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Public Domain Photo

Several years ago, I found myself escaping an abusive relationship after being physically assaulted. I was homeless with two small, traumatized children to care for… despite the bleak circumstances, the life ahead of me was so much better than the one I left behind.

The children and I stayed wherever we could – on the couches of friends or family willing to take us in, slept in our minivan and in a battered women’s “shelter”.

The “shelter” was a roof over our heads but little else – it lacked supportive services and was generally a toxic, chaotic environment. Toys and games for were donated to the “shelter” but children were not allowed to play with them. I don’t know why. The kids were rounded up in the living room and sat on the dirty floor playing with dust balls or watching whatever was on TV – no cartoons because there was only one TV and the adults chose all the programming. My children were already traumatized and being in this environment just made things worse. So I made it a point to take my children out of the shelter during the day, and find activities or parks to visit.

It was during this time that my “art advocacy” was born. I started taking pictures to record our lives as being homeless; I wanted to speak out against the abuse that was done to us.. and the only safe way (at the time) was in pictures.

To keep my children busy, and to keep their mind off our struggles, I would tell them “tall tales” – long, adventurous stories. From these stories I found the voice that had been suppressed due to the abuse and began writing stories and poetry.

I found community and church forums to display my photography or read a poem. Then I started creating picture quotes to raise awareness about abuse, and the issue survivors face when leaving abuseThrough art, I was not only creating a way to raise awareness and give voice but I was also creating a new life for myself. 

I am now sharing my art and photography on “Parenting Abused Children”, to share my journey and offer an encouraging message that it is possible to heal, and overcome abuse.

WHAT ARE SOME CREATIVE WAYS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU TO OVERCOME A CHALLENGE OR STRUGGLE?

OR WHAT HAS HELPED YOU TO DEAL WITH THE EFFECTS OF ABUSE?

LET’S TALK AND SHARE! POST YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW (YOU CAN REMAIN ANON).

Blessings,  EJ, © 2017

 

Pockets full of pebbles and a head full of dreams...

Pocket full of pebbles and a head full of dreams…

 

(Melbourne, Australia, Feb. 2016) – Balenga Kalala masterminded a plot to have his wife Noela Rukundo kidnapped and killed… miraculously Noela survived to crash her own funeral.

Read the Full Story at:

Spared by the hitmen with principles by Richard Hooper (BBC)

Wife crashes her own funeral, horrifying her husband, who had paid to have her killed by Sarah Kaplan (WP)

Balenga Kalala, of Melbourne, paid a team of hitmen to kill his wife. Source: http://www.goldrushnews247.com/

Noela is the mother of 3 children, who had experienced abuse from Balenga throughout her marriage, she said, “I knew he was a violent man. But I didn’t believe he can kill me.”

Balenga pleaded guilty to the crime and will spend 9 years in prison but Noela’s ordeal is not over… she is now being harassed by many in Melbourne’s African community, who blame her for Balenga’s conviction.

Despite what she has been through, Noela says she will be strong, and rebuild her life.

 

 

Source: tinypic.com

Are you working with a team, only to find one member has taken over the entire project, and is shutting everyone else out? Have work objectives been delayed because a co-worker is putting their own interests or ideas first? Have you given feedback on a work project, and a co-worker responded by lashing out at you in rage or emotion that was exaggerated or unreasonable for the situation? Is one person making the work environment so toxic or so full of drama that the job or group is no longer productive? Have you thought about quitting a job or project that you are passionate about, or skilled at working in because of a co-workers actions of behavior?

Maybe you are working with a narcissist.

If so, the best protection against the manipulation and mind games used by a narcissist is to learn as much as you can so that the narcissist loses their control over you. When you can identify narcissistic behavior, for what it is, and seek other options you are no longer playing into their games and now can take steps to protect yourself.

What is Narcissism?

The term “narcissist” came from a Greek myth where the hunter Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

In a nutshell, narcissism is a personality disorder where an individual has an exaggerated sense of their own importance, and/or an excessive interest in the self or personal appearance. Narcissists believe the world revolves around them and have little concern, or care, for other people. Behind the Narcissist’s mask of self importance lies a fragile ego who reacts with rage or dysfunctional behavior when confronted with their own fears or insecurities.

Are you working with a narcissist?

