CT Mirror has published several excellent domestic abuse articles, including a touching essay by Nanee Sajeev. A recent piece by Meghan Scanlon raises eyebrows though, and we wish to address some domestic abuse misconceptions.
As a result of Cluster B personality disorders, many abusers cannot change, and it is naïve and potentially dangerous to believe they can. While abuse victims naturally hope for change, it is improbable those with narcissism or borderline personality disorder can do so. Abuse in these situations ends by leaving the relationship and setting strict red lines.
Family courts expecting “co-parenting” is an invitation for abusers to continue to exercise his/her coercive control. When sharing custody with an abusive ex, “parallel parenting” is the appropriate option, where each parent has independent custodial decision-making during their parenting time. This avoids frequent interactions and hostilities over day-to-day issues.
Scanlon is correct that abusers frequently utilize family courts to continue the abuse after separation. This is precisely why a statutory presumption of shared parenting, with carve outs for abuse and neglect, is important for both children and abuse victims.
When divorcing, many domestic abuse victims move from the frying pan into the fire, also having to deal with an aggressive attorney that supports the abuser with character assassinations, gaslighting, perjury, and frivolous court motions. Family attorneys are aggressive because it works for their clients, and abusers eagerly hire such attorneys. Accordingly, both male and female abusers often gain primary custody of the children.
Domestic abuse exists in varied forms cutting across age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. It is important to listen to and support all domestic abuse victims. We hope Scanlon and all elected officials will join our efforts to reform Connecticut family courts.
Maureen Martowska is a retired attorney and mediator; Genevieve DeLuca is a paralegal; and Martin Kulldorff is an epidemiologist and professor of medicine at Harvard (on leave). They are members of the Connecticut Shared Parenting Council (MM, MK) and the Connecticut Chapter of the National Parents Organization (GD, MK).