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Healthcare Divorced from Law in Domestic Violence Care


By:Jeanne King


Kind, compassionate Dr. X looks at his bruised patient—a victim/survivor of domestic violence—and confidently breathes a sigh of relief thinking, “Thank God, she admitted it. Now, all she needs is a barracuda attorney to get her and her children to safe waters.”

Not necessarily so! A barracuda attorney could usher her, and her children, from the frying pan to the fire. This is an ugly secret that many people only know from having been there or from watching another get burned.

One of the most dangerous myths about family violence is that family court will protect victims of domestic abuse. In truth, this court can be used as a vehicle for the continuation of the abuse dynamic.

Abuse is fundamentally about control, and so is litigation. Two parties fighting in a legal action are essentially battling for control, and the perpetrator thrives in this arena. When there is a gross disparity of income between the parties and when the perpetrator controls the family finances, the perpetrator can easily control the litigation because he who pays is in the driver’s seat.

He can taunt, torment and terrorize his victim through financial starve out tactics, legal-psychiatric ploys, the threat of custody litigation. Abusers know that nothing will devastate their victim more than seeing their children endangered, so they use the threat of obtaining custody to extract agreements to their liking. And, such behavior can go on indefinitely.

When we couple the pathology of a batterer with an economically driven industry, we end up with the most perverted self-sustaining abuse dynamic imaginable: victim/survivors tied to their perpetrators and helpless abused children placed in the hands of their batterers. Sadly, this occurs nationwide for women whose children are sexually assaulted, women whose children are physically beaten on a regular basis and children who run away. These children and their protective parents are not guaranteed protection in family court.

That does not mean they won’t get it; it means they cannot assume they will get it. Yet, patients and their healthcare providers often unknowingly believe that protection from the court is automatic.

Domestic violence requires a specialized intervention and family court is not the forum in which to obtain it. Family court is about splitting up the property and separating the people, without holding anyone accountable for their behavior during the marriage. And without accountability, domestic violence continues.

Doctor, you are the gatekeeper for domestic violence in your community. You are the one who has the opportunity to see domestic violence in the early stages of its progression. And once you’ve seen it, you make the referrals. Refer your patient to a domestic violence specialist first—and also to the appropriate parties, given the regulations of your state and organization in which you operate.

© Copyright 2006, Jeanne King, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.

Article Source: http://www.redsofts.com/articles/

Dr. Jeanne King, psychologist, author and speaker, helps healthcare providers recognize and stop domestic abuse. To schedule a continuing education seminar at your healthcare organization, visit Healthcare Provider Training


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