I do not use the term legal abuse to mean abuse that does not violate criminal statutes--as this website details, there is plenty of that and that is a problem.
But by 'legal abuse' I mean use of the legal system to abuse the survivor. This type of abuse becomes more prominent once there is a separation or a protection order in place. Family court proceedings are especially vulnerable to this type of abuse. It is the ultimate abuse of process
Legal proceedings can be used to 'get around' most protections survivors might have assembled to protect themselves and their privacy.
- The primary aggressor gets to be in the same room as the survivor. It is a way to force unwanted contact. This alone becomes a strong incentive.
- The primary aggressor can act pro se (as his own attorney) and often questions or badgers the survivor. Afterwards, he can re-litigate everything with an attorney, claiming he represented himself poorly!
- Proceedings can be drawn out several years. Where there are children, until that child is eighteen, The only limit is the imagination of the primary aggressor. This is several years of forced unwanted contact.
- Blame-filled written products by the primary aggressor will eventually make their way to the survivor via her attorney. This defeats the no-contact protections that may be in place through protection or other orders.
- Forensic assessments, of parenting, DV, or drug and alcohol abuse, at the present state of the art, are very hit-or-miss and of course frequently manipulated. yet the survivor must both participate and pay for half of the considerable fees.
- The burden of defending is always much much greater than the burden of accusing. The survivor cannot respond unskillfully while the primary aggressor can be unskillful and rely on quantity not quality of motions. Usually the survivor needs to pay an attorney, while the primary aggressor again can act pro se, and even get filing fees waived or reduced for indigence
- Any legal proceeding is traumatizing because of expense, personal invalidation, impersonalness of the system, and uncertainty of outcome. Even if the ruling is favorable, the harm has been done
- Because the legal system has as a principle "what can't be proved didn't happen," proceedings can replicate gaslighting that happened in the relationship.
- The legal system is a power and control system that redistributes power based on ideas of merit. Primary aggressors are experts at evincing the appearance of merit. Psychopathic primary aggressors are able to remain very calm, which is considered especially meritorious, while survivors may well be appropriately flustered or emotional.
- Family court presumes that each party arrives in a position of rough equity. Each party is expected to give something and get something. However, a survivor may have been giving for years and a primary aggressor may have been taking for years. The survivor often is modest in requests where the primary aggressor is extravagant. A survivor that doesn't want to give into many of the primary aggressor's demands (which are usually numerous and constantly renewing) will be seen by the court as uncooperative, when in fact she is just trying to exercise some boundaries.
- The survivor will honor her agreements, honoring or fearing the power of the court, whereas the primary aggressor usually will not, but enforcement or censure will be ponderously slow.