One More Battleground
9 • I
2 • 2011
situations are inevitably caught in a catch-22. If the woman stays, she risksfurther abuse to her and her children. On the other hand, separating from anabusive partner may lead to other problems. It is a myth that simply leavingan abuser will solve the problem, that simply getting away from him willfree them of the violence. In truth, a woman escaping an abusiverelationship has a 75 percent greater risk of severe injury or death than awoman who remains with her abuser.
The high rate of continued physical violence after separation is only one problem a woman may face after escaping an abusive partner. Even if survivors of abuse succeed in leaving their abusers, there is another arena inwhich an abuser can continue his abuse: family court.
If a batterer wantsto, he can turn dissolution, child support, custody, and visitation proceedings into a nightmare; he can turn the courts into a new forum thatallows his abusive behavior to continue.If there are children present in the abusive relationship, she is unlikely togive into his custody demands and will continue to fight for her childrenwhile they are at risk,
after she’s given into all of her abuser’s other demands during the separation and/or dissolution process. Because of this,survivors of domestic violence who are trying to escape their abusers oftenfind themselves trapped in family courts, trying to retain custody of their children. Sadly, experience shows that they often fail—courts frequentlygrant visitation and custodial rights to fathers despite a history of violenceagainst mothers.
In fact, abusive fathers are more than twice as likely to seek sole custodyof their children as are nonviolent fathers.
And, with studies confirmingthat courts award sole or joint custody to fathers in 70 percent of all custodycases, then statistically speaking, it is undeniable that men who abusewomen can and do end up with control over the children after therelationship is over.
Thus, family court has become one of the final andoften unavoidable battlegrounds between survivors and their abusers.
Through a variety of tactics, batterers have found ways to manipulate the