Domestic Violence Case Evaluation and ETHICS!!
So, as I announced a while back, I have returned to school to finish a degree in forensic psychology. Today’s discussion post really hit me with exactly what I have been looking at in not just Anne’s case but several other cases in the realm of domestic violence. I thought I would share my discussion post thoughts and answers as it 100% applies to what Anne and I are dealing with right now.
Anne was contacted on Valentine’s Day through Facebook once again to contact a DSS social worker in the city of Springfield. Immediately she felt a sense of fear. This is a common feeling in survivors that suffer from CPTSD as a result of the trauma their abuser inflicted on them. She immediately tried to contact them back but no answer.
On Feb 15, 2023 Anne got in contact with the worker she had been instructed to speak with. The worker was calling on a report against Annea supposedly by her son. The son had just disclosed that when he was living with his mother she punched him in the jaw, leaving no mark, and that it was NEVER reported. Anne was hysterical and I have to admit I even lost my composure. After months of watching this case unfold, I just could no longer hold my anger and frustration and I’m not even the victim here.
Anne explained to the social worker that not only had she not lived with her son since September but more importantly she has not seen her son or spoken to him in this time except once via a FB messenger call where her son was not allowed to speak to her without the watchful eye of his father and he kept asking coached questions. Beyond that she told the worker she doesn’t even spank her children. She explained the video that her ex posted of her yelling at her son. In that video it is clear that Anne is in distress, as well as fighting for the safety of her other child at the hands of her son. He was violent, barring his mother from the house, tormenting her daughter, and making fun of her dead mother all at the encouragement of her ex.
This is actually a classic trauma response, and it is often common for the abuser to weaponize others against their victims and children are the most common employed to antagonize the victims for their sheer manipulability and the emotional damage it does to the victim and the child. Also, it is a new way of torturing the victims by inflaming them to a level of extreme reaction to things and then filming them to use as an example of how out of control they are. It is then used to shame & control them and change the narrative.
Thankfully the worker stated she was closing the case because of the unfounded and unsubstantiated claims. There was no evidence to back up the claim. She did ask why Anne thought this was coming to light and Anne told her that not a week ago I had made the statement publicly that there were no cases EVER opened against her. There was no evidence of her abusing her children. He immediately posted the video that only further showed the amount of duress Anne was under and that her ex controlled every aspect of things. And then the very next week there’s a claim opened from over half a year ago with NO evidence to back it up.
Classic Narcopath abuse.
Below is my response to a discussion post for my Forensic Psychology class. Here is a link to the files we were assigned to respond to. Ethics were called into question on how a social worker handled a suspected domestic violence situation.
So, this was a hard one for me based on my work as a victim advocate in the domestic violence sector. While this may seem unique to some this is not a rare occurrence in this type of case. Women are largely discounted, discredited and dismissed.
What does this case illustrate about the importance of ethics in forensic psychology?
This case illustrates the importance of ethics in forensic psychology as highly important in dealing with victim advocacy. In this case the evaluating psychologist did not act ethically in a variety of ways.
As a victim advocate myself this is not an uncommon way for victims to be treated and it’s something I am very passionate about changing. Victims are often revictimized by the system that is duty bound to service and protect them. From the way first responders handle domestic violence calls to the judges who rule in these cases ethics and violations of civil rights happen every single day. In fact, this is a case I am currently working right now out of Springfield, MO. A severe domestic violence case where not a single person has done their job properly.
Case workers, social service workers, law enforcement, victim advocates, prosecutors, all need different and ongoing training in this field. They are highly undertrained for these situations despite the amount of training or education they might have this is seriously under addressed making it hard on the victims who feel unheard.
As a psychologist, Mary Gallager, PhD, acted in bad faith in numerous ways in this case, causing several ethics violations. She largely ignored the mother’s claims of abuse, ignored the evidence and witness statements, did not perform the same checks on the father as she did on the mother, and possessed a general overall prejudice towards the mother and the child by proxy. (Gallager, 2006)
What problems did this psychologist’s poor ethical thinking cause for the family involved?
Aside from traumatizing a suspected abused mother and child more than they already were, the problems that Galager’s poor ethical thinking caused for this family are vast in number.
First this evaluation vacated a granted order of protection that the courts had issued against the father in this case. This placed both the child and the mother at great risk of harm. Protective orders are in place to ensure the safety of all parties and removing them without extreme caution and care is why we have an overloaded justice system of how wrong these cases can go. Often doing this ends in fatality or serious injury of one or more persons involved. “About 11% of 231 women killed by male intimates had been issued a restraining order. About one-fifth of the female IPH victims who had a restraining order were killed within 2 days of the order being issued; about one-third were killed within a month. Nearly half of those with a restraining order had been protected by multiple orders.” Most of these women do not have restraining orders at the time of their death. (Vittes & Sorenson, 2008)
Second, this evaluation alienated the mother from her child. This is detrimental to both the mother and the child. Alienating a parent from a child is psychologically dangerous for both as well as places the child in a possible physically and mentally dangerous situation with the suspected abuser. Great hard could have come to the child based on the fact the mother was no longer involved to protect her child and the father is allowed to have free range of control of the child. This is further traumatizing to both child and mother. The child’s only safe haven has now been removed based on unsubstantiated claims.
