How To Join CAVNET

Founded by Marc Dubin, Esq., former Special Counsel to the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women, CAVNET (Communities Against Violence Network) serves to bring together experts and advocates addressing violence against women, human rights, suicide, school violence, bullying, and crime victims with disabilities. We are a partner with Lifetime Television's End Violence Against Women Project and a recipient of a Ms. Foundation grant.To join, send a resume or brief bio to Marc Dubin, Esq, Executive Director, at Marc may also be contacted by cell phone at 305-896-3000. See Follow Marc on Twitter:@ADAExpertise

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

BJS: Crime Victims with Disabilities Series

Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009-2012 - Statistical Tables1.3 MILLION NONFATAL VIOLENT CRIMES AGAINST PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN 2012, UNCHANGED FROM 2011 
Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series
2/25/2014 NCJ 244525

Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009-2011 - Statistical TablesPresents estimates of nonfatal violent victimization (rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault) against persons age 12 or older with disabilities from 2009 to 2011. 
Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series
12/19/2012 NCJ 240299

Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2008-2010 - Statistical Tables Presents estimates of nonfatal violent victimization (rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault) against persons age 12 or older with disabilities, from 2008 to 2010. 
Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series
10/13/2011 NCJ 235777

Crime Against People with Disabilities, 2008 Presents findings about nonfatal violent and property crime experienced in 2008 by persons with disabilities, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). 
Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series
NCJ 231328

Crime Against People with Disabilities, 2008 Presents findings about nonfatal violent and property crime experienced in 2008 by persons with disabilities, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). 
Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series
NCJ 231328

Crime Against People with Disabilities, 2007 Presents the first findings about nonfatal violent and property crime experienced by persons with disabilities, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). 
Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series
NCJ 227814

Crime Against People with Disabilities, 2007 Presents the first findings about nonfatal violent and property crime experienced by persons with disabilities, based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS. 
Part of the Crime Against People with Disabilities Series
NCJ 227814


Statistics On Criminal Victimization of People with Disabilities = BJS - 2014

Disabilities, 2009–2012 - Statistical Tables
Erika Harrell, Ph.D.
February 25, 2014    Ncj 244525

Presents Estimates Of Nonfatal Violent Victimization (Rape, Sexual Assault, Robbery, Aggravated And Simple Assault) Against Persons Age 12 Or Older With Disabilities From 2009 To 2012. 

Findings Are Based On The National Crime Victimization Survey (Ncvs). The Report Compares The Victimization Of Persons With And Without Disabilities Living In Noninstitutionalized Households, Including Distributions By Age, Race, Sex, Victims' Types Of Disabilities, And Other Victim Characteristics. 

Data From The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (Acs) And The 2000 U.S. Standard Population Were Used To Estimate Age-Adjusted Victimization Rates.


Persons Age 12 Or Older Who Had Disabilities Experienced 1.3 Million Nonfatal Violent Crimes In 2012.

In 2012, The Age-Adjusted Rate Of Violent Victimization For Persons With Disabilities (60 Per 1,000 Persons With Disabilities) Was Nearly Three Times The Rate Among Persons Without Disabilities (22 Per 1,000 Persons Without Disabilities).

In 2012, The Age-Adjusted Rate Of Violent Victimization Was Higher For Persons With Disabilities Than For Those Without Disabilities For Both Males And Females.

For Each Racial Group Measured, Persons With Disabilities Had Higher Age-Adjusted Violent Victimization Rates Than Persons Without Disabilities In 2012.

In 2012, 52% Of Nonfatal Violent Crime Against Persons With Disabilities Involved Victims Who Had Multiple Disability Types.

Part Of The Crime Against People With Disabilities Series
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National Domestic Violence Hotline and Services to the Deaf Community

 ”Data from an eight-year survey of college students at Rochester Institute of Technology indicates that Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are 1.5 times more likely to be victims of relationship violence including sexual harassment, sexual assault, psychological abuse and physical abuse in their lifetime.”

Abuse In the Community

Deaf victims of domestic violence often face unique circumstances:
  • Information can travel quickly within a Deaf, Deaf-blind, or hard of hearing community, compromising confidentiality and the victim’s safety.
  • Law enforcement and shelters are often not skilled at communicating with Deaf, Deaf-blind, or hard of hearing individuals and often don’t have interpreters.
  • Their abusive partners may take away their communication devices.
  • Their abusive partners may give false information to the victim to make them believe they have fewer options.
  • The victim may be isolated from family, friends, services, resources and options.
According to DeafHope these are some examples of what victims face and the tactics abusive partners use to abuse the Deaf:
  • Intimidation through gestures, facial expressions, or exaggerated signs, floor stomping and pounding on the table or door
  • Signing very close to a victim’s face when angry
  • Criticizing  the victim’s American sign language (ASL) skills or communication style
  • Not informing the victim when people try to call on the phone or try to catch their attention
  • Excluding the victim from important conversations
  • Leaving the victim out in social situations with hearing people
  • Talking negatively about the Deaf community
  • Wrongly interpreting to manipulate the situation if the police are called
  • Not allowing children to use ASL to talk with the victim
  • Not allowing children to be proud of deaf culture
  • Criticizing the victim’s speech and English skills

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Need for Custody Courts to Understand and Use the Saunders Study

"....The Saunders’ study establishes that the custody courts are getting an intolerably high percentage of domestic violence custody cases wrong and this will continue as long as the courts rely on evaluators and other professionals who do not have the specific domestic violence training they need and refuse to use the expertise that could be provided by domestic violence advocates and experts. 
It is clear that the custody courts need to adopt the reforms that will make sure children are protected, but there are significant obstacles to achieving the needed reforms.  The worst evaluators and other professionals who are part of the cottage industry supporting abusive fathers will fight to maintain their lucrative practices even as they earn their money at the expense of the safety and future of children they are supposed to protect.  The abusers will continue to seek to manipulate the court in order to continue using the custody tactic to maintain what they believe is their right to control their partners even after they leave.  Judges and other administrators will be reluctant to acknowledge that their long established practices routinely place children in jeopardy.  Dan Saunders has done a substantial public service in providing meticulous research that should explode the complacency of court professionals who would like to believe the only problem is the complaints by protective mothers and their supporters.  Now it is our job to use this research to change the outcomes of cases and reform a system that is failing to protect children....."



By Joan Zorza, J.D.


”…One study has found that some form of child abuse occurs in 30-60% of families where domestic violence is present, and that the occurrence rate is much higher when it is the father abusing the mother. The same study reports that the incidence of child abuse by a battering husband increases from 5% with one act of marital violence to nearly 100% with 50 incidents of marital violence.1 Other studies show that 44.5% to 73% of incest perpetrators are known to be battering the children’s mother.2

A study of 12 states found that incest allegations are raised in only 6% of custody cases.3 An even larger study involving 9,000 divorce cases found the rate of incest allegations to be less than 2% of divorce cases, or less than 10% of contested custody disputes.4 The reality is that because custody disputes are considered difficult and take up much court time, particularly when there are incest allegations, they are wrongfully assumed to happen more often than they actually do….”


