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‘It Should Not Hurt to Be a Child’

April 29, 2011 08:07:08 am
Comments (13)

By Eileen King

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and it is an occasion for being reminded that  “it should not hurt to be a child.”  The soul-destroying, long-term consequences of child physical/sexual abuse and neglect obviously merit a year-round focus, but media attention to such awareness campaigns helps encourage parents, especially mothers, to seek help if they suspect child abuse.

At the same time, however, the long and exhausting journey that parents must take to secure protection for endangered children, often involving legal battles costing many thousands of dollars, is rarely mentioned.

Who wants to hear that no amount of money can assure justice in systems that disbelieve children and distrust protective parents?

It is, however, a grim reality.  Parents who act appropriately and lawfully to protect their children may be punished by family court judges for reporting abuse or for refusing to force their terrified child to visit an abusive parent.  

In the worst cases, custody is reversed and the protective parent may be denied any contact with his or her child.  The message: failure to be a “friendly parent” is worse than child physical or sexual abuse.

The non-profit agency I work for, Justice for Children, often finds itself on the front lines of complex cases of child abuse, arising during separation and divorce,  that may be litigated for years. Although Child Protective Services (CPS) investigates abuse reports, these cases are generally treated with suspicion and ruled out as “custody battles” despite urgent, compelling evidence.  

Rarely prosecuted by the State, intra-familial abuse allegations are relegated to a domestic relations court of equity where a serious crime against a child is reduced to a civil law question of property. Such courts, in  contrast to the traditional adversarial nature of a courtroom, allow judges to apply injunctions or writs instead of monetary damages, according to the principle of “fairness. ”

Family courts in most (if not all) jurisdictions are considered “courts of equity.”  A recent New York case in which the Court of Appeals was asked to decide whether a teacher imprisoned for molesting boys can see his own child illustrates the limits of an approach that considers a child just a piece of property to be divided.

The systemic failures and practices that place abused or at-risk children in the care or custody of a dangerous parent are well known, but it has taken over 15 years for these agonizing and sometimes tragic cases to be officially recognized as serious problems in our judicial and CPS systems.  

The Catch 22 nature of a parent’s duty to report, and penalties for failure to protect, sinks protective parents in the quicksand of family court litigation. Very little help is available from public agencies or non-profits.  Abusers know they have unparalleled opportunities to abuse and control their children and ex-partners with few consequences. 

Non-profit advocates have been working for years to get these issues before federal agencies. 

Last month, the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) held a Roundtable at George Washington University Law School, sponsored by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence with help from the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project.  Judge Susan Carbon, OVW director, , and participants from other federal agencies listened to a panel of mothers and a courageous 13-year-old share their experiences in family court. 

In the experts’ panel, we shared our extensive knowledge of how CPS and family courts can fail abused children and their protective parents.  A report on the roundtable will be posted soon on the OVW website.

Change must also happen in state CPS agencies and family courts. Court appointees (psychological evaluators, Guardians ad litem, children’s attorneys, mediators and parenting coordinators) should not evade oversight or consequences for negligent practices that harm children.  

Policies forcing children to reunite with their sexual assault perpetrators need immediate re-evaluation.  These are just of few of the many changes recommended by advocates and legal/mental health professionals.

The worst betrayal a child can endure is sexual/physical abuse or neglect by a parent.  Assuring a child that if they tell they will be protected, but then failing to protect heaps betrayal upon betrayal. 

We need to carry through on our promises to children.   This is the next  level of child abuse awareness our society needs!

Here are some further resources for anyone who wants to explore the issue further:

From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running From the Family Courts and What to Do About It, by Amy Neustein, Ph.D. and Michael Lesher, J.D., Northeastern University Press, 2005. www.upne.com/1-58465-462-7.html

Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody edited by Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D and Barry Goldstein, J.D., The Civic Research Institute, 2010. http://www.civicresearchinstitute.com/dvac.html


Eileen King is Regional Director of Justice for Children-DC.  She welcomes comments from readers.

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Posted by Really?
Saturday, March 02, 2013 11:50

As a teen I endured sexual torture at a group home. I ran away several times and was returned time and time again. I’m 41 years old now. I have two beautiful little girls who are the embodiment of love. They are truly a gift from god. They are my raison d’être.

I fought the abuse, I fought off the attacks. I was tortured when the authorities returned me against my will. I was held down by six boys who in turn ran a straight razor my body over a 130 times. Bloody, beaten so badly my eyes were swollen shut , I broke through a window and ran screaming and blind into the street naked. No one helped me and I was dragged back in. I escaped . I sued. I won ( largest civil award to date in the state I lived).
I went to college, have a degree (a couple actually) got married, had two beautiful little girls. Mom abducted the girls, used my past against me , claimed sexual abuse 7 times ! All ruled out. 3 attorneys quit . 22 months of hell. I get custody returned she signs an agreed order and then “attorney” Tom Burton III subs in and wants everything set aside. JFC “advocates for children” FUCK YOU! You are trying to have those innocent children evaluated again they have had 6 vaginal exams in 9 months and you want more? Had you fucktards bother to do any sort of background you will see you are revictimizing The very same people you claim to help. See you in court assholes.