Working with a Narcissist on a job, volunteer project or in a group effort is often extremely difficult – and fraught with complications and obstacles created from the havoc of a person more concerned with their own self than the actual task at hand. A narcissist will put their own interests ahead of the benefit of the group, and can not see (or appreciate) the bigger picture. Narcissists often take advantage or exploit people to further their own interests.

How to identify a narcissist in the work environment?

Preston Ni, coach and trainer, shares his insights on how to identify a narcissistin his article: 10 Signs Your Co-Worker / Colleague is a Narcissist

So You Have Identified the Narcissist, Now What?

Some tips for dealing with a narcissist in the work place…

* Document the narcissist concerning behavior, especially if it rises to the level of threats, harassment or makes you feel unsafe.
*Save copies of all toxic or threatening e-mails or communications
* File a complaint or speak to a manager. Document all efforts; bring a witness if you feel the management may side with the narcissist.
* Identify your support system or safe person you can confide in. NEVER confide or share intimate details with a narcissist, even if they are on their best behavior the narcissist is always gaming you.
* Narcissists are not team players – realize their is nothing you did to deserve their poor treatment towards you. Do not attempt to appease a narcissist or get on their good side. Your energy and efforts would be better spent protecting yourself.
*When communicating with a narcissist, stick to the facts and do not include opinions, emotion or other personal information. Anything personal you share will only be used to hurt you later.
* Be prepared that confronting the behavior of a narcissist in any way will always cost you in some way. This is why support is so important. And if you have to take legal action, you need to be prepared.
* If you feel like you could lose your job or would want to quit, seek other career alternatives or support.
* Do not blame yourself for the irrational, unreasonable or illogical actions of a narcissist! Guilt, blame, and scapegoating are all tools used by a narcissist to avoid responsibility for their own actions, do not fall into that trap.

Any ideas or tips on how to identify a narcissist in the work place or how to deal with their difficult behaviors? Leave your tips and comments below!

(Jan 22, 2015, North Dakota) In a rare and extraordinary move, the North Dakota Supreme Court removed district court judge, Cynthia Feland, from a child custody case after it was determined her custody order was not in the best interest of the child, and that she ignored significant evidence of domestic violence.

In their Jan. 22, decision, the justices, ordered that Judge Cynthia Feland be removed from the custody and child support case of Nicholas Law and Danielle Whittet. The unanimous opinion signed by Justice Daniel Crothers read, in part, “A change of judge is ordered upon remand because of Judge Feland’s inability or unwillingness to follow our mandate, and out of concern for the tumult from and cost of litigation.”

Nicholas Law and Danielle Whittet began dating in 2010, they were never married. Ms. Whittet also has two older children from a previous relationship. In 2011 Ms. Whittet gave birth to their child. Mr. Law was proven to be the father through a DNA test.

In July 2012, Mr. Law filed a motion for custody and requested primary custody of the child. Mr. Law requested primary custody citing the Best Interest standards favored him, and a number of factors endangered the child if put in the care of Ms. Whittet.

Following a trial, Judge Feland granted joint custody to the couple and “ordered the parties equal residential responsibility for the child, each having the child on alternating weeks with exchanges taking place on Sunday”. (I will go into the evidence and arguments cited at trial, further in this article).

After the trial, in Nov 2012, Ms. Whittet plead guilty to disorderly conduct, assault and escape. The assault charge was later dismissed. The incident happened in September 2012. At 3 am, officers were dispatched to Ms. Whittet’s home because she was “very intoxicated” and was outside yelling and screaming at her boyfriend. When Ms. Whittet refused to stop screaming, the officers gave her the choice of going into detox or staying with a friend or family member. Ms. Whittet chose to go to her mother’s home for the night, where her 3 children were staying. At 4:30 am, officers were dispatched to the mother’s home. Ms. Whittet was screaming, throwing objects around the house, and had woken the children, who were witnessed to be crying. The screaming was so loud that a neighbor came to the home to investigate. The mother suffered an injury to her arm after Ms. Whittet pushed her against a bed. The mother requested that the officers take Ms. Whittet, and she was arrested.

Mr. Law then filed a motion based on the new evidence of the Sept. 2012 incident and conviction, requesting primary custody. Judge Feland denied Mr. Law’s motion and instead entered a permanent joint custody judgment.

