and a member of this community, I was deeply concerned and somewhat offended by this article. I felt that there were many misrepresentations of facts and this editorial came across as very biased.
I feel that such an article serves only to further divide not only our community but our Nation that prides itself on families. I feel that since media hold an enormous amount of power when it comes to influencing people on so many levels, I feel it becomes all the more important that when there is such blatant divisions between genders, the responsible thing to occur would be investigative reporting. This would serve two purposes to society;
- It balances rather than compound the problems that are dividing our nation and communities like that of gender wars putting fathers against mothers and,
- It challenges outdated myths and societal perceptions. Such as:
Myth –– Research on single mother households proves that "fatherlessness" harms children.
Fact: "[F]ather absence does not significantly influence the level of well-being of either daughters or sons. Rather… children’s perceptions of their relationships with both parents have a more direct influence on their psychological well-being than does the physical presence or absence of their father."
Myth — Boys need fathers in order to learn how to be good husbands and fathers.
Fact: "Most boys who grew up with single mothers have positive opinions of them. They are likely to have ‘experienced’ the process of disassociation from women much less strongly than boys from father-mother households. An overwhelming number of boys and men under thirty who like and admire their mother are those who grew up, for most of their childhood years, with their mother as the sole head of the household… growing up to have better relationships with women. They are usually freer in conversational style, listen with more interest to what women say, and see women as individuals first rather than ‘women’ first. In short, they are more comfortable with women, and identify much more, not afraid of solidarity with a woman, or of trusting her.
Rodgers, Bryan and Jan Pryor. Divorce and separation: the outcomes for children, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (ISBN 1 85935 043 7 (June 1998). Wenk, D., Hardesty, C. L., Morgan, C. S., & Blair, S. L. (1994). The influence of parental involvement on the well-being of sons and daughters. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56 (1), 229-234. King, V. (1994). Variation in the consequences of nonresident father involvement for children’s well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56(4), 963-972. Hite, Shere, The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy, Grove Press (1994), citing to her research findings. Silverstein, Louise B. and Carl F. Auerbach, "Deconstructing the Essential Father," AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, Vol. 54, No. 6 397-407 (June 1999)
These are only a few myths that were relayed in your article. I am attaching additional ones with this correspondence for your review.
As a Nation, we should not be trying to focus on just fathers or just mothers but us as parents. Both genders should have equal access to "responsible PARENTING" programs and both male and females should be able to attend together so that balance is present. This article gives mothers such little credit and almost appears to have a hidden agenda. Who is to say that a single mother cannot raise a successful and responsible citizen absent a father? FATHERLESS CHILDREN STORIES
The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that “fatherless” children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.
"The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption." Furthermore “Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father.
Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents,” said sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Stacey concluded: “The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting. Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones. The gender of parents only matters in ways that don’t matter.”http://www.nyu. edu/about/ news-publication s/news/2010/ 01/21/do_ children_ need_both_ a_mother. html Alternate Contacts: Bethany H. Carland-Adams | scholarlynews@ wiley.com | 781.388.8509 Suzanne Wu | suzanne.wu@usc. edu | 213.740.0252
Barry Goldstein, Co-chair of the child custody task force of NOMAS the National Organization for Men against Sexism. Domestic violence expert, speaker, writer, consultant co-editor of newly released book DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY says it best when he states (via-email):
“To me responsible fatherhood would be men supporting protective mothers and seeking to hold abusers accountable.”
What needs to be brought to light is the real initiative to this and what statistics say regarding Fatherhood. Remembering when I was a child and the role of a father, or DAD.. There were no paid programs to make fathers be good dads. Why? Because it (Fatherhood) like motherhood, is a natural action of a GOOD Father, and does not need classes to learn how to be responsible. The concern that all should have with this program is;
- The money that is being used to pay for it.
- Making someone do something they may not have to desire to do, can be harmful to the child.
- The main focus is on Fathers, not on helping parents as a whole.
- The failure to include all studies.
Perhaps, having all the information at hand would better serve not just the Father’s but the community as a whole. For that is a lot of money being given to just a selective few.
A few that has already shown, no desire of being a good parent otherwise this bias program would not be initiated.
As the old saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink" applies also to the attendance of such programs. I think that this community and our Nation have to bring the focus back to responsible parenting and not dividing the genders to make war. There are no benefits for our children in this as our family courts are being flooded by such "responsible fathers" and the children are being destroyed because our government is pushing such programs.
American Mother Political Party -Colorado Chapter
The articles follow this note:
In Response to your article that follows below RUSS BALDWIN : (note- I suggest you publish on line—its real easy and free-)
and Anthony Latour is smiling big with HIS 40K check below—what an asshole—but journalism is where we are hitting Latour is just RUSS BALDWIN’s ASSHOLE OF THE MONTH Bad very Bad Journalism article.- who has responsibility to repoert facts not fiction- especially with the tax payers money—look at Latour that’s YOUR tax dollars he is holding—feel better now?
But wait— there is more..
Well just add this ledger reporter to RUSS BALDWIN—as deer ole RUSS keeps doing radio and any PR to other rag reporter. (must not have much to report on in Lamar huh?)
Grant helps fathers stay in kids` lives
By Lola Shrimplin The Lamar Ledger
Posted: 07/15/2010 09:47:55 AM MDT
Fatherhood goes quite a way back for Anthony LaTour with the Prowers County Department of Social Services. "It goes all the way back to 1994 when I found out I was going to be a father at the age of 16," LaTour said.
LaTour, who works with Special Programs for Social Services, said organizations in El Paso County helped him with learning how to be a good father.
Professionally speaking, LaTour said fatherhood has always been a passion of his and he wants to help other fathers become the best parents they can be.
"I lost both my parents. I lost my mom when I was 15 and I lost my dad when I was 12," LaTour said.
At a crucial time in his life, he really needed support and needed a father figure to help him make positive choices, he said.
He found that support in his high school basketball coach and English teacher, Bruce Bradshaw.
Bradshaw helped him academically, telling LaTour that although he was a decent basketball player, he still needed to keep his grades up, same as the other students.
"Those small lessons, it was contageous throughout my life," LaTour said. "To be able to start a program like this, in Prowers County, it means the world to me."
Other people were vital in his life, he said, and when he arrived in Prowers County 15 years ago, he was unsure where he was going to go in life.
It was important to stay in college, he said and the community has supported him and his family since they arrived.
His wife`s family is from Prowers County, he said and working at Social Services and with Crossroads and helping fathers become better and more active in the lives of their children has been an honor.
"I feel privileged to be able to give back in this way," LaTour said.
Several people at Lamar Community College made impressions on him and helped him, he said, furthering the desire to give back.
Now, with a grant from the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division for $40,000, there are going to be two programs, one of which is the nurturing fathers program and the other is responsible fatherhood development.
"What both programs are going to accomplish is bringing in the average dad, starting him on a 12 week program and at the end of those 12 weeks, the dad will have the tools that he needs to be a successful father in his child`s life," LaTour said.
The classes will meet one day a week for two hours, hopefully off site from Social Services, he said.
Mentoring will also be offered for fathers, he said, beginning after the classes start.
Fathers who have become engaged in their child`s life will be coming back to help other fathers to learn.
The classes will change the social norm of being a father, moving from fathers who say they can throw something on the grill and talk about sports or other issues to fathers who are more engaged.
"We`re moving towards let`s talk about being a dad. How can we be a good dad," LaTour said.
Every child needs a different type of father, LaTour said."But only that father can be that connection to that child," he said.
The program will be part of the child support enforcement unit, but will not be a court ordered program, LaTour said.
Programs such as Watch D.O.G.S. have been started in Granada and LaTour hopes to expand the program to other schools.
