Vawa II, Section 201


Congress finds as follows:

(1) Witnessing domestic violence has a devastating impact on children, placing them at high risk for anxiety, depression, and, potentially, suicide. These children may exhibit more aggressive, antisocial, fearful, and inhibited behaviors.

(2) Children exposed to domestic violence often have problems in school.

(3) Domestic violence is strongly correlated with child abuse. Studies have found that between 50 and 70 percent of men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children.

(4) Boys who witness parental abuse during their childhood are at a higher risk of being physically aggressive in dating and marital relationships.

(5) Girls are 3 times as likely as boys to be victims of sexual abuse.

(6) Children often fail to report child sexual abuse because of the fear that disclosure will bring worse consequences than being victimized again, including consequences from the family, feeling guilty for consequences to the perpetrator, and fear of subsequent retaliation from the perpetrator. Victims may also feel that the abuse is their fault.

(7) Women are at an increased risk of harm after separation from an abusive partner. Separated women are three times more likely than divorced women and 25 times more likely than married women to be victims of violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

(8) Children are also at increased risk of harm during separation. In 1 study, 34 percent of women in shelters and callers to hotlines reported threats of kidnapping, 11 percent reported that the batterer had kidnapped the child for some period, and 21 percent reported that threats of kidnapping forced the victim to return to the batterer.

(9) According to a 1996 report by the American Psychological Association (APA), which Congress views as authoritative on matters of domestic violence and child custody and visitation determinations, custody and visitation disputes are more frequent when there is a history of domestic violence. Further, fathers who batter mothers are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children and they may misuse the legal system as a forum for continuing abuse through harassing and retaliatory legal actions.

(10) The need for supervised visitation centers far exceeds the number of available programs, resulting in courts ordering unsupervised visitation and endangering parents and children or cutting off visitation altogether.

(11) One-third of high school and college age students experience violence with an intimate partner.

(12) A 1992 study concluded that being abused or neglected in childhood increases the likelihood of arrest for girls and women by 77 percent.

(13) Although courts should diligently protect the interests of both parents in frequent and continuing contact with their children, in the case where 1 parent has committed domestic violence against the other parent, protection of the other parent and the children is a vital consideration that should take precedence.

(14) Every State has legislation or judicial decisions that base its custody determinations on what is in the best interests of the child, and the vast majority of States include considerations of domestic violence as a factor in determining the best interests of the child.

(15) The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges includes the option of supervised visitation centers in their Model Code on Domestic and Family Violence.

(16) Despite the perception that mothers always win custody cases, studies show that fathers who contest custody win sole or joint custody in 40 to 70 percent of cases.

(17) According to the APA, there is no reliable empirical data to support the so-called phenomenon of `parental alienation syndrome,' although courts and custody evaluators frequently use such terms to discount children's reasonable fear and anger toward a violent parent. This `syndrome' and similar ones are used almost exclusively against women.

(18) The documented rate of any child abuse allegations in custody cases is approximately 2 percent, and there is no evidence that false accusations are more common in the context of custody litigation.

(19) Congress never intended that the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act be used to prohibit an abused or protective parent from protecting themselves or their child by relocation to a place of safety.

(20) When domestic violence is or has been present in the relationship, shared parenting arrangements, couples counseling, or mediation arrangements may increase the danger to children and to the nonviolent parent.