On child abuse and the Court The Christian Science Monitor - Letters to the editor
from the October 28, 2009 edition
On child abuse and the court
Thank you for publishing, "Child abuse: when family courts get it wrong," in the Oct. 11 issue. For years, distraught mothers who complained about unfair custody decisions were dismissed as "disgruntled litigants." The up-to-date research has now established that custody courts are failing to protect battered mothers and their children because they are using outdated and discredited practices.
When domestic violence first became a public issue in the mid to late 1970s, professionals involved with such cases developed practices without the benefit of useful research.
Police departments, for instance, had a standard approach of having the alleged abuser walk around the block to cool off before returning to the house. This practice was changed after research demonstrated that when a man killed his partner, the vast majority of the time the police had already been called to the house and used this approach, and often, police had gone to the home already up to five times.
As police developed a policy of arresting abusers and attempting to hold them accountable, the domestic violence homicide rate went down. It is time we reform the system so that the safety and well-being of children and domestic-violence victims becomes the first priority.
Domestic violence speaker, author, consultant, and advocate
I was heartened to see the opinion essay bring attention to the serious problem of family courts getting it wrong in child abuse cases.
Far too many children end up being ordered by the court to live with their abuser. When the protective parent seeks help from the court, the abuser files for custody and claims that the child's statements are false allegations made by a vindictive parent, and the facts get turned on their head.
Sadly, as an attorney, I often have to advise protective parents that their child might suffer even greater harm if the abuse is brought to the attention of a family court. This should not be.
Charles R. Hofheimer
Virginia Beach, Va.
Parental alienation is dangerous, harmful, and abusive to the child. A growing body of research points to the long-term damage done by unjustifiably breaking a previously loving child-parent bond. What we need now is to focus on finding and choosing the most effective remedies.
Writer Kathleen Russell should look at the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization website to see the biographies written by the victims of parental alienation. Many describe the exact scenario Ms. Russell uses to support her claim, but show a much different perspective of who their abuser is.
Vice president, Parental Alienation Awareness Organization
The California Protective Parents Association works with nonabusive parents in custody disputes. Our research of 362 cases shows that 81 percent of protective parents (mostly battered mothers) had primary custody when they asked family courts for safety for their children. Each mother spent an average of $100,000 on her case. The outcomes are horrifying. In the end, a scant 5 percent of mothers retained custody while the abuser had supervised visits. Most children who were ripped from their protective mothers continue to report abuse. Their desperate cries, present-day echoes of the "lost children" of Francoism, go unheard by family court.
Policy director, California Protective Parents Association