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1) Know the laws of your state and hire an attorney who regularly represents victims of abuse.

2) Gather as much evidence as possible. Document the abuse by keeping a daily journal of every incident of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. Take photos of bruises or cuts or go to the emergency room or a mental health clinic immediately following the abuse so you have medical records that will support your claim. Tell as many people as possible. The more witnesses you have, the better your case.

3) Remember that in a Court of law, the Judge can only consider the evidence that is submitted (the list of exhibits and testimony of witnesses). If you do not submit documentation of the abuse, it will be your word against his. DON'T let that happen.

3) File for protection from abuse (PFA) and use your evidence at the hearing. Many states will require the abuser to stay away from you, and if they violate that order you can call the police and have him arrested.

4) If you are married, get a divorce but make sure you file for exclusive possession of the marital residence. Cite the incidents of abuse and use your evidence to back your claim. If your home was purchased during the marriage, it is marital property and therefore half of it belongs to you, whether you name is on the deed or not. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to leave the marital residence, make sure you file for spousal is your right. And don't sign a post nuptial agreement without having your own attorney review and explain it to you in detail.

5) When you appear in Court, make sure you appear calm and level-headed. Excessive emotional outbursts will not win your case.

It is telling that precious few psychology and psychopathology textbooks dedicate an entire chapter to abuse and violence. Even the most egregious manifestations � such as child sexual abuse � merit a fleeting mention, usually as a sub-chapter in a larger section dedicated to paedophilia's or personality disorder

Abusive behavior did not make it into the diagnostic criteria of mental health disorders, nor were its psycho dynamic, cultural and social roots explored in depth. As a result of this deficient education and lacking awareness, most law enforcement officers, judges, counselors, guardians, and mediators are worryingly ignorant about the phenomenon.

Only 4% of hospital emergency room admissions of women in the United States are attributed by staff to domestic violence. The true figure, according to the FBI, is more like 50%. One in three murdered women was done in by her spouse, current or former.

The US Department of Justice pegs the number of spouses (mostly women) threatened with a deadly weapon at almost 2 million annually. Domestic violence erupts in a mind-boggling half of all American homes at least once a year. Nor are these isolated, "out of the blue", incidents.

Mistreatment and violence are part of an enduring pattern of maladaptive behavior within the relationship and are sometimes coupled with substance abuse. Abusers are possessive, pathologically jealous, dependent, and, often, narcissistic. Invariably, both the abuser and his victim seek to conceal the abusive episodes and their aftermath from family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues.

This dismal state of things is an abuser's and stalker's paradise. This is especially true with psychological (verbal and emotional) abuse which leaves no visible marks and renders the victim incapable of coherence.

Still, there is no "typical" offender. Maltreatment crosses racial, cultural, social, and economic lines. This is because, until very recently, abuse has constituted normative, socially-acceptable, and, sometimes, condoned, behavior. For the bulk of human history, women and children were considered no better than property.

Indeed, well into the 18th century, they still made it into lists of assets and liabilities of the household. Early legislation in America � fashioned after European law, both Anglo-Saxon and Continental � permitted wife battering for the purpose of behavior modification. The circumference of the stick used, specified the statute, should not exceed that of the husband's thumb.

Inevitably, many victims blame themselves for the dismal state of affairs. The abused party may have low self-esteem, a fluctuating sense of self-worth, primitive defense mechanisms, phobias, mental health problems, a disability, a history of failure, or a tendency to blame herself, or to feel inadequate (auto plastic neurosis).

She may have come from an abusive family or environment � which conditioned her to expect abuse as inevitable and "normal". In extreme and rare cases � the victim is a masochist, possessed of an urge to seek ill-treatment and pain. Gradually, the victims convert these unhealthy emotions and their learned helplessness in the face of persistent "gas lighting" into psychosomatic symptoms, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, or, in extremist, suicidal ideation and gestures.


From the Narcissistic Personality Disorders list � excerpt from my book "Toxic Relationships - Abuse and its Aftermath" (forthcoming, 2004):

"Therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges are human. Some of them are social reactionaries, others are narcissists, and a few are themselves spouse abusers. Many things work against the victim facing the justice system and the psychological profession.

Start with denial. Abuse is such a horrid phenomenon that society and its delegates often choose to ignore it or to convert it into a more benign manifestation, typically by pathologizing the situation or the victim � rather than the perpetrator.

