Friday, June 26, 2009





The Guardian of Truth Newsletter - Vol. 2

June 17, 2009

Volume 2

Protective Mother and Child Reunion The Guardian of Truth Protective Mother and Child Reunion



"Ensuring the rights of children and protective mothers in family court."


Dear Protective Mothers and Allies,

Welcome to the second edition of the Guardian of Truth (GOT).

In this issue, Lundy Bancroft will be put "Under the Microscope" and interviewed "Hollywood Style." In addition, Attorney Richard Ducote will share valuable information and so much more! We have received positive feedback about GOT and we thank you for your support.

The Guardian of Truth is a monthly newsletter produced by Protective Mothers Alliance, which is an international organization co-directed by Lundy Bancroft & Janice Levinson who are working together to bring about change through local grassroots organizing of mothers, education, legislation reform, and enforcement of current legislation. PMA supports the efforts of protective moms in keeping themselves and their children safe from the abuse of a former partner, and in empowering these moms to become advocates for themselves, their children, and others. PMA is committed to bringing about dramatic reforms in the treatment of protective moms and their children in family court. GOT's mission is to report positive actions taken for change in family court by PMA, other advocates, and advocacy groups. We also report newsworthy items as they relate to family court issues. Our intention is to build bridges of action and communication between protective mothers, advocates, advocacy groups and professionals; the ultimate goal being to move together in the same direction towards change. While we try to maintain an upbeat attitude, we realize the seriousness of these issues, which is family court corruption and abuse. By no means do we minimize the devastation that the courts have caused; in fact, for most of us at PMA, we have lived it. All of us at PMA hope that you enjoy this issue of GOT and find it informative, inspiring and entertaining.


Janice, Lundy and the PMA Team

PMA is now international! Please join us in giving a warm welcome to Linda and her beautiful country, Italy! Please read "Get to Know Us" to get to know our newest member!

Protective Mothers Alliance continues to grow! We now have state chapter leaders in Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Idaho, South Dakota, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. So, if you would like to join our fast-growing team, please contact us or call 1-941-822-5592.

               Protective Mother and Child Reunion Protective Mother and Child Reunion               Protective Mother and Child Reunion

"The Gold Ribbon Campaign"

Our group, "Protective Mothers Alliance", has launched a gold ribbon campaign in an effort to reunite protective mothers and their children who have been separated by family court.

We invite all advocates and their allies around the globe to wear gold ribbons and to tie gold ribbons around trees, to symbolize the effort that protective mo thers and their allies are making to reunite children with their moms.

Please join us in supporting this campaign.

We will not stop, until family court stops destroying the relationships between fit mothers and their children!

"The beautiful memories that we have of our beloved children are golden and can NEVER be erased form our hearts and minds."

"Under the Microscope" -- Who is Lundy Bancroft?

“Inside The Actors Studio” with host James Lipton is known for a list of questions which he poses to each of his guests at the end of the interview. Lipton believes that these questions offer the listener an open window into the souls of his guests. He often mentions that this list was birthed by French novelist Marcel Proust (1871-1922). Proust did not actually create the questionnaire in which his name is attached, yet he did answer famously two versions of it, once at the age of thirteen and then again at age twenty. This served to make the list famous, but in fact the original author is unknown.

We at PMA believe that all protective mothers and advocates are modern day heroes. With this in mind, each issue of GOT will feature an advocate "Under the Microscope" interview, James Lipton style. So in keeping with the actors studio tradition, Janice interviewed her fellow co-director Lundy in which the following conversation ensued:

J: "What is your favorite word?"

L: "Justice."

J: "What is your least favorite word?"

L: "Bigot."

J: "What turns you on creatively, spiritually and emotionally?"

L: "Nature."

J: "Nice! … What turns you off?"

L: "Machines, concrete and technology."

J: "What sound or noise do you love?"

L: "Birds singing."

J: "What sound or noise do you hate?"

L: "Chainsaws. How about you?"

J: "We are really close on this one; jackhammers… What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?"

L: "Professional baseball player."

J: "Wow, you would get along great with my family. They are all die-hard Yankee fans… What profession would you not like to do?"

L: "Sales."

J: "If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?"

L: "Let's have fun."

J: "What is your favorite color?"

L: "Burgundy."

J: "What is your favorite food?"

L: "Yogurt."

J: "If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?"

L: "Yosemite Valley."

J: "Beautiful, I've been there several times too… What is your dream vacation?"

L: "Backpacking in King's Canyon National Park."

J: "If you had a magic wand to do anything with, how would you use it?"

L: "Wipe oppression and discrimination from the Earth."

J: "Why did you begin this journey as an advocate?"

L: "Because I could not bear to watch loving mothers have their children taken form them due to trying to protect them."

J: "What motivates you?"

L: "Seeing the good in people."

J: "Thank you very much Lundy for allowing us to take a tiny peek into your soul and put you "Under The Microscope.”

L: "You're welcome. It was fun."

Lundy Bancroft, co-director of PMA, is an author, workshop leader, and activist on trauma, abuse and healing. He offers dramatically new paths to understanding the emotional injuries we suffer, their lasting effects, and how best to get ourselves free. Lundy appears frequently as a public speaker and trainer, and as a leader of weekend retreats. Lundy's activist work is devoted to recovering the custody rights of protective mothers and their children in family court litigation across the continent.

Be sure to join us next time when we put Attorney Richard Ducote "Under the Microscope"! If you have any questions you would like to ask Richard, email us at .

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King, Jr.

PMA Looks at the News

And so many in society still ask "Why did she stay?" Too many Moms are faced with domestic violence. Too many have to face the decision of whether they should stay and deal with the abuse to themselves and/or their children, or leave. Many know that if they leave, the abuser can fight for custody of the children, manipulating and lying in court to do so, using the courts to continue his cycle of abuse. Others that are lucky enough to retain custody of their children still have to face the manipulation and control that the abuser exerts through the children. As shown by the news article below, a Protective Order does not mean that the victim is protected from abuse. Here, a woman had full custody of her children and the abusive man had only visitation, yet things went totally out of control.

Too many times we've heard, "Just because he abused you doesn't mean he isn't a good Father." Where are the boundary lines? Speak to any victim that must continue to deal with her abuser through her children, hear about the abuse that the children continue to suffer, hear about the lies and manipulations that the victim must combat to continue to retain custody of her children, and with that fuller picture of the situation you will lose the temptation to ask, "Why did she stay?" In the news story below, you will see how the kind of case that is classified as a “family issue” can lead to the killing of a police officer that tried to protect a child. Our hearts and prayers go to the family of Officer Joshua Miller; he is truly a hero.

Police: Officers rescued boy during Pa. gun battle

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press Writer Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press Wr iter - Mon Jun 8, 6:46 pm ET

SWIFTWATER, Pa - Police officers in northeastern Pennsylvania recued a 9-year-old boy who had been kidnapped by his father as a fatal gun battle erupted between the man and state troopers, authorities said Monday.

After arguing with his estranged wife during a custody exchange, Daniel Autenrieth kidnapped his son at gunpoint, then led police on a 40-mile high-speed chase that ended with a crash and an exchange of gunfire, state police commissioner Col. Frank Pawlowski said. Autenrieth and a state trooper were killed.

"I can't begin to describe the hurt and sorrow being experienced by the Pennsylvania state police," Pawlowski told a somber news conference at the Swiftwater barracks, the trooper's home base. "What happened yesterday is nothing short of an American tragedy."

The chase Sunday night began outside Easton, about 50 miles north of Philadelphia, and ended just east of Tobyhanna in the Pocono Mountains when troopers purposely bumped Autenrieth's car, causing it to spin into a guard rail along state Route 611. As Troopers Joshua Miller, 34, and Robert Lombardo, 35, rushed the driver's side, Autenrieth took out a handgun and fired three shots from close range, police said. Though both troopers were hit, they returned fire, striking Autenrieth eight times. As the troopers and Autenrieth traded fire, two other officers plucked the boy from the front passenger seat of the car. The boy escaped injury. Autenrieth, 31, died at the scene. Miller, a Marine veteran who joined the force in 2002, was shot in the neck and thigh and was rushed to a hospital near Allentown, where he died of his wounds. Lombardo was treated for a gunshot wound and was released.

Miller was married with three children. Lombardo has been with the state police for five years. Both troopers are from Pittston. Outside the Swiftwater barracks Monday, about two dozen troopers, state police personnel and police officers from other departments lined busy Route 611, standing at attention and saluting as a convoy of police cruises and a police helicopter went past, escorting a hearse carrying Miller's body to a funeral home in Pittson.

Pawlowski called Miller "a hero." “An individual embroiled in a domestic dispute for some reason chose to escalate the violence, and it ended with a hero losing his life, a wife losing her husband and three children losing a loving father," Pawlowski said. [Editor’s note: Notice how the police commissioner praises a man who kidnapped his son and killed a police officer by calling him a “loving father,” and attributes his violence to the escalation of a domestic dispute, rather than to the father’s horrific violence. And he doesn’t mention that the mother had already needed to get a protective order against him.

