Warning: This song may be triggering, as it discusses domestic violence from a child’s perspective, and the video contains images of abuse.

“Oh Mother” is a powerful firsthand account of abuse and survival–that has really touched my heart. This is a song for battered women and protective moms from a child who has survived, and grown into an amazing woman. That child is the talented Christina Aguilera, now a mother herself.

The lyrics are haunting….
“She was so sick of believing the lies and trying to hide
Covering the cuts and bruises (cuts and bruises)
So tired of defending her life, she could have died
Fighting for the lives of her children..”

“Oh Mother” is a powerful piano ballad sung by Christina Aguilera (featured on her 5th album, “Back to Basics”, 2006). “Oh Mother” describes Christina’s childhood, growing up in a home where domestic violence was present.

Christina says, “Growing up I did not feel safe. Feeling powerless is the worst feeling in the world… I turned to singing as an outlet. The pain at home is where my love for music came from.” (Thompson, DailyMail)

Christina say that of her violent father made her family’s life “hell” and that he physically and emotionally abused her. The father denies all allegations of abuse.

Christina’s mother fled the home with Christina and her sister, taking them to live with her grandma. Christina’s parents divorced when she was 7 years old.

Christina has expressed that there is too much secrecy about domestic violence; “Oh Mother” has certainly raised awareness about abuse and the effects of violence on children. Christina dedicated this song to her mother. The video ends with a sign lit up that reads,”I Love you, Mom”.

Source: “Christina Aguilera talks about childhood hell at the hands of her violent father” by Paul Thompson, MailOnline. Spet. 23, 2009: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1215346/Christina-Aguilera-talks-childhood-hell-hands-violent-father.html

Wikipedia: “Oh Mother”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Mother

http://www.loverofsadness.net

Thinking today…
Mothers who speak out about abuse, who go to therapy or community services to get help, who live in shelters, who become the target for their childrens’ hurt & rage, who lose everything to start a new life, who living in hiding..and then go to family court & bravely tell their stories only to be falsely labelled as a liar, an alienator, crazy, speaking negative, a malicious mom...

 

Yet their story does not change, even as they are battered in court. Even as their children are taken away. Even as they are forced to go to therapy (a form of judicial brainwashing!). Even as they are told they will be given time with their children if they recant. Even as they are thrown in jail. As gag orders are issued. As they fear for their lives.
Their stories do not change. And when the children speak out about abuse, too often their stories match the mother’s–this happens even when they are separated, and have no contact! If anything this shows these Protective Moms are telling the truth..no one would lie to this extent, lose everything, and face such harsh punishment & hold onto a lie.
These Moms are telling the truth. And if the Court will not protect the vulnerable..then any one of us can become it’s next victim.

EJ, © 2013.

This is a personal letter for the Guardian ad Litems, Evaluators, social workers, and Judges (etc) who are ordering co-parenting, divorce education, mediation, couples therapy and other professional interventions to compel victims of domestic violence to co-parent or share joint custody with an abuser…written by a victim who has been traumatized after your failed interventions.

Why is it when a victim of abuse flees the relationship, often losing everything she has to do so, the Family Court (and personnel) tells the victim that she needs to better communicate with the abuser? That she has to make it work for the children? That her concerns about safety and continued abuse, harassment, or stalking are not valid–she just needs to learn how to co-parent?

A few thoughts on co-parenting for women involved in domestic violence situation:

*Communication is about equality. It is NOT the victim’s fault that she is unable to communicate with the abuser, or make joint parenting decisions. The problem IS the abuse, and the threatening or dangerous behavior.

It is impossible to communicate with a person who does not see you as a human being, who does not respect your rights, and who has caused physical, emotional or bodily harm to you. There is no “co parenting” in an abusive relationship because the abuser will seek to dominate, control, intimidate and otherwise continue to abuse the victim – even using the children as a pawn to do so.

*It is not safe to attempt mediation, couple’s counseling or joint sessions between a victim of domestic violence & their abuser.

*An abuser will not benefit from classes, mediation, therapy or other interventions until they realize they have a problem, that their actions & words are harmful, and decide to be open to suggestions; and willing accept the need to change.

*According to one study, only 5% of abusers really change.

*A victim won’t be helped by mediation, classes or therapy because she will get the message from the Court that something is “wrong” with her, which creates further victimization. And even if the victim uses all the strategies offered, the abuse will continue–it does not solve the original problem.

