Winter 2003 Newsletter
KCSDV member programs honored Senator David Adkins and Representative Rocky Nichols at the annual meeting on November 20 in Lindsborg, Kansas. Nichols and Adkins were each presented with the Maska Advocate of the Year Award, an award named after its first recipient, Juliene Maska, Kansas Statewide Victims’ Rights Coordinator. Nichols and Adkins were selected by the KCSDV Governance Committee for their leadership in the legislature on getting four bills passed during 2002. Juliene Maska from Attorney General Stovall’s office spoke about their role in helping to formulate and pass the bills. The bills amended the Protection from Abuse Act to allow someone who had dated, but never lived with their abuser to be eligible to apply for an order; enacted the Protection From Stalking Act; initiated the collection of docket fees to help fund services for sexual assault victims, and specifies that forensic evidence collection examinations performed by nurses or physician assistants qualify for payment by counties. Congratulations to Representative Nichols and Senator Adkins!
The meeting’s Keynote Speaker, Kathy Greenlee, Chief of Staff for Governor Kathleen Sebelius and former KCSDV Director, spoke of the coalition’s early efforts for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Child sexual abuse is an experience that far too many children (both male and female) have or will experience. Approximately one in three females and one in seven males will be sexually assaulted in some way by the age of 18. Within the category of child sexual abuse are many different forms of violence that is perpetrated by individuals with differing relationships to the child. For example, in the simplest terms, incest is the sexual abuse of a child by a relative. However, the dynamics of incest and the long-term effects of this specific type of sexual abuse are far from simple.
Incest is perpetrated by any number of relatives; fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, mothers, stepfathers, etc… Most often, the abuser is male (over 95% of the time) and the victim is female. When male children are sexually abused, it again is most often by a male. While there are many different types of incest, the most common type of incest that continues to be reported is that of father/daughter incest. One of the nation’s leading researchers on child sexual abuse, David Finkelhor, estimated in 1983 that 1,000,000 American women are victims of father/daughter incest, and 16,000 new cases occur annually.
The dynamics of father/daughter incest are some of the most unequal imaginable in terms of power. It is impossible to fully comprehend these dynamics without understanding that men in our society are granted more power than women, and that children have much less power than their parents. In fact, children are dependent on their parents for survival. It is also assumed, as Judith Herman states in her book Father-Daughter Incest, that: “…children need the unconditional protection and nurturance of their parents for healthy development; they cannot provide care in return.” The relationship between father and daughter, adult male and female child, represents one of the greatest disparities, in terms of power, that exists.
Fathers who sexually abuse their daughters, often demonstrate domination over the household and devalue women. They often restrict the mother and attempt to control both her and the daughter. Additionally, these fathers may be more likely to batter their partners and to use the sexual abuse of the daughter as part of an ongoing pattern of dominance, power, and control. Power and control over the mother increases the number of barriers that must be overcome in order to ensure the safety of the daughter and ensure that no further sexual abuse occurs. Mothers are often blamed for the violence rather than the accountability being placed where it belongs, on the father. Mothers are rarely given adequate support and face many obstacles in leaving the household, especially economic barriers. Daughters may be removed from the household, as it is difficult to legally force the father to leave unless criminal charges have been pressed. If the abuse is not disclosed or stopped, daughters may run away or attempt to marry early in order to escape the abuse.
Incest of a child does not occur overnight. Rather, an offender “grooms” the child, both for sexual activities and secrecy. The first phase of “grooming” is Engagement. The offender finds himself with access or opportunity to the child. This may happen accidentally at first, but soon the offender is manipulating situations in order to create times where the offender and child will be alone. The offender then begins using his power position to exploit, dominate, and manipulate the child.
The Sexual Interaction phase is on-going and often begins with activities that the child (and other adults) would find hard to differentiate from “just showing affection,” such as hugs, squeezes, kisses, or lap sitting. The offender then escalates the sexual interaction to non-physical activities (such as exposing him/herself) and then “grooms” the child for physical activities such as masturbating, oral sex, and penetration. This may take weeks, months, or years. The time involved with this actually works to the benefit of the offender, as it binds the child to him, and the child is receiving feedback about the abuse only from the offender.