Mr. Law appealed Judge Feland’s custody order to the Supreme Court, and won (Law v. Whittet, 2014 ND 69, 844 N.W.2d 885, filed 4/7/2014). The Supreme Court found that Judge Feland, “simply ignored the significant evidence that was favorable to Law and detrimental to Whittet” and “The district court in this case, without explanation, failed to acknowledge or address evidence which clearly indicated several of the best interest factors favored Law.”

The Supreme Court made its decision based on factors NOT considered in Judge Feland’s custody order, that were entered into evidence. Evidence included the following: Ms. Whittet lived in 10 different residences in the past 4 years, and was living with various men, at different times, who provided financial support. One of these men had physically abused Ms. Whittet’s older child. Ms. Whittet did not have stable employment.Ms. Whittet comes from a dysfunctional family background, and was found to have gotten into physical fights with her mother on several occasions; many of these fights happened in front of the children. In contrast, Mr. Law was found to have a stable job, owns his own home, and is soon to be married. Mr. Law was also has a supportive family and his parents share a close relationship with the child.

The Supreme Court struggled to understand how Judge Feland found these parents to provide an equal quality of care to the child, and struggled to understand how Judge Feland dismissed the Best Interest factors, “We are at a loss to understand or explain the court’s finding. On the basis of this record, Law has demonstrated a markedly stable home life and an extended family which has had a demonstrably positive impact on the child. Whittet’s home environment, however, demonstrates remarkable instability, averaging a move every few months, and has subjected the child to constant change and inconsistency. In addition, Whittet’s home environment subjected the child to a live-in boyfriend who physically assaulted one of Whittet’s other children, and her extended family life subjected the child to a physical altercation between Whittet and her mother requiring intervention by law enforcement and Whittet’s arrest. On the basis of the entire record, we conclude the district court’s finding that factor (d) was equal was clearly erroneous, and factor (d) favored Law.”

The Supreme Court was also troubled that Judge Feland ignored domestic violence happening in Ms. Whittet’s family, meaning the ongoing fights with her mother that the children were a witness to. (The record does not show, but evidence suggests, the children may have witnessed fights between the mother and her various live-in boyfriends).

Judge Feland found that neither party engaged in domestic violence and ignored Ms. Whittet’s troubled history with her mother. The Supreme Court argued that domestic violence statutes (N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2) require the Court to consider violence on a family or household member and that “the legislature intended the factor to apply whenever violence is directed at any member of the household or family, and domestic violence is not confined to instances in which the child or one of the parties is the direct victim of the violence.” Further, “A trial court cannot simply ignore evidence of family abuse, but must make specific findings on evidence of domestic violence in making its decision on primary residential responsibility.” Which means that even if the statute did not apply, Judge Feland should have considered the violent altercations between Ms. Whittet and her mother when making a custody determination. Also supporting this argument, is that the children were being cared for by their maternal grandmother at different times, and Ms. Feland’s acts of violence directly impacted the well-being of the children. Clearly, the children were put in the middle of these disputes, and had suffered emotional distress–and were at risk for real physical harm. (Just my thoughts–if the mother has this chaotic of a lifestyle, she should be required to sober up, and demonstrate stability before having any extended visitation with the child. This is clearly a case where supervise visitation is warranted).

The Supreme Court found that Judge Feland’s ruling was “clearly erroneous” and remanded with instructions that Ms. Law be “given primary residential responsibility of the minor child and to consider limited parenting time for Whittet”. The safety of the child was a major factor in the ruling, the Supreme Court writes, “In determining a parenting time schedule for Whittet, the court must bear in mind the presumption that any domestic violence, even if not directed at the child, negatively affects the best interests of the child. Accordingly, the court should consider limited parenting time for Whittet.”

Instead, Judge Feland drafted an order that required Mr. Law to pay child support, and gave Ms. Whittet parenting time with the child every other week. “Primary custody” means one parent has custody of the child more than 50% of the time. Further, Judge Feland issued an award of child support, with Mr. Law paying the majority of support, which did not support the fact that he has been awarded primary custody. The Supreme Court found that, “The child support was not calculated in proper consideration of the primary residential responsibility award to Law. The district court did not carry out the terms of this Court’s mandate.” In essence, Judge Feland’s custody order did not truly reflect primary custody, and continued to put the child at risk.

Mr. Law then went back to the Supreme Court, seeking relief because Judge Feland had not followed the ruling (Law v. Whittet, No. 20140268, filed 1/22/2015). The Supreme Court sided with Mr. Law, and ordered the removal of Judge Feland from the case, “A district court amended judgment will be reversed and remanded for failure to follow the mandate of the Supreme Court. A change of judge may be ordered on remand when a judge is unable or unwilling to follow the mandate of the Supreme Court.”

