The Genocide of Battered Mothers and their Children

“If I Killed You, I’d Get The Kids”: Women’s Survival, Child Custody, and Abuse

In domestic law on October 24, 2012 at 6:06 am

Here is an important paper by Colleen Varcoe and Lori G. Irwin titled “If I Killed You, I’d Get the Kids”: Women’s Survival and Protection Work with Child Custody and Access in the Context of Woman Abuse.” I am constantly amazed by men’s rights advocates, father’s rights folks and shared parenting people that “claims” of abuse by women in a relationship are generally false when so there so many women and children dying. They want to make it a “women’s” or “feminist” issue, when it is really a human rights issue. They try and draw the attention away from all the abusive fathers getting custody of children from moms with claims of so-called “parental alienation syndrome” and claim that it is the “radical” women’s groups that are debunking it. I find that interesting and their credibility lacking if they call the American Judge’s Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National District Attorney’s Association “radical women’s groups.” They have all discredited claims of “parental alienation” and “parental alienation syndrome.”

Here is an except of Varcoe’s and Irwins’s paper:

Child custody and access was the central concern for women with children who participated in Project Violence Free (PVF), a three-year study of formal systems’ (criminal justice, social assistance, and health care) responses to abuse by intimate partners. Although we proposed to study women’s experience with these specific “systems,” the women saw their experiences as similar across services, and talked about “the system” as a monolithic entity. The overarching theme identified through analysis of interview and documentary evidence from the women was that women struggle continuously to limit the violence in their lives and to “make the system work.” We identified four critical sites in which women did most of this work.

For all the women, economic survival was a central part of their struggle. For most women, seeking protection, particularly, but not exclusively, from the justice system, was part of their experience. For women new to Canada, working with issues of immigration overshadowed their other efforts. For the women with children, issues of child custody and access dominated and shaped their experiences.

This article focuses on child custody and access as one of the sites of women’s work in dealing with intimate partner violence. It is based on interview data from the women who were mothers and focus group data from service providers who work with such women as background. The interviews revealed a pervasive tension between obligations to maintain contact between children and their fathers, and obligations to protect children from harm. The purpose of this article is to describe how women work to negotiate formal systems in relation to child custody and access in the context of woman abuse, and how aspects of such systems are problematic. Our argument is that child custody and access processes provide opportunities for abusive partners to exert power and control over their partners and children, and that these opportunities are often supported by policies and practices of service providers.

To read the rest of “If I Killed You, I’d Get the Kids”: Women’s Survival and Protection Work with Child Custody and Access in the Context of Woman Abuse” by Colleen Varcoe and Lori G. Irwin, please click here.

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