*Women leaving domestic violence need support, resources & encouragement to heal from the abuse and rebuild their lives. Safety of the victim and child should be a number one priority — not the rights of an abuser.

*Abusive behavior should have consequences, and should be punishable under the law. Harassment Restraining Orders (HRO) and Orders for Protection (OFP) should be taken seriously. NO Court officer should force any woman who expresses safety concerns into any kind of mediation or couples therapy with an abuser.

*Divorce Education is better suited for families who do not have a history of domestic violence; different interventions are required when families violence, incest, or any kind of threat, intimidation, stalking, controlling behavior or violence involved. In fact, abusers will often manipulate these classes, and the professionals involved to gain leverage.

For Further Reading:

A large part of the reduction in domestic violence homicides had been aided by providing victims with safer ways to leave their abuser. Court decisions, particularly in criminal cases taking domestic violence more seriously sent an important message that society no longer tolerated abusive behavior. The frequent custody decisions supporting abusers have undermined this progress and sent the opposite message.

Domestic violence advocates have told me that they are seeing more mothers staying with their abusers and taking his beatings
because they are afraid the custody court will separate them from their children and they won’t be able to protect them. Of course some of these mothers do not survive this decision. At the same time, custody decisions that minimize the significance or fail to recognize the father’s abuse are sending a terrible
message that society will tolerate this abuse..” Barry Goldstein, “Extreme Custody Decisions that Risk Lives”. http://timesupblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/extreme-custody-decisions-that-risk.html?showComment=1311216123158#c1623428036311340788

What influences women when they are making child custody decisions that will bring them into future contact with a violent or controlling ex-husband? Fear, pragmatism, and the belief–sometimes reinforced in mandated divorce education classes–that their children will suffer if both parents are not in their lives, according to a University of Illinois study in the August Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. ..

And, although experts recommend that abused women be screened out of co-parenting classes, such as the class mandated in the two Missouri counties studied, half of the women in the study were directed to participate in the classes, even though all but one of the women’s attorneys knew there had been violence in the relationship.

‘Many women talked about the influence of that class on their thinking about custody,” said Hardesty. “They’d say, I can’t restrict his involvement with the children because I know it’s bad for the kids if we’re not getting along and both involved in their lives.'” Rick Nauert, Phd. “Co-parenting with an Abusive Ex?” http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/10/06/co-parenting-with-an-abusive-ex/310.html

Co-Parenting with an abusive spouse, Protect yourself and your children. Some tips and things to remember when co-parenting with an abusive ex-spouse can be found at this blog: http://coparenting101.org/2010/10/part-2-co-parenting-with-an-abusive-ex-spouse/

_________________

What are YOUR thoughts? Please post below

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

 Women who bravely flee abuse begin their new lives anticipating danger, and unable to truly feel safe when court ordered parenting time presents further risks to their lives, and that of their children.

Abusers often use access to the children (transitioning from one home to the other, contact made around visitation/parenting time, ongoing communication about parenting issues, etc.) as a means to retaliate against victims.

Abusers are rarely punished for these inappropriate, harmful behaviors–nor are they required to seek help or change their ways. Most family court rulings reward abusive men  with the same “rights”  as loving, non-abusive fathers and act without regard to the safety or well-being of the children involved. These courts blindly believe that abusers deserve to see their children, at any cost; that more harm would come to the children if kept away from the abuser. Nothing could be further from the truth.                        

According to an article from The Leadership Council: “When his victim leaves him, batterers often recognize that the most expedient way to continue to hurt his partner is to assert his legal rights to control her access to their children. By gaining control of the children, an abusive male now has a powerful tool which allows him to continue to stalk, harass and batter an ex-partner even when he has no direct access to her.” (Domestic Violence (DV) by Proxy: Why Terrorist Tactics Employed by Batterers Are Not “PAS” . September 2009).

It is very important for victims of domestic violence, or those who have been threatened by an ex spouse or partner, to establish a safety plan for any contact with the abuser, especially around times when children will be transferred from one home to the other. Also, if you are in a situation where you will be using public transportation for transfers or visits, let the advocate or professionals working with your family know so extra precautions can be made.

