Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Custody in Crisis – Family Courts enabling and supporting abusive fathers.

Salon has published a searing indictment of the family courts in the US investigating the frequency with which violent fathers are given sole custody of their children despite documented medical evidence of physical and sexual abuse. It examines the role that "parental alienation syndrome" - something that the American Psychological Association does not recognise - in preventing mothers from protecting their children.

... In family courts throughout the country, evidence that one of the parents is sexually or physically abusing a child is routinely rejected. Instead, perpetrators of abuse are often entrusted with unsupervised visits or joint or sole custody of the children they abuse, putting children in danger of serious, often life-threatening harm, according to children’s advocates.

Our two-year investigation – which includes interviews with more than 30 parents and survivors in California, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Maryland and New Jersey – uncovered stories of children consigned to suffer years of abuse in fear and silence while the parents who sought to protect them were driven to the brink financially and psychologically. These parents have become increasingly stigmatized by a family court system that not only discounts evidence of abuse but accepts dubious theories used to undermine the protective parents’ credibility.

“Protective parents are asking the authorities to step in and protect their children and they’re not,” said Kathleen Russell, executive director of the California-based Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE), a watchdog group that focuses on family courts.

In scores of cases, the consequences have been lethal. News reports alone, while not comprehensive, paint a startling picture. From 2008 to 2016, 58 children were killed by custodial parents after family courts around the country ignored abuse allegations by the protective parent, according to an analysis of news reports conducted by CJE. In all but six cases, protective parents were mothers who had warned family courts that their children were in danger from abusive fathers who later killed them.

“The authorities are blaming the protective parents and pathologizing them, and their kids are ending up dead,” said Russell. ...

Inspired by our participation with the Write to End Violence Against Women awards organised by Zero Tolerance, we are now collecting examples of good journalism about domestic and sexual violence and abuse to make it clear that it is possible to write about DSVA without resorting to myths, misrepresentations, minimisation and victim blaming.

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