Screening for domestic abuse is an important requirement for mediation programs. Court systems should utilize a uniform screening tool for all couples who face voluntary or mandatory mediation. Skilled domestic violence advocates should implement the screening process, not professional mediators who have a financial interest in the outcome. Each party should be screened separately.
Screening questions should address physical and psychological abuse of the past and of the present. Screeners should address the victim’s fear of future abuse. Screeners should inquire about control, jealousy, the treatment of children and substance abuse. Screeners should address emotional abuse and sexual abuse, and other aspects of the dynamics of domestic violence.
Screening techniques during mediation include close observation of facial expressions and tone of voice, unbalanced contributions to the discussion, outbursts and silent participants. Screeners should scrutinize the outcome of the mediation for fairness.
Mediators must terminate ongoing mediation sessions in which the issues of power and control emerge, and must terminate the session in such a way that the safety of the victim is not compromised.
From: Procedural Justice Implications of ADR in Specialized Contexts: The Culture of Battering and the Role of Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases, by Karla Fischer, Neil Vidmar and Rene Ellis, 46 Southern Methodist Law Review 2117, 1992; and
Domestic Violence and Mediation: Responding to the Challenges of Creating Effective Screens, by Jane C. Murphy and Robert Rubinson, 35 Family Law Quarterly 53, Spring 2005
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