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Domestic Violence? Preparation is everything in settling parenting disputes.

September 24, 2016

Pleased to receive this message from a colleague:

“Yesterday I forwarded two of your blogs to a client who is struggling with the court’s attitude on a couple of things. I thought the blogs would help validate her own perceptions and concerns – the court took a simplistic view of her and is assuming she is stupid and malign, whereas in reality she is highly intelligent and thoughtful and trying to get things right. I was right – she did appreciate the validation in the blogs and she also is thinking about the differences between her assumptions and your advice. I just wanted to say thanks for making this reliable resource material freely available. It helps me stay on track as someone who has now learned enough about these things to be conscious of what I don’t yet know (and what my colleagues and the judiciary don’t necessarily know either).”

My colleague’s views were validated as well by the workshop I attended yesterday, but yet is known to those of us who work extensively with these issues.

The workshop was presented by Peter Jaffe, Ph.D. – an renowned expert and researcher in domestic violence. Dr. Jaffe discussed how men who abuse tend to present themselves well, whereas the women they abuse often present themselves poorly. Why? Because the abused women will appear depressed and/or anxious and/or angry and often confused about her situation and will have often minimized her own abuse history only to disclose at other times more forthrightly.This creates the illusion that she has/is a problem and changes her story. However, unappreciated by uninformed courts and lawyers and even some mental health professionals, is how she was confused and/or terrified by the abusive behavior, at times felt ashamed and embarrassed and likely felt unsafe to fully disclose at first. She was not lying at either time in her disclosure but rather coming to grips at different times with her experience and how to address it.

That is why it is important for women to receive not just good counseling, but coaching on how to cope, convey their story and manage themselves if in a court or other dispute resolution process.

BTW – In the discussion about domestic violence, it is vital to differentiate the type of domestic violence and there are several.

Where as some types, typically more minor, can be seen occurring equally between men and women, the more dangerous and lethal types and those motivated by power and control are statistically disproportionately committed by men.

Just to remind, I am available for consultation by SKYPE if you are not able to meet in person.

It would be my pleasure to be of service.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call if you need help sorting out parenting or relationship challenges.

If you know someone who may benefit from this information, please share this blog with the links below.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

  1. Gary: I have been working in the field of domestic violence for 25 years, as both a clinician and a researcher, and have worked with hundreds of cases referred from the family court. I agree that some men do present better in court than some women, but in my experience it is the women who come to court better prepared. Granted, some very controlling men find a way to convince the court that they should have custody, but this problem is grossly exaggerated. Of course, there are some very manipulative men, but there are also many highly manipulative women. The research cited by victim advocates that supposedly provides evidence of high numbers of abusive men obtaining custody of their children is in fact highly misleading. What this literature findings is that some men who have been accused of domestic violence and not necessarily charged or found guilty of a crime, and/or men who have had restraining orders issued against them (which is not necessarily an indication that a crime has been committed) sometimes are give SOME custody. This is a far cry from the charge that there is an epidemic of “violent men who get custody” of their children. Furthermore, I must say that your suggestion that men are more controlling than women is just plain incorrect. Go to and take a look at the literature reviews specifically on emotional abuse and control and motivation for the use of interpersonal violence. I also suggest that you take a look at the results of the National Intimate and Sexual Violence Survey, put out in 2010 by the CDC. These are the best, more accurate and up-to-date sources on power and control in relationship aggression, and they conclude that women are every bit as controlling as men. I am quite familiar with Peter Jaffe, as I have challenged some of his findings in academic journals. Jaffe is either unaware of the findings I just cited, or he is willfully ignoring them. You really don’t want to hitch your horse to that wagon. Really, take a look at the research and see what you find.

    • Hi John. Thank you for your comments and point of view and offering of a different perspective. The field of domestic violence is rich, complex and political. Here is a link to research from the University of Western Ontario. I am familiar with research from multiple sources as well as the unfortunate politics involved in research at times. I will leave it to readers to investigate both websites and resources for themselves:

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