Sunday, June 14, 2009

Heroic Moms

Sometimes heroes are treated as villains. That's what is happening now across the continent to mothers who attempt to protect their children from violent and abusive fathers. These protective mothers are attempting to do the right thing; To make their children's safety the top priority; to teach them that intimidation, violation, and degradation are wrong; and to stand up for their own rights as loving, responsible mothers.

And they do so courageously. They are often dealing with men who have pounded them with their fists, or locked them in rooms, or raped them, or threatened to kill them. Yet these women are brave enough to take the risks involved in seeking freedom for themselves and their children.

Even those protective mothers who have not faced severe physical intimidation need courage, because courthouses are scary places, and family law judges have tremendous power that is rarely curtailed by legislatures or appeals courts. The adversarial system used in courts is the worst possible atmosphere for a traumatized woman, but it is the perfect system for an abusive man; the qualities that most succeed here are aggressiveness, skillful dishonest, and strong self-confidence (or even arrogance), along with the ability and willingness to spend huge amounts of money in order to win. It is difficult for abused woman to defeat her ex-partner in a court system that is designed (though not intentionally) to play to his strengths.

What's more, certain lawyers and court-appointed evaluators have developed theories to discredit protective mothers and their children when they report that they are being harmed by an abusive man. It has become the norm for children of battered women to be forced into extensive unsupervised contact with their battering fathers, or even to be sent into his custody.

We all need to recognize, and admire, the bravery, the survival skills, and the deep concern for her children that an abused woman has to have in order to go up against the abuser in court, month after month and year after year. These women deserve our support, admiration, advocacy, and activism to help them keep their children safe, and to change the gender-biased and sometimes corrupt legal system that is abandoning them and their kids.