Fathers are able to take part in the lives of their children and attend school functions through the Watch D.O.G.S. program and LaTour said the participation in Granada schools has been great so far.
The program started last winter and LaTour hopes to have more fathers take part this coming school year.
Fathers who wish to take part in the nurturing fathers or responsible fatherhood development programs can contact LaTour at 336-7486, extension 182 or at the Prowers County Department of Social Services.
Maternal Deprivation Inflicted on Battered Women and Abused Children – This is the Father Rights Movement
"Maternal Deprivation Abuse is featured on BMLCTA Blog in an effort to wipe out this heinous crime against mothers and children."
Maternal Deprivation, or Motherlessness, is occurring with alarming frequency due to the unethical treatment of women and children in family court. Maternal Deprivation is inflicting abuse by severing the mother-child bond. It is a form of abuse that men inflict on both the mother and children, especially men who claim they are “parentally alienated” from their children when there are complaints of abusive treatment by the father.
Maternal Deprivation occurs when men seek to keep their children from being raised by their mothers who are the children’s natural caretakers. Some men murder the mothers of their own children. Others seek to sever the maternal bonds by making false allegations of fictitious psychological syndromes in a deliberate effort to change custody and/or keep the child from having contact with their mother when there are legal proceedings. A twisted form of Maternal Deprivation is to kill the children, so that the mother will be left to suffer. Sometimes there are family annihilation murders where the father kills the children and himself (or dies by cop), but the mother is not killed because she has received protective orders and her children have not as in the case of Jessica Gonzales.
In seeking to define this form of abuse certain common elements are found in the Maternal Deprivation scenario as follows:
- History of domestic abuse that could be physical, psychological, sexual, and/or social abuse occurring on or off again, occasionally, or chronically which could be mild, moderate, or severe, including homicidal and/or suicidal threats.
- Legal proceedings relating to abuse
- Hiring of “Fathers Rights” attorney
- Use of “Hired Gun” mental health professionals to make accusations of psychological disorder against the mother and children in deliberate effort to excuse abuse and change custody or grant visitation that is contrary to safety concerns. Another name for these unethical professionals are “Whores of the Courts“
- Raising claims of “psychological disorders” against the mother such as “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS),Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, Malicious Mother Syndrome, Lying Litigant Syndrome, Hostile Aggressive Parenting or any other mother-blaming psychological disorder that can be used by the unethical professional to re-victimize the victims.
- Infliction of “Legal Abuse” by continually and excessively filing motions so that the mother continually has to defend herself and her child(ren) causing financial and emotional devastation.
- Can occur in response to child support legal proceedings as retaliation.
The intent of “Maternal Deprivation” is to punish the mother and the child for revealing the abuse and to falsely claim that they are not abusive. This very commonly occurs as there are more and more “abuse-excuse”parental alienation accusing professionals who use this scientifically invalid theory over and over to achieve specific goals of the person paying them. Maternal Deprivation can also occur in response to child support legal proceedings. When occurring in this manner, Maternal Deprivation is a response to the financial demands as retaliation. Suddenly the father who had little prior involvement wants to take the kids half the time to avoid child support obligations, etc. When the men are really abusive, they ask for sole custody and demand the mother of the child pay them.
Although some people call this “Maternal Alienation”, a distinction needs to be made as the pro-pedophilia “Parental Alienation Syndrome” and the use of the word “Alienation” are most often used AGAINST battered women and abused children. There needs to be a distinction between the phony psychological syndrome and the intentional infliction of abuse on a mother and child by intentionally severing their natural bond. This distinction can best be made by NOT using the label of “Alienation” which will always be associated with the pro-pedophilia monster Doctor Richard Gardner.
Some of the characteristics of the especially heinous abusers who inflict Maternal Deprivation include but are not limited to the following:
- Un-empathetic (Lacks Empathy)
- Guilt inducing
- Intentionally tries to humiliate mother and/or child
- Harsh, rigid and punitive parenting style
- Outrage at child’s challenge of authority
- May use force to reassert parental position
- Dismissive of child’s feelings and negative attitudes
- Vents rage, blames mother for “brainwashing” child and takes no responsibility
- Challenges child’s beliefs and/or attitudes and tries to convince them otherwise
- Inept and unempathic pursuit of child, pushes calls and letters, unannounced or embarrassing visits
There is a distinct overlap of the intimate terrorist type domestic violence abuser with the Maternal Deprivation abusers as follows:
- Coercion and threats
- Emotional abuse
- Minimizing, denying and blaming (Hallmarks of PAS)
- Using children
- Economic abuse
- Male privilege
The people who most often engage in Maternal Deprivation Abuse are most often:
- Abusive men
- Vindictive second wives who don’t want to deal with the real mother of the children
- Paternal grandparents who raised dysfunctional children (abusers)
The effects of Maternal Deprivation often cause the children to become psychotic, depressed, and sometimes suicidal or to have suicidal ideations. Another terrible reaction is when the child retaliates against the parent who accusesParental Alienation Syndrome as in a Texas case where the child killed his father. Other times when the Maternal Deprivation abuser completely takes over the will of the child by using brainwashing techniques similar to those used in prison camps where deprivation and isolation are used to force ideological changes in captives, these children often have a sort of trauma-bonding with the abuser and model their behavior. Sometimes these children will also abuse the mother in the same manner as the father. Another generation is created to carry on the abuse, and will likely do the same to their own spouse and children.
For more articles involving Maternal Deprivation:
- The Crime Report – Failure To Protect The Crisis in Family Courts
- Failure of Family Court System Leads To Death and Devastation
- Doctor Who Intentionally Severs Bonds With Mothers Is a Monster
- Child in imminent fear shoots father – vindicated in appeal – PAS fraud nightmare
- Cincinatti PAS
- VAWnet Joan Meier on PAS-Parental Alienation Syndrome & Parental Alienation: Research Reviews
Guardians ad Litem; Parenting Coordinators; Custody Evaluators, etc.This category includes the various forms of so-called ADR (alternate dispute resolution) practitioners, such as GALs, parenting coordinators, parenting evaluators, forensic psychologists, recommending mediators, special masters, court-ordered therapists, other court-appointed mental health professionals, supervised visitation centers, and other profiteers of "therapeutic jurisprudence", whose methods involve — in non-criminal cases — intrusion and coercion under the threat of court sanctions, and actual or de facto extra-judicial decision-making. This website heavily criticizes all of these practices, which have multiple things wrong with them, not the least of which is denigration of due process, and the diminution of a publicly observable, regulated, and appealable "rule by law" by substituting the caprice of men and women. These practices have been promoted as "cures" for ailings of the court system and the litigants in it by self-serving persons who apparently are ignorant, or else just do not care about the harms they cause to children and their parents because they make money from the ideas they promote, churning profit in proceedings that fly in the face of the foundations of our justice system. The bulk of these materials are listed in the section on PSYCHOLOGY. Also see the sections on the specific substantive issues, such as child development or parental alienation.
Court-appt’d Parenting Evaluators and GALs: The Case for Abolition by Margaret Dore PDFSCHOLAR
Guardians ad Litem in Custody Litigation: The Case for Abolition by Richard Ducote PDFSCHOLAR
The Proper Role of Mental Health Professionals in Domestic Violence Cases by Barry Goldstein, Esq. Editorial
Troubling Admission of Supervised Visitation Records in Court by Stern/Oehme PDF SCHOLAR
Judicial Blunder of the Year "Award" 2001 by National Coalition for Family Justice of California, Inc.
Outrages: Naming Names multiple contributors
Run, Mommy, Run! by Talia Carner
Smear Campaign: Psychologist versus Robin Yeamans by Robin Yeamans
The mounting social and professional awareness of the negative effects on children of exposure to the behavior of batterers has drawn attention to the need for effective tools for assessing risk to children from batterers as parents or guardians (e.g. Williams, Boggess, & Carter, 2001). Such tools are particularly needed by child protective personnel, custody evaluators, and courts with jurisdiction over child custody and child welfare cases, but are also important to the work of many therapists, battered women’s service providers, batterer intervention programs, and programs for children exposed to batterers.