A man's home is still his castle and the authorities are loath to intrude.

Most abusers are men and most victims are women. Even the most advanced communities in the world are largely patriarchal. Misogynistic gender stereotypes, superstitions, and prejudices are strong.

Therapists are not immune to these ubiquitous and age-old influences and biases.

They are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulative's of the abuser and to his impressive thespian skills. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favor. The therapist rarely has a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the abused are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown: harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical.

Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties � it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally. The prey's acts of self-defense, assertiveness, or insistence on her rights are interpreted as aggression, liability, or a mental health problem.

The profession's propensity to pathologize extends to the wrongdoers as well. Alas, few therapists are equipped to do proper clinical work, including diagnosis.

Abusers are thought by practitioners of psychology to be emotionally disturbed, the twisted outcomes of a history of familial violence and childhood traumas. They are typically diagnosed as suffering from a personality disorder, an inordinately low self-esteem, or co dependence coupled with an all-devouring fear of abandonment. Consummate abusers use the right vocabulary and feign the appropriate "emotions" and affect and, thus, sway the evaluator's judgment.

But while the victim's "pathology" works against her � especially in custody battles � the culprit's "illness" works for him, as a mitigating circumstance, especially in criminal proceedings.

In his seminal essay, "Understanding the Batterer in Visitation and Custody Disputes", Lundy Bancroft sums up the asymmetry in favor of the offender:

"Batterers ... adopt the role of a hurt, sensitive man who doesn't understand how things got so bad and just wants to work it all out 'for the good of the children.' He may cry ... and use language that demonstrates considerable insight into his own feelings. He is likely to be skilled at explaining how other people have turned the victim against him, and how she is denying him access to the children as a form of revenge ... He commonly accuses her of having mental health problems, and may state that her family and friends agree with him ... that she is hysterical and that she is promiscuous. The abuser tends to be comfortable lying, having years of practice, and so can sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser benefits ... when professionals believe that they can "just tell" who is lying and who is telling the truth, and so fail to adequately investigate.

Because of the effects of trauma, the victim of battering will often seem hostile, disjointed, and agitated, while the abuser appears friendly, articulate, and calm. Evaluators are thus tempted to conclude that the victim is the source of the problems in the relationship."

There is little the victim can do to "educate" the therapist or "prove" to him who is the guilty party. Mental health professionals are as ego-centered as the next person. They are emotionally invested in opinions they form or in their interpretation of the abusive relationship. They perceive every disagreement as a challenge to their authority and are likely to pathologize such behavior, labeling it "resistance" (or worse).

In the process of mediation, marital therapy, or evaluation, counselors frequently propose various techniques to ameliorate the abuse or bring it under control. Woe betides the party that dares object or turn these "recommendations" down. Thus, an abuse victim who declines to have any further contact with her batterer � is bound to be chastised by her therapist for obstinately refusing to constructively communicate with her violent spouse.

Better to play ball and adopt the sleek mannerisms of your abuser. Sadly, sometimes the only way to convince your therapist that it is not all in your head and that you are a victim � is by being insincere and by staging a well-calibrated performance, replete with the correct vocabulary. Therapists have Pavlovian reactions to certain phrases and theories and to certain "presenting signs and symptoms" (behaviors during the first few sessions). Learn these � and use them to your advantage. It is your only chance."

Firstly, although the justice system doesn't always get it right, because it is run by human people, who can make mistakes, there doesn't seem to be a serious problem with victims of domestic abuse being victimised by the justice system.

I would hate anyone to be discouraged from exercising their rights to protection by any false impression that they are most likely to be revictimized.

That is something a lot of abusers deliberately cultivate, the impression that however bad it is with them it will be WORSE elsewhere, and a fear of "the system". That's why a lot of victims stay.

If you think this is happening to you first consider a couple of possibilities:

a) "The courts, police, evaluators, guardian ad lit em" - it is their job to treat both parties as equals, if they show partiality that CAN be used against the victim. Of course, in practice treating both parties in abuse as equals does effectively mean that the abuser is getting more apparent credit than he is due, and the victim is getting less.

b) You ever watch "Judge Judy"? I have, and if I had a dollar for every time I have seen her listen patiently and sympathetically to the most ridiculous stories, while abruptly telling the other party to be quiet...and then rule AGAINST those she was sympathising with...apparent sympathy can be a tactic, even in the courtroom, to draw an abuser out and get them to show their hand. The more sympathy you pile on a liar the more they relax and the more likely they are to make mistakes. Most people within the justice system are not fools.

