Women and Children First

Pennsylvania criminal justiceSometimes it gets tough, working in courtrooms for many years.

Seeing so much of the bad things people do to one another every day. There’s no doubt about it, sometimes it gets to me.

When cases directly involve children, it can be especially hard to detach oneself, especially being a parent myself. What parent doesn’t have the constant fear of their children being hurt? Tragically, that hurt often comes from the parents themselves.

This is often a real problem in family court, where issues such as custody can literally tear families apart in ways no court verdict can repair.

The fight between parents obviously affects their children, but there are times when it goes beyond the pain of separation. The children themselves become weapons the parents hurl at each other with studied precision, cutting each other in ways only they, with their former intimacy, can know will really hurt the other. The tragic result is the children are no longer witnesses, they begin to feel they are the cause.

Violence perpetrated by one or both parents against the other can scar a child for life, even impacting their ability to maintain healthy relationships in their own lives.

Child abuse comes in many forms, both physical and emotional. The ability to trust is built upon a child’s parents. It breaks my heart when I see that trust being manipulated in a grudge match between warring parties. I know how much that can impact a child and their future. I’ve seen it too many times.

It is even worse when I know the children are witnessing violence between the parents.

Although there are women who get violent, the majority of such cases involve men battering women. To me, hitting a woman is an unthinkable act, but my experience tells me there are many men who see it otherwise.

We see, in our popular culture, many instances where men actually get away with such behavior. Think of the Baltimore Ravens player throwing a knockout punch to his fiance’ in a public elevator. That does not bode well for the future happiness of their family, should they choose to have one. And yes, they reconciled, so it’s entirely possible.

And therein is a main frustration for the court system– women who recant allegations of abuse, even when that abuse is evident to all involved. Many women have been battered to the point of complete subservience to their abuser. Others act out of the fear that they do not have the means to support themselves, or their children, on their own. They go back to their abuser because they fear losing their children. But the children end up being caught in a perpetual cycle of violence, despite the good, yet misguided, intentions and desires of the Mother.

There comes a point where every woman says, “Enough!” It is inevitable almost 100% of the time. Yet, too often, it comes after much damage has already been done to the children a Mother is trying to protect.

It would be wonderful if I could say I have a fool proof method of getting out and getting back on one’s feet. I don’t.

I do know there are many organizations ready to assist someone who has come to that moment of decision, in the hope that perhaps knowing there are options, is the best place to start, so I’m listing a couple of links to resources available for women who need to get out now.

Womens Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh

This website has a listing of area shelters:
Pittsburgh PA Womens Shelters Transitional Housing

Emergency Shelter Programs, Allegheny County


Leave a Reply