Commentary on Botched 60 Minutes Child Rescue Also Says Alot About Abusive, and Alienating Parents. 

Amy Stockwell’s commentary offers background information about the non-custodial kidnapping of the el-Amien children and offers deeper insight into parents who use children as a pawn in custody disputes. 

“But here’s the thing: Even if you disagree with your ex-partner about how to raise your kids, you don’t get to steal them.

You don’t get to arrange an access visit and keep them.

You do not get to use the misogynistic laws of another country to get around the fact that you’re not entitled to permanent custody of your children.

You do not get to keep your ex-partner in prison in order to get the child custody you want.

You do not own your kids…”

Commentary written by Amy Stockwell: 60 Minutes: Ali el-Amine now has everything he wants. Because this case was all about him.

Abusive and alienating parents will lie, manipulate, triangulate and create havoc because their feelings of entitlement or feelings of being right are placed higher than the well-being of their own children.

Children should NOT be used as a pawn, or as a weapon, to wield against a former partner or to be used to further one parent’s agenda or interests.

BACKGROUND: MOTHER SALLY FAULKNER ATTEMPTS TO RESCUE KIDNAPPED CHILDREN IN LEBANON

Sally Faulkner and Children. Source: News Talk ZB http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz

April 2016: Australian mother, Sally Faulkner, was given sole custody of her two children (6 year old Lahela and 3 year old Noah) by an Australian court. Their Lebanese-born father, Ali el-Amien, took the children to a holiday in his home country and never returned – that is kidnapping. However, Lebanon is not a signatory to The Hague Convention, so it does not have to enforce or acknowledge  the Court’s orders to return the children to Australia.

Ali el-Amien took the children because he was jealous that Faulkner had moved on from their relationship, and was dating another man.

In a desperate attempt to get her children back, Faulkner and a four-member crew from 60 Minutes went to Beirut to attempt to rescue the children, and were arrested in the process.  They faced up to a 20 year sentence in jail.

60 Minutes Team. Clockwise from top left: Tara Brown, David “Tangles” Ballment, Stephen Rice and Ben Williamson. Source: Facebook Source: Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au

Ali el-Amien’s family has strong political connections in Lebanon’s parliament, and was given custody of the children by a religious court.

After being detained, a deal was struck where no criminal charges would be filed if Faulkner were to relinquish custody of the children, and co-operate in obtaining a religious divorce from el-Amien. The deal was struck after a closed-doors meeting between lawyers representing the parties and the judge.

Faulkner was pregnant at the time, likely agreed to the deal in order to save her unborn child. 

Everybody is happy,” said Nine Network lawyer, Kamal Aboudaher. It is hard to imagine a mother being “happy” to lose custody of her children who will be raised in another country by the father who kidnapped them, and now has total control over both the children and is restricting her access to them.

Channel Nine will also pay a financial settlement, of an undisclosed amount, as a settlement to el-Amien to drop his civil claim. News Corp reports the settlement may be as high as several million dollars. el-Amien says he did not receive financial compensation, and he may be willing to allow a visit between the children and their mother at some time in the future; however he will not allow the children to return to Australia because he is afraid they will not come home (the custody order would be enforced).

Faulkner’s legal rights in Australia mean nothing in Lebanon. Faulkner’s Lebanese lawyer Ghassan Moghabghab said El-Amien will get everything he wants because he has the legal rights in Lebanon. 

Faulkner was allowed a short visit with her children before leaving Lebanon. Her daughter gave her mother a Barbie ring “so you won’t forget me”.  Faulkner reports that she is overwhelmed with grief due to the loss of her children, and has not had any contact with them. 

Ali el-Amien admitted that the children ask to return to their mother. 

Read More: 

60 Minutes crew face jail term over attempted child ’rescue’ in Lebanon by Janet Fife-Yeomans

60 Minutes: Sally Faulkner’s estranged husband admits children want to be with mum by Latika Bourke, Ruth Pollard and Suzan Haidamous

Deal struck in 60 Minutes ‘child-abduction’ case by Latika Bourke

The heartbreaking moment Sally Faulkner had to say goodbye to her now estranged children by Holly Byrnes, with staff writers News Corp Australia Network

‘I call this injustice’: Adam Whittington refused bail with three other men accused over 60 Minutes botched child abduction attempt by Daily Mail

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A love letter from my child… I have saved every letter, poem, drawing and gift from her.

Love Letters To Our Children

The Way I Love You 

The way I love you will never end.

It will keep going on and on

The love is always on, never needs batteries

It runs on love.

I love you like Taylor Swift.

Poem by (Child’s name)

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

Thanks for cooking are meals taking us to fun places spoiling us and having us. We have some fun times together and some bad but I love you.

