The event, organized by attorney Richard Ducote, highlighted the failure of family courts to protect children. Speakers included survivors, parents of survivors, and experts including DV LEAP's executive director Dr. Lee Ann De Reus. The following is DV LEAP's official statement. A link to the official video of the press conference is here.
Statement by DV LEAP
#TimesUp4FamilyCourts Press Conference on Family Court Failure to Protect Children
February 7, 2018, Pittsburgh, PA
DV LEAP Calls for #MeToo Recognition of Family Abuse Survivors Failed by Family Courts
Just as women’s claims of sexual misconduct in the workplace have been minimized or dismissed, as highlighted by the #MeToo movement, so too have reports of domestic violence by survivors been discredited in family courts. #TimesUp for this bias and the re-victimization of survivors by the judicial system.
DV LEAP (the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project), a national non-profit located in Washington, DC, joins the survivors and other advocacy organizations here today to spotlight family court failures to protect abused children and demand accountability from the judicial system.
DV LEAP makes the law work for survivors of domestic violence (DV) by challenging unjust trial court outcomes; advancing legal protections through expert appellate advocacy; training lawyers, psychologists and judges on best practices; and spearheading domestic violence litigation in the Supreme Court.
DV LEAP was founded in 2003 by a national leader in domestic violence law to fill the gap in representation for appeals in Washington, DC and across the US. DV LEAP is the first in the nation, and the only organization in DC to specialize in appellate legal representation for adult and child victims of abuse in the family.
Despite numerous legislative and policy reforms designed to protect victims of domestic violence, many survivors and their children are denied legal protections in court. An estimated 58,000 children are court-ordered into the unsupervised cared of an abusive father every year (The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, 2008).
Law professor Joan Meier, and the founder of DV LEAP said,
“I witnessed first-hand survivors of domestic violence reaching out to the courts for protection, both for themselves and their children, only to be denied that protection - often in ways that humiliated or disrespected them, or increased the danger to them and their children. Most survivors assume that if they come forward honestly, risking their lives and their children’s lives by defying their abuser, the justice system will be there to provide protection and justice. For many reasons thousands of victims experience the very opposite in our nation’s courts.”
Meier recently conducted a national pilot study that focused on child custody cases involving claims of “parental alienation,” invoked by the abuser. The alienation defense is most commonly used by the father against the mother, claiming that she is trying to turn the children against him when she alleges he harmed her or the children.
It must be noted that the concept of parental alienation has no credible scientific support or evidence, yet it is still widely accepted, misused, and misunderstood by the courts, perpetrators, lawyers, and other legal advocates.
The pilot data revealed that despite mothers’ and children’s reports of sexual abuse by the father of the child, the court still sided with the father, 81% of the time. Even when family courts acknowledged that a father was violent to the mother or child, the courts sided with the father 38% of the time. A larger and more comprehensive, federally funded national study of family court outcomes will be released this year.
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For more information visit www.dvleap.org; for interviews with DV LEAP staff, contact: Lee Ann, 202-994-7586, email@example.com