Listen In: Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse

I don’t think we will end domestic abuse or rape or trafficking in this country until the culture starts to change; and I think each and every one of us has an obligation to speak up, to get involved and there’s lots of ways to do that in our communities, and you just have to take that step.

And we shouldn’t be waiting ’til a horrible tragedy happens, when you read something in the newspaper about a woman being killed or just the statistics that are so haunting about all of these young girls being trafficked in all of our cities, that that it really is up to us, our institutions, our communities, and the culture to change the belief and attitudes. And when that happens, I think we’ll start to see some fundamental changes…” ~ Michael Paymar

Following a recent show on Battered Women, Psych Up takes on the crucial issue of helping men end domestic violence.  Our guest, Representative Michael Paymar brings tremendous knowledge and experience to this issue. His career has spanned from his direct work with batterers and his co-founding the nationally recognized Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project to combating gender violence and related issues as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

As the author of “Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Violence”, and the co-producer of the award winning documentary film, With Impunity: Men and Gender Violence, Michael Paymar discusses with host, Suzanne Phillips, the success and challenges in ending domestic violence. He describes the power of a group model that requires men to take responsibility and offers hope. He considers the need for a change in the personal, familial and cultural attitudes that allow domination of women with impunity.

In the back and forth he considers the messages that boys and girls are given and offers examples of how a father, mother, coach, or college co-ed can shift the attitudes that perpetuate gender violence. This show makes domestic violence a personal and painful reality that we need the courage to face.

For Help: 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/hard of hearing)

Learn more about More about Michael Paymar’s work:

Education for Critical Thinking

Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Violence by Michael Paymar

Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (Home of the Duluth Model)

 

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October 3, 2015, Saint Paul, Minn: When Shatavia Jackson attempted to drop her children off to spend the day with their father (name withheld), he refused to care for them. Shatavia insisted that the father take the children, and left the children at the house, as she began to pull away in her SUV her ex jumped onto the roof of the vehicle.

Now riding on top of the SUV, the ex was reportedly heard screaming and pounding on the driver’s side window. Shatavia kept on driving, travelling 9 miles through the city before driving onto a highway, reaching speeds up to 70 mph, with her ex still clinging to the SUV. When Shatavia exited the highway, a physical altercation ensued. The father narrowly escaped being maced, and despite the ordeal, was unharmed. It has not been reported if Shatavia sustained any injuries.

Multiple witnesses called 911. Police arrived on the scene and arrested Shatavia. She has been charged with felony domestic assault, driving after suspension and operating a vehicle with expired registration.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about this incident, but what really resonated with me were the common issues that many people involved in divorce or custody disputes face. I am going to address those issues in a few insights on what can be learned from this near tragedy. If you have anything else to add, please leave your comments.

What we can learn from this incident:

1) It is not worth it – ever – to go to jail over some drama with your ex partner, or to risk your own happiness and chances in life for an ex. X your ex! When a relationship ends, look at it as a fresh start for you. If you have children with that person, and are co-parenting, you will have some communication, and dealings, with your ex. Be sure to maintain healthy boundaries, and to release ties to the past (and to that person) that are holding you back. It is possible to heal, and mature – you do not have to repeat past mistakes, or relive the drama.

2) If your ex partner says that they do not want the children in their life, they do not want to care for the children or refuse to take the children during their parenting time, do not attempt to force a relationship or force parenting time. If someone is that adverse to caring for, and spending time with, their own children it is a sign that something is seriously wrong. It is not safe to leave your children in the care of someone who shows so little concern for their well being. Document the incidents, and if needed, seek professional and/or legal advice.

3) Do not put your children in the middle of adult drama, fights or conflicts. Similarly, do not expose children to adult conversations, or tell children about personal business (for example gossiping to a child about the other parent, telling the children details of your divorce or custody dispute, making a child feel responsible for adult issues like paying bills, etc). Exposure to domestic violence and other adult conflicts is traumatic to children, and can cause psychological, behavioral and emotional damage.

4) Reach out for help. If you are struggling with a family issue, or struggling with a parenting issue, reach out for help or support. Call United Way 211 for resources. Churches are also a great place for resources and support. Ask a friend or family member for advice. Seek help from a community organization. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help, not all battles can be fought alone. A football game is not won by just one player on the team, sometimes a team effort is needed. So be open to accepting help.

My heart and prayers go out to the children involved. That Shatavia Jackson was willing to leave her children with a person who clearly expressed that he did not want to take care of them is appalling. How do you drive away from your children with no thought to their safety? And that the father would so openly reject his children, and communicate to the children that they are not wanted, is also appalling. I hope that the children are now in an environment now that is safe, and with people who will show them appropriate love and care. I hope these children get to enjoy their childhood – and will not have to worry or be exposed to adult problems. And I hope these children are given positive messages and love – that they know how special they are, and that someone really looks out for their best interest.

