APA: Fathers who batter their children's mothers can be expected to use abusive power and control techniques to control the children
Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force On Violence And The Family
WHEN PARENTS SEPARATE AFTER AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP, SHOULDN'T FATHERS HAVE AS MUCH RIGHT AS MOTHERS TO BE GRANTED PHYSICAL CUSTODY OF AND VISITATION RIGHTS WITH THEIR CHILDREN?
Tensions exist between children's need for contact with their father and their need to be protected from the physical, sexual and psychological abuse that is common in families where there has been other forms of violence such as woman abuse.Although most people believe that fathers should have equal access to their children after the termination of a relationship between the parents, the equal-access option is based on the assumption that the fathers will act in their children's best interests. However, that is a naive assumption in situations where family violence has occurred.
Fathers who batter their children's mothers can be expected to use abusive power and control techniques to control the children, too. In many of these families, prior to separation, the men were not actively involved in the raising of their children. To gain control after the marital separation, the fathers fight for the right to be involved. Often children who have been exposed to violence in the family are frightened to confront their father's negative or abusive behavior, and mothers cannot protect them. Sometimes the father tries to alienate the child from the mother by using money and other enticements, negative comments, or restricted access to the telephone during visitation with him. Other times, fathers may threaten or actually kidnap the child to punish the mother for leaving, or to try to force her to return.
Most people, including the battered woman herself, believe that when a woman leaves a violent man, she will remain the primary caretaker of their children. Family courts, however, may not consider the history of woman abuse relevant in awarding custody. Recent studies suggest that an abusive man is more likely than a nonviolent father to seek sole physical custody of his children and may be just as likely (or even more likely) to be awarded custody as the mother. Often fathers win physical custody because men generally have greater financial resources and can continue the court battles with more legal assistance over a longer period of time.
Family courts frequently minimize the harmful impact of children's witnessing violence between their parents and sometimes are reluctant to believe mothers. If the court ignores the history of violence as the context for the mother's behavior in a custody evaluation, she may appear hostile, uncooperative, or mentally unstable. For example, she may refuse to disclose her address, or may resist unsupervised visitation, especially if she thinks her child is in danger. Psychological evaluators who minimize the importance of violence against the mother, or pathologize her responses to it, may accuse her of alienating the children from the father and may recommend giving the father custody in spite of his history of violence.
Some professionals assume that accusations of physical or sexual abuse of children that arise during divorce or custody disputes are likely to be false, but the empirical research to date shows no such increase in false reporting at that time. In many instances, children are frightened about being alone with a father they have seen use violence towards their mother or a father who has abused them. Sometimes children make it clear to the court that they wish to remain with the mother because they are afraid of the father, but their wishes are ignored.
Research indicates that high levels of continued conflict between separated and divorced parents hinders children's normal development. Some practitioners now believe that it may be better for children's development to restrict the father's access to them and avoid continued danger to both mothers and the children.
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This case is still pending at the IACHR. We expect a ruling any day. The last that we heard the commission had asked for more information from the petitioners that request can be seen Follow up request from the commission 2013. I supplied the requested information of my part in February 2013. I have also started a file that can be viewed here related to the IACHR.
Since the information is no longer available via the stop family violence website, a reconstruction of that site is here.
Full Text of IACHR Petition. On May 11,2007, just before Mother’s Day weekend, ten mothers, one victimized child, now an adult, leading national and state organizations filed a complaint against the United States with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. Their petition claims that U.S. courts, by frequently awarding child custody to abusers and child molesters, has failed to protect the life, liberties, security and other human rights of abused mothers and their children.
2007 May 11 IACHR Entire PETITION Mother's File International Lawsuit
Dombrowski et el V. U.S.A, 2007
International Commission Human Rights
Failures of U.S. Courts Forces Mothers to Turn to International Law - See more at: http://americanmotherspoliticalparty.org/ampp-article-library-family-court-custody-abuse-dv/8-news-action-alerts-press-release/46-failures-of-us-courts-forces-mothers-to-turn-to-international-law#sthash.mPqmwjGP.dpuf
Written by Barry Goldstein
Sunday, 25 August 2013 08:52
In a Queens New York custody case, the court appointed a prominent psychologist to evaluate a young couple. The psychologist was frequently used as an expert in the New York courts despite a fathers’ rights bias that included a quotation in a New York Times article supporting shared parenting. Throughout his testimony supporting the abusive father, the evaluator could not respond to any of my questions asking for research to support any of his claims. Finally I asked him if there was any research to support his belief that children benefit from a 50-50 division as compared to 70-30. He cited Judith Wallerstein, but could not cite a particular book or article. A colleague put me in touch with Ms. Wallerstein who sent me an email for my continued cross-examination of the evaluator. She said that earlier research had indicated shared parenting might be beneficial in cases where the parents are able to cooperate, but more recent research has demonstrated that shared parenting is in fact harmful to children. One of the problems in our custody courts is that this psychologist, like most experts relied on by the courts does not have the knowledge of up-to-date research or the ability to apply it to custody cases.
Shared custody, sometimes referred to as joint custody involves joint decision making by the parents and sometimes also requires something close to a 50-50 division of time with each parent. The equal time division is often important to parents wishing to avoid paying child support. Proponents of shared parenting say it is only fair that parents have the same rights to parenting time with their children and courts claim that they must treat each parent that comes to court equally. This seems fair unless we understand the unstated part that parents should be treated the same regardless of the quantity and quality of time each parent spent with the child before the separation. Research about primary attachment is not controversial and demonstrates that a child’s primary attachment figure is more important to the well being of a child than the other parent. Furthermore, although research supports the belief that children benefit from having both parents in their lives, this is not true if one of the parents is abusive. Nevertheless many courts think it is their obligation to treat each parent the same even when one is much more valuable to the child.
Custody When Neither Parent is Abusive
The concept of shared parenting was supported by an initial study that found a favorable response. Courts were delighted to support shared parenting because it served as a way to compromise a difficult issue and could remove many cases from an already crowded calendar. Abusive fathers who had little involvement with the children during the relationship strongly supported shared parenting as a way to avoid child support and maintain access and control over their victims.
The initial study was based on a very limited population and most favorable circumstances that included parents who enthusiastically supported the use of shared parenting, were able to cooperate and lived close together. Later studies that included larger populations and more long term effects of the arrangement demonstrated shared custody to be harmful to children, but these studies failed to dampen the enthusiasm for shared custody in the legal system and by abusers.
The studies found that children with two homes in reality had no homes. Children forced to bounce back and forth between their parents’ homes were denied a sense of security and continuity. They could not spend the time with friends that they wanted and often could not participate in a variety of activities because they had to be with the other parent when some of the events occurred. Children were often embarrassed when articles they needed for school or other activities were left in the wrong home. In other words, even when parents were able to cooperate, the shared custody arrangement placed added pressure on the children and made their lives more difficult. Their success in academic studies and social interaction was negatively impacted by the shared custody arrangement.
Shared Custody in Domestic Violence Cases
Many of the laws and proposed legislation seeking to promote shared custody purport to contain language to create an exception for domestic violence cases and sometimes for other cases in which the parties are unable to cooperate. There is a good reason to treat domestic violence cases differently as shared custody is particularly harmful to children when one of the parents is an abuser. A parent cannot co-parent with an abuser because it is unsafe to challenge him and compromise is impossible when there is unequal power. The fundamental problem, too often missed by courts is that abusers are willing to see their children harmed in order to maintain what they believe is their right to control or punish their partner. Most contested custody cases that courts mistakenly label “high conflict” are in reality domestic violence cases in which fathers use the common abuser tactic of seeking custody to maintain control of their partner or punish her for leaving. Children who witness domestic violence (including non-physical abuse) are more likely to engage in dysfunctional behavior when they are older. Depending on their age when they witness his abuse, their stage of development is disrupted. All batterers have been found to engage in harmful parenting practices including undermining the relationship with the other parent, teaching bad values (sexism) and providing a bad example. In other words, up-to-date research establishes that abusers are not appropriate candidates for custody or shared custody.
