dara_carlin_Richard_DucoteHistory and the origins of things absolutely fascinate me. For example, did you know that the Graham Cracker was invented by a minister who created it as an antidote for sexual desire or that canopy beds were created NOT for "pretty princess beds" but to keep your bed clean from things that might fall through a thatched roof like bugs and droppings?

Many things that we take for granted were born from significant struggles and achievements that have been long forgotten and subsequently taken for granted as well. One of the most poignant examples of this is the right to vote. How many remember that this was one of the main issues of The Civil War and that men lost their lives fighting for this right? If you look at the 2010 General Election Turnout Rates, only 3 states out of 50 had a voter turnout rate that was 50% or better; in the 47 remaining states less then half of those state populations came out to vote. Isn't that sad? People died so the majority of us could exercise our right not to vote. Talk about dishonoring the memory of. In Hawaii, we have a state statute that was put in-place to bring an end to domestic violence in family court custody cases; a law that would better the chances of healing for the victims and curb domestic violence from taking hold in the next generation, but like voting and The Civil War, the statute is neglected and its presence is taken for granted.

 

In 1992, an ambitious Louisiana attorney named Richard Ducote was successful in getting his state legislature to adopt and implement the Post-Separation Family Violence Relief Act that came to the following conclusion:

"The legislature further finds that the problems of family violence do not necessarily cease when the victimized family is legally separated or divorced. In fact, the violence often escalates, and child custody and visitation become the new forum for the continuation of the abuse. Because current laws relative to child custody and visitation are based on an assumption that even divorcing parents are in relatively equal positions of power, and that such parents act in the children's best interest, these laws often work against the protection of the children and the abused spouse in families with a history of family violence. Consequently, laws designed to act in the children's best interest may actually effect a contrary result due to the unique dynamics of family violence".

The Post-Separation Family Violence Relief Act states "There is created a presumption that no parent who has a history of perpetrating family violence shall be awarded sole or joint custody of children" which became the foundation for similar laws enacted around the country with Hawaii being one of them.

HRS 571-46 (9) states "In every proceeding where there is at issue a dispute as to the custody of a child, a determination by the court that family violence has been committed by a parent raises a rebuttable presumption that it is detrimental to the child and not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody, joint custody, or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of family violence."

What I find to be incredible is that despite this important statute's origin, intent and purpose I see it ripped apart, twisted, redefined and misinterpreted (and that's when it's not being ignored, marginalized or even recognized). This particular statute was designed to prevent the ongoing abuse of victims and to ensure the safety of children post-separation in proven cases of domestic abuse and family violence, but rather then being used as the protective mechanism it is, it's ignored in lieu of "friendly parent" and "the best interests of a child" standards (which are appropriate for NON-violent, NON-abusive cases but only continue abuse when misapplied in domestic abuse and family violence cases).

Hawaii is particularly lucky to have access to the man who started it all, Richard Ducote, who was here last month for the annual IVAT (Institute on Violence, Abuse & Trauma) Conference that was held at the Ala Moana Hotel. Richard should be back for the conference next March (2012) but if you'd like to see him before then, he'll be presenting at the International IVAT Conference being held in San Diego this September 11 -14, 2011.

In the meantime, I am hopeful that calling attention to HRS 571-46 (9) will bring it the recognition it deserves so its place in history is realized, it won't be taken for granted and will be implemented to ensure a safer, better future for Hawaii.

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