Family Courts and Systemic Abuse (and a fun song by one of our readers)
The poor kids don’t want to go on visitation at all. I really don’t understand why the courts think that a grown woman who can’t handle the abuse should leave, and the opposing attorney even berates her for not leaving sooner – but tender, defenseless children should be made to spend time with the very abuser that the woman shouldn’t have stayed with as long as she did. That just boggles my mind.
I totally agree with what this anonymous survivor says. The courts are sometimes getting it so very wrong. And a big part of the reason for this is because the abusers spread their lies and myths about abuse by continually, drip by drip, disseminating these myths to the public mind, so that many people think they ‘get it’ about abuse, but what they think has been conditioned by the myths that abusers promote.
The myths are many, but here are the major ones:
Myths about domestic violence
- Just as many men as women are abused
- Once she leaves him, the abuse ends
- It’s a high-conflict divorce — They’re both to blame
- It’s due to childhood abuse
- The abuser looses control — when he snaps, when he flips out, he can’t control what he does
- It’s due to drinking, drug abuse or mental illness
- ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’ (PAS) is depriving fathers of their right to see their children
- She is just trying to get custody, so she got the kids to lie about him
And because abusers usually have more money than victims (and we all know the reasons for that, eh?), they can employ better quality lawyers to represent them, and many of these lawyers are quite willing to defend and uphold these myths that perpetrators spread (after all, they are just defending their client, aren’t they?). There are many ‘Institutes’ and ‘Training Programs’ that purport to teach professionals about the dynamics of domestic abuse, but a lot of these are just teaching some version of the myths, maybe a partial version, a watered down version, so that it looks like they are really on the side of victims and pro-justice, but as we all know, a partial understanding of domestic abuse is not good enough. Mix in a few little lies and you have a belief system that enables and colludes, wittingly or unwittingly, with abusers.
The influence of Fathers’ Rights groups
Some Fathers’ Rights (FR) groups put a lot of energy and money into influencing family values ‘c’hristian lobby groups — and in some cases senior people in these Christian lobby groups are also members of FR groups. By these methods, Fathers’ Rights groups influence legislators and thereby affect legislation and policies that Family Courts have to abide by. Fathers’ Rights groups often have enough money and influence to directly or indirectly bully victims of abuse under the guise of advocacy. Sometimes FR organizations advocate in the courts on the side of the abuser, just as Lundy Bancroft might advocate and testify on the side of a victim.
Deborah noted in the comments thread on her post about PAS:
The Fathers Rights groups are very well organized and some are led by celebrities, which is how they gain traction in the media. It’s how the [PAS] theories of Gardner are believed. They advocate Gardner’s theories with the courts and even train court personnel in it. They are actively pursuing this agenda. Protective mothers are beginning to fight back but they need us all to speak out with the truth. There is hope. But it will take us not standing for this atrocity any more. The courts need to be educated on what abuse really is, just as our churches do.
Sadly, many professionals in the Family Court system are believing in a cleverly packaged tissue of lies, half-truths and misinformation. And some of the professionals, are, of course, abusers themselves; those professionals take special delight in helping a fellow perpetrator punish his victim.
I perceive that the Family Court system is often a racket: the custody evaluators, the Guardians ad Litem [UPDATE: see this comment from a GAL in Florida], the psychologists, the high-conflict divorce specialists, the mediators, the shared parenting experts, etc, all get their own slice of the money pie and it looks on the surface like all these experts are doing something worthwhile, but in actuality their collective efforts just prolong the abuse of the victim, impoverish her and expose the children to continued abuse from the perpetrator. So the abuse doesn’t stop, it just becomes systemic abuse: the abuser uses the system as a means to continue to hurt punish and control his (ex-)wife.
In my impression, this kind of systemic abuse is worse in the USA because the Family Courts often order the victim to pay for all these para-divorce services — the psychological evaluations, the supervised visitation, the high-conflict-divorce Case Managers, etcetera. It seems that some courts order these services until the victim’s funds dry up and there is no more water to squeeze out of the stone.
This is usually a tactic of the abuser, taught to him by fathers rights groups. Victims and victim-advocates have called it abuse by proxy of the courts. An abuser employing this tactic will keep the victim in court as long as it takes for her funds to dry up and then he wins by default, as she can’t afford to go on. He waits her out. The courts are more used as the vehicle and are not always directly complicit in the abuse, although some sure are! Most of the time though, the courts are like the weapon the abuser is using to do the victim more damage psychologically and to financially ruin her. The courts have failed to recognize and stop allowing abuse of the system to further abuse victims though, so they ARE complicit in that way or at the very least, ignorant.
Here is a song a reader wrote recently, and she’s given us permission to add it to this post. It is sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies.
Come and listen to the story about an unlearned Judge.
Poor man couldn’t make a right decision in his head.
Had to have a doctor and a GAL instead.
so we loaded up the shovels with the lies that he’d been fed.
Y’all know what I mean
Now the next thing on the list the GAL said “he ain’t right”.
Next came in the shrink he’d hired and gave abuser’s plight
NPD, abusive, paranoid to name a few –
What’s this guy been doing taking up a place within a pew?
Well the first thing you know now, his smile ain’t so bright.
He lost his kids and home in one big glorious swoop of Light.
But he didn’t really ever care, so “what the heck” he said
I used to wish her slimmer, but now I just wish she was dead.
Now the story ain’t quite over, no for years its just gone on
But I am all the wiser and this battle I have won
No money, no support, I got PTSD instead
But at least I sleep much better, I’m alone in my own bed.
Fathers Rights Organizations or Fathers Supremacy Organizations — a Thursday Thought post on this blog.
Separated Fathers and the “Fathers’ Rights” Movement. Research paper by Michael G. Flood, University of Wollongong. Michael Flood is a sociologist who is highly respected in the Family Violence sector.
Representing The Domestic Violence Survivor: Critical Legal Issues; Effective Safety Strategies. by Garry Goldstein, J.D., and Elizabeth Lui, J.D. Recommended resource for lawyers who are representing domestic abuse victims.