The benefit of an exception for domestic violence is limited because of the widespread failure of courts to recognize domestic violence in custody cases. Thirty plus years ago when domestic violence first became a public issue there was no research available. Courts, like other bodies developed practices and approaches to consider domestic violence without knowing what worked. At the time domestic violence was mostly focused on physical abuse. The assumption was that mental problems and substance abuse caused domestic violence and that women’s behavior contributed to their partner’s abuse. Courts therefore chose to use mental health professionals as experts although they had no training in the dynamics of domestic violence. Courts assumed that children were not harmed by domestic violence unless they were directly assaulted and his abuse would end once the parties separated. Up-to-date research demonstrates that all of this and many other assumptions still relied on by many professionals in the custody court system are wrong.
There is now a specialized body of knowledge about domestic violence, but too often judges and the professionals they rely on are overconfident in their own understanding of domestic violence and fail to consider up-to-date research. Judge Mike Brigner wrote in his chapter for DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY that when he trains judges they often ask him what to do about women who are lying. When asked what they mean, they cite women who return to their abusers, fail to pursue petitions for protective orders, don’t have police reports or hospital records and the myth that women frequently make false allegations of abuse to gain an advantage in litigation (in reality this occurs only one-two percent of the time). None of these behaviors indicates the women are lying and in fact this is often the safest response they can make particularly when still living with their abuser. Similarly inadequately trained professionals often cite the fact that the children did not seem afraid of the alleged abuser when they observed them as proof the allegations are false. The children understand what the “experts” don’t that the abuser is not going to hurt them in front of others and in fact they could be punished if they demonstrated fear in public. Many professionals in the court system believe they have the ability to determine who is lying just from observation. In fact research shows that aside from a very few elite CIA and FBI agents, no one has been shown to possess this skill. Accordingly these professionals through this belief become more susceptible to abusers who are skilled manipulators. While the unqualified professionals often discredit allegations of abuse for these and other invalid reasons, they fail to look at the pattern of controlling and coercive behaviors that would help them see the pattern of abusive behavior.
The result of this and many other mistakes by professionals in the custody court system is that thousands of children are being forced to live with abusers and many protective mothers, who are wrongly dismissed as disgruntled litigants and denied any meaningful role in their children’s lives. Legislatures and courts should be focusing on using the available up-to-date research to protect the safety and secure the potential of children caught up in domestic violence custody cases. Today, shockingly, courts are getting a majority of domestic violence custody cases wrong. This is one of the reasons we recommend that all professionals receive not just general domestic violence training, but specific training in Recognizing Domestic Violence, Gender Bias and The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. Until courts have and apply this information, our children will not be safe when courts decide their fate.
In domestic violence custody cases, the use of shared parenting does not save court time and resources, but rather only postpones extensive litigation at great expense to the parties and harm to the children. Abusers eventually contrive incidents as an excuse to seek sole custody or protective mothers are forced to seek custody because the abusers are hurting the children. Abusive parents with limited parenting skills use shared parenting to get their foot in the door while continuing to harass and abuse their former partners. Court professionals often pressure protective mothers to accept shared custody with their abusers and punish them for trying to protect themselves and their children. Over forty states and many other court districts have sponsored gender bias commissions that have found widespread gender bias. Gender bias is particularly hard to overcome because judges and other professionals engage in gender bias without realizing they are doing so. The studies have shown that in custody cases, mothers are given higher standards of proof, less credibility and are blamed for their abuser’s behavior.
When mothers seek to limit contact between their children and their abuser for safety reasons and courts routinely treat this as if she is trying to interfere with the relationship between the children and abusive father, this is an example of blaming mothers for the father’s behavior. Instead of courts pressuring the abuser to stop his controlling and threatening behavior, protective mothers often face retaliation and punishment for trying to protect their children. This is particularly common when courts fail to recognize domestic violence and then punish mothers who continue to believe their abuse allegations. Provisions in shared custody laws that purport to make an exception for domestic violence will continue to be ineffective as long as there is widespread failure to recognize domestic violence and to take it seriously. Accordingly shared custody laws are not beneficial in cases where the parties can voluntarily cooperate and create serious danger to children in domestic violence cases
See more at: http://americanmotherspoliticalparty.org/ampp-article-library-family-court-custody-abuse-dv/5-family-criminal-law-and-research-abuse-dv-child-custody/94-batterers-revenge-punishment-and-continued-abuse-via-court#sthash.OhT2CBag.dpuf
by Barry Goldstein
Serious Health Consequences to Children Witnessing Domestic Violence
New Research Requires Changes in Custody Court Practices
Starting with the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study in 1998 medical researchers have established the enormous and long term harm to children from being exposed to traumatic events such as witnessing domestic violence and direct physical or sexual abuse. The research establishes that there is a cumulative adversity so that the more exposure a child suffers the greater the chance of serious medical consequences and the more serious those consequences are likely to be. There is now a substantial body of medical research that establishes not only the enormous harm to children, but the many mechanisms that result in increased illnesses and injuries during their childhood and for the rest of their lives. When court or other professionals fail to take sensible actions to safeguard children, or give more consideration to less important factors they are literally reducing the life expectancy of these children.
When domestic violence first became a public issue in the mid to late 1970s, custody courts had to develop practices to respond. For many years when a protective mother went to court seeking a protective order and for any visitation with the father to be supervised judges would routinely ask some version of “Did he also assault the child?” If the answer was no, the court treated the father as if he was just as qualified as the mother for custody and visitation. These risky practices continued until the eighties and nineties when research established that children witnessing domestic violence were more likely to engage in a wide range of harmful behaviors when older including substance abuse, self-mutilation, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school, prostitution, crime and for boys to assault future partners and girls to be assaulted by future partners. These findings led to legislation in every state either to require courts to consider domestic violence in any decision about custody or visitation or to create a presumption against custody for abusers under some limited circumstances.
Every state has adopted the best interests of the child standard to determine custody and visitation and has developed a list of factors either legislatively or through case law that must be considered in making these decisions. Unfortunately the states have not required that children’s safety be treated as the first priority so courts are free to use very subjective standards when deciding where the children will live. In many cases political or personal beliefs and factors far less important than the safety of children are determinative in custody decisions. This often poisons the process because abusers can distract attention from safety issues by raising less important issues. Judges sometimes believe that fairness requires the court to treat the issues raised by the mother and father equally even though one of those issues is more fundamental to the well-being of children. This is an example of false equivalency that is common in custody courts. In many cases, courts weigh allegations of domestic violence and alienation as if they are equally important to the well-being of children. At worst, alienation might temporarily interfere with the relationship between the child and a parent while domestic violence leads to serious and life impacting health problems throughout the child’s life and often reduces how long they live. I have never heard an evaluator or a judge weigh the relative importance of these issues based on scientific research. This is particularly problematic because claims of alienation are a common abuser tactic but courts seem to be more open to these allegations than domestic violence which mothers rarely falsify.
There is now a substantial body of medical research that establishes the enormous risk to children of exposing them to domestic violence. The research demonstrates that these children have significant, increased risk of illnesses and injuries as children and need more medical care. Significantly, these medical problems do not end when children reach their majority but continue for the rest of their lives. They will have far more medical needs as adults and their life expectancy is reduced. I believe that custody courts cannot continue to tolerate practices that result in children losing precious years from their lives. This research requires fundamental reforms or else the courts cannot be acting in the best interests of children.
The Medical Harm to Children Witnessing Domestic Violence
One of the leading experts about the medical consequences of childhood trauma is Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. The second edition of her book, Treating the Lifetime Health Effects of Childhood Victimization, was recently published. This is a book by and for medical professionals that is designed to help them treat a variety of conditions in adult patients that were caused or exacerbated by traumas suffered as children. The research and the writing were not designed to respond to custody court issues, but the information should be required for any court that wishes to act in the best interests of children.
