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Are battered mothers being revictimized in Michigan courts?

Violence against women, children and even men has been a persistent issue in society. In Oakland County, many domestic violence victims are mothers and this can put them at a distinct disadvantage, especially when the abuser is the father of their children. Often, these women are afraid to come forward and seek the help that they need. Women, who have been able to summon their courage, usually find themselves in a bitter custody fight.

Battered Mothers Often Lose Custody

A conference was held earlier this year at George Washington University Law School that addressed the challenges that battered mothers often face from the courts that are supposed to protect them. According to The Washington Post, the conference consisted of advocates for victims of domestic violence, victims of violence and experts in this field. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss issues in the court system and then develop strategies to address those issues.

Victims and advocates say that courts are often unsympathetic to battered mothers, and abusers use the court system to continue their abuse through legal harassment and many judges and court professionals often dismiss a mother’s claim of abuse. These mothers find their financial resources drained and are emotionally and mentally exhausted in their struggle to retain custody of their children.

Michigan and Battered Mothers

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for Michigan, almost half of all women brought into selected emergency departments were victims of domestic violence. Older statistics indicate that hundreds of thousands of offenses involving violence have been made in the state and these numbers are likely similar today. The Shelby-Utica Patch reported last year that over 68,000 women in Michigan were victims of domestic violence in 2011.

An important report was assembled by the University of Michigan, School of Social Work and presented to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report studied the attitudes of court professionals, attorneys and social workers toward battered mothers. The report presented the following findings:

  • Professionals who had personal experience with domestic violence were more likely to believe battered mothers.
  • Attorneys, judges and custody evaluators often believed that mothers make false allegations of abuse.
  • Judges were more likely to believe father’s allegations of abuse.
  • Joint custody was often recommended, even in cases where it was clear that domestic violence had occurred.
  • Unsupervised visitation was often recommended for fathers, even in cases where domestic violence was reported.

This report indicates that there is still much to be done to change such attitudes but there are some courts that have already taken steps to address the needs of battered mothers. For mothers who are dealing with domestic violence and child custody issues, it is important to find an attorney who is experienced in such matters and who can help them protect their rights and children.