The third phase is Secrecy. The offender coerces the child into keeping the abuse secret. The child may keep the secret for any number of reasons, including: being rewarded with attention, love and affection; material rewards; feelings of loyalty to the parent; threats of physical harm; and threats that her disclosure would lead to the breakup of the family. The offender, in this case the father who knows the child very well, will manipulate the child with whatever he feels will be most successful in getting that child to keep the abuse a secret.
The fourth phase is Disclosure. Sometimes disclosure happens by accident, sometimes it occurs very purposefully. However, disclosure is a crisis time for all members of the family. The offender often will immediately deny this crime, and talk about things like “what will happen to him, his job, the family, etc…?” Additionally, he will resort to using his power to regain control. Disclosure that does not lead to action or protection of the child, leads to the fifth stage.
The fifth stage is Suppression. This is the “sweep it under the rug” syndrome. There are attempts to suppress what was disclosed, suppress the importance and therefore minimize the seriousness of the disclosure, and continue to maintain a system closed to outside influence. Family members, the offender, and often times the victim herself, will place extreme amounts of pressure on the child victim to deny what was disclosed. (The 5 stages are adapted from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.)
The long-term effects of incest and other forms of childhood sexual abuse are well documented. These include: a correlation with future re-victimization; alcohol/drug abuse; suicidality; depression; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; traumatic amnesic memories (and other difficulties with memory); anxiety; fear; early pregnancy; physical health problems; future sexual dysfunction; sleeping problems; and eating problems. It is impossible to know which victims of father/daughter incest may have any, all, or other long-term effects due to the abuse. However, we know that childhood sexual abuse often carries with it long-term traumatic effects that are difficult to overcome. Research has shown that some of these long-term effects may be lessened with appropriate support and intervention at the time of disclosure. Appropriate treatment of incest survivors is important in the long-term healing journey.
The reality of child sexual abuse, incest, and particularly father/daughter incest has been kept silent for too long. We must ensure that survivors and non-offending parents have appropriate support and interventions. We must also ensure that offenders are held accountable. It is now our charge to make sure that the reality of father-daughter incest is exposed and prevented.
Tips for Advocates
We, as advocates, can help create appropriate responses to disclosure. Some general suggestions for parents and other adults who work with children are:
- Educate about why children often take so long to disclose;
- Educate that children rarely lie about sexual abuse (less than 2%);
- Educate about age-appropriate sexual behaviors;
- Educate about why a child’s disclosure may be fragmented, disoriented, and recanted;
- Educate about long-term effects and help plan for that child’s safety;
- Help remove barriers that prevent families and children from being safe;
- Be non-judgmental and willing to listen, and share your knowledge/expertise;
- Have a list of referrals/resources for both incest survivors and their non-offending parents.
If you have questions, please contact Tiffany Muller, Sexual Assault Advocacy Coordinator at Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCSDV).
Some of the above information was compiled or adapted using the following sources:
- Herman, Judith. Father-Daughter Incest. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 2000.
- National Crime Victim’s Center. Incest. www.ncvc.org/infolik/info29.htm
- Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. The Trainer’s Toolbox. “Chapter 5: Incest and Child Sexual Abuse.”
by Susan Schechter
Excerpted with permission from:
“Expanding Solutions for Domestic Violence and Poverty: What Battered Women with Abused Children Need from Their Advocates Building Comprehensive Solutions to Domestic Violence: Publication #13, A Vision Paper”
This paper was originally delivered as a talk at the Violence Institute of New Jersey, June 21, 2000.
Special thanks to The Ford Foundation for its support of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Building Comprehensive Solutions to Domestic Violence, the initiative under which these materials were produced. We also wish to acknowledge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for their ongoing funding of the NRC.
