Domestic Violence Petitions in WV – Part II

Apparently there are others out there who feel the same way that I do about the rampant abuse of domestic violence petitions in West Virginia.  See my prior post here.  Among others, and a flurry of comments, I received this email from a reader:

Mr. Bryan:

 I read your blog entry regarding the domestic violence (DV) petitions. Many law professionals have raised similar concerns inclusive of numerous judges who vocalized their discontent with pressure exerted on them predominantly by women’s groups. I’m not sure if you have seen this but a study was done attempting to quantify the financial impact to West Virginia regarding DV and false accusations of DV. As you may suspect this is a very difficult task and highly subjective. I have quickly read the report and will dive deeper into it over the coming holiday. Interestingly the impact from false allegations could range from $5.7M to $18.2 M. This is simply an estimate of the direct cost to West Virginia. I would suspect that indirect costs far exceed this number – potentially reaching to $100M. Indirects would include costs like welfare, money going to legal fees that would otherwise be spent in the non-service economy and therefore subject to sales tax, lost production and taxes from people losing jobs, and the cost of social services that are often a result of false allegations (i.e. kids being placed and paid for by public funds etc.). I also believe the direct costs outlined in the report are conservatively estimated (i.e. on the low end). Other costs include substantial tax subsidies to “advocacy” agencies to the tune of literally millions (you should take a look at the VAWA appropriations – it is staggering – not just financially but from a gender discrimination standpoint). If there number of claims were reduced by 60-80% theoretically their operating cost would reduce proportionally.

 This issue is far larger and significantly more important than most people realize. Women’s groups understood that oppressing women had serious negative effects on girls. We are now seeing the impact to boys resulting from the systematic discrimination against men. Last year’s college graduation rate was 58% women to 42% men. The steady gap increase is about 1% annually and will be at 60-40 within 2 years. That equates to 50% more women graduating from college than men. Some speculate that this is a result of different learning patterns between boys and girls. I don’t buy it. While our biological differences likely do present logistical challenges it doesn’t explain why it is a problem now and it certainly couldn’t explain the rapidity by which this transformation occurred. The long term effects of this are horrific.

 On the DV issue – there are numerous studies that date as far back as the 70’s that prove DV is nearly mutual, meaning it is 50-50. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating that DV is not a problem I am simply stating a statistically relevant fact that men are not the sole perpetrators of DV or even the majority perpetrators. Even more alarming is that women initiate the physical violence at a rate that far exceeds men, almost 70% of the time. Women are also more likely to perpetrate violence against their children than men are. Note – men perpetrate violence against children more than women but when assessing violence parents initiate against their own children women are far more likely to be the perpetrators. Just one more fact – women are also much more likely to commit infanticide. These statistics are relevant and were compiled by agencies like the US Department of Justice and the CDC.

 My personal thoughts regarding DV have evolved substantially over the past couple of years. I was the victim of false allegations and subsequent discrimination by our “justice” system. Fortunately I don’t have kids. I’m now committed to working diligently in raising public awareness and trying to affect positive change in the current discriminatory DV legislation. We need to restore credibility to the DV orders and the judicial system. The idea that a DVPO can be issued with absolutely no proof is outrageous. The idea that a DVPO can be issued based on metrics that are virtually unproveable (i.e. psychological abuse) is absurd. The process violates the very foundations of our legal system. There is no due process afforded to men  accused of DV. There is no recognition that women are equally perpetrating DV. It really is insane.

 If you’re interested I can forward additional information. I would greatly appreciate your engagement in this issue. It is important for everyone – men, women and children. I truly believe this issue far exceeds racial or religious tensions in this country. I’ve attached the cost analysis referenced above.

 I look forward to discussing this further if you’re interested. In the meantime please visit this website as it has wealth of information regarding this issue:

He also directed me to an October 31, 2008 article from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, titled, “MAWAD fighting stereotypes that only women are abused,” which also contained some surprising information – not only that some people and groups are fighting back, but some surprising statistics.  According to the article:

Men and Women Against Discrimination (MAWAD) formed in West Virginia to expose the untruths behind the theory that men are always the aggressors, pursue a family court system that recognizes and honors each parent’s role in a child’s upbringing and to seek “truth, justice and equality in family law.”

Along the way, organizers say they discovered there are many men out there who are just as abused as any of their female counterparts, that the court system all too often ignores their wounds and that the very systems put in place to stop domestic violence can be manipulated and twisted into another form of abuse during divorce and custody negotiations.

That’s why MAWAD members have long argued that all custody proceedings should begin with a 50-50 shared parenting plan, which may then be crafted around the family’s individual needs and situations; that the domestic violence protective order process needs to be overhauled; and that people of any gender who file false domestic violence allegations should be penalized.

The article further described MAWAD’s goals:

MAWAD’s Region IV Director Ron Foster emphasized this week that the organization never condones physical violence or emotional abuse, but only wants every person, every parent, to face equal rights and responsibilities inside a fair family court.

“Our goal is to get the garbage out of the court so you can deal with true domestic violence cases,” Foster said Wednesday.

This is exactly right.  Men are blatantly discriminated against in the custody process in West Virginia and elsewhere.  There should be a presumptively 50-50 allocation from the outset.  However, many times what happens is that the divorce or custody process begins with a 100-0 allocation due to the domestic violence protective order that is granted in many, many cases.  This is aggravated by the fact that many lawyers feel they have a duty to suggest to their client that they take out a domestic violence petition, because it puts them into such an advantageous position.  And if their client doesn’t take one out first, they other may, thereby putting them into an extremely disadvantageous position.  

However, there is hope.  And hope lies in appealing to circuit court.  In one particularly egregious case that I had, the Family Court made a finding that a female significant other was “credible” in her profession that she was “in fear” of the male significant other due to a verbal argument and thereby entered a protective order, kicking the man out of his house, out of his job, away from his kids, and into the child support poorhouse.  However, the Circuit Court overturned the order on appeal, finding that her fear must have been “reasonable,” and that no reasonable person should have been placed in fear due to the particular allegations.  Its good to know that a circuit court judge is willing to abide by the law in the face of the family courts’ capitulation to women’s groups and institutionalized discrimination against men.  My advice to others in these situations is to get a good lawyer, create a record in the family court showing the absurdity of the claim of “domestic violence,” and then appeal after the family court enters the order – which it always does.

I agree with MAWAD that it is an anti-domestic violence stance to call for reform of the domestic violence protective order procedures in West Virginia, because right now the procedures are being abused, thereby watering down the system, and allowing real domestic violence to take place.

Note: the reader also emailed me this report, titled “Analysis of Domestic Violence Costs in West Virginia and the Potential Cost of False or Unnecessary Claims,” by Benjamin Foster, Ph.D and Professor of Accountancy at the University of Louisville, which seem to be provide comprehensive coverage of the subject.

 – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney


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