My abuser has me in court non-stop, even until this day. I just wish that courts would recognize that the abuser's ultimate goal is to continue to have power and control over their victims who leave them, by using the courts, and unfortunately the children, as their means to a sad end.
- Survivor and DV LEAP Client

The Problem

Despite numerous legislative and policy reforms designed to protect victims of domestic violence, many survivors and their children are denied legal protections in court.
Appeals are a remarkably effective tool for correcting unjust legal decisions. However, they are rare, because they are both expensive and require appellate expertise.

58,000

An estimated 58,000 children are court-ordered into the unsupervised care of an abusive father, each and every year

%

When the abuser invokes the “alienation” defense (accuses mother of merely trying to alienate children from the father)...
In cases where mothers and children report the father’s sexual abuse of the child, the court has sided with the father 81% of the time
When the court openly states they believe that the father had abused the mother, it still sided with the abusive father 62% of the time

An estimated 58,000 children are court-ordered into the unsupervised care of an abusive father, each and every year

(Source: The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, 2008)

How We Vet Cases

DV LEAP vets potential cases rigorously. We assess all details, including previous legal actions, court transcripts, and other information, to determine if corroboration of abuse exists, if the issues were adequately raised at trial, and if there is a viable claim for appeal.

58,000

An estimated 58,000 children are court-ordered into the unsupervised care of an abusive father, each and every year

%

When the abuser invokes the “alienation” defense (accuses mother of merely trying to alienate children from the father)...
In cases where mothers and children report the father’s sexual abuse of the child, the court has sided with the father 81% of the time
When the court openly states they believe that the father had abused the mother, it still sided with the abusive father 62% of the time

When the abuser invokes the “alienation” defense (accuses mother of trying to turn children against the father)...

81%

In custody cases where mothers and children report the father’s sexual abuse of the child, the court sides with the father 81% of the time

38%

even When family courts acknowledge that a father has been violent to the mother or child, they side with the father 38% of the time
*DV LEAP pilot study of family court outcomes, 2017

There are already laws to protect victims of domestic violence. . . so

Why does this problem exist?

The dynamics and root causes of domestic violence and child abuse are complex, yet cut across all socioeconomic levels. Consider the often ambivalent connection between perpetrator and victim, the complex obstacles to becoming safe, and the perpetrators' skill in manipulating systems and professionals. 

In the end, there are many reasons why a survivor of family violence may be denied legal protections.

  • Family courts prioritize co-parenting and paternal access
  • Courts lack real expertise about adult and child abuse
  • Lack of legal representation for survivors
  • Gender-based stereotypes that drive bias against survivors
  • Lack of oversight for trial courts
  • Excessive deference to trial judges' decisions