By Sybil Cummin, MA, LPC, ACS
Note: While the statistics show that males perpetrate violence towards females at a much higher rate, women can also perpetrate domestic violence.
While our family court systems say their decisions are based on the best interests of the children, the evidence proves otherwise. Research suggests that in an estimated 30 to 60 percent of the families where domestic violence is identified, some form of co-occurring child maltreatment is also present (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Injury Research and Prevention). One North American study found that children who were exposed to domestic violence were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually abused than the national average (Volpe, 1996). And yet, domestic violence is not a major factor in determining who has access to unsupervised time with the children. I have several clients who have shared that attorneys have told them NOT to say anything about their experiences of domestic violence during family court proceedings as there are typically WORSE outcomes regarding parenting time and decision making for those who report the violence they have experienced. And as I talk with other professionals working with victims of domestic violence, this is not a small issue that is isolated to my community. Talking about domestic violence is considered the “kiss of death” by many family court attorneys.