The ideas expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of The Ford Foundation or other funders of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
Published by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, a project of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, December, 2000
Thanks to staff members of Building Comprehensive Solutions to Domestic Violence – Amy Correia and Robin Hammeal-Urban – and to Loretta Frederick and Jennifer Lopez for their review and critique of this paper. Special thanks also go to Jill Davies and Mimi Rose for particularly insightful suggestions about reorganizing and refocusing the content of the talk as it turned into a paper, and to Margaret Nelson for her ever-careful and thoughtful editing.
Over the last 15 years, two interests have dominated my work: making the links between the abuse of women and the maltreatment of their children, and trying to better understand domestic violence and poverty. These interests inevitably lead to questions about public policy on behalf of battered women, especially those who are low-income and who find themselves in the child welfare system. What kind of world are we imagining and creating for these women, their partners, and their children? Do current domestic violence solutions make it better for them or unintentionally worse? Is the domestic violence advocacy agenda – which relies heavily on the use of shelter, support groups, arrest, and courts – on a collision course with the needs of low-income women in the child welfare system? In what ways does this agenda need to be expanded or modified to improve conditions for low-income women and their families? And how can partnerships among systems and with communities be forged to make a new advocacy agenda a reality?
Mary is a 35-year old mother of three children, ranging in age from 1 to 9. Recently, she called her local child protection agency asking for voluntary services; she feared that she might abuse her nine-year-old son. He, mimicking his father, was now hitting her. She did not know what to do and begged for help. A family support worker was sent out to meet with the family. This worker, in turn, asked a domestic violence advocate to also help the mother.
Mary’s husband hit her periodically. Although he worked several minimum-wage, part-time jobs, and was rarely at home, he expected compliance and deference from everyone in the family whenever he appeared. He explained to the family support worker during one of their rare meetings that he had no real problems. However, he was concerned about his wife’s parenting abilities and emotional well-being.
Mary appreciated the support of the advocate and the family support worker, but she was unsure about what they could do for her. Her husband refused to acknowledge any problem with violence. With three children under the age of nine and another child on the way, few job skills, and a strong commitment to keeping her family intact, she had no intention of leaving her husband or asking the court for a protection order removing him from the family home. She was deeply attached to her husband’s extended family, and dreaded the thought of losing her children to foster care. She herself had been in foster care and would do “anything to avoid repeating the experience.” Mary had a high school diploma but had not worked since her first child was born. Other than offering Mary support, the advocate was stumped about how she could help.
A comparison of Mary’s circumstances to the solutions available to her to stop domestic violence reveals a major dilemma. Her needs and the available community interventions, as currently designed, are mismatched, profoundly. Mary wants her husband’s and son’s violence to stop. The choice to end the violence lies with her husband, who refuses to acknowledge his problem. The workers helping her can only offer him a batterers’ intervention program, in which he is uninterested. They also offer her support groups, legal advocacy, and shelter, in all of which she is uninterested. The workers agree to keep seeing her, for which she is grateful. No one continues to reach out to him. Over time Mary maintains that calling the police and leaving her husband are not options.
Given Mary’s economic and family circumstances, her staying with her husband is a rational choice; in fact, it may be the best option that she now has. However, her depression and her concern for her son and for her deteriorating relationship with him increase. What are community agencies to do?
Current solutions to domestic violence offer tremendous help and important options to women who have resources and who want to leave their partners or end their relationships. Women can petition the court to evict violent men, can move to a shelter, can ask the police to arrest their partners, and can fight more effectively for custody in some states. Current solutions also offer some hope to end or reduce violence from men who are mandated to batterers’ programs. Research suggests that approximately 60% of the men who enter programs are non-violent at three-year follow-up (Gondolf, 2000).
But what about everyone else? What about Mary and her husband, who refuses intervention, at least in the way it is currently offered? Advocates have always said that women have the right to be in safe and respectful relationships. The domestic violence movement’s historic goal has been to end violence and coercion, not to have women leave their relationships. Are there any new and untried ways to make this possible? Or even to explore the problem more thoroughly?
A second concern is for the many other women in the child welfare system, who, in addition to domestic violence, experience poverty, depression and substance abuse. What do domestic violence “solutions” offer to them and their families? What additional public policies and practices should advocates formulate to help them and their families?