“Despite the assumption that virtually all allegations of incest arising in custody disputes are made falsely by mothers and for tactical gain, the reality is that fewer than half of incest allegations made during custody disputes are made by mothers against fathers (some are made against other people or made by fathers or others).5 An Austrailian study showed that false allegations are rare (no more than 9% of cases) and are no more common in divorces or custody disputes than at other times. Furthermore, most incest allegations that are not sustained are made in good faith, not deliberately falsely.6 Canada has found that fathers are more than 16 times as likely to make false incest allegations as mothers (21% of cases by fathers, vs. only 1.3% of cases by mothers).7”

Continued at 


Joan S. Meier: A Historical Perspective on Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation

Joan S. Meier
George Washington University Law School , Washington, DC
Journal of Child Custody
Volume 6, Issue 3-4, 2009, pages 232- 257
Published online: 18 Aug 2009
DOI: 10.1080/15379410903084681

"Claims of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) and parental alienation (PA) have come to dominate custody litigation, especially where abuse is alleged. Although much psychological and legal literature has critiqued PAS, and leading researchers as well as most professional institutions have renounced the syndrome concept, alienation as a parental behavior or child's condition continues to be extensively investigated and credited in research and forensic contexts.

This article reviews the history of PAS, both as posited by its inventor, Richard Gardner, and as used and applied in courts, suggesting that it not only lacks empirical basis or objective merit, but that it derives from its author's troubling beliefs about adult and child sexual interaction. It then examines the more recent explorations of non-syndrome “alienation” as proffered by Janet Johnston and others, noting both its more balanced and grounded nature and its more modest remedial implications.

However, the article concludes that PA is too closely tied to PAS to be an adequate improvement. It, too, is used crudely in courts to defeat abuse allegations, it continues to rely on speculations about mothers' purported unconscious desires and their effects on children, and, more subtly than PAS, it minimizes abuse and its effects on mothers and children.

At root, although even PA researchers have found it to be a real issue in only a small minority of contested custody cases, courts' and evaluators' extensive focus on it in response to mothers' abuse allegations continues to privilege false or exaggerated alienation concerns over valid concerns about abuse."


Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Is Gender Biased and Punitive

Why Abusers Get Away With Claiming “Parental Alienation”

"Gender Biased and Punitive: Why Abusers Get Away With Claiming “Parental Alienation”

The late Richard Gardner developed the theory of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) after claiming that one parent alienated the children from the other parent in 90% of his divorcing patients. Though claiming that the “disorder” was not sex specific, he used it almost exclusively against mothers, maintaining that mothers falsely raise domestic violence and incest during custody disputes for tactical gain. Even Gardner admitted PAS was not an actual syndrome; some call it parental alienation (PA), but the concept is identical.


Gardner claimed to have testified in 400 custody cases in 25 states. Although no state has codified PAS, at least 31 states have adopted Gardner’s friendly parent concept (FPC) in which courts are encouraged to give custody to the parent who will foster a better relationship between the children and the other parent. Even where not codified, many judges and custody evaluators base decisions or recommendations on PAS, PA, or the FPC.


There are problems associated with PAS, PA, and the FPC. They may deflect investigation from the validity of abuse accusations to the protective parent’s behavior. In addition, PAS, PA, and the FPC may deflect courts from noticing that men’s alienation allegations may themselves be alienating behaviors raised for tactical gain.

False Premises

Gardner incorrectly assumed that women need a tactical ploy to not lose custody under the best interest of the child standard. Gardner evidently was unaware that once a child passed its tender years, roughly at age 7, fathers were presumptively entitled to reclaim custody, and that most mothers still win custody under the best interest of the child standard.

Gardner also wrongfully assumed that women often make false incest accusations in custody cases and that they gain advantage from doing so. Incest is raised in only about 6% of custody cases, and only a very small fraction (2%-3%) of this 6% are false. Investigated incest allegations are substantiated as often during custody disputes as at other times, but many child protection agencies do not investigate when a case is in court. Men have been found to make 16 times as many false incest allegations as women (21% vs. 1.3%).

Gardner’s Motivations

Gardner, who had no hospital admitting privileges for his last 25 years and fraudulently claimed to be a clinical professor of child psychiatry, derived his theories to discredit mothers who complained that their partners were abusing them or their children. Gardner, who often testified on behalf of pedophiles, admitted that probably over 95% of all sex abuse allegations are legitimate, but claimed incest and many other deviant sexual practices are normal and not harmful.

Gender Biased and Punitive

PAS, PA, and the FPC may discourage battered women and mothers in incest cases from complaining. Gardner advocated removing custody and if the behaviors continue, denying visitation to the alienating parent. These concepts may not be in the best interest of children as they generally deprive them of their protective parents and place them in the custody of abusive parents. They also may prevent protective parents and children from realizing the wrongfulness of the abuse or from venting their anger, thus exacerbating their pain and inhibiting healing.

These concepts can be considered gender biased since their definitions exclude alienating behaviors most commonly committed by fathers: domestic violence, nonpayment of child support, and raising alienation allegations. They can be used only against custodial parents and impose no penalty on alienating noncustodial parents. An attempt to rename PAS as malicious mother syndrome confirms the bias.

Inadmissible Evidence

Gardner promoted PAS in self-published books. PAS has never been subjected to peer review or been recognized by any professional associations, including the American Psychiatric Association. The Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family characterizes PAS and PA as having no validity. With no validity within the scientific community, neither PAS nor PA is considered admissible in evidence.

—Joan Zorza

Further Readings

Bruch C. Parental alienation syndrome and parental alienation: Getting it wrong in child custody cases. Family Law Quarterly vol. 35 (2001). no. (3), pp. 527–552.

Dallam S. J. Dr. Richard Gardner: A review of his theories and opinions on atypical sexuality, pedophilia, and treatment issues. Treating Abuse Today vol. 8 (1998). no. (1), pp. 15–22.
Dore M. K. The “friendly parent” concept: A flawed factor for child custody. Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law vol. 6 (2004). no. (1), pp. 41–56.

Smith R. and Coukos P. Fairness and accuracy in evaluations of domestic violence and child abuse in custody determinations. The Judges’ Journal vol. 36 (1997). no. (4), pp. 38–42, 54–56.


Custody and Domestic Violence - “Severely abusive fathers may deliberately escalate their abuse to force the woman to complain"

Blog Article on PAS:

“It’s a statistic so unbelievable that it’s difficult to wrap your head around: A research review by lawyer and domestic violence expert Joan Zorza found that in about half of the 100,000 contested child custody cases each year in the United States, custody goes to the father – even though at least one-third of these fathers reportedly committed domestic violence against the mother or the child.  In fact, women are actually more likely to win custody if they do not allege abuse.

The force behind these rulings are the innocuous-sounding “friendly parent” statutes on the books in at least 32 states, which mandate that courts, in deciding custody, consider how willing each parent is to facilitate a “close and continuing” relationship between the child and the other parent.  This is one factor in determining what custody arrangements are “in the best interests of the child.”
“Friendly parent” statutes are a dressed-down form of a theory called Parental Alienation Syndrome.  PAS theorizes that most accusations of child abuse (especially sexual abuse) made during a custody battle are actually fraudulent.  Not only are the charges false, says the theory, but they are deliberately undertaken by one parent (in most cases, the mother) to “alienate” the child from the other parent (generally, the father).

