Protective Mothers' Alliance International

family court abuse/corruption

The Parenting of Men Who Batter / Lundy Bancroft / Court Review

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Lundy Bancroft Court Review – Summer 2002

It’s Saturday morning in the Franklin home.* Breakfast is rushed
because Marty, who is 12 years old, and his sister Rhonda, 9,
have early soccer games. Their mother, Donna, is scurrying
around while her husband, Troy, eats and reads the morning paper.
Marty grumbles to his mother, “Ma, hurry up! I told you last week,
the coach picks the starting players 20 minutes before game time.”
His mother snaps back, “If you had washed your uniform last
night like I asked you to, we wouldn’t be in such a hurry.” Rhonda
pipes in, “I did mine.”
Marty shoots his sister a dirty look and says, “Oh, I guess I just
can’t compete with goody two-shoes here. Hey, maybe my soccer
suit is dirty, but at least I don’t get the Bitch of the Year Award.”
Donna reacts sternly, saying, “Don’t talk that way to your sis-
ter, young man!” Troy now glances up from his paper, annoyed.
“How the hell do you expect Marty to react? If he’s not absolutely
perfect, both of you are all over him.”
“Never mind, Dad,” Marty breaks in flippantly, “I’m used to it.
If one of them isn’t bitching at me, it’s the other.”
Donna’s blood begins to boil as Troy returns to reading. “Your
son just called me a bitch. You’re his father—you have nothing to
say about it?” Troy half rises out of his seat. “Yeah, I do have
something to say. If you would conduct yourself like an adult,
instead of getting all hysterical, things wouldn’t get like this with
the children. Don’t be so damn sensitive. Marty didn’t call you a
bitch, he said you bitch at him, which is true. You do.”
Marty laughs. Rhonda does too, then immediately feels
ashamed toward her mother and turns red in the face. Their
mother yells loudly at Troy, “It’s not me! You’re the problem here,
you’re just encouraging his bad attitude!”
Troy pounces out of his seat yelling back, “That’s enough out of
you, you goddamned bitch!” Troy then hurls his newspaper to the
floor and shoves Donna hard toward the kitchen door so that she
stumbles and falls. “Get the hell out of here, right now,” he screams,
“or you’ll be sorry!” Donna bursts into tears and runs up to the
bedroom. Marty and Rhonda are left trembling, although Marty
forces a smile and mumbles to Rhonda, “What the hell does Mom
The published research on children’s exposure to domestic
violence focuses largely on two aspects of their experience: the
trauma of witnessing physical assaults against their mother,
and the tension produced by living with a high level of conflict
between their parents.
As important as these factors are, they
reflect only one aspect of many complex problems that typi-
cally pervade the children’s daily lives. The bulk of these diffi-
culties have their roots in the fact that the children are living
with a batterer present in their home. The parenting charac-
teristics commonly observed in batterers have implications for
the children’s emotional and physical well-being, their rela-
tionships with their mothers and siblings, and the develop-
ment of their belief systems. All of these issues need to be
examined in making determinations regarding custody and
visitation in cases involving histories of domestic violence.
Batterers have been established to have a profile that distin-
guishes them from non-battering men. Each of these identified
characteristics can have an impact on children’s experience and
development. Some of the critical areas that court personnel
should be aware of include:
Coerciveness is widely recognized as a central quality of battering men 2 It is commonly true that one of the
spheres of the battered woman’s life that is subject to heavy
control by the batterer is her parenting. In some cases, this
control begins even before the children are born, through such
behaviors as the batterer refusing to use birth control, requir-
ing or forbidding the woman to terminate a pregnancy, or caus-
ing her pregnancy through a sexual assault.3
Once children are born, the batterer may overrule the mother’s parenting decisions, and he may enforce his will by verbally abusing the
mother or physically assaulting her when he is angry about the
children’s behavior or when she does not cede to his parenting
directives,4 as the opening scenario illustrates. Researchers
have found that battered women are far more likely than other
women to feel that they must alter their parenting styles when
their partners are present.5 Thus, children are being raised in
a context where their mother cannot safely use her best judge-
ment about how to care for them