Police were trying to figure out what set off Autenrieth, who was supposed to drop off his three children curbside at his estranged wife's townhouse Sunday night. Instead, he went into the house in Nazareth -- ignoring a May 18 protection-from-abuse order that forbade it -- and began arguing with her. A neighbor, Alrene Benginia, said she heard the couple screaming at each other. By the time she got outside to investigate, police had arrived but Autenrieth and his son were gone. "He has my son! He has a gun!" screamed the wife, Susan Autenrieth, according to Benginia.

Police immediately took off in pursuit and soon caught up to the suspect. The chase lasted more than 30 minutes and involved nine police cruises as Daniel Autenrieth threaded busy intersections and floored it on major highways, authorities said. "It was just sheer havoc out along the roadway," Pawlowski said. "It was an extremely dangerous situation."

Police said they are investigating how Autenrieth got the gun. Because he was subject to a protective-from-abuse order, he was not permitted to have one.

No one answered the door Monday at the home. Susan Autenrieth's landlord, Jay Orwig, said she moved to the townhouse with her three children in February. Her husband, who lived in nearby Palmer Township, "obviously wasn't thinking about the children at all," he said. Susan Autenrieth's next-door neighbor, Rachel Lilly, said she met Daniel Autenrieth once, when her children and his children played together at a community park. She said he seemed normal. "I feel so bad for all the children of the families involved, especially the children of the trooper," Lilly said. Susan Autenrieth, she said, is "a sweet lady who doesn't deserve this."

Hero-Shero of the Month

PMA is excited by the addition of Jennifer Collins! She and Karli Singer will be co-directing "Hear Us Now", a chapter of PMA, designed to bring out the voice of adult children who have suffered because of "court abuse.” These young advocates want the world to know the pain and suffering caused by separating children and their Protective Mothers.

Karli and Jennifer met at the Battered Mothers' Custody Conference earlier this year. Jennifer had attended the conference to share her experiences with others in attendance. Jennifer had recently returned to the U.S. from the Netherlands where she, her mother and brother, had escaped to find refuge. Holly Collins, Jennifer's Mother, was determined that her children would escape abuse and that they would be protected. Holly fled with her two children after custody was given to their abusive father. They found safety in the Netherlands. However, because of insufficient documentation, Holly and her children spent several years in refugee camps. During this time the FBI found them and demanded that the Netherlands turn them over to the U.S. authorities, so she could be charged with kidnapping. But after conducting their own investigation, authorities in the Netherlands granted the family asylum due to the substantial evidence of abuse.

Finally, in 2008, with the help of advocates in the U.S., Holly was cleared of charges.

For more information:

Now that Jennifer is over eighteen, she has begun to speak out about her abuse and the broken family court system. She has risen above the intense attacks by father supremacists and continues to find her voice, speak the truth, and be a powerful advocate for change. Jennifer's strength is admirable. She is a welcome edition to the PMA team and we are excited to have her on board!

To see more about the plight of Jennifer and her Mother, please watch this news release video...

Holly CollinsCRISIS in America's Family Courts-OUR Children at RISK~!~ -

Karli's Corner

Karli wants to share what she felt as a child, separated from her Mother. During the years of the custody battle which kept her away from her Mom, she kept a journal to record her thoughts. This is the first in a series of excerpts from Karli's journal. She was very kind to share this with us, so let's take a walk together as we venture along an emotional journey through the eyes of a child...

Karli's Letter

Richard's Report

Attorney Richard Ducote is an internationally renowned custody litigator in cases of domestic violence and child abuse. In his 28 years of legal practice he has achieved an impressive record of child advocacy success. In this issue, he has been kind to offer his expert advice to GOT for protective moms dealing with custody litigation.


Richard Ducote, Esq.

There is ample documentation of the difficulty parents, and particularly mothers, encounter when they seek to protect their children from domestic violence, and physical or sexual abuse, in family court custody cases. However, there are some encouraging developments within the legal system upon which we can build when litigating these cases. For example, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals issued a great decision in March, 2009, with the help of attorneys from Justice for Children, which allows confrontation and cross-examination of mental health professionals and guardians ad litem who were making custody recommendations. The Tennessee Supreme Court revised the guardian ad litem rules to eliminate the vast power and large fees these attorney's previously enjoyed. Then, in early June, the United States Supreme Court ruled that civil litigants have a constitutional right to impartial judges, and that campaign contributions, under circumstances, can force a judge to recuse himself.

When parents are faced with these difficult and abusive situations, it is essential that early decisions and strategies be correctly thought out, because it is much more difficult to undue a negative custody outcome than to prevent one. Courts are historically designed to adjudicate facts, i.e. did this or that happen. This process is most important where there are questions of violence and abuse, because if the starting point is not whether the abuse did in fact happen the family courts are likely to decide the child's custody in an unsafe way. Therefore, the protection of children in family court begins and ends with careful and thorough litigation maximizing the court's ability to accurately determined facts. So it is vital that, from the very early stages of the case, protective parents do the following:

  • Rely only on attorneys, physicians, and mental health professionals with documented training and experience in domestic violence and child abuse cases. General family court experience for lawyers, and general child custody and family therapy training for other professionals, is woefully insufficient for these cases. Attorneys who represent the abusers should be avoided, as their experience with abuse cases is generally counterproductive. Look for attorneys who truly understand the constitution, the rules of evidence, and the mental health field, and who are willing to challenge the system when it is failing. Stay away from lawyers who believe that the wise psychologist and the experienced guardian ad litem will always make the right decisions and we just have to trust them.

  • Object to any process where written reports are submitted by guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, or mental health professionals. Insist that all rules of evidence be followed, and fight to keep bogus theories such as parental alienation syndrome and the like out of evidence.

  • Always depose any professional who is going to have an impact on the case.

  • Insist that any attorneys who purport to represent the interest of the children, such as guardians ad litem, minor’s counsel, or law guardians strictly comply with the American Bar Associations 2003 Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody Cases and any state rules with similar provisions.

  • Never waive objections to unlawful procedures, and always argue that the court must decide the case based only on evidence properly admitted where your due process rights of notice and the opportunity for a fair hearing before an impartial judge are preserved.

  • Never waive your right to appeal an adverse decision.

  • Where children are old enough to testify about facts and events crucial to proving the abuse happened, their testimony should be presented, but in a way that minimizes the stress. However, continued abuse is much worse than the trauma of testifying.

  • Always use the testimony of fact witness who have direct knowledge of the abusive events, the aftermath of the abuse, and parenting quality. Do not expect the experts to be sufficient.

  • Never ask the court to require the accused abuser to submit to a polygraph, a psychosexual evaluation, or any other such evaluation. These devices are incapable of determining if abuse occurred and this strategy will backfire.

The first step in protecting children is controlling the process by which their fate will be determined. Where the integrity of the process is maintained, the opportunity for the court to know and understand the facts is maximized. Thus, an unbiased judge who considers only what is permissible, should then apply the law correctly with good results ensuing. While there are certainly no guarantees here, to ignore these guidelines will almost certainly invite disaster.

Inspirations from the Heart



When the dust settles and all is quiet
When we are left with the destruction you have initiated
All against the innocent
All to hide your twisted and misguided intentions
Your sick mind
When the precious lives you have destroyed attempt to pick up the shattered remains...
While they are left sick to their hearts, stomachs and minds at the very image or thought of you
What then?
As I try to comfort the result of your destruction... the fear you have embedded in a life so precious...
As I attempt to sweep the hatred away and scour the filth... bandage the wounds and disguise the scars...
As her eyes, now not so innocent, stare into mine through her tears...
Questioning. Not understanding. She will not look toward you.
I hold her. I just hold her
I search for answers that do not exist... for reasons that have none... excuses that cannot sound plausible... my voice has no sound
I look up through the dust in this gathering gloom and see your figure walking away... No.
The tilt of your head and height of your sh oulders says you feel accomplished. It tells me you are proud. It lets me know you feel no remorse. There is no sadness. Only that which you have created.
You are incapable...
My mind cannot grasp it.
I look into her eyes again... the innocence is lost... the tears are blurring the color... I see the rage she is trying to either hide or understand... the questions she cannot grasp the words to ask...

I look to the Heavens... I ask why... something wet slides down my cheek
I cannot fix this. I pray for God to take you... but still I see you there
In the distance... all of your arrogance overwhelms me. Still I hold her...

Pseudo: DONNA BEVEL - 2009

Shout Out!

"Thoughts, ideas, comments and updates from Protective Moms, Advocates and Professionals"

Lundy Bancroft's Shout Out:

Lundy Bancroft is pleased to announce the First Protective Mothers Alliance meeting in Western Massachusetts. This meeting will take place mid-June, and we are sure it will be a success. We will keep you updated on the outcome of this meeting along with additional others in the future.