Never mind that the American Psychological Association has said PAS has no valid merit, nor that PAS inventor Richard Gardner has also said that society “overreacts” to sexual abuse and that pedophilia is an honorable lifestyle choice.  PAS lives on in “friendly parent” statutes and in the testimony of many court-appointed evaluators and mental-health professionals.  Those who diagnose PAS often recommend that full custody go to the “alienated parent” (usually the biological father) and that unsupervised visitation with the “alienating parent” (usually the mother) be cut off.
Ultimately, these outmoded ideas maintain their grip because of a long-standing tradition of discrediting women’s concerns and believability in comparison to men’s, wrote Zorza in Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody (Civic Research Institute, 2010).  Their effect is to lend powerful leverage to abusers.

“Severely abusive fathers may deliberately escalate their abuse to force the woman to complain, flee, or bargain away valuable marital assets, alimony or child support.  They then retaliate by filing for custody, knowing they will likely be able to deprive the mothers of the children,” writes Zorza.  “Other abusive fathers use the “friendly parent” concept to force the mother to pay them child support and to deprive her of any visitation.”

The consequences can be dire.  According to the Center for Judicial Excellence, a court advocacy organization, an estimated 75 children nationwide were murdered between June 2009 and April 2010 by abusive fathers who won custody battles.

Currently, about half of the states in the U.S. have laws requiring courts to consider domestic violence on an equal basis with factors such as “friendly parent” statutes when making custody determinations.  But family courts have wide discretion in how heavily to weigh domestic violence.  The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the American Bar Association recommend that abuse be given more consideration than other factors in custody cases – and that courts withhold sole or joint custody from anyone with a history of domestic violence….”


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saunders: Child Custody Evaluators’ Beliefs About Domestic Abuse Allegations:

October 31, 2011

“The most common areas of knowledge across professional groups were children’s exposure to domestic violence and prevalence of domestic violence. The least common areas—especially among judges, evaluators, and private attorneys—were knowledge of post-separation violence, screening for domestic violence, and assessing dangerousness (although the majority still acquired knowledge in these areas). Domestic violence workers had the highest rates of knowledge regarding all topics.”

Purpose of Study:

"Little is known... about child custody evaluators’ beliefs, background, knowledge about domestic violence, and other factors that may shape their recommendations1 regarding custody and parent-child visitation arrangements.The purpose of this study was to further our understanding of what child custody evaluators and other professionals believe regarding allegations of domestic abuse made by parents going through a divorce...."

Key Findings:

Belief in False Allegations of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

 Professionals were asked to estimate what percent of domestic violence allegations by mothers and fathers they believed to be false. Among the major findings:

• Judges, private attorneys, and custody evaluators were more likely than domestic violence workers and legal aid attorneys to believe that mothers make false allegations.

 • After we controlled for background (number of custody cases, survivors known, and training) and demographic variables (age and gender), judges did not differ from legal aid attorneys and domestic violence workers regarding their estimate of what percentage of mothers’ domestic violence allegations were false.

 • Domestic violence workers and legal aid attorneys gave the highest estimates of the percentage of fathers’ making false domestic violence allegations, while judges and custody evaluators gave the lowest estimates.

• On average, evaluators estimated that one fourth to one third of child abuse allegations were false.

• On average, evaluators estimated that 26 percent of mothers’ domestic violence allegations were false and 31 percent of fathers’ allegations were false.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Use of the MMPI-2 in Child Custody Evaluations Involving Battered Women: What Does Psychological Research Tell Us?

When a custody evaluation is conducted by a psychologist, the revised version of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) is often used as part of the evaluation process. The MMPI-2, like other traditional psychological tests, was not designed to be used in custody evaluations and arguably should not be used for such purpose except "when specific problems or issues that these tests were designed to measure appear salient in the case."
If it used, Erickson notes that "great care must be taken" as "a misinterpretation could result in placing custody of a child with a batterer, which could put the child at severe risk."
Erickson reviews research on the use of MMPI evaluations with battered women and found that that the psychological stress that battered women suffer may result in MMPI scores that do not accurately evaluate their ability to parent. Erickson, Nancy S. (2005, Spring). Use of the MMPI-2 in Child Custody Evaluations Involving Battered Women:  What Does Psychological Research Tell Us?  Family Law Quarterly vol 39, no. 1, p. 87-108.


Gender bias in the courts: Implications for battered mothers and their children

Dragiewicz, M. (2010). Gender bias in the courts: Implications for battered mothers and their children. In M. Hannah & B. Goldstein (Eds.), Domestic violence, abuse, and child custody: Legal strategies and policy issues (§ 5.1–5.18). Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.
Dragiewicz provides a comprehensive summary of gender bias reports pertaining to custody decisions. In addition to the tendency to disbelieve or minimize women’s reports of abuse, or to disregard evidence for it, Dragiewicz also describes other problems uncovered during investigations. These include mothers being punished for reporting abuse, unfair financial settlements, and mothers being held to higher standards than fathers.


Child custody mediation in cases of domestic violence

Johnson, N. E., Saccuzzo, D. P., & Koen, W. J. (2005). Child custody mediation in cases of domestic violence: Empirical evidence of a failure to protect. Violence Against Women, 11(8), 1022-1053.
"This study shows that victims of domestic violence (DV) are greatly disadvantaged when states require mediation of child custody disputes. The investigators empirically evaluated outcomes and found that mediators failed to recognize and report DV in 56.9% of the DV cases. The court's screening form failed to indicate DV in at least 14.7% of the violent cases. Mediation resulted in poor outcomes for DV victims in terms of protections, such as supervised visitation and protected child exchanges. As a result, the capacity of mediators to focus on the child's best interest is called into question."


"Judicial Responses to the Protective Parent’s Complaint of Child Sexual Abuse,” Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 8 (4): 103-122.

A study of 300 cases over a 10-year period in which the mother sought to protect the child from sexual abuse, found that 70% resulted in unsupervised visitation or shared custody; in 20% of the cases the mothers completely lost custody, and many of these lost all visitation rights.
 Neustein & Goetting (1999), “Judicial Responses to the Protective Parent’s Complaint of Child Sexual Abuse,” Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 8 (4): 103-122.


One More Battleground: Domestic Violence, Child Custody, and the Batterers’ Relentless Pursuit of their Victims Through the Court

One More Battleground: Domestic Violence, Child Custody, and the Batterers’ Relentless Pursuit of their Victims Through the Court

“… The high rate of continued physical violence after separation is only one problem a woman may face after escaping an abusive partner. Even if survivors of abuse succeed in leaving their abusers, there is another arena in which an abuser can continue his abuse: family court.14 If a batterer wants to, he can turn dissolution, child support, custody, and visitation proceedings into a nightmare; he can turn the courts into a new forum that allows his abusive behavior to continue. If there are children present in the abusive relationship, she is unlikely to give into his custody demands and will continue to fight for her children while they are at risk, even after she’s given into all of her abuser’s other demands during the separation and/or dissolution process. Because of this, survivors of domestic violence who are trying to escape their abusers often find themselves trapped in family courts, trying to retain custody of their children. Sadly, experience shows that they often fail—courts frequently grant visitation and custodial rights to fathers despite a history of violence against mothers.15 In fact, abusive fathers are more than twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children as are nonviolent fathers.16 And, with studies confirming that courts award sole or joint custody to fathers in 70 percent of all custody cases, then statistically speaking, it is undeniable that men who abuse women can and do end up with control over the children after the relationship is over.17 Thus, family court has become one of the final and often unavoidable battlegrounds between survivors and their abusers.18…”

Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence - Saunders

By Daniel Saunders

Daniel G. Saunders, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
School of Social Work

"...This document describes some of the legal and cultural trends surrounding custody and visitation decisions and the social science evidence supporting a need to consider domestic violence in these decisions...."