Ms. Whittet has two older children, it has not been made public if those children remain in her care.

About Judge Feland: Cynthia Feland is a judge for the North Dakota South Central Judicial District seat 5. Her current term will end on January 1, 2017. Prior to her election to the court in 2010, Judge Feland was an assistant state’s attorney for Burleigh County for 11 years. She was the Grant County State’s Attorney from 1992-1998, also worked in private legal practice in Mandan.

Prior Misconduct: November 2011- The disciplinary board of the Supreme Court investigated Judge. Feland and determined misconduct for an incident that happened when she was as an assistant state’s attorney. Judge Feland did not reveal a document during the prosecution of the director of the North Dakota’s Workforce Safety and Insurance agency, Sandy Blunt, who was accused of misspending funds. Blunt was convicted of a felony which was upheld by the North Dakota Supreme Court. Blunt says that Judge Feland withholding the document contributed to his conviction.

The North Dakota Supreme Court ordered that Judge Feland be admonished and that pay half of the expenses of the disciplinary investigation (about $5.600). Judge Feland denies any wrongdoing.

Sources: Law v. Whittet, North Dakota Supreme Court Opinions, No. 20140268, 1/22/2015 : http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/opinions/20140268.htm

Law v. Whittet, North Dakota Supreme Court Opinions, No. 20130241, 4/7/2014 : http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/opinions/20130241.htm

Judgepedia: Cynthia Feland: http://judgepedia.org/Cynthia_Feland

“N.D. Supreme Court removes judge from custody case” by Andrew Sheeler, 2/3/2015, The Bismark Tribune: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/n-d-supreme-court-removes-judge-from-custody-case/article_1e441522-d7d4-503c-a399-fa1adf646c54.html



“You are GUILTY until proven innocent in family law” — Carlos Morales

CPS Whistleblower Exposes CPS’s Corruption, Kidnapping, and Drugging of Children by Carlos Morales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0OiNdj2aP4

About: Former Child Protective Investigator, Carlos Morales, Exposes CPS’s Corruption, Kidnapping, and Drugging of Children. He explains the incentives that the State gives to destroy families, and what to do if CPS comes after you, your friends, and your community on The Renegade Variety Hour (interviewed by Taryn Harris).

The first podcast discussing this can be found at: http://therenegadevarietyhour.podomatic.com/entry/2013-09-30T15_45_15-07_00

Includes:

*How the CPS system is built to fail, and how its procedures destroy lives. Morales quit working for CPS because he saw the system was destroying lives
*Insight how how CPS “enforces the war on drugs more than enforcing the war on child abuse”. They vast majority of cases we had were not for physical abuse but for supposed neglect or they were cases that were completely made up–completely made up.” And then CPS had to question children about graphic allegations of abuse, which traumatized them
-In cases where actual abuse occurred, putting the children into a foster home, often was not a better alternative. Morales says, (2:52) “In foster you have a way higher chance of being raped, molested, abused and killed than you do in an actual home where you are already being abused.”
*Family law has an incentive to “prove” abuse and remove children from homes, because that is how we get paid (Morales)
*Financial incentives in the foster care system, labeling children with disorders and drugging them for profit (they get money for every disability a child has). Often times, these labels do not account for the natural stress, disruption and reactions child experience when taken from their homes and community, and put into a foster home. Morales says not all foster care homes are bad, he just wants to show the incentives and systematic failures that contribute to corruption, and put children at risk
*The lack of training, education, qualifications and experience in CPS officers
*Tips on what to do if you are investigated by CPS
*Tips on how to handle a CPS interview
*Tips on how to keep notes about your case
*Get informed about your rights!

As many as 10 million children per year witness or are caught in the middle of domestic violence. Domestic violence, and the resulting trauma, has a profound effect on a child’s physical, emotional, behavioral and social health. Children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence commonly suffer from: anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of guilt/remorse.

A relationship with a stable, caring adult is one of the most important factors in a child’s recovery from abuse or trauma, and can help to break the cycle of violence.

