Concerning the opinion by Mary Kilgus (1/22/19) that domestic violence (DV) victims are bullied in court, she is absolutely correct.
Empirical research has determined that when a DV victim leaves their abuser it is the most dangerous time for the victim and the children. For this reason the victim might choose to stay and endure. When a domestic abuse survivor reaches out to the court and reports abuse of the children, it is often considered a tactic to gain custody.
One such Pennsylvania case (of thousands) there has been over 100 childline reports by mandated reporters, including medical and psychological professionals, stating that the children in question have been sexually abused. The alleged abuser is using the discredited theory of parental alienation to take the focus off of the abuse. The term is Abuse by Proxy in which the court becomes a tool for the abuser. Empirical research has proven that 70% of abusers win contact or custody, and the protective parent is penalized with less or no custody time. Unfortunately, in cases of sexual abuse of children the abuser winning custody is as high as 81%.
Not only are abusers winning custody, children are dying as in the cases of Kayden Mancuso from Bucks county PA (2017), Kelly William from York county PA (2017), and Michael Ayers from Huntingdon county PA (2013). In each of these cases the judges were aware of documented violence, and each of these cases were covered briefly by the media.
This crisis goes very deep. The sad part is we had legislation for Pennsylvania family court reform bills introduced four times between 2015 and now that could have saved at least two of these children, but those bills sat there and fizzled. To answer the question about children being required to testify during preliminary hearings, the answer is yes and this adds to their trauma.
Let’s all make 2019 a safer place for Pennsylvania children.
Margaret Hoffman Victim & Child Advocate, Williamsport, Pa.