A father who coercively controls a mother is neglecting the children they share. In June 2023 this was the conclusion reached in a New York City family court. The court in Kings County (Brooklyn) reached this decision in the matter of Ms. Taisha R. (the mother) and Mr. Ariel T. (the father).
This was a very welcome and groundbreaking conclusion.
To myself as an expert on coercive control, and to many coercive control victims-survivors, the harms caused by coercive controllers to their children are painfully obvious.
However, getting family courts, social services, the police and other agencies to understand these harms can be difficult to say the least.
The 3 Incorrect Assumptions vs. the 3 Correct Realizations
Responding services often make these 3 incorrect assumptions:
That domestic abuse is relevant to children only if children have witnessed one parent physically attacking the other.
That domestic abuse perpetrators count as dangerous parents for children only if the perpetrator is directly physically or sexually abusing the child.
That once a couple have separated, domestic abuse perpetrated by one of the parents is no longer relevant to decisions made on arrangements for the children — regardless of whether the perpetrator parent is waging a campaign of post-separation abuse, and whether the children are still afraid of him (and will always be).
What was so refreshing and unusual about the decision in Taisha R. (Ariel T.) case is that the court didn’t buy into these ways of thinking.
You can read the court’s full decision here. In place of the 3 incorrect assumptions, it made the 3 correct realizations:
Even though the children have not seen the father physically attack the mother, the father’s coercive control is still extremely serious.
A father does very substantial harm to the children if he subjects their mom to coercive control – amounting to neglect of the children – and this reflects extremely poorly on him as a parent.
Even post-separation, a father’s coercive control is is not ‘in the past’ or ‘historic’: it is still very much relevant to parenting arrangements after the mom has separated from him.
The 3 Correct Realizations Are Found In My Research
In making its decision, the Kings County/Brooklyn court extensively named me and my 2016 article ‘Beyond the Physical Incident Model: How Children Living with Domestic Violence are Harmed By and Resist Regimes of Coercive Control’.
This article can be downloaded here.
It was great seeing my research making this real world impact.
We are still light years away from the end goal of adult and child abuse survivors being served well by family courts worldwide. Family court outcomes for abuse survivor moms and children are often extremely negative.
However, the decision in this New York City case is a step in the right direction.
Analyzing the Court’s Decision
This is an incredibly important case. I have never before seen a family court decision that ‘gets it’ in quite the way that this one has.
However, the court’s decision takes the form of a single long narrative. It is not organised into simple bitesize themes.
What I aim to do in this blog, then, is spell out those themes in an easy, accessible way for you, the professional or personally-interested reader.
This blog will brief you on precisely:
what the court found about this father’s coercive control.
why the court decided that father’s treatment of the mother added up to him subjecting their children to neglect.
what this means for understanding how coercive controllers harms their children.