California's Shout Out:

Public officials call for major changes in family law

By Kamika Dunlap

Posted: 06/11/2009 06:54:02 PM PDT

Updated: 06/11/2009 09:03:13 PM PDT tribune/localnews/ci_12573211

OAKLAND -- One by one, parents around the Bay Area are beginning to step forward to share heart-wrenching stories of the injustices they experienced in California's family court system.

These parents have joined with thousands of others statewide to reform the family courts and protect child victims of violence and sexual abuse from judicial decisions the parents say place children in harm's way.

"I'm living proof this is happening today," said Susan, a California Family Court litigant and mother whose daughter was placed with her accused molester. "The family courts crisis is a plague and it's destroying peoples' lives." About 58,000 children per year in the U.S. ar e ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce, according to experts at the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.

Many people concerned about the systemic problems with family court attended a daylong public forum Thursday at the Alameda County Conference Center.Some compared the family court crisis to the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals because of what they call an institutional level of collusion of harm against children. Event organizers said they hoped the forum would inspire families who have survived traumatic family court ordeals to come forward in order to shed more light on the breakdown of the family court system. Participants, including family court litigants, child advocates and the general public, gathered to discuss the family court crisis and take a closer look at problems and solutions. The forum's session featured public testimony by speakers and a panel of legal experts and attorneys who gave free general legal advice about how to best protect themselves in the family court.

The event was organized by the Center for Judicial Excellence in partnership with UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, California Protective Parents Association, Justice for Children, California Safe Child Coalition, Child Abuse Solutions and the Incest Survivors Speakers' Bureau. Their collective goal was to push to improve the judiciary's public accountability and strengthen and maintain the integrity of the courts. In addition, the center produced a documentary, “Family Court Crisis: Our Children at Risk,” and screened a 12-minute clip at the forum.

The American Judges Association found that approximately 70 percent of batterers succeed in convincing authorities that the victims of their abuse are unfit or undeserving of sole custody. Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele and actress Nancy Lee Grahn from ABC's "General Hospital" are family court reform advocates and also participated in the panel discussions. Steele announced a new initiative to help better protect vulnerable children in family court. It includes her support of the passage of new proposed legislation by Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, to reform family court. Her initiative also calls for the passage of Sen. Mark Leno's request for a legislative audit of Marin and Sacramento Family Courts. She also is pushing for ombudsman positions to be created in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, where parents can go for help and to plead their case.

"The system has to change in California and across the country," Steele said. Grahn did not talk in detail about her $1 million family court battle but said her experience was "maddening and perplexing." She was upset to learn that some laws were unfair and t hat some court procedures were abusive and treated children like hostages or assets that need to be divided up. After a three-year ordeal, Grahn finally gained custody of her 11-year-old daughter. She now works with community organizations and travels the state to meet with lawmakers and inform them about the about pitfalls of the family law system. "I met people who were in similar or worse situations," Grahn said. "There are thousands of women who were protective parents and their children were taken away and handed over to their abusers."

For more information visit,

Kudos for all involved and Thank You from PMA!

"Life's most urgent question is "What are you doing for others?"" Martin Luther King, Jr.

Get to Know Us:

Here is Linda’s story:

During her marriage, Linda’s current husband became increasingly aggressive, yet separation was quite peaceful. Once he finally left Linda and her children, they were all thankful for the tranquility. After their separation, Linda’s soon to be ex had little time for the children, so things went smoothly. But three years later he suddenly became aggressive again, scaring the children by threatening to take them away from their loving mother. Linda has proof of these threats in the form of voicemails. Events escalated as he started stalking the family. Linda initiated court action by asking for supervised visits, which the Court did not oppose. Unfortunately, Linda had an evaluator who came to the conclusion that the problem involved both parents and the children were suffering because of constant arguing. Yet another psychologist opposed this theory without success.

Regrettably the judge decided in favor of the former evaluator and custody was given to social services. After a year of supervised visitation in which the dad openly showed his abusive nature, causing the children to manifest health issues, a neuro-psychiatrist stepped in. He concluded that the dad was creating problems and sent his report to social services saying as such. The neuro-psychiatrist prescribed pet therapy, which the children loved. Currently, Linda is forced to attend couple’s therapy with her abuser, causing her to feel both fearful and traumatized.

We will follow Linda s situation closely, giving her comfort and support. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the family courts in Italy with those in the United States.

"Faith is taking the first step, even though you don’t see the staircase." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Please visit us on our various venues!

Please visit us on our facebook page:

Here is the link for the Gold Ribbon Campaign Facebook group:

The Guardian of Truth - Go here to submit stories

PMA has now joined with MySpace! Please visit us and join as a friend at:

PMA is also on Blogspot:

Snag and share photos and videos with PMA at Photobucket:

Lundy Bancroft/ Janice Levinson Protective Mothers Alliance

To join our rapidly growing team, to share your views, articles and feedback; or if you have any questions that you would like to ask, contact PMA:
Phone: 941-822-5592
Until next time, Wishing you Light, Love and Truth:
The PMA Team
©2009 by Protective Mothers Alliance. All rights reserved. Although some parts of this publication may be reproduced and reprinted, we require that permission be obtained in writing.
We do not necessarily endorse the views expressed. The information in this publication is presented in good faith. PMA does not guarantee accuracy or assume responsibility for errors or omissions.
We welcome your views, articles, and feedback!



SUNDAY, MAY 10, 2009

The Guardian of Truth Newsletter

May 10, 2009

Volume 1

               Protective Mother and Child Reunion The Guardian of Truth                Protective Mother and Child Reunion

In celebration of Mother's Day, The Protective Mother's Alliance (PMA), a national organization co-directed by Lundy Bancroft & Janice Levinson, has published the first edition of "The Guardian of Truth" (GOT). This is a monthly newsletter compiled by advocates. It is designed to empower women, who are in threatening litigation, which may interfere with continued custody/access to their children.
Advocates and professionals may use GOT to share their latest efforts in keeping children with their mothers and in maintaining healthy relationships between mother and child. Methods to identify court corruption on all levels may be shared through GOT.
GOT realizes that networking, sharing information and working together is necessary to end the obstruction of mothers' rights in family courts. The Guardian of Truth's mission is to provide communication between advocates, professionals, and other like minded organizations; with the ultimate goal of empowering moms before they can be victimized by the family court system. GOT's goal is to be the course for sharing information to benefit mothers and their children. Our mission is to connect the east coast wtih the west; the north with the south; The United States, Canada, Great Britain....and the world to reform family courts.
Please send a brief synopsis of any updates, or advice that you may have in dealing with ongoing issues affecting mothers and their children. Please contact us:
Each issue of The Guardian of Truth will feature:
1. Updates from PMA (national group co-directed by Lundy Bancroft & Janice Levinson)
2. Karli's Korner: reports from a young adult's perspective of how life dramatically changed because of biased courtroom decisions;
3. Get to Know Us; A featured biography of at least one member of PMA
Starting in the Second Issue:
4. Richard's Report a column by attorney, Richard Ducote featuring his observations from the trenches of the family court war zone;
5. Shout Out; comments, and ideas, shared by individuals, groups, and professionals;
6. Poetry, artwork and anything else that you want to share;
7. A courtroom horror story from a mother's perspective; beginning with the second issue;
8. Spotlight; Hero/Shero of the moth: recognition for a job well done;
9. Miscellaneous; Jokes and Quotes, recommended reading, etc.;
10. Letters to the Editor & Updates form advocates and like minded groups sharing information and useful tactics in promoting change
We still have a great deal of work to do.
We look forward to working with you!
In the next issue "Get to Know Us" will be featured an interview with Lundy Bancroft.
Wishing You A Wonderful Mother's Day!
Protective Mothers Alliance (PMA) is a national organization co-directed by Lundy Bancroft & Janice Levinson working to bring about change through education, legislation reform, and enforcement of current legislation. PMA supports the effort of protective moms in keeping themselves and their children safe from the abuser of a former partner, and in empowering these moms to become advocates for themselves and others. PMA is committed to bringing about dramatic reforms in the treatment of protective moms and their children in family court. Among the many common family law practices we work to stop are:
Custody of children granted to men who abuse women; those who abuse/have abused children; those who are perpetrators of sexual abuse towards children; and granting of unsupervised contact with children to abusers with no requirement that they overcome their abusiveness.
Other issues include:
Labeling protective mothers as parental alienators and punishing them for their appropriate protective efforts; using biased tests, and misusing psychological tests to support abusers; forcing protective moms to spend excessive amounts of money on prolonged, unnecessary litigation...
PMA members are working as a team to change harmful practices that eliminate, or restrict loving, biological mothers from the lives of their children. This will be done through education, community outreach, media exposure, and other strategies that can be effective and beneficial.