"Social science evidence can help to establish which parent is most likely to harm children. The most convincing evidence for the potential of men who batter their partners also to batter their children comes from a nationally representative survey (Straus, 1983). Half the men who battered their wives also abused their children. Abuse was defined as violence more severe than a slap or a spanking. Battered women were half as likely as men to abuse their children. Several non-representative surveys show similar results (reviewed in Saunders, 1994). When battered women are not in a violent relationship, there is some evidence that they are much less likely to direct anger toward their children (Walker, 1984).
Emotional abuse of children by men who batter is even more likely because nearly all of these men's children are exposed to domestic violence (Pagelow, 1990). This exposure often constitutes a severe form of child abuse since the problems associated with witnessing abuse are now clearly documented (e.g., Edleson, 1997). There are short and long-term emotional and behavioral consequences for both boys and girls. Parents may not realize that their children can be affected even if they do not see the violence. For example, the children may be hiding in their bedrooms listening to repeated threats, blows, and breaking objects. Obviously, they may be afraid their mother will be injured or killed, but they may also have divided loyalties between their parents, guilt about not being able to intervene, and anger at their mothers for not leaving (Saunders, 1994). If mothers cannot find safety, their fears and depression may keep them from being as nurturing and supportive to their children as they normally would be...."

"...Mothers may also be blamed for harming their children in cases where evaluators and practitioners do not understand the dynamics of abuse (Edleson, 1997). Their cases are sometimes labelled as ""failure to protect"" since they are supposedly able to protect their children from the physical and emotional abuse of their partners (Enos, 1996). Battered women may even face criminal charges (Sierra, 1997). However, battered women's actions often come from their desire to care for their children. They may not attempt to leave because of financial needs, because they believe that the children need a father, or because they fear losing the children to their abuser. They often leave the relationship when they see the impact of violence on their children, only to return when threatened with even greater violence or out of economic necessity. Innovative programs, like Project Protect in Massachusetts, were developed to address these concerns. They use specially trained staff and multidisciplinary teams to integrate interventions for child abuse and domestic violence (Davidson, 1995). On a policy level, states generally allow evidence to show that the non-abusive spouse feared retaliation from her partner and thus could not try to stop or prevent abuse to the child. However, only a few states explicitly authorize this type of evidence...."

"....Factors Related to Risk to the Children
In a given custody case, a number of factors related to or incorrectly attributed to child abuse and exposure to domestic violence may be present. Several factors--parental separation, childhood victimization of the parents, the parents' psychological characteristics, and abuser interventions-- are discussed next.
Parental Separation. Parental separation or divorce does not prevent abuse to children or their mothers. On the contrary, physical abuse, harassment, and stalking of women continue at fairly high rates after separation and divorce. In one study, a fourth of the women reported threats against their lives during visitation (Leighton, 1989). Separation is a time of increased risk of homicide for battered women (Wilson & Daly, 1994) and these homicides sometimes occur during custody hearings or visitation exchanges of children. In rare cases, men kill children in retaliation for their female partners leaving them.
Children are also likely to be exposed to renewed violence if their fathers become involved with other women. Over half of men who batter go on to abuse a second woman (Wofford, Elliot, & Menard, 1994). Judges who consider the remarriage of a man to be a sign of stability and maturity should instead consider it as a possible sign that the children will once again be emotionally harmed.
Parents' Childhood Victimization. Evaluators may look to childhood risk factors of each parent to assess their child abuse potential. The link between being abused in childhood and becoming a child abuser is not as strong as was once thought, with about 30% of child abuse victims becoming abusers (Kaufman & Zigler, 1987). Some evidence suggests that the link is stronger in men than in women (Miller & Challas, 1981).
Parents' Psychological Characteristics. The parents' personality traits and psychological disorders are generally poor predictors of child abuse (Wolfe, 1985). Neither parent is likely to have chronic mental disorders of genetic origin (e.g., schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder). Personality disorders are much more likely to appear on the psychological tests of both parents. Great care must be taken, however, when interpreting parents' behaviors and psychological tests. Men who batter often have the types of personality disorders that keep childhood traumas, anxiety, and other problems hidden (Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994).
To the extent that psychological disorders continue to be used to describe battered women, they can be placed at a serious disadvantage. Compared with the chronic problems of their partners, battered women's psychological problems are much more likely to decrease as she becomes safer. Many battered women may seem very unstable, nervous, and angry (Crites & Coker, 1988). Other battered women may speak with a flat affect and appear indifferent to the violence they describe (Meier, 1993). These women probably suffer from the numbing symptoms of traumatic stress. The psychological test scores of some battered women may indicate severe personality disorders and mental illness. However, their behaviors and test scores must be interpreted in the context of the traumas they have faced or continue to face (Rosewater, 1987). The tactics used by their abusers parallel those used against prisoners of war and include threats of violence, forced isolation, degradation, and attempts to distort reality and increase psychological dependence. Severe depression and traumatic stress symptoms are the likely results. When women fear losing custody of children to an abusive partner, the stress can be overwhelming.
Interventions for the Abuser. Successful completion of treatment does not at all mean that the risks of child and woman abuse are eliminated. Although the evaluation of programs for men who batter is still in its infancy (Saunders, 1996), it is clear that a substantial proportion of women (35%, averaged across a number of studies) report that physical abuse by their partners occurs within 6-12 months after treatment. Psychological abuse is even more prevalent. Only two studies of programs for men who batter investigated the reduction of actual or potential violence toward the children (Myers, 1984; Stacey & Shupe, 1984). Both of these studies showed promising results, yet did not specifically focus on parenting issues. Only one description could be found of a special parent training program for men who batter (Mathews, 1995)...”

