This is why men who commit DV against their partners shouldn't be allowed access to their children

(294 Posts)
StewieGriffinsMom Sun 03-Mar-13 07:47:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Spero Tue 12-Mar-13 14:20:15

We have already been quasi inquisitorial for years as judges recognised long ago that the adversarial system is often incompatible with finding out what is best for the child. So judges are very much in the driving seat in my cases and encouraged to be even more so as we are now supposed to finish care proceedings in 26 weeks (hollow laugh).

Also what I think people forget is that majority of family lawyers (who go on to become judges) are women. I was specifically warned off specialising in this area as it is 'female ghetto' - and that was 20 years ago.

We are not products of the patriarchy. The impact and seriousness of emotional abuse is well known, often it is the sole argument for taking a child into care for eg.

And look how that riles some of the men who protest against state involvement in family life. Of you have a strong stomach, read some of the stuff Ian Joseph's and John Hemmings come out with - children should only be removed if les are broken etc.

And so many women on this site rely upon their views and support them.

NicknameTaken Tue 12-Mar-13 14:30:11

I agree IJ and JH spout dangerous stuff, although on the threads I've seen, there are always posters (including you, if I remember right) who call them on their allegations.

Re the emotional abuse, it seems my exH can get away with telling my dd that I'm trying to kill her, I didn't feed her as a baby etc. He's trying to damage her relationship with me. I consider this as a form of EA, but the judge hasn't even commented on it,let alone taken it into account in making a decision.

My judge has been female throughout.

HopingItllBeOK Tue 12-Mar-13 15:00:32

I wonder if part of the problem is in how the court is perceived as viewing EA, rather than how it actually does view it? If perhaps something is considered as low level EA then it may not be in the interests of either party to order a full finding of facts hearing as it wouldn't be deemed serious enough alone to impact on a contact schedule. In that case it may seem as if the occurrence of EA is being overlooked when in actuality it has been given due consideration but as it wouldn't have an effect on contact, it is swiftly moved on from.

It must be harder to make a decision based on EA claims rather than PA claims as by their nature there is no tangible evidence, the level of abuse can vary so much more than PA, the effect that EA has isn't as easily quantifiable as a broken arm to indicate level of force used.

NicknameTaken Tue 12-Mar-13 15:06:50

I think those are all fair points, Hoping.

Spero Tue 12-Mar-13 15:24:44

Yes, I agree. EA is often more difficult to identify or quantify than physical abuse and the abuser often thinks what they are doing is acceptable or normal.

So it is a lot more problematic to base a case on emotional abuse but there is certainly awareness of it.

HopingItllBeOK Tue 12-Mar-13 16:06:03

I think the problem is because EA is so insidious, long lasting and can feel so much more personal and damaging than PA, because it is someone invading your head, telling you how to think and react and changing your perceptions which can take many years of therapy to recover from, if at all and is to a certain degree always calculated. Yet on the flip side of this is the fact that it is so much harder to prove it ever happened, it has only recently been considered in law to be actual abuse, it's continuation can be facilitated by ordering contact for the DC as even if the abused parent no longer has to see their abuser, they are left dealing with the digs levelled at them through the DC and of course the fact that court action at all can be used by abusers as a way of furthering the abuse towards their exP by making them relive the abuse, putting the onus of effort for contact onto them and threatening sanctions if orders aren't followed despite being free to walk away when they chose.

The gulf between the impact of EA and the consequences for an abuser having carried it out is so wide, because of all the difficulties mentioned, that I can easily see why a victim of EA could feel as if their experiences weren't taken into account and were minimised, which of course is exactly how they felt while with their abuser which makes it seem more personal and more emotive.

I have no idea how to narrow that gap, since I am an idealistic airhead and know nothing of legislation, but I can't help but feel that there must be some way to do so. Even if it were only for judges to routinely mention the limitations of the laws that guide them so alleged EA victims don't feel that they have been screwed over again by the court. I think a societal attitude shift in accepting that EA happens, is damaging and needs to stop would be a massive help as well. If nothing else it would reduce the stigma attached to being a victim of EA, so it wouldn't be so hard to repeatedly stand up in court and say "I was a victim" only to find it deemed irrelevant.

