Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Failure to protect? Let's stop "victim blaming" once and for all

by Carol Wick, CEO
Harbor House, Inc.

Recently a woman was attacked in her own home. It wasn’t the first attack; it was the culmination of over 18 years of abuse: mental, physical, and undoubtedly sexual. During this attack, as is so often the case, her child tried to intervene and protect his mother. The result was that he was shot by the attacker (his father) in the head. His mother, panicked, did what any mother would. She grabbed the children and ran, taking her injured child to get immediate medical attention. While waiting for word on her child, staff from the Department of Children and Families came to the hospital and informed her that, despite the fact that the attacker was now in jail on no bond and no longer a threat, they were taking her children from her. Why? Because she had failed to prevent her attacker from assaulting her and therefore she was now the abuser.

The logic runs this way. If a mother remains with an abuser, she is putting her children in harms way. Rather than hold the attacker accountable, attempt to incarcerate the perpetrator or protect the mother so she can protect her children, the system seeks to hold the person least able to fix the problem accountable. Would we arrest someone in Pine Hills because they have failed to stop gang violence? Do we arrest individuals who leave their cars unlocked when someone steals their radio? No. Yet when this most basic of crime, physical assault occurs, we want to believe that we can say to the victim – make it stop. And here’s an incentive, make it stop or we will take your children away.

Failure to Protect is a term that we are working very hard to eradicate. In fact, through the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), advocates are working with DCF in Tallahassee to stop this practice all together. If, after 18 years, this mother could stop the abuse, don’t you think she would? Why do we continue to blame the victim for the brutal attacks and then sit idly by and point at her and say “well, make it stop?” Instead, this mother and her now further traumatized children, must be separated. How is the mother a harm to her children? She did the very best she could.

I have talked to literally thousands of survivors over the years. Never once did one of them tell me that they wanted the abuse to continue. On the contrary, they felt it was their fault and unbelievably, felt that they could, if they just tried hard enough, make it stop. And why shouldn’t they think that way? Apparently DCF does. And so does the State Attorney’s office. If you read the first article on this case, only a year ago this same man almost killed the mother. The charges were dropped because she would not testify. Remember the 18 years of abuse? This happens in about 80-90% of the cases. “Well, she doesn’t want to testify so what are we going to do?” is so often the response from the State.

We must, as those in the system that was created to protect victims, stop holding the victim accountable. It is imperative that we understand that someone who has been tortured for 18 years may be incapable of now standing up and testifying against their abuser or making him stop beating her. Yes, these cases are hard. Yes, they are frustrating. Yes, they sometimes end deadly.

But isn’t that why, if what we have been doing the same thing for the last 20 years and it isn’t working, we need to start trying something different?

You can read the entire story here.


And the general public wonders why abuse victims fail to access the System for help?

Additionally, it is imperative that as citizens who sometimes witness domestic assaults, either in public or when "something" is happening at a neighbor's home, become involved. Call 911. Be prepared to testify in court. The State has had some success with prosecuting offenders even when the victim refuses to testify (or even testifies on behalf of the defendant).

Domestic violence is everyone's business. More perpetrators need to be taught by our community (the criminal justice system, their friends & neighbors, business associates, etc.) that abusive behavior towards their family will not be tolerated.



  1. In an ideal state (where gullible voters didn't elect anti-tax "compassionate conservative" con artists), DCF would have followed up and sheltered the kids the first time the mother failed to cooperate with the prosecution or asked for a reduction in the perp's bail. As sympathetic as I am with adult DV victims who believe their options are limited, the rational priority is the kids who actually have no options except to wait to be rescued.
    "Failure to protect" would more properly be called "Inability to protect", but DCF suffers from severe mission creep. Rather than stick to the therapeutic justice scheme set out in DCF's enabling statutes, DCF has maintained a culture that treats parents as criminal co-defendants, mostly because it is less labor-intensive (cheaper).

  2. lets see on july 2nd 2009 me and my fieance had a daughter pass away in warrenton mo well they say failure to protect from her dad even tho we kicked him out the same day as the accident in june well at the hospital dhs took our kid from us at the hospital on july 2 and told us we could have her back when this is resolved well we so a 2 year list and in the mean time we had a child that they couldnt touch well dhs tryed takeing the kid and the juvinile office declined it and said we could keep her well why cant we have our other kid out of coustdy???? dont make and right to me well on december 14 we have a meeting with dhs and their attorney and they say that since we have did everything it was time for our daughter to get placed back with us well on december 16th a warrent gets put out for child endangerment whitch we had no idea....they couldnt have one so they found away to take both from us and said if we dont adopt her out their taking all of our kids we will ever we did adopt 1 child but wanted the other moved closer to us and they said they couldnt because of the sibling act???? well when we brought home or other daughter way wasnt the one taken from foster care and placed with us this is horrible things to do to people well if u can help my name is joshua healey and girlfriend christine dixon our number is 1-636-359-8052 thanks for listining when know one else does

  3. Just got an "emergency" motion dated 3 days ago from my abusive soon to be 8 who has now taken to abusing our 6 year old daughter in my stead. CPI refuses to investigate. Sheriff does nothing and I stand my ground against a hostile judge while my child suffers. Now he wants emergency sole custody alleging I am severely mentally ill (never diagnosed with ANY mental illness) and our daughter is in Limmediate danger f harm". Well if that is so why did he not report these concerns to CPI or police? Is this not failure to protect? Let's use these fathers rights bull shit laws right back on them! File a false claim like this and I'm turning around and accusing HIM of failure to protect! See how they like it!

  4. Wow well first off I think you deserve to rot in a prison cell for the rest of your life... Where i hope you have a big ass cell mate who lets you live the rest of your miserable life in hell...I think before you go preaching your sob story maybe you should tell people the truth...Your children are in a better place...You are a woman beater and you deserve what ever horrible life you think you are living... At least you are alive... More then I can say for that baby. Who was an innocent life that you didnt care enough about to protect.. Its pretty sad that you want people to feel sorry for you.. I for the life of me can't understand why God puts people on earth like you...There are many things I would love to say to you but I am a good Christian and I have been told many times you will get what you deserve...I am truly sorry for you... You and your fiancee'. Hmm no im not...