               Protective Mother and Child Reunion Gold Ribbon Campaign                Protective Mother and Child Reunion

Protective Mothers Alliance has launched a gold ribbon campaign in an effort to reunite protective mothers and their children.
We invite all advocates and their allies around the globe to wear gold ribbons and to tie gold ribbons around trees, to symbolize the effort that protective mothers and their allies are making to reunite children with their moms. Please join us in supporting this campaign. Email us with your ways of using gold ribbons. Join and support our facebook page:
We will not stop, until family court stops destroying the relationships between mothers and their children!
"The beautiful memories that we have of our beloved children are golden and can NEVER be erased from our hearts and minds" ~source unknown
Hear Us Now
(Hear Us Now is another division of PMA which reaches out to young adult and teen survivors of the courts.)
Karli's Korner:
My name is Karli Singer and unfortunately I am one of the grown children who experienced a failed family court system. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a disease of chronic pain, which is known to be linked to sexual abuse and a traumatic childhood.
Dealing with this horrible disease has made me want to go after my perpetrator who abused me, and the court system that refused to protect me. Stories like mine are happening to thousands of children all over the country, and it needs to stop. The corruption has to be exposed to the world. The court system likes to punish the protective parents and take their kids away from them, which is the worst kind of pain; but what they don't see is that they are ruining our lives, and our childhood; taking us away from our home and our loving mothers, and putting us in an abusive, unloved life; suffocating us, and not letting us out. The things I knew and said when I was four years old are the same things I am saying now that I am twenty one; and if only I was heard when I was four, I would not have had to endure a terrorizing childhood, and now a debilitating, painful adulthood.
Get to Know Us
Janice Levinson, PMA founder/co-director: Janice is an advocate living in FL. She is a loving mother of three children. Janice earned a BA degree from St. Leo University in FL. with a major in Drama/English/Educatoin. Jancie is currently a charge nurse at a rehabilitation facility that specializes in working with psychiatric patients. She is currently working on a second degree; BSN.
As a child Janice was a child actress singer and dancer. She appeared in TV Movies, Broadway plays, and commercials such as Coke, Ivory Soap among others. After graduating from college, she taught high school until she moved to CA.
Janice lived in CA where she raised her children while married. She owned and operated a few different types of businesses, including one of the first Doula business in the nation. Janice's business was featured in the Contra Costa times for its uniqueness.
Janice became an advocate for mothers when she lost custody of her own children while being dragged through the court system for over 10 years. Jancie found herself in a vicious custody battle for her three children and lost custody of her children in CA. about 5 years ago.
Looking for support, Janice attended the second Battered Women's Custody Conference (BMCC) where she met Lundy Bancroft. She and Lundy became friends, and stayed in touch. Lundy asked Janice to be the FL. chapter leader of his organiation which was then called Protective Mothers Alliance for Justice. Soon after, PMAJ was reorganized and Janice became co-director of the new organization: Protective Mothers Alliance.
"I feel blessed to be working with Lundy and will never stop fighting for the cause."
As a protective Mom who was in and out of court for close to 10 years Janice is dedicated to changing the current system. She is very close to her son who is 22 and attending college in CA, considering Law School. Yet, she has not seen or spoken to her daughters in 3 years.
Janice understands, too well, maternal deprivation and the negative ramifications that result in mother and child separation. She has founded the gold ribbon campaign to reunite mothers and children everywhere.
Note from the Editor: Please hold Janice and her daughters in the light and pray that one day they will be reunited and that their relationship will be happy and healthy.
Lundy Bancroft, co-director: is an author, workshop leader, and activist on trauma, abuse, and healign. He offers dramatically new ways to understanding the emotional injuries we suffer, their lasting effects, and how best to get ourselves free. Lundy appears frequently as a public speaker and trainer, and as a leader of weekend retreats. Lundy's activist work is devoted to recovering the custody rights of protective mothers and their children in family court litigation across the continent.
Karli Singer: the voice of "Hear Us Now" Karli is the victim of a failed court system. Kari is now 21, but she cannot forget the years of abuse that she suffered. She has decided to speak out to end court abuse. Karli hopes that her story will be instrumental in changing the current family court system. Although an adult, Karli still suffers because of her childhood trauma. She is diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a disorder often attributed to chidlren who have suffered during childhood. Karli is now studying pediatric medicine in college.
Karen Husain: FL leader, consultant, editor: a free spirited, free lance, advocate living in FL.; founder of the Atlanta chapter of Motherlink; active with numerous mother's rights organizations; organizes and presents workshops and public town hall meetings; editorials published; written resolutions setting precedence for The National Organization for Women; including the foundation for a national resolution resulting in formation of a national committee to work on issues involving child custody. Karen has three children. She enjoys writing, reading, watching sit-com reruns with her sons, and just hanging out.
Joan Peterson: Pennsylvania leader, contributing writer
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To join our rapidly growing team, to share your views, articles and feedback; or if you have any questions that you would like to ask, contact PMA:
Phone: 941-822-5592
Until next time, Wishing you Light, Love and Truth:
The PMA Team
©2009 by Protective Mothers Alliance. All rights reserved. Although some parts of this publication may be reproduced and reprinted, we require that permission be obtained in writing.
We do not necessarily endorse the views expressed. The information in this publication is presented in good faith. PMA does not guarantee accuracy or assume responsibility for errors or omissions.
We welcome your views, articles, and feedback!

Family Court and the Judicial Murder of Children's Lives

Family Court and the Judicial Murder of Children's Lives

Yesterday, on the Susan Murphy Milano Show we highlighted mothers who have lost custody of their children because the court system in this country is ill equipped to properly deal with family issues involving the safe placement for custody of minor children.

Mental health experts prescribed in court by a judge on a “short list” mandated to determine the fitness of a parent and the well being of the children. What is often not determined is the safety of the child, especially when there are serious issues including sexual abuse, as we heard from Taylor’s mother a case in Virginia that wreaks of cover-up all in the name of winning a sick game called “Maternal Deprivation Abuse”. Imagine a legal system who determines financial matters and legal property disbursements using the same method on human lives under the age of 18 with total disregard for the safety and mental wellness of a child. A legal system taking on the burden of proof and yet throws it in the waste basket under their judicial bench. Sadly, with no regard for human lives and more importantly children unable to defend themselves from two evils the courts and theirabuser parent as discussed in Lundy Bancroft latest book.

The switchboard was inundated with calls from across the country from mothers asking for solutions on behalf of the silenced, their own children. After the show the email box filled up quickly because we were unable to get to all the callers woith questions.

One particular note we received on face book happens to be in my neck of the woods in Will County, Illinois. The same county where the trial for Christopher Vaughn is yet to begin for the brutal slayings of Kimberly Ellen Vaughn, 34, and her three children, Abigayle Elizabeth Vaughn, 12; Cassandra Ellen Vaughn, 11; and Blake Philip Vaughn, 8; all of Oswego, were found in June of 2007, shot to death in an SUV in far Illinois southwest. "Neighbors and friends said they were a nice family and a quiet couple."

This of course it is also the same county Drew Petersonwas finally arrested for the murder of Kathleen Savio and remains a suspect in the vanishing act of Stacy Peterson. And let us not forget that Lisa Stebic also from Will County going through a divorce has vanished and no one has been arrested. All of these women and in other cases across the country murdered because their abuser’s were not willing to split assets financially, pay child support or allow their wives to move on with their lives. These women fought and lost with their lives all in the name of a system that is like the storybook character humpty dumpty. It cannot be put back together again because it is broken.

The note said: "I know you are an advocate and maybe you can help - Right now in Will County Courthouse there is mother actually fighting for custody of her two little girls that have undergone sexual abuse. She has DNA evidence - Will County Sheriff's police refuse to send evidence over to the DA and she is being given run around. The DCFS case worker is friend of ex-husband's family and refuses to believe that there is anything going on - Basically they want her to recant and submit herself to intensive therapy which is unwarranted... based on her career, lifestyle and children's success from a previous marriage. The action is occurring in Room 300 in the Will County Courthouse- Many wonder how The Connelly children wound up dead... anyone watching in that courtroom can see how awful our family courts can be…."

On Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:00 PM Central Time onThe Susan Murphy Milano show will continue the discussion on Mothers losing Custody. Returning to the show are Co-Founder of Protective Mothers Alliance and the case of Taylor and her mother’s fight to regain custody of her daughter lost to a system that denies a mother her rights.

If you would like to email your questions before the show we will try to answer them on-air. The address Please include the state and city where you live as different laws apply.

We will be taking your calls live at 347-326-9337

To listen to the show Mother's Without Custody"turn on the volume on your computer and it will automatically play.

What is Fair for Children of Abusive Men? by Jack C. Straton, Ph.D.

originally presented at
What About the Kids? Custody and Visitation Decisions in Families with a History of Violence
National Training Project of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Project - Thursday, October 8, 1992, Duluth, Minnesota

from the Journal of the Task Group on Child Custody Issues*
of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism
Volume 5, Number 1, Spring1993 (Fourth Edition, 2001)
c/o University Studies, Portland State University, Portland, OR, 97207-0751
503-725-5844, 503-725-5977 (FAX) ,

What is Fair for Children of Abusive Men?
by Jack C. Straton, Ph.D.