“…As stated earlier, the model state statute of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges clearly states that there should be a presumption that it is detrimental to the child to be placed in sole or joint custody with a perpetrator of family violence (NCJFCJ, 1994). The model statute emphasizes that the safety and well-being of the child and the parent who is the victim must be primary. The perpetrator's history of causing fear as well as physical harm should be considered. A parent's absence or relocation in an attempt to escape violence by the other parent should not be used as a factor to determine custody. Courts sometimes label battered women as ""impulsive"" or ""uncooperative"" if they leave suddenly to find safety in another city or state. The model statute specifies that it is in the best interest of the child to reside with the non-violent parent and that this parent should be able to choose the location of the residence, even if it is in another state. The noncustodial parent may also be denied access to the child's medical and educational records if such information could be used to locate the custodial parent.
Visitation guidelines should be based on the following general principles: a) contact between child and parent should be structured in a way that limits the child's exposure to parental conflict; b) transitions should be infrequent in cases of ongoing conflict and the reasonable fear of violence; and c) substantial amounts of time with both parents may not be advisable (Johnston, 1992). Ideally, a court order should detail the conditions of supervised visitation, including the role of the supervisor (NCJFCJ, 1995). Unsupervised visitation should be allowed only after the abuser completes a specialized program for men who batter and does not threaten or become violent for a substantial period of time. Practitioners need to be aware of the strong likelihood that men who batter will become violent in a new relationship and that they often use nonviolent tactics that can harm the children. Rather than rely on official records of recidivism, the best way to establish that the perpetrator is nonviolent is to interview current and past partners.
Visitation should be suspended if there are repeated violations of the terms of visitation, the child is severely distressed in response to visitation, or there are clear indications that the violent parent has threatened to harm or flee with the child. Even with unsupervised visitation, it is best to have telephone contact between parents only at scheduled times, to maintain restraining orders to keep the offender away from the victim, and to transfer the child in a neutral, safe place with the help of a third party (Johnston, 1992). Hart (1990) describes a number of safety planning strategies that can be taught to children in these situations.
The model statute (NCJFCJ, 1994) states that visitation should only be awarded to the perpetrator if adequate safety provisions for the child and adult victim can be made. Orders of visitation can specify, among other things: the exchange of the child in a protected setting, supervised visitation by a person or agency, completion by the perpetrator of ""a program of intervention for perpetrators"", and no overnight visitation. If the court allows a family or household member to supervise the visitation, the court can set the conditions to be followed during visitation. For example, an order might specify that the batterer not use alcohol prior to or during a visit and that the child be allowed to call the mother at any time….”


Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ten Myths About Domestic Violence and Custody - ABA Commission on Domestic Violence

Ten Myths About Domestic Violence and Custody -  ABA Commission on Domestic Violence


BWJP - Custody Project

About the Custody Project
?BWJP is working to improve the family court response to domestic violence through a grant from the Office of Violence Against Women.  The goal of the project is to enhance safety for battered women and their children by ensuring that family court decision-making accounts for the nature and effects of domestic violence.
BWJP has developed a four-part model to help family court practitioners make domestic violence-informed decisions and take domestic violence-informed action.  The model can be applied by anyone who is involved in a family court case (advocates, attorneys, guardians, evaluators, mediators and judges) at any stage of the family court process (intake, case management conference, mediation, evaluation, and trial)."
For a brief history of the Custody Project and a current progress report, please click here.

Overview of the Project
For years now, survivors and advocates have complained that the family court system is failing to adequately protect the safety and wellbeing of children – and their battered and battering parents – in child custody cases where domestic violence is alleged. In 2009, in an effort to respond to that reality, OVW and BWJP entered into a two-year cooperative agreement to develop a framework to help family court practitioners better identify, understand and account for the context and implications of domestic violence in child custody cases. That cooperative agreement was extended for an additional two years, through September 2013.

BWJP and its project partner, Praxis International, assembled a national workgroup, a blue ribbon team of representatives from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, as well as scholars and expert practitioners from across the country. The national workgroup has provided critical leadership and guidance for the project since its inception.....

What We Have Learned Thus Far
Several themes have emerged from the work we have completed to date. These themes are consistent with and supported by the prevailing research in the field, as well as the experiences of the family court practitioners and litigants across the country with whom we have met.

1. Ill-defined terminology
There is very little agreement among practitioners about the meaning of commonly used terminology like
domestic violence, high conflict, parental alienation, and best interests. This inconsistency in terminology leads to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding.

2. Lack of clarity regarding professional roles and functions
In addition to ill-defined terminology, we also observed that practitioners often lacked clarity about their own roles and functions within the family court system. For example, some evaluators perceived their function to be strictly about determining what parenting arrangement would be in the best interests of the child, while other evaluators saw their role as facilitating a settlement between the parents. We saw many, many examples of this sort of confusion about who was responsible for what within the family court system.

3. Inconsistent screening, assessment and assumptions about domestic abuse
While most family court practitioners appeared to engage in some sort of screening for domestic violence, we saw very little evidence that practitioners routinely used any standardized protocol or tool to determine the nature and context of domestic violence. Instead, we observed that many practitioners simply relied on their own gut feelings or instincts to determine whether domestic violence has occurred and imposed their own personal assumptions about domestic violence when making sense of what was going on.

4. Poorly informed decision-making
We saw that big decisions were being made by practitioners in all court settings in the face of tremendous factual uncertainty – and in some cases, on the basis of wildly inaccurate information – with very few opportunities for the parties to challenge the “facts” or correct the record. We also saw that the paucity of reliable information and inconsistent assessments led to poorly informed decision-making.

5. Disconnected interventions and services
In what Jill Davies refers to as “service-defined” as opposed to “survivor-defined” interventions, we also saw that the interventions and services offered were often disconnected from what people actually needed. ...."


How Survivors of Domestic Violence Have Used CAVNET

Dear Marc:

"I just wanted to thank you for CAVNET. Over the past few months it has become an unbelievable resource for me in several areas of my life....One of the most important results of CAVNET is the empowerment I have found... I live in a very rural area of New Mexico – cut off from many of the resources that are found in the more metropolitan areas. CAVNET has given me the resources and the contacts that I would not otherwise have access to.

Let me give you an example of how CAVNET has personally helped me. I was being stalked by an individual who later was caught, incarcerated, and ended up taking his own life. I live alone and felt that I was cut off from help. I posted to the CAVNET listserv, and the information, resources, recommendations of books to read, personal experience, and legal advice was overwhelming. I had replies from counselors, police, authors, doctors, and many others. Most invaluable, I had advice from other survivors. I had the very tools I needed to accomplish what had to be done. I was able to follow the correct path in getting a restraining order, taking steps to keep myself safe, and doing things to prevent it from happening again. My fears were shared with others, and validated. I was also able to see that even though I had been left deaf and had a traumatic brain injury from past victimization, I am still able to become empowered to do what many others can.

I am so grateful that I can have these invaluable tools through the Internet. This is about the only way that they will be available to me. The disability community in New Mexico applauds you for CAVNET. I am extremely grateful for the help in my own situation. Another life saved and ready to help another do the same."

– Survivor

Dear Marc:

“CAVNET has been the most valuable resource of information for me throughout the last few years. As a victim of domestic violence including emotional and financial abuse and other abuses including child kidnapping, CAVNET has provided moral support and legal education, and has guided me to otherwise hard to find legal resources. In addition, CAVNET has put me in contact with specialists in domestic violence, and supportive and knowledgeable advocates. CAVNET has put together Advisory Committees providing excellent information which guided me while representing myself in court in a custody battle  I am most grateful for the help and empowerment that CAVNET has given me.”