The ramifications of the unethical actions of this one psychology professional, and I use that term lightly, are abundant and not even one hundred percent known as the ling term effects have yet to be seen. The truly disturbing thing is that this case is not in any way unusual. In fact, in the realm of severe domestic violence situations it is more the norm.
These abusers are not only not stopped by those duty bound to protect it enables the abuser allows them to weaponize the child and the officials against their victims. It is a systemic dismantling of their self. It is psychological murder also known as soul murder or Pernicious Abuse. (Hubs, 2022). Psychological murder is extremely hard to prove and has never been tried in a court of law because of the lack of evidence left behind. Generally, this is because it is a covert action by the abuser. They dismantle the victim’s life piece by piece in all aspects of their lives, financially, emotionally, professionally, and completely. They alienate them from friends, family, and any support system. They cripple them so that leaving is not even an option while tormenting them for staying. Then in the end when they serve no more use, they either toss them away completely ruined or the take the ultimate step and take their physical life be it thru murder or suicide.
Would you have been able to read the evaluation and spot the ethical problems? What did you catch? What did you miss? Explain.
Based on my extensive background in this specific field I do believe that I would have been able to spot the ethical problems.
From the beginning of this evaluation, it is abundantly clear that the evaluator is prejudiced against the mother from the start. She states that the father paid $1500 for the evaluation and the mother has not paid anything. The evaluation did not have to be facilitated by her. There were other options that could have been given so that the father didn’t have to take that cost on but to make this statement right at the beginning and the words the evaluator used show that she had judged the mother based on her financial situation.
Next in the evaluation is the accounting of events from the father’s point of view as relayed by Galager. She makes unsubstantiated claims about things the mother has or has not done. She offers no proof to back any of the claims up. She blatantly ignores any previous cases, issued orders, and evidence to back up the claims by the mother. Instead she dismisses any accusations the mother makes but does no actual investigation or evaluation based on these claims before dismissing them as false allegations. The evaluators’ inability to be unbiased before even speaking with the mother is apparent and another grossly negligent ethical issue. “So, after being falsely accused of physical and sexual abuse, having the police called to block a visit, he is asking for full legal and physical custody of CHILD. He will give MOTHER ample visitation, if she is well, and will give her a year to buy him out of the house, if that is what she wants to do.” (Galager, 2006)
Throughout the whole evaluation each section presents more and more ethical issues. Every recounting of mother’s version of events is written with very evident disdain for the mother and complete disbelief of anything she states but there is no investigation into the claims. Then after the mother’s version of events is recounted by the psychologist, she provides a “MOTHER’S ALLEGATIONS/ HUSBAND’S REPONSES” section which was not provided in the father’s allegations. She allowed him to retort ton every claim, but the mother was not afforded the same curtesy.
I find it hard pressed to find one thing the psychologist did that was proper protocol or ethical from the documents provided. She violated the mother’s civil rights over and over from her own personal bias to not properly informing her that this was an evaluation for the child’s custody placement. She did not inform her that she could take other alternative routes to paying for their specific services. All around this psychologist did not act in good faith, was detrimental to both the mother and the child and did not employ the techniques outlined in the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology.
“When conducting forensic examinations, forensic practitioners strive to be unbiased and impartial, and avoid partisan presentation of unrepresentative, incomplete, or inaccurate evidence that might mislead finders of fact. This guideline does not preclude forceful presentation of the data and reasoning upon which a conclusion or professional product is based.” (Specialty Guidelines, 2011) The psychologist did not exhibit any of these guidelines. She broke numerous rules and if I had been on the board I would have voted to not just suspend but revoke her license. She has no business working in these types of situations.
What could the psychologist have done differently that would have made this an ethical evaluation?
To start with, Galager could have started with an unbiased opinion of both father and mother. She could have investigated the claims both sides were making instead of arbitrarily accepting one version of events over the other. She could have not judged the mother based on her financial situation as often mother’s that have left an abusive situation are completely ruined financially with no resources to improve her situation.
My survivor is experiencing this right now. She has been ruined financially by the man she fled. He has committed numerous acts of fraud in her name including creating an employee file on her at his place of employment where he is a manager. He has been clocking in and out for her despite her never being an employee there and then cashing her paychecks. When she left he would not allow her in the home to retrieve anything. She had no identification, no birth certificate, no social security card or number. She was 100 percent in financial ruin.
In the case in the evaluation the mother is experiencing this same situation and then on top of that she is being judged by being in that situation. Nothing about what this evaluator did was ethical but sadly it’s not surprising. This happens to victims in all walks of life, all financial situations,& devoid of biological identification. This does happen to men as well but statistically a woman is more often the victim than the abuser.
This is simply not acceptable and the laws, regulations and policies in domestic violence situations must be revisited, and things must change. At the forefront of it all the main goal needs not be unification but the safety of the child.
American Psychological Association. (2011). Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/forensic-psychology
Southern New Hampshire University Case Study. Galager, M. (2006) Child Interviews Evaluation
Hubs, M. (2022, June 14). Psychological murder: Death by covert abuse – owlcation. Owlcation. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/Psychological-Murder
Vittes, K. A., & Sorenson, S. B. (2008, June 14). Restraining orders among victims of intimate partner homicide. Injury prevention : journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18523113/