Shattered Perceptions (from "Complicit in Abuse")

Each episode of Get Schooled has been different. We’ve covered topics all over the spectrum, interviewing people who play all sorts of roles in education. Some episodes are light, and some, like e8: “Complicit in Abuse”, are heavy. One thing is consistent - each episode challenges things I thought I knew.

The heavy ones, especially, take a toll.

I want to tell you more about Get Schooled Episode 8: “Complicit in Abuse”. If you’ve listened to it already, you know that it’s about Vicki, a protective mother who’s tried her best to keep her son safe from his abusive father. From the courts to the school system, she’s been let down.

“Hi - I want to be interviewed about the school system that failed to protect my son.”

That’s what she told me in an online message.

The interview, as you may have heard in my voice, shocked me and shook me to my core. More than that, it showed me how limited my understanding of family violence, trauma, and patriarchy is.

I’ve listed three of the main things that I didn’t know before, and in retrospect, they seem so obvious. But they weren’t.

  1. Fathers win custody battles

Before the interview, I assumed child custody battles are generally skewed in favor of the mother. However, this summary shows how blatantly court systems favor oppressors. In Vicki’s case, she was disbelieved and retaliated against when she was trying to avoid contact with the father for the safety of herself and her child.

I couldn’t imagine the trauma reinforcement of trying to escape an abuser…and have that escape be documented as evidence of being an unfit parent. For over 15 years. Everything Vicki did to protect herself and her son seemed to backfire, and so much of it is attributable to entrenched patriarchy in the legal system (which I didn’t even consider before this episode, especially in matters of custody).

2. Courts don’t care about child safety

In the episode, we talk about how shocking it is that abused mothers aren’t believe. Vicki mentioned that children aren’t a priority in these battles, but many cases come to a point where they outright ignore the impacts of violence on children.

“A survey of 201 psychologists from 39 states who conducted custody evaluations indicated that domestic violence was not considered by most to be a major factor in making custody determinations.” - leadershipcouncil.org

Our political climate doesn’t favor immigrant children and that’s a hard truth to hide, but I assumed there would be strong legal protections in place for “our” American kids. Apparently not.

This needs to change.

3. Schools don’t actually always report

I worked at Galileo, a summer camp, for five summers in a row. Mandated reporting was an important part of training. Even before that, in my public school, it was mentioned to us a few times that our teachers and guidance counselors were mandated reporters and would keep us safe.

After Vicki shared how deeply her son’s school let him down and allowed violent abuse to continue, I looked further into it. It’s been difficult for me to accept that this happens on a larger scale - including many counties in California.

“Since at least 2002, San Diego County has not prosecuted any failure-to-report cases. San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan said neither her office nor the city attorney’s office has ever received a complaint of a mandated reporter failing to report child abuse.” - Voiceofsandiego.org

The article goes on to mention that it happens in other counties - even Santa Clara, where I grew up.

How do I process?

This episode was emotional for me to create. But that’s why podcasting, to me, is so important. It’s a rare form of news that builds empathy on a deep level - I could hear how difficult it was for Vicki to share her story. The strain in her voice was clear.

It’s up to us to take our ignorance and turn it into information. We must build a society where we commit to doing the best for future generations and for ourselves. Trauma awareness, supporting legislation that puts child safety first, and domestic violence training are all part of the solution.

More resources can be found on our show notes. Thank you for coming on this journey with us.

Nivi Achanta