Courts Must Open Eyes and Ears to Abused Children

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Credit: SalFalko on Flickr, under Creative Commons

(WOMENSENEWS)– My long involvement in our often archaic and biased judicial system is a journey that should never have been necessary in the face of abuse that should never have occurred.

Not much has changed since my battles began, and the myth that mothers make more false allegations of abuse than fathers during divorce and custody battles still holds sway in too many courtrooms. This remains true even though the American Bar Association reports fathers are far more likely than mothers to make intentionally false accusations (21 percent compared to1.3 percent). Change, dramatic change, is needed now, to end these tragic outcomes.

At the outset, I had full custody of my little girl and her father had limited visits twice a week.

Legal Remedies

  1. Move cases like this one to criminal court since sexual abuse and assault are crimes. If one adult does this to another, we call this a crime; why not when a parent rapes and molests a child? Do not let this be addressed in family and child custody courts.
  2. Ensure “safety first” for children who report abuse, including safety from those about whom there are reports of sexual and other physical abuse.
  3. Bring in multidisciplinary teams and forensic interviewers to videotape the children’s testimony and/or descriptions of the abuse they are experiencing.
  4. Recognize parents who are acting in good faith.
  5. Completely discontinue parental alienation syndrome and similar arguments.
  6. Require the courts to consider past and/or present domestic violence, the abuse of the protective parent herself.
  7. Build effective oversight and accountability for judges and training in this arena.
  8. Require continuing education taught by experts in child sexual abuse and domestic violence for all court professionals and judicial officers. Include exams to certify passing these courses.
  9. Develop a system to more easily remove incompetent, poorly trained professionals, including judges and custody evaluators.
  10. Require disclosure of conflicts of interest on the part of all involved in these legal processes at all levels. Require judges to receive training about psychopaths and how they can manipulate the legal processes and family courts.

But after raising sexual abuse allegations against her father, and spending three years in the family court trying to protect my daughter, I was reduced to one-hour-a-week supervised visits for eight years and treated as if I were a hardened criminal. This was all due to a custody evaluator’s opinion through an “ex-parte” (a hearing without all the parties present). That evaluator cited Dr. Richard Gardner’s debunked “parental alienation syndrome” and left out all medical reports, police reports and pre-school teacher reports.

The ordeal began the day I took my beautiful little girl Ami, freshly bathed, with her dark hair in a high ponytail and wearing a pink dress, to her day care center. On the way I imagined how her father would pick her up for his three-hour visitation that afternoon.

That evening, I went to his house to pick up Ami. I knocked and waited until he finally came to the door. He waved me in and said he would get Ami. As I waited, I noticed that Ami’s beautiful clothes were strewn about the living room floor.

When he brought her down, Ami was wet, nude and limp in his arms. Her arms dangled at her sides, her ponytail was out of its band and her hair was matted. She was soaked with sweat. My heart sank and my gut pulled tight. “What happened to her?” I asked him. He looked at me with a strange smirk. That may have been the first time he abused our daughter. And that terrible sight of him carrying her down the stairs limp in his arms would wake me out of sleep over and over, causing me to sit straight up in my bed shocked and horrified.

Fighting a Hydra-Headed Monster

No words can express what it is like to realize your child is being sexually abused. My precious little girl would tell me and others about unimaginable things that were happening to her that made my heart feel like it was getting ripped out. But trying to stop the abuse was like fighting a hydra-headed monster.

Each year, 58,500 children who seek protection from abuse through the U.S. family courts are ordered into the custody of a violent or sexually abusive parent.

A mother risks losing custody when she fights to protect her child from the child’s abusive father. These cases then get turned against her. Research published in 1999 in the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse found that when a father wants custody he wins it 70 percent of the time. When a parent is accused of child abuse by the protective parent the abuser gains full or partial custody 90 percent of the time. And where there is domestic violence, the court tends to overlook the fact that these abuses were perpetrated by the same man.

This abuse of the child becomes part of the overall abuse scenario, complicating and magnifying the pain as the abuser gains control of the child while losing control of the mother in the divorce. The people who are supposed to be protecting these children (judges, custody evaluators, court appointed specialists, social workers) are failing miserably.