The model we are proposing here is particularly suited to assessment of post-separation risk to children from batterers. We commonly encounter the mistaken assumption among professionals, including judges and custody evaluators, that children are in less danger from a batterer once a couple is no longer living together, when the reality is often the opposite (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002; Langford, Isaac, & Kabat, 1999). Assessment of risk to children post-separation should be carried out with as much caution as would be called for in intervening with an intact family.
While couples are still living together, a batterer’s danger to children can be mediated to some extent by their mother’s ability to protect them. Assessment of her ability to protect requires the examination of such elements as the level of physical dangerousness of the batterer, the mother’s strengths as a parent, the ability of her community to provide the necessary legal and supportive resources, and the mother’s capacity to seek and use help for herself and her children (Whitney & Davis, 1999), while also avoiding the mistake of characterizing a battered woman as "failing to protect" her children (Magen, 1999). Therefore, the use of our model in assessing risk in intact families needs to be combined with careful and compassionate assessment of the mother’s protective capabilities and her willingness to work collaboratively with child protective personnel.
Before describing the elements of a proper assessment, we will review the most serious physical, sexual, and psychological risks that batterers can pose to children, and describe the elements necessary for children’s emotional recovery from exposure to battering behavior. Many of the errors currently made by professionals in assessing children’s safety with a batterer are a product of the lack of clear delineation of what the central risks are, including the important possibility that a batterer’s conduct with children may interfere with their emotional healing from traumatic experiences they have already undergone.
Following our section on the details of evaluating risk, we provide additional assessment guidelines that professionals can apply in cases where a batterer admits to a history of abusiveness but asserts that he has changed. We include this section because batterers sometimes succeed in using unfounded claims of change to circumvent proper evaluation of risk, an unfortunate outcome that we wish to caution against.
Risks Posed to Children by Exposure to Batterers
Professional approaches to assessing risks to children from batterers often suffer from the absence of a clear definition of what those risks are. This gap can lead to lack of direction in an evaluation, vagueness in an evaluator’s report, and recommendations that are based on scant evidence or on stereotypes regarding batterers and battered women. We therefore begin here by delineating the potential sources of physical and psychological injury to children from contact with batterers:
Risk of exposure to threats or acts of violence towards their mother. Children of battered women witness a large percentage of the batterer’s physical assaults (Kolbo, Blakely, & Engleman, 1996) and sexual assaults (Wolak & Finkelhor, 1998), and the potential traumatic effects of these events are well-established (review in Cummings, 1998). Children also may be physically injured during such assaults, either by accident or because they attempt to intervene (Jaffe, Wolfe, & Wilson, 1990; Roy, 1988).
A high rate of serious assaults by batterers occur post-separation (Tjaden and Thoennes, 2000), and children are likely to witness these incidents (Peled, 2000). The risk that the batterer will assault the mother sexually also increases during and after separation (review in Mahoney & Williams, 1998). When a batterer kills his former partner, children commonly witness the homicide or its aftermath, or are murdered themselves (Langford, Isaac, & Kabat, 1999). Many perpetrators of domestic violence homicides have little or no criminal record involving violence (Langford et al.; Websdale, 1999), complicating the assessment process.
Exposure to post-separation threats or assaults on the mother can impede children’s emotional healing. In a recent case of ours, for example, a child’s violent nightmares began again, after ceasing for over a year, following his witnessing of frightening verbal aggression by his father during an exchange for visitation.
Risk of undermining mother-child relationships. Battering behavior can undermine mother-child relationships and maternal authority in a wide array of ways (Radford & Hester, 2001; McGee, 2000; Hughes & Marshall, 1995), interference which tends to continue or increase post-separation (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002). The emotional recovery of children who have been exposed to domestic violence appears to depend on the quality of their relationship with the non-battering parent more than on any other single factor (see below), and thus batterers who create tensions between mothers and children can sabotage the healing process.
Risk of physical or sexual abuse of the child by the batterer. Multiple studies have demonstrated the dramatically elevated rate of child physical abuse (review in McGee, 2000) and child sexual abuse (e.g. McCloskey, Figueredo, & Koss, 1995; Sirles & Franke, 1989; Paveza, 1988) by batterers. This risk may increase post-separation from the mother’s inability to monitor the batterer’s parenting and from the retaliatory tendencies of many batterers.
Risk to children of the batterer as a role model. Sons of batterers have dramatically elevated rates of domestic violence perpetration when they reach adulthood (Silverman & Williamson, 1997; Straus, 1990), and daughters of batterers find it more difficult than other women to seek assistance if they are abused (Doyne et al., 1999).
Risk of rigid, authoritarian parenting. Recovery in traumatized children is best facilitated by a nurturing, loving environment that also includes appropriate structure, limits, and predictability. A batterer may be severely controlling toward children (McGee, 2000) and is likely to use a harsh, rigid disciplinary style (Margolin, John, Ghosh, & Gordis, 1996; Holden & Ritchie, 1991), which can intimidate children who have been exposed to his violence and can cause the reawakening of traumatic memories, setting back post-separation healing.
Risk of neglectful or irresponsible parenting. Batterers often have difficulty focusing on their children’s needs, due to their selfish and self-centered tendencies (Jacobson & Gottman, 1998). In post-separation visitation situations these parenting weaknesses can be accentuated, as batterers may be caring for children for much longer periods of time than they are accustomed to. Additionally, many of our battering clients have used intentionally neglectful parenting as a way to win their children’s loyalty, for example by not imposing appropriate safety or eating guidelines, or by permitting the children to watch inappropriate violence or sexuality in media.
Neglectful parenting in our clients commonly takes the form of intermittently showing interest in their children and then ignoring them for extended periods. Post-separation, batterers of this parenting style tend to drop in and out of visitation, which can be emotionally injurious to their children and disruptive to life in the custodial home.
Risk of psychological abuse and manipulation. Batterers have been observed to tend towards verbally abusive parenting styles (McGee, 2000; Adams, 1991) and towards using the children as weapons against the mother (McGee; Erickson & Henderson, 1998; Peled, 1998). The latter risk appears to increase post-separation (McMahon & Pence, 1995), with visitation becoming an opportunity for a batterer to manipulate the children in his continuing efforts to control their mother (Erickson & Henderson).
Risk of abduction. A majority of parental abductions take place in the context of domestic violence, and are mostly carried out by batterers or their agents (Greif and Hegar, 1993). Post-separation parental abductions happen most commonly two or more years subsequent to the separation, and about half occur during an authorized visit (Finkelhor, Hotaling, & Sedlak, 1990).
Risk of exposure to violence in their father’s new relationships. Post-separation, children run the risk that their father will abuse a new partner, as it is common for batterers to abuse women serially (Dutton, 1995; Woffordt, Mihalic, & Menard, 1994).
The Necessary Context for Children’s Recovery from Exposure to Battering Behavior
When a batterer is no longer present in children’s home, the possibility exists that healing and recovery will begin, as has been demonstrated by many studies on children’s resilience (review in Wolak & Finkelhor, 1998). However, we find that children’s continued contact with the batterer sometimes interferes with the creation of a healing context, the critical elements of which include:
A sense of physical and emotional safety in their current surroundings. The establishment of safety, and of the feeling of safety, is a first and indispensable step towards any process of emotional healing from trauma (van der Kolk & McFarlane, 1996), and in particular for children whose experience has included fear, danger, and insecurity at home as children of battered women experience (McGee, 2000). Where children are aware of the batterer’s capacity for violence, unsupervised contact with him may cause them to feel insecure or anxious.
