Domestic Violence by Proxy - Clarity of the Parental Alienation Debate by Jennifer Collins

Domestic Violence by Proxy - Clarity on the Parental Alienation debate from a child who lived through it

Hello, my name is Jennifer Collins. I am the adult child in a highly publicized "Parental Alienation," child abuse, custody case. Many "professionals" from the therapeutic and legal fields resort to the term “parental alienation” to try to explain why children say that they do not want to spend time with a particular parent post divorce. They have no idea how that label can be destructive and even deadly to children who are being abused and then turned against their protective parent who is desperately trying to protect them and secure their safety.

In actuality “Parental Alienation” excuses a perpetrator of child abuse, strips a domestic violence survivor of any support she might have while demonizing her, leaving the children victimized again and wondering why no one will help them. Parental Alienation was lodged against my mother to supposedly explain my brother’s and my fear of our father and pining for our mom. Not only is "parental alienation" heavily relied on to explain away reports of child abuse, it is an easy, simple and convenient rationale when these professionals get confused between the "he said/she said" factors in child custody cases. In my case, it resulted with the court ignoring my brother’s and my accounts of horrible abuse, severing the most important bond we had in our young lives (with our mommy) and forcing us to live with the person we identified as abusing us (our own father.) I have been on both sides of the "Parental Alienation" argument and what happened to me and my brother fell well beyond what this fictitious phenomenon contends.

My father’s allegation of Parental Alienation against my mother was nothing more than a smoke screen to conceal his ongoing abuse of his primary target victim and her children. His efforts to take my brother and me away from our loving mother to punish her for leaving him was successfully achieved AND condoned by the system put in place to prevent such abuse from happening. What my father did to us - isolating us from our mom who we longed for as little children, along with his cruel emotional and physical tormenting of my brother and me - was much too severe to be labeled with such a canned title as "parental alienation.”

That term is too weak for what we suffered. It’s more than bad-mouthing or saying nasty things about a parent. I wish that was all we had to suffer! "Parental Alienation" doesn’t even begin to capture the kind of torture that my brother and I endured but there's been no term to accurately portray what happened to us and what's continuing to happen to thousands of other children of domestic violence survivors until now. Dr. Patterson found Domestic Violence by Proxy to explain that a batters “purpose is to use children as a tool to punish the victim for either leaving the relationship or filing an injunction for protection.”

What my father did to us was Child Abuse and not only did his behavior towards us not change, it actually worsened. He used my brother and me to keep control over our mother and isolated us from our mom to punish her for standing up to him. My father would openly say in front of us “This will teach her that she better listen to me!” or “You know that this is all HER fault, don’t you?!” These frightening tactics exemplify the very definition of DVbP. Dr. Joyanna L. Silberg, PhD, Executive Vice President of the Leadership Council; found that Domestic Violence by Proxy is “A batterer with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation uses the child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his victim, the former partner". For us it was like being prisoners of war.

Domestic Violence by Proxy isn't very hard to identify. These cases begin with roots planted firmly in a history of domestic violence. My father beat up my brother, my mother and me. This history of domestic violence is the single most important factor in recognizing Domestic Violence by Proxy because after years of study, we now know that leaving a violent or abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily stop the violence and abuse against the victim. In the majority of cases the abusive dynamics continue, especially for those victims who have children in common with their abusers. Dr. Silberg states that in DV by Proxy cases, the batterer “sees clearly that the easiest way to continue to hurt her is to assert his legal rights to control access to the child of his former partner.”

Like most abusers, our father recognized that he no longer had direct access to our mother after the divorce, but he DID have access to us kids. He quickly learned that the best way to get to our mother was through her children, realizing that abusing us was a far better and more effective way to hurt HER. This chain of events is at the heart of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE by proxy. Perpetrators are aware that their history of domestic violence against their former spouse doesn't put them in a very good light so they portray themselves to others as "good parents and loving fathers whose only wish is to maintain a relationship with their children". With their unabated rage against the mother of their children in full effect, they abuse their own children then claim to be the victims of "Parental Alienation" when mom reacts to and reports the abuse to authorities, asking for intervention.