: Batterers generally have much higher rates than
other men of believing that they are entitled to use violence
toward female partners when they deem it to be necessary,6 and
to take an overall stance in the relationship of claiming supe-
rior status and expecting catering and deference.7Troy exhibits
his entitlement and sense of superiority by, for example, con-
tributing nothing to the work of a very busy morning and
actively encouraging his son’s negative attitudes toward
Clinical observation indicates that the higher a batterer’s
level of entitlement, the more likely he is to chronically behave
in selfish and self-centered ways. He may, for example, become
irate or violent when he feels that his partner is paying more
attention to the children than to him, which can make it diffi-
cult for the mother to properly meet the children’s physical and
emotional needs. Similarly, he may treat the mother like a ser-
vant in front of the children, so that they learn to disrespect her
and treat her in a similar fashion. In addition, many batterers
cause role reversal in their relationships with their children,
where the children are made to feel responsible to take care of
the battering parent and meet his needs. This can create a bur-
den of parentification for the children, in addition to making
them more vulnerable to sexual abuse.
: A batterer commonly is manipulative of fam-
ily members, using such tactics as dishonesty, false promises,
and the sowing of divisions to increase his power and escape
accountability.8 Batterers tend, for example, to cultivate a pub-
lic image of generosity and kindness. When children observe
the batterer’s popularity in the community, they can become
more likely to blame their mother or themselves for the abuse
in the home, because other people do not seem to believe that
their father has a problem. Manipulation may also involve
lying to the children, or drawing them in as agents of the
abuse, as exhibited by Troy when he get his children to laugh
at inappropriate jokes about their mother. Children who are
traumatized by exposure to violent acts are at greater risk of
being psychologically harmed by such manipulation than chil-
dren who are less emotion-
ally vulnerable.
: Men who batter commonly perceive their partners as owned objects,9 and this outlook extends to their children in many cases. Many clients of mine have,for example, defended their physical or sexual abuse of the children by insisting that it is their paternal prerogative to treat their children as they see fit. Batterers’ possessiveness toward both partners and
children can have important post-separation implications. For
example, batterers have been found to seek custody at higher
rates than non-battering fathers do,10 and to be at their great-
est risk of committing homicide of women or children during
and after the break-up of a relationship. 11 Parents who per-
ceive children as possessions have been observed to have high
rates of child abuse in general,12 and the link between such
attitudes and incest perpetration is widely noted. 13
This is a brief and partial review of the batterer profile. Each
of the characteristics commonly found in batterers, including
denial and minimization about their abusive and violent
actions, battering in multiple relationships, and high level of
resistance to change, can have an important impact on chil-
dren who are exposed to them. 14
The various published studies of physical abuse of children
by batterers indicate that roughly half of batterers repeatedly
assault children in the home, a rate about 700% that of non-
battering men.15
An equally substantial body of research finds
batterers four or more times more likely than other men to sex-
ually abuse their children or stepchildren. Exposure to domes-
Summer 2002 – Court Review 45
A batterer commonly is manipulative of family members,using such tactics as dishonesty, false promises, and the sowing of divisions
to increase his power . . . .16.
Domestic violence is one of the top risk factors for incest victim-
ization.16 The literature on incest perpetrators describes a profile that is compatible with battering, including a high level of control, entitle-
ment, and manipulativeness,and a tendency to view children as owned objects.17 No evidence currently exists to suggest that the risk of child abuse by a batterer declines post-separation, and such risk may increase
. Batterers tend to be enraged and retaliatory for an extended period after a relationship ends, contributing to volatility in their behavior,and they sometimes increase their targeting of the children as
a way to frighten or upset the mother because the separation
causes a loss of access to avenues to abuse the mother
The risk to children may also be augmented by the
fact that the battered mother is no longer able to monitor the
batterer’s treatment of the children during his times of contact
with them. Clinicians sometimes observe that courts are reluc-
tant to believe reports from battered women regarding mis-
treatment of their children during court-ordered visitation,
which can sometimes leave children vulnerable to ongoing
abuse by the batterer.
Apart from the risk of overt child abuse, batterers often tend
toward authoritarian, neglectful, and verbally abusive
approaches to child-rearing.19
The effects on the children of these parenting weaknesses may be intensified by their prior traumatic experience of witnessing violence. For example, children whose battering fathers yell or bark orders at them appear to be more shaken by these experiences than children
who have not been exposed to violence, as they are aware of
his capacity for physical assault whether or not he has ever
assaulted them directly. My colleagues and I also often observe
that a batterer’s authoritarian or intimidating behaviors in the
children’s presence, or toward them directly, can cause trau-
matic memories to be reawakened in them, with resultant
increase in their symptoms and interference in their social and
intellectual development. Batterers have also been observed to
be manipulative of children, and to exhibit neglectful parent-
ing, including inadequate supervision of safety.20
Additional crucial problems in the parenting of men who batter include
the use of the children as weapons against the mother and the
undermining of the mother’s authority, which are discussed
further below, with important post-separation implications.