Structure, limits and predictability. Domestic violence can create a sense of chaos and lack of predictability in children’s environment. The parenting patterns that accompany battering can aggravate this problem, as batterers tend to alternate between harshness and leniency with children (Holden & Ritchie, 1991) and battered mothers often experience erosion of their authority (Hughes & Marshall, 1995). Children’s healing therefore depends on the development of structure, limits, and predictability in their home life to counteract the previous experiences of fear and turmoil.
A strong bond to the non-battering parent. Children who have experienced profound emotional distress or trauma are largely dependent for their recovery on the quality of their relationship with their caretaking parent (Jaffe & Geffner, 1998; reviews in Heller, Larrieu, D’Imperio, & Boris, 1999 and Graham-Bermann, 1998). Assisting battered mothers and their children to heal their relationships is one of the most important aspects of promoting recovery (Erickson & Henderson, 1998). Progress towards this goal may be eroded if the batterer uses visitation as a time to encourage the children to disrespect their mother, to feel ashamed of being close to her, or to defy her authority.
Not to feel responsible to take care of adults. Children who are exposed to battering behavior may believe that they must protect their mother, father, or siblings. To relieve this stress adults need to avoid burdening the children with adult concerns. The self-centeredness common in batterers leads to a substantial risk that the father may demand emotional caretaking from his children, particularly in the painful aftermath of parental separation.
A strong bond to their siblings. Overall level of family support is important in fostering resilience (Heller et al., 1999). Children exposed to batterers often have unusually high levels of tension in their sibling relationships (Hurley & Jaffe, 1990), and so may need assistance to address the divisions that have occurred. Batterers often foment tensions between siblings through favoritism and other tactics (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002), undercutting their recovery.
Contact with the battering parent with strong protection for children’s physical and emotional safety. Except in those cases involving the most terrifying batterers or those who have abused the children physically or sexually, children’s recovery may be furthered by having an ongoing opportunity to express their love for their father, to have a sense that he knows them, and to be able to tell him about key events in their lives. They may also crave reassurance that he is not in overwhelming distress. However, such contact is counterproductive when it interferes with the creation of a healing context.
It should be noted that a large proportion of batterers are unable to create or support most of the critical healing elements just listed, so that placing children in a batterer’s custody or in unsupervised visitation with him will often impede their recovery.
Assessing Risk to Children from Contact with Batterers
Given the range of sources of psychological and physical injury to children from batterers and the many elements necessary for children’s recovery, assessing risk to children from batterers is a complex process. Information about a batterer’s history of behavior and attitudes has to be gathered from multiple sources, as his own reporting is not likely to be reliable (Adams, 1991; Follingstad, Rutledge, Berg, Hause, & Polek, 1990). Sources should include the mother, the children, past partners of the batterer, court and police records, child protective records, medical records, school personnel, and anyone who has witnessed relevant events. (Custody evaluators have not typically considered this type of investigating and fact-gathering important to their assessments — see Bow & Quinnell, 2001).
The facts gathered should then be applied to evaluate each of the following 13 points:
Level of physical danger to the mother.
The higher the severity or frequency of a batterer’s level of violence, the greater the risk that he will physically abuse children (Straus, 1990). Level of violence is also an indicator of a batterer’s likelihood to attempt to kill the mother (Websdale, 1999; Langford et al., 1999), or to carry out other continued assaults against her (Weisz, Tolman, & Saunders, 2000). His history of sexually assaulting the mother is correlated to overall level of physical danger (Campbell, Soeken, McFarlane, & Parker, 1998) and specifically to his likelihood of physically abusing children (Bowker, Arbitell, & McFerron, 1988). Threats of abuse are highly correlated with future physical violence (Follingstad et al., 1990) including post-separation violence (Fleury, Sullivan, & Bybee, 2000). Any history of violence to the mother during her pregnancies also indicates an increased risk to commit frequent or severe violence (Campbell et al.). Evaluators should note that both threatened and actual homicide attempts may take place in cases where the batterer’s previous history of violence had not been severe (McCloskey et al., 1995), and that the woman’s own assessment of the likelihood of future violence by a batterer may be more accurate than any other predictor (Weisz et al.).
Additional relevant questions include: Has the batterer ever choked the mother? What types of injuries has he caused? Has he ever violated a restraining order? Has he made lethal threats against her or the children? Has he killed or attacked pets? Is he extremely jealous or possessive? Does he have access to weapons? Is he depressed, despondent, or paranoid? Does he stalk her? Is he escalating? What is his criminal record? Does he chronically abuse substances? Has he been violent towards the children, or towards non-family members? Does he use pornography? (These additional indicators of danger are based on Weisz et. al, 2000; Campbell et al., 1998; Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994; Koss et al., 1994; Demare, Briere, & Lips, 1988.)
History of physical abuse towards the children.
As discussed above, batterers are more likely than non-battering men to physically abuse children and this risk may increase post-separation. It thus is important to evaluate a man’s historical approach to discipline, including his reactions when angry at the children. Additional relevant questions include: Does he spank the children? Has he ever left marks? Does he ever grab the children roughly? Has he been involved in fights (including any that appeared mutual) with his older children? Does he minimize or justify physically abusive behaviors he has used in the past?
History of sexual abuse or boundary violations towards the children.
As discussed above, there is a substantial overlap between battering and incest perpetration. Evidence of sexual abuse should therefore should be treated with particular care in domestic violence cases. Subtler boundary violations can also be psychologically destructive, and can create a context for future sexual abuse or be signs of current undisclosed sexual abuse (Salter, 1995). Questions to explore include: Does the batterer respect his children’s right to privacy, and maintain proper privacy himself? Does he expose the children to pornography? Does he pressure the children for unwanted physical affection or engage them in inappropriate sexual conversation? Does he make inappropriate comments about the children’s bodies or physical development? Are there indications of secret-keeping?
Level of psychological cruelty to the mother or the children.
Our clinical experience indicates that a batterer’s history of mental cruelty towards the mother or the children is an important indicator of how his conscience operates, and in turn of how safe children will be in his care. We also observe that the most psychologically abusive batterers sometimes can be especially determined to gain revenge against the mother, using the children as weapons if necessary. Research indicates that the degree of emotional abuse in the home is an important determinant of the severity of difficulties developed by children exposed to domestic violence (Hughes, Graham-Bermann, & Gruger, 2001). A history of cruelty is overlooked in many evaluations, despite the fact that a majority of battered women report that the batterer’s psychological abuse is even more destructive than his physical violence (Follingstad et al., 1990). Questions to explore include: What have been his most emotionally hurtful acts towards the mother? What behaviors of his have caused the greatest distress to the children? Has he ever deliberately harmed the children emotionally?
Level of coercive or manipulative control exercised during the relationship.
We find that the more severely controlling our clients are towards their partners the more likely they are to draw the children in as weapons of the abuse, and the more likely they are to be authoritarian fathers. Additionally, a dictatorial level of control over children has been associated with increased risk of both physical abuse (review in Milner & Chilamkurti, 1991) and sexual abuse (Leberg, 1997; Salter, 1995). Relevant questions include: Has he interfered with her social or professional contacts? Is he economically coercive? Does he dictate major decisions, showing contempt or disregard for her opinions? Does he monitor her movements? Is he dictatorial or minutely controlling towards the children?
Manipulation as a form of control can be examined through such questions as: Does he play the role of victim in the relationship? Does he abruptly switch to kind and loving behavior when he wishes to achieve certain goals? Has he sown divisions within the family? Is there evidence that he is frequently dishonest? Is he described by his partner, children, or other witnesses as "crazy-making"?
