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Re: Victim Blaming

By now, we are all familiar with the various versions of tips to prevent rape, which change the focus from actions of victims to actions of rapists.  If you have not seen one, they are available here, here and many other places.  These shed light on a common cultural bias known as victim-blaming.

In representing victims of domestic violence, I am constantly appalled by the victim-blaming from some other lawyers, some mediators, and even some judges.  We see this in horrible and obvious ways with people questioning the credibility of victims of abuse, even asking the proverbial “so why didn’t you leave?”  In a case I once litigated, when I objected to victim-blaming questions of my client, the Judge responded to the effect of “she came to court, what did she expect would happen?”

We also see victim blaming in more subtle ways, such as characterizing ongoing abuse and bullying as “two parties who do not get along” or “a high conflict case.”  There is huge value in seeing shades of gray in the actions and situations of our clients and opposing parties, but when it comes to domestic abuse, anything short of naming and addressing ongoing abuse head on enables the abuse.

I was recently asked, in one such case, to think of creative solutions to help “the parties” have less “conflict” during exchanges of the child.  To protect confidentiality, I refer to the “conflict” as Name Calling.  Here are my ten “creative solutions” for reducing Name Calling at exchanges:

  1. Do not Name Call
  2. If your child’s other parent brings a witness to an exchange do not Name Call in front of the witness. If your child’s other parent does not bring a witness, do not Name Call then either.
  3. Use the buddy system! If you are prone to Name Calling, bring a buddy who can stop you from Name Calling.
  4. Always consult and follow all court orders, including orders not to Name Call.
  5. Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Although alcohol and other drugs do not cause Name Calling, if you are inclined to blame your Name Calling on alcohol or other drugs, avoid them so you can take full responsibility for your own actions.  (If you struggle not to drink or use around you child, seek professional help.)
  6. If your child’s other parent is late, does not greet you as you deem appropriate, or does not have the child dressed the way you would prefer, do not Name Call.
  7. Talk to a therapist about ways to help you not Name Call.
  8. If you start Name Calling, get out your phone and record yourself, so you have a record in case you start thinking you do not Name Call. Show the recording to aforementioned therapist.
  9. If your child’s other parent accuses you of Name Calling, do not Name Call.
  10. If you cannot stop yourself from Name Calling, send a third party to do the exchanges instead of you. Instruct the third party not to Name Call.
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