Note: Abusive behavior can be disguised! Abusers are adept at conning, charming, and manipulating people to their cause. Also, children may be bribed or threatened not to report concerns; or they may speak out because they feel no one will help them or they assume this behavior is “normal”.  It is very important to document any past concerns or acts of abuse and then to keep note of any current concerns or “red flags”. Once you are able to establish a pattern or unmask the manipulation for what it is, as abuse, you will be in a better position to advocate for your family. Don’t wait for the explosion–get help immediately. If you feel afraid, threatened or notice dramatic changes in your children, get help or professional advise right away. The abuse will only escalate so it is imperative that you act sooner than later.

Common Examples of how Abusers will use Custody or Access to the Children as a Means to Threaten, Harass or Further Intimidate:

* Manipulating Family Court, the Legal System or CPS to intimidate, threaten or gain control (filing frivolous motions or lawsuits, threatening to take the kids, raising false allegations, using the cost of court proceedings to cause financial hardship, minimizing violence in proceedings, falsely accusing mother of mental illness/substance abuse or being generally unfit etc.)

 * Involving Family Court, the Legal System or CPS to force unwanted contact (with the abuser), this is very effective if the victim is afraid she will lose custody or be punished by the court system if she does not comply. Contact may include: marital counseling, family counseling, mediation, co-parenting plans, verbal communication and unsupervised exchange. OR involve instances such as school events, holiday events or religious events where both parents will be present to support the child or participate in an important occasion.

* Threatening to take the children either through the legal system or by kidnapping, running away or hiding in another country or with a family member.

 * Threats of harm–may include the children, the victim, family pets, friends, family, or co-workers. An abuser may also threaten to kill himself, or say things like “I can’t live without you”, “I don’t know what I will do without you” or ” I’m lost without you/I don’t know how I will make it” to imply harm if the victim does not do what they want.

This is a form of emotional abuse that often evokes feelings of fear, confusion, guilt and helplessness. The victim is tormented by thoughts, feelings or messages that come from the abuser, stating they will be responsible or are the cause for the abuser harming someone else or turning to suicide.

 *Denigrating the victim or making false accusations about her.  Or trying to win sympathy by portraying victim as unfit. The abuser may reach out to: daycare staff, school staff, church members, family members, co-workers, friends, neighbors, Family Court, CPS, law enforcement, mediators, counselors, etc with false allegations, degrading remarks about the woman or lies meant to destroy her reputation and character. The abuser may also go online and make similiar derogatory remarks.

The damage caused by these remarks and false statements is virtually impossible to overcome–your reputation and character has not only been assaulted but any attempts to defend yourself will be viewed with disbelief or suspicion. The woman will also be isolated, and unable to communicate with those working with her children/family.

Example: My son needs special education services in school, and the abuser was against this so he told the school officials lies about me including that I took drugs while pregnant and that I am mentally ill (and just saying my son needs help because I really want it for myself). The school was so convinced by these lies that they were reported in my son’s IEP. The school also refused to talk to me, or involve me in my son’s educational plan. It got so bad that when I attempted to contact the school, they reported me to the guardian ad litem! There was no evidence for any of these remarks. In this kind of situation it’s best to seek outside help, and don’t go alone to meetings or contact with the other party–they will likely be brainwashed, confused and defensive and it may take awhile for them to come around, if ever.

* Using the children to send messages or carry out tasks for the abuser.  If this is occuring you may consider seeking additional help or support for the child.

* Manipulating children so they don’t want to spend time with the other parent (bribes, giving scary or negative messages, threats to the children if they go with the other parent, planning fun events with the purpose of causing the child to refuse a visit with the other parent, etc)

* Making negative remarks about the other parent to the children. Initiating the children to make negative remarks. Or initiating the children to ask embarassing or intrusive questions.

* Creating an inconsistent or unpredictable visitation schedule–not showing up, showing up at random times, allowing access to the children (including phone calls) only when he feels like it, changing the transfer location at the last minute, unreasonable requests, asking mother to exchange children in unsafe/isolated/ or out of the way locations etc. If the mother has been denied access to the children or is afraid she will be hurt, she may become so desperate that she gives into the abuser’s unreasonable demands or unpredictable behavior, putting herself at risk.

* Returning children from visits or sending to visits dressed inappropriately for the weather or occasion, missing needed or important items (like medications, school backpack, comfort toy/blanket, etc) or doing something to make the child uncomfortable or unprepared for the visit.