In cases where the batterer has a severe or chronic problem with lying, children’s safety can be compromised by his ability to cover up the realities of his parenting behavior. Such a batterer may also lie directly to the children about their mothers, which can create confusion for them or foster tensions in their relationships with their mothers. Evaluators should thus always examine evidence of a batterer’s credibility.
Level of entitlement and self-centeredness.
"Entitlement" refers to a batterer’s perception of himself as deserving of special rights and privileges within the family (Silverman & Williamson, 1997; Pence & Paymar, 1993; Edleson & Tolman, 1992). It can be manifested through a selfish focus on his own needs, the enforcement of double standards, a view of family members as personal possessions, or self-centered grandiosity regarding his qualities as a partner or as a parent that contrasts with evidence of his abusiveness.
Self-centeredness has been shown to increase the chance of violent reoffending in batterers (Saunders, 1995; Tolman & Bennett, 1990). Furthermore, our clinical experience is that the batterer who is particularly high in entitlement tends to chronically exercise poor parenting judgement and to expect children to take care of his needs. These observations are also consistent with indications that propensity to perpetrate incest is linked to self-centeredness (Leberg, 1997; Bresee, Stearns, Bess, & Packer, 1986), a view of the children as owned objects (Salter, 1995), and attitudes of paternal entitlement (Hanson, Gizzarelli, & Scott, 1994).
Relevant questions in this area include: Is the batterer frequently and unreasonably demanding, becoming enraged or retaliatory when he is not catered to? Does he define the victim’s attempts to defend herself as abuse of him? Does he have double standards regarding his conduct and that of other family members? Does he appear to view the children as owned objects?
History of using the children as weapons, and of undermining the mother’s parenting.
We have observed that batterers who have histories of chronically using children as weapons against their mother, or of deliberately undermining her parenting, usually continue or intensify those behaviors after the relationship breaks up; post-separation improvement in this regard is rare. Change is more common in the other direction, unfortunately, where some batterers who did not use the children as weapons while the couple was together may begin to do so post-separation in response to losing other avenues to control or harass the mother.
Questions to pursue include: Has the batterer mistreated the children out of anger at the mother? Has he taught them negative beliefs about her? Has he ever prevented her from caring for a child? Has he every threatened to harm, kidnap, or take custody of the children? Has he used the children to frighten her, such as by driving recklessly with them in the car? Has he threatened to quit his job in order to avoid paying child support? Does he involve the children in activities that he knows the mother does not permit, or undermine her authority in other ways?
History of placing children at physical or emotional risk while abusing their mother.
We find that a batterer’s behaviors that have the effect of harming or endangering children during partner abuse, even if the children were not intended targets, can demonstrate that his determination to abuse the mother sometimes overrides his use of safe parenting judgement. This type of reckless insistence on gaining retribution against the mother increases post-separation in some cases, with attendant augmented risk to children. Batterers who are violent in the presence of children have also been found to be more physically dangerous (Thompson, Saltzman, & Johnson, 2001).
Relevant questions include: Has the batterer been violent or mentally cruel during any of the mother’s pregnancies? Has he been violent in the presence of the children, assaulted her while a child was in her arms, or pushed a child out of his way to get at her? Has he ever thrown objects in a way that has risked hitting the children? Has he verbally abused or humiliated the mother in the children’s presence? Has he neglected the children when angry at her?
History of neglectful or severely underinvolved parenting.
A batterer’s history of lack of proper attention to his children’s needs is particularly relevant in the post-separation context. In our clinical experience and current research, we observe that a batterer who has shown little interest in his children may do poorly at protecting their health and safety during visitation, and may fail to meet even their basic emotional needs. In addition, studies indicate that a father’s very low involvement in parenting during a child’s early years increases his statistical risk of perpetrating incest (review in Milner, 1998).
Relevant questions include: Does the batterer have a history of disappearing for hours, days or weeks at a time? Has he ever refused to attend to children’s medical needs? Has his lack of attentiveness ever put the children in danger? Has he shown an abrupt interest in the children, perhaps including seeking custody, in response to the dissolution of the parental relationship?
The batterer’s own knowledge and compassion regarding children should be tested with such questions as: Can you tell me the names of your children’s current and past teachers? Could you describe each child’s infancy? What are each child’s particular interests, likes, and dislikes? What struggles is each child currently encountering? What kind of involvement do you maintain with any children you have from past relationships?
Refusal to accept the end of the relationship, or to accept the mother’s decision to begin a new relationship.
A batterer’s refusal to accept his partner’s decision to leave him, which often is accompanied by severe jealousy and possessiveness, has been linked to increased dangerousness in batterers (Weisz et al., 2000), including danger of homicide (Websdale, 1999), putting children at increased risk. We have observed clinically that those batterers who have high levels of these tendencies often also show increased use of children as tools of abuse or control post-separation. They may perceive the children as owned objects and therefore become intimidating if they learn that their is a new man in their children’s lives. Finally, even those batterers who welcome the end of a relationship should be evaluated for their level of desire to punish the mother for perceived transgressions from the past, or to establish paternal dominion over the children.
Relevant questions include: Is the batterer depressed or panicked about the break-up, or insisting that the relationship is not over? Is he stalking her? Did he abruptly demand custody or expanded visitation upon learning that the mother had decided definitively not to go back to him, or when she began a new romantic involvement? Has he ever threatened or assaulted a new partner of hers, or warned her not to let any man other than him be around the children? Has he attempted to frighten the children about the mother’s new partner, or to induce guilt in them for developing an attachment to him?
Level of risk to abduct the children.
The elevated risk of abduction by a batterer, particularly in cases where he has made related threats, is described earlier. Even in the absence of threats, evaluators should investigate indications such as abrupt passport renewals or efforts to get the children’s passports away from the mother, surprise appearances at the children’s schools, job-seeking in other states or countries, or unexplained travel plans.
Substance abuse history.
Batterers who abuse substances are an increased risk to physically abuse children (Suh & Abel, 1990), to reoffend violently against the mother (Gondolf, 1998; Woffordt et al., 1994), and to commit homicide (Websdale, 1999; Campbell, 1995). Substance abuse has also been linked to increased risk to perpetrate sexual abuse (Becker & Quinsey, 1993). Even in cases where the batterer states that he has overcome substance abuse, evaluators need to carefully examine the length and depth of the batterer’s recovery, including his level of insight regarding the addiction, and should make sure that proper ongoing treatment and self-help are in place. Additionally, any tendency on the batterer’s part to blame his violence on the addiction should be treated as a sign of risk for the future even if he is in recovery.
Mental health history.
Although mental illness is found in only a minority of batterers (Gondolf, 1999), even among those who kill (Websdale, 1999), such problems when present can increase a batterer’s dangerousness (Websdale; Campbell et al., 1998) and resistance to change (Edleson & Tolman, 1992). Certain diagnoses, such as anti-social personality disorder, obsessive/compulsive disorder, major depression, and borderline personality disorder have been important contributors to danger in some of our cases. A mentally ill batterer needs proper separate interventions for his abusiveness and for his psychological difficulties.
The absence of mental illness or personality disorder, however, reveals little about a batterer’s likelihood to be a safe or responsible parent. Psychological tests and evaluations do not predict parenting capacity well even in the absence of domestic violence (Brodzinsky, 1994). Furthermore, mental health testing cannot distinguish a batterer from a non-batterer (O’Leary, 1993), assess dangerousness in batterers (APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 1996), or measure propensity to perpetrate incest, (Milner, 1998; Myers, 1997). Psychological evaluation with batterers is therefore useful only for ruling out psychiatric concerns.
(For case examples illustrating the above 13 areas to be explored, see Bancroft & Silverman, 2002.)