When the child resists going with the abuser and the mother asks the family court to protect the child, the mother is often cast as the one in the wrong, said to be alienating the child from the father. This so-called parental alienation syndrome, concocted to create compassion for fathers accused of pedophilia, has been debunked as junk science but remains influential in the courts. It has helped abusers retain custody and subjected mothers who make the accusations to gag orders, jail sentences and loss of custody.

When I went through this over 20 years ago I didn’t know any of this. I had no indication of what was happening. I lost courtroom battle after courtroom battle. The more I fought the system the more time the father got with my daughter. And this was in the face of physical evidence of his sexual abuse in doctor reports, hospital reports, police reports and day care provider and pre-school teacher reports. All of these were either ignored or suppressed by the court. Worst of all Ami, the child being abused, had no voice. My child was not heard!

The Same Story

After I lost custody in 1992, I was asked to testify before Congress with 10 other mothers who had cases like mine. Each one of those women could have been telling my story. I finally saw I was not alone. There are thousands of these cases. That day I was empowered and vowed to never stop fighting this great injustice.

I managed to hold myself together psychologically so I couldn’t be labeled hysterical, vindictive or inept in any way, but it did not matter. Women will be labeled as crazy, hysterical, dishonest, lying, coaching the child. If women in my situation show their distress they are called emotional and unstable. If they are stoical they are described as lacking emotion and insincere. I truly felt that if we had been living in another time, this would have been a “Salem Witch Hunt” and I surely would have been burned alive at the stake.

I paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, therapy and evaluations. I was ordered to pay the abuser’s attorney fees and child support. Left with only one hour a week of contact with my child, I was beyond devastation. And my poor little girl must have felt abandoned by her maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who were barred by the courts from seeing her. My daughter was isolated and silenced. The abusing parent gained complete control of her life. Imagine her pain and my anguish.

I got my daughter back after eight years of supervised visits when she was 12. I never regained custody but when she was 13 I was finally allowed 50 percent shared time.

Most mothers who go through court battles like mine can’t bear the pain of supervised visits and other barriers to their children. They can’t bear not being able to protect their children. They expend themselves in all directions and become emotionally and financially depleted. If they try to run with the child, they will face pursuit by the FBI and the risk of prison. The stress and pain is more than unbearable. I have watched mothers go to jail, commit suicide and die inside every day.

I am so sorry to say this is still going on. My story is one of hardship and pain. It is also one of fighting for what is right, making a difference and getting this information out to the world.

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17 thoughts on “Courts Must Open Eyes and Ears to Abused Children

  1. This is terrible and truly tragic. Even some scientists who support the idea of parental alienation like Ira Turkat say there is not proper research on alienation and even his own proposal called divorce related malicious parent syndrome has no scientific evidence. Courts need to get much better at protecting abused children in cases like this, its really inexcusable. I am so sorry for you, and my heart goes out to you. See and

  2. This link highlights a similar situation where the courts are making harmful decisions with little recourse. This is but 1 of many similar situations. Part of the problem is that deadbeat controlling men seem to think they can force a woman to keep a child the birthmother feels will be better off in a different home. Then they expect to show up whenever they feel like it so they can fool themselves into believing they are fathers. There has to be a better solution..especially in situations like this.

  3. I find this story lacking in many ways. It is a terrible story, but where are the facts? Where are the sources used to make the story? There are always a few select cases that may somehow get through the ultra feminist legal system, but those are few and far between. For every verified story you bring, I can bring you 10 equally devestating stories from men. There are numerous accusations and statistics thrown into this report without citations. I have actual citations that completely differ from this story. I guarantee that 70% of men who ask for costudy do not get it. That makes it even more impossible for 90% of abusers to get custody. This story is completely lacking in factual content, but it makes a great story to try and promote the lies it tells.

