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.