In collecting and evaluating evidence regarding these indicators of risk, evaluators should pay particularly close attention to the knowledge and perceptions of the battered mother; we find that failure to do so is one of the most common weaknesses in risk assessments in domestic violence cases, particularly in custody and visitation evaluations. In cases where the batterer is still living in the home, the evaluator needs to develop a cooperative relationship with the battered mother to the greatest extent possible, understanding that proper compassion, support, and services for her are in most cases the key to building safety for her children (Magen, 1999; Whitney & Davis, 1999). Additionally, we wish to caution evaluators against making assumptions about level of risk to children based on the economic class, race, or level of education of the batterer. We repeatedly encounter cases where courts and child protective services have underestimated the physical, sexual, or psychological danger to children from batterers who are well-educated and professionally successful. We also observe cases where risk from minority batterers has been exaggerated, particularly if they are also low-income.
The complexity involved in assessing the range of relevant issues does not lend itself to a formulaic approach to categorizing level of risk to children from batterers. Evaluators thus need to be prepared to conceptualize each batterer’s parenting as falling on a continuum, and to use multiple source of information to evaluate where on that continuum he appears to fall. It can be helpful to think of three separate dimensions of risk, as a batterer may be found to have one level of physical danger to his children, another level of sexual danger, and yet another of psychological danger. We discourage the use of models that attempt to assess risk to children by placing batterers in distinct types, as such models lack both clinical and research bases at this time (see analysis of Johnston & Campbell, 1993, in Bancroft & Silverman, 2002).
It is beyond the scope of this chapter to offer detailed guidelines regarding custody and visitation planning in domestic violence cases. (These are available in Bancroft & Silverman, 2002.) The physical and emotional safety of both mothers and children needs to be paramount in such plans, along with the need to create a healing context that can support children’s resilience (as discussed earlier). Where children’s experiences during visitation cause harm to the strength and security of their relationships with their mothers or with each other, or cause setbacks to their emotional healing from the trauma of exposure to domestic violence, the costs of supporting their relationships with their battering father can outweigh the benefits.
Assessing Change in Batterers
Evaluators are sometimes in the position of needing to determine the validity of a batterer’s claim to have overcome his problem with abusiveness. Such a determination cannot be made in the absence of a clear understanding of the nature of a battering problem. Domestic violence perpetration has its roots in a definable set of attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral patterns. These characteristics include among others the man’s belief in his right to use violence against a partner to impose his will (Silverman & Williamson, 1997), his sense of entitlement within the family (Edleson & Tolman, 1992), his patterns of controlling and manipulative behaviors (Lloyd & Emery, 2000), disrespect for his partner and lack of empathy for her feelings (Russell & Frohberg, 1995; Pence & Paymar, 1993), and his externalizing of responsibility for his actions (Dutton, 1995). We have been involved in a number of cases where an evaluator has expressed his or her belief that a batterer has changed despite multiple indications of lack of progress in overcoming any of the qualities that foster domestic violence.
Assessment of change in a batterer therefore should draw on multiple sources of information (not just the batterer’s self-report), and include attention to the following issues at a minimum:
Has he made full disclosure of his history of physical and psychological abuse? A batterer must overcome denial and minimization in order to confront his abusive behavior meaningfully (Adams, Bancroft, German, & Sousa, 1992; see Leberg, 1997 on the similar dynamic in treating child sexual abusers). It is common for abusers to claim to have changed while simultaneously denying most of the history of violence, and a skeptical view should be taken of such assertions.
Has he recognized that abusive behavior is unacceptable? We find that some batterers who claim to have changed continue to justify their past violent or abusive behavior, usually through blaming the victim, thereby leaving an opening for using such justifications for future abuse. One indication of an abuser who may be making serious progress is his unqualified statements that his behavior was wrong.
Has he recognized that abusive behavior is a choice? Some batterers may acknowledge that abuse is wrong but make the excuse that they lost control, were intoxicated, or were in emotional distress. Acceptance of full responsibility is indispensable for change (Adams et al., 1992), and needs to include recognition that abuse is intentional and instrumental (Pence & Paymar, 1993).
Does he show empathy for the effects of his actions on his partner and children? As evidence of change, a batterer should be able to identify in detail the destructive impact his abuse has had (Pence & Paymar, 1993) and demonstrate that he feels empathy for his victims (Mathews, 1995; Edleson & Tolman, 1992), without shifting attention back to his own emotional injuries, grievances, or excuses.
Can he identify what his pattern of controlling behaviors and entitled attitudes has been? In order to change, a batterer has to see that his violence grows out of a surrounding context of abusive behaviors and attitudes (Pence & Paymar, 1993), and be able to name the specific forms of abuse he has relied on (Edleson & Tolman, 1992) and the entitled beliefs that have driven those behaviors.
Has he replaced abuse with respectful behaviors and attitudes? A changing batterer responds respectfully to his (ex-)partner’s grievances, meets his responsibilities, and stops focusing exclusively on his own needs. He develops non-abusive attitudes, including accepting his (ex-)partner’s right to be angry (Bancroft, 2002) and reevaluating his distortedly negative view of her as a person. Attitudinal changes are important predictors of behavioral improvement in batterers (Gondolf, 2000).
Is he willing to make amends in a meaningful way? We have observed that batterers who are making genuine change develop a sense of long-term indebtedness towards their victims. This sense includes feeling responsible to lay their own grievances aside because of the extent of injury that the abuse has caused.
Does he accept the consequences of his actions? Our clients who make substantial progress come to recognize that abusive behavior rightly carries consequences with it, which may include the woman’s decision to end the relationship or the placement of restrictions on the abuser’s access to his children. On the other hand, continued anger or externalizing of responsibility regarding such consequences tends to portend a return to abusive behavior.
(For a more detailed guide to assessing change in abusers, see Bancroft & Silverman, 2002).
Children exposed to battering behavior can benefit tremendously when professionals have knowledge of the range of risks that batterers present to children, and when a systematic risk assessment tool is applied by child protective services and family courts. It is our hope that the model we are proposing here can serve as a launching point for the development of increasingly refined and sophisticated approaches to protecting children exposed to men who batter and to fostering their healing.
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Talking Points For Judges and other Court professionals RE: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY
Talking Points is a step by step ideas and solutions to get this material into the courts as the bible of family Courts vs the Divorce Poison and Parental Alienation Bibles that they currently follow at the cost of countless lives left in the hands of the abuser. We Must stop this genocide of battered mothers and their children in the Injustice System of Coercive Control and Complete Oppression.
These talking points were designed for domestic violence advocates and other allies of protective mothers to speak with administrative judges in the hopes of
convincing them to use the research contained in the new book to train judges and
other court professionals and reform custody practices to improve the safety and
potential of children in domestic violence custody cases. Feel free to use any part of
the material in any order that makes sense to support your efforts. Use your own
knowledge and concerns and focus the discussion based upon the local circumstances and situations the domestic violence community is concerned with. If you have any
questions, you are welcome to contact Barry Goldstein at BarryG78@aol.com The
information in parenthesis at the end of each paragraph are the authors of chapters in the book that provide the information in the paragraph.
- 1. In recent years, the court system has developed many practices that are designed to help parents work together. These ideas include mediation, shared parenting, parenting coordinators, parenting classes, friendly parent approaches and programs to promote communication skills and compromise. These may work well in other cases, but are harmful in domestic violence cases (see Zorza, Fields)
- 2. Over 95% of cases eventually settle more or less amicably. Some of these involve
domestic violence and could be handled better with domestic violence knowledge, but
the real problem are the less than 5% of the cases that cannot be settled and will
require a trial and often much more. Courts usually refer to these as "high conflict"
cases and literally they are, but 90% of these cases are actually domestic violence
cases that can’t be settled because it reflects an abusive father’s tactic of using the
children as a way to get access to his victim or punish her for leaving. The court system has been very slow to recognize this tactic and instead frequently use approaches that
collude with abusers to help them maintain control over their ex-partners. Frequent
mistakes in these cases have resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with
abusers. (see Zorza, Fields and Goldstein)
- 3. If there was a scientific basis for the custody evaluations regularly relied on by the
custody courts, the evaluators could tell the courts how their recommendations have
worked out for children based upon outcome studies. In fact they have no such
research. This flaw is obscured in part by the assumption that once a court makes a
decision, the findings are confirmed. Many of these decisions have been discredited by
later convictions of abusers found to be safe, poor outcomes for children and reports by
children of horrific abuse after they age out of court orders giving custody to abusers.