Some tips on how you can best support an abused child, and be a positive role model :

*** If you are working as a mentor, “Big Brother/Sister”, peer support, spiritual support, advocate or family/friend to this child, be consistent in scheduling regular visits. Don’t over commit your time then miss a visit. Don’t schedule a large number of visits then decrease the visits unexpectedly. Consistency is crucial to a child’s sense of safety—so schedule visits on a regular basis that is realistic to what you can offer, and what your time/energy allows for. Then put those visits on a calendar so the child knows what to expect, and can plan for your visit.

*** Working with an abused child can be triggering, exhausting or very emotional for the support person—so make sure you are caring for your own physical and emotional needs. This may involve a “check-in” with your supervisor. Or taking classes or attending support groups with the organization you are working for. Or it may involve self-care such as taking a walk/exercise, listening to music, reading, enjoying a hobby etc. If you feel the need to talk about your day, keep the privacy of those you are working with—do not reveal their real name or sensitive personal information about their case or family situation. If there is an urgent issue, go to a supervisor for help, if there is no supervisor you may consider calling a domestic violence shelter for advice or calling 911 in an emergency or if you feel the child’s life is in danger.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline for victims is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or http://www.thehotline.org. Information about local is also available through the hotline.
NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Crisis Counselors Available 24/7 or http://www.childhelp.org/

*** Use community resources as needed, this may include children’s support groups for victims of abuse, parenting classes, religious/spiritual support, food shelves, housing support, case management etc.
A good place to find resources is United Way 211: http://www.211.org/

*** Creating a welcoming, child-friendly environment will reduce anxiety and help foster trust. This may include offering toys, books or games (that are non-violent). Opening a window to allow sunlight in the room. Including pets in the visit. Greeting the child in a way that is comfortable to them—soft voice, smile, avoiding direct eye contact, calling them by a preferred nickname etc (you will learn these over time, as your relationship grows). Or being sensitive to cultural needs. Be consistent in your routine. Allow the child choices. And be open to trying new things, in a creative way.

*** Listen with an open, neutral ear. Refrain from judgment, shame or blame. Be open to hearing the child’s unique way of expressing themselves– their voice may not come out in a direct conversation but may be revealed in a game, in playing with toys, relating to a song or art/drawing a picture etc.

*** Domestic violence and trauma can affect a child’s mood, behavior and ability to socialize. If needed, develop a “safety plan” with the child, their parent(s) and therapist to address behavioral problems if they arise. Work with parent(s) and care providers to become aware of the child’s emotional or behavioral issues, their triggers so you can better meet the child’s needs.

*** “Kids Helping Kids: A Guide for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence” by Mental Health Programs, BC Children’s Hospital is a valuable resource and support for kids, parent(s) and caregivers.
“Kids Helping Kids” offers testimonies about domestic violence told by children in stories and pictures, which validates to children that they are not alone, and the feelings they have are okay.
“Kids Helping Kids” offers tips on how to support abused children, and gives general advise on commonly available community resources. It also offers child-friendly tips on how to talk to children about their feelings and the changes happening in their family.
I highly recommend “Kids Helping Kids” – it’s written in child-friendly manner to educate children about abuse and help prepare them to cope with the trauma, and the changes occurring in their family (which may include out of home placement or court involvement).

Any more tips? Please share your thoughts, resources or links in the comments box!

For More Information and Tips:

“Helping Children Exposed to Domestic Violence”. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Facts for Families Pages”, #109, April 2013: http://www.aacap.org/aacap/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Helping_Children_Exposed_to_Domestic_Violence_109.aspx

“Honor Our Voices: A for Practice When Responding to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence.” Presented by MINCAVA, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare and Avon Foundation for Women: http://www.honorourvoices.org/docs/GuideforPractice.pdf

“How Can I Help a Child Exposed to Domestic Violence?”. National Online Resources Center on Violence Against Women, Casey Keene, 1/2/2013: http://www.vawnet.org/news/2013/01/child_exposed/

“Kids Helping Kids: A Guide for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence” by Mental Health Programs, BC Children’s Hospital:
http://bcsth.ca/sites/default/files/Kids%20Helping%20Kids.pdf

Talking to a “Protective Mother” Who Lost Custody of Children Due to an Unjust Court Ruling: 10 Comments to Avoid & Why

PART ONE: COMMENTS 10-6

These tips are for family, friends, community supports, professionals and others who are in a position to help or support a “Protective Mother”. It is devastating for a Mother to lose custody of her children—especially in a family court proceeding where she may feel victimized, violated and abused (and there no recourse for justice). Those closest to the Mother often struggle with what to say or how to help. Sometimes comments made to help actually hurt the Mother. Other times, those making comments struggle with their own emotions and/or grief and their actions and behavior causes hurt or harm because they are also struggling or don’t know what to say. Some just don’t believe that a court of law would make a mistake, and believe the Mother must have done something wrong to lose custody.