Boys who are exposed to domestic violence show dramati-
cally elevated rates of battering their own partners as adoles-
cents or adults.21 Research suggests that this connection is a
product largely of the values and attitudes that boys learn
from witnessing battering behavior. 22 Daughters of battered
women show increased difficulty in escaping partner abuse in
their adult relationships.

23 Both boys and girls have been
observed to accept various aspects of the batterer’s belief sys-
tem,24 including the view that victims of violence are to
blame, that women exaggerate hysterically when they report
abuse, that males are superior to females, and that the use of
violence against women by men is justifiable.
Donna and
Troy’s son, Marty, exhibits, for example, his absorption of his
father’s negative and degrading attitudes toward females,
which he acts out toward his sister, Rhonda, and toward his
The destructive influence that batterers can have on chil-
dren’s belief systems, and therefore on their future behavior,
has not received adequate attention in most professional pub-
lications, and appears to be largely overlooked in crafting cus-
tody and visitation determinations. Children who are trauma-
tized may be particularly easy to influence because of their ele-
vated needs for belonging, security, and self-esteem. Therefore,
decisions to place children in unsupervised contact with a bat-
terer should be made with great care.
Battering is inherently destructive to maternal authority. As
we saw with Troy in the opening scenario, the batterer’s behav-
ior provides a model for children of contemptuous and aggres-
sive behavior toward their mother. The predictable result, con-
firmed by many studies, is that children of battered women
have increased rates of violence and disobedience toward their
Court Review – Summer 2002 No evidence currently exists to
suggest that the risk of child abuse by a batterer
declines post-separation . . . .26.
in many cases by the batterer’s deliberate weakening of the mother’s ability to set limits, which may be accompanied by violence toward her
regarding issues about the children.27
We saw Troy, for example, give explicit approval to his son’s disrespectful language toward Donna. Troy is able in this way to enhance his own power in the family and ensure that his wife will appear to be
an ineffective or volatile parent. Troy then goes on to assault
Donna to retaliate against her for her efforts to stand up for
herself and for her daughter.
Many other behaviors that are commonly observed in bat-
terers can distort family functioning. Some common examples
Interfering with a mother’s parenting
. Partners of my battering
clients make frequent reports of being prevented from picking
up a crying infant or from assisting a frightened or injured
child, of being barred from providing other basic physical or
emotional care, and even of being forbidden to take children to
medical appointments. Interference of this kind can cause the
children to perceive their mother as uncaring or unreliable,
feelings the batterer may reinforce by verbally conditioning the
children through statements such as, “Your mother doesn’t
love you” or “Mommy only cares about herself.” The trauma
caused to the mother by domestic violence can also sometimes
make it more difficult to be fully present and attentive for her
28 which the batterer may then use to his advantage in a custody or visitation dispute.
Sowing divisions within the family
. In our opening scenario,
Troy uses favoritism to build a special relationship with one of
his children (Marty), demonstrating a dynamic that occurs fre-
quently in the parenting of men who batter. As other
researchers have noted, the favored child is particularly likely
to be a boy, and the batterer may bond with him partly through
encouraging a sense of superiority to females.29
Batterers may also sow divisions by deliberately creating or feeding familial tensions. These behaviors are a likely factor in the high rate of intersibling conflict, including violence, observed in families exposed to battering behavior. 30
Descriptions of division-sow-
ing behaviors in incest perpetrators 31
are remarkably similar to clinical observations of these behaviors in men who batter.32
Use of the children as weapons.
Many batterers use children
as a vehicle to harm or control the mother,
through such tac-
tics as destroying the children’s belongings to punish the mother, requiring the children to monitor and report on their mother’s activ-
or threatening to kidnap or take custody of the chil-
dren if the mother attempts to end the relationship. These behaviors draw the children into the abuser’s behavior pat-
tern. Post-separation, many batterers use unsupervised visitation as an opportunity to abuse the mother through the children by alienating them
from the mother, encouraging them to behave in destructive or
defiant ways when they return home, or returning them dirty,
unfed, or sleep-deprived from visitation
These important dynamics rarely appear to be taken into account in crafting custody and visitation plans.
Retaliation for the mother’s efforts to protect the children.
A mother may find that she is assaulted or intimidated if she
attempts to prevent the batterer from mistreating the children,
or may find that he harms the children more seriously to pun-
ish her for standing up for them, and therefore may be forced
over time to stop intervening on her children’s behalf. 35
In our opening scenario, Troy’s assault on Donna was a direct result of
her efforts to protect her daughter from psychological harm,
and may have the effect of intimidating her the next time she
would like to protect her children from him. This dynamic can
lead children to believe that their mother doesn’t care about
the ways in which the batterer is hurting them, because she
sometimes maintains a frightened silence in the face of his
behavior. This perception in children can be exacerbated in
cases where a court requires a battered woman to send her chil-
dren to visitation with their father despite their objections. It
therefore becomes critically important for children who have
been exposed to domestic violence not to be required to see or
speak with the perpetrator when they are voicing or demon-
strating a preference not to do so.
Custody and visitation determinations in the context of
domestic violence need to be informed by an awareness of the
Summer 2002 – Court Review 47
These behaviors are a likely factor in the high rate of intersibling
conflict observed in families exposed to battering
behavior.36. The great majority of children who live with a batterer directly see or hear one or more acts of violence. See
J. Kolbo, et al.,
There have also been a substantial number who have witnessed
sexual assaults against their mother:

(1994). I have observed that evaluators who assess the strength of children’s bonds with their battering fathers rarely address the role of traumatic bonding.40. A detailed guide to performing proper custody and visitation evaluations in the context of domestic violence allegations is available.41. It should be noted that batterer programs that are run on a
“power-and-control” model have been found to be more effective
than was previously believed, especially if any attendant drug and
alcohol issues are also properly addressed.
destructive attitudes and values that can contribute to behav-
ioral and developmental problems. Abused mothers face many
obstacles in attempting to protect their children from a bat-
terer, and can benefit when their protective efforts receive
strong support from courts and child protective services.
Family and juvenile court personnel, as well as those working in child protection agencies, can strengthen the quality of their
interventions on behalf of children by deepening their under-
standing of the common patterns that may appear in the par-
enting of men who batter, including ways in which a batterer
may damage mother-child and sibling relationships and make
it difficult for a mother to parent her children. Courts can
increase their effectiveness in domestic violence cases involv-
ing children by focusing on maternal and child safety, and by
seeking ways to reduce the batterer’s influence as a role model particularly for his sons.

7 Responses

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  1. Great article , disappointed that you have written this as only men as this was and still is the story of my and our twin boys life with their mother 🙂

    Phill Ferreira

    August 24, 2014 at 9:58 am

    • So sorry you have gone through this, and thank you for your comment. Just for clarification; Lundy along with PMA International specialize our work. Our experiences, organization’s mission statement speak to this specialization. We specialize in protective mothers who are in family court with abuse issues that stem from their abuser ex partners, among other things. We also address the healing, and family dynamics associated with the above. We understand this happens to some men too, but this is not our specialization or the work we do. In light of this, our work will reflect our organization’s mission statement. We do welcome men to our organization as we have network called ” Man Up for Moms.” We also have men involved in PMA such as yourself who have been through your experience. But again, this is not our specialization or mission statement. Regardless, we welcome you, thank you for your comment and value your support and participation.

      • Thank you for your kind response , I am aware of your mission statement and have always found your posts very interesting but as I believe these issues effects , mums , dads and little ones I was a little disappointed in the gender role stance which I believe is part of the issue most families face in the family Courts world wide and this purseption Must change in all organisations that offer support and work with family matter .. Kind regards Phill

        Phill Ferreira

        August 25, 2014 at 6:42 am

      • Thank you for your comment. Advocates and different organizations have a variety of beliefs as to what the issues are and how to solve them. We respect all organizations’ right to decide for themselves which path to follow. It might just be that a variety of approaches are necessary to solve the problem of family court abuse and corruption. Time will tell. Best to you.

      • Indeed 🙂

        Phill Ferreira

        August 25, 2014 at 9:50 am

  2. Reblogged this on The Story of my Twin Boys , Oliver and Oscar Ferreira and commented:
    Great article , a day in my life with Jayne McClure and the abuse me and our boys had and still have to suffer but Cafcass feels she is the victim ….great legal system in the UK !

    Phill Ferreira

    August 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

  3. Reblogged this on AMother'sHeartSongsUnsilenced and commented:
    Much of this is so familiar…

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