Spero Tue 12-Mar-13 16:50:33

Maybe the way forward is for better education and help at an early stage - get people out of these relationships as quickly as possible.

I am still shocked by the stats in one of my earlier links that out of 2000 women asked, over 60% did NOT see excessive jealousy from a partner as a worrying sign.

NicknameTaken Tue 12-Mar-13 16:56:11

Hear, hear.

Courts ultimately reflect what is going on wider society, and can't fix problems in isolation, so a wider societal shift is necessary.

I think people going to court also need to be encouraged to have realistic expectations. Because the court is not there to vindicate you and say, "Yes, you're the angel and that man (or woman) over there is Bad". All it can do is put in place arrangements for the way forward for the children's sake. If it can be seen in the context of those limitations, there mightn't be such a strong sense of grievance.

NicknameTaken Tue 12-Mar-13 16:57:21

That last post to Hoping, btw, but I agree with you spero too. (This thread seems to becoming a bit of a love-in, unlike the family courts!

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 12-Mar-13 20:07:35

Hoping, I think part of the problem with EA is that you don't actually know it's happened to you most of the time, so you wouldn't stand up in court and say it had happened to you anyway.

It took me over a decade to realise that what I had experienced in my relationship, was EA. Even though I'm a feminist, was aware of the existence of gaslighting etc. I still didn't actually identify that that was what I lived with. And that all those years, I had carried the narrative that he had put in my mind.

The difference with physical abuse, is that mostly, you know it's happened (even if you come up with excuses for why it happened). You can see the wound, you know it needs to be treated and you can heal it. With EA you don't even know the wound was inflicted, so you carry the effects for years, forever if you're unlucky.

That's why although I think it's progress that EA is actually recognised by the courts, I don't see it making much impact because it usually isn't recognised by those committing or suffering it.

HopingItllBeOK Tue 12-Mar-13 21:32:58

That is a very good point, Fastidia . I'm afraid I was guilty of breaking the first rule of debating, by letting my personal experience cloud my opinion. In my case I have been out of the EA relationship for coming up for 9 years now and my ex only reappeared and started court proceedings last summer, so I have had plenty of time to be out, safe and begin to heal and gain insight. I was also fortunate enough to find a group of strong women that I count as friends who helped me reach those conclusions and feel strong enough to go to a solicitor when faced with court papers and say "this is what happened, it constitutes abuse."

You are absolutely right that a lot of women will still be conditioned when they are served with a court summons and so won't register that what happened was EA. That is why I feel a two fold approach to tackling EA wrt contact cases is needed. Firstly raising awareness of what EA is and the typified forms it takes, so women realise it is happening to them, men realise they may unconsciously be doing it, friends/parents/loved ones can spot the signs and offer support and more importantly, not judge. Secondly that the commonly occurring patterns are looked for in the initial hearing reports.

That is not to say that everyone should be assumed to be emotionally abusive, but if Cafcass reports are fairly standard for contact cases, then in amongst the criminal and lea checks and questions about the circumstances around the break up and subsequent contact between both the children and the parents, it shouldn't be that hard to either flag up themes that commonly occur in EA relationships or add a question or two about attitudes towards what has happened.

HopingItllBeOK Tue 12-Mar-13 21:46:49

That does of course all hinge on the assumption that EA to the mother equals abuse of the children by damaging their primary carer. To my (non legally trained) mind it absolutely does. Especially when one considers that the available statistics back up the theory that EA of a mother does not happen in a vacuum and the children either become victims of direct EA themselves, carry lifelong guilt at having witnessed it and been powerless to stop it or been encouraged to join in.

It also is quite lazily assuming that all emotional abusers are men, all victims are women and all the women are the primary carers for the DC, both during the relationship and after splitting up. The statistics say it is significantly more likely to play out that way, so for the sake of laziness I have used the statistical standard to illustrate my points without having to keep saying 'the EA parent' and 'the victim of EA parent'.

Spero Tue 12-Mar-13 22:00:22

I agree that damage to primary carer will almost always equal damage to children but what you must bear in the mind that the court's job is to find the best outcome for children and that does mean trying to weigh different harms and make a judgment about which is worth - harm to mother being compelled to remain in some kind of relationship with an abuser or harm to children in losing direct or meaningful contact with father?

