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Amicus Committee - Keeler-Hodgetts v. Tsukroff Brief

13 Mar 2024 10:00 AM | Anonymous

Recently, The Queen’s Bench Bar Association joined in an amicus brief filed in Keeler-Hodgetts v. Tsukroff (First Appellate District, Division Two), which addresses important issues related to domestic violence. Below is a summary of the case and arguments raised in the amicus brief.

Appellant Katherine Keeler-Hodgetts sought a domestic violence restraining order against her former partner Brandon Tsukroff.  The trial court denied her request for a restraining order on the ground that she failed to demonstrate a past act of abuse under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act and Family Code section 6200.  The trial court found that Keeler-Hodgetts failed to establish sexual abuse by a preponderance of the evidence.  The trial court found her sexual abuse allegations not credible because she (1) had not previously reported or alleged abuse in prior pleadings and (2) agreed to share legal and physical custody of her two minor daughters with Tsukroff (their father).

The amcius brief argues that the trial court should not have considered points 1 and 2 in evaluating Keeler-Hodgetts’ credibility.  The brief explains that the trial court’s determination that Keeler-Hodgetts “lacked credibility as to her sexual abuse allegations demonstrates what legal scholars and social scientists have detailed for some time: Family law courts commonly respond to women’s reports of sexual violence by discounting their credibility.  Research suggests that this credibility discounting stems from beliefs in traditional gender roles; misconceptions about what domestic violence survivors look like, how survivors behave after assaults, and how they recount their experiences; and a willingness to believe claims of ulterior motives for reporting domestic abuse.”  The brief notes that courts recognize “ ‘it is common for people who have been physically and mentally abused to act in ways that may be difficult for a layperson to understand.’ ”

The brief points out that issues of sexual assault and domestic violence often involve women who are reluctant to report sexual assault, especially sexual assault by the father of their children. Courts must be careful in drawing adverse inferences from women who delay reporting sexual assault and women who agree to share custody with their abuser/father of their children.  

Filed Amicus Brief (1).pdf

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