The long-term harm of exposure to domestic violence or direct physical or sexual abuse can and does develop in a myriad of ways. A child could develop immediate and obvious symptoms or the harm can go unnoticed for many years. The author encourages doctors to ask about childhood trauma because so many different ailments can have their genesis with childhood trauma. This is especially problematic because patients are rarely thinking about events from decades earlier as the cause of their health problems.
There are many ways in which childhood trauma can seriously impact health now and in the future. The trauma can cause increased inflammation that can trigger numerous diseases now and in the future. Accordingly, Dr. Kendall-Tackett recommends an anti-inflammatory for children exposed to abuse. Quite naturally, exposure to domestic violence often interferes with the child’s ability to enjoy the quality and quantity of sleep needed. This and several other common responses to abuse can lead to obesity with increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other medical problems. The author suggested that programs and campaigns designed to prevent obesity ought to include efforts to make sure children get their needed sleep and avoid exposure to domestic violence and child abuse. Indeed these experiences often lead to eating disorders.
Many diseases including heart disease, asthma and diabetes are caused or exacerbated by stress. One of the major reasons researchers found that we spend $750 billion per year on health costs related to domestic violence is because excessive stress is so inimical to good health. Domestic violence is especially harmful because there is the constant danger that the abuser will threaten or hurt his partner. Accordingly the stress is repetitive. This harm is especially severe for children whose various systems are still developing.
As discussed earlier, witnessing domestic violence strongly encourages substance abuse. The use of illegal drugs, tobacco and excessive use of alcohol, especially by children also creates a wide range of long-term medical problems. Many of the factors I am discussing interact with each other to reinforce the most negative impacts.
Exposure to childhood trauma also increases the risk of depression. This in turn can cause behaviors that further undermine the child’s health. Depression can discourage proper self-care, negatively impact the immune system and other bodily defenses and is a major factor in suicide. Significantly, separating children from their primary attachment figure as custody courts frequently do in domestic violence cases also causes depression. I mentioned before that cumulative adversity magnifies the risk so that it is particularly devastating to children who have witnessed domestic violence or been directly abused to be denied a normal relationship with their primary parent.
Childhood trauma is also associated with risky sexual behavior. This is another example of how witnessing domestic violence leads to many behaviors that cause still more health risks. Risky sexual behavior can lead to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and cause survivors to interact with dangerous individuals. It can also encourage the use of dangerous drugs.
For children to witness their father or another man abusing their mother, they would tend to be fearful and angry, but often it is unsafe for them to express their anger particularly to the abuser. This can cause them to express their anger in other ways that can undermine their health and safety. This can result in both physical and mental illnesses or cause them to get into fights where someone else hurts them. The childhood trauma also can lead to shame and self-blame that can be harmful to their health. Significantly, low self-esteem can also be caused by denying children normal contact with their primary attachment figure so that many common custody court approaches serve to multiply the harm caused by domestic violence.
In many ways, domestic violence leads to poverty and this undermines the health of victims. Education is important in order to improve one’s economic status. Children who witness domestic violence and often miss needed sleep both because of frightening incidents at night and the fear which makes it hard to sleep at other times. This makes it difficult for children to get their work done in school. They may also act out because of their anger. Economic abuse is an often overlooked part of domestic violence tactics so that mothers seeking to leave their abusers often lose income and family resources. In many cases the bias favoring abusive fathers forces mothers to trade support for custody. Small wonder at least half of the homeless population consists of mothers and children who left abusers. Many children also leave home because of domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse. Victims with limited financial resources often can’t afford safe housing, healthy food and needed medical care. All of this contributes to medical problems facing children impacted by domestic violence.
Many victims of childhood trauma suffer from unexplained or inadequately explained conditions. Many are labeled as hypochondriacs which may say more about the failure of the medical community to find the cause than the complaints of the victims. These experiences are painful in many ways both physically and emotionally and can prove debilitating. Living with pain undermines other parts of a person’s life and interferes with their ability to reach their potential.
Just as any adverse experiences a child has are cumulative so that combined they are much more harmful, the same is true of the many medical consequences caused by domestic violence and child abuse. The various conditions which are just some of the problems faced by children impacted by domestic violence come together to magnify the harm done to children. This research ought to make clear that we must stop minimizing the significance of these childhood traumas.
Impact of Health Concerns in Individual Cases
The fact is that the present custody court response to domestic violence has been a disaster for battered women and children. Everything is severely tilted to favor abusive fathers so that the outcomes are often catastrophic and the court discussions tend to focus too much on protecting abusers’ interests rather than safeguarding children. Accordingly we are desperately seeking to find a way to help court professionals understand the enormous harm they are causing by following outdated, discredited and biased approaches. In succession we have hoped that the powerful documentation of court failures contained in The Batterer as Parent, Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody, the Saunders’ study from the US Department of Justice and Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor might encourage court officials to take a fresh look at false assumptions that continue to place children in jeopardy. Much of this research and publications are new so they still may help change the system as they sometimes change individual cases. They may also have a cumulative effect over time.
The new research about the lifelong health impacts on children witnessing domestic violence, child abuse and other childhood traumas ought to require courts to take a new look at standard practices. There are two important differences that might help give this information some traction. The research does not come from anyone involved in the domestic violence movement, but rather is from the medical community. It was developed for the purpose of better treating adult patients who suffered childhood trauma. In other words it would be hard for anyone to discredit this research. The second factor is that the findings go to what is supposed to be the essence of what custody courts are supposed to do. HOW CAN ANYTHING THAT DOES NOT IMPACT THE IMMEDIATE SAFETY OF CHILDREN BE TREATED AS IF IT WERE AS IMPORTANT OR MORE IMPORTANT THAN CHILDHOOD TRAUMAS THAT RESULT IN INCREASED ILLNESSES AND INJURIES THROUGHOUT THE LIFE OF THE CHILDREN AND REDUCED LIFE EXPECTANCY?
This medical research strongly supports requests from protective mothers to make safety the first priority. Common issues that courts routinely consider as factors in deciding custody and visitation like alienation, friendly parent, which home is nicer, relative financial status of the parties, children’s preference and many of the phony or unimportant mental health diagnoses used to pathologize protective mothers pale in comparison with the significance of factors that impact children’s health such as domestic violence and child abuse. Not only should the court place far more weight on these factors, but there is no reason to allow issues that do not impact children’s safety to distract attention from factors that so directly impact the well-being of children. The “rights” of the parents, which “fathers’ rights” groups have elevated to the first priority, must be subordinated to the health and lifespan of the children. Yes, courts should have seen that before, but the research about the impact of trauma means that political beliefs about father’s rights can no longer be used to undermine children’s safety.
We have also seen many evaluators and other court professionals who do not understand domestic violence dynamics require some artificial level of domestic violence or child abuse before taking the risk seriously. In our new book, Elizabeth Liu and I wrote about a New York evaluator with a bias for shared parenting who claimed to know domestic violence when he saw it and required the victim to have serious physical injuries before he would allow claims of domestic violence to interfere with his personal preferences. Similarly some states require a more “serious” offense or level of proof such as conviction of a felony before presumptions against custody for abusers apply. This would not prevent a court from protecting children in cases that do not rise to this level, but some courts have discarded evidence if it fails to meet the requirement for the presumption. Courts sometimes forget that the purpose of considering domestic violence is because of the harm it does to children. The medical harm I have been discussing in this article is not limited to cases in which the victim sustains a “serious” injury or even to cases of physical abuse. Furthermore, one of the problems with the custody court response to domestic violence is the widespread failure to understand domestic violence dynamics. Abusive fathers commit domestic violence tactics based on a belief system that they are entitled to control their partner and make the major decisions in the relationship. His belief system does not change with the end of the relationship and in fact the use of the custody tactic demonstrates the likelihood he will continue to abuse future partners. If the abuser is granted custody or unsupervised visitation, the children are likely to witness still more domestic violence. This adds to their cumulative adversity and therefore dramatically increases their medical risks.