Mom you rock! 🙂 Love (Child’s name)

_Final-copwrite-and-disclaimer-image_Love-Letters-edited-2_edited-2

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“In the 1970’s when the Khmer Rouge came through Cambodia, they wiped out the entire educated class.

They wanted to destroy the family structure. Mother and women were slaughtered. That’s a whole generation that was taken out.

And now you have women raising children who’ve never had grandmothers teaching them, mothers to teach them how to raise children, how to be a mom. And these women have felt the effect for years.” — Sissy Samaritan’s Purse

I was really struck by this quote because it reminds me of how –injustice in family court destroys the family structure, and destroys the bond between parents and children. A whole generation is being taken out due to the failures in family court.

Fit, loving parents are being forcibly separated from their children. This causes real trauma, and often leaves life long scars. I wonder what the effect will be on the future generation of children… who have been forced to live in an abusive, dysfunctional home and deprived of a healthy, nurturing relationship with a parent.

How will these child survivors parent their own children? How will they function in the real world? What will the effect be?

– EJ, 2015

“Crossing the River: Motherhood in Cambodia” is a short film created by Samaritan’s Purse who is doing missionary work in Cambodia, providing maternal and child health programs and offering support.

The video explores the challenges and experiences of mothers in Cambodia, a country with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Samaritan’s Purse is working to reverse that trend by building health clinics, teaching mother’s needed skills, and offering support to build their confidence in raising their children.

Some thoughts on how the loss of my children due to an unjust family court order has motivated me to fight for family court reform. This post give you a glimpse into my family, and what the loss of my children means for us.

I dropped my youngest child (not involved in this custody dispute) off at preschool, he gave me the biggest hug and said “Love you Mommy… see ‘ya!” then ran off into the classroom. I remember the tight squeeze of my son’s arms wrapped around his neck. The softness of his hair under my chin. How he smells like bubblegum toothpaste and the crisp, wintery air that dusted snowflakes on his coat. I remember the sound of my child’s sneakers slapping across the linoleum floor when he ran into the classroom. And when the day is done, I will pick my child up from school, we will share our life together, as family.

I treasure each moment with my youngest child because I know the deep pain of being forced to live without your children.

My two oldest children have been unjustly taken from me and sole custody was given to an alleged abuser, with over a dozen child abuse allegations against him. As a result of the abuse, both children have suffered from anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, problems socializing, problems communicating and more. My daughter has been diagnosed with “adjustment disorder” for almost her entire life…I think it is a sign that she has never truly “adjusted” being forced to live an abuser. My son has clear memories of abuse, and when he was younger he would bang his head on the wall or hit himself in the head because physical pain was the only way to drown out the memories. My son now lives a “double life”. He has learned to project an image to the outside world, what he wants people to see…and hides who he really is. My son says that he on purpose blocks things out as a way to cope.

The abuser is using sole custody to totally exclude me from the life of my children. I do not get basic updates about their care or schooling. I wake up each morning with a tremendous emptiness. I do not get the chatter at the table as we eat breakfast. I do not get the hugs. I do not know what my children do during the day, or if they remember to say their bedtime prayers at night. I do not get to see my little girl grow up, and cringe at the thought of an abuser, who has shown no respect for women, is now guiding my little girl as she grows into a teen…all those important questions and conversations a mother and daughter share, will never happen for us. My oldest son spends all of his time on the internet; he has a new family in video games and Skype.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel the incredible grief for my children… the place where my children once nestled in my womb, safe beneath my heart, is empty.

The future for my family is a frame with no photograph.

It was my dream to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to be on the PTA, and attend play groups. I wanted to take my daughter to dance class, and play dress up with her. I wanted to encourage my son to develop his interest in science, and do crazy experiments together… Now I am the Mom involved in never-ending court proceedings. The Mom studying legal blogs, court rulings and rules of procedure—to fight a legal battle just so I can have a place in my children’s lives. I escaped the abuse to give my kids a better life, and now the Court is telling me their life is better with the abuser. Horrific.

I am the Mom who attends meetings, speaks out and takes every opportunity to advocate for my kids…and others like them… families negatively impacted by the failures and injustice within the family court system.

I will never stop fighting to keep my kids safe and to bring them home.