– Survivor

"If You Leave Me, I'll Find You": Separation/Divorce Sexual Assault in Rural Ohio


(CAVNET Member) Walter S. DeKeseredy
Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology
Ohio University
Athens, OH
(From 2004)

*The research reported here was supported by National Institute of Justice Grant WGBX0004. Arguments presented in the paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. The author would like to thank Katharine Darke, Marc Dubin, and Carolyn Joseph for their comments. Please send all correspondence to Walter DeKeseredy (



Those who read postings on or contribute articles, announcements and other written materials to CAVNET probably find it difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with the mushrooming scholarly and policy-related literature on various types of violence against women. Indeed, the field has moved so fast in a relatively short period of time and now readily available are mountains of books, scientific articles, newsletters and other sources of valuable information on wife beating, incest, sexual assault, stalking, and so on. Further, many voices that were ignored are now moving from the margins to the center of our daily academic and practical efforts to identify and curb woman abuse in intimate contexts. For example, the widely read and cited international journal Violence Against Women frequently includes articles on the plight of women of different ethnic/cultural backgrounds and several special issues on their violent experiences were published since the journal’s inception.

Nevertheless, a review of the extant scientific literature reveals that many abused women, including members of the dominant culture (e.g., those of European descent), still suffer in silence. Consider those harmed by separation/divorce sexual assault. Less than a handful of North American studies have examined this problem and all of them were done in urban areas. Eager to help fill a major research gap, with the support of the National Institute of Justice, Ohio University, and many service providers, I designed an exploratory qualitative study to enhance a social scientific understanding of sexual assaults that occur when rural Ohio women want to leave, are trying to leave, and have left marital/cohabiting partners. The main objective of this article is to briefly describe the preliminary results of my on-going project. A more detailed description of these data and the methods used to uncover them are provided in another paper I co-authored with Carolyn Joseph (see “Understanding Separation/Divorce Sexual Assault in Rural Communities: The Contributions of an Exploratory Ohio Study”).


Since late March of last year, 36 women located in various parts of rural Ohio were interviewed, either face-to-face or by telephone. However, only some key findings gleaned from 20 participants are reported here because it takes a substantial amount of time and effort to analyze the wealth of information respondents offered to the research team. Still, I strongly suspect that the voices of the interviewees excluded from this article will reveal similar trends and concerns. For example, only four (20%) of the 20 respondents did not experience multiple types of sexual assault (e.g., blackmail rape, gang rape, drug-induced sexual assault, etc.). Further, only 20 percent were victimized by just one type of nonsexual abuse, such as a beating. Sometimes, too, sexually abusive ex-partners target their children, with 15 percent of the sample stating that this happened.

Most of the survivors (55%) were sexually attacked when they wanted to leave, which can be interpreted as assaults on separation itself. Many patriarchal men are determined not to let their partners go, and this is also evident during the process of exiting relationships, with 35 percent of the sample reporting that they were victimized at that time. A slightly higher percentage (40%) experienced sexual assaults after they left.

Most offenders regularly consumed alcohol (85%) and drugs (75%), and 45% owned weapons. Some men even threatened to kill their partners when they discovered they wanted to leave them.

For example, one woman said:

"And I mean the one night he’d come home and pull a double barrel and cock both barrels and said he was going to kill me. And it was like, wait a minute here, you know, it was two o’clock in the morning. I was sound asleep and I got up at four and go to work. But he’d always keep pressuring me, 'If you leave me, I’ll find you. I’ll kill you. If you leave me, I’ll find you, I’ll kill you.'”

Sixty-five percent of perpetrators viewed pornography and 25% used such media to get their ex-partners to have sex with them again. Note the following other major characteristics of offenders uncovered so far:

· 15% forced or attempted to force women to have sex with their male friends.

· 45% have male peers who hit or sexually assault women.

· 70% spend much time their male peers.

· 80% strongly believe that men should be the head of the household.

Every respondent needed help to cope with separation/divorce sexual assault and actively sought social support. Even so, only one interviewee who turned to at least one element of the criminal justice system (e.g., police) stated that it was the best type of assistance. On the other hand, the criminal justice system was ranked the worst form of social support by 20 percent of the women, and most interviewees found their friends to be the best source of help. Moreover, only a few participants knew about existing support services and thus this respondent’s suggestion should be taken seriously:

"Getting some information out. I don’t know if ah, I don’t know if maybe your public health services, ah, I don’t know if they had posters or anything like that, that would advertise their services. Because I know, that you know, quite a few people go to the Health Department or something like that for medical health. And if they’re having problems with the type of situation, maybe a poster or something with information on that particular topic could trigger something inside of that woman, that particular woman. Then maybe she would reach out, you know, talk to somebody."

An equally, if not more, important recommendation made by another respondent is to train shelter workers and other practitioners to recognize separation/divorce sexual assault and to deliver services directly matching survivors’ needs:

"There’s a big difference between domestic violence and sexual abuse. It’s just not there. I mean you could call the crisis center, you know, and they’re like, they’re dumbfounded. You know cause they’re not used to that kind of crisis call coming in. It just needs to be out there and somebody needs to be trained to take these calls. It’s just like at the shelter. They don’t understand, you know, they don’t live, they’re not trained to deal with it."


The findings yielded so far by this study strongly suggest that separation/divorce sexual assault is a serious problem in rural Ohio as it probably is throughout the U.S. However, it is extremely difficult to get more women to reveal their experiences to researchers and practitioners because of factors such as geographic and social isolation, poverty, the existence of a powerful “ol’ boys network” consisting of sexist criminal justice officials and some abusive men, and relatively low telephone subscription rates. Further, in rural sections of Ohio and other states, there is widespread acceptance of violence against women, as well as community norms prohibiting survivors from publicly revealing their experiences and from seeking help. For example, one interviewee said, “I don’t sit around and share. I keep it to myself. Um, I believe that’s part of my mental illness. I believe it takes a lot of it. But, I’m not one to sit around and talk about what’s happened.”

Keep in mind, too, that rural service providers need to be more sensitive to the needs of survivors of separation/divorce sexual assault, and policy proposals aimed at reducing the influence of the “ol’ boys network” and other symptoms of rural patriarchy must be part of any coordinated effort to eliminate the atrocities reported here. Consider what one respondent told us:

"Another time, after I finally got away from him and I was having these problems. I was, I was on drugs real heavy um, and I was trying to get away from him. He was still calling me. This was just in the last nine months. Um, I called Victim Awareness in my town and um, told them that I had been abused by him. Oh, they kept telling me that they was going to do something about it and they never did. The one other time I went to Victim Awareness, they told me that um, (her voice started to crack and she began to cry) they were going to question the neighbors and stuff. And the neighbors said that um, you know, they said that the neighbors didn’t, didn’t see or hear anything. So they, I didn’t have enough ah proof, so. Basically, nothing was ever done. He’s a corrections officer in the town that I lived in and he’s friends with the Sheriff and whoever else."

The social, psychological, and social psychological factors motivating men to sexually assault their estranged partners should also be addressed. However, society must first recognize separation/divorce sexual assault before effective steps can be taken to alleviate it. As one interviewee stated, the typical societal reaction to the abuse uncovered by this study is, “It’s like we see, but we don’t. It’s like three monkeys: don’t see, don’t hear, don’t speak.” And, as another respondent correctly points out, “People have to be, you know, listen, and um, be sympathetic in relation to what happened….”