The severity of the harm of domestic violence makes it critical that courts are able to recognize true allegations of abuse. We frequently see practices where courts rely on inadequately trained court professionals. The Saunders’ study recommended these professionals need to learn how to screen for domestic violence and conduct a risk assessment. In many cases allegations of domestic violence are dismissed for non-probative reasons such as the mother returning to her abuser, failing to follow-through when seeking a protective order, having no police or medical records or the children interacting with their father without fear because they know he would not hurt them in front of witnesses. At the same time few lawyers know to present the pattern of coercive and controlling tactics which includes so much more than physical abuse and judges and evaluators rarely look for this pattern. Evaluators routinely fail to use any tools such as the Campbell Danger Assessment that would help them recognize the danger, but instead rely on psychological tests that tell them nothing about domestic violence. We cannot continue to use such flawed practices and inadequately trained professionals when the resulting mistakes are likely to reduce children’s life expectancy. It becomes even more important for courts to use best practices which include considering current scientific research and at least consulting with a domestic violence expert. A psychologist or other mental health professional could also be a domestic violence expert, but this is rare. The Saunders’ study found that a mental health degree and the standard and required training for evaluators do not provide the level of expertise needed for domestic violence cases.
Many protective mothers have complained that their attorneys refuse to present evidence of abuse. The new medical evidence will make it critical that attorneys not only present the father’s history of abuse, but make sure the court is aware of the enormous medical harm to children to witnessing domestic violence. They must also ask the courts for the protection that is needed including protective orders and supervised visitation. One of the findings in the Saunders’ study is that courts did not limit alleged abusers to supervised visitation as often as needed.
The Medical Research Requires Fundamental Reforms in the Custody Courts
The enormity of the harm to children caused by witnessing domestic violence, child abuse and other childhood trauma makes it critical that society find ways to protect children and minimize their exposure to risk. Now that the research is available that demonstrates the cumulative impact of adversity on children, our method of resolving custody and visitation must assure everything possible is done to minimize this risk.
Our system of jurisprudence is based on the belief that if both parties present their best case the truth will usually prevail. This is particularly problematic when one party has significantly more resources. This frequently happens in domestic violence cases because abusers use control tactics that include control of financial resources. They have also developed tactics designed to bankrupt their victims by using aggressive and often questionable legal strategies. In many cases, protective mothers are left unrepresented by the time the case comes to trial. This means the results are often determined more by the relative wealth of the parties than the merits of the case. This can no longer be tolerable when the result often takes years off children’s lives. The Batterer as Parent recommends that the abuser pay all expenses including legal fees made necessary by his abusive behavior. Judge Mike Brigner has written that courts have the authority to level the playing field but rarely make use of this authority. At the very least courts will have to become more aware of economic abuse and create effective remedies so that victims can present their side of the story in a meaningful way.
Lawyers are ethically required to zealously advocate for their clients within the law even when this causes a miscarriage of justice. In the case of a criminal defense attorney they are required to use defense strategies that sometimes result in guilty criminals going free. In some cases they use their freedom to kill or hurt new victims. Nevertheless the potential harm would be speculative and the greater good of maintaining our system of jurisprudence takes precedence. Can it be ethical to use the same legal principles to help an abuser gain custody or unprotected visitation which is likely to seriously harm the health and well-being of a specific child victim?
It seems to me that the harm to children’s health requires that the legal and mental health community take a fresh look at the ethics involved in practices that are likely to hurt children. This is particularly true of the lawyers and psychologists who are part of the cottage industry that makes its money supporting abusive fathers. Can it be ethical given the new research for mental health professionals to provide reports and give testimony based on personal beliefs and theories unsupported by scientific research that are likely to harm the children in the case? Similarly can attorneys for batterers ethically use strategies deliberately designed to mislead or confuse the court in ways that place children in jeopardy? Can these professionals remain ignorant of current research so that they are unqualified to handle the case but can truthfully say they were unaware of the danger they helped create? Another way of asking this is should the legal system reconsider how custody and visitation are determined in cases involving domestic violence and child abuse in order to make sure the children’s health is protected?
At a minimum, it seems to me the courts must create a screening system so a professional with genuine domestic violence expertise reviews each case and sends all domestic violence cases to a special part or section that specializes in these critical and difficult cases. This will be important because a lot of common custody practices particularly seeking to require the parents to cooperate are inappropriate in domestic violence cases. Children will benefit if the professionals responding to the case understand the serious health and safety risks the children are probably facing.
The judges presiding over these cases would have special training about domestic violence and understand the risks involved. They would be used to looking to the specialized body of domestic violence research to inform their decisions. Lawyers, GALs and evaluators (if needed) would all be required to have the necessary training. The focus would be on the safety of the children as it should be.
The initial inquiry would be limited to the validity of allegations concerning domestic violence and child abuse. This avoids distractions from other less important issues that abusers often use as part of their tactics to avoid responsibility for their actions. If allegations of domestic violence or child abuse are confirmed the court will protect the children and encourage actions that would limit the long-term health impact.
The first priority is to make sure the children are never again exposed to these traumatic events. This is especially important because of the increased harm from cumulative adversity. Professionals trained in domestic violence dynamics will understand the danger for children to witness the offender’s abuse of future partners if the children are not protected.
There are responses and treatment children can receive that would reduce the harm caused by exposure to domestic violence and other trauma. In some cases they might receive anti-inflammatories to reduce negative consequences. Their sleep patterns can be monitored so they can be helped to get the sleep they need. Mental health therapy can be used to cope with the trauma and respond in more healthy ways. The protective parent is more likely to encourage the needed treatment, make it safe for the children to discuss their experiences and help them heal. In the present custody system, we often have arrangements that give the abuser control or veto power over treatment and other issues which are used to prevent or discourage the necessary treatment. This is another example where the “rights” of the parent or the minimization of abuse are harmful to the long-term health of the children.
Given the enormous risks to children’s health, it is important that children have access to any treatment that could prevent serious health consequences years later. This treatment is available today and could help protect children’s health. Other treatment may be needed as the child gets older and new symptoms develop as a result of earlier traumas. Many of the treatments will only be effective if the child is no longer exposed to domestic violence and abuse and is made to feel safe. This is another reason courts should be giving custody to the safer parent. It should be considered malpractice for any court professional to make recommendations that undermine a child’s chance to heal.
What happens if a court mistakenly believes a mother’s allegations about the father’s abuse and limits the children’s contact with the father? The children would be denied some good times with their dad and be denied opportunities to learn from him. This would be wrong and harmful and I have no desire to minimize the negative impact on the children. What happens if the court disbelieves the mother’s true complaints and provides the abusive father with unprotected visitation or even custody? This is an unmitigated catastrophe that substantially increases the children’s risk of illnesses and injuries throughout their lives and likely result in a shorter life. Certainly a less pleasant and productive life. In the rare event that the mother made a false complaint, the missed time can be made up and there is no reason to expect any long-term consequences. When the court fails to protect a child from an abuser, it is possible it can later realize its mistake and modify the custody arrangement. One problem, however, is that in my experience courts that rule against protective mothers are often extremely defensive about their mistakes and rarely correct them. Furthermore the abusive father is likely to use the control given him by the court to undermine the mother’s relationship with the children. It is possible, the children could be returned to the mother and receive treatment to ameliorate the harm caused by the court decisions, but in many cases much of the damage will be permanent.
Courts routinely consider the relative risks of being wrong in most other types of cases, but rarely in domestic violence custody cases. Indeed most evaluation reports and court decisions that I have read fail to weigh the relative risks and benefits of a given action based on scientific research.