To invariably make the 'right call' on such an issue would require powers of insight and prognostication which the court just doesn't have and I am quite sure that the passage of time will reveal many decisions to have been 'wrong' in that court was naively hopeful about father's capacity to change or mother's capacity to bear it.

But I think this is just one example of the court being asked to to a pretty much impossible job - to understand and adjudicate upon every nuance of a relationship, to predict how or if people change over time, to second guess what a child will need most as he or she grows and personalities develop.

It is really, really difficult. But when the court gets it wrong this doesn't mean it is indicative of patriarchal norms being enforced, rather a reflection of the huge demands of such a task.

That's why I think the focus has to move away from the courts, which step in very clumsily when a family is already in crisis and has been for years, and more to education, information and support.

Men - and I agree, it is more often men - need to learn not to be abusive in relationships and women need to learn to recognise it and not tolerate it.

I am well educated, intelligent have access to money, support etc but it still took me a year to extricate myself from an obviously abusive relationship. I wish at school or at home when I was younger someone had said - look, excessive jealousy, isolating you from friends etc isnt a flattering reflection of how much he desparately loves you, this man is bad news and will get worse. O and by the way, you aren't a failure if you aren't married by the time you are 30, you don't need a relationship to make you a whole person...

It would have really helped if I hadn't had to learn all these lessons the long and hard way, by myself.

edam Tue 12-Mar-13 22:16:38

Spero, that's a very moving post. I know teachers get fed up with every pressure group saying schools should teach X, Y or Z - first aid, how to manage your finances, loads of other things that constantly crop up in the news - but PHSE really should cover healthy and unhealthy relationships, including red flags. And not just focus on girls - don't make it their responsibility, teach boys too. Teach both of them that there are right and wrong ways to behave, and both of them that they need to support friends if they see things are going wrong. The way we do with bullying - when children (at least in primary, I've no recent experience of secondary) are told about the role of the bystander, not just the bully or the victim, that the witness has an important moral duty as well.

Spero Tue 12-Mar-13 22:37:10

It is so frustrating - I am continually told that healthy nurturing relationships with other humans are the single most important predictor of a healthy, happy life ... And yet we are all just expected to 'get on with it' and magically know how to identify and maintain happy relationships.

So what happens? We just stick with the script we got from our parents or disastrously modify it after pressure from peers who are just as clueless.

So rather than wasting time agonising over which of the mechanical aspects of sex to 'teach' or panicking over whether or not gay relationships are being 'promoted' WHY can't we just agree a basic package, to educate everyone about respect? What are the danger signs? Why should you avoid certain people? What can you do if you find you are hurting people?

I do think this is the key, prevention rather than 'cure' which I don't think you will ever get a the damage is done by then.

NicknameTaken Wed 13-Mar-13 09:48:41

I'm not sure education would have stopped me getting into an abusive relationship. I thought he was exciting, I wanted a baby, it was a long-distance relationship so I had plenty of chances for wilful self-deception (and part of me knew it), so I went for it. It was like a temporary form of madness, and I wonder if it was partly hormone-driven.

I'm not against education on the matter - I think we could all benefit from those lessons on respect and danger signs - but you can't always pre-empt the lessons that life teaches you.

Spero Wed 13-Mar-13 15:43:05

I don't claim education wold be a cure all - nothing is.

But I think more trumpeting of the message about respect and boundaries would help once the 'falling in love' hormones had dissipated.

I am eternally grateful to those friends of mine who kept telling me my ex was no good. Although I wasn't able to listen for ages -he is a doctor! I am 29! Of course he is the 'one' and not scarey or dangerous at all! - it did help to recall all that they had said when I was finally pushed over edge and for rid of him.

NicknameTaken Thu 14-Mar-13 09:38:58

I'd like to see a copy of the Lundy Bancroft book in every school library.

Spero Thu 14-Mar-13 11:10:32

Yes, but not just put on the shelves. These issues should be discussed as part of formal curriculum. Try to reduce shame and stigma and encourage everyone to think.

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