I want to express my deep gratitude to Ellen Pence, Madeline Dupre, Jim Soderberg and the others from the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project for giving me this opportunity to speak with you. The State of Minnesota should be proud that, quite literally, the world looks to this program for guidance on understanding and ending domestic violence. I also want to acknowledge how much I continually learn from Barbara Hart, of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

I will first critically examine the criterion at the base of all custody laws today, "What is in the best interests of the children?" I will the talk about children's choice in these matters. Then I will examine the actual effects of wife-battering on children, and develop an alternative paradigm for custody based on those effects. From this I will examine the question, "Is it ever appropriate to ever give a batterer custody of a child?"

In the process, I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control. I know that it is popular these days to de-gender family conflict, to talk about "spouse abuse" and "family violence" rather than "wife beating" and "rape." I know that we want a society in which men nurture children to the same extent that women do.

I know that fathers and mothers should both be capable parents. But if you ask "What about the kids?" I want to give you a serious answer. I cannot seriously entertain the myth that our society really is gender neutral, so to consider "What about the kids?" while pretending such neutrality is to engage in denial and cognitive dissonance. I cannot hope to arrive at an answer that will positively affect reality if my underlying assumptions are based on fantasy.

So I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control. As I cite examples, some of you may hear your internal voice saying, "But women do that, too." As this happens I would ask you to be aware that such voices are often the voice of guilt that try to distract us from what we really know about men's violence so that we need not take responsibility for this violence.

It is true, for example, that some women do batter men. But the number of severe cases of this type is so low when compared with the virtual war of men's violence against women, that they cannot be seen above the statistical noise. This voice that says "But women do that, too" has as its purpose, not compassion for battered men or lesbians, but a distraction from the noble goal of ending battering of women.

So as you hear this voice today, become consciously aware of it. Let it into your conscious mind for a moment, and then let it drift on. It is just a tape recording that you can always come back to in an hour or two if there is a need. If you find that you just can't contain this voice, that others must hear this tape recording, please do not hesitate to raise a hand or even to shout it out. We will pause to give it some space.


I want to begin by instilling in you a healthy skepticism about the "Best interests of the child" criterion that underlies custody laws today. It is important to acknowledge that the term "the best interests of the child" is so vague that some adult must state what constitutes "best interest."

In practice courts rely on social and psychological professionals to make this determination. While such individuals are surely skilled and caring individuals, it must be admitted that they operate out of a set of professional norms that are never openly discussed, and are subject to professional fad.

For instance, Irene Thèry of France notes that today

    "there is a real reversal of traditional models. The stigmatization of remarriage and the prescription of fidelity have given place to the stigmatization of solitude and the prescription of 'remaking one's life,' i.e. finding a new partner." 1

As Martha L. Fineman, of this country, says, "A desire for sole custody has now been labeled 'pathological'."There are obvious and serious consequences for battered women with the

    "creation of professional norms which would give custody to... the parent most willing to share the child with the other parent." 2

In addition, the "best interests" criterion is flawed because of its unpredictability, which presumably

    "has an impact on the number of cases brought before courts, since there is a stronger reason to have a case tried when the outcome is un- certain... The threat of bringing the case to court, with an uncertain outcome, may easily be used as pressure on the other party in order to obtain advantages in the [out of court] economic settlement,"

e.g. lower child support payments. 3

In this way the "best interests" criterion ironically may lead to the impoverishment of children. This is more serious in cases involving child abuse where the mother's fear of losing custody to the father is extreme. Finally, Fineman notes that

    "rules that focus on the performance of nurturing or caretaking have been attacked, not because they are explicitly gender biased, but because in operation they will act to favor women who traditionally perform such tasks," 4

though clearly any man can choose to become the primary caretaker. So instead of viewing past behavior as a predictor of future behavior on behalf of the child, the "best interests" criterion looks at present status, such as income or a new partner (a more frequent occurrence for the fathers).

But Sandberg observes that in

    "consequence, the result of treating people equally when their situation is in fact different is a de factoinequality. Fathers have, because of the new legislation, obtained a stronger position in child custody cases than their efforts in the caretaking of children should fairly allow." 5

Joint Custody

Joint Custody is clearly a type of "best interests" criterion. It explicitly assumes that joint custody is in the child's best interests. There are severe consequences for battered women subjected to joint custody presumptions.

Joint custody forced upon two hostile parents can create a toxic psychological environment for a child. Because 95% of all joint custody awards are for joint legal custody 6 the living arrangements are exactly the same as under a sole-custody/ visitation order. However joint legal custody does expand the right of the non-primary-caretaking parent to impede the ability of the primary-caretaker to make needed and timely decisions.

Some provisions in joint legal custody laws require a minimum visitation period for the noncustodial parent that can be limited only when there is a threat of physical harm to the child. This threat is difficult to prove, especially when the accuser is perceived as a litigant with a vested interest in distortion. And such provisions also do not address psychological and emotional abuse.

The threat of a joint custody decision may be used by the husband to bargain out of court for a reduction in child support payments (trading children for money in a throwback to the 19th century laws in which children were considered to be property of the father). The potential for bartering away the child's financial resources because of a bad faith request for custody is reinforced by ("friendly parent") provisions that give a preference to the parent requesting joint custody when the alternative of sole custody is considered by the court. Such "friendly parent" provisions also guarantee an abusive father or husband access to the victim. Men who batter their wives may also sexually abuse their children. 7 The more fearful a woman is of the father gaining sole custody, the more willing she may be to submit to joint custody or to a reduction in child support.

Children's right to choose vs. abuser's manipulation of a child.

I want to talk about the question of children advocating on their own behalf. As one who would like to see the rights of children recognized and affirmed, I am tempted to say that, yes, a child should have some input into a decision about with whom they will live.

Yet in the present case we have a man who, though he beats his wife, is often very charismatic to the rest of the world, and perhaps to his kids. And even if he beats his kids as well, it is known that intermittent affection can be a stronger binding agent than consistent affection. We also have a man who has demonstrated his power over another human being through brutality.

It is known that older children will sometimes join in the abuse of their mother. Since it is the older children to whom we might be tempted to accede some measure of choice, I find this mirroring of the father's brutality disquieting. I do not ask you to take one side or the other of this question, but to be cautious until someone more wise than I can resolve the knot for you.

The Primary Caretaker Rule

My preference for the primary caretaker criterion will be obvious as I speak today. In Sandberg's summary: This criterion

    "would hardly lead to worse decisions than 'the best interests of the child', considering all the uncertainty it implies."

    "It should only exceptionally result in a worse solution than if the other parent was chosen... That parent has demonstrated a willingness to take care of the child and has practice doing the job. There is also reason to believe that the child is emotionally more attached to her or him.

    Besides, during the marriage the parties after all set up the caretaker arrangement together, and would hardly have done this while thinking that the actual primary caretaker was less fit than the other parent."8

For today's discussion, I will point out that since men are nearly always the batterers in domestic violence and women are nearly always the primary caretakers for the children, adoption of the primary caretaker criterion for custody would enormously relieve both the courts and advocates for battered women of much of their work around custody decisions.

    Murdering one's wife

Before leaving this section, I want to note just how far the "best interest" criterion can be stretched. A Florida court in 1987 acknowledged 9 that a

    "man's violent and irrational behavior included throwing his wife to the ground, beating her when she was four months pregnant, and threatening to kill her, her father, and himself,... [yet] the court accepted a psychologist's conclusion that the man's 'past violence was related to the deterioration of his relationship with [his wife],' and was presumably unrelated to his fitness as a parent." 10


    "[c]ourts often are precluded from considering the actual abusive act of killing the other parent" 11

in custody decisions. Moreover, in one case 12 that explicitly considered the domestic violence factor as mandated by Illinois statute, a father who had killed the mother of his children was given not only visitation but custody.

The appeals court in 1989 noted that

    "a single criminal conviction, without more, will not support a finding of unfitness based on depravity."

If I may be somewhat flippant, they apparently require multiple murders before they are willing to terminate a man's control over his children.

Moreover, it stated, neither Illinois courts nor the state legislature

    "has seen fit to set forth a rule of law that the killing of one parent by the other in the presence of the children no matter what the circumstances is sufficient to deprive that parent of his or her children on the basis of unfitness."

As with Minnesota law, Illinois only had to consider domestic violence as one of many factors. In contrast we have a case in West Virginia 13

    "in which a mother was accused of firing a rifle at her ex-husband when he came to visit their child. Although the evidence did not prove conclusively that the incident actually occurred, the court found the woman to be an unfit mother because she had 'demonstrated [a] tendency to be violent... when she was upset but not in any way threatened.' " 14

Their extreme cognitive dissonance indicates that courts are clearly loathe to deprive men of a "right" of access to and control over their children, though the same cannot be said of such "rights" for women.