The Saunders’ study from the U. S. Department of Justice recommended that evaluators and other court professionals receive training about the impact of domestic violence on children. Most of the court professionals who participated in the study claimed to have this research. In the case of the evaluators, however, this was not supported by their response to vignettes presented as part of the study. I suspect that when the professionals claimed they had this information, they were referring to the earlier research that witnessing domestic violence makes children more likely to engage in harmful behaviors when older. The frequency that courts minimize the significance of domestic violence strongly supports this conclusion.
The Saunders’ study also recommended that court professionals get training in screening for domestic violence. The serious consequences when courts fail to recognize true allegations of abuse confirm why this is so important. So does the finding that the courts are not imposing supervised visitation on alleged abusers as often as they should. Significantly, court professionals without adequate training tend to believe the myth that mothers frequently make false allegations of abuse. This means that in many cases the lack of training or bias of court professionals causes decisions that pose enormous risks for children. Even if the judge knows that mothers rarely make false complaints, the court might be relying on an evaluator or GAL making a recommendation based on this myth.
Now that we know the enormous lifetime medical harm caused to children when they are exposed to domestic violence and child abuse, what will we do to minimize the potential harm? I would like to ask judges and court administrators if they agree this medical research requires a fundamental review of practices used to respond to abuse allegations. In order to better protect children, would the courts be willing to create meetings with leading researchers and domestic violence advocates to explore the best ways to protect our children. THE LOSS OF ONE YEAR FROM ONE CHILD’S LIFE IS ONE YEAR TOO MANY.
Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognized domestic violence expert, speaker, writer and consultant. He is the co-editor with Mo Therese Hannah of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor, co authored with Elizabeth Liu is designed to train attorneys to present domestic violence cases and was released in April of 2013. Barry can be reached by email from their web site www.Domesticviolenceabuseandchildcustody.com
For more information about the new book, including access to the first approximately 50 pages or to purchase the book go to the publisher’s web site at http://civicresearchinstitute.com/rdv.html Elizabeth Liu and I have convinced our publisher to make available the last section of our chapter about GALs that lists and explains the best practices for GALs in domestic violence cases. You can now download and print this information and share it with your GAL. Everyone is welcome to share this information. I also hope you will check out my new Face book page, Barry Goldsteins Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor. Barry’s web site, www.Barrygoldstein.net is back up and running with new material.
Due to recent revelations by Janice Levinson and Lundy Bancroft of Protective Mother's Alliance, as a contributor to this blog, I hereby denounce JL, LB and PMA. I do not support either of them, the organization with which they are affiliated, and in fact do believe by Levinson's recent actions that both are needlessly and shamelessly throwing TRUE victims of horrendous abuse under the proverbial bus. If you decide to align with either Levinson or Bancroft, please do so with caution.
Kansas Mother Lost Custody to State because she WORKED! Foster Parent Grandmother not allowed to Care For her own Grandson. #Child #Trafficking #Federal #Funded
On Monday, July 29, 2013, there will be a rally in front of KVC, 1223 Meadow Lark Lane, Kansas City, Kansas, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
This is a rally for the grandmother, Patricia, who was on the local Kansas City News, Channel 4, reporter Tess Koppelman, last week who stated that even though she had been a foster parent for years for KVC, Patricia was not allowed placement or adoption of her 4 year old grandson. Patricia's grandson was placed in stranger foster care and her grandson has had cuts and bruises which is possible abuse while in foster care.
Grandmother fights for custody of own grandson
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Kansas grandmother says there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be able to have custody of her own grandson, but for some reason, the state won’t let her have him. Patricia Madison says she is approved by the state of Kansas to be a foster parent, and she’s fostered many children over the last five years. But for some reason she’s not allowed to take in her own grandson.
This custody battle has been going on for about a year and a half now. But Madison says she turned to fox 4 for help because she fears her grandchild will never be returned to his family now that the child’s foster parents are interested in adopting him.
For more than a year, the only way Madison has been able to see her almost four year-old grandson Tristen is with supervised visits. She used to see him weekly, but then it was changed to once a month.
“When I do see him I really don’t know if that’s the last time,” she said tearfully.
Madison says about a year and a half ago her grandson was taken away from her son and put into state care. For awhile Tristen was placed with Madison’s daughter, but Madison says KVC, the agency that oversees foster care, took the child away. Madison says it was because they told her daughter that she worked too much.
“She works 40 hours a week, I think that’s normal,” Madison says, “you have to work to pay your bills.”
Madison says she’s made it clear from the start she wanted to take in her grandson.
“I told them I wanted him placed in my care because I had been working with KVC keeping their foster kids,” she said, “and they told me ‘no.’”
Madison says she’s never been told exactly why she can’t have Tristen. At one point she says KVC told her it was because of an abuse allegation from 1998. But letters from the state dated last year and last week both confirm that Madison is not on the Abuse and Neglect Registry and is not barred from working with kids.
“I want all of this to be investigated,” Madison said, “this is not a way of putting families together this is not the way it’s supposed to be.”
Madison keeps the bedroom ready for her grandson to come home but she’s losing hope, and fears that her grandson’s foster family will be allowed to adopt Tristen.
“If he’s taken from me, I will never be the same,” she said, “I love him and I miss him and I hope soon he’ll be back with us again.”
Both KVC and the state’s Department of Children and Families say they can’t comment on specific cases. But KVC says it does place kids with family members whenever possible. The agency adds that it works with the state and the courts to determine what is best for the child.
Kansas, KVC, Child Trafficking, Mother-less, DCF, Whores of the Court, Social Workers, Foster Care, Profit, Patricia Madison, Kansas City,
Courtesy of the joeys’ – head over and read the comments as Billy boy implodes.
Sexual Deviant Bill Windsor
So Bill tried to co-op a real reporters story on rape and incest. Bill used it as an opportunity to seek out people to tell him their stories involving rape and incest. He can no longer be bothered by women with custody issues, but he is more than happy to hear a detailed sordid story of rape or incest. He sent out this plea:
DO YOU HAVE A STORY OF SPOUSAL RAPE OR INCEST?
I am communicating with a newspaper writer who is researching a story on spousal rape and incest. He is particularly interested in speaking with survivors whose abuse allegations were handledeither in criminal or family courts. If you would be interested in sharing your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject in all caps: RAPE.
Well this started a fire-storm as one woman named Jan, rightfully gave the direct contact info to the real reporter doing the story, telling the lemmings to bypass the creepy old man trying to get in the middle. Bill then lashed out at her Lawless America Hey Jan, go away. You must be one of the sickos.
Then her friend Lynn stuck up for her saying that she said nothing that was either on the order of a liar or a sicko. So bill then lashed out at her saying all kinds of sexist and delusional things, Bill asked for stories about rape, but instead he exposed himself as being a liar and a perverted fraud:
Lawless America Lynn, you are a liar and a slanderer. Go away. Cease and desist the slander and stalking. I have helped many true victims, not you liars. No one named Lynn Buss has ever em ailed me nor is there a Lynn Buss in my database. You are one of the pathetic liars out there.
Lawless America I am asking anyone with information about Jan Halley or Lynn Buss to contact me. I want to expose these people.
Lawless America No, Ardith Cunningham. Lynn Buss never emailed me anything. She appears to be a serial liar...as you likely are. You say you know, well, put up or shut up. Paste the proof right here for all to see. I won't ban you for an hour to give you the opportunity. You have libeled me with your comment here, so I demand an immediate apology and retraction. Absent that, I shall see you in court.
Lawless America I didn't lose a damn thing. You are a libeler, slanderer, and liar, and your associates are the same. You aren't in my email or database either -- just another scumbag in my opinion. You have 50 minutes. Show us the proof you hav4e "right there on your computer."
Lawless America I am sick and tired of all the women who lie their a$$e$ off. Anyone with information about Jan Halley, Lynn Buss, and Ardith Cunningham are encouraged to contact me at email@example.com. I am interested in speaking to former spouses or significant others in the case of some.
Lawless America You are a real sicko, Ardith Cunningham. You are a liar, a serial liar, and I look forward to pursuing you and all the liars in court and with law enforcement.