  4. wow. excellent article. well written on an unbelievable topic. i can verify I am dealing with the same situation

  5. Post-divorce, in 1983 -1987. my ex-spouse dragged me into court 4 more times, on allegedly infractions of the custodial agreement… Even when I had witnesses & he admitted in court repeatedly that he 1) COMMITTED PERJURY SEVERAL TIMES EACH HEARING & 2) HAD REPEATEDLY FALSIFIED HIS FINANCIAL ASSETS & INCOME in determining child & spousal support, the male judge upheld his side & gave him whatever he wanted… because “women should not disobey their husbands”… & “we men have to stick together”…
    When each of my attorneys tried to complain to the State Bar about this prejudicial & biased behaviors, they were told that since he was a leading judge in the county, their complaints would rebound to THEIR disgrace for “trying to slander a fine judge”…
    I also observed him in crtiminal trials, where his bias against women & children was also noted in the proceedings. A local assistant attorney could not get any of her complaints against him to stick either…
    He retired with a fine pension & perks, after ruining dozens of lives…

  6. I can verify that the same happens in Ireland.

    Since pro pedo Gardner theory was imported from USA, we inherited the identical pattern.

    A winning formula for child rapists was born and was experted to many countries.

    I worked on cases – after my own- for years and the pattern was always the same.

    You just do not believe any of this is possible until you witness it with your own eyes

    Attorneys advised battered and abused children not to dare mention abuse and or rape of children as it would p*ss the judge off and he would have revenge by ordering the abused children to live with the criminal and the protective mother be reduced to supervised contact which destroys children and their mothers.
    In Ireland we went even further – we had and maybe still have social workers and other so called child protectors who recommend ELECTRIC SHOCK THERAPY for the abused children in order to burn out the memories of rape etc and then the children are placed 100% in the custody of the violent and sexual abusive father…….all because of his right.

    Now we have the grooming of judges that child rape and incest does children no harm- so never ask why we dod not jail our child rapists. Its all thanks to Kinsey “research” and the efforts now to normalise child rape.

  7. I truly felt that if we had been living in another time, this would
    have been a “Salem Witch Hunt” and I surely would have been burned alive
    at the stake.”

    Interesting you wrote that. because in my case in Ireland I was “done” as a witch in court in Ireland.I was deemed too powerful for a woman in Roman Catholic Ireland- so I was a witch- lol- not a broomstick in sight.

    I also know 3 mothers in Liverpool UK who also got labelled witches and they lost their children to the abusers.

    I also know a US mother who was deemed a witch in 1990’s- identical cases.

    • I am in Nottingham UK and this has happened to me. I am also a published academic and would love to fight back – people need to be made aware of what is happening within the UK courts (and international courts). If you know of any UK mothers willing to share their story with me I would love to hear from them. People can email me at thewhitewitchhunt at g mail dot com – I know you will work it out.

  8. Just so you know, this happens to fathers as well and I am one of them. My exwife became a heroin addict and a cheater. She lied and lied and spent over 50k on drugs while I busted my ass to build her her dream home. When I found out what she was doing I was devasted but all I cared about was getting her healthy again so that we can continue our life together. This was the biggest mistake of my life. After I knew she was clean I had a total breakdown. Now I was in the need of her, but instead she turned against me. She would say to me stop acting so dramatic or stop faking and cut it out. I was literally on the floor crying and shaking uncontrollably. My body and mind was not ready to handle this situation. I’ve had many close friends and relatives sucomb to drug abuse and when it was my wife it hurt me me harder than ever. She treated me like I was the unfaithful drug addict that she became. Eventually she filed for divorce instead of trying to fulfill our marital vows and also took our children without having shared custody. It’s been almost 2 years now since our separation and I am still fighting for shared custody although I should be fighting for full. I believe that everyone deserves a second chance in life even though she wronged me. If anyone can give me some advise I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you, joe

  9. I am going thru this myself with my daughter. Black and white proof mean nothing today, here say is God’s word. I feel the judicial system purposefully gives the children to the worst parent knowing the rightful parent will continue to fight. This done so their pockets are full, paid vacations, summer homes, lavish lifestyle, etc. I have read many stories similar and it’s sickening. This needs to stop. It’s like a sick cult and no one can stop it.

  10. How is that with all these cases, a child speaks out about abuse, they say oh well there is no evidence to Prove it so the child must go back. Now the parent trying to protect the child gets accused of “alienating ” the child, filling their heads with nonsense and damaging them WithOut Proof and custody gets taken away. I just can’t comprehend that. I would like to get all these parents going thru this to come together and make a stand to stop this. Seeing these mothers and fathers terrified to do anything , always having to walk on egg shells and even following orders is not enough. It’s wrong and something needs to be done. Please reply, bc I am done with the corrupted judicial system. We need to take back our rights!