Here is how current solutions are too limited. Poor women now face child welfare workers, judges in family and juvenile courts, police, and mental health providers who believe that they know the “answer” to a domestic violence “case;” they learned these answers from domestic violence advocates: offer the abused woman shelter, support groups, legal remedies, counseling, and advocacy so she can leave her relationship. Arrest the batterer, mandate educational groups, and make a serious effort to monitor his compliance. When battered women don’t “comply” with these solutions, when they refuse to immediately leave their partners or pursue available services – often for very sound reasons – then the women “fail,” and systems can turn against them, minimizing the violence, labeling them as “not ready,” too passive, or otherwise incompetent. With these labels, systems – including domestic violence services – withdraw support and sometimes resources.
When children are involved, the stakes are even higher. When the mother – or the father – refuses to use available options, and children are at risk of harm, for example, professionals understandably start to worry about them. Sometimes they threaten to remove children from their parents’ care.
Yet, when current solutions for the woman offer only the choice of leaving, and she decides that the better of two poor options is to remain in a relationship, what do we recommend to child protection workers and court personnel who, with good reason, need the violence to stop? To date, arrest and removal of the batterer are our preferred answers. But what happens when arrest is a solution that the woman does not wish to pursue because her partner will lose his job, end up with a record, or have his probation revoked and be sent back to prison? Or what if she fears that calling the police will lead to her arrest? Or maybe she believes that the arrest and a mandatory prosecution will harm more than help her family. Are we willing to envision additional solutions?
As we add the police and child protective services to the inadequate mix of “solutions,” sometimes together, the dilemmas grow more difficult. In several states, legislatures have made it a felony to commit domestic violence in the presence of a child. In some counties in these states, children are automatically referred from the police to CPS, expanding the number of investigations without increasing resources to help anyone.
My concerns about these changes are many. Researchers have estimated that 3 to 10 million children annually witness domestic violence. While it might salve consciences to refer all of them to protective services for investigation, the bigger question is, “How will investigation help them or their mothers?” And as women call the police for their own protection – for example, to stop an assault in progress – will they learn that their partner faces a felony charge because a child was present during the attack, or that the family now confronts a child protective services investigation? What will the women do then? Remember Mary in the example above. Her greatest fear is that she might lose her children. If she called the police for her own protection, and they automatically and mandatorily called child protective services, would she call the police a second time during an assault? If she refuses to call the police the next time, the first police intervention, itself, may have reduced her options and increased danger for her. It does not necessarily make families safer to use the police and child protective services in every domestic violence case involving a child.
What if Mary does harm her son, and a child protective services investigation begins? What if she talks about the domestic violence and is told to use a domestic violence solution. What if, in fact, she agrees to get a protection order, evicting her husband. Let’s assume that she complies with her caseplan, and the court evicts her husband. Let’s also assume that her husband eventually comes back. He assaults her again, and this time a neighbor calls the police. The husband is arrested, and the case is referred again to CPS. If she lives in Iowa, Mary may be found guilty in criminal court of aiding and abetting the violation of a protective order. If she “let” her husband back in, she may also have a CPS case where the allegations of maltreatment are substantiated, based on her failure to protect the children, even if the children have no injuries. Again, current domestic violence “solutions” will be offered to her – orders of protection, eviction, support groups, court advocacy. Are they adequate? Will they fail her? If they do, will it be she, rather than our solutions, who is defined as the failure? Will helping professionals – including domestic violence advocates – withdraw from her, using statements like, “She is not ready for help,” or “We have to wait until she reaches out to us,” to justify the withdrawal of support?
Let me make my position clear. Obviously, there are children who are seriously harmed or neglected as a result of domestic violence and belong under the care of protective services. And even with the best of resources and advocacy, some women will not assume responsibility for children. Given these realities, however, we must still assert that what we currently offer is a deeply inadequate response to situations in which domestic violence, child maltreatment, and poverty occur together.
