Abuse can take many forms: violence, coercive control, gaslighting, isolation from family and friends, sexual, financial and psychological abuse. It is not always obvious to an outsider what has been going on behind closed doors. Many abusers are extremely intelligent and calculating and have the ability to charm, manipulate and brainwash their victims.
When a woman takes the first steps in leaving a violent partner, it can be an extremely frightening and daunting process. If there are children involved the situation can become an ongoing nightmare. The woman may have managed to get herself and her children away to a place of safety but the very person she escaped from can then use the Family Court System to continue the abuse and control. Using the very same charm and manipulation that he used to ensnare his victim, the abuser may convince the professionals that he is a good father. As a result he will be granted direct access to the children leaving both mother and children in an extremely vulnerable position.
Many women and children have and will continue to experience ongoing abuse enabled by a court system which should be protecting them. Shockingly, women and children have lost their lives as a direct result of decisions made by the Family Courts. There is a disturbingly common theme running through the court system to minimise domestic violence and the risk of further abuse and to label a protective mother as implacably hostile or to accuse her of parental alienation when she is desperately trying to prevent further harm to her children and herself.
There are countless domestic abuse agencies, refuges and other organisations working incredibly hard to help women and children to escape from violent/abusive situations and to remain safe. Unfortunately, through the presumption of contact in all cases the Family Courts have enabled further harm to victims of domestic violence and put them at incredible risk not to mention re-traumatising them through the court process itself. It remains a very secretive world. Disturbingly, the issues of domestic violence almost never have a bearing on whether a father is granted contact.