Many family courts across the nation routinely fail the most vulnerable in our society: mothers and their children in crisis seeking a life free from abuse. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice released the Saunders Report, a study that found the standard and required domestic violence training received by judges, lawyers, and custody evaluators, does not adequately prepare them to handle abuse cases. Inadequately trained professionals tend to believe the myth that mothers frequently make false allegations. However, most contested custody cases are domestic violence or child sexual abuse cases in which abusers have been allowed to use the courts to regain control over the victim, and the system bankrupts the safe, primary care-giving protective mother.
According to the United Nations, the most common form of violence experienced by women is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. On average, at least 1 in 3 women is beaten, raped, or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime. And what happens to her abused children? In a study conducted by the Leadership Council, at least 75% of family court cases that involve domestic violence, rape, or child sexual abuse, children will be court ordered into unsupervised contact or sole custody with the alleged abuser.
How can we be failing our women and children like this in the United States? And what can we do about it?
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest medical investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. More than 17,000 members of Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, undergoing a comprehensive physical examination chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. The ACE Study findings suggest that certain childhood experiences lead to adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. The toxic stress caused by ACEs is a major risk factor for the leading causes of illness and death, as well as poor quality of life, in the United States. It is critical to understand how some of the worst health and social problems in our nation can arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences. The good news? All of them are preventable. ACE’s can include a child’s exposure to:
· Domestic Violence (verbal, emotional, economic, coercive control, or the physical abuse of a parent or child)
· Sexual abuse (grooming; violating a child’s safety and trust; inappropriate touching; rape)
· Being separated from a primary-attachment parent (typically the parent that was the primary caregiver in the child’s first seven years of life)
· A drug and/or alcohol addicted parent
Understanding these connections and taking action to prevent them, in particular when families are in the process of divorce and custody litigation, will improve the health, safety, and overall well-being for the lifespan of that child.
Yet in all 50 states, many family court lawyers and judges exercise the free reign to ignore the expected outcome of science and research, and the testimony of domestic violence and child abuse experts. They often order innocent defenseless children into toxic-stress producing environments, in essence, forcing them to be sick in the short and long term, raped, and even murdered.
How can this be happening?
The first obvious answers are money and gender inequality. Family court is estimated to be a $50 billion industry. And although gender-based violence is the most severe expression of sex discrimination, if a mother attempts to leave an abusive partner, she can expect to receive second-class treatment in many family courts. The family court system "status quo" has become a well-oiled machine that violates women’s rights, and exploits abused mothers and her children in crisis for money.
Secondly, family court professionals answer to no one. There is no judicial oversight of family court or any oversight of any kind. The foxes — family law attorneys, judges, prosecutors, appellate judges, and the court-ordered non-expert professionals they rely on for bogus unscientific reports — are overseeing the hen house. Often, they pressure women to drop restraining orders, they ignore and suppress evidence of her child being sexually abused by his or her father, and they bankrupt the mother as she desperately fights for her and her child's right to safety, justice, and economic stability.
So what can we do about it? WE TAKE ACTION.My TEDx presentation is my attempt to get the word out there about a silent epidemic taking place in America today. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are predictable and preventable. It is up to us to demand transparency and accountability of family court decision makers who ignore science, experts, current research, violate women’s rights, put innocent defenseless children in harms way, and shield themselves from public scrutiny.
Therefore, I encourage you to join our revolution and take action today. Copy the link below to your browser to watch my TEDx speech (or Google Patrice Lenowitz TEDx). Like, comment, and share this video and article with your colleagues, family, and friends. Forward it to your state representatives and demand they make this their political issue, as it is a relevant political concern for America's women. Forward it to the media, urging them to do an investigative piece in your county and state. And go directly to the source. Ask the protective mother what you can do to help. She is everywhere, and desperately needs our support. Only by talking about it and taking action can we end this silent epidemic of suffering, and protect the rights, safety, health, and well-being of our nation’s women and children.
THE NURTURED PARENT REVOLUTION: Transforming Trauma through Love, Healing and Social Justice Activism.
TEDx Talk Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf40JV2t8AU