If we accept the abuser's claims that he's a good parent, I ask you, would a good parent withhold crying little kids begging for their mother? Wouldn't a good parent console, calm and reassure his children that they're loved and safe - that Mommy's just a phone call away? But that's NOT what these guys do. The term "Parental Alienation" doesn’t even begin to capture the kind of torture that my brother and I endured because in fact, it wasn't "parental alienation" - it was MEAN, VIOLENT, TORTUOUS, ABUSE! Because of what happened to my mom, brother and me, I've dedicated my life to bringing child abuse to an end and accurately identifying DVbP is one of the first steps in doing so.

A man named Richard Gardner came up with Parental Alienation Syndrome, a discredited theory he concocted and smartly marketed. His explanation of PAS was not based upon any scientific research, but on his own experience and bias. His work was self-published and never peer reviewed. The idea is that if children don't like one parent and object to visitation with their father (this is almost always used by fathers), the only possible explanation is that the mother has alienated the children and the bizarre “solution” is to force the children live with the abuser they are afraid of and have no contact with the protective mother. According to this theory the child's reaction cannot be because the father mistreated the child or the child’s mother. The only explanation is the mother is alienating the child. Mr. Gardner made many horrific statements during his life supporting his belief that society is too uptight about adult sex with children and that such activity is actually beneficial to the child. It was this bias that formed Gardner's theory and why it is so often used to protect fathers who sexually abuse their children.

My mother was only 17 years old when she married my father. My mother was sent to the hospital 3 times in the first month she was married due to my father’s abuse to her. Since she was also abused as a child, she just accepted that this was the way life was. When my father fractured my brother’s skull, Child Protection became involved and our mother was warned that if she didn’t take us and leave our father, we would be removed from them both, and she would also be charged with “Failure to Protect.” My mother followed their instructions and fled.

When she filed for an Order for Protection, my father was automatically awarded unsupervised visitation. During visitation our father kept abusing us and beating us - more than when he lived in the home. He could no longer use our mom as a punching bag so he turned to us kids. This is exactly what Domestic Violence by Proxy is. It is when an Abuser tries to maintain power and control over his victim by hurting her children. When our father picked us up for visitation he would tell my mom “Get a good look at them. This might be the last time you ever see them alive!” We begged her not to make us go with him. In turn our mom pleaded with the court to protect us but she was warned that if she withheld visitation she could face charges of "custodial interference." Despite the lack of support from the court and her fear of our father, our mom still tried to protect us. She listened to our cries for help and refused to send us alone with the man she knew was beating her children.

This gave my father the leverage to file for custody based on his bogus claims of PAS. The Judge found that our mother was a victim of our father’s unrelenting abuse and our father admitted that he hurt our mother in front of us. He even admitted to shaking us by the neck and threatening to kill us, yet the judge decided that it was easier for us to live with our father’s physical abuse than to live with our mom who he referred to as a “broken woman” and a “scared little bird.” Somehow those labels seemed more of a threat to us than our father’s fists! Considering that family courts are supposed to be focused on "the best interests of a child", I cannot fathom how any judge can see it fit or ok to place children in the custody of a documented abuser and then to further assist him in denying the children access to the only protective parent they've ever known. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it any better now.
Most of the mistakes by family courts in child abuse and domestic violence custody cases involve a failure to consider the context of the various disputed accounts. In intact families, children hear their parents make negative statements about each other yet this is not parental alienation. When a parent escapes a relationship with an abuser (as they’ve been told to do by governmental agencies) and tries to protect their children from abuse, this is not parental alienation. When the abuser simply continues his violent behavior by abusing the children instead of their mother, although this is technically parental alienation, it is much more severe than that. This is clearly Domestic Violence by Proxy. The abuser accuses his victim of Parental Alienation for explaining to her children that the abuse being waged against them is wrong and not their fault. If she tries to protect them from his abuse she is accused of further trying to alienate her children from their father. So for doing the right thing, the protective parent is again accused of wrongdoing. Worse, these allegations of Parental Allegation are enough for the court to reverse custody.

Parental Alienation is commonly used as a legal defense tactic by abusers and it automatically discredits mothers who speak up for their children when they come forward and reveal that someone is hurting them. Parental Alienation has been used as a convenient and catchy phrase that is thrown about to simplistically mean one parent influencing and swaying the child’s allegiance by systematically saying negative things about the other parent. Generally mothers are accused of being malicious liars, who are fabricating abuse to “get back at” their exs, but what our father did to us went beyond careless words; he was calculating and cruel. Because our protective mother was the one making a commotion over our father’s abuse, she was viewed as “the problem” rather than our offending father. Everything got so twisted around that the court reacted in its most common response to PAS allegations; and took my brother and me away from our protective mother and gave us to our abusive father.

