City and State Fail to Protect Domestic Violence Victims and Their Children from Continued Abuse, NY Public Advocate Says

City and State Fail to Protect Domestic Violence Victims and Their Children from Continued Abuse, NY Public Advocate Says

New York Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum

(July 16, 2008) New York City Public Advocate (the equivalent of ombudsman) Betsy Gotbaum today released a new survey that found New York batterers continue to harass their victims by filing malicious, false reports of child abuse. While 72% of domestic violence service providers reported having at least one case that involved false reporting, only 5% indicated that an abuser was prosecuted for knowingly filing a false report.

Betsy Gotbaum said, “Our new survey confirms what I’ve been hearing from the domestic violence community for a long time- that abuse doesn’t stop when the victim walks out the door. One phone call, one malicious report, can keep a victim trapped in a cycle of abuse and harassment for years. It is time we take action to raise awareness of this problem and prosecute abusers for this type of harassment.”

Perpetrators of domestic violence often continue to abuse their victims after they are separated by manipulating the existing child abuse and neglect reporting system. They file false reports against their victims, often repeatedly, to the State Central Register for Child Abuse and Neglect (SCR), claiming that the survivors—their victims—are abusing their children. The motives for such malicious behavior include an attempt to gain leverage in an upcoming custody battle and punishment for leaving.

“It is common practice for perpetrators of domestic violence to threaten their victims with the loss of their children if they dare to leave them. Many abusers use the child welfare system to make good on their threats. The Voices of Women Organizing Project (VOW) is documenting cases of malicious reports by batterers and we hope to work with the Public Advocate’s office and domestic violence advocates to discourage this form of harassment and abuse.” Susan Lob, director of VOW, an organization of survivors of domestic violence working to shape policy and improve services for battered women.

Tanya McLeod, a VOW member and organizer said, “My ex-husband was sent to jail for his violence against me and my children. While in jail, he made a false and malicious report of child abuse against me. My home felt invaded when the police responded to the report and my children were interrogated. I felt re-victimized. This false and malicious report caused a lot of pain for me and my children. Making false reports is a crime and I want to see that perpetrators are prosecuted and that justice prevails.”

For the full report, click here.

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