This is not surprising because the research demonstrates the custody court system regularly uses flawed methods that make it difficult for judges to recognize domestic violence and child abuse or understand the consequences proposed orders are likely to have on the children. (see Yeamans, Anderson and Waller)
- 4. The Truth Commission and the research in the book, recommends that court professionals receive not just generalized training in domestic violence, but specific
training in Recognizing Domestic Violence, Gender Bias and The Effects of Domestic
Violence on Children. It is hard to imagine any objection to these recommendations.
The courts can’t protect battered mothers and children if they miss the signs of domestic
violence. Gender bias is particularly difficult because professionals acting in good faith
often engage in gender bias without realizing they are doing so. The problem is
compounded because some good professionals have suffered retaliation for pointing
out examples of gender bias. Children who witness domestic violence, including non-
physical abuse can face long-term harm as a result, but courts can’t protect the children
if they don’t understand the risk. (see Hannah, Crooks, Jaffe and Bala, Schwaeber, Dragiewicz and THE BATTERER AS PARENT).
- 5. Judge Mike Brigner writes that when he trains judges about domestic violence he
often is asked what to do about women who are lying. When he asks what they mean
they refer to women who return to their abuser, withdraw petitions for restraining orders,
fail to make police reports or seek hospital treatment and the myth (obviously they don’t
realize it is a myth) that women frequently make deliberately false allegations of abuse.
All of these actions are normal responses by women partnered with abusers for safety
and other reasons. In no way do they support the assumption that the woman is lying.
Nevertheless the widespread belief by judges, lawyers and inadequately trained mental
health professionals that it does, results in thousands of valid claims of abuse to be
disbelieved and other evidence ignored. Similarly, unqualified professionals often look
only to evidence of physical abuse and in doing so miss a lot of other evidence of
controlling behavior courts could use to confirm abuse allegations. (see Araji and
Bosek, Brigner, Schwaeber and Goldstein)
- 6. One of the ways we know there is a problem in the custody court system is the frequent finding of circumstances that are rare. It is certainly possible for a woman to
make a false allegation of abuse, an abuser to commit one act or a few acts and then
stop without any intervention or for a mother to suffer from Munchausen by Proxy.
Accordingly, we can’t tell if an individual case was wrongly decided without substantial
investigation, but when researchers look at hundreds and thousands of cases it is easy
to see patterns of results that cannot possibly be accurate. The improper practices
confirm how courts get so many cases wrong. (see Zorza, Araji and Bosek, Dragiewicz
- 7. Most abusers do not beat their victims frequently. Instead they commit one or a few physical assaults and then use other coercive and intimidating tactics to maintain their control. Their purpose is not to enjoy beating their partners but rather to maintain
control and exercise what they believe is their right to make the major decisions in the relationship. Inadequately trained professionals fail to see the abuser’s use of
excessive litigation, strategies that bankrupt his victim and use of the children to gain access to her as a continuation of his pattern of abuse. When a woman seeks to limit contact with her abuser because she understands his tactics she is labeled as
uncooperative or unfriendly when better practice would be for courts to use their
authority to discourage abusive men from intimidating and scaring their ex-partners.
(see Schwaeber, Fields, Goldstein and Araji and Bosek).
- 8. Many professionals in the custody court system believe they have the ability to determine who is telling the truth just from observing them. There is no research to support this belief and only a very few elite CIA and FBI agents have demonstrated this ability. In the context of domestic violence custody cases this is particularly dangerous because abusers are very manipulative and plan out their tactics to fool the
professionals. At the same time women’s normal reaction to their partners’ abuse tends to be anger and emotion and this is used to discredit their concerns. The false belief by professionals that they can tell who is truthful, just from watching them creates a false sense of confidence in these wrong judgments and favors abusers. ( see Schwaeber, Araji and Bosek, Zorza and Washington Post article).
- 9. Over forty states and many other judicial districts have created court-appointed gender bias commissions. These commissions have found widespread gender bias particularly against women litigants. They have found the courts give women less credibility than men, blame victims for her abuser’s actions and create higher standards of proof for women. We see this when courts punish women for seeking to limit contact with abusers instead of pressuring abusers to stop their intimidating tactics. We see it when they expect mothers to provide better care of children but don’t reward them for their care or punish women more severely than men for extramarital affairs. (see
Dragiewicz, Araji and Bosek and Zorza).
- 10. In one case, the trial court used a certainty standard for the mother and a probability standard for the father. Even a first year law student would know this was a
fundamental violation of due process and equal protection that demands reversal. The
use of the higher standard for the mother was in writing in the evaluator’s report and the
transcript of her testimony. Using a the proper probability standard she admitted the
father abused the mother physically, emotionally and verbally throughout the marriage,
did so in front of the children and abused her so badly as to cause PTSD. Accordingly
the court could not claim the mistake did not affect the outcome. In the two related
cases between 15 and 20 different judges reviewed the case but failed to object to the biased approach. Clearly the judges were smart enough to recognize the mistake and it
is not possible they were all corrupt or in favor of abusers. The problem is that for thirty
years the court system has been using invalid practices and the often inadequately
trained professionals they rely on have reinforced misinformation so that the judges
could not imagine a trial judge could be so unfair to a battered mother. They permitted
a decision where a safe mother was denied any contact with her children and the
abuser received custody. Only in a broken custody court system could so many judges
make such an obvious mistake. (see Dragiewicz, Goldstein and Fields)
- 11. More commonly, the higher standard of proof for mothers is not put in writing, but is demonstrated by the many double standards women face. Frequently protective
mothers are punished because they seek to restrict the father’s contact because he is abusive. Courts give custody to the alleged abuser on the grounds that he is more
likely to encourage the relationship between the mother and children. Once he receives custody, abusive fathers interfere with visitation and take mothers out of their children’s lives, but the same courts fail to require the father to facilitate visitation. (see
Dragiewicz, Araji and Bosek, Zorza and Hannah)
- 12. In a typical domestic violence case, the protective mother claims to be the primary
attachment figure to the children and that the father abused her and/or the children.
The father claims alienation. Primary attachment refers to the parent who provided
most of the child care for the first couple of years of the child’s life. Children who lose
their primary attachment figure are significantly more likely to commit suicide, suffer
depression, low-self-esteem and other problems. Accordingly it doesn’t make sense to
separate a child from their primary attachment figure unless the parent is unsafe.
Children affected by domestic violence are as likely as children directly abused to
engage in a wide range of dysfunctional behavior. There is no research that children
who hear negative remarks about the other parent (as occurs in most intact families) or
have mothers who seek to protect them by limiting contact with an allegedly abusive
father experience any long-term harm as a result. At the same time almost all children
have a primary attachment figure which is usually the mother because in this still sexist
society, mothers continue to perform most of the child care. Despite the myths, mothers
rarely (1-2% of the time) make deliberately false allegations of abuse. False or
exaggerated complaints of alienation by fathers are very common and is taught by male
supremacist groups as a tactic to obtain custody. Although the mothers’ complaints are
more likely to be true and significantly affect the safety and potential of the children,
courts are granting custody or joint custody to the fathers in these cases between 70
and 83% of the time. (see Sussman, Erickson, Crooks, Jaffe and Bala, Araji and
- 13. Courts tend to emphasize the belief that children do better with both parents in their lives. This belief is supported by research, but not if one of the parents is abusive. "Fathers’ rights" groups have sought to promote and courts have accepted the idea that
when the parents come to court they should have equal rights to the children. On the
surface this sounds reasonable, but only if their history of parenting supports this
practice. There is no reason to treat the parents the same if one has performed
significantly more child care, has better parenting skills or if one parent has been
abusive. The best predictor of future parenting is past parenting, but courts often treat
mothers based on past parenting and fathers on expectations of future parenting.
