Sunday, May 11, 2008

Domestic Violence Test

“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution, they can’t see the problem.”

- Gilbert Chesterton

I was recently subpoenaed to testify as an expert witness in a family case that involved domestic violence. I talked with the mom and reviewed collateral resources, including a police report and other information. I don’t want to write too much about the particulars of the case in order to protect the privacy of the parties, but I concluded that several high-risk lethality indicators had been identified.

A PhD psychologist had evaluated dad. Like many mental health professionals who do not understand domestic violence, she relied on standardized tests, including anger scales.

Dad’s attorney made a motion to exclude my testimony partly because I am a social worker and therefore not qualified to be an expert in this case. Fortunately, the judge didn’t agree with him and I was allowed to testify.

A couple of points – and the points of anyone who understands domestic violence, I suspect – were this:

1) Domestic violence isn’t about anger, but about control. So, anger scales aren’t appropriate. Domestic batterers are experts at control. They control their families and their environments. Violence is but a part of the control. In fact, a formerly battered woman recently put it well when she told me, “The violence was almost incidental to the rest of it.” “The rest of it” was the humiliation, shame, and culture of terrorism she and her children lived with in on a daily basis.

2) Standard psychological tests don’t measure whether someone is or is not a domestic batterer. We have to look at behaviors. I gave the court some resources that documented this. Here is a link:

The judge considered everything and granted a protective order for mom and is now only allowing dad to see the kids in a supervised setting. He is requiring the whole family to go to various types of treatment (not together).

While this was a victory, it is only the beginning. Now is a dangerous time for this family. Dad is the type who doesn’t like to lose and even with the protections in place, they are still in danger. Mom is ready to fight and she gets discouraged, but she’s on the right track. It is such an honor to watch her take control of her life and her children’s lives.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your points about "measuring" DV potential. We recently wrote an article on this issue at Brain Blogger trying to isolate root causes of domestic violence.

Consider how poor education, cognitive difficulties (that can be caused by the higher levels of contaminants and drug exposure in poorer communities) and violent enculturation (that occurs in communities that are without good economies and educational resources for extended periods of time, and that have substantial numbers of people who have been in prison) contribute to domestic violence and other violent and criminal behavior.

I would like to read your comments on our article at our site. Thank you.


CJ Social Worker said...

Thanks for visting - I did go to your website - like your article and agree there are so many complicating factors.

Poverty is huge, of course.

Shame is a big, too.

I've worked with many (thousands) of middle class families who are trapped by domestic violence, complicated by shame and often substance abuse.

Stop by and visit anytime.

- CJ Social Worker

antiSWer said...

I've been looking over your blog periodically, and I really like it. The CJ angle is very unique and I hope you keep it up...I'd love to learn more.

CJ Social Worker said...

Thanks, AntiSWer!

You inspired me to get back to writing on here...I got so busy with the end of school, start of summer, life :-).

Have a good week.

antiSWer said...

Good stuff. I was shocked to see an update. :)