 

Read More:

Man jumps on SUV’s roof, driver takes off.. by Chao Xiong, “Star Tribune”

Bulletin Ramsey Co Sheriff’s Dept

A custody exchange in Barree Township, Huntingdon County (Pennsylvania) on the morning of March 23, 2013 turned deadly when abusive father Kenneth Ayers fired a round of bullets at his family–murdering his 2 year old son, Michael and wounding his estranged wife, Hollie Jo. His mother, Mary Olive, was also shot at but was not injured.

Hollie Jo had requested, and received a protection order from the Court but Kenneth was still allowed visitation with his son. Mary Olive was asked to supervise the exchanges, transferring little Michael from his mother to father, and back.

During the exchange on March 23, and argument erupted between Kenneth and Hollie Jo. It is highly suspicious that Kenneth would bring a loaded gun to the exchange, it is seems likely the attack was premeditated–or that Kenneth brought the gun in an attempt to control or frighten Hollie Jo. NOTHING Hollie Jo could of said or did would cause or justify what happened next..Kenneth Ayers is solely responsible for his violent and murderous actions, no woman or child deserves to be shot or abused in any way.

Enraged, Kenneth Ayers pulled out a .40 caliber handgun during the exchange and starts to shoot. This was not a random shot, Kenneth first pointed the gun at Hollie Jo, wounding her in both legs and the right arm. Kenneth then aimed–and fired–at precious Michael, who had witnessed the attack, and was likely screaming in terror as he watched his “Mommy” being gunned down, and now stumbling to the ground bleeding while she tried to save her son’s life. Reports seem to indicate that Michael was standing alone when the argument began–there are no reports he was being held by an adult. Keep in mind a two year is maybe 2 or 3 feet tall, and weighs between 25-40 pounds. So for a grown adult, Kenneth, to shoot at his own son would mean he would have to intentionally stoop or lower his body to get the child in the line of sight and then fire..the force of the bullets likely knocked this beautiful child to the ground. Clearly this was a premeditated attack, with the intent to kill first Hollie Jo and then little Michael. The news reports seem to indicate that Kenneth was prompted to shoot because of an argument–I really don’t believe that is the case, Kenneth brought the gun to the exchange to kill–he is an abuser who plotted revenged. It will be interesting to see what the protective order reveals about Hollie Jo’s fear of Kenneth, and allegations of abuse…and if the Court responded appropriately in allowing unsupervised visits, and exchanges to occur outside of a safety center.

After murdering Michael, Kenneth fired at his mother, Mary Olive, who was not hit, she managed to escape.

Kenneth then attempted to flee with Michael’s lifeless body, placing the boy in the back of his truck. Hollie Jo, with gunshot wounds in both legs, stood and raced after Michael. This is truly heartbreaking, Hollie Jo attempted to rescue her little boy, not knowing if he was alive or not, and Kenneth fired again, shooting Hollie Jo in the face. Kenneth Ayers is truly evil. He looked into the anguished face of his estranged wife, heard her screams, and as she tried to save her son–shot her again. Hollie Jo did wrestle Michael out of the truck, and cradled him close to her, as blood was pouring down her face, she held the lifeless body of her little boy.

Kenneth Ayers then drove to his own home to switch vehicles, which again shows premeditation. How could this monster walk into his house and see reminders of Hollie Jo and Michael and still only think of himself…there might have been Michael’s crayon drawings stuck on on the fridge, family photos propped on a table, Easter decorations..that house would have reminders of the family that once lived there. Yet Kenneth Ayers was only concerned with himself, after shooting his entire family–switched cars to plan his get away–evil.

This just goes to show that Kenneth likely meant to kill Hollie Jo, Michael and his mother so that there would be no surviving witnesses and then planned to either escape or plead innocence. Instead there were survivors, and likely media attention was growing. The news likely posted an APB for Kenneth, and details of the grisly attack. Knowing he could not escape, or plead innocence. Kenneth switched vehicles and drove into the woods and shot himself, ending his own life.

Words can’t describe the scene … heartbreaking,” says Huntingdon County District Attorney George Zanic (The Altoona Mirror).

Hollie Jo is expected to survive. Both Hollie Jo and Mary Olive were able to provide statements to the police that Kenneth Ayers intentionally shot Michael. Police are still investigating.

My heart goes out to Hollie Jo, Mary Olive and this family, you have my prayers & condolences. I am so sorry for your loss. Words cannot express how deeply saddened I am for you…you have my sincere sympathy and prayers.

