Monday, August 6, 2018

Domestic Violence, Human Rights and Family Courts

In what appears to be a universal phenomenom, mothers who raise allegations that the father is abusing  her or the children are often not awarded custody and even less so if the mother alleges sexual abuse. The mothers are accused of "alienating the children from the father.

Jenny Birchall and Professor Shazia Choudhry, of Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University London  released a report this past May on how women abused by their male partners fare in court.  The findings are frighteningly similar to the experiences of US abuse victims and research recently conducted by Joan Meier of George Washington University.

The British researchers said "The research highlights the damaging effects of a toxic combination: a lack of understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse along with incorrect interpretations of human rights. This combination contributes to what survivors tell us is their most common experience of family courts: an acutely negative and traumatising one."

"A common finding was that survivors in our sample felt that evidence of domestic abuse was not taken seriously by the courts and other professionals involved in the child contact process, and that the dynamics and impact of domestic abuse were not understood. This led to potentially unsafe decisions on child contact being made, and survivors of domestic abuse being placed in dangerous and frightening situations, including cross-examination by their ex-partners in court."  The researchers discuss gender bias, stereotyping and allegations of parental alienation.  

The authors suggest an investigation into the family courts.  "We are therefore calling for an independent statutory inquiry, equipped with the necessary resources to conduct an in-depth examination of the family courts’ handling of domestic abuse."  The authors include as part of that review the violation of human rights of the non-abusive family members.

At a later time, we will review the findings of Joan Meier who conducted extensive research into parental alienation allegations in family court and the consequences for the non-abusive parent and her children.

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