Increasingly, more and more systems are peering into the lives of poor women. But now they have been alerted to peer in about the violence. For example, TANF workers in many states have been taught to ask about domestic violence because the Family Violence Option brings women exemptions to time limits or to other requirements for welfare benefits. Police and child welfare workers in many jurisdictions are now alerted to the harm that witnessing violence can cause to some children. This new consciousness has the potential to bring – and in some localities is already bringing – added protection and support to many women and children who have suffered silently. This is a positive development – if the purpose of identification is to help and if it is coupled with respectful treatment and meaningful resources.
However, my gravest concern is that we will soon arrive at the day when the CPS worker, the police officer, the TANF and child support enforcement worker, and the housing authority staff send case reports back and forth and respond to violence. Why am I so worried? First, we often have monitored and meddled in the lives of the poor. Secondly, creating meaningful safety for women and children living in violence must go far beyond violence interventions to include income, housing, and adequate health and mental health care.
Policies for the future
In response to these needs, the domestic violence movement – and child protection system – has often said, “This is too much to do; we have to only deal with the violence.” Although this choice may have been historically necessary, advocates today can no longer compartmentalize their work – and women’s lives – in this way. Domestic violence organizations must articulate a public policy agenda on poverty and advocate within systems that affect the lives of poor families. Without additional resources from these systems, poor women simply cannot be safe. Advocates also urgently need to pursue additional ways of providing help to individual women, men, and their children. Here are thoughts about future frameworks and directions:
- At a minimum, we need a public policy agenda on domestic violence and poverty. Our common public policy agenda must articulate that battered women – whether they stay in their relationships or leave them – should have access to housing, jobs, and economic supports for their families. These benefits and supports will remove barriers that keep many women trapped in abusive relationships. These resources also will help battered women who stay. A job, decent housing, and child care might make a woman’s life more bearable. A job for her partner might make him less violent and thereby help her. (Research does suggest that poverty makes violence against women more likely to happen and more severe [Straus & Gelles, 1990].) Housing and economic justice advocacy will be shortsighted if it tries to help only the “good” battered women who leave. All people deserve the relief that good jobs, public benefits, and decent housing bring.
- We must expand access to services and the number and types of sites within low-income communities where meaningful help is available. Advocacy must always couple the demand to identify victims of domestic violence with the equally clear goal of offering supports and services to families. This community-based system of services and supports – and responses to victims and perpetrators of violence – currently exists in very few places.
- We also need to develop a prevention and early intervention agenda – with the help and guidance of community residents and community-based organizations – as a critical next step to helping more women, men, and children. Many low-income families, immigrants, and residents in communities of color are never reached by current interventions, or they are reached too late, long after we can stop the violence or repair the harm. Often men and women have to leave their communities to be eligible for help, and, if they are unable or unwilling to leave, they receive little assistance. Or they have to go to agencies that fail to recognize their particular concerns. We have a pressing need to build public support for and test prevention and early intervention efforts in a variety of settings and in neighborhoods.
- We must insure that interventions can address the spectrum of domestic violence, and the spectrum of women’s needs. In other words, not every woman faces lethal threats or violence, so let us not design interventions as if every woman does. If our interventions were to respond to the spectrum of violence, what would they look like?
- Men must become part of violence prevention and intervention efforts in far more significant ways. Groups like Mentors in Violence Prevention, which prepare male athletes to speak as non-violent role models to boys; teenage drama groups on violence prevention; and other educational initiatives offer promise. These efforts speak to boys and men not as potential perpetrators but as allies in an effort to make the world safe for women and children.
- Communities need to develop, for men who batter, outreach and interventions that do not rely solely on arrest. Twenty-five years ago, the domestic violence movement found that men failed to enter intervention programs voluntarily. So advocates, myself included, said that treatment must be mandatory. However, public consciousness and disapproval of violence against women has changed. Today more people are willing to urge family members, friends, and neighbors into programs. It’s time to try – on an experimental basis – community-based outreach and voluntary education and counseling again, while we retain mandatory interventions following an arrest. Obviously, programs need to exercise great care about women’s safety if they test this idea. Again, the question is, “How can women, affected by these interventions, help us design, test, and monitor them?”