Lawless America Horse manure. I don't know Lynn Buss. She's a liar. The only thing I care about with her is exposing her as a liar. If she has an ex, I want to talk to him or her. My experience is that anyone who would lie about contact with me will damn sure lie claiming abuse. It's a disease among a bunch of you that severely damages the efforts of honest women who have been abused.
Lawless America Ardith Cunningham is probably a fake identity being used by someone like All Lie
Court Licensed Abuse - OUR FAMILY COURTS ARE ENABLING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSERS! BATTERED MOTHERS TAKE THEIR CASE TO WASHINGTON
Court Licensed Abuse by Clare Hardy O'Toole
ARE OUR FAMILY COURTS ENABLING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSERS?
BATTERED MOTHERS TAKE THEIR CASE TO WASHINGTON
When 16-year-old Damon Moelter took advantage of Nevada’s liberal marriage laws and tied the knot at one of Reno’s iconic kitsch “chapels” recently, his ceremony marked the start of something remarkable. It wasn’t his age or the fact that he had only met his bride in person a few hours prior to the wedding that was most significant.
What distinguishes this marriage and this groom from any other who might travel to Nevada to experience its offbeat brand of wedding services was that Damon chose to marry to protect himself from Family Court custody decisions stemming from his parents longstanding divorce battle. A marriage certificate gave him legal emancipation from his father, whom he claims has repeatedly sexually molested him, and from Family Court rulings that stripped his protective mother of custody and forced him to live under the sole confines of his abusive father.
Damon’s mother, Cindy Dumas, explained:
“I have never doubted my son. I fought for 10 years to protect him in the Family Court system. I did everything I could but the judges wouldn’t listen to me. They wouldn’t listen to my son. So when he’d turned 14, he ran away from his father and was in hiding for a year and a half.”
Unlike most custody battles that are played out privately behind the closed doors of Family Court, Damon’s story captured public attention when, from the age of 13, he began to upload videos to YouTube calling for recognition that he was a victim of his sexually abusive father whom he said had threatened to kill him if he spoke out. His father, Eric Moelter, has persistently denied the accusations, maintaining his son and former wife are delusional.
Phyllis Chesler, Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University, New York, has spent at least three decades observing cases such as Damon’s.
She says no one would argue that all mothers are perfect, but most are “good enough” and very few go to court with a record that suggests they are genuinely “unfit” to parent. Yet, she says, increasingly, mothers are losing custody to fathers they allege are abusing the children.
Chesler is also a psychotherapist, expert courtroom witness and author of the recently updated, seminal treatise on abuse and child custody, “Mothers on Trial.” In her opinion:
“The courts don’t seem to realize a good father, by definition, doesn’t launch the custody battle from hell. Battles can take tens of years – like going through a war. No one emerges unscathed, least of all the children whom the courts are supposed to protect.”
Over the years, Chesler has seen a pattern emerging:
As she explains:
“Some mothers lost custody of their children to their batterers. Many battered mothers lost their children when they alleged their violent husbands had also been sexually abusing their child. Often such mothers are seen as “crazy,” and as “alienating” the child from their “perfectly nice” father.
The court system does not want to believe that a well-spoken, charismatic man could really be a savage wife-beater or child abuser. It is easier to believe that his traumatized, sleepless, frightened and rapidly impoverished wife is lying, exaggerating or imagining things. I have interviewed many such mothers.”
In 1986, after eight years of researching, Phyllis Chesler was the first academic to debunk the common misconception that mothers are more likely to win custody battles than fathers. She makes the significant distinction that mothers are usually the primary parent caring for children during the marriage, therefore they do not “win” custody as such, they “retain” it when fathers chose not to fight and custody of the children is agreed upon between parents. Chesler vouches for an increasing body of statistical research that demonstrates when fathers do fight for custody, and divorces goes to trial - contesting fathers win custody at least 70 percent of the time.
Many mothers might have cracked under the pressure of losing custody to a man they believe is molesting their child, but Cindy Dumas has shown remarkable tenacity and held her nerve. Likewise, over the course of proceedings, Damon came under the scrutiny of several judges, and an array of court appointed evaluators and therapists. Some tried to persuade him the abuse never happened; yet, he never veered from his molestation claims. He’s remained adamant that he has no wish to live with his father. He said he would not feel safe.
While on the run from his father, Damon moved between secret havens provided by Good Samaritans. He conducted a social media campaign and petitioned the court to honor his right to be safe, to grant custody to his mother or give him emancipation. All avenues failed to bring him the security he desperately sought.
An unlikely champion stepped forward, and Damon’s story was taken up by Fox 11-LA which followed the fugitive. His attorney, Pat Barry, told Fox 11:
“The legal system refuses to acknowledge just how much, how badly they botch these cases for children.”
Typically, mainstream media exhibit extreme reticence to cover divorce and custody cases that are not celebrity focused, often citing privacy issues or limited resources to investigate the complexities of highly contentious cases and deliver balanced, objective reports. Even cases considered newsworthy because they involve the death of a child at the hands of a parent previously identified by a former spouse as abusive, tend to be treated as isolated incidents.
Significant stories and trends that should be newsworthy are therefore being missed, and in some cases - ignored. Crimes, such as the kidnappings of three women in Cleveland and Jaycee Dugard, draw huge response from media and public. But, crimes of equal depravity and ongoing cruelty that are Family Law based don’t get the scrutiny they deserve.
Fox11 is, so far, one of the few media outlets to cover what is emerging as a tragedy of epidemic proportions in the U.S., mirrored by equally disturbing cases around the world.
Figures released by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence (a nonprofit independent scientific organization composed of scientists, clinicians, educators, legal scholars, and public policy analysts), show as many as 58,000 U.S. children a year are being taken from their protective parent and placed into custody or unsupervised visitation with molesters and batterers.
The National Safe Child Coalition (NSCC) has appealed to the Surgeon General to have child sexual abuse declared an epidemic, and are in communications with the Victims’ Rights Caucus to raise concern about Human Rights violations of child victims.
While there are protective fathers, and couples in same sex relationships battling over child custody and visitation rights, these cases are comparatively small in number. It is evident from reports and statistics emerging from The Leadership Council, various domestic violence agencies and the Center for Disease Control - vast numbers of children are being taken from “good enough” mothers and placed in harm’s way in the custody or care of their abusive fathers.
Statistics on domestic violence and child sexual abuse show that perpetrators are, most likely, male - usually the child’s father or someone who is part of the child’s familial circle of trust. In the case of child sexual abuse, the Leadership Council examined law enforcement as well as victim self-report data. As a result, it is estimated up to 90% of the perpetrators are male.
When divorce rates over time are factored in, Dr. Joy Silberg, Executive Vice President of the Leadership Council says;
“A conservative estimate, based on available research leads us to conclude: at any point in time, it is likely that half a million children are left unprotected from a violent parent after their parent’s divorce and this parent is, more often than not - their father.”
Many of these children are said to be held captive -psychologically and sometimes physically -by their abusive father, restrained from contact with their healthy, protective mother and subjected to subversive reasoning powers.
The behavior has been termed “Domestic Violence By Proxy.” It was first coined by Dr. Alina Patterson in her book “Health and Healing,” published in 2003, and is used in Leadership Council reports.
In these cases, it is said, the father might threaten to harm the children if they display a positive bond with their mother. He might destroy favored possessions given by the mother, or use emotional torture; telling the child the mother doesn’t want to see them because she doesn’t love them. In reality the mother may be court ordered not to see her children or may have severely restricted contact. The father may coach the children to make false allegations against their mother and combine this with creating and presenting fraudulent documents to the court to disadvantage the mother further.
In the most severe cases, DV By Proxy may lead to a child becoming trapped in a state of emotional mind that psychologists trained in domestic violence describe as: “traumatic bonding” – similar to Stockholm syndrome.
