For all those who have dealt with abuse and are dealing with the heartache of shared custody, this is for you. Because here’s the thing…the system is broken and children are suffering. Truly. The road of dealing with custody issues is painful for all but specifically, the children.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve spent time researching our court system and the way it handles domestic violence and child custody. Additionally, time was spent studying psychology and the negative effects of “joint custody” on children. The frustration that comes from the realization that we rely on a system that is lacking the proper resources to actually protect kids while looking out for their best interest leaves a strong desire for change.
Furthermore, the recent research findings on the idea of joint custody addressed the negative effects on children which affirms what many a parent already believed. The research showed that joint custody works in favor of the best interest of the parent but is far from being in the best interest of the child. This is not a surprising discovery. I know many a mom who has tried to argue this point. Any rational thinking person could tell you that forcing a child to move back and forth between two homes is not looking out for what is best for the child especially when an abusive spouse/parent is involved.
Through a study done by Wake Forest Law Review, I discovered that I live in a state (North Carolina) where men are favored in custody hearings, abuse is often ignored, and the best interest of the child is rarely considered. Additionally, those with money typically win because of the ability to drag out the case financially draining the victim followed by the lack of proper resources available within the courts to fully investigate leave little room for a positive resolution. It is heartbreaking.
Each day that passes, more mothers lose custody of their children or are still fighting to protect their children because proper research was not done on the case or the ex-spouse has unlimited funds and continues to drag out the court case.
For those who are unaware, men will typically file nonsensical charges against a mother as a way to prolong court cases. This action serves as another form of abuse, typically financial and emotional. These actions are manipulative and controlling but hardly recognized by the court as such.
These same men will also refuse to pay any form of child support which again, is another form of financial abuse not to mention neglect which in turn leaves a mom to fight for years to gain that support due to the backlog created from men unwilling to pay.
Domestic Violence effects 1 in every 4 women. Those numbers make domestic violence an epidemic. And those are just from the numbers actually reported by women brave enough to come forward.
Domestic violence involves a range of abuse. The abuse includes not just physical acts, but also psychological, emotional, verbal, spiritual, financial and narcissistic forms as well. Sadly, it is easier for women who have been beaten to prove abuse, however, they too are often ignored.
*Between 2001 and 2012, 11,766 women were murdered by a current or ex male partner.
*3 women are murdered every day by a current or former male partner in the US
*Every minute 20 people are victims of intimate partner violence
*18,500,000 – the number of mental health care visits due to intimate partner violence every year
*81% – the number of women stalked by a current or former pale partner
*98% of financial abuse that occurs in all domestic violence cases. The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to the abusive relationship.
*10,000,000- the number of children exposed to domestic violence every year
For those who have encountered the psychological, emotional, verbal, spiritual, financial and narcissistic forms of abuse an impossible battle is being fought. There are no scars, no bruises, no pictures to bring into a courtroom for a judge to see which means, many a woman, along with her children, are left with no help or protection from the courts.
There is so much that needs to be done to change the system. So much that needs to be done to protect the children affected by the many forms of abuse.
Luckily, a time has come and there are many women coming together to take a stand, choosing to make a difference. Women who are willing to speak out and fight for other women. To protect those women and children who don’t stand a chance with the way things are today.
For me, my focus has changed because my goal is to see our court systems educated. Judges trained on how to evaluate and recognize the characteristics of those individuals who psychologically or narcissistically abuse their spouse. I want to see policies changed. Laws changed. I want to be that change and I will be that change. But that change will take time.
In the meantime, there are things we all can do as a way to make a difference. I believe the first change should begin within our churches. I believe that Jesus was an advocate of women. I believe that He would have fought to protect the women and children who are being abused by their husbands and fathers and being cast aside by churches. I believe He would have flipped tables over due to those pastors who tell women who are in abusive situations to “submit more, pray more, read the Bible more and to have more sex.”
I believe that the church should be at the front lines protecting women and their children and ministering by helping them find safety and shelter. I believe that the church has failed in a mighty way when it comes to this epidemic and now is the time to make a change.
Pastors need to be educated. Staff needs to learn to recognize the characteristics of an abusive spouse. Especially a narcissistic or psychologically abusive spouse.
Initiative needs to be taken to make women aware that churches are a safe haven for their families.
Training is beginning to take place. Ministries and churches are recognizing the need and answering the call. Will you? Are you willing to step up and be a place of safety for a woman making the brave decision to walk away from abuse?
Araji, S. K.. (2012). Domestic Violence, Contested Custody, and the Courts: A Review of Findings from Five Studies with Accompanying Documentary. Sociological Perspectives, 55(1), 3–15.
Reynolds, S., & Peeples, R. (2012). When Petitioners seek custody in domestic violence court and why we should take them seriously. Wake Forest Law Review, 47(5), 935-998.
Vagianos, A. (n.d.). 30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us It’s An Epidemic. Retrieved September 08, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html