New solutions are hard to consider for a movement that is underfunded and sometimes under attack, and for busy professionals with many demands on their time. However, now is the time to act, when public support is strong for domestic violence services. We can expand a public policy agenda to articulate the array of supports and services that low-income battered women and their families need. It’s time to stretch our imaginations and develop a new vision of what safety, security, and help mean for women.
Allard, M. A., Albelda, R., Colten, M. E., & Cosenza, C. (1997). “In harm’s way? Domestic violence, AFDC receipt, and welfare reform in Massachusetts.” Boston: A report from the University of Massachusetts, Boston (McCormack Institute).
Browne A., & Bassuk, E. (1997). “Intimate violence in the lives of homeless and poor housed women: Prevalence and patterns in an ethnically diverse sample.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 67: 261-278. Curcio, C. (1997). “The Passaic County Study of AFDC recipients in a welfare-to-work program.” Passaic County, NJ: Passaic County Board of Social Services.
Davies, J., Lyon, E., & Monti-Catania, D. (1998). “Safety planning with battered women: Complex lives/difficult choices.” Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Dobash, R. E., & Dobash, R. (1979). “Violence against wives: A case against the patriarchy.” New York: Free Press.
Gondolf, E. (2000). “Reassault at 30 months after batterer program intake.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 44, 111-128.
Lloyd, S., & Taluc, N. (1999). “The effects of male violence on female employment.” Violence Against Women 5: 370-392.
Lyon, E. (2000). “Welfare, poverty, and abused women: New research and its implications.” Harrisburg, PA: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
Schechter, S., with Gary, L. T. (1992). “Health care services for battered women and their abused children: A manual about AWAKE, Advocacy for Women and Kids in Emergencies.” Boston, MA: Children’s Hospital
Straus, M. A., & Gelles, R. J. (Eds.). (1990). “Physical violence in American families.” New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
About the author
Susan Schechter is a Clinical Professor at The University of Iowa School of Social Work. She is the author of several books and monographs about domestic violence, including Women and Male Violence: The Visions and Struggles of the Battered Women’s Movement, When Love Goes Wrong (co-authored with Ann Jones), “Guidelines for Mental Health Practitioners in Domestic Violence Cases,” and “Domestic Violence: A National Curriculum for Children’s Protective Services” (co-authored with Dr. Anne Ganley). Ms. Schechter is currently the director of Building Comprehensive Solutions to Domestic Violence, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
This document was not developed by Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. The document’s author or sponsoring organization granted KCSDV permission for placement in this newsletter. Points of view in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of KCSDV.
Today, Jana finally got up the courage to petition for a protection order. Tom, her husband and the father of their three children, has systematically terrorized the family for quite some time. Jana’s and the children’s isolation have become severe, as Tom tracks their every move. The children know better than to ask if they can play with friends after school. Tom rules the home with an iron fist. He has hit her and punched her so many times, Jana has lost track of the injuries. But, this week was too much. Tom pushed one of the children down the stairs when he attempted to grab Jana by the hair to pull her into the bedroom where he intended to rape her.
Jana had been hiding the local crisis center’s hotline number for weeks, waiting for the right time to call. She was terrified that Tom would take the children, as he had threatened to do many times. She was terrified that Tom would report her to SRS, saying she was a terrible and neglectful mother. Jana believed he had every intention to follow through on these threats. So, this morning she called the program and an advocate met her at the court house so she could apply for a protection order. Jana was terrified.
When the clerk returned with the signed order, the advocate helped her read through it so Jana could understand what the judge had included. The judge had ordered “joint custody” with “reasonable visitation every other weekend.” Jana was terrified to learn that she was going to have to negotiate the exchange of the children with Tom. She could hardly imagine Tom’s response to this protection order, let alone how she was going to argue with him about what “reasonable” meant. Nonetheless, she was glad to have the protection order in place and to have an order requiring Tom to leave the home.
