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First battered at home and then by the State (Great Britain/US)

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Camilla Cavendish

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Camilla Cavendish is a columnist and leader writer for The Times. She graduated from Oxford University in 1989 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She has worked as a McKinsey management consultant, an aid worker, and CEO of a not-for-profit company. She is also a former Kennedy Scholar, having spent two years at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she obtained a Masters in Public Administration.

She was awarded the 2008 Paul Foot award for campaigning journalism. In 2009 she was also awarded “Campaigning Journalist of the Year” at the British Press Awards. Awarding her the prize for Campaigning Journalist of the Year, the judges said: “A good newspaper campaign should be about an issue of serious injustice and strong public interest. A great one will be unexpected, one in which the outcome is not a done deal and which will in the end affect serious change. This campaign does that.” Cavendish won the awards for her writings in The Times about the child protection injustices which she claimed resulted from the Children Act 1989 and the practices of family courts dealing with child protection issues.


First Battered at Home, then by the State (Camilla Cavendish)Camilla Cavendish


October 31, 2008

First battered at home and then by the State

Women who manage to escape domestic violence then find themselves under suspicion and facing a wall of silence

{TELL me about it . . . . . .}Excerpts:

Ann – not her real name – was in an abusive marriage. The council advised her to move into temporary accommodation the next time her husband became aggressive. She did.

At this point Ann was a textbook victim. Her little boy had had an operation. She cared for him and took him to medical appointments. When she started living with another man, Bob, and got pregnant by him, her ex-husband sued for custody. He claimed that Ann suffered from a condition that used to be called Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy and is now known as fabricated or induced illness (FII). This would have led her to pretend the child was ill.

Despite a surgeon explaining that he had made most of the medical referrals, social workers seem to have become convinced that Ann was a liar. When a teacher reported that the boy was scared of his dad, the idea was said to have been put into his head by Ann, because he used “adult words”. The father won custody. Ann’s little boy now sees her for only three hours a week

{Pause to note that the “whomever” had forgotten the council’s first advice for her to move out}

{which goes to show the inundation with specialized jargon can cause amnesia??}

This sounds like CLASSSIC court case in the U.S.  

I met a woman locally, who was talking intensely into a cell phone.  Something about her intense but not yet frantic manner reminded me of the DV thing.  I overheard a comment or two, and finally asked.  Sho ’nuff, she had separated, and had a protective order on in one state.  She was (as a RN) having her children see a specialist for a fairly serious condition adn was herself an RN.  No matter, she was accused of Munchhausen’s, induced to return to the home state (from treatment) and lost custody of her kids to the abuser –while the RO was on.  Get it together, folks!).  

{Same article….} In the past three months I have spoken to a surprising number of women who have escaped domestic violence only to find themselves accused. First, they are blamed for having exposed the children to violence. Then, when they get up the courage to leave, they are suspected of being too weak to cope alone. One woman told me that she was labelled as a “weak parent” because she rang the police whenever her ex, against whom she had a restraining order, prowled round her home at night. Many claim that their ex-partners started to accuse them of being mentally ill as soon as they departed or after they turned down a derisory divorce settlement.Thus the psychological abuse continues.



This is not new in the U.S.  See Wellesley Center for Women:

Battered Mothers Fight to Survive the Court System

This is 6 years old, and states that the presumptive custody law wasn’t enforced back then, either.


Battered Mothers Fight to Survive the Family Court System

Research & Action Report Fall/Winter 2003

Human rights abuse charges are commonly used to attempt to tarnish political leaders and institutions in other countries. However, when the human rights lens focuses on U.S. institutions, such as the Massachusetts family court system, alarming cracks appear in the American assumption of justice at home. The Centers’ Battered Mothers’ Testimony Project (BMTP) has found that battered women often face yet another form of abuse in court.

Battered Mothers Speak Out, a report published by BMTP in November 2002, documents the human rights violations battered women suffer when they fight against their abusers for custody of their children in the Massachusetts family courts. Since 1999, project codirectors Carrie Cuthbert and Kim Slote have been gathering evidence about court processes and outcomes from abuse survivors, their advocates and counselors, and from state judicial and government officials.


Mixed Message from the State

“Battered women get a mixed message from the state,” Cuthbert said. “On one hand, they are told to leave their batterers to protect their children. But when they leave, they have to go to family court to resolve issues. The court tells them to maintain relations with this person and to foster a relationship between the children and their abuser. This way, batterers can continue the abuse following separation.”

In court, women are often at a disadvantage. A law that could provide critical protection—the Massachusetts Presumption of Custody Law that affirms that children’s best interests are not served when they are placed in the custody of a batterer or child abuser—is not regularly enforced. Women usually receive custody in uncontested cases, but the 1989 gender bias study commissioned by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that fathers win three times more often than mothers in contested custody battles.

Ensuring better treatment and outcomes for battered women facing custody battles is urgent, says the BMTP team. Courageous women who left brutal partners expect justice in the family court system, and they are dismayed when custody goes to the person who abused them or their children. “Women lose trust in the court system,” said Cuthbert. “That means battered mothers may stay with the batterer because they at least have some measure of control when they are present in the home.”


Although the research project ends in December 2003, the work of transforming project findings into concrete policy and practice is just beginning. A new grassroots organization of survivors and advocates—the Massachusetts Protective Parents Association—began meeting last summer. (2002) The project has been replicated in Arizona and several other states have expressed interest in the Massachusetts effort, all indications that the project’s impact is growing.


Human Rights Perspective

The project’s focus on international human rights standards helped draw support from survivors and transform them into leaders, BMTP leaders say. “Human rights looks at how governments treat citizens,” said Cuthbert. 


It is one thing to go up against a single creep, whose habits you know.  It’s quite another to take on a system that supports him and denies your version of events!

This needs to be addressed!






Written by Let's Get Honest|She Looks It Up

April 26, 2009 at 3:39 pm

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