Posted by Coral Anika Theill
Author, Advocate, Speaker & Reporter
Memoir: BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark
The price for my own safety and freedom in 1996 was an imposed, unnatural and unwanted separation from my eight children. The injustice committed against me is not just the physical separation from my children, but the willful desecration of the mother-child relationship and bond, a sacred spiritual and emotional entity.
For Women leaving abusive relationships, they are lulled into a false sense of security believing that the constitution works equally for both men and women. The Family Courts today have become the last vestige of the Patriarchal System that holds hostage the children and punishes women for reporting abuse. Little has changed for women of Domestic Violence trying to divorce their abusers today. As a result of the strength of the Fatherhood Movement, and federal funding, the nature of childhood has changed dramatically following separation and divorce in America. Sadly, children are losing custody of their primary attached parent, their mother. Mothers are on trial for defending their right to parent and protect their children. Many attempts have been made to address the unique issues that face women in court proceedings including this lost provision to VAWA – “For purposes of determining child custody, it is not in the best interest of children to (a) force parents to share custody over the objection of one or both parents when there is a history of domestic violence; (b) punish abused or protective parents who protect themselves or their children; (c) presume allegations of domestic violence or child sexual assault are likely to be made falsely or for tactical advantage during custody and divorce proceedings; and (d) make ‘friendly parent’ provisions a factor when there is abuse by one parent against the other or a child…” (Congressional findings, VAWA proposed 1999 amendments, H.R. 357, Title II, s. 241).
“Forcibly taking a mother’s children, and then controlling her emotionally by withholding contact must be publicly recognized as one of the greatest forms of ‘mis-use’ of the American justice system and one of the greatest hidden vehicles for wide-spread socially approved physical and emotional abuse and control”. Coral Theill
STALKING THROUGH THE COURTS -
Lessons from The “Father’s Right’s” Movement: How to Legally Stalk, Harass, and Intimidate Victims of Domestic Violence after a Restraining Order has been Issued by Janet Normalvanbreucher
“It was with surprise and appreciation that I recently discovered and read Stalking Through the Courts. Although it has been many years since my divorce from Eric Bleicken, the pain of the intense lies that were told (that I wasn’t feeding my children, that I was suicidal, that I was a negligent mother, etc.), and the 200 plus harassment motions that Eric Bleicken filed over a five year period were still under the surface. I found it amazing that Janet Normalvanbreucher, someone I’ve never met, cared enough to research and reveal the truth about our case and the Fathers Rights political agenda. With sincerity and humility, I give her my thanks.”
– Lorraine Bleicken G.
STALKING THROUGH THE COURTS by Janet Normalvanbreucher © 1999
The Quest for Dominance and Control
“Abusive men typically have deeply entrenched notions about “traditional” male roles, with concomitant support for male dominance.”
– Lee H. Bowker, Beating the Wife Beating, p. 7-9 (1983)
“Victims [of domestic violence] are more likely… to have less traditional attitudes regarding women’s roles in the family.”
– Lenore Walker, The Battered Woman Syndrome, p. 8, (1984)
The batterer’s quest for control of the woman lies at the heart of an abusive relationship. “The men want to direct and determine how their partner behaves, and the way to do this is through violence… the men use violence to dominate, control, and force the woman to do what they want.” (Jan E. Stets, Domestic Violence and Control, p. 110, (1988). Battering is about domination. Violence is a way of “doing power” in a relationship, an effort by the batterer to control the woman who is the recipient of the violence. “At the moment of separation or attempted separation — for many women the first encounter with the authority of law — the batterer’s quest for control often becomes most acutely violent and potentially lethal.” (Desmond Ellis, Post-Separation Woman Abuse: The Contribution of Lawyers as “Barracudas,” “Advocates,” and “Counselors,” 10 Intl. J.L. & Psychiatry 403, 408 (1987). Lenore Walker, a leading forensic psychologist in the field of battered women, has emphasized the batterer’s control of the woman. “A battered woman is a woman who is repeatedly subjected to any forceful physical or psychological behavior by a man in order to coerce her to do something he wants her to do without any concern for her rights.” (Lenore Walker, The Battered Woman Syndrome (1984)). Walker found that as her clients in psychotherapy became more assertive, they encountered more physical and psychological abuse.
The misperception that men cannot control their anger still permeates society. Abusive men will often use the threat of violence, whether actual or implied, to control his victim. “Men are violent and abusive towards women because this behavior allows them to establish and to maintain control within the relationship … and because no one has ever required them to stop.” (Lisa G. Lerman, The Decontextualization of Domestic Violence, 83 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 217, 236 (1992)). Abusive behavior can range from implied threats (“any other man would have beaten you to a pulp”) to overt acts against property (breaking apart the furniture, punching a hole in the wall) to direct physical assault (shoving, grabbing, battery). The abuser constantly finds fault with the victim, forcing the victim to remain constantly on the defensive, walking on eggshells lest she “cause” her abuser to lose control and incur another incident of violent behavior.