I doubt if most people can keep up an act good enough to fool professionals ... trying and failing could make things MUCH worse.

You get caught out in too many lies and synthetic reactions and people start to wonder what kind of truth you are hiding.

Imagine, if you realise everything about somebody is phony, you aren't going to jump to the conclusion that she is totally innocent.

If you really feel you are being victimised try to find other professionals who will advocate. Start with the refuges.

My experience is that the system supports the abuser 9 times out of 10. The best help I ever read is by Lundy Bancroft:

Great tips and advice by an experienced person. He says:

"This article is drawn largely from the author's ten years of experience working as a counselor and supervisor in programs for abusive men, involving contact with some 1500 abusers, and hundreds of their victims, over that period."

If he says that the system is strongly biased against the victim - you better believe him!


PS from his website:

"Lundy is currently part of a human rights research project that is documenting and publicizing the institutional mistreatment of abused women and their children through custody and visitation litigation after they have left the abuser. The Battered Mothers Testimony Project is based at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College -- more information about the project is available at the Women's Rights Network website. The Battered Mothers Testimony Project will be releasing its human rights report in October 2002 during Domestic Violence Awareness Month."

Lundy Bancroft claims that there is re-victimisation of victims within the system, which needs revision. This is certainly true and a very different thing to claiming the system is biased against the victim.

Examined in depth, the two problems would largely be mutually exclusive.

I feel very strongly about this kind of scaremongering, it serves only to enhance and reinforce the learned helplessness already instilled into victims by their tormentors and further erodes what little capacity for trust remains to them.

The fact remains that the majority of victims will be treated FAR BETTER by every aspect of the system than they would be by their abusers.

In addition, if any victim were capable of the sophisticated duplicity required to fool professionals it is extremely unlikely that they would have become victims in the first place.

The very first thing a victim trying to escape needs is a way to find SOMEONE to trust...

The second thing they need is somebody to REALISE their truth...

Paranoia about "the system" and presentation of deceit and duplicity as "their only chance", is not only ill-informed, but should it be taken to heart (and the desperate can be very easily lead) likely to lead any real victim against their best interests to the point of serious damage.

I also read Bancroft and he is the best. He clearly states that the system is biased against the victim, cannot and should not be trusted and should be manipulated in favor of the victim to the best of the victim's ability.

Some quotes from Bancroft's essay:

"A batterer who does file for custody will frequently win, as he has numerous advantages over his partner in custody litigation. These include, 1) his typical ability to afford better representation (often while simultaneously insisting that he has no money with which to pay child support), 2) his marked advantage over his victim in psychological testing, since she is the one who has been traumatized by the abuse, 3) his ability to manipulate custody evaluators to be sympathetic to him, and 4) his ability to manipulate and intimidate the children regarding their statements to the custody evaluator. There is also evidence that gender bias in family courts works to the barterer's advantage. (Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Gender Bias Study) Even if the batterer does not win custody, his attempt can be among the most intimidating acts possible from the victim's perspective, and can lead to financial ruin for her and her children."

"An abuser focuses on being charming and persuasive during a custody dispute, with an effect that can be highly misleading to Guardians ad Lit em, court mediators, judges, police officers, therapists, family members, and friends. He can be skilled at discussing his hurt feelings and at characterizing the relationship as mutually destructive. He will often admit to some milder acts of violence, such as shoving or throwing things, in order to increase his own credibility and create the impression that the victim is exaggerating. He may discuss errors he has made in the past and emphasize the efforts he is making to change, in order to make his partner seem vindictive and unwilling to let go of the past."

"Mediators and GAL's tend to have a bias in favor of communication, believing that the more the two parents speak to each other, the better things will go for the children. In domestic violence cases the truth is often the opposite, as the abuser uses communication to intimidate or psychologically abuse, and to keep pressuring the victim for a reunion. Victims who refuse to have any contact with their abusers may be doing the best thing both for themselves and for their children, but the evaluator may then characterize her as being the one who won't let go of the past or who can't focus on what is good for the children. This superficial analysis works to the batterers advantage.'

"Because of the effects of trauma, the victim of battering will often seem hostile, disjointed, and agitated, while the abuser appears friendly, articulate, and calm. Evaluators are thus tempted to conclude that the victim is the source of the problems in the relationship."

And on and on.

What could be clearer than this:

"Lundy is currently part of a human rights research project that is documenting and publicizing the institutional mistreatment of abused women and their children through custody and visitation litigation after they have left the abuser. "



I should know. I have been victimized and pathologized by the system, exactly as Bancroft and Vaknin describe. I don't know who damaged me more - my ex or the courts.


I must agree with Anonymous that the system - even a flawed system, as Bancroft observes - is MUCH preferable to the abuser. Even if the alternative is a biased system of courts, etc. - the victim should aspire to leave the abuser and rely on the community and its institutions.

Sue, Bancroft never said that the solution is to manipulate the system. I did, based on correspondence with thousands of abused women.

I disagree with Bancroft in other respects, too:

I think the people within the system, the attorneys, guardians, etc, need to read some of Lundy's material. When i read his book, Angry and controlling men, why do they do it?" It was like he had interviewed me for the book. I couldn't believe the obvious patterns of the abusers. I also felt like I constantly had to "defend " myself to the system. The things that he would do, were so crazy, so irrational, that I think it was difficult for people to believe what he had done was true. I fought for him to attend anger management classes, and even when it was ordered by the court, it was not enforced. The system not only failed me, but of a much greater concern, my three children. Who now, three years later, are still having to deal with his threatening "looks" and be ever watchful for his bad moods. I am going to forward this article to the attorney, and the guardian at l.. involved, in hopes that maybe it will help the next person who comes in their door, with this same problem.

The educational website custodyprepformom provides some concrete steps and tips for abused women to navigate the family court system.

Your last paragraph, Dr. Vaknin suggests learning phraseology that therapists, etc. want to hear. I would love to see a more detailed follow-up to that suggestion.

It's impossible not to be victimised. The Justice system is full of people just waiting to step into the shoes of the abuser you just left or need protecting from. The justice system just sees another battered, neurotic woman. Take what you can and try to let the rest go or you'll end up totally insane. We cannot beat the abuser and we cannot beat the system. They're all part of the same machine!!!!

I'd like to try and give another perspective, hoping I am trying to answer and not "debate", as one in the midst of this type of situation. I watched (sort of embarrassed to admit)one of those many court shows once, Divorce Court or something, I'm not sure which one. And an overweight, overwrought, overemotional woman was going on and on about the things her husband had done. She came across and was treated like a hysterical, whining, crybaby. Her ex, or soon to be, came across cool, calm, rational, reasonable, long-suffering, guy. Sometimes I see men on these types of shows be totally open about their attitudes towards women, but the smart ones don't. He played his part to the hilt. This women was ridiculed by the judge, I don't remember the exact situation, just the general impression I came away with.

And the thing is, I knew better. My first reaction to her was just the same as the judge's. But this woman could have been me, it was my story.

Is this leading me to think it is better that I should stay? To give up? No. Is it leading me to think that for me to leave, and not risk losing my children, that I need to get myself together, regroup, and figure out how to do this correctly, so that the facts can come out, not for me to minipulate or act, but to learn how to come across to be seen as the competent person, so that the truth can be heard, not hidden by what is erroneously perceived? Yes. Infact, I was starting to feel like giving up, that maybe I'm wrong, or who cares, if no one was believing me anyway? But knowing that this does happen, that it isn't a result of me being wrong, deserving it after all, that I really am incompetent, and instead that it is a lack of education, assuming and presuming, and simple, but unfortunate human nature that largely contributes, gives me hope that maybe I can be heard, if I approach it in a different, though honest, way.

Though beyond that, I still am looking for answers myself. I'd love to understand the "phraseology" as well. I always felt when acting like I had any actual knowlege in this or any other related area which I was going to a councelor about, it always became somehow very uncomfortable, as if I was challenging them, or something, but so frustrating when they'd give me advice that I knew was wrong for my situation, based on trying it myself for year, by reading that it was wrong, and then by trying it again anyway, so I wouldn't look like I was being "difficult", or not claiming responsibility or something.

Simple...stay out of court they are not set up to believe or help an abuse victim. If your abuser is driving you crazy the court would want you to take a mental exam and your kids could be taken due to your mental state all of this while the abuser get away Scott free.

