We have all seen the recent headlines about mistreatment of women. Many readers are probably shocked, but for women who have gone through it, this is business as usual. As a retired lawyer who lived through physical and verbal domestic violence, I am appalled by the way the system treats women who are abused. It becomes a "he said, she said" situation, since there are usually no witnesses. Michelle Obama was correct when she said, "people often won't take our word over his."
While cursing is prohibited on television and senators are admonished for doing it, this is not treated as abuse by the courts. My ex-husband routinely sent me emails with abusive and vulgar language, including the "c-word," but my efforts to get this stopped were fruitless. My recent court order says, "It is true that some of the Plaintiff's email messages to Defendant in 2014 and 2015 contain objectively offensive language. While the court in no way condones the use of such language, Plaintiff cannot be held in contempt of court because he did not violate any court order of the court when he sent those messages."
A clever husband may file for divorce, which is a game changer. We see this with celebrity domestic violence cases all the time. The abuser can then claim that the allegations of domestic violence are an attempt by the wife to possess the house or gain custody of the children.
In New York courts, even when criminal or Family Court orders of protection are issued, the matrimonial judge is a higher level judge and can modify or overturn the lower court's order, which is what the judge in my family's case did. The lower order becomes a joke.
The husband can also claim that his wife falsely pressed charges and seek legal fees in retribution. He can argue that the district attorney's failure to prosecute means that the wife lied, when it merely meant that there wasn't sufficient evidence.
The abuser is often the moneyed spouse and will thus pay his wife's attorney and any "experts." These so-called experts are no longer neutral, since they serve the client who is paying their bill.
Judges may even prevent evidence from entering the record. My request to subpoena medical records documenting prior abuse was denied because it was deemed to have taken place too long ago. But as the recent news documents, leopards tend not to change their spots...
Women who object can be held in contempt and threatened with jail time. I have routinely been told that I will be sent to Rikers Island for 10-20 days, but my ex-husband is solely sanctioned with monetary fines that are not enforced.
If women who have been abused go to the media, they can be accused of ruining the abuser's career although it was actually ruined by his own behavior, as the recent New York Times letter indicated about Donald Trump.
It is time to change the system to protect the victim rather than the abuser. #breakingthesilence