While conflict is inevitable and inherent to the family, violence is an inadequate manifestation of tensions and conflicts that goes beyond the capacity of response of individuals, due to serious situations of psycho-emotional, socio-cultural or economic limitations. In this sense, violence is the extreme manifestation of the constraints to which families are subjected. What do we mean when we refer to domestic violence? Can family conflict be avoided? Which factors are involved? What do conflict operators have to take into account to deal with these cases? How can ODRs help? These are some of the questions we will discuss in this forum.
Please view this short video to add context to this discussion:
Attorney mediator. Holborn College Diploma in Law of Tort and Law of Contract. University degree in conflict resolution and mediation. Pre-trial mediator with registration granted by the Provincial Direction of Alternative Means of Conflict Resolution of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Aspirant to the Executive Latin American European Master in mediation and negotiation of IUKB-Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch (Switzerland). Applicant to the postgraduate course on Education and TIC of the Ministry of Education of Argentina. Ambassador of ODR Latin America (2013).
María Eugenia Solé said:
I deeply appreciate you shared with us your personal life experience on the issue. If you allow me, I would like to use your contribution (in the academic field of course) as an example to be followed to change the circle of violence. I do believe that this circle can be broken to project a new vision of the future in the parties involved.
Hope you give me your feedback about this petition.
María Eugenia Solé
Jami Preister said:
Conflict Operators have to take into account family history to deal with these cases. Domestic violence often occurs from one generation to the next. Growing up, children learn a lot from their environment. If a child witnesses one parent hitting another parent or if a child gets physically abused by a parent, the child may think violence is acceptable behavior. Children who witness domestic violence live with the violence on a day to day basis. The child may not know violence is not okay or is abnormal behavior. This leads to the child growing up and having relationships, getting married, having children, etc. and potentially using violence to solve problems in the relationships they form.
As a child, I experienced domestic violence. My father was abusive towards my mother, my sisters, and myself. My Father's Father was abusive towards my Father when he was a child. As a result, my Father deemed domestic violence as acceptable. It wasn't until I was put in foster care in fifth grade that I realized domestic violence is not okay. I thought domestic violence occurred in all homes and was normal. I had no idea my friends lived completely different family lives. Fortunately for me, going into foster care woke me up to the reality of domestic violence. I made the choice not to follow in my Father's footsteps and break the generational occurrence of domestic violence.
ODR would be a great tool to address and possibly solve domestic violence issues. Based on my own experience, having the abuser and the victim in the same room causes complications. The abuser does't like being told they were wrong in their actions and may get angered seeing the victim talk about the abuse in front of them. A victim may also be hesitate to talk about the abuse in front of the abuser because they are afraid more abuse will result. This is how ODR would make resolving the issue easier. Allowing the victim the protection of communicating over email or a video chat would make the victim more comfortable because the victim would have a shield from the abuser.
I am joining late, but did not want the week to go by without sharing a couple of research articles on the topic of family mediation and violence. While these articles do not speak to Online DR specifically, which I believe gives the benefit of having the parties physically separated, there are nevertheless many concerns that mediation may not be viable and can have the result of creating a more hostile environment for the child. For those interested in a research based discussion, two of the following three articles have been widely cited and used throughout the U.S and internationally.
The article on Domestic Violence & Mediation was written in 1998, revised about ten years ago and is still being used in domestic violence training in various states. Please feel free to use it if you find it helpful. This can be found on Mediate.com http://www.mediate.com//articles/vestalA3.cfm
The article on Parental Alienation and Mediation was published in 1999 with Family & Conciliation Courts Review and thus must be properly cited if you wish to use excerpts. The article has been translated into many languages. While the topic of Parental Alienation continues to be controversial and in many circles refuted and denied, I think you will find the concepts and recommendations valuable regardless of what language is used to describe the situation. You can find the article here: http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/vestal99.htm
The last article has been less widely cited and has the perspective of a child and family psychologist as second author. It's title is Negotiating Custody with High Conflict Couples; feel free to download from Mediate.com here: http://www.mediate.com//articles/vestalA2.cfm
I hope to get back to the discussion before the week is over.