 

Sources:

“Father Kills Son, Self: Kenneth Ayers Wounds Estranged Wife, Shoots 2-year-old Son, Commits Suicide During Tragic Custody Exchange” Danica Bellini. Mstarz. 3/24/2013: http://www.mstarz.com/articles/10178/20130324/father-kills-son-self-kenneth-ayers-wounds-estranged-wife-shoots-2-year-old-son-commits-suicide-during-tragic-custody-exchange.htm

” Father shoots and kills two-year-old son, wounds estranged wife before killing himself” Associated Press, Reposted National Post. 3/24/2013. http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/03/24/father-shoots-and-kills-two-year-old-son-wounds-estranged-wife-before-killing-himself/

Public Domain: http://www.pd4pic.com

Public Domain: http://www.pd4pic.com

Failures in Social Services and Family Court fail to assess perpetrators of domestic violence and fail to respond to allegations of abuse, putting the lives of vulnerable children at risk (this article does not specify if the victims are even believed when they speak out).

A recent report by the Family Rights Group (FRG) and the Parenting Fund found that: “..88% of the men surveyed continued to have contact with their children despite often long histories of domestic violence..” Further, men who have found to have a history of abuse not getting needed help or intervention services.

As a result, Cathy Ashley of FRG reports that “Really scary, violent fathers are routinely falling through the gaps in children’s services, putting children who have already been raised in homes where domestic violence was present, at risk of further physical and emotional harm.”  Similarly, divorced fathers who report concerns with the new spouse or boyfriend of the ex have faced challenges with the system failing to protect their children from abuse by the new partner when allegations or warning signs arise.

What is happening? The report concludes the following:

* Social services often ignores or minimizes allegations of abuse. As a result, alleged perpetrators often are not assessed so their parenting ability remains unknown, and children’s lives are put at serious risk of harm.

* Assessments often fail to include important details, or information is missing-suggesting the method of assessment is faulty or the person conducting the assessment is not properly trained. Which also means the results can’t be trusted.This report suggests that female assessors may be intimidated by the abusers. Alternately, I have heard stories of family court staff flirting with abusers or using their sexuality to yield power in the court.

* Programs to help perpetrators of domestic violence are few, and identified perpetrators rarely get help. To be fair, treatment for abusers is highly controversial as so many abusers go to divorce classes, anger management, parenting classes or similar supports and often return to violent or threatening behavior. Very few abusers are actually “cured”.

This is an excellent article that provides valuable information about the failures in the system to protect children but also compels us to look at why this is happening, and what we can do about it.

Source: The Guardian, Thursday 3, February 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/03/domestic-violence-children-danger-fathers

Title: Children in danger from violent fathers ‘due to social services failures’

Author: Amelia Hill

It seems like common sense that a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is held legally accountable for their actions, especially those that harm or endanger the child they are supposed to be representing. Sadly, this is rarely the case.

In my case, the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) has not only been biased but blatantly ignored the safety of my children. The GAL refused to gather information (police reports, doctor reports,  home visits, etc) , refused to question witnesses, ignored statements by the children and has come up with “evidence” based on her own ignorant conclusions. In a stunning case of logic, my GAL has declared that since my abusive ex-husband has a “house, a job, and a car” that he is no threat to me! My GAL’s reports are often late, have inaccuracies in them and at times she has simply failed to gather needed information (and went to court without it, even testifying before a judge). That this is the person supposed to represent my children’s best interests is simply unacceptable.

I can share so many horror stories about my Guardian ad Litem…  I have reverted to survival tactics I used with my abusive ex-husband now with the GAL. I keep silent. I avoid eye contact. I try to go unnoticed. I put a positive spin on even the worst situation. And I cry unheard tears.

The Guardian ad Litem seems to have unlimited power and expertise.

In my case, the GAL has gone way beyond her position…she seems to always have the answer (must be psychic!) even if she has not gathered any information or is not knowledgeable about a subject. My GAL has advocated for my abusive ex husband by offering him legal advise, granting him priveleges I am denied, and making excuses for his bad behavior (or telling me that my children are lying or exagerating when their reports about their father are unfavorable to her cause).

The word of the Guardian ad Litem is taken as truth in court. Their actions and conclusions are rarely, if ever questioned or assessed for accuracy.  In case when parents have been stripped of their legal rights, or forced to share legal rights with an abuser, it is nearly impossible to get a second opinion. A second opinion will usually be viewed with scorn and skepticism. Dr. Gardner, the inventor of Parental Alienation Syndrome, has boldy delcared that mothers manipulate psychologists and other professionals to support them–and such people should not be believed. It is nearly impossible to request a new GAL, and there may be repercussions for doing so. Parents are forced into silence because in speaking out they face retribution or worse, losing custody of their children.

Here we can anonymously speak out…tell our stories…in hopes someone will listen, and join us in fighting for change in the family court system, and in fighting for better lives for our children.

I encourage you, leave your story in the comments section below. Or if you have a link or resource to help fight against family court injustice, leave it below. We can’t give up–our children’s lives are at risk.

Evanlee, 2009.