Once custody was reversed in favor of our father the trauma of his abuse continued. His abuse was so intense and severe that Domestic Violence by Proxy is the most appropriate terms to describe what he did to us. Dr. Silberg describes how “by emotionally torturing the child and severing the child’s bond with the mother, he harms his intended victim, the child’s mother, in a way she cannot resist.” Our father would beat us and tell us that it was because of something our mother did. We were not allowed to have any contact with our mother at all: no visitation, no phone calls, no letters, etc…. It was horrible. When we begged our father to see our mother he would tell us painful lies like that our mother was crazy and in a mental institution. We were repeatedly told different stories that she moved away to another state, that she had a new baby to replace us - he even told us that she didn’t really love us and that she did not want us anymore! He would tell our mother and the courts that we were thriving without her. No one checked up on us. They just took my father’s word for it. The “Parental Alienation” that our mom was accused of for trying to protect us from abuse didn’t compare to the continued abuse that my father blatantly committed against us. Yet the court officers simply ignored our pleas for help stating that we needed to accept that this was the way it was and “life wasn’t fair.”

It is disturbing that courts often grant custody to abusers, who are devoid of empathy and compassion, with the expectation that he is more likely to encourage the children to have a relationship with their mother. The children are traumatized by being ripped away from their primary parent and having the most important bond in their lives severed. Ironically once an abuser gets custody, he continues to engage in the abuse of the children as well as to his former spouse. This is another example of Domestic Violence by Proxy. The abuser withholds the children from their mother, tells them damaging lies about their mother and even threatens them by saying that if they continue to love and long for their mother they will be punished. So after the custody reversal the court actually condones the same behavior it allegedly sought to avert and prevent! Judges repeatedly punish and retaliate against protective mothers for any negative statement made against the father and then do absolutely nothing when the father actively prevents the children from having a relationship with their mother. This double standard is just one example of gender bias that has been found by court sponsored committees in over forty states.

When we were finally allowed to see our mom during supervised visitation, all of our conversations were restricted. We told our mom (and the court supervisors) that our father was still hurting us. The supervisors scolded us for that saying “You’re not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore.” When we told our mom what our father had said about her not loving us and wanting us, we wanted confirmation from her that it wasn’t true but before she could answer the supervisors again instructed her “don’t answer that.” My father did not endure such scrutiny before custody was reversed even when we were begging for protection from his angry fists. What’s ironic about “Parental Alienation” is that the person accusing it is usually the person who’s deliberately using alienating and divisive tactics himself. He is the one who is actually being abusive towards the children. In our case, my father’s actions and behaviors were completely ignored by the court because my mom was “guilty” of Parental Alienation. How is it that a court of law, whose supposed to be pursuing justice for all, can take the word of an admitted perpetrator over a confirmed victim’s and call it “fair and impartial”?

For 18 months and 8 days we were truly isolated from our loving mother. My father and several court evaluators openly admitted that their goal was to destroy our bond with our mom. This treatment is what happens to cult victims. They attempted to brain wash us into believing that our father was actually the victim of our mother’s evil intent. Since my brother was 11 years old and I was 9, we sometimes doubted our mom - we were hurt and angry that she abandoned us. We thought “If she really loved us she wouldn’t let this happen” but there was not ever one time where we thought that our father was the victim. Throughout all of it, we knew with certainty that he was the one who was hurting us!

My brother and I were desperate to escape our father’s abuse, but we lost faith in the family court system because of the one truth our father would repeat “They don’t believe you! No one believes you!” Somehow, during the little visitation we had with our mom, she would find little ways to communicate the truth in messages like “I believe you did a very good job. I always believe you! I can’t wait to see you again… I always want to be with you!” Sometimes she would be reprimanded by the supervisors but she always found subtle ways to tell us that she was still there for us. Despite our mom’s veiled reassurances, it was such a confusing time for us so my brother and I decided to confront our mother. We still held out hope that if our mom knew what was really going on in our father’s house she wouldn’t leave us there with him any longer (and I’m saying “she” because we believed that our mom was ultimately allowing all this.)

