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By: Spencer Cantrell, JD, Legal Access Program Director

JCADA assist clients at any point in an abusive relationship: pre-separation, through a separation or divorce, and post-separation. One of the most common issues for clients post-separation is their attempt to co-parent with an abuser. Due to the dynamics of abuse, specifically power and control, co-parenting can be nearly impossible. For example, many JCADA clients report that their ex-partners:

  • Return the child(ren) late; 
  • Insist on coming up to the front door;
  • Block their cars so they cannot leave a meeting area; or 
  • Refuse to return the child(ren) when the weather is inclement or other family matters arise. 
Parents also often report frustration that their abusive partner refuses to help with homework or sends the child(ren) home after their bedtime without having served them dinner. While we understand that different parents will have varying rules and that no two households are identical, we can also identify patterns of continuing power and control in this behavior1. Because of these dynamics, many JCADA clients living in Montgomery County would benefit immensely from a safe, supervised visitation and custody exchange center. This resource would promote the safety of both the clients and their children.

Take for instance the story of one of JCADA’s clients, Trish. Trish’s ex-husband has severe mental health issues. In addition to being physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive to Trish, her ex-husband also attempted suicide in front of their two children. Thanks to a court order, Trish was able to receive full custody of her children and her ex-husband was ordered only supervised visitation. Her husband came to the first three supervised visitations, but then failed to return because he did not have a car and transportation to the center was difficult on Sundays due to the amended bus schedules. Having satellite locations around Montgomery County would be helpful to this family, because the children still want to see their father and have some reassurances that he is okay, but this can only occur in a safe, secured environment.

Another JCADA client who would benefit from supervised visitation centers around Montgomery County is Madison. She is in the process of divorcing her husband who has been violently abusive, suffers from severe substance abuse issues, and totaled Madison’s car. Madison now relies on the bus to get their four children to and from doctor’s appointments, school, and church. Madison also wants her children to have a relationship with their father, but his substance abuse issues make it safe only in a controlled environment. Furthermore, Madison’s husband lives in a group home for recovering addicts, an environment unsafe for visitation. Having satellite locations available would be one more step towards helping Madison, her children and countless other families stabilize their lives by letting the children see their parent while feeling safe.

In the past, other JCADA clients have expressed interest in using a supervised visitation or exchange center. However, for various reasons this was not an option: the sole location was too inconvenient; their calendar was already fully booked; scheduling was not feasible due to parents working hours; one party would not agree to it; or other options were simply easier. Many of our clients have turned to a relative’s house, McDonald's parking lots, or firehouse stations. One JCADA client always goes to the same gas station, and knows where the surveillance cameras are, so that at least if something happens to her or her children, it is documented. This is a tragic way to approach facilitating a relationship between children and their parents. Additionally, fast food workers and firefighters are not typically trained in de-escalation and how to best manage any issues that might arise in an abusive relationship or when children choose not to visit with one parent.

Adding more visitation centers around Montgomery County would be incredibly helpful to so many of JCADA’s clients and to so many more. Trained staff in a secured location would help to stop the cycle of abuse, preserve children’s relationships with both parents, and create an environment where all parties feel safe and comfortable in encouraging children to have a relationship with both parents.

In the past, other JCADA clients have expressed interest in using a supervised visitation or exchange center. However, for various reasons this was not an option: the sole location was too inconvenient; their calendar was already fully booked; scheduling was not feasible due to parents working hours; one party would not agree to it; or other options were simply easier. Many of our clients have turned to a relative’s house, McDonald's parking lots, or firehouse stations. One JCADA client always goes to the same gas station, and knows where the surveillance cameras are, so that at least if something happens to her or her children, it is documented. This is a tragic way to approach facilitating a relationship between children and their parents. Additionally, fast food workers and firefighters are not typically trained in de-escalation and how to best manage any issues that might arise in an abusive relationship or when children choose not to visit with one parent.

