In a first of it’s kind study, researchers, Julia BradshawEllen R. Gutowski , and Kashoro Nyenyezi asked what helps IPV-exposed mothers navigate U.S. family court proceedings?

They found that “consistent with a trauma-informed orientation to service provision, participants named the importance of relational support as well as the need to be believed and validated rather than discounted and discredited. Participants also explained the importance of adapting their behavior to be taken seriously in a system that presumes the absence of trauma, of accessing tools and resources (e.g., professional support, financial support), and of learning to manage post-separation family life (including co-parenting) with an ex-partner who abused them and sometimes their children. Echoing past studies that have uncovered protective mothers’ negative experiences in family court (e.g., Gutowski & Goodman, 2020Khaw et al., 2021Miller & Manzer, 2021), many participants stated barriers to navigating this legal system, due in part to a lack of trauma-informed practices.

Participant responses also reflected systemic inequities as those with financial means and privilege noted that such access helped them to take measures to protect their children and defend themselves in court against abusive ex-partners.

As negative court experiences may be detrimental to the well-being of survivors and their children, and in some cases, prevent them from obtaining needed help, implementing trauma-informed practices that are accessible to all within the family court setting is an urgent necessity.”

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