Thank you for the dialog on this issue and how we can best transform violence in families.
I appreciate the introduction of this topic. It seems to be an effective solution to an extremely challenging problem. When I was initially introduced to ODR, it seemed like a great option to solve communication gaps created through physical distance. In terms of domestic violence and co-parenting, ODR creates a physical gap between individuals to allow for healthy and beneficial communication for both parties involved.
The court system has many rules and guidelines in place to assist domestic violence victims but one huge challenge is the fact that many victims must face their abuser in court during trials or hearings. ODR allows for distance for the victim to feel safe while still being able to effectively communicate with the other party. It seems like this is a great solution to reduce fear and intimidation. I think that the online conversation options allow for personalized communication preferences so an individual can choose to only use chat settings if they prefer to not engage in face-to-face conversations. If both parties would prefer using both chat and video communication tools, they could pursue those options instead. This option of ODR really allows for victims to communicate in the way that they feel most comfortable.
Thank you for allowing me to share my insights.
What do we mean when we refer to domestic violence? Can family conflict be avoided? Which factors are involved? What do conflict operators have to take into account to deal with these cases? How can ODRs help?
As the video indicates, domestic violence can be most simply explained as violence in the family unit. The traditional view of domestic violence is man on woman physical violence. However, I think that paradigm has shifted to include psychological violence in relation to threats and intimidation. I also think that the definition has been expanded to included female on male domestic violence, and with the shift in family types, including homosexual couples, I would imagine the analysis has changed as well.
Family conflict is inevitable. When you spend so much time with a particular group conflict is inevitable, family is no different. Though for clarification, conflict is not always necessarily a bad thing. In the domestic violence lens, then yes, conflict is always bad and inexcusable. But conflict in general such as disagreements and differing views are a guarantee to happen. As families grow, the need for independence and desire to establish ones self in the family dynamic is going to lead to conflict.
When dealing with familial issues, conflict operators most certainly have to take history into account. In the context of divorce for example, the parties are likely going to say they are looking for resolution, but their first priority will likely be revenge or at the minimum falling into the same patterns that got them to the situation they are in. Conflict operators need to be aware of these patterns and find ways to break them. In the scenario involving domestic violence it is very plausible that fear would have to be a factor that would inhibit truthful communication. Even though someone is out of the situation that was abusive, they are still likely to be apprehensive about that other person out of concern for what could subsequently happen. If a conflict operator does not take these factors into account then they run the risk of ineffective counsel. Sure, a resolution might be reached, but the concern is two fold: (a) would it actually stick; and (b) is it the correct option based on the circumstances?
ODR offers the anonymity and safety to express concern in a forum where the victim of domestic abuse can be truthful without fear of reprisal. However, anonymity has its drawbacks as well. For instance, if a member of the family is behind a computer screen, the motivation to embellish might be exacerbated and a situation that would not qualify as true domestic violence might get categorized as such and a party is left defending themselves to inaccurate accusations, all conducted online. However, I think the benefits of ODR outweigh the risks when it comes to family conflict. Sometimes family conflict needs the separation of a keyboard in order to keep the necessary distance and avoid falling into destructive patterns.
Utilizing ODR in familial situations where domestic violence has been present can prove to be advantageous for many reasons. The first and most obvious reason that ODR can be beneficial is that ODR can allow for the victim to negotiate with the perpetrator or aggressor in an environment that is completely free of the aggressor, thus allowing for the victim to communicate in a more comfortable manner. In situations where domestic violence has arisen the aggressor typically takes control of the victims psychological and social thought processes through acts of physical and verbal abuse. From the victims perspective, having to communicate with an individual who may have caused such harm can be difficult but may be needed, especially when the structure of the family, going forward, has to be considered. Mediating or negotiating a parenting contract via an ODR platform could enable the victim to be devoid of feelings of helplessness when communicating with the perpetrator. Whether communicating synchronously through a video chatting platform or asynchronously through email, ODR can diminish the probability for the aggressor to affect the victim emotionally and enhance the potential for productive communication.