Adding more visitation centers around Montgomery County would be incredibly helpful to so many of JCADA’s clients and to so many more. Trained staff in a secured location would help to stop the cycle of abuse, preserve children’s relationships with both parents, and create an environment where all parties feel safe and comfortable in encouraging children to have a relationship with both parents.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of client.


Posted by JCADA | Topic: Legal Access  | Category: Legal Access

February may be Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, but AWARE®’s Teen Advisory Board spends every month of the year doing their part to prevent dating abuse and promote healthy relationships for their peers. The board gets together for monthly meetings to discuss current events, how to raise awareness about teen dating abuse and how to educate teens about the warning signs of abuse and how to help themselves or their friends get help. We asked two of our Teen Advisory Board superstars why they joined and how they want to make an impact in their communities.

Why did you join the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board? 

Rachel Loewy: Before joining the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board, I participated in an It’s Not Love® workshop and interned at JCADA. While interning, I often read about how common teen dating abuse is, but it’s hard to really grasp unless you hear personal stories about it. By spending a couple of hours a month with my peers discussing dating abuse, I further understood just how widespread of an issue it is and how prevalent it is in our own community.

Emma Thoms: Ever since I participated in an It’s Not Love® workshop at camp, I have carried the AWARE® card with the signs of abusive relationships with me everywhere. I feel very strongly about the importance of healthy relationships and the need for everyone to know the warning signs and the dangers of an abusive relationship. Being involved with the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board gives me the opportunity to learn more and feel confident educating others.

What are three qualities you think are essential in healthy relationships? 

ET: One is that you both are able to give each other space and are not completely dependent on each other. Second is that when conflict comes up, you are both able to talk it through and compromise. Lastly, you both communicate and honor each other’s boundaries and have a mutual understanding that you will respect each other's limits.

How do you plan to raise awareness during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? 

RL: I want to raise more awareness with my peers by engaging them in a discussion about teen dating abuse. A lot of high schoolers think of abuse as just physical and as a man hitting a woman, but it can also be verbal, emotional, technological, sexual or financial. It also affects both men and women and can happen in same-sex relationships, too. 

ET: I’m going to talk to my friends about what I’ve learned and use social media to spread the word!

To learn more about Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, follow @AWARENow or visit loveisrespect.org.

By Talia Rodwin, AWARE® Intern

The internet is simultaneously extremely public and very private. Teens especially share intimate details about themselves with large groups of acquaintances or even strangers, using the internet and social media to publicly post personal experiences as a means of connecting with others. But what about the information they do want to keep private? How much do teens know about their security and privacy protection rights online? Apparently, very little. This is largely due to dense and inaccessible terms and conditions sections of the apps and sites they use. 

In January 2017, “Growing Up Digital,” a U.K. task force convened by the Children’s Commissioner for England, released a report that studied teens’ interactions with Instagram’s Terms of Use. Teens thought it was “boring” and were unable to recognize their rights “due to the sheer amount of writing and the lack of clarity within the document.” Their lack of comprehension posed a serious concern. Teens had no idea that Instagram could distribute and make money off their photos without notification or consent. They also had no idea that Instagram could read their direct messages.

One member of the task force, Jenny Afia, decided to sift through the over 5,000 words of Instagram’s Terms of Use and created a more concise and readable version so that users, especially teens, would have a clear understanding of their rights on the app. Afia’s version includes easy-to-understand rules, such as:

  • “Don’t bully anyone or post anything horrible about people.” 
  • “Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.” 
  • “Although you are responsible for the information you put on Instagram, we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).”
At the close of 2016, Instagram announced that it had grown to more than 600 million users. How many of them really know their digital rights? Understanding their rights to privacy, or lack thereof, on social media is critical for teens to make informed decisions about how they access these platforms and promote their own agency in using these apps, as opposed to being manipulated by sites and other users. 

For the full simplified version of Instagram's Term of Use, read the Children's Commissioner report, "Growing Up Digital."

Source: “A lawyer rewrote Instagram’s terms of use ‘in plain English’ so kids would know their privacy rights”, Washington Post, 8 January 2017.