The paradigm in which these jurists are trying to stuff reality is leftover from the 19th century notions of men's ownership of both children and women. If the "best interests" criterion can encompass such bizarre rationalization, it is time we moved on to a new paradigm of relationship between men and women and children.

A new paradigm

Since I have cast doubt on the gender-neutrality of professionals' norms in relation to the best interests of children criterion, I will not impose my own norm-base arguments for what constitutes "best interests." I will instead focus on an alternative criterion for custody of children exposed to domestic violence; what constitutes demonstrable harm. In particular, I will next argue that it causes demon-strable harm for a child to be given into the power and control of an abuser.


Our choice, as a society, to give parents control over children is predicated on the idea that parents' love for their children will cause them to act in the child's best interests (there's that phrase again). Yet a man who violates his love for his wife by assaulting her is demonstrating that his actions are not in consonance with his avowals of love. In fact, those who are most remorseful are the ones to whom we might be tempted to give custody, and these are the men whose actions and love are in greatest dissonance. What basis, then, do we have for presuming that he will act in his children's best interest simply because he loves them? None.

So the sensible thing to do is to look at his actions to see what effect they really do have.

    The overlap between wife beating and abuse of children

The most obvious place to begin this examination is to determine how often men who batter their wives and partners abuse their children. We start by noting that 25 to 63% of domestic violence victims are pregnant when beaten. 15

While you may say that it is the woman, not the fetus, who is the target here, there is in any case total disregard for the welfare of the child-to-be. Lenore Walker and coworkers 16, 17 found that 53% of the batterers associated with their study had sexually or physically abused their children as well. In a longitudinal study of battered children of battered wives, Jean Giles-Sims found that 63% of the men who abused their wives also abused their children. 18

Rosenbaum and O'Leary 19 found that 82% of men who observed in- ter-parental spouse abuse were themselves victims of child abuse. In the most extensive study to date, of 1000 battered women, Bowker and coworkers found that 70% of the children were also abused. 20 They also noted that daughters of abused women are six and one-half times more likely to be sexually abused as girls from non-abused families. Thus 14% of girls in abusive homes will be sexually abused by a family member. 21

Furthermore, Bowker found that as the severity of the wife abuse increased, so did the severity of the child abuse. While it is true that women will spank children, Bergman et al. determined that men are ten and one-half times more likely than women to inflict serious harm. They found that every known perpetrator of the death of a child in their study was a father or father surrogate. 22

There should now be no question in your minds that access to children by abusive men constitutes serious probable harm to children. Given the serious consequences of physical and sexual abuse to children, which of you is willing to play roulette with a given child's life, hoping that he or she will be one of the 30% or so not physically or sexually abused?

Prevalence of children who witness abuse

Let us consider for a moment that a 70% probability of physical or sexual abuse is deemed an insufficient barrier to deprive a man access to, and control over, a child. To put it most favorably,

    "But we would be depriving 30% of fathers who have never abused children the love and affection to which they are entitled by"

... ah, by... well, let's set aside for the moment the issue of entitlement. What are the consequences for the children in violent homes who witness their fathers abusing their mothers? 23

Studies of battered women's reports of child witnesses range from 68% 24 (to 76%, 25 to 80% 26) to 87%.27

    "However, from interviews with children [Jaffe, Wolf and Wilson found] that almost all can describe detailed accounts of violent behavior that their mother or father never realized they had witnessed." 28

Wallerstein and Blakeslee report that even if there is only one violent incident, children will remember it. 29

Behavioral and health effects on children who witness abuse

Pagelow has observed

    "children as young as one year begin to regress into states later diagnosed as 'mental retardation' when they were exposed to parental hostilities that never went beyond the verbal abuse level." 30

It is important to note for the question of contact with the abuser that the symptoms of retardation quickly disappeared after the parents separated. If even verbal abuse can be so traumatic, consider the cases in which women are sexually brutalized in front of their children. 31

If we look at children who have chronically witnessed abuse we find reactions similar to the reactions of children who have been physically abused;

    "disruptions of normal developmental patterns that result in disturbed patterns of cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral adjustment... Infants who witness violence are often characterized by poor health, poor sleeping habits, and excessive screaming (all of which may contribute to further violence toward their mother)." 32

    "Among preschoolers, [Davidson 33 and Alessi and Hearn 34] found signs of terror, as evidenced by the children's yelling, irritable behavior, hiding, shaking, and stuttering." 32

They often experience insomnia, sleepwalking, nightmares, and bed wetting. They suffer psychosomatic problems such as headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, ulcers, asthma, 31 as well as regression to earlier stages of functioning. 33

Adolescent boys exposed to domestic violence may use aggression as a predominant form of problem solving, may project blame onto others, and may exhibit a high degree of anxiety. Girls are more likely be withdrawn and turn blame inward. 33

    "Sadly, both boys and girls have been known to participate in the beating of their mother after having witnessed such behavior over many years." 33

Jaffe and co-authors state in sum that

    "clinical and empirical data... suggest that children exposed to wife abuse may be similar to those children described as suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)." 35

    Effects on children's relationships when they witness abuse

Children exposed to wife abuse 36 often have

    "difficulties with school, including poor academic performance, school phobia, and difficulties in concentration... They are constantly fighting with peers, rebelling against instruction and authority, and [are] unwilling to do school work. 37" 38

Children who live in abusive homes are at higher risk of juvenile delinquency, including crimes such as burglary, arson, prostitution, running away, drug use, and assaults. 39

Heath and coworkers compared 48 inmates incarcerated for violent crimes and 45 nonviolent incarcerated males and found exposure to television violence at ages 8-12 and maternal or paternal abuse was highly related to violent crime. 40

Lewis et al. found that 79% of violent children in institutions reported that they had witnessed extreme violence between their parents, whereas only 20% of the nonviolent offenders did so. 41

Longitudinal studies 42 have shown that on-going marital violence in childhood was significantly predictive of perpetration of serious crimes in adulthood - assault, attempted rape, attempted murder, kidnapping, and completed murder.

    The next generation of batterers

Studies show that boys who witness their fathers beating their mothers are three times more likely to abuse their own wives. Sons of the most violent families have a wife beating rate that is 1000 times larger than of sons of non-violent parents. 43

This finding is not only significant from the point of view of a society that wants to protect its future members from violence. If we look at the transition from child to abuser with greatest compassion, it is a testimonial to the very great trauma that these boys endure.

Which of us would trade places with them. Of course there must be some (at least imagined) benefits these abusers gain from their behavior because there is no data suggesting that girls who witness abuse grow up to be abusers.

Finally, we noted earlier that daughters of abused women are six and one-half times more likely to be sexually abused as girls from non-abused families. Not all of this behavior is likely to be attributable to direct actions of the father or father figure. 44

    "Just as there is a high statistical incidence of boys who witness their fathers battering their mothers growing up to become batterers themselves, so there is a high incidence of fathers and brothers [perpetrating sexual abuse against] female children in those families where the father is a batterer." 45


In almost three-fourths of spouse-on-spouse assaults, the perpetrator and survivor were separated or divorced at the time of the incident. 46

More then 1/4 of the women killed by a man with whom they had resided were separated or divorced at the time they were killed, according to one study in Philadelphia and Chicago. 29% of the women were attempting to end the relationship when they were killed. 47

In one study of spousal homicide, over half of the male defendants were separated from their victims. 48

Also, let me stress that the effects of witnessing violence on children are more severe the longer the exposure continues. 49

Pett 50 found that the most important predictor of a child's social adjustment in recovery from violence was the quality of the relationship with the custodial parent, a relationship severely hampered by ongoing conflict.

    Retaliation by Kidnapping

After separation,

    "batterers frequently abduct children as a way to retaliate against their mothers. Each year, more than 350,000 children are kidnapped in this country, most of them by fathers. More than half of these abductions occur in the context of domestic violence. 51

    The impact of abduction by an abusive parent can be severe. Studies 52 have shown that this event alone can result in a Post-traumatic stress disorder." 53


I want to pause and acknowledge that I have just taken you through a morass of horrible statistics surrounding the effects of wife beating on children. Having passed through, scratched and shaken but alive, it will seem incredible to you that, by and large, courts in this country have declared wife beating to be unrelated to a man's relationship to his child -- no less than declaring a man's murder of the children's mother as irrelevant.

In my role as an advocate for children, I ask you, how can you give custody of children to an abusive man when you now know what effects that choice will have on those children?

There are those who will have you focus on this issue from the perspective contained in the phrase

    "But that would be taking away a man's rights!"