A second motivation of employing the use of ODR in situations where domestic violence has occurred is that it could potentially protect the psyche of the children involved. All too often domestic violence has been described as acts of aggression perpetrated towards an individual. In cases where the parties involved have children; the emotions of the children have usually been negated. Incorporating ODR into resolving these disputes can enable the children to have a say in the process without being physically exposed to the aggressor of the parent who was victimized.
In closing, I feel that ODR can be utilized as a tool to facilitate operative communication between the victim and aggressor in domestic violence situations. In The Dynamics of Conflict, Mayer (2012, P. 158) mentions that we want to be able to engage in conflict in a powerful way but to be safe at the same time and nonetheless, having to deal with someone we are in conflict with, especially if we feel vulnerable and unempowered, can feel very unsafe. The use of ODR can assist in alleviating feelings of uncomfortableness and despair that the victim may experience in typical litigations and mediations.
Amanda Heims - you mention Online Dispute Resolution and its application or potential one in the area of domestic violence. You included the word "neutral" in your posting. There can be a call for practitioners who have "controlled emotional involvement " in, for example, distressing, conflict-based and other like situations. Please see http://cstl-hhs.semo.edu/stokes/sw110/Seven%20Principles%20of%20the... for further information. These principles seem to be reflected in, for example, Biestek’s (1961) work. It can be important to understand the parties’ situations and to be responsive to their needs. There may be very few “cookie cutter approaches” to which to appeal in the area of human disagreement and suffering that can inform practitioners in such a field as Online Dispute Resolution. These practitioners may face unique and stressful circumstances and be called upon to apply their discretionary judgements to assist parties to transform their conflicts.
Jen Geary, Dr., LLB,MDE.
Amanda Heims said:
I think online dispute resolution would be a wonderful addition to co-parenting issues in familiars with a history of domestic violence. I currently work in a law firm that deals with a lot of domestic violence issues especially those that are verbal abuse. I think online dispute resolution can be an effective way for these individuals to communicate without the need for face to face contact. I think it is all to often that following the victim leaving the abuser, the abuse continues in another form, or in the form of manipulation. Therefore, while the verbal or physical abuse ends, another form of abuse begins. I think if a facilitator is involved, it will be less likely that the abuse can continue to manipulate the victim of the abuse, as this person can ensure that such communication does not continue. I do agree, however, with the previous posts that it will be a difficult role for the facilitator to moderate these dispute resolutions, as this person needs to remain neutral.
I also think online dispute resolution may help in situations where the child is put in the "middle-man" position or a position that the child is used to communicate between his parents or used as a bargaining tool. Online dispute resolution may even be effective in that an adolescent child could be allowed to participate with his parents to communicate issues that he/she is facing without repercussions from the other parent. I think leaving the child out of situations, especially when abuse exists, will help the parents of that child actually co-parent and the child lead a hopefully happier life.
I have gained a lot of new insight into the multiple levels of domestic violence exist. When examining the different levels of conflict, interactions that involve the family can be some of the most tenuous interactions. Unfortunately if family members cannot express themselves, their frustrations, their pain, their opinion express that in an appropriate form; family members too often reply with domestic violence. As mentioned by many thoughtful posts from other ODR members, there are many impacts from the domestic violence.
Any way to reduce these tensions and allow for a more civil approach to interacting with other parties, should be instituted. One way that the mediators/attorneys in the office that I work propose when there is some form of lack of civility between parties is to require parties to communicate through emails to one another. If there are multiple issues that the parties desire to discuss, they are required to send a separate email for each issue. By breaking down each communication to emails on each issue helps in multiple ways. By forcing the parties to separate out each issue, the party who is drafting the emails has time to contemplate what the issue really is. Taking that time to compose the email, may cause the drafter to calm down and think before sending the email. Additionally, if there is any verbal abuse or psychological abuse, the emails are retained by the other party and can be used as evidence of domestic violence. Another benefit of the multiple issue emails in reducing domestic violence is that the emails must be on point with the specific issue and limit the interaction between the abuser and the other party. Having this online dispute resolution can help reduce the painful interactions between parties and still allow for enough communication to allow easy transition for custody and parenting time of minor children.
