Mothering through Domestic Violence

By Lorraine Radford; Marianne Hester | Go to book overview

7
Mother Blaming in the Courts
In this chapter, we expand the argument about gender entrapment by showing how the law and court processes reinforce domestic violence perpetrators' efforts to regain power and control in contact cases. In family law, separated fathers are put into the position of the aggrieved, seen as deprived of their children. Although courts have started to take domestic violence into account when contact decisions are made, fear of hostile mothers alienating children from fathers has been the greater concern. This has reinforced violent men's tendency towards legal persistence and litigation abuse. The law's response to domestic violence and contact for children is a victim- and woman-blaming response. The primary concern in the family courts is in getting women to overcome their fears for the apparent sake of their children rather than challenging the violence of men. Courts may order supervised contact or attach conditions to an order to keep parents apart, but the purpose and value of contact for the child is rarely considered. Keeping in contact with fathers is almost always viewed as being in a child's best interests (Hester and Harne 1999; Mason 1999). We conclude this chapter by arguing that the value of setting up visits between a child and a violent man needs to be more thoroughly examined. More attention should be given to the needs, wishes and safety of children, the quality of the relationship with the violent parent and the well-being of the parent responsible for their everyday care.
Responsible parenting and battery by the law
The following five key assumptions about 'responsible parenting' have been especially influential in the family courts in the UK and the US:
1. Most parents are 'reasonable parents' who can be encouraged to make decisions that are the best decisions for their children.

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