Studies indicate that, contrary to the assertions of the abuser that he just “lost it,” batterers are quite aware of what they are doing. “Loss of control is substantially contradicted by the batterers’ own testimony. While the men claim that their violence is beyond rational control, they simultaneously acknowledge that the violence is deliberate and warranted.” (James Ptacek, Why do Men Batter Their Wives, p. 153 (1985). Strongly indicative of this pattern of premeditation are the facts that abusers often limit their beatings to places that will not show (like the stomach), violent episodes occur almost exclusively in the home where they can get away with it, and despite the abusers justifications of “I just lost control,” most batterers have limits beyond which they will not go (most stop short of killing their partners). (Lenore E. Walker, The Battered Woman Syndrome, (1984)). Abusers are extremely manipulative and are often described as having a Jekyll and Hyde Personality. Ellen Pence and Michael Paymar’s training manual for batterer’s, Power and Control: Tactics of Men Who Batter, treat violence as a form of control and explicitly reject theories that focus on some flaw in the abuser, the victim, or the relationship. (Ellen Pence & Michael Paymar, Power and Control: Tactics of Men Who Batter, p. 64, (1986). Abusers view their right to dominate and control every aspect of their partner’s and children’s lives, their right to resort to physical violence, as a constitutionally protected right sanctioned by the founding fathers and the bible, not aberrant behavior.
When the intimate partner of a domineering male demands an end to controlling or abusive behavior or attempts to sever the relationship, his abnormal behavior will often escalate into violence. Separation assault is the attack on the woman’s body and volition in which her partner seeks to prevent her from leaving, retaliate for the separation, or force her to return. It aims at overbearing her will as to where and with whom she will live, and coercing her in order to enforce connection in a relationship. It is an attempt to gain, retain, or regain power in a relationship, or to punish the woman for ending the relationship. It often takes place over time. (Martha R. Mahoney, Legal Images of Battered Women: Redifining the Issue of Separation, 90 Mich. L. Rev. 1, p. 65-66, (1991)).
Despite the obvious physical and psychological harm caused by battering, the abuser is able to continue battering his partner because he does not fear legal or social consequences. A batterer often believes he has the right to control his partner through the use of force. Reinforcement of learned behavior may encourage this obsessive, dependent personality. Impulsive and easily frustrated, a batterer resorts to physical violence. The batterer will deny his violence to himself and others. A batterer is not violent in other relationships. In fact, with people outside the family, he can be seen as the pillar of the community. (Lisa N. Birmingham, Closing the Loophole: Vermont’s Legislative Response to Stalking, 18 Vt. L. Rev. 477, 484-485 (1994)). This hinders the victim’s attempts to seek help or emotional support from friends and even her own family because batterers tend to wear a false persona to the outside world. The victim’s claims that her partner is out of control tend to be met with disbelief and outright hostility from the outside world.
Most child psychologists agree that divorced families are less desirable than intact families from a child-rearing standpoint when the family is not dysfunctional. However, reducing children to chattels owned by the parent who is least dissatisfied with the status quo, shuffling them between two households, or returning to the days when women were the legal property of their husbands, is even more repugnant. Father’s Rights advocates “real agenda is to make sure that men maintain control over custodial parents and have access to their children regardless of the father’s behavior and regardless of whether it’s in the best interest of the children themselves” (Patricia A. Levesh, Greater Boston Legal Services Battered Women’s Legal Assistance Project, Letter to the Editor, the Boston Globe, January 6, 1999).
Although most people would agree that courts are not well equipped to handle the emotional battlefield of a divorce, effectively returning to an era when women, children, and property were all chattels owned by the husband is not the answer. Judges (who are often male) are generally quite sensitive to the needs of non-custodial fathers and will bend over backwards to award liberal visitation agreements affording ample opportunity to remain an active part of children’s lives (sometimes to the detriment of children who have witnessed spousal abuse). It is only when a non-custodial parent has demonstrated an extreme pattern of using the child to control the custodial parent or there are serious questions about the child’s well being that visitation will be restricted or supervised.
“For purposes of determining child custody, it is not in the best interest of children to (a) force parents to share custody over the objection of one or both parents when there is a history of domestic violence; (b) punish abused or protective parents who protect themselves or their children; (c) presume allegations of domestic violence or child sexual assault are likely to be made falsely or for tactical advantage during custody and divorce proceedings; and (d) make ‘friendly parent’ provisions a factor when there is abuse by one parent against the other or a child…” (Congressional findings, VAWA proposed 1999 amendments, H.R. 357, Title II, s. 241).
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