I appreciated your comments on the power imbalance in Domestic Violence relationships. I agree that often the aggressor has power, based on previous experience and fear, that a mediator in a traditional setting is unable to completely remove. Despite the mediator's best efforts, they cannot control every word that the aggressor says that might trigger a previously abusive situation (be it verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, etc.), and there is no way to understand all the history that those involved in Domestic Violence have between each other. I think that Online Dispute Resolution would be a fantastic way to remove a large component of fear many of those on the receiving end of DV feel- uneasiness at being in the presence of the aggressor in their relationship. ODR can provide a separation, a distance between the aggressor and the recipient, which would simultaneously remove power from the aggressor and grant more power to the recipient.
This greater equalization of power could help instill confidence in the mediation process for those who had been on the receiving end of DV, and help them to be more willing to participate in Co-Parenting decision making, rather than trying to avoid it. This could result in quicker resolutions when problems arise that need to be dealt with, and a smoother process for all involved.
I think this is a fantastic, innovative idea to help with already difficult situations. Best of luck to those who implement this method!
Konner Pemberton said:
I see the potential of using ODR in cases of domestic abuse to be very promising. The use of ODR overcomes one of the major weaknesses of traditional mediation practices in cases of domestic abuse, by allowing there to be a larger degree of separation for the victim of a domestic abuse from the aggressor in a domestic abuse. This is important because the aggressor may have a large degree of power over the victim’s emotions and actions through intimidation and manipulation. In a traditional mediation even with an experienced mediator it is not impossible to imagine the aggressor exercising this power over the victim just by being physically present. This imbalance of power raises serious ethical questions of the effectiveness of traditional mediation in cases where domestic violence has occurred. This is unfortunate because should the two parties involved in a case where domestic violence has occurred have children and wish to work out a parenting agreement through mediation it would be unfortunate to deprive both of the parties of this opportunity. ODR provides an alternative to traditional mediation by allowing the victim to be physically separated from their aggressor, engage in the mediation from a place that they find comforting making it less likely that the aggressor in a domestic abuse will be able to use intimidation and manipulation to disempower the victim. Also like traditional mediation the mediator can use their professional judgment to determine how much face to face contact, though programs like skype, the two parties should have, if any at all, or if the mediation should be conducted privately with each party not having direct contact.
It does seem difficult to assess that even with the benefits that ODR brings to disputes involving domestic violence if and when it is appropriate for the victim to engage in online mediation with their aggressor. Some cases involving domestic abuse can go on for years, causing significant emotional, psychological, and physical pain for the victim. This can lead the victim to feel severely disempowered. Even with the benefits that ODR possess in addressing cases of domestic violence. I can see the possibility of this process still being harmful for the victim if it is not handled with great care. With that being said if it is handled correctly with great care I could see ODR being useful for the recovery of the victim, by allowing them to engage in an online mediation process that they would otherwise not be able to have access to. This could be an empowering experience because it allows them to express their interests in a safe environment and have significant representation in the process of forming a parenting agreement.
Thank you to Maria Eugenia Sole for helping us have such an interesting topic for discussion.
Can family conflict be avoided?
I think family conflict can be avoided.
It is pity to see people in conflict. We know that know one is happy. But again, it is so hard to avoid conflicts. Sometimes we are just arguing, as most of the parents say to their children when they are asked whether they are in conflict. The fact that we are different should not be the reason of conflicts. There is a need to accepts our differences and make them the reasons of unity. We are different in many things. Some of our differences are so easy to say for anyone can see. But we have different views too. When these are not considered in a proper way, then conflicts cannot be avoided.
How then can we try to avoid family conflict?
* To acknowledge that there are different
- Augustine Gama -