 This was forwarded to me…

 

GAL/Minor’s counsel does not have immunity for actions that cause child harm

January 18, 2006

Maryland Court of Appeals Fox v. Wills

http://www.unitedforjustice. com/Mdcourtappeals.htm

 

In a precedent setting opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that counsel appointed on behalf of a minor is not an arm of the court.  He or she has a duty to the child and does not have immunity from tort liability for actions that cause harm to the child.

The attorney, Vincent Wills, was appointed by the court to represent a young girl, K., as a guardian ad litem (GAL) during her parents’ divorce. Following judgment in the divorce case, Elizabeth Ritter, the child’s mother, filed a suit on her daughter’s behalf charging Wills with legal malpractice. It was alleged that Wills abdicated his responsibilities as counsel for the child, that he did not act in accordance with K.’s best interests, and that he was in fact an advocate for the child’s father who was suspected of sexually abusing Katherine. The complaint further alleged that Wills ignored the trial court’s orders in that he failed to ensure that the child’s father was supervised during visitation, that he failed to ensure that Katherine was placed in a car seat when transported during visitations, that he failed to address the issue of the father’s inappropriate touching of Katherine, and that he failed to address the numerous reports of the father’s inappropriate exhibitions of anger in front of Katherine. The complaint also alleged that Wills deliberately prevented evidence of child sexual abuse from coming before the court by suppressing and distorting the report of a psychological expert appointed by the court to evaluate the claims of abuse. The report had advised against unsupervised visitation between the child and her father. Wills filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that, because of his position as counsel for the child under Maryland Family Law Article § 1-202, he was functioning on behalf of and for the benefit of the court and was thus entitled to “absolute quasi-judicial immunity.” Alternatively, Wills argued that, even if he were not entitled to “absolute quasi-judicial immunity,” he was entitled to “qualified immunity,” and that the allegations of the complaint were insufficient to show the malice needed to overcome qualified immunity. The Circuit Court granted the motion to dismiss, stating “that there is clearly privilege here or immunity, whether it is qualified or quasi-judicial. ” The plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Special Appeals also affirmed. The Maryland Supreme Court reversed holding that an attorney appointed to represent a child in a divorce case is “is not by statute or rule rendered any more ‘an arm of the court’ than other Maryland attorneys.”

A rally of more than 50 people gathered in Newwark to protect bias, abuse and injustice in the family court system. The protestors argued that there is a crisis in family court that perpetuates abuse, and puts children in harm’s way by denying mothers of their legal rights and awarding custody to violent, abusive fathers

Source: New Jersey Real Time News, http://www.nj.com/

Paul Brubacker/The Star Ledger

Web Address: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/newark_protesters_rally_agains.html#post

Date: April 27, 2009

A rally of more than 50 people gathered in front of the Wilentz Justice Complex on Washington Street (Newark) to protect bias, abuse and injustice in the family court system. The protestors argued that there is a crisis in family court that perpetuates abuse, and puts children in harm’s way by denying mothers of their legal rights and awarding custody to violent, abusive fathers. The protestors further argued that the custody decisions are based on bias, and often ignore or dismiss entirely allegations of abuse.

  Evan Stark, a professor at Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration comments that, “In the last 30 years, every institution in this society has changed its views toward domestic violence…Only in the family court do the obsolete beliefs that were discredited everywhere else in society still prevail.”

Supporters of the family court system contend the system is fair, and that judges do their best to make fair rulings, often involving tough decisions, when parents cannot agree on who will raise the children.

Personally, I believe the truth is evident within the court proceedings themselves. The treatment of both parties by family court staff, the way the evidence is handled, and the logic behind the court’s conclusions speak volumes about what is really happening.

Take Action! Leave a comment about your experiences with famiy court, or your concerns for your children, at the bottom of this article

FACT (Families Against Court Travesties):The parent with the most money, power, and influence is somehow able to convince judges that only their side need be heard in order to make a decision…To make matters worse, throughout the country, women are losing custody of their children to men with histories of child abuse and domestic violence. These men know how to manipulate the judicial system.”

NOW developed FACTS, a Court Watch system with volunteers who observe courtroom proceedings, review the behavior of the judges and attorneys, and plan actions to address this crisis.  Visit online to see how you can help: http://www.factscourtwatch.org/

 

“In family court, the standard of proof is on a balance of probabilities, which means that one person’s story is more likely to be true than the other person’s story…Unfortunately many of the people involved in family law and court — judges, lawyers, court clerks, mediators and others — have no appropriate training in violence against women, so they do not always recognize it or know the best way to respond. The law and processes also do not reflect the realities and needs of women from marginalized communities as well.”,  Family Law Overview by Pamela Cross LLB.  Springtide Resources Legal Fact Sheet: http://www.springtideresources.org/resources/show.cfm?id=218