These 10 Comments are commonly reported among Protective Mothers to be hurtful, and traumatic. I am sharing these comments to raise awareness, and offer tips on how to better offer emotional support to Protective Mothers.

What is a “Protective Mom”?: A Protective Mother fights to protect her child(ren) from domestic abuse that occurred in their relationship with an ex spouse/partner. After the Mother escapes the abuse, an abusive ex often uses legal proceedings to intimidate, control, or retaliate against her. Protective Mothers raise concerns about abuse in family court only to lose custody, parenting time and/or rights to her child(ren) due to corruption and systematic failures in family court. Children are then vulnerable to further abuse, and forcibly separated from a fit, loving mother.

These comments are not meant to generalize all custody situations but to explore how domestic violence and controlling behavior does not simply end with the relationship but continues, and even escalates, after the victim has left—and how family members and friends struggle with how to best support the Mother, who is further devastated when an abusive ex gains custody of her children.

10 Comments to Avoid & Why

10. Do Not make a “deal with the devil” to gain access to or contact with the children, who are now in the custody and control of the ex.

An abusive ex may engage the support of a concerned friend or family member—he may lie, manipulate or use the children as pawns to win their trust and gain an “ally”. Why? Once the abuser has won the support of someone closest to the Mother, he will use that person for his own reasons—which may include isolating the mother, gaining an “ally” to fight against the mother, getting information about the mother or otherwise escalating the control and abuse. An abuser will never see these people as a friend or family member, they are just serving his own needs.

Do NOT negotiate with an abuser to gain access or visitation with the children; this may pose a safety risk to both Mother and Child, and may damage her custody case/situation. This includes: Giving emotional, financial or other support to the ex to gain access or visitation with the children. Testifying in court or providing statements to professionals on behalf of the ex. Violating court orders (which often jeopardizes the Mother’s case and/or custody arrangement). Not respecting the wishes or preferences of the Mother. Criticizing, bullying or pressuring the Mother into unsafe situations so you can gain access to the children. Offering support or help to the Mother than taking it away in order to compel her to do what you want. Not being understanding or supportive of a Mother’s custody arrangement or time with her children (putting your needs and wants first). Etc

The Reality: You may feel justified to take these actions because you want to continue your relationship with the children but what you are doing is causing more harm to the family, and showing the children that abuse is acceptable. A child who has been a victim of domestic violence or witnessed it, knows something is not right in the home. A child also knows something is wrong when their Mother is taken away, suddenly and without explanation. To see a loved one make deals and become allies with an abuser enforces to that child that they cannot trust adults, and that coping with abuse involves appeasing the abuser. This will only cause more pain and hurt in the child’s life. Especially if your actions contribute to the child becoming alienated from their Mother, or result in the Court restricting her parenting time.

Instead, take a stand against abuse. Model healthy, appropriate behavior in your words and actions. Be a source of support to Mother and Child. A safe haven. Someone they can trust or rely on.

If you are a friend or family member who is hurting or grieving because an unjust court order forcibly took a child from your life, and gave custody to an abuser, the answer is NOT seeking an alliance with the abuser. There are other ways to maintain the bond that has been broken (although that will be different from the relationship you once shared), and also receive the support you may need. Ideas include: come together as a family, as a community to seek support or comfort in each other. To share special memories. To grieve, and heal. Go to court with the Mother to offer support. Start a fundraiser to help with legal costs. Pray. Seek a support group. Volunteer to fill the void, and use those same energies in a positive way. Find ways within the Court order to maintain contact with the child (regular phone calls, e-mail, letters, spending holidays together, etc.) Most important- do not accept, appease or tolerate abuse.

9. Comments that the Mother just needs to “move on with your life”, “get over it” or “forgive/make peace” etc
The Reality: For a Mother, her children are an inseparable part of who she is, what her life is—she carried them in your body for nine months and nurtured their life. She nursed them through sickness. Prayed over them. Poured her love, energy and soul into her children. A child can never truly be separated from their mother—she will always carry a part of her children with her. A Mother does not move on, or forget or make peace after the loss of a child. Her world is totally shattered, never to be put together in the same way again. The Mother may experience nightmares, fits of crying, depression, anxiety and physical illness and other physical or emotional symptoms because of the loss and grief. The loss of children due to an unjust court situation is made even worse when the Mother believes her children are not safe, when a dangerous abuser wins custody.