Serving Women with Developmental Disabilities: Strategies for the Justice System

The Need To Enhance Collaboration Among Victim Service Programs, Law Enforcement, Prosecutors, and Judges.

by Marc Dubin, Esq. 
From August 19, 2004

As a former prosecutor who now enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for the federal government, I have seen a tremendous change over the past 10 years in the awareness of the criminal justice system regarding the needs of crime victims with disabilities. Far more resources are now available for police, prosecutors, judges, and others in the criminal justice system to learn how best to serve crime victims with disabilities.

Crime victim advocates who provide services on behalf of women with disabilities are better funded today than ever before, largely due to the passage of the federal Violence Against Women Act and the tireless efforts of Bonnie Campbell (the Director of the Violence Against Women Office at the Justice Department) and her staff. Through grants provided by the Violence Against Women Office, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in the U.S. Department of Justice, and others, police officers, prosecutors, judges, advocates, and other components of the criminal justice system have received training and support to better address the needs of crime victims, including those with disabilities. Despite this progress, women with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities who have been victims of crimes remain largely unserved, and crimes against them largely unreported.

In this article, I will attempt to explore some of the issues facing police, prosecutors, judges, advocates, and other members of the criminal justice system, and provide some suggestions for how they can better serve women with developmental disabilities.

The Scope of The Problem

Women with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities are among the most vulnerable members of our society, experiencing a far higher rate of sexual assault and rape than other women, and experiencing this victimization repeatedly. While there are very few studies that have examined the victimization of women with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities, and far more work needs to be done to better assess this problem. The few studies that have been done provide a frightening picture of the world in which these women live. The existing studies reflect a rate of victimization for this population that may be as much as 10 times higher than that of the general population. One study found that more than 70% of women with developmental disabilities had been sexually assaulted, and that nearly 50% of women with mental retardation had been sexually assaulted 10 or more times in their lifetime (Sobsey and Doe, 1991). This represents a 50% higher rate than the rest of the population. Children with disabilities are also at greater risk. One study of children with disabilities found that they were 2.1 times as likely to be victims of physical abuse and 1.8 times as likely to experience sexual abuse as children without disabilities (Crosse, et al. 1993). Despite such high rates of victimization, few of these cases come to the attention of law enforcement.


Police officers need to be better trained to identify crime victims with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities, and must develop closer relationships with service providers and advocates. Collaborative efforts designed to improve the identification of victims and enhance the likelihood of reporting must be undertaken. Dispatch should identify the locations of group homes so that officers can recognize a victim who is a resident based on the victim’s home address, and victim services providers need to develop an ongoing relationship with these group homes and other residential facilities for people with mental retardation so that cross-training can be developed and relationships can be built.

What should a police officer do when he or she suspects that the crime victim has mental retardation or another developmental disability? First, the officer should be careful to use language that is easy to understand, and should not ask compound questions. Compound questions, such as “Who were you with and what happened?” may tend to confuse an individual with mild or moderate mental retardation. Break questions down into simple terms, and change the language of the question until you are understood. Do not ask questions which suggest the answer. Leading questions, which are easily answered in the affirmative, may result in misinformation, as many people with mild or moderate mental retardation are anxious to please the questioner, and may say “yes” to a question even when the question is not understood or the truthful answer is “no.” For this reason, it is also important to note that leading questions should not be asked of suspects with mental retardation, as a false confession may result. Quite often, people with mental retardation will try to disguise or hide their disability in an effort to fit in with mainstream society. Knowledge by police of the addresses of group homes and other residential facilities is helpful in identifying victims with disabilities. Also, advocates sometimes provide identification cards to their clients, so it is helpful to ask for such information.

A number of helpful materials have been developed in recent years, and many more are in the process of being developed. For example, Arc U.S. has excellent materials available for law enforcement, including a curriculum to teach officers about mental retardation and to make them aware of unique needs and characteristics of people with mental retardation. The curriculum, entitled Understanding Mental Retardation: Training for Law Enforcement, is available from Arc’s publications department (800/433-5255). The National Sheriff’s Association is in the process of developing a handbook for law enforcement to assist them in responding to crime victims with mental retardation, as well as crime victims with other disabilities. The handbook, entitled, First Response to Crime Victims, will be available free of charge from the Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center (800/627-6872).


Prosecutors have a crucial role to play in addressing this problem. Prosecutors can increase the number of cases reported and investigated simply by filing more of these cases. In light of the high rate of victimization, and the statistical likelihood that these victims will be re-victimized, prosecutors must work with the community, train law enforcement, develop close relationships with disability groups in the community, and file these cases. It is also imperative that prosecutors seek substantial sentences upon conviction.

But what about prosecutors’ concerns that these cases will take up too many resources, or can’t be won? Admittedly, some of these cases will take more resources than others, as it will be necessary to adequately investigate the victim’s ability to consent, ability to testify, or assess other cognitive abilities. The investment is well worth it. Identifying a serial rapist who drives a bus or who works in a group home is worth it. Giving a sexual assault victim the knowledge that the criminal justice system values her is worth it. And the chances for success should not be underestimated. Experience has shown that victims with autism and mental retardation often have very good memories. Recent research has shown that after viewing videotapes of live staged events, persons with developmental disabilities were as competent as people without disabilities when it came to remembering details of the crime. In fact, their testimony is sometimes more reliable because it is less subject to distortion (Henry and Gudjonsson, 1999). Increasingly, materials are being developed to assist prosecutors in presenting these cases (e.g., Admissible In Court: Interviewing Witnesses Who Live With Disabilities. Document number 778 at

Victim Advocacy Organizations

Developing a relationship with disability rights organizations, police, and prosecutors is widely recognized as essential for successful advocacy. Too often, however, victim advocacy organizations fail to integrate people with expertise in the needs of crime victims with disabilities. It is very helpful in meeting the needs of crime victims with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities to foster good relationships with local and national resources, such as Arc chapters, Protection and Advocacy organizations, disability rights attorneys, University Affiliated Programs, and Independent Living Centers. CAVNET (Communities Against Violence Network) has developed a mailing list to assist with this effort. The Criminal Justice Network for People With Disabilities, an invitation-only/application-only mailing list, brings together experts and advocates in disability rights and experts and advocates in criminal justice issues to address the needs of people with disabilities in the criminal justice system. An application to join is located on the Web site.


Even if police arrest, prosecutors file, witnesses testify, and a conviction results, if judges do not sentence appropriately, women with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities will continue to be victimized and remain afraid to report the crimes against them. Judges need to be willing to send a strong message through the setting of bond conditions pretrial, and through sentencing post-trial and at probation revocation hearings, that they take crimes against women with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities seriously. They must get training in these cases so that they can help bring about the changes the criminal justice system so desperately needs.


The problem of the victimization of women with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities is one society is beginning to recognize and address. Each player in the criminal justice system is part of a seamless web, and each must endeavor to address this problem professionally. Together, the criminal justice system is capable of delivering what it promises – justice to victims of crime, including its most vulnerable victims.


Crosse, S.B., Kaye, E., & Ratnofsky, A.C. (1993). Report on the maltreatment of children with disabilities. Washington, D.C.: Westat Inc. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Henry, L.A. & Gudjonsson, G.H. (1999). Eyewitness memory and suggestibility in children with mental retardation. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 104(6), 491-508.