  11. I am a British Mother apart from my lovely children for 25 years I have done longer than a life sentence for loving my own children. All I did was get Divorced. I was Bullied by Judge Alan Goldsack in the Sheffield Combined Court UK. I had No Solicitor present because I spoke up for myself and told the Judge I had been bullied in my own home I would not be bullied in what was supposed to be a civil court. He made an order there and then I should never see or have contact with my Beutiful babies again. I was devastated. That was in September 1996 as the judge left the court he turned and said No grounds for appeal. By the time I got home that day my children were gone. I have Not seen them since that day. I was my childrens sole carer for 6 years prior to this. On every court paper it said I am a good Mother my children had a nice home and were doing well at school. I have never been given a reason Why? It had nothing to do with the children(it was because I stood up for myself) which I had every right to do. I am a Mother I always will Be.?

  12. As a newspaper reporter I saw the Gardner tactic being used in an Indiana court room once, where a live-in boyfriend was being accused of child molestation. With the jury out of the room, the defendant’s lawyer successfully argued to keep the molester’s prior molestation record from Alabama from being brought up in court. The defense was moving smoothly along, accusing the mother of making up abuse claims so she could have her new boyfriend move in. Then the prosecutor called one of the two little girls involved to the witness stand. She was only 10 years old, so I was surprised they put her up there, but she held her own as the defense lawyer literally badgered her, calling her and her mother a liar. Then, all hell broke loose when the lawyer pointed at the little girl and yelled, “JUST TELL THE TRUTH! ADMIT IT! YOUR MOTHER TOLD YOU TO SAY ALL THIS SO SHE COULD HAVE HER NEW BOYFRIEND MOVE IN! TELL THIS JURY THE TRUTH, THAT HE NEVER TOUCHED YOU AT ALL!” Well, that little girl turned into a spitfire and stood up and looking straight at that molester, pointed her finger at him and yelled back with all the ferocity of a lioness, “YOU DID TOO TOUCH ME! ONE TIME TOO MANY!! BOTH HERE IN INDIANA AND BACK IN ALABAMA!! And thus, the Alabama charges were brought up. The defense suddenly rested. The prosecutor did, too, They did their closing arguments and three hours later the jury pronounced him guilty and he left in handcuffs to go to prison. I have never had chills run up and down my back and have the hairs stand on end on my arms in any other court case I ever witnessed. It was incredible and I wanted to cheer for that little girl. I really did.

  13. Very similar to what happened to me. I can’t understand how the abusers get the children,and the loving parent gets punished. It is just sickening.
    To help me deal with the trauma of losing my child, I wrote a book, called Take Her and Run. I use the alias, Aniela Grace, and Gabriella Grace.

  14. I am in the same position in USA. I was labeled mentally ill and CPS said I fabricated things and coached my child. They shut out witness testimony and left out important things like the fact that I had a psychological evaluation done and had volunteered for it, but it said I was not mentally ill. They left out the childs repeated to disclosures to other professionals and said it only was coming from me. They left out the fact shes had behavioral changes that match and has protested going to his house alone on many times. They just assumed shes happy at supervised visits and he didnt hurt her there so they think hes also fine. They left out her psychological evaluations. He wasnt forced to take one for 9 months when her symptoms had really gone down and she had not been alone with him for a long time. Predators can pass evaluations and lie detector tests. They based it on her being happy at supervised visits after her getting over her fear of him at visits and no physical evidence (Statistically speaking, theres almost never any physical evidence). I dont do any drugs or drink handful glasses of wine a year, no criminal history, no history of abuse, my driving record i had one ticket for incomplete stop and nothing else, I have a job, I have family and friends, and I am a good mother. People tell me all the time what a great job I did with her. I raised her for years alone. He went to jail and had habitual substance abuse pattern. He has mental illness in his parents. Now our daughter is going to being hurt even more and no one is going to help her until it is beyond helping. She is in danger and no one will hear her. I have been fighting for a long time. I am now going to lose custody it looks like or forcing her back into unsupervised visits. I wish someone would help her. I wish I could help her.