To tell a Mother to just “move on” or “get over it” implies that she needs to accept the abuse and injustice and just go back to life as normal; this is extremely damaging. It is better to just to be honest about what you are thinking and feeling. If you hear a Mother’s story and just don’t know what to say or how to comfort her, admit that you don’t have the answers or you don’t understand or you don’t know what to say; that is understandable.

If you struggle with what to say to a grieving Mother, try another approach. After I lost my children, I had a friend who never had children, and didn’t really know what to say or how to approach the subject of abuse with my ex, and losing custody of my children. He would offer to take me to a coffee shop, where we would hang out playing checkers, or sometimes we just sat at a park, in silence. Knowing I had a friend to just be there gave so much comfort. It was nice to have the presence of a caring friend who didn’t judge or ask questions or pressure me to do anything. When I felt comfortable I would talk. Other times I just needed a distraction.

Just being present, offering a shoulder to cry on, or welcoming a Mother into your are good ways to show support—open displays of support and affection can are as important as words. If you don’t have the words, try giving your support with loving actions or demonstrations of care (and respect her choice whether to participate or not).

8. Comments that it must be nice having “a break from your kids”.
The Reality: See #9. Protective Mothers who are forcibly separated from children due to unjust family court rulings experience considerable trauma and grief—they may not see their children for weeks, months, years and some lose all contact with their children. Other Mothers are subjected to further abuse, intimidation, humiliation and controlling behavior from their abusive ex partner when attempting to see or contact children. It is important to offer emotional support to a Mother based on where she is, do not project your own feelings or ideas onto her—and do not vent your own frustrations about your children onto her. Be there to listen, offer a hug, pray or whatever else the Mother is comfortable with. Let the Mother express what is needed, and respect her boundaries. Most important, understand this is a significant loss, very painful to endure.

7. Comments that involve spiritual or religious advice based on opinion, judgment or assumption. Examples: This is “God’s will”, “If God wants you to have your kids back, He will make a way”, You are being “punished” for a sin or other wrong, “God hates divorce”, and “You are being tested” etc.

It is normal to question why bad things happen in this world—why there is abuse or injustice, why bad things happen to good people. It is normal to wrestle with faith at times, to struggle with thoughts or emotions; especially at times you are struggling with or dealing with situations beyond your control. But it is not okay to vent your frustrations, emotions, or other personal issues onto another person—especially some who is vulnerable, and struggling, like a Protective Mother. When someone is struggling or hurting, they need compassion not judgment, shame or religious clichés. If you cannot offer that support, it is better to be honest, and set a boundary rather than say or do something that will negatively impact someone else. Seek help from a church leader or other community resource as an alternative but be open to what you can help with, or how you are able to give.

Similarly, churches and congregations are supposed to be places of refuge and support for needy people. If you find someone hurting, crying, or reacting poorly to advise you have given, it may be time to examine your message, and what you are offering. If you cannot offer the support that is needed, be honest, and help find another resource. And be open to growth in yourself, and in your church as a whole—which may involve further education, support from another church/organization or working together as a whole to meet a need. You also may want to work with a faith based organization that is working with abuse victims.

6. Comments that, “I knew all along”…Remarks that you knew the relationship was troubled or you could foresee problems, or you would have done things differently. Those who make these remarks usually stayed silent during the course of the relationship and then pounce with comments when it is over, the comments often sound harsh, critical or judgmental.
The Reality: Abusers are often charming and/or manipulative, they know how to win people to their side, it is difficult to predict the outcome. Even after a woman has left the abuse, there may still be a lot of unanswered questions—she may never have the answers.

Part of healing is letting go of “should’s” and being able to feel empowered over your life, your body, your choices in the present. Healing also includes finding healthy ways to deal with mistakes without living in regret or dwelling on the past—which will only make you feel victimized. Domestic Violence agencies and organizations may offer help in the way of classes/education, support groups, family support, counseling and advocacy services to help process what has happened, receive support from professionals, and receive feedback from other woman who have also survived abuse. You are not alone!