New York, USA: Report Finds That New York City Family Courts Endanger Battered Women
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:29 PM

The Voices of Women Organizing Project has released a report titled "Justice Denied: How Family Courts in NYC Endanger Battered Women and Children." The report found that women who have been abused by the father of their children lose custody thirty-seven percent of the time. It also found that battered women are retraumatized when forced to confront their abusers in court, and that custody is often given to the abuser even when the woman is the primary caregiver. The organization made four recommendations to address these problems: create and fund a court watch project; make sure court decisions are made in the best interest of the children; consider seriously any abuse allegations; and be sure that court proceedings are just.

Research for the report was conducted over two years and consists of approximately 75 interviews with domestic violence survivors, focus groups of battered women and foster care teens, and meetings with court personnel. The women interviewed for the report had all experienced abuse and had family court cases in 2005 or 2006. Eighty percent said their abusers used the courts to carry out a threat to gain custody of the children and keep them from having contact with their mothers.

Approximately thirty percent of the women said they did not feel safe in the courtroom, and forty percent said they did not feel safe in the waiting areas.  In twenty-five percent of the cases women were told, sometimes by lawyers, not to bring up domestic abuse or to challenge custody because it might make the situation worse. The report concluded that when the mothers appear in court a combination of factors, such as fear of the abuser, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, create a negative image of the mother's capability.

Compiled from: Report: Abused Women See Danger in Family Court, Alison Bowen, Women's eNews, (26 March 2009).