As the first weekend for Tom’s visitation arrived, Jana became more and more worried about what would happen with the children. Tom called to say he would be picking the children up at 5:00 on Friday night and said he’d bring them back on Sunday. During the phone call, he made sure to let her know that he would never forget what she had done to him by getting this order and making him leave the home. When five o’clock arrived, Jana was beside herself with fear. At six o’clock, Tom had still not arrived. Finally, at seven, Tom showed up. It was clear he had been drinking. Jana didn’t know what to do but Tom insisted that if she didn’t let him have the children he was going to call the police and have them arrest her for violating the protection order. The children wanted to go, knowing Tom would get even angrier if she or they refused. Jana was beside herself all weekend. Sunday came and went but Tom did not return with the children. Jana called the police, who came to her house and looked at the order. “We can’t help you,” the officer said, “nothing in this order indicates when he is supposed to return the children.” Jana told them about the threats and the condition Tom was in when he took the children the Friday before, but the officer was not moved, asking her why a mother would have let her children go with a father who was drunk. After a sleepless night for Jana, Tom showed up with the children 30 minutes before they were supposed to be at school.
While the above situation is not based on any woman’s specific situation or on the facts of a specific case, it is, nonetheless, a situation mothers who are battered face regularly. The Kansas Protection from Abuse Act states that a judge may award temporary custody and residency and establish temporary parenting time with regard to minor children. Nothing in the PFAA, however, mandates that judges be specific about visitation times and exchanges. When there is a history of domestic violence, there are always risks inherent in continuing contact between the parents. Often, courts will award joint custody and reasonable visitation, seemingly in conflict with the restraining order itself. The abuser will be ordered from the home, but allowed to come back and pick up the children. Inevitably, the batterer uses this contact as an opportunity to further abuse or threaten the woman and possibly the children.
While unsupervised visitation between the abuser and the children is not recommended, parenting plans can be better drafted to reflect the danger inherent in the situation. For example, in the above situation, the order could have stated:
“Defendant shall have parenting time on the first and third weekend of each month. Parenting time shall start at 5:00 p.m. on Friday and shall end at 6:30 p.m. on the Sunday of the same weekend. The defendant is prohibited from drinking or otherwise becoming intoxicated for 24-hours before picking up the children and is prohibited from drinking or otherwise becoming intoxicated during the time the children are in his care.”
While this wording of the order does not solve all of the problems Jana faced, it goes a long way toward helping law enforcement officers enforce the protection order. For example, when Tom showed up drunk on Friday night, Jana could have called the police. An officer on the scene could then have read the order, noted that Tom was drunk, and could have told Tom at that point that he was in violation of the court’s order by showing up intoxicated. Additionally, when Tom did not bring the children back on Sunday evening, Jana could call the police with better results. An officer could have read the order, seen that Tom was in violation of the order, and helped Jana get the children back home. In another scenario, if Tom had showed up on the second weekend of the month demanding that the children go with him for parenting time, a law enforcement officer could easily tell that it was not his weekend to have the children. Of course, lots of ambiguities remain and, as indicated above, unsupervised visitation with an abusive parent is not recommended. However, a more specific parenting plan within the protection order or divorce decree could go a long way toward helping both the battered mother and the police enforce the order of protection.
Additionally, courts have the ability to order that child exchange and visitation centers be used in these situations. Use of visitation and exchange centers is critical in a situation where there is domestic violence, especially because the risk of violence escalates at the time a battered woman attempts to separate from her abuser. Some centers have specialized rules such as requiring that custodial and visiting parents arrive and leave at different times and outlining unacceptable behavior such as threatening staff, hanging around the visitation center when not on a visit, lateness, and failing to follow a supervisor’s instructions during the visitation time. Not only can courts order the use of visitation and exchange centers but a parent can request that this requirement be included in the order. Use of visitation and exchange centers can provide additional safety during this time of increased danger.
Advocates, attorneys and judges should pay close attention to what instructions are included in the parenting plan, especially as those instructions relate to parenting time and exchange of children. Battered women often know that leaving their abuser is the most dangerous decision they can make. Improving clarity of orders can also improve her chances and the children’s chances of staying safe.