These kinds of gender biased practices place an unfair burden on mothers and more
importantly result in decisions harmful to children. (see Zorza, Erickson, Araji and Bosek)
- 14. The widespread use of mental health professionals for evaluations and expertise
developed at a time when it was widely believed domestic violence was caused by
mental illness, substance abuse or the victim’s behavior. Courts assumed that the
mental health professionals had expertise in domestic violence. At the time there was
no specialized body of knowledge about domestic violence. Mental health professionals
can help custody courts understand the circumstances when there is credible
information that one of the parties or the children suffer from a mental impairment that
significantly affects the ability to parent. There are a few mental health professionals
who also have substantial knowledge and experience in domestic violence and are
familiar with up-to-date research. The problem is that most mental health professionals
relied on by custody courts have at most a few hours of domestic violence training and
are unfamiliar with the up-to-date research. The research demonstrates they often fail
to recognize domestic violence because they don’t know what to look for and tend to
minimize its significance. This is particularly harmful because they provide a false
confidence that there is a scientific basis for their recommendations. (see Yeamans,
Erickson, Araji and Bosek, Zorza and Fields)
- 15. Best practices are for mental health professionals to consult with domestic violence
experts when handling a case involving allegations of domestic violence. There have
been several demonstration projects including Rockland County, New York where child
protective agencies work with the local domestic violence shelter on cases involving
suspected domestic violence. The agencies cross-train each other and when
caseworkers have a potential domestic violence case they consult with a domestic
violence advocate. This practice has proven effective in helping caseworkers recognize
and respond appropriately to domestic violence cases. Psychologists and psychiatrists
are ethically required to consult with experts when they are handling a case that
involves a subject they are not expert in. It should be a standard practice for evaluators
to consult with domestic violence experts when they respond to domestic violence
cases. Unfortunately, these professionals, often with only a couple of hours of training
in domestic violence and unfamiliar with the specialized body of research about domestic violence wrongly believe they don’t need to consult with a genuine expert. Many lawyers don’t know to raise this issue when questioning evaluators, but even when the issue is raised, judges rarely discredit an evaluators testimony for failing to consult a domestic violence expert or have familiarity with up-to-date research. (see Zorza, Fields, Goldstein and Hannah)
- 16. The use of psychological tests increases costs, delays cases and creates a false
assumption that there is a scientific basis for recommendations. Psychological tests
were developed for populations very different than those engaged in custody disputes.
They cannot determine issues like domestic violence or parenting skills. They were
designed to determine mental illness. Psychologists rarely tell the courts that the
findings are based on probabilities and most tests reach conclusions accurate in 55 to
65% of the cases. Other factors such as not being part of the intended population for
the test, domestic violence or the stress of litigation further reduce the percentage of
accuracy. Mothers’ normal response to their partners’ domestic violence is often
misinterpreted as paranoia or delusion. This is particularly a problem where
inadequately trained evaluators fail to recognize domestic violence and then pathologize
the victim for believing she was abused. (see Yeamans, Zorza, Erickson and Fields)
- 17. Mental health professionals relied on in custody cases often use a family systems
approach which is not appropriate and in fact is dangerous in domestic violence cases.
The approach seeks to have the parties forget past problems and develop new ways to
work together in the future. This does nothing to change the belief system of abusers
who are skilled at manipulating professionals who use such an approach. The
professionals are usually unfamiliar with scientific research including the fact that only
accountability and monitoring have been shown to change abusers’ behavior. At the
same time protective mothers are punished because they couldn’t overcome their fear
caused by a long history of their partner’s abuse. This is another example of blaming
the victim for her normal reaction to the father’s abuse. (see Fields, Zorza and Crooks,
Jaffe and Bala).
- 18. Context is particularly important in understanding and recognizing domestic violence. Repeatedly we have seen cases in which the court initially determines a mother’s domestic violence allegations are false. When the father commits new abusive
tactics (such as limiting contact between the mother and children after he gets custody
or using the visitation exchanges to harass his victim, the courts usually refuse to
consider the new information in the context of prior evidence of abuse on the ground
that the court already denied the abuse. Courts often miss that the same acts should
be treated very differently depending on motivation. There may be evidence that each
party hit the other, but they may not be equivalent. One party may hit harder, one party
may hit in self defense or to stop his abuse and the other to maintain control, and
particularly important only one party may fear the other. Both parties may file complaints about professionals in the case. While they both would claim they have
valid objections it is important to see the context of whether one of the parties had
previously sought to isolate their partner from friends and family. (see Dragiewicz, Goldstein and Zorza)
- 19. Not all children react the same to domestic violence and child abuse. Inadequately
trained professionals expect abused children to have serious social or academic
problems as a result of the abuse. Some children react by taking on adult roles, being
the good child or zoning out. On the surface it appears the children are doing well, but
the problems play out years later. Such unexpected reactions often lead to courts
assuming valid abuse complaints are false. (see Crooks, Jaffe and Bala, Araji and
- 20. We are particularly concerned with cases involving retaliation against protective mothers and extreme results that give custody to alleged abusers and supervised visits
or no contact with children to the mothers. Unless the mother is unsafe (drug addict,
beats the children) such extreme results are virtually always harmful to children. Many
mothers have been punished for continuing to believe the father is dangerous after the
court fails to find he committed abuse. Fathers are not similarly punished when they
continue to deny their abuse after the court finds against him. Given the frequency in
which courts fail to confirm valid claims of abuse, courts should be extremely reluctant to penalize mothers who continue to complain of their partner’s abuse. (see Zorza, Araji and Bosek)
- 21. Surprisingly there have been some judges who object to training about up-to-date
research in domestic violence based on the belief that somehow neutrality requires
judges to stay ignorant of this information. In reality such ignorance is not neutral as the myths, stereotypes and misinformation used instead of scientific research strongly
favors abusive fathers.
The training of judges and other court personnel in domestic violence should be
conducted by domestic violence advocates and other experts familiar with the kind of
up-to-date research contained in this book. It is important that administrative judges
foster an attitude that the present system has resulted in thousands of children being
sent to live with abusers so judges must be open to the likelihood that many of the
beliefs and practices they have long used have been wrong. Courts should consider
holding an evidentiary hearing about domestic violence early in custody proceedings. If
the allegations of domestic violence are true and the other parent is safe (alienation
allegations are not about safety), the non-abusive parent should receive custody and
the abusive parent held accountable. This procedure would save courts time and
money while achieving results that benefit children. Courts should consider not
appointing an evaluator unless there is substantial reason to believe one of the parties or the children have a mental condition that would significantly interfere with parenting.
If an evaluator is used judges should seek experts with substantial domestic violence
training or at least have the evaluator consult with such an expert. Mediation and joint
counseling are always inappropriate in cases with abuse allegations. The safety of the
parties and the children must always be the first priority. Research demonstrates that
the best way to prevent domestic violence is to hold the abuser accountable and monitor his behavior. Abusers tend to be extremely manipulative and court professionals must be careful to avoid colluding with an abuser. Most important, we are not seeking to challenge or criticize judges, but rather to work together to support the policy and laws of every state which is to prevent domestic violence.