It is very disruptive (this has happened to me) when your child comes to your visit wearing clothing that is dirty, torn, doesn’t fit or isn’t right for the season. At the same time, you may have to wash the child, brush their hair, and provide whatever is needed. You can only do this so many times before you are depleting your resources or just missing out on the activities you had planned. Doing this to a child repeatedly, over time is abuse. I have even heard of parents giving children pop and candy so they will be hyper and out of control during the other parent’s visit.

*Unpredictable, erratic or dangerous behavior at exchanges. The abuser may be adept at acting one way in front of others but when he is alone with the victim, he is completely different. This may include: actual physical attacks, verbal threats, stalking,  threatening gestures. If his behavior is reported, the abuser may makke a  false reports to police/CPS/ or family court to blame the woman for any problems with exchanges and avoid any responsibility for his role in it. This also works to show the mother is “unfriendly” or “uncooperative”. which can seriously jeopardize her ability to gain custody or visitation time in family court.

Please feel free to leave any other examples or stories below.

E.J. Perth, Dec. 2010

Additional Information:

Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases: Legal Trends, Research Findings, and Recommendations by Daniel G. Saunders P.h.D. (University of Michigan School of Social Work).  Revised October 1998 (Includes Visitation Guidelines): http://new.vawnet.org/category/Main_Doc.php?docid=371
 
Domestic Violence (DV) by Proxy: Why Terrorist Tactics Employed by Batterers Are Not “PAS” , The Leadership Council, September 2009: http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/DVP.html
Domestic Violence Safety Plan, Aardvarc: http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/plan.shtml
Safety Planning, BPD 411: http://www.bpd411.org/safeplan.html
Safety Planning, The National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/get-help/safety-planning/
Woman Abuse and Child Custody and Access/Ways You Can Help: http://www.womanabuseprevention.com/html/CA_lawyer.htm

“When she finally left him and tried to take her girls with her, she encountered a new monster — family court..”

Title: Custody Crisis: Why Moms Are Punished in Court

Date: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Written for Mom Logic, posted on United Angels Against Domestic Violence, UAADV, News Blog at: http://uaadvnewsblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/national-child-custody-crisis-why-are.html

My Thoughts: I highly recommend this article. It is  very informative and gives voice to so many mothers who are victimized then forced into silence. For those just learning about Family Court Abuse, this article is very insightful and offers both sides of the argument while remaining focused on advocating for vulnerable children.

Summary :

“..fathers are more likely than mothers to intentionally lie (21 percent, compared to 1.3 percent). In fact, abusive parents are more likely to seek sole custody than nonviolent ones, and are successful about 70 percent of the time.”

This article includes several true-life horror stories from Family Court and includes insights into why Family Court so often fails to protect victims of domestic violence and their children. It also touches on the highly controversial “Parental Alienation Syndrome” or PAS.

Some of the Stories:

When Gina Kaysen Fernandes gains the strength to leave her abusive husband, and seek help for her two daughters, both victims of sexual abuse, she encounters a new form of abuse in family court. Gina bravely fights to keep her children safe only to loose custody.

Linda Marie Sacks, another mother, shares a similar story. She says the judge “legally kidnapped my daughters”. After 11 years of marriage, Linda Marie files for divorce with concerns that her husband had been molesting her two daughters–who were sexually acting out and one, reportedly drew a picture in therapy “that depicted her father as an erect penis on legs”. Not only did Linda Marie loose her legal rights to her children but she was forced into supervised visitation after being falsely accused of Parental Alienation Syndrome, “Linda Marie has only seen her children during supervised visits for a total of 54 hours over the past two and a half years.” Linda Marie Sacks will never stop fighting for her children.

Another mother, Lorraine Tipton of Oconto Falls, WI, was jailed for 30 days after she refused to force her daughter to visit every other week with her allegedly abusive ex-husband. The Court found no concerns with the father despite his arrest record “Her ex, Craig Hensberger, was arrested three times for domestic violence and once for child abuse. His criminal record also includes two DUI arrests, one of which happened while driving with his daughter.” Hensberger admitted in Court that he is still drinking, and the daughter has also reported that she has seen her father drunk on numerous occasions.

