Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Power & Control in the Courtroom

(Click once on this image to enlarge.)

Men who had battered women helped to develop the Power and Control Wheel at the Domestic Violence Intervention Project of Duluth, Minnesota. Methods they acknowledged using to control their partners are very similar to official behavior in the courtroom that seems like an extension of the batterer. Victims of domestic violence who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often find the court triggers their symptoms. While the batterer can sit calmly in the courtroom, the victim of battering who suffers from PTSD may display reactions that lead the judge to incorrectly assume the batterer would be a better parent than the person who suffers PTSD.

Here are those behaviors as identified on the Power & Control Wheel and replicated in the courtroom:

INTIMIDATION: Making her afraid by using looks, actions, and gestures. Smashing things. Destroying her property. Abusing pets. Displaying weapons.

COURT’S INTIMIDATION: Making her afraid by looks, actions, gestures, loud voice, gavel, clinical reports, hostile behavior by court personnel. Threatening to remove and torment her children.

EMOTIONAL ABUSE: Putting her down. Making her feel bad about herself. Calling her names. Making her think she’s crazy. Playing mind games. Humiliating her. Making her feel guilty.

COURT’S EMOTIONAL ABUSE: Putting her down. Repeating lies about her without evidence. Playing mind games. Humiliating her. Making her feel guilty, accusing her of psychiatric disorders and “parental alienation.”

ISOLATION: Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, and where she goes. Limiting her outside involvement. Using jealousy to justify actions.

COURT’S USE OF ISOLATION: Imposing gag orders that forbid her to discuss the case with anyone. Forbidding contact with domestic violence advocates, counselors, support groups, and friends for fear of losing her children, visitation rights, legal aid, etc.

MINIMIZING, DENYING, AND BLAMING: Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously. Saying the abuse didn’t happen. Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior. Saying she caused it.

COURT’S WAY OF MINIMIZING, DENYING, AND BLAMING: Referring to the case as "high-conflict" rather than "assaultive." Making light of the abuse. Ignoring her concerns. Blaming her without evidence of addiction, alcoholism, promiscuity, Munchausen’s disorder by proxy, parental alienation.

USING CHILDREN: Making her feel guilty about the children. Using the children to relay messages. Using visitation to harass her. Threatening to take the children away.

COURT’S WAY OF USING CHILDREN: Denying that she has protected the children. Refusing to hear or believe the children. Removing the children. Withholding visitation. Placing children with abusers.

ECONOMIC ABUSE: Preventing her from getting or keeping a job. Making her ask for money. Giving her an allowance. Taking her money. Not letting her know about or have access to family income.

COURT’S USE OF ECONOMIC ABUSE: Letting lawyers/clinicians charge exorbitant fees and favor the parent who pays. Not assuring adequate child support. Allowing frivolous motions and court schedules that lose her pay and jobs.

MALE PRIVILEGE: Treating her like a servant: making all the big decisions, acting like the “master of the castle,” being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

JUDICIAL AUTHORITY: Making her feel inferior, “under the thumb,” powerless and insignificant in the courtroom. Limiting her authority with her children. Not letting her hear or correct comments made about her in court or chambers.

COERCION AND THREATS: Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her. Threatening to leave her, commit suicide, or report her to welfare. Making her drop charges. Making her do illegal things.

COURT’S COERCION AND THREATS: Making, carrying out threats to penalize, fine, subpoena, arrest, impound property, imprison, remove and terrorize children, deny visitation. Imposing mediation despite a history of violence.