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March 13, 2010

More On Maryland Legislator's Sad Cave-In To Anti-Domestic Violence Propaganda

More On Maryland Legislature's Sad Cave-in To Anti-Victim Domestic Violence Propaganda

The Maryland Legislature killed a bill this month that would have brought Maryland's restraining order policies into line with every other state in the Union. Remarkably, in Maryland, a victim seeking help is required to prove her case with "clear and convincing" evidence, a higher standard than "preponderance of the evidence", which is the universal standard for civil disputes. There can be only one reason for this absurd requirement: that Maryland legislators believe that women frequently lie when they allege abuse. Under the "clear and convincing" standard, even if it appears to be more likely than not that it's the victim telling the truth in a "he said, she said" situation, the victim still loses.

The legislators who voting against the bill [listed here]; if they did this, that can only mean that they have fallen for propaganda that leads them to believe that women who claim abuse (testify in court) are less credible than men who deny abuse (testify in court). That's not a level playing field, and it's an absolutely unacceptable attitude for a legislator to hold.

Important Information About "False" Allegations Of Domestic Violence

Bona fide false allegations of domestic violence are rare. They account for only about 8% of all allegations of domestic violence. These facts have been overshadowed by propaganda coming from father’s and men’s rights activists in Maryland who say that false allegations of domestic violence are rampant, especially in custody cases, and that women frequently file for protective orders in order to gain an upper hand in divorce. None of this propaganda is true.

Please see these excerpts from papers about domestic violence and protective orders for the facts about both:

Rita Smith (NCADV) & Pamela Coukos (PCADV), “Fairness and Accuracy in Evaluations of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in Custody Determinations”, The Judges Journal, Fall 1997, Pp. 38-56:

“(…)Although both common sense and the prevailing legal standard dictate careful consideration of evidence in domestic or family violence when determining custody, allegations of domestic violence and/or child sexual abuse made during a divorce or custody proceeding are not always taken seriously. These allegations often are wrongly perceived as false because they are asserted in a contentious environment and because of the widespread myth that parents fabricate domestic violence and child abuse allegations in order to gain an advantage in court. When combined with the misuse of psychological syndrome evidence, the perception that a parent has fabricated the allegations often results in unfair retribution against the reporting protective parent. (…)

Using unscientific “syndrome” evidence can have serious consequences, and according to the American Psychological Association, in domestic violence cases, “psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving *inappropriate pathological labels* to women’s responses to chronic victimization.” (APA, Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 40 (1996)) The protective parent’s mental “impairment” can be used to portray her as a less fit parent, and justify granting custody to the batterer. She may have to attend on-going mediation or marriage counseling with her abuser, endangering her further. In a worst case scenario, the diagnosis can result in the protective mother’s loss of the child to foster care and even the ultimate termination of her parental rights. This can result in placement of the child back into the custody of the abuser, endangering the child further.

Unscientific syndrome theories also feed on a serious misperception of the rate of false accusations. In its Report of the Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, the APA confirms that, “false reporting of Family violence occurs infrequently… reports of child sexual abuse do not increase during divorce and actually occur in only about 2 percent to 3 Percent of the cases… even during custody disputes, fewer than 10 percent of cases involve reports of child sexual abuse (APA Report, 12). If Parental Alienation Syndrome were as common as Gardner reports – 90 percent of his caseload – then the reporting of abuse should be much more prevalent. Furthermore, the overall reported rates should be dramatically higher in cases where custody is an issue as compared with the general population of families. But studies examining this comparison do not find significantly higher rates of any abuse allegations raised during divorce or custody proceedings. (Cheri Wood, “The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Dangerous Aura of Reliability”, 27 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1367-8, n. 7 1994) Moreover, these studies find only a very small rate of fabricated allegations in this context. (Nancy Thoenes & Patricia G. Tjaden, “The Extent, Nature and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody/Visitation Disputes”, 14 Child Abuse and Neglect 151, 161-2 (1990) As the APA documents, “when objective investigations are conducted into child sexual abuse reports that surface during divorce or custody disputes, the charges are as likely to be confirmed as are reports made at other times.” (APA Report, note 8 at 12)


MYTH: Restraining Orders Are Easy To Get.

All A Woman Need Do Is Lie Or State That
She Is Afraid,
 And She Can Force An
Innocent Man Out Of His Own Home

The WBA Law Journal

May, 1999, Vol. III No. 1

Why Attorneys Should Routinely

Screen Clients for Domestic Violence
By Pauline Quirion, Esq.


In the recent landmark decision, Custody of Vaughn, the Supreme Judicial Court has observed that “[t]he very frequency of domestic violence . . . may have the effect of inuring courts to it and thus minimizing its significance.” A 1994 study of batterers based on the database used to track restraining orders concluded that:

[t]he high frequency with which RO’s [sic] are issued might lead some
skeptics to assume that these orders are granted too easily for minor
offenses and almost any man is at risk of being a defendant. The data
from the new RO database in Massachusetts reflect otherwise. Men
against whom RO’s have been used are clearly not a random draw
from the population. They are likely to have a criminal history, often
reflective of violent behavior toward others.

Research suggests that false reports of family violence occur infrequently. Although many believe that women especially will lodge false charges of child abuse or battering against their spouses in an effort to manipulate or retaliate, the rate of false reports in these circumstances is no greater than for other crimes.

Most batterers minimize and deny the frequency and severity of their abusive conduct. Similarly, victims often underreport and may minimize the abuse. They may be embarrassed or fear that disclosure will lead to retaliation by the abuser, financial hardship or personal stigma. In addition, some practitioners fail to appreciate that abuse cuts across all class lines and stereotype abuse victims as primarily indigent. These dynamics make it easy for an untrained practitioner to gloss over information pointing to domestic violence and which may be relevant to a client’s case or continued safety.

Posted on March 13, 2010 at 05:49 PM | Permalink


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