Beware of the *Snakes in SuitsAs a student of psychopathology and a writer on the subject, I would like to add this observation: That many abusers are learned abusers due to background but many, too, are sociopaths of the "white collar" variety. This designation is somewhat misleading as many may be blue collar workers or in the military. However, the correct designation of such sociopaths/psychopaths is "subclinical". The subclinical sociopath/psychopath has never been clinically evaluated nor been in the forensic population (never been jailed).

A few are borderline personalities or bipolar. These people are sick (as in unwell) but the psychopath is morally sick and knows right from wrong but cares not whit for the truth being a pathological liar. Ultimately, power overaa others is his goal especially of his wife who, being a woman, barely seems human to him. All psychopaths are mysogonistic in the extreme yet dependent upon his woman/women. These people are monsters because they are fakes as well as flakes. Their children are their property and the woman had better not stand in their way when it comes to custody disputes.

Read all about them in Robert Hare's book WITHOUT CONSCIENCE: THE TROUBLED WORLD OF THE PSYCHOPATHS...Also he has another book coming out*

Foundation for Healing Trauma**

  • formerly the Foundation for the Study of Psychopathy
ABUSED WOMEN'S CENTERS WORK!!!I volunteer for a Canadian Abused Women's Center and not only are the victims of abuse protected (along with their children) but there is legal counsel for them from the Center and 9 out of every abusive boyfriend or husband is found guilty with NO custody rights with the children (and only 4% may get custody rights but supervised.)

Most police officers, hospitals are there to help, but often the victim of abuse is sceptical of their help and who could blame her. Without a charge against the abuser there is no case! In British Columbia, Canada many of us women have fought this with all our might and it was worth the fight because now the police have a right to arrest the abuser if the complaint is made. There is zero tolerance levels against any sort of abuse by a spouse, criminal, gay bashing, etc. in British Columbia.

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Q: How does a victim of abuse avoid being victimized by the justice system?
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Is the criminal justice system more concerned about the rights of the criminal and less the victim?

For the most part, yes. Constitutional protections limit the power of the state to interfere in the lives of citizens. The state interferes most when a person is charged with a crime, so people accused of crimes have rights to ensure the state doesn't abuse its power. There are no corresponding protections for victims, as people are generally victimized by other people, not the government.

When will a victim of abuse leave?

Tommorow :)

What types of abuse can one be prosecuted for other than physical abuse or uttering threats?

Urinating on the victim, defecating on the victim, and sticking things in the victim's pooper unexpectedly

What has the author David J Berkman written?

David J Berkman has written: 'A preliminary national assessment of child abuse and neglect and the juvenile justice system' -- subject(s): Administration of Juvenile justice, Child abuse, Juvenile delinquency, Juvenile justice, Administration of

What are the signs of teen abuse?

Signs of teen abuse can vary from victim to victim. Some signs of teen abuse are poor school performance, trouble concentrating and sleeping, poor eating and depression.

Abuse and harm effects on individuals?

Abuse definitely has a strong effect on the victim. The pain that the individual receives from the abuser, whether physical or mental, has a negative influence on the way the victim lives his or her life. With physical abuse, the physical abilities of the victim may be impaired for a temporary or permanent time span. With mental abuse, the victim may suffer from depression because of the abuse he or she has been forced to deal with. Also, the victim may have low self esteem because the individual believes that he or she is being abused because of his or her worthlessness.

What verbal abuse?

Verbal abuse is described as a negative defining statement told to the victim or about the victim, or by withholding any response, thereby defining the target as non-existent.

What is the criminal justice system doing to penalize mothers who used crack with unborn babies?

The criminal justice system sometimes uses charges of child abuse to punish these mothers. The juvenile advocacy system often removes the children from the care/custody of these mothers.

How do you help a victim of emotional and mental abuse when the victim continues to endure the abuse?

You must try with all your heart to get this person professional help, the sooner the better, one thing will lead to another until the abuse becomes physical AND IT WILL EVENTUALLY!!!

Are you truly the victim of domestic abuse?

No, I'm not. Are you? What kind of dumb question is this?

Is abuse fun or dangrouse?

abuse can be fun to the person doing it but the victim of the abuse my find it very uncomfortable and so the answer to the question is that abuse is a horrible act and you can be prosecuted if caught doing to people.

How does it hurt a victim?

Abuse hurt a victim in many ways. It makes them have low self-esteem and cause them to live a life of fear. Abuse can also continue through an abused person by them abusing other people as they were abused. Thus the cycle of abuse continues.

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