Domestic violence is not a new issue that women and children in Michigan deal with. However, despite the public attention it has received, a report shows that a large number of court officials have beliefs about battered mothers that can influence their decisions over custody. The report, which was submitted to the National Institute of Justice, was based on a survey conducted on more than 1100 people connected to the topic, including some survivors of abuse, attorneys, judges, workers in domestic violence programs and custody evaluators.
When researchers went through all of the responses from those surveyed, they discovered that experiences with domestic violence itself greatly influenced their beliefs about the issue and their decisions concerning custody recommendations. Not surprisingly, those who worked directly with victims, had seen domestic violence firsthand or knew someone were more likely to believe a mother’s claim of violence and abuse than those who did not. Additionally, officials who had undergone training on the matter were also more prone to believe.
The officials who were most likely to dismiss a mother’s claim were the evaluators, judges and attorneys. The revelation showed that there was still much education that was needed for court officials. The report also revealed that women in these positions would believe victims more than their male counterparts. As a result, battered mothers who were interviewed related stories of how the judge or evaluator forced them to share custody with their abuser and were not sympathetic to their situation.
Part of the reason for this belief may be the fact that research has shown abusers push for custody more than non-abusive fathers. The Advocates for Human Rights states that abusers see the court system as a way to further victimize the mother. However, as courts are embracing the idea that custody should be shared equally, battered mothers who object to the idea are seen as uncooperative and can find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.