When courts blame victims and fail to hold abusers accountable, they reinforce abuser behavior, subvert justice, disempower the victims, teach children that abusive behavior is permissible and may even be rewarded, and reinforce the cycle of violence.
Most family and divorce (hereinafter, “family”) court judges insist that people going through custody and divorce cases are good people, but that they often behave very badly because they are so stressed out by the pressures of the separation and court dispute. 1 The reality, as Massachusetts has found, is that nothing could be further from the truth for the men who abuse their female intimate partners and children (called either “abusers” or “batterers”).
Family Courts Excuse Male Misbehavior, But Blame Women
Batterers Are Believed In Blaming Victims.
Men who batter are not only adept at minimizing and denying their own abusive behaviors and their responsibility for it, they are also adept at blaming circumstances or their victims, thereby shifting responsibility and projecting their own behavior onto their victims.10 Yet while alcohol,11 poverty, and other circumstances may aggravate a situation, they do not cause violence, as most people in such circumstances do not abuse. Similarly, victims are not to blame for the violence. Unfortunately, abusive men have been very successful in convincing courts and juries that their own behavior is their female victims’ fault, or that their partners provoked them, or wanted the abuse, or that bad circumstances caused the abuse.
Mental Health Experts Lack Expertise In Family Violence.
Complicating the problem is that the courts often rely on mental health experts to evaluate the parties, yet overwhelmingly those experts have never received adequate training in domestic violence or child sexual abuse;
Judges, like mental health professionals, make the gender biased and inaccurate assumption that most domestic violence or child abuse accusations made in custody cases are falsely made for tactical gain, so take these cases far less seriously than they should.23 In fact, incest allegations are only made in 2-3% of custody cases, and mothers make few false accusations either of domestic violence24 or of child sexual abuse.25 Although no psychological test can definitively prove that someone has battered or sexually abused someone,26 many family courts require women to conclusively prove the abuse–a virtually impossible burden–or they refuse to believe that any abuse happened.
Batterers do not only manipulate mental health professionals. When batterers feel that their authority is being threatened, they escalate their violent and terroristic tactics, often threatening to kill or seriously injure their victims,
Batterers also retaliate by threatening their former partners and her children during visitation, or by shifting their abuse onto the children
the mothers to see their children.
Even when batterers have custody, they often refuse to make let the mothers to see their children. The same courts that are outraged when a mother fails to make the children available to the father seldom punish a father who denies visitation to the mother.
Another way that some men retaliate is by having their parents join in the fight for custody or visitation
Read more at americanmotherspoliticalparty.org
Some courts are wising up to men’s retaliatory tactics, because many involve abusing the courts. Many abusers learn that cross or counterclaims often cancel out their victims; prior claims, and that filing contempts shifts the focus to their victims.47 Most batterers know they can bring criminal and contempt charges at no expense to the abusers, but they take an enormous financial and emotional cost on their victims. The result is that many abusive men drag on the litigation and file spurious claims openly acknowledging they are trying to drive their victims onto welfare or into homelessness; half of all homeless women and children in the U.S. are homeless because of domestic violence.48 Occasionally it is only when the abuser accuses the judge or other court players of impropriety or attacks them or those helping their partners, such as shelter workers,49 that the court catches on to their tactics. Unfortunately, some judges (and other court players, including mental health experts) become too frightened50 or vicariously traumatized51 to act sufficiently to believe or act to protect battered women. However, most abusers are far too savvy to make such accusations, attacking only their former partners.