Order in the Court: Offender Abuse and Control via the Judicial System

Order in the Court: Offender Abuse and Control via the Judicial System
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-03-21
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Order in the Court: Offender Abuse and Control via the Judicial System
Unit 2Transcript: Order in the Court: Offender Abuse and Control via the Judicial System
Unit 3Workbook: Order in the Court: Offender Abuse and Control via the Judicial System
Unit 4Recording: Order in the Court: Offender Abuse and Control via the Judicial System

Abusive partners employ all means possible to maintain power and control over their victims. They even find ways to inflict suffering on their victims even when the issue is in the hands of justice by circumventing legal processes and employing coercive control through litigation. This webinar walks us through how this transpires and what can justice system actors can do to prevent further victimization and hold abusers accountable.

This session’s resource speaker is Sara Mahoney. Sara is a Probation Officer for the Allegany County Probation Department who specializes in domestic violence cases and facilitates its DV Offender Program. She is also a Title 9 coordinator with the State University of New York.

Specifics of Sara’s discussion are on:

  • The legal system players a perpetrator trying to maintain control over their victim may interact with, how the justice system can empower perpetrators, and how abuse may co-occur across the legal processes.
  • A case example demonstrating the different methods employed by a perpetrator to cause stress on the system and retraumatization for the victim.
  • The lack of abusive litigation procedures and statutes in most of the US states.
  • How abusers are highly manipulative and use the court system to accomplish their end goal of causing harm to the victims by:
    • Creating smokescreens keeping the justice system players from the core of the issues
    • Denying incidents and blaming the victim for how events come about.
    • Using children as informants to monitor the victims’ behavior and activities.
    • Threatening to report the victim for other offenses or threatening custody.
    • Leveraging legal rights to maintain access to the victims.
    • Clogging up dockets with multiple petitions and filings which creates ongoing psychological and financial distress for the victim.
  • Facts and figures on the prevalence of IPV, challenges in negotiating victims’ interests, taking domestic violence into account in custody decisions, and how children influence victims’ help-seeking.
  • A glimpse into the victims’ experience characterized by fear, helplessness, hopelessness, isolation, and constant emotional and financial drain.
  • The victims’ perceptions of the minimization of their plight by the courts where:
    • They are not heard by the system, are revictimized and retraumatized, and discouraged from participating in the process.
    • IPV history and patterns being omitted from the case files.
    • Perpetrators are given joint legal and physical custody or unsupervised visitation.
    • Abusers distorting information to distract the court from the abuse dynamics which throws the proceedings off-course.
    • Misperceptions and biases on the part of professionals also contribute to IPV going under-detected.
  • How the presence of children in IPV incidents drives victims to participate in the system but makes it difficult for victims to fully escape the violence.
  • The need to train justice professionals on the dynamics of abuse and how abusers circumvent existing legal processes to their advantage to better address IPV and hold perpetrators accountable.
  • How abusers determined to sidetrack the system end up creating distractions that…
    • Challenge the integrity of the justice professionals and puts their careers at risk.
    • Requires more time and resources to be spent on the case to accommodate their complaints.
    • Harasses and places more work on justice professionals.
    • Facilitates distrust in the system for the victims as well as the justice professionals.
  • Improving victim outcomes through mandatory trainings to understand abuse dynamics, statutes for litigation abuse, and creating a trauma-informed and bias-free environment where victims feel heard.
  • The importance of helpful interactions within the court system actors and lessening distress in the courtroom for the victims.

Questions raised by the course participants are on:

  • Helping a victim find representation.
  • Sanctions for frivolous pleadings.
  • States with statutes against litigation abuse.
  • Instances where litigation abuse played out in an elder abuse case.
  • Shifting the system actors’ perspective of getting victims to settle because offenders are more difficult to rein in.



Click here to view and register for other upcoming Probation/Community Corrections webinars and recordings on the JCH Platform

Or Click here to view and register for other upcoming Domestic Violence webinars and recordings on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comment

  • The existence of Abusive litigation statutes and the confirmation that what I suspected of occurring in many IPV cases was indeed a reality and has a name. Thank you, both professionally and personally, for this informative webinar. It helped in more ways than you can imagine. — Hannah
  • great ideas to supervise DV cases. — Michael
  • I see this daily!~ — Mike
  • I enjoyed having specific research studies to refer to.” — Tracy
  • “The webinar host was able to provide a great example of perpetrator abuse of the system but also was able to expand on how far-reaching that it can expand. This was a great webinar.” — Debra
  • “Best webinar I have attended with y’all so far! Great presentation.” — Daisy
  • “This webinar really drives home why there needs to be a conversation in every department about addressing victims through a trauma-informed approach. It’s not personal when a victim does not want to speak directly to an officer – they simply have many reasons to be wary and distrustful of the system.” — Sarah
  • “All of the feedback and audience participation were great! Thank you!” — Tara
  • “The case summary was excellent.” — Teresa



Additional Resources
1 year ago
After the Webinar: Order in the Court – Offender Abuse and Control via the Court System. Q&A with Sara Mahoney
Webinar presenter Sara Mahoney answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Order in the C […]
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6 years ago
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