It turns out our mom DID love us and DID want us and was willing to do ANYTHING to prove it to us. We started writing notes to her and sneaking them into her pocket during visitations. Then finally one day, when we ran away from our father’s house, our mother was there waiting for us. We fled the United States and found protection in the Netherlands. We were the first Americans to be granted Asylum in Holland. It took years for us to recover from the abuse. We were forced to live in secrecy for 14 years until we were found by the FBI. Our mother voluntarily returned to the United States to face the legal consequences for her actions. Happily, all kidnapping charges against her were dismissed! Yet some people who didn’t even know us from men’s rights web sites wrote about our case and chastised my mom. Like my father had done a decade earlier they accused her of Parental Alienation because she hid us from our father for 14 years despite our accounts of the abuse! How is denying a man the right to ABUSE his children wrong?

A child's birthright is to be loved, nurtured, taken care of and supported; childhood memories are supposed to consist of bedtime stories, making forts and summertime adventures. My memories are hiding in closets, watching my precious mother being reduced to a bloody pile on the floor, wanting to help her but not knowing what to do, squelching terror and tears for fear of being discovered and being his next victim. Despite all the abuse I suffered as a child, I initiated a call to my father a little over a year ago sincerely hoping that 14 years would have melted his anger and bitterness towards life into regret and reconciliation. Although I prepared myself for the worst, I was completely devastated regardless when all he had to say to me was "You are 14 years too late".

This is a man who terrorized and beat me – what he has to say shouldn’t matter, but I must admit that all I wanted to hear from him was an apology. I just needed him to acknowledge what he had done and know that he was sorry for it. I was so ready to swap 14 years for an apology yet there I was, broken-hearted all over again, with confirmation of the truth I knew all along; my father was an abuser and he would never change. That's the thing about abuse: NOTHING about it makes ANY sense - not the abusive acts, not the beatings, not the consequences, not the weird feeling that remains when you still want your abuser's approval despite everything he’s done to you.

Father’s rights groups excuse my father’s abuse by claiming that we are the victims of Parental Alienation, but one of these men’s groups actually came forward recognizing child abuse and denounced my father for his actions. They realized that my brother and I should not be discounted and discredited just because we lived with our mom all these years. My brother and I were not “brainwashed” either as some strangers have claimed. Our mom didn’t have the time, energy or desire to devote to such a thing – we were old enough to know what happened to us and our memories are our own. An abuser’s existence is completely intertwined with power and control dynamics and to effectively brainwash someone, you’d have to be fairly self-disciplined and have some form of power and control at your command. Domestic violence victims and survivors are given such flattering labels like crazy, out of control, an emotional wreck, a broken woman, a scared little bird...none of which implies the slightest bit of self-discipline or ability to exercise power and control over themselves (or anyone else!) so I find it REALLY puzzling that moms can be labeled by the professionals as broken, weak and unworthy yet be accused of brainwashing at the same time. If anyone is more likely to use brainwashing, it’s the abusers NOT the victims!

Sadly however, these fathers’ rights guys continue to defend my father. They claimed to have looked through court documentations from my father and concluded that I must have been lying as a child. Now they label me as a “man hater” who thinks that only mothers should be raising children. I have absolutely nothing against dads - I think it's the sweetest and most attractive male quality to see a dad being nurturing towards a child. Whenever I see that, I smile and can't help but to have a twinge of jealousy for the dad I didn't have growing up - but I didn't have a dad - I had a father who was consumed with anger, alcohol, drugs and controlling our lives through abuse. It wasn't until my Dutch Papa came into my life that I got to feel a little of what it was like to have a real dad. The majority of men out there are good dads, but then there are some fathers out there who aren't worthy of the honorable title. Would any good dad, or good man for that matter, suggest that my mother should be gang raped in prison to be punished for taking us away from our father? Men identifying themselves as Fathers Rights Activists write things like this to me and worse if you can imagine that. Would you feel safe leaving your child with a man who thinks such things? What kind of an influence do you think he'd be if he has any sons or daughters? I'm all for protecting the relationship between good dads and their children; what I have a problem with is the court system protecting the relationship between proven abusive parents and their children who are afraid of them for that very reason! In cases of violence and abuse, what needs to be protected is the children, NOT their relationship to the abusive parent.

Since our story gained substantial public attention, I have had the opportunity to meet many people on both sides of this debate. I have learned from nationally recognized domestic violence experts that my parent's case was not unusual and that it is a clear example of Domestic Violence by Proxy. It has absolutely nothing to do with Parental Alienation. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is an unscientific concoction that is typically used by an abuser to avoid responsibility for his actions and abