“Why doesn’t she just leave?” is a question that must be countered with this tragic fact: fully 75% of the 3 American women murdered every day by an intimate partner, are killed within hours, days or weeks after attempting to flee their abuser. A biological father with a documented history of abuse of his spouse and/or children is apt to win child custody if he fights for it in court. Abuse is, after all, about power and control. The post-separation period is the most potentially deadly time of all for women and children. Abusers who do not resort to murder too often respond by stalking or harassing their ex-wife or girlfriend. Others, with coaching from the “Fathers’ Rights” experts, may use the family court system to re-exert their domination, to bankrupt the mother financially and emotionally, and to regain control over the children. This was the topic of the January 6th meeting of the Portland Community Partnership of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence, “Women Leaving Abuse: Children at Risk of Abuse and Murder” held at Marylhurst University at our fourth Quarterly Conversation. Panelists include two protective mothers (Paula Lucas and April Robyn) one remarkable survivor of “court assisted child abuse” (Mandy Hazen, now a Child Protective Services supervisor with a child of her own!) the Rev. Warren Light, Esq, (UMC) and Dr. Jack Straton, Physics Faculty and co-chair of the Child Custody Work Group of NOMAS (the National Organization of Men Against Sexism.)
Renita Robinson was a featured faculty member of the 2013 Battered Mothers Custody Conference,held in May at the George Washington University School of Law. This conference focuses each year on the plight of “protective mothers” – women who find to their great sorrow that the family court system may in the worst cases enable child abuse and murder. Renita is available as a trainer for your community in this long neglected area of abuse prevention. “Naming the Tactics” is a two-day training about post-separation abuse. You may register for the Duluth training to be held May 6 & 7, 2014 or you may contact Renita to inquire about bringing the training to your community.
Renita Robinson (Trainer for “Naming the Tactics”) brings more than 25 years of administrative, advocacy, group facilitation and curriculum development experience to her work as consultant and trainer. In February she finished her tenure as the Project Director of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program’s Duluth Family Visitation Center. She was formerly the Domestic Violence Cultural Liaison and Team Lead for Lincoln, Nebraska’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) funded “Keepers of The Flame Project”. This project was housed in the Clyde Malone Community Center and was contracted through the Family Violence Council of Nebraska. Renita co-authored a report entitled “What Is It About the Walls?” which focused on the experience of African American women in Lancaster County seeking support services in response to instances of domestic violence, and the implementation of the findings. Specifically, Renita was a key player in the creation and leadership of the Nebraska African American Domestic Violence Advisory Coalition (NAADVAC) and was involved in several OVW, Department of Justice (DOJ) and community funded projects focused on advocacy and reducing violence against women.
During this two-day event for community advocacy organizations, government agencies, court personnel and judges, attorneys, visitation center staff, and others who work with families split by violence, trainers will use DAIP’s new Post-Separation Power and Control Wheel to help participants understand how men who batter use children to maintain post-separation power and control over women.
The Washington Post gave extensive coverage to the tragic infanticide by drowning of Prince McLeod. The young boy’s mother, Hera, had begged in vain for the court in Montgomery County, Maryland to take measures to keep her child safe from her abusive ex. In such “scandal cases” – judges grant unsupervised visitation or even full custody to abusers, unaware of the fact that they may be putting these children and their mothers at greater risk than ever. Hera spoke at the October 2nd Congressional Briefing (along with Dr. Joyanna Silberg of Sheppard Pratt Medical Center, an expert in childhood trauma and the broken family court system.) Hera personifies the triumphant survivor, determined to use her personal tragedy as catalyst for social change.
Being informed about the risks to women and their children once those women find the courage to leave is a matter of life and death. If you know a woman of any age who is thinking of leaving her abuser, it’s important to advise her to seek counsel from her local DV shelter or family justice center concerning safety planning. Voicing plans to divorce or to separate to an abuser who is making threats or has a history of violence is an invitation to further woes.