The Fox 11 series “Lost in the System” refers to specific cases, whereas, the Washington Post published an editorial based on developments at the tenth, annual Battered Mothers’ Custody Conference (BMCC X). This year, it was held in Washington DC at the George Washington University Law School over the Mothers’ Day weekend, in a bid to bring battered mother’s child custody concerns to the heart of government.
The conference offers a national, public forum to explore and expose the many complex issues facing battered women and the children they seek to protect when facing the machinations of Family Court Law and those practitioners involved in the cottage industry associated with divorce and child custody matters.
For ten years, speakers, representing many of the keenest minds in research and advocacy for battered mothers and their children have gathered to share ideas and push for change. They represent the vanguard of the fight for improved outcomes from the justice system, with child safety the paramount objective.
The lessons learned from this year’s conference will be carried forward over the months ahead.
Currently, custody rulings are made on a judge’s arbitrary interpretations of legal tenets relating to the “Best Interests of the Child.” Findings from studies conducted by Phyllis Chesler, The Leadership Council and others, have been confirmed by Barry Goldstein and Dr. Mo Therese Hannah, co-editors of “Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody.” The authors agree that Family Court judges show a marked deference to fathers’ rights and a casualty of this practice has been child safety.
I attended the conference and listened to several speakers explain how millions of taxpayer dollars have been poured into the federally funded “Fatherhood Initiative” to encourage fathers to become more involved in child rearing. It seems a tragic and unforeseen result has been the reunification of children with their abusive fathers, to the detriment of child safety concerns.
Likewise, Adjunct Professor of Sexual Violence at New England Law, Boston, impact litigator, former prosecutor and author of “And Justice for Some,” Wendy Murphy, told how judges - faced with the decision of whether to put sex offenders and abusers behind bars -are pressured to put them back on the street to take advantage of questionable treatment programs funded by public money.
One of the most striking revelations came from Camille Cooper, Director of Legislative Affairs for “Protect,” which spearheaded two successful acts of Congress to further child protection. Cooper unveiled an interactive map produced by the “Internet Crimes against Children Taskforce.” She said law enforcement knows the whereabouts of 500,000 individual IP addresses trading in sadistic images.
She said it was the first time in the history of this issue that such a map had ever been shown to the American public showing the magnitude of child sexual abuse. But even with the tools to nail sex offenders through their Internet activity, it emerged there is a gross disparity between known offences and actual prosecutions in criminal or family court. Due to lack of resources to fund an adequate response, only 2% of cases identified have been investigated.
Cooper said the evidence gives the lie to claims that incidences of child sexual abuse are on the decline. And she insisted it is not appropriate to refer to the 30 million images produced simply as child pornography.
“These are crime scene images of very young children being tortured and raped.”
Combined with CDC findings that there is an incidence reported of overall child abuse or neglect every 10 seconds, the clear record of criminal Internet activity involving child sexual abuse casts a dim light on the trend of family court judge’s to automatically doubt the validity of mothers’ claims when they make allegations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse.
Phyllis Chesler, who was keynote speaker for the conference, used strong language to define her frustration:
“There is now a toxic bias in the family courts, resulting in court enabled incest and the legal torture of protective mothers.”
Some solutions were suggested by Murphy. She argued that domestic violence and child sexual abuse should be handled by criminal court and not left to the intervention of social workers and family court judges. She also argued for civil rights, regarding gender discrimination, and human rights issues to be brought to the fore. She stressed that violence against any person based on who they are in society is a crime against the fabric of civilized democracy.
I met with Damon and his mother. They had both come to the conference and appeared calm and collected and very relieved Damon is now free to take up a more “normal” life. Conference events concluded with a march and vigil with advocacy group, Mothers of Lost Children outside the White House, followed by a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill at the invitation of the NSCC.
Damon’s mother, Cindy Dumas, addressed a crowd outside the White House:
“I’m here to speak out for other kids and hope the public become aware that this is a very serious and prevalent problem in our courts. Our Family Court judges every day give custody of children to abusers and molesters. This is not an accident. It is not out of ignorance and incredulity. It is a systematic, methodical cover-up of abuse, especially of sexual abuse. Just like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts. We have to do something about it. Kids are suffering. There are thousands and thousands of children suffering because our Family Court judges are handing them over to abusers.”
The NSCC is supporting Mothers of Lost Children in asking for a Federal Oversight Hearing into the violation of civil rights when protective parents lose custody of the children they are trying to protect.
Compelling evidence was presented to senators and congressmen outlining the failure of family courts in the 50 States to protect victims of domestic abuse and their children during divorce and custodial hearings. The follow-through from these meetings is expected to gather pace in the coming weeks as the mothers continue to organize and hone their campaign for justice and safety for their children.
Members of the NSCC met with staff members from the offices of Senators Durbin, Franken, Boxer, Feinstein, Casey, Gillibrand, Hagan, Brown, Portman, Menendez, Schumer, Toomey, Thune, Leahy, Sanders, Kaine, Lautenberg, Reid, and Merkley, along with Congress members Conyers, Hoyer, Cardenas, Maloney, Neal, Poe, and Costa. Initial responses were encouraging, and behind the scenes, the work goes on.
A strong supporter of improved justice and safety for protective mothers and their children is White House advisor to the Vice President on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Lynn Rosenthall. She has openly acknowledged the high levels of discrimination against women in family courts. Rosenthall is encouraging protective mums to petition for change. She has offered to use her position to pass on any targeted recommendations stemming from the conference and its aftermath to Congress. She said a Federal task force was being convened to respond to the Family Court crisis.
One, wheelchair-bound mother told representatives of the Congressional Judiciary Committee her back had been broken by her violent former husband and her eldest son had committed suicide while in the care of his family. She said the combined trauma and tragedy had limited her ability to maintain employment and yet she’d been court ordered to pay child support to her custodial ex. She described how she’d been put in jail for accepting and smoking a cigarette after the judge told her she was under order to hand any gifts over to her ex in lieu of child support. She said he told her she should have sold the cigarette and given the income to her former husband.
Hearing her story and others, Ron Legrand, Democratic Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary said:
“I’m truly shocked and disturbed. Once in a lifetime something comes along that you feel you have to go out on a limb and give your all to support. This is such a cause.”
Likewise, for Nevada, Senator Reid’s office promised to do whatever it took to bring some satisfactory resolution to the dire state of custody rulings in the Family Court and the clear failure of the court system to keep children safe.
Dumas’ story is typical of protective mothers around the nation. Lobbyist, Connie Valentine, a vocal member of the California Protective Parents Association (CPPA), said she’s observed over the years of attending the conference:
“One mother can start her story and another can finish it. Specific details may be different but the general stories are all the same.”
Since the inception of BMCC, ten years ago, mothers have shared how they and their children suffer, often years, of abuse from their partners. They’ve described domestic violence that can manifest as physical, psychological or sexual in nature. They’ve agreed all forms are interrelated, equally threatening and totally unacceptable. They’ve told how they are wrongfully profiled by judges, attorneys, and an assorted variety of custody evaluators as being the parent most responsible for the collapse of the marriage, the hostility of the divorce and any detrimental effects on the children.
Victimized mothers injured first by their abusers and then again by court processes, have persistently identified the act of making an allegation of abuse as the trigger that results in an onslaught of false accusations and misrepresentation from the opposing party. Too many times, protective mothers have sought to defend themselves and fight for the safety of their children, only to be undermined by court practices.
They’ve found no alternative but to take the child into hiding and face very serious charges of abduction. When mothers have chosen not to run, but to continue in a seemingly never ending fight for custody of their child, they have found themselves forced into bankruptcy or facing jail sentences when they cannot pay child support to the custodial father.
Phyllis Chesler’s advice to battered mothers is stark and dramatic. She said:
“Battered mothers need excellent court representation and the best lawyers, often exemplified by those prepared to represent a mother pro bono. These lawyers are prone to ‘burn-out.’ Helping a custodial embattled mother is very demanding.”