Sobsey, D. & Doe, T. (1991). Patterns of sexual abuse and assault. Sexuality and Disability, 9(3), 243-259.

Marc Dubin is a Senior Trial Attorney with the Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. and former Special Counsel, Violence Against Women Office, U.S. Department of Justice. He is also the founder and Executive Director of CAVNET (Communities Against Violence Network).

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position or views of the U.S. Department of Justice. CAVNET is not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Justice. Many of the materials cited in this article as well as others are available on the CAVNET Web site, at Marc Dubin may be reached at 202/307-6075 or by e-mail at

Citation: Abramson, W., Emanuel, E., Gaylord, V., & Hayden, M. (2000). Impact: Feature Issue on Violence Against Women with Developmental or Other Disabilities, 13(3) [online]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration. Available at

Hard copies of Impact are available from the Publications Office of the Institute on Community Integration. The first copy of this issue is free; additional copies are $4 each. You can request copies by phone at 612-624-4512 or E-mail at, or you can fax or mail us an order form. See our listing of other issues of Impact for more information.

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A Ride-Along with the Washington, D.C. Police Department

By Marc Dubin, Executive Director, CAVNET 

September 1, 2004

I wrote this shortly after going on a ride-along with the Washington, D.C. Police Department. It describes my experiences, and includes a domestic violence call.
I went on this ride-along with the Washington, D.C. police in 1999, from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., in Northeast D.C., an area of the city with a high volume of calls. Here are some highlights: 

The evening started out quietly enough. I met with a Sgt. at the precinct, and I was allowed to accompany him for two hours. He went to a variety of scenes, as backup to other officers. As we were cruising along, we passed a shopping center. As we did so, we observed two private security guards from a department store wrestling with a man on the ground. We pulled over, and the Sgt. got out of the car and went over to assist the private security guards. I stayed in the car. I felt that it would be too distracting to the officer for me to get out, and I did not want him to worry about my safety as well as his own. The guards wrestled with the man, and the Sgt. assisted them in handcuffing him.

At that point, I got out of the car. I heard the security guards accusing the man of shoplifting, and of knocking a customer down as he fled. The man on the ground kept complaining that he was hurt, and kept denying that he had done anything wrong. Several bystanders gathered, and accused the security guards of kicking the man in the head. I did not see them do so. The Sgt. told me later that the witnesses would have to file a complaint at the precinct in order for an investigation to be initiated. He took no steps to investigate their allegations, and did not speak to them. He called for backup, turned the suspect over to the security guards, and we left.

Shortly thereafter, we responded to an "Officer Needs Assistance" call. Lights and sirens on, we sped through the city at 65 miles an hour. By the time we arrived, things appeared to be under control, although a large crowd had gathered. Four suspects were in custody. I was told that a police officer had been called to the scene by someone in the crowd, and that the caller had complained that four teenagers were drunk and making a lot of noise. When the officer arrived, the four had drawn a crowd, and the officer had asked them to put their alcohol away and move on. One of the four, a young woman, had refused to do so, and as he reached hor her to take the drink away from her, her boyfriend became threatening. The officer then called for assistance. Approximately 8 units arrived. The four were arrested for refusing to obey the police, and for having open containers of alcohol. I was left wondering if there had been a way to defuse the situation without the arrests. We moved on.

After driving around a bit more, we returned to the station, and I accompanied another officer for the remainder of the evening and morning. As it turned out, it was the same officer I had accompanied on a previous ride-along. This time, he was working alone, without a partner.

I sat in the front seat. Our first call was to a business that was trying to close up for the evening, but was unable to do so because a woman was sleeping in an alcove. The owner wanted a police officer to ask her to leave. The owner met us at the scene. The officer went into the building, and spoke to the woman. I followed him in.

He was very respectful to her, and addressed her politely. She accused the owner of being a crack dealer, and asserted that she wanted him arrested. The officer asked her if she was homeless. She denied being homeless, and peacefully left the building. The owner thanked the officer, and we left.

We drove around, stopping at a 7-11 for coffee, and then resumed patrol. Things were very quiet, and it began to look like a slow night. Suddenly, the dispatcher informed us that a robbery suspect was being chased in our area. The officer joined the chase, and we were off. For a moment, I held the officer's cup of coffee, and then, at his request, tossed it out the window. As we were going 75 miles an hour through narrow streets and alleys, it seemed the prudent thing to do. As we met the other units, I observed several officers in foot pursuit of a man wearing blue shorts and a light blue shirt. The man's description was broadcast, and more units joined the chase. The officer we were riding with chose not to get out of the cruiser, but instead drove to an area where he felt he would be able to intercept the suspect. We careened around corners, and we momentarily lost sight of him. I was bouncing all over the front seat. I spotted him running to our right, and alerted the officer. He continued the chase, and then reached a point where we could no longer pursue by car. He slammed on the brakes, and got out. I wasn't sure what to do -- I thought it would be safer to stay in the car, rather than join him in the foot pursuit. Then I remembered what he had told me on a previous ride-along about snipers shooting at stationary police cars. Great choices. As I was trying to decide, the officer yelled at me to join him, and as he disappeared, gun in one hand, flashlight in the other, I got out of the car and ran after him, into the darkness.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw the suspect run into a building, and saw the officer follow him into the building. I declined to follow them in, and waited for other officers to arrive. Within moments, they did, from all directions. A helicopter suddenly hovered overhead, with a very powerful search light illuminating the scene. An officer with a German Shepherd arriived as well. The officers had not seen the suspect enter the building, nor had they seen the officer we were riding with enter after him. I pointed out the building they had gone into, and told them what I had seen. They rushed into the building, and I stepped back to see what would happen. I observed a man inside the building, and saw him go out onto a second-floor balcony. He appeared ready to jump, but an officer was pointing a gun at him before he could do so. Officers tackled him, and took him into custody. He was unarmed. The officer rejoined us, and we left. I later asked him why he had told us to join him in the foot chase, and he told me that it was his opinion that it was more dangerous to sit in the car. Officers really don't get paid what they deserve.

After a while, we received a radio run informing us that a woman was involved in a domestic dispute, and was holding a man at bay with a knife. When we arrived at the scene, she was in the front yard, and she informed us that the man had left. She said it was her common-law husband, and that he had threatened her with the knife -- she denied that she had held him at bay. The officer broadcast a description of the man and of the vehicle he had left in. We went inside to interview her.
She informed us that she had been arguing with the man about his failure to help around the house and failure to pay child support, and that during the argument, he had taken a large knife from the kitchen, and had put it in his pants. She became frightened, and had called 911. She told the officer that the man had not brandished the knife, and had left it on the counter before leaving the house. Upon further questioning, she acknowledged that he had beaten her in the past, and that she was afraid of him. She had gotten restraining orders in the past, but had allowed them to expire, and had allowed him to return. The officer explained to her about her right to a restraining order, and asked her to go to court Monday morning. She said that she feared he would return later that morning, and he advised her to pack his things and leave them on the front porch. He gave her the Hotline number, and she said she would call. I do not know if she ever did so. The man was not apprehended.
By 3 in the morning, I was ready to leave.

The ride-along had certainly broadened my respect for law enforcement. I recommend that others consider contacting your local precinct and inquiring about the possibility of going on one.