Oh, Dear Dr. Irene,
What a treat to visit your site.
This topic has caused me a lot of thought since our (worm-tainted)
exchange. One difficulty is that our court system, kind of like our system
of public education, works from a "lowest common denominator"
perspective. Sure, all school kids deserve the opportunity to learn Japanese
or physics, but because of the need to ration our limited
resources, the best standard we can reasonably expect is to require proper
English and basic arithmetic. The basics, the bottom lines, more is
Similarly, our court system is not infinite, the
resources must be rationed. (We're getting civil trial dates in spring
2001 now, and that's here in Idaho, where justice is still somewhat hand
crafted, not a check-one-box system, yet.) Courts do not wish to minimize
their (really quite fragile) power in entering orders that cannot be
enforced. For example, if a judge should Order the sun to rise in the
west, it's not going to happen, and people may simply disregard any
further orders coming from that Judge. Similarly, if a Judge mandates that
the parties "Must speak nicely to each other...", that's going
to be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. So much of verbal abuse is
subjective. If someone tells me "you don't know what you are talking
about", I simply think they are mistaken, and go about my day. If an
abuser says the same thing to a victim, especially if it has been said
with vehemence and regularity for years, it could hurt as much or more
than a punch in the stomach.
The difficulty with the Court system is that
a punch in the stomach is objective, it is pretty easy to determine
whether "it" happened or not. Hurtful words, as you so
beautifully noted, are just the same as physical abuse to the recipient,
but are not readily discernable to the Judge. It's too subjective. What
words hurt one person may not bother another. Our court system has placed
the common denominator fairly low - No Hitting! No Hitting! That's
something objective. (And yet, many parents advocate spanking, so maybe
Just a Little Bit of Hitting, but only your own kids, is the real bottom
line. Hope not, hitting teaches hitting, but spanking is not today's
topic, and I digress.....)
Courts want to maintain their strength by
entering only Orders that can be objectively enforced. It is also
important to have a system that produces similar results under similar
circumstances, which is why our Supreme Court building in Washington is
carved with the words "Equal Justice Under Law". The Court
system is not the place to fix a sick relationship, but it is the place
where the "bottom line" can be established. And anyone can ask
for "extras" like, "the parties will limit their contact
with each other to issues regarding the minor child..." I've typed
that a few times, but it is not a standard because that is not appropriate
in every situation.
Prove to a Judge why that provision would be
necessary, and you'll get it. Then follow up and prove it to the abuser
when the provision is violated. Prove it by getting knowledgeable experts
to testify about the pattern of verbal abuse.
Thanks, Dr., for providing
this forum for my ramblings. See you in cyberspace!
You can read our
whole exchange starting here!