This is a comment by Barry Goldstein on the post “Are States Giving Custody to Rapist Fathers?“
TW for rape.
“The common problem of sensitive discussions like this is the failure to place the arguments in context. Thus already a substantial part of the discussion has been diverted to the extremely rare situations where women make false allegations or commit the rape. The main topic is how should custody courts respond in cases in which the father raped the mother. The fact that so many states would consider the rapist as just as qualified for custody and visitation as the mother demonstrates that the custody system strongly favors fathers.
“I believe it would be better for custody courts to focus on the well being of children rather than the “rights” of parents. Significantly the research shows that fathers who rape mothers (even when the rape did not cause the pregnancy) pose a signficantly greater risk to the mother and child. This would be true regardless of conviction which as has been discussed is very difficult to obtain. It seems to me that if the mother can prove the father raped her, she should have the right to keep the father out of their lives. Abusers often use the courts to gain access to their victims (this is more often applied in domestic violence cases) which does enormous harm to the mother and children. We can only imagine the enormous harm to the rape survivor of havng to interact with her rapist and this cannot possibly be beneficial to the child who depends on the mother. The policy is easy to see if we focus on what is best for children.
“The problem is that custody courts have heard a lot of misinformation and do not use critical thinking. Many judges repeat the false assumption that children need both parents equally. In the most common example children need their primary attachment figure more than the other parent. Separating a child from their primary attachment figure increases the child’s risk of depression, low self-esteem and suicide when older. Children also need their safe parent more than their abusive parent. Witnessing domestic violence undermines children’s ability to reach developmental goals and makes them more likely to engage in harmful behaviors when older. Ideological attempts to give parents equal rights and time with children thus cause tremendous harm. Again it is based on failing to do what works best for children.
“The problem is compounded by the routine use of outdated and discredited practices by court professionals. The recent US Department of Justice study led by Dr. Daniel Saunders found there is a specialized body of domestic violence research available but evaluators, lawyers and judges do not have the training they need. They need not just generalized training, but specific training in topics like risk assessment, screening for domestic violence and post-separation violence. Signifcantly those evaluators and other professionals with inadequate training tend to focus on harmful approaches such as the myth that women frequently make false allegations, beliefs in unscientific alienation theories and assumptions that mothers seeking to protect children from abusive fathers are harming the children. The use of these bad practices results in outcomes that harm children.
“This discussion will be helpful if it helps illuminate the present system is placing children in jeopardy by routinely promoting interaction of children with dangerous fathers. Every year 58,000 children are sent for custody or unprotected visitation with dangerous abusers and about 90 children are murdered by abusive fathers involved in contested custody often with the unwitting assistance of custody courts. This is the next scandal to be exposed. It is time we focus on what works best for the children instead of the rights of rapists.”
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