Increasing Institutional Awareness of Manipulation

We are excited to see recent efforts to increase awareness around how abusers manipulate court systems to either further traumatize their victims or evade responsibility for their actions. These are necessary efforts for holding institutions accountable to better meet the needs of victims and, by educating themselves on abuser strategies and dynamics, minimizing their own participation in the failure to provide justice to victims.


A recent UK report commissioned by the police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, Dame Vera Baird QC, explored how accused abusers "continued to exert coercive control over their victims through the mechanism of the courts system." The Guardian explores the outcomes of this research, highlighting the consequences of inadequate education around coercive control within special courts (specifically for domestic violence cases) and the general court system. Recommendations of the report include "further training for court staff, ensuring that domestic abuse trials are always heard by specialist courts, providing more support to enable victims to go to court and not assuming non-attendance by complainants is grounds for dropping a case."


We've talked before about the En(gender)ed Podcast and series creator, Teri Yuan, has recently completed a series of podcasts that explore varying aspects of the family court system in the United States. The series is particularly helpful in better understanding how coercive and controlling partners and parents manipulate family courts. Multiple experts with a variety of backgrounds and experience within the system are interviewed, allowing for a complex and multi-faceted exploration of the current crisis in the family court system.

  • Episode Seven explores "custody evaluations, laws regarding custody in cases where there has been domestic violence, and the use of parental alienation theories against parents who are attempting to protect their children or themselves from abuse" with Nancy S. Erickson, (J.D. Brooklyn Law School, LL.M. Yale Law School, M.A. Forensic Psychology John Jay College of Criminal Justice).
  • Episode Nine features Joan Meier, Professor of Clinical Law at George Washington University Law School, and the Founder and Legal Director of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP). Professor Meier discusses her research findings from a 4-year empirical study of family court outcomes in cases involving “parental alienation” and child abuse, the intersection of domestic violence and child abuse, and new policy reforms such as H. Con. Res. 72, a child safety resolution which she co-authored.
  • Episode Ten features Barry Goldstein, Research Director for the Stop Abuse Campaign and Co-Chair of the Child Custody Task Force for the National Organization for Men Against Sexism. The episode explores his work in the courts, gender bias, the Stop Abuse Campaign, and the Safe Child Act, a comprehensive legislative solution to the child custody crisis.
  • Episode 11 features Kathleen Russell, Executive Director of the Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE), a non-profit based out of California whose mission is to protect vulnerable children in the family court system and to strengthen the integrity of all courts by creating judicial accountability. The episode explores her work with CJE and retaliation by the courts against what she calls the “protective parent”–a parent, usually a mother, who makes allegations of abuse, child abuse, and/or child sexual abuse against the other parent and is not believed. In such situations, the courts may respond by giving custody to the abuser and limiting the time or access the protective parent has with the abused child.
  • Episode 16 reflects on the previous episodes of the series. 

 Written by Abigail Hazlett & Chelsea Brass