Posted by Robert Gartner
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 01:41

While browsing for my name in Google I ofund this article again. Thought I would give the confused among you a little update on my two children yes two. The oldest of whom I have mostly spoken for 25 years now still cannot talk with me, she is so severely alienated from all the lies allowed to be freely perpetrated by Justice for Children when it helped my daughter’s mother take her back from me. Trauma ensued too to put an even deeper mark of fear and neurosis in my daughter I would contend. She had been thriving with me in my care. She was returned to a disturbed household and then cut off completly from me. Her mother faced trial for the felonies she had committed, a likely stress upon the household. Her mother was divorced a year after our daughter was returned to that household. Then he died. She took nothing from our household- another stress for our daughter. Then all the alienation- a severe level alienator. She dropped out of high school and right away made a baby! Oh yeah she had a really good and fit mother. I hope each of you has read the perfect example of the demented thought portrayed by their attorney soldier Alene Ross Levy in that Houston Chronicle article of May 2, 2007 that I had previously mentioned.

Now I am dealing with my youngest daughter who was given to another unfit mother. I just learned that she has been trying to kill herself since she was only eight. We had been cut off until recently because I refused to be supervised in order to see her. My youngest is made to raise her oldest sisters kids and for which she gets no thanks. Her own mother constantly ciritcises her. Justice for Children is responsible for the destruction of this my younger daughter as well having set up the lie that destroyed my life.

Beware of groups like Justice for Children and people that associate with such groups because they think they are perfect and have all the answres but dont really take a good look at what they do and how they do it.

Posted by s p a
Saturday, June 09, 2012 07:33

CATHOLICABUSESURVIVORSNI.COM——- NORTHERN IRELAND HAS GONE UNDER THE RADAR when it comes to child abuse , thousands of children have been abused by catholic clergy , in parishes childrens homes , and schools ,never brought into the media eye, the stormont executive have granted a limited powerless inquiry to begin in the autumn , who must prepare a report in 6 months after taking evidence , do expose the hidden dysfunctional north korean state where third class catholic abuse victims have no say.

Posted by Marjorie
Saturday, June 25, 2011 11:47

My 3 children and I are currently living this nightmare. Custody trial set for October. With all the "players’ in place to reverse custody: judge, BIA, co parenting coordinator, court appointed counselors for each child (on 4th counselor). I am being financially broken by all. Attorney does nothing. System ignores history of abuse. PAS report defends the childrens father for his “behavior” because his children will not visit with. Judge and PAS report have stated children to be sent away to rehab if they don’t change or be sent to boarding school. My attorney is just at horrific at the court appointed players. No attorney wants my case with out huge retainer. I have no more money to offer which puts me a hugh disadvantage.
I will continue to fight for my children’s safety. They are depending on me.
To all those who speak out for justice, thank you. I am with you and will continue on this path until the day all our children are safe. We must keep speaking out until the corrupt money making family judgical sytem is exposed. Every child regardless of age have rights.
Perhaps we should get every news station and newpaper to broadcase and write “children’s story” all on one day/evening and march in front of the White House to raise public wareness to the tragedies taking place in our family courts.
Billboards on the highways.
Our voices must be heard so family court and all their “well trained musicians” know our children, as well our ourselves, will not be terrorized anymore.

Posted by Protect children!
Saturday, May 28, 2011 07:26

I believe Robert Gartner is an abuser who was outed by JFC and attacks them whenever possible.

Eileen’s article refers to “protective parents” as well as “his or her” child. JFC is not sexist or bias it is a fact that men are more often the perpetrators of sexual abuse of their children. Hello, Robert Gartner!

Robert Gartner is a JFC Internet troll.

Posted by Connie Valentine
Saturday, May 28, 2011 12:20

As always, Eileen King expresses this shocking crisis in family courts eloquently and clearly. Our organization California Protective Parents Association receives daily contacts from mothers all over the country who are reeling with pain from the loss of their children to abusers. This counter-intuitive problem seems to be getting worse, rather than better. Dr. Phil will have his second show on the family court crisis on Memorial Day, a fitting way to honor those children who did not survived visits or placement with their abusers.

Posted by portia
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 09:39

A brilliant article.

This issue of protective parents being demonised is a worldwide issue. I first learned about in in ireland 1995 where I could not believe the catch 22 issue to be true, but it was and is. The stats are that 75% of abusers get custody of the innocent children. It is not that the abusers want the children, no it is abuse by proxy. Also lawyers have a lot to answer for , because they are the ones advising abusers to go for custody- TO MAKE THEM LOOK GOOD in front of the judge. I heard it with my own ears. Also judges are not trained in modern research and fall for the institutional grooming of these abusers who are gifted at fooling professionals. I witnessed a man with a criminal record convince a learned judge that 2 psychiatric reports done on his victim were fakes.!! All the judge had to do was call the psychiatrists but he did not. I also noticed that those accused of violence rarely get ordered to undergo psyche assessments – breaching art 6 of human rights.
We have ancient issues in our collective consciousness which need addressing like Barry Goldstein and Mo Hannah have done. The main issue are All women are Eve ill- from the time of Adam and Eve. All women are liars, based on Eve as well. All women are here to suffer for the crimes on mankind. it is in the Bible. All women are possessions of their male husbands or partners as are the children- from the Bible.