“The police do not rescue abused children. In fact, the courts often award custody to their abusers and severely limit or cut altogether the “crazy’ mothers’ visitation. When such mothers finally run away to save their children, they are routinely captured, imprisoned and lose access to them for a very long time.”
Chesler likened the plight of battered mothers to: “the days of battling for Jews wanting to escape Nazi torture and control.” Conference attendees asked her whether it was necessary to launch another world war to keep children safe in America.
Luckily for Damon, in Nevada a marriage license can be obtained with notarized permission from one parent only. He could therefore pursue emancipation through marriage without seeking his father’s approval.
The worst of his personal war is over and yet he is keen to stress he does not see this as a victory:
“I didn’t beat the system, I circumnavigated it,” he said. “I spoke to numerous professionals and none of them protected me.”
His experience has led him to become a staunch advocate for children’s rights and his closing comment, aimed at protective mothers and other child victims of abuse, was chilling:
“One in five kids is sexually abused. It’s not as if the professionals don’t know what they’re doing, they deliberately cover-up abuse. They are entrenched. If you don’t recognize it’s deliberate, you may make the wrong choices and then you won’t be able help yourselves.”
Clare Hardy O'Toole
Hera McLeod, is a special education teacher and mother of Prince McLeod Rams who was murdered by his father on an unsupervised court ordered visit has given a moving testimony.
In an open letter to Jude Michael J. Algeo of Montgomery County (full text at cappuccinoqueen.com); the bereaved, battered mother writes:
“Dear Judge Algeo,
You may not remember me, but I will remember you for the rest of my life….
I was the woman who came into your court room begging you to keep my son safe from his father…
I watched my son’s body slowly shut down for nearly two days as I waited for the doctors to officially declare him brain dead. As I watched my innocent baby boy die, I thought about you. I remembered how you told us you hated Family Court.
I remembered how you blamed me for falling in love with a con man. I remembered how you talked about fairy dust and how you explained that my son would need to come home with cigarette burns before you would believe Luc was abusive. I remember how you rolled your eyes, appeared to fall asleep on the bench, and opened up your computer as if to read your email – you did all of this as I pleaded with you to keep visitations supervised…..
You told us that you made your Custody decision based on what you would do if he was your child….
How terribly sad it is that you have become so jaded that when a mother comes to you pleading for your help, you dismiss her concerns as merely those of a scorned woman. Prince deserved better. He deserved to live just as your own child would have…..
I can’t stop thinking about how my life would be different if I hadn’t trusted you – if I had fled the country – if I had simply refused to comply with the court order.
Sadly, the story of Prince McLeod Rams is not unique. The testimonies of protective mothers who have lost their children in disturbing custody battles are increasing in volume. At the annual BMCC, on the Internet, among advocacy groups and catalogued by legal researchers, their stories of injustice are gaining ground. They tell of courts dismissing or trivializing material evidence of abuse, favoring fathers’ rights over child safety and displaying entrenched prejudice toward mothers.
Barry Goldstein’s Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor
Is World War Needed to Protect Our Children?
Every time a news story breaks about a woman imprisoned as a sex slave (for example the Cleveland Three) people are, appropriately, shocked and horrified.
What is even more shocking is the fact that such crimes are committed every single day in every country on earth. Children and adult women are routinely sold, tricked or kidnapped in epidemic numbers and trafficked into sex slavery for profit. Rarely do such pimps and profiteers bother to keep one girl (or boy) only for themselves.
Civilian pedophiles do that. We think of pedophiles as depraved older men or, increasingly, as men of the cloth, whose prey is an under-age stranger. Once caught, they are registered as sex offenders and law enforcement can, potentially, keep eyes on them.
But what if the pedophiles are fathers and their captive prey are their own children? How will the police ever learn about this? There is no system that monitors children in their own homes. When mothers try to do so, they often lose custody of their children. Pedophiles, including a child's own father, are often charming, docile, and seem "normal."
Given that it is almost impossible to "police" a man's home (which is still his castle), mothers are on the front line in terms of protecting children. There is no one else. But when mothers try to protect their children from physical or sexual abuse they often lose custody of them.
This past weekend I delivered a keynote speech at the tenth annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference. This conference was founded by Dr. Maureen ("Mo") Hannah and has functioned as a life line forbattered and "protective" mothers. The program included keynote speeches by Terry O'Neill, NOW's national President and Toby Kleinman, prominent family law attorney and champion for women's rights. More than 15 sessions took place, led by the most dedicated and fearless lawyers, mental health professionals, and mothers. More than 150 people attended this conference. Forty people delivered lectures; 10 of them were custodially challenged mothers.
Some mothers lost custody of their children to their batterers. Many battered mothers lost their children when they alleged that their violent husbands had also been sexually abusing their child. Often such mothers are seen as "crazy," and as "alienating" the child from their perfectly nice father. I first broke this scandal 27 years ago when I published my book Mothers on Trial. The Battle for Children and Custody. There have been some improvements. Documented domestic violence is often factored in a bit more often; where there are assets, judges may award mothers a greater percentage of them; gay parents and mothers with demanding careers do not lose custody as they once did for these reasons.
However, matters have worsened in many areas—so much so, that I added eight chapters to the 25thanniversary edition of this book. Two chapters are titled "Court-Enabled Incest in the 1980s and 1990s," and "Court-Enabled Incest in the Twenty-First Century."
The court system does not want to believe that a well-spoken, charismatic man could really be a savage wife-beater or child abuser. It is easier to believe that his traumatized, sleepless, frightened and rapidly impoverished wife is lying, exaggerating or imagining things. I have interviewed many such mothers, and many more were present at this extraordinary conference which was held in Washington DC at the George Washington University Law School.
The police do not rescue these children. In fact, the courts often award custody to their abusers and severely limit the "crazy' mothers' visitation. When such mothers finally run away to save their children, they are routinely captured, imprisoned and lose access to their children for a very long time.
One such mother, Holly Collins, was beaten badly for a very long time in the American state of Minnesota. Her children were beaten, too. No one came to their rescue. On the contrary. Eventually, the father, who terrified his children, gained custody of them. The court system nearly destroyed this mother and her children. And so, in 1994, Holly fled the country. She carried her entire legal file with her in her suitcases. In 1996, after an extensive legal review and appeal, Holland granted this American mother political asylum (!) on the grounds that America had not protected her or her children and did not seem likely to ever do so. Garland Waller directed a riveting documentary about Holly, titled No Way Out But One. The film was shown to the conference. According to Dr. Hannah, their reaction was "highly positive."
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Battered Mothers Custody Conference and The National Organization of Men Against Sexism presented an award to the "People and Government of the Netherlands and to the extraordinary lawyer who fought for Holly and her children, Els Lucas.
The BMCC mothers asked me amazing questions. "Do we need to launch another world war to keep the children safe in America?" "Where is our Abraham Lincoln on this subject?" "What country should we live in if not here?" The mothers, including a group calling itself the "Mothers of Lost Children" demonstrated outside the White House.
According to the testimonies of these mothers, their children either witnessed their mothers being beaten on a daily basis and/or were also beaten; some children were also sexually abused. These were households of terror, ruled over by a legal husband and father, not by a stranger. Yes, I know, some mothers falsely allege domestic violence; most do not, nor do most mothers allege incest unless a teacher, pediatrician, social worker or other mandated reporter does so first. And why? Because 21st century mothers have all been advised by their lawyers that they risk losing custody if they make such an allegation. Even so, these mothers still lost custody of the children they were trying to protect.
Jennifer Collins, Holly's daughter, has created a website for children who, like her, are living "underground." Both Jennifer, who is working as a para-legal, and Holly, led a workshop at the conference.
The work I began in 1976, when I testified in my first custody case for a mother and when I worked with "protective" mothers in the 1980s,continues. Now, there is a growing movement underway. I salute all those who are part of it.
Related Topics: Motherhood & Custody