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Abstract

A symposium in which the conference speakers give a clear and disturbing picture of how we ascribe a kind of omnipotence to mothers vis-a-vis their children. If children are hurt, it is assumed that those at fault must be the mothers, and they are likely to be blamed even when it is the father who strikes the blows, lands the punchers or terrifies the child. Somehow, we imagine they should have been able to snatch the children out of harms way. The answer to this problem ultimately lies in making sure the ways victims of domestic violence think about their lives and the events that bring them into court are given voice, so that they have a chance to supplant stereotypes. The conference speakers reiterated how rarely women imagine their search for safety in opposition to that of their children. More often, these women place the welfare of their children above their own and make their moves in the fraught atmosphere of family violence in a way calculated to minimize the chance of harm to their children. They usually understand instinctively how dangerous leaving an abuser can be. They may be rightly convinced that no matter how imperfect their efforts to find safety, no one, not a case worker, foster parten or judge, will ever care nearly as much about the well-being of their children as they themselves. Until courts find ways to make sure victims' perceptions of abuse are heard, credited and incorporate into legal processes, the legal system will continue to falter in its efforts to do the right thing for domestic violence victims who care for children.

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Family Law Commons

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