The Just Us system after all stems from the Church courts- of Inquisition times when good men and women were burned as witches, tortured etc.Family courts are Star Chambers still.

Robert, yes there are female abusers, but not in the same % as male ones.

Posted by Eralynn
Saturday, April 30, 2011 10:07

My case is unbelievable. I wish I was part of the panel who met recently and my daughter who went from a happy, healthy, honor roll student to an unhappy self harming, hopeless, helpless sad child in a matter of 2 years in family court. It has ruined our lives. I am a self employed law abiding citizen who raised her alone all of her life, never married. He filed from a prison cell after I declined a delusional suggestion of us being together upon his release.(he had prayed for 680 days and God does nothing in half measures) I hadn’t heard from him in years! He threatened to kill us and it’s all documented. He himself told me to protect her from him and he has managed to keep us in family court with me defending false allegations and never even being heard before a judge for 2 years! She has been forced to meet with him weekly and was initially afraid of him and now hates him (a word never used in our home previously). The reunification therapist antagonized her and angered from the start. Criminal charges should be brought to these participants of this abuse. They have called her names and torn her apart and those she loves in the meetings but now her anger is being called “parent alienation syndrome”. So that is my next fight while it should just be the obvious being laid out to a judge. They have kept the drama going so much the facts have never even been heard. I am broke and broken.
Hopefully something will go in our favor in August. I pray she makes it til then. I can’t imagine the damage that has been done to her spirit. I hope it makes her stronger but all I see is angry and she no longer trusts the law, police, or adults. Why would we do this as a society? I think of the children who have been sentenced to meet with this therapist that have been molested. It breaks my heart.
My daughter told me she wanted to run away with a little boy who was in her office to protect him from her.
What in the world are we doing???
I await the report and I hope something can be done for the children FAST!
Did I mention 9 times convicted felon, many misdemeanors and documented mental illness which he must have been cured from as it’s never mentioned.
Thank you for keeping this subject in the forefront. It’s discouraging to see how long we have been saying the same thing but there appears to be growing groups against what is right.

Posted by Robert Gartner
Saturday, April 30, 2011 01:55

This article by Eileen King is sexist and Justice for Chidlren reject the existence and utter credibility of Parental Alienation. Just read the interview in the Houston Chronicle should you yet doubt my words. It is in the May 2, 2007 edition where one of their attorney soldiers Alene Ross Levy was interviewed. She stated that men are sexual predators and women are protective parents.

Posted by Beverly Schneider
Saturday, April 30, 2011 12:57

I applaud this article and your work. As a pastoral counselor, I have seen Justice for Children in action. I highly recommend anyone who is willing and able to give financial support to this organization. God help you all as you find ways to get protection for children in the court systems. May we all pray for the eyes of the courts to be open to the tragedy of all this.

Posted by Anne Grant
Saturday, April 30, 2011 11:40

Thanks to the Crime Report, Justice for Children, NCADV, and Judge Susan Carbon for bringing to federal awareness the widespread abuse of power in family courts that is so costly to abused children, to parents trying to protect them, and to taxpayers.

Posted by Robert Gartner
Saturday, April 30, 2011 12:50

This story stinks.

Posted by Robert Gartner
Saturday, April 30, 2011 12:41

Justice for Children (JFC) and their ilk are sexist in their approach and reject the existence of Parental Alienation as do the authors of the books mentioned at the end of this article. One but reas closely this very srticle to see what I mean. Mothers , “especially women” are known to JFC as the ‘protective’ ones, and what dopes that make the father then? Just reference yourselves to the May 2, 2007 Houston Chronicle interview of one of their soldier attorneys, Alene Ross Levy who stated exactly that that men who fight for custody are child sexual abuse predators.

If JFC weren’t ridden with such a state of DENIAL and confusion it might realize that it was onto something. Yes, as King stated:“Abusers know they can get away with having control and abusing freely after gaining custody”. The problem with my case which they made against me when they intruded into the lives of myself and my daughter is that the person they returned our daughter to was indeed a severe level parental alienator, inflicting upon our daughter one of the most heinous forms of child abuse known. To date now going on 20 years my daughter cannot restore our relationship due to her mothers abuse. Odd too that he mother was out committing three felonies while she got their free ‘help’.

JFC do the right thing. Compensate us for the terrible damage you have done to us and apologise to my daughter for having done it. Otherwise take yourselves out of family courtrooms and disorganize and divest yourself of your tax free status of 501 c 3 .

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