Tips for Advocates
- Find out if there is a visitation and child exchange center in your area. Centers and their guidelines are listed on the Attorney General’s website at: http://www.ksag.org/contents/ children/main.htm.
- Help battered mothers think through the safety issues surrounding their parenting plans before the plans are offered to the court.
- Encourage battered mothers to ask the court to order use of visitation and exchange centers.
- Work with your local visitation and exchange center if they do not have guidelines that adequately address issues surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Share the information in this newsletter article with local attorneys and other advocates who may be working with battered mothers and their children.
- For additional information, contact Joyce Grover at KCSDV.
The Batterer as a Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics by Lundy Bancroft and Dr. Jay G. Silverman (Sage Publications 2002) is one of the best pieces of writing on this topic to come out in a long time. Mr. Bancroft, a batterer intervention specialist and guardian ad litem, and Dr. Silverman, with the Harvard School of Public Health, bring a wealth of experience and expertise to this book. They give a detailed look at how the batterer operates within the family, including a step-by-step analysis not only of how the batterer disrupts and destroys through the use of violence and control, but also of how he infiltrates that disruptive pattern into the relationships. Characteristics of men who batter, according to the authors, include control, coerciveness, entitlement, and possessiveness. Through these characteristics they become experts at creating role models that perpetuate the violence, undermining the mother’s authority, retaliating for her efforts to protect the children, sowing divisions within the family, and using the children as weapons. Also included in the book is an interesting chapter on the similarities between batterers and incest perpetrators, a topic rarely addressed in the literature.The battering parent is not only invested in controlling his partner but he is also invested in getting his children to buy into that pattern. Every time the batterer demeans, criticizes, humiliates, and degrades his partner (the mother of the children), the relationship between mother and child is negatively impacted. Soon, the mother struggles not only with how to physically protect herself and the children but she also struggles with how to rebuild her relationship with her kids. Bancroft and Silverman not only recommend batterer intervention and increased batterer accountability but they also urge advocates and other professionals to find ways to rebuild and support the mother-child relationship – a family bond that has suffered much damage from the batterer’s tactics.These authors have given us an inside view of the batterer as a parent – forcing responsibility for the damage onto the batterer where it belongs. This is much needed and welcomed information, given the current trend toward blaming the mother for her own victimization. If you haven’t read this book, please do.Also by Lundy Bancroft . . .
Publishers Weekly published this review of Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, which was recently released by G.P. Putnam:
This fascinating investigation into what makes abusive men tick is alarming, but its candid handling of a difficult subject makes it a valuable resource for professionals and victims alike. Bancroft, the former co-director of Emerge, the nation’s first program for abusive men, has specialized in domestic violence for 15 years, and his understanding of his subject and audience is apparent on every page. “One of the prevalent features of life with an angry or controlling partner is that he frequently tells you what you should think and tries to get you to doubt or devalue your own perceptions and beliefs,” he writes. “I would not like to see your experience with this book re-create that unhealthy dynamic. So the top point to bear in mind as you read [this book] is to listen carefully to what I am saying, but always to think for yourself.” He maintains this level of sensitivity and even empathy throughout discussions on the nature of abusive thinking, how abusive men manipulate their families and the legal system and whether or not they can ever be “cured.” Jargon-free analysis is frequently broken up by interesting first-person accounts and boxes that distill in-depth information into simple checklists. Bancroft’s book promises to be a beacon of calm and sanity for many storm-tossed families.
Publishers Weekly, July 15, 2002, p. 63
- Legislative Day
Advanced Policy Training
February 13, 2003 – Topeka
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Presented by Susan Schechter
March 3, 2003 – Kansas City
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April 7-10, 2003 – Wichita
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Theoretical Explanations of
Violence Against Women
May 13, 2003 – Ulysses
May 15, 2003 – Pittsburg
May 16, 2003 – Kansas City
- Sexual Assault Advocacy Training
June 23-27, 2003 – Winfield
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