Coercive control and the family courts.

“My ex used the justice system as a form of coercive control – the law should not aid the abuse of women”

I have composed a number of articles within my blog addressing the issues of attendance at the family courts or indeed during on line hearings for women who have/are experiencing domestic abuse and coercive control. The common thread for women are palpable feelings of fear, anxiety, exposure, vulnerability and intimidation, despite the introduction of special measures.

I came across an article in the Independent where a survivor outlines her story. She highlights and sums up common experiences for women who have to navigate the family court system.

“I work in communication. But in hearings, I became almost incoherent with stress and fear, as my abuser literally held court.

For years he refused to mediate, broke court orders, frequently failed to provide for our child. Sometimes his behaviour left me no choice but to make a court application for her welfare. When I took him to court, it was my fault. So too when he filed the application. He wielded the threat of court like a stick.

My father accompanied me to most hearings. I could feel his pain as a parent unable to protect his own child. My new husband came once too, but it was stressful for both of them. I welcomed their support, but they couldn’t protect me from my past or from facing that man in the tiny courtroom.”

I have supported women through the child arrangements process: where their fathers feel helpless to protect them, father’s often crushed by the same system that enables abusers to further hurt their daughters. This process often fails to see, acknowledge or recognize an abusive ex partner who is using the court as a tool of punishment and where the instrument is the child or children.

She continues………………………………

“The judge took pity on my ex, awarded him more contact. He refused to move closer to us. My daughter struggled with the long round trips, so I moved back to the area where her father had once isolated me from friends and family. 

Throughout her primary school years, we were in and out of court. The visits would often coincide with something significant in my life: a new job, a new relationship.

My ex tried to hit me where it hurt. Later he refused my request to move with her closer to my family. He accused me of abuse, reported me to the NSPCC, police, her school. They found nothing to support his claims. The judge politely rebuked him for wrongly accusing me of child abuse, but my ex still told me I would lose my daughter, and I was scared to speak out.”

This woman’s experience is not unique. If you are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse and coercive control, there is help and support for you.

Here at Women’s McKenzie Friend we can help guide you through this difficult and stressful process.

Please give us a call. We will listen. We will understand. We will validate.