Joyce Murphy, of San Diego, took off with her daughter after the Court granted custody to her allegedly abusive ex husband. The father, Henry Parson, was accused of child molestation. He countered the allegations by accusing Joyce of Parental Alienation, and won custody. Six years later, Parson was caught in the act of child rape, “pleaded guilty to six counts of child abuse, which included oral sex with a child, molestation, possessing child porn, and using a child to make porn.” It is sickening to think Parson only got 6 years in prison while the children involved will suffer for a lifetime! Joyce Murphy was able to win full, permanent custody of her daughter after the conviction. It is unclear if any member of Family Court was investigated or penalized for their role in returning a child to an abusive home.

These stories are unbelievable but true–and are just the tip of the iceburg. Family Court does not conduct criminal investigations when allegations of abuse arise–even when children are involved, instead they rely on their own court-appointed experts (guardian ad litem, psychologist, evaluators, mediators, etc) for counsel and direction. These court-appointed experts usually do not have the training to deal with abuse allegations, and without a jury or other form of representation, most mothers are at the mercy of these experts–who hold the esteem of judges and have nearly invincible power. Most women cannot afford an attorney and will end up bankrupt after lengthy legal proceedings, or will attempt to represent herself.

At the same time, most women don’t want to go to criminal court or don’t have a strong enough case for criminal charges. And Child Protective Services will usually shy away from investigating custody cases or refer to the findings of the court experts already appointed.

Another weapon used against mothers is Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS, “There’s no doubt fathers play a critical role in a child’s life, and in most cases, are equally loving and capable parents who deserve custody. However, studies find when a wife accuses her husband of abuse, more than half the time, she faces a counter-accusation of “parental alienation syndrome,” or PAS. ” PAS is not a certified medical condition–it seemingly only afflicts women at the onset of divorce (not at any other time in life) and has no recognized cure or course of treatment. PAS has on main symptom–a mother becomes so angry at her ex that she will make up stories of abuse in order to denigrate him, and turn the children against him, which is “alienation”. PAS means the very act of divorce creates cause for suspicion of “alienation“. This article does balance the debate and includes opinions by Dean Tong, author and forensic consultant, who supports PAS.

When you are finished reading, go check out the UAADV link to your state!

 

How do you get through the holidays remaining safe and sane, especially in situations that
a) trigger memories of trauma or abuse?
b) involve dealing with people who have hurt or abused you?
c) have to transition your kids to an abuser OR won’t have your kids on the holidays?

Post your tips, strategies and encouragements here.

_________________________________
Dealing with Painful Memories:

*The holidays are what YOU make it–don’t worry about making elaborate meals or spending the last of your money on gifts or other stressors, take care of yourself and your priorities. Be creative and willing to try new things
* Join a support group or have a plan to call a trusted friend or family member
* Anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress will grip you and then it’s hard to rebound. Make a plan for difficult times–this may includ ways to lift your mood, support systems, ways to cope with stressors and emergency numbers
* If the holidays are difficult, don’t push yorself or make changes at this time. Don’t work longer hours or force yourself to endure hectic shopping. Give yourself some TLC
*Take time to do something you enjoy

Dealing with People Who Have Hurt or Abused You:

*Choose not to be around certain people OR if you have to be around them, make a plan (ie: having someone there for support, setting a time limit or being firm with boundaries are some ideas)
*What do you want for the holidays? What do you cherish about your family time? Focus on what is important to you, and stand for it. Nasty people don’t have to ruin your holidays!
*Find a support group or make plans to be with friends or family members who offer love and encouragement
* Set very clear boundaries. You have the power to say “yes” or “no” to what feels right to you
* One book I found that was helpful is “Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy & Reclaiming Your Life” by Dr. Susan Forward

Transferring Children to an Abuser:

* Have someone with you OR If you can’t have someone come with, maintan contact with another person on a cell phone so you can confirm you arrived safely
* Conduct exchanges in a public location or police station. Stand near a location with at least 2 exits. Stand in front of security cameras. Stand as close as possible to a receptionist, cashier, security guard or other safe person
* Keep a notebook to record the dates and times the exchange happened, note anything unusual or if the other party is late (etc)
* Get the kids in/out as quick as possible (My abuser would manipulate the kids at exchanges. One time he promised to take my son to a toy store so my son cried and threw a fit bc he didn’t want to go home with me. My abuser later went to court and said I am a bad mom, and my kids don’t want to be with me…that’s part if the reason the notebook is important)
Say your good-byes to your kids BEFORE getting to the exchange location

K wrote a previous post on how to cope with holidays when you don’t have your kids:

https://parentingabusedkids.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/holidays-without-your-child/

Blessings, Evanlee, 2009.