One could certainly play the game from this perspective and insist that if a man has a right to access and control his children, he loses it the minute he abuses a woman. There is precedent. A man who commits any other violent crime can lose his "right" to vote and to run for public office. This is a part our system of deterrents to crime. Minnesota showed the world that arresting batterers decreases the recidivism rate. Don't you think that if fathers knew that they would automatically lose custody of their children if they brutalize their wife, they would stop this abuse? If they didn't stop even though they knew of this consequence, what does that say about their concern for their children and for their relationship with their children?

But I don't even want to begin from a diversionary discussion of taking rights from men. I want to begin from the demonstrable fact that children exposed to woman abuse are harmed by the experience. As Michelle Etlin says,

    "When a child comes into a hospital with gangrene, we don't ask about how amputating the leg will affect his father's right to play baseball with him. We operate to save the child's life." 54

Children of abusive men are at high risk, are we going to cut the disease from their life or are we going to worry about the rights of the disease?


But aren't we also depriving children of their father if we deny them custody and possibly visitation? In answer, there can be no denying that children of abusive men may feel love for them and feel pain at separation, but an amputation is expected to be a painful but necessary act to avert foreseeable harm.

What are the long-term consequences? A study done in 1987 by Furstenberg, Morgan, and Allison, 55 found that children who had not seen their father in 5 years did significantly better than those who had spent 1 through 13 days with their father in the previous year. Another study by Zill 56 found that the well-being of children following divorce is not related to father-child contact.

I must qualify this assertion by noting that wherever the father rather than a mother is the primary caregiver for the children, there would likely be severe consequences to terminating the relationship. 49 As much as we might wish it, such a role is seldom adopted by men today.


You will note that my remarks imply that demonstrable harm to children has as its rational consequence not just termination of custody, not just requiring supervised visitation, but termination of visitation. I want to acknowledge that this is really what I mean to say.

[If a child wishes to visit with the father, an affirmative attitude toward children's rights would lead one to allow this contact, even knowing the harm it may cause, and even knowing that further contact on the part of a male child might increase his indoctrination into abusive behavior himself. However, knowing of abuser's abilities to manipulate children's attitudes it would be prudent to enforce a cooling-off period of 6 months or so, after which time the child might find that he or she is happier without visitation.

I also want to acknowledge that it is a political reality of today that visitation between an abusive father and his children will not often be severed, even when the child is unwilling to go. In particular, although a judge would be in the right to establish a "no-visitation" policy in an ex parte hearing for an order of protection for the abused mother, it is unlikely that a permanent "no-visitation" order based solely on the statistical likelihood of harm to the child would survive appeal.

It follows that we must develop protocols for determining actual harm to the children in question during the time between the ex parte hearing and the final custody decision. In any case, if we are to order visitation despite the realities of probable demonstrable harm to children, it is essential that we consciously acknowledge that we are disregarding the rational conclusion that follows from the harm.]

Of course if the abuser ever really changes his beliefs in male supremacy and ends all psychological and physical abuse, it may be a productive healing experience for a child to hear his apology. It is conceivable that a positive relationship could follow from this. Unfortunately, very few men ever really make the necessary changes. 57

Barring such a radical conversion, even supervised visitation will harm children. Lenore Walker summarizes the plight of children who witness wife battering eloquently:

    Children who live in a battering relationship experience the most insidious form of child abuse. Whether or not they are physically abused is less important than the psychological scars they bear from watching their fathers beat their mothers. They learn to become part of a dishonest conspiracy of silence. They learn to lie to prevent inappropriate behavior, and they learn to suspend fulfillment of their needs rather than risk another confrontation. They do extend a lot of energy avoiding problems. They live in a world of make-believe. 58

Consider the supervised visit in light of her remarks. Consider first the 14% of girls in abusive homes who have been sexually abused by a family member. 21 I would like to quote from Michelle Etlin: 59

    What, then, can be expected from supervised visitation with a molester who does not admit what he has done, and thus wants his victim's revelations to be disbelieved? First of all, supervised visitation sets up a paradigm for the child to follow. In the past, contact between the abuser and victim was unsupervised, and the abuser did something he made the child feel part of. The primary thought in a child's mind when she is being molested is -- how should she act? Then she must carefully design how she should actevery single minute after being molested, because she never feels normal and natural again.Mark these words: nothing, nothing, ever feels normal and natural again for a child who has been molested. So, when a supervised visit occurs, the supervisor is seen as a powerful, authoritative figure defining - not how the abuser should act but how the child must act.

    This is the case because a child is not accustomed to anyone defining adult behavior... -- she's used to adults defining children's behavior. Therefore, a visitation supervisor is perceived by a child as someone who lets her know what interactions are acceptable and valid -- for her. Since the supervisor does not discuss the parent's abusive actions with him and the child, the child learns they are not to be discussed. Since the supervisor does not display outrage and anger toward the adult, the child learns they are not acceptable.

    Since the supervisor covers over the reality of this enforced access, and pretends things are normal, the child's reality is altered and her need to "pretend normal" is insidiously reinforced. Since the supervisor facilitates the availability of the child for the pleasant pastime of the adult, the child's belief in her own status as a commodity -- as a prostitute, really -- is sealed.

    * * *

    Supervised visits with a molester also set up a clear preference for the pretend good visit interaction and the fake smile, something that causes rapid psychological deterioration in any child who has already suffered child sexual abuse. During visits, the supervisor acts as if nothing had happened wrong between father and child, and as if the father loves the child and the extra person is there to enforce a certain kind of protocol upon, and to bless, the interaction. The protocol is cool, dishonest, fraudulent and deadly. The supervisor invariably acts in a polite and accommodating manner to the father, setting an example for the child as to what is socially acceptable in the circumstances.

    What this does to the child's fragile psyche is to remove permission from the child to be angry, withdrawn, afraid or honest about her feelings. She is supposed to, and does, act as if the offense had not occurred -- returning her to the condition she suffered during the abuse.

    At worst, every supervised visit is an emotional replay of the dissociative feelings of being molested; at best, every supervised visit tells the child, very clearly:

    ACCOMMODATE THE ABUSE! You are to pretend nothing happened because Daddy pretends nothing happened and even this stranger who has authority agrees that we all pretend nothing happened. This is the correct way for everyone to behave.

    Yes, supervised visitation, in its own subtle psycho-tyrannical manner, is more invalidating to the child victim than any other form of coercion.

Not all children we are considering today have been sexually abused by their father, but the principle of accommodation of the father's abuse through the act of providing a neutral supervisor carries over into visits with any of the kids from violent homes. At the very least, supervised visitation should not be automatically assumed.


Let me sum up what I have shared with you. I have criticized the "best interests of the child" criterion as being so vague that it requires us to rely upon the opinions of adults as to what "best interest" means. And the norms behind these opinions are seldom acknowledged, and thus not refutable. I then showed that courts who apply this criterion have disregarded the severe effects of domestic violence on children, even to the extent of saying that killing a child's mother is not a sufficiently depraved act so as to deny a man custody. If it is possible for a custodial criterion to allow such twisted result to result from a jurists value system, that criterion itself is severely flawed.

BUSTING THE MYTH OF FATHERHOODWe then looked at the flaws inherent in presuming joint custody to be in children's best interests. I then described the primary caretaker criterion and showed that for violent families it will almost automatically remove a child from harm's way.

Finally I presented an alternative criterion based on demonstrable and foreseeable harm to children, and applied it to cases of domestic violence.

We found that some 70% of men who batter will also abuse their children, with 1/5 of these children being subjected to sexual abuse.

We found that virtually all children witness or are aware of domestic abuse, even those children who do not experience it themselves. It was demonstrated that the psychological and somatic effects of chronically witnessing abuse are very similar to the effects of being physically abused, a Post-traumatic stress disorder.

We found that children who witness wife beating have difficulty in school and are much more prone to juvenile delinquency and, ultimately, violent crime than children from non-abusive families. They have poor relationships with peers and siblings, learn to despise their mother for her abuse, and learn to emulate their father in his expressions of aggression.

We found that the longer the abuse witnessed, the more severe the resultant disorder. Given that assaults on women actually increase after separation and divorce, we would expect that children have more traumas associated with this phase.

I was able to find only one rational conclusion from this cascade of phenomena; that a cessation of contact with the abuser is the only way to minimize demonstrable and foreseeable harm to these children.

When I look at the possibilities this society has to offer the word today, and the generations unborn, I mourn the tragedy of generation upon generation of children who are brutalized themselves, or psychologically scarred as they witness their mothers being brutalized by their fathers.

How can these children, who will become adults, ever find the mental peace with which to create the miracle of justice and prosperity that is the eventual destiny of a conscious and loving species, if they are entangled in fears and anxieties from childhood?

How can we hope to bring true civilization into our lives when each day children are taught aggression and brutality as the means to power?

How can we face future generations of our kind and say that we knew about the abuse and did nothing to help?

Join with me; take your place at the front of our march toward freedom; let it never be said that our generation was too afraid of male violence to stand up for the lives and hearts of children.