— “EJ”

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

PART TWO COMMENTS #5-1

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.

grief

5. Don’t tell a Mother how you want to hurt or get revenge on the ex. And don’t vent or dump anger, hatred or plotting revenge onto the Mother. This happens when a Mother tells her story and there is a strong reaction that involves harming the ex or fantasies of getting back at him.
The Reality: Holding in hurt, anger, hopelessness and other feelings intensifies those feels, and will ultimately cause more hurt and pain in your life—or that of someone else if you lash out. Words and actions to hurt or get revenge on an ex will negatively impact the custody case of the Protective Mother, and may cause her to be punished by the Court—even if she did not commit any crime or wrongdoing.
I heard a lot of anger towards my ex after I lost custody of my children; it made me afraid of talking about my situation because I felt I had to take care of and protect my friends and family members from the bad news. As a result I felt alone. Or hearing intense anger about the abuser intensified my own feelings or triggered memories of abuse.
If you are a friend or family member of a Protective Mother, and witnessed her being abused or losing custody, it is normal to feel empathy—to feel hurt, anger or frustration but don’t dump or project those feelings onto the Mother of the ex. Recognize that in your role as a support, at times, you will need support or rest—the loss of the child and trauma of family court will affect you as well.
Another tip: Take time for hobbies, recreation, social activities and other activities that are important to you, don’t withdraw or isolate. It is important to have an outlet, and to keep a connection to the things that bare a positive for you. When you can use your energy in activities or ways that make you feel good about yourself, or offer a way to vent frustrations in a safe, healthy way—that will help you work through the pain and hurt, and lead to healing. It may also be something you can enjoy together with the Protective Mom, and be another way of offering support.

4. Don’t completely Ignore the Situation and Act Like Everything is Fine.
The Reality: Acting like everything is fine, and ignoring the most traumatic loss a Mother can experience—her children—IS NOT HELPFUL! This will make a Mother feel alone, isolated and that she has no one to turn to for comfort or support. It is better to be honest and up front about your own feelings and limitations, so the Mother knows what to expect.
Then again, if the family or friends are acting like the loss of your children is no big deal, and seem unable to empathize with you, this may indicate an unhealthy relationship. You may have to reconsider this relationship and what your role in it.

3. Should’s… Don’t tell a Mother what they “should” have done differently in Court or in their marriage/divorce. Or criticize the mom’s lifestyle, appearance, employment, religion, etc. to excuse/blame/justify what happened.
The Reality: See #6. Similarly, don’t give a Mom “shoulds” if her appearance, demeanor, habits etc change after losing her children. Be understanding the loss of a child is incredibly painful and traumatic
—it feels like a death even though your children are alive, especially when you cannot have contact with those children. So be sensitive and understanding to the needs of the Mother, and allow her time to grieve and process. If you see the Mother is struggling, gently ask to help or offer support but also respect her answer, don’t force yourself onto her. I remember that after I lost my kids, my church sent me a postcard that said “We prayed for you” and the prayer team signed their names to it—that meant so much to me. Simple gestures go a long way, and one of the most profound gestures is loving acceptance. Give the Mother your love and acceptance—not your “should’s”,

2. Comments that you must have done something to make the Court take your kids/Good moms don’t lose custody of their children. Comments that Insist a Mother must “prove” her case. Examples: I don’t believe you//Judges would never award custody an abuser/Courts are always fair etc …

The Reality: Fit, loving Mothers who are primary caregivers lose custody at alarming rates—this is happen across the US, and all over the world. Your initial reaction may be disbelief, and for good reason, but don’t project that disbelief onto the Mother—take some time to process your own feelings before approaching the Mother or take time to educate yourself on the issues. The Mother will be hurting, and will need your support. The questions you have are probably are ones running through the Mother’s mind over and over. And are questions family court reformers are struggling with now. Even if you don’t have the answers for what happened in court or in her custody situation, focus on what you do have control of and ways you can offer support or help—make a cup of hot chocolate, suggest a support group or day at the spa, lead a prayer, bring her a meal, offer to help with housework.. etc When the Mother is ready, she may open up and talk more about her situation, for her to do that she must have trust in you, and feel safe. That process begins with offering support, and being present with her in her pain—not questioning, just being available.

1. Don’t say or do things that jeopardize the current custody case, custody situation or the Mother’s relationship to her child(ren).
This may include: Social media posts that threaten, criticize or harass the ex. Contacting the ex or making deals in order to see the children (or for other reasons). Publicly criticizing the Mother or showing a lack or support. Not respecting the Mother’s wishes or requests regarding her children or need for privacy. Breaking court orders. Talking negatively about either parent in front of the children. Putting the child in the middle of the custody dispute. Attending court hearings and showing emotional displays or outbursts in court, threatening either party, being disruptive or dressing provocatively in court. Publicly criticizing, harassing or naming the judge, attorneys, or other involved parties. Publicly naming the children, and revealing sensitive information about abuse allegations or information that should be private (legal name, address, date of birth, where they live, etc). Getting revenge on either party.

The Reality: DO NOT take the law into your own hands! Even though the Court situation can seem hopeless or that there is no justice, do not make it worse with aggressive, hostile or crazy behavior and actions that may cause the Court to further punish the Mother or restrict her parenting time—this is NOT helpful.

Consider seeking support and finding a safe outlet instead. Support may come from friends, family, community. Church, Professional help (lawyers, support group, counseling, religious support, classes, grief group etc).

Lisa Copen Quote

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!