Contributed by: Mary Schneider
The question of whether or not mediation is appropriate in cases of domestic abuse is sometimes a controversial topic.
Those who oppose mediation where there has been domestic abuse may not be asking the question in the appropriate way. The question should be reframed to focus on finding an answer to the question of what kind of system we could design that would provide a safe and secure decision-making process for spouses and parents in dispute. The development of hybrid mediation models that embody the self-determination principles of the mediation process while also addressing power, control, coercion and safety issues must be the goal.
The terms of any mediation process should be a choice for the parties and the mediator. Taking away choices is disempowering, and to some victims of abuse taking away the opportunity to choose mediation may replicate the very dynamics of an abusive relationship and does not serve victims well. The batterer acquires power because of his ability to control the victim. A victim acquires power as the result of public disclosure of the abuse and possible court imposed sanctions; however, neither source of power resolves the decisions that couples face in divorce.
It behooves professionals in the fields of mediation and domestic abuse to work together to design systems that support he principles of autonomy and self-determination and allow spouses to separate and divorce in a dignified and safe manner.