1 Child Custody and the Politics of Gender, Carol Smart and Selma Sevenhuijsen (Eds.) (Routledge, New York, 1989), p.90.

2 Ibid., p.43

3 Kirstin Sanberg (Norway) in Ibid., p.105.

4 Ibid., p 34.

5 Ibid., p 109.

6 Levy & Chambers, The Folly of Joint Custody, 3 Fam. Adv. 6, 10 (Summer 1981).

7 Diana Russell's random sample of 930 females from the natural population of women in San Francisco found a rate of 4.5%, and Gail Wyatt's study of 248 women in Los Angeles, also statistically sound, found a rate of 8.1% [The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (Basic Books, 1986), p. 72].

8 Supra note 1, p.115 and 114, respectively, emphasis mine.

9 Collinsworth v. O'Connell, 508 So.2d 744 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1987).

10 Naomi R. Cahn, Civil Images of Battered Women: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Decisions, Vanderbilt Law Review 44 , 1041-1097 (1991), p.1073. This article is an excellent resource on these issues.

11 Ibid., p 1080.

12 In re Lutgen, 177 Ill. App. 3d 954, 532 N.E.2d 976 (1988), appeal denied, 125 Ill. 2d 565, 537 N.E.2d 811 (1989).

13 Collins v. Collins, 297 S.E.2d 901, 902 (W. Va 1982).

14 Naomi R. Cahn, supra note 10, p 1073, citation No. 174..

15 Helton, McFarlane, and Anderson, Battered and Pregnant: A Prevalence Study, American J. of Public Health 77, 1337 (1987).

16 Lenore E. Walker, Roberta K. Thyfault, and Angela Browne, Beyond the Batterer's Ken: Battered Women, Vermont Law Review 7, 1 (1982).

17 Lenore E. Walker, The Battered Woman Syndrome (1984), p. 27, 59.

18 Jean Giles-Sims, A Longitudinal Study of battered Children of Battered Wives, Family Relations 34 , 205 (1985).

19 Alan Rosenbaum and K. Daniel O'Leary, Children: The Unintended Victims of Marital Violence, Amer. J. Orthopsychiatry 51, 692 (1981).

20 Bowker, Arbitell, and McFerron, On the Relationship Between Wife Beating and Child Abuse, in Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse, K. Yllo and M. Bograd, eds. (1988), p. 158, 162.

21 14% = 16% x [6.5/(6.5+1)] where the 16% figure is the rate of familial sexual victimization of all girls before age 18 as given by Diana Russell's statistically sound survey, The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (Basic Books, 1986), pp. 60-61.

22 Abraham B. Bergman, Rosanne M. Larsen, and Beth A. Mueller, Changing Spectrum of Child Abuse, Pediatrics 77, 113 (1986).

23 R. E. Dobash and R. P. Dobash, Violence Against Wives: A Case Against the Patriarchy (1979), p. 112; M. Bard, The Study and Modification of Intra-familial Violence, in The Control of Aggression, J. Singer, ed. (Academic Press, 1971).

24 L. G. Leighton, Spousal Abuse in Toronto: Research Report on the Response of the Criminal Justice System (Report No. 1989- 02) Ottawa: Solicitor General of Canada (1989), 68% of 2,910 cases.

25 Mildred D. Pagelow, Children in Violent Families: Direct and Indirect Victims, in Young Children and Their Families, Shirley Hill and B. J. Barnes, eds. (Lexington Books, 1982), p. 55.

26 D. Sinclair, Understanding Wife Assault: A Training Manual for Counselors and Advocates (Ontario Government Bookstore, Toronto, 1985).

27 L. Walker, supra note 17, p.59.

28 Peter G. Jaffe, David A. Wolf, and Susan K. Wilson, Children of Battered Women (Sage, 1990), p. 21. See also M. S. Rosenberg, Inter-generational Family Violence: A Critique and Implications for Witnessing Children. Paper presented to the 92nd annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Toronto (1984).

29 J. Wallerstein and S. Blakeslee, Second Chances 121 (1989).

30 M. Pagelow supra note 25, p. 53.

31 Elaine Hilberman and Kit Munson, Sixty Battered Women, Victimology 2 , 460 (1977- 78).

32 Jaffe et al. supra note 28, p. 39-41.

33 T. Davidson, Conjugal Crime: Understanding and Changing the Wife Beating Pattern (Hawthorn, New York, 1978)

34 J. J. Alessi and K. Hearn Group Treatment of Children in Shelters for Battered Women, in Battered Women and their Families, A. R. Roberts, ed. (Springer, New York, 1984).

35 Jaffe et al. supra note 28, p. 72.

36 H. M. Hughes, Research With Children in Shelters: Implications for Clinical Services, Children Today (1986) pp. 21-25.

37 E. J. McKay, Children of Battered Women. Paper presented at the Third National Family Violence Researcher's Conference, Durham, NC (1987).

38 Jaffe et al., supra note 28, p. 50.

39 Lenore E. Walker, Eliminating Sexism to End Battering Relationships. Paper presented to the American Psychological Association, Toronto (1984) pp. 2-3.

40 C. Heath, C. Kruttschnitt, and D. Ward, Television and Violent Criminal Behavior: Beyond the Bobo Doll, Violence and Victims 1, 177-190 (1986).

41 D. O. Lewis, S. S. Shanok, J. H. Pincus, and G. H. Glaser Violent Juvenile Delinquents: Psychiatric, Neurological, Psychological, and Abuse Factors. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 18, 307-319 (1979).

42 J. McCord, A Forty Year Perspective on Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect, Child Abuse and Neglect 7, 265-270 (1983).

43 Stark and Flitcraft, Woman-battering, Child Abuse and Social Heredity: What is the Relationship?, in Marital Violence, N. Johnson, ed. (1985).

44 Russell, supra note 7, found that 4.5% of all women had been sexually abused by their father (biological, step-, foster, or adoptive). She also found that 2.0% of all women had been sexually abused by their brother (biological or half), p. 217. These rates are lower bounds on sexual abuse by batterers and batterer's sons, respectively, with 14% being the upper bound on the sexual abuse rate for "either batterer or son," as given in supra note 21.

45 Lenore E. Walker, Terrifying Love (Harper & Row, 1989), p. 152.

46 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Reports to the Nation on Crime and Justice, October 1983, p. 21.

47 N. A. Cazenave and M. A. Zahn, "Women, Murder sand Male Domination: Police Re- ports of Domestic Homicide in Chicago and Philadelphia." in Intimate Violence: Inter- disciplinary Perspectives, E. C. Viano (ed.) (Hemisphere, Washington, 1992), pp.83-97.

48 Bernard, G.W., Vera, H., Vera M.I., and Newman, G., Till Death Do Us Part: A Study of Spouse Murder. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 10 (1982).

49 Jaffe et al., supra note 28.

50 M. Pett, Correlates of Children's Social Adjustment Following Divorce, J. of Divorce 5, 25-39 (1982).

51 G. Grieg and R. Heger, When Parents Kidnap (1992).

52 Neil Senior, Toba Gladstone, and Barry Nurcomb, Childsnatching: A Case Report, J. of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 21, 579-583 (1982); Terr, Psychic Trauma in Children and Adolescents, Psychiatric Clinics of North America 8, 815- 835 (1985); Palmer and Palmer, The Painful Phenomena of Child Snatching, Social Case- work 65, 330-336 (1984); and Susan E. Spangler, Snatching Legislative Power: The Justice Department's Refusal to Enforce the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, J. of Criminal Law and Criminology 73, 1176-1203 (1982).

53 Barbara J. Hart and Margaret Klaw, Brief Amici Curiae in Valentini v. Montgomery, No 1615 Pittsburgh 1991.

54 Michelle Etlin, Mother's Day Ralley for Childre's Rights, Washington, D.C., 1992.

55 Frank F. Furstenberg, S. Philip Morgan, and Paul D. Allison, Am. Soc. Rev. 52, 695 (1987).

56 Nicholas Zill, in The Impact of Divorce, Single-parenting, and Stepparenting on Children, E. M. Hetherington and J. Arasteh (eds.) (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ, 1988).

57 Tolman and Bennet, A Review of Quantitative Research on Men Who Batter, Journal of Interpersonal Violence 5 , 107 (1990); Edelson and Grusznski, Treating Men Who Batter: Four Years of Outcome Data from Domestic Abuse Project, Journal of Social Service Research 12 (1988); and Hamberger and Hastings, Skills Training for Treatment of Spouse Abusers: An Outcome Study, Journal of Family Violence 3 (1988).

58 Lenore E. Walker, Battered Women (1979), p. 46.

59 Michelle Etlin, What is Visitation, Journal of the Child Custody Task Group of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (San Francisco) 4, 14 (1992).

NOMAS Task Group on Child Custody Issues

Jack Straton
C/o University Studies
Portland State University
Portland, OR, 97207-0751
503-725-5977 (FAX)

The National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS)
P.O. Box 455, Louisville, CO 80027


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