Court-Related Abuse and Harassment: Leaving an abuser can be harder than staying
Prepared by: Andrea Vollans
YWCA Legal Educator, Vancouver
" Socially, we assume that once a woman leaves an abusive relationship she is away from the abuse. We believe that in those occasions where abusers break restraining orders or otherwise engage in post-separation abuse, that the legal system will deal with it. To think that an abuser will use that legal system to re-victimize goes against fundamental views of justice that we collectively hold. When describing the issue of court-related abuse and harassment to community members, and those outside the field, people were horrified that this occurs so often. However, I was surprised at how many people also stated that they knew someone who had experienced court-related abuse and harassment. As this is an invisible form of abuse, more needs to be done to raise awareness for those that are in the family law field and those that work within the criminal justice and governmental systems that have regulatory power over individuals. It is not just to support the victims of violence, but also support our police officers who may be faced with confusing situations that could be more easily dealt with if they were properly trained on policy. It supports the Judges who face very difficult decisions, to be able to know the concepts so that they can give reasons that fit within what their discretion allows. In order to facilitate this, current research needs to be targeted towards front line workers to help them understand the issue and their needs to be increased dialogue between front line workers and researchers so that researchers remain up-to-date about court related abuse and harassment. Additionally, more research needs to be done to clearly articulate the issue and find common themes of how abusers use the systems to abuse; this needs to specifically target and address the experiences of marginalized victims of court related abuse and harassment. Through this research there would be documentation of how to assess and measure the possibility for court-related abuse and harassment. There also needs to be more resources for all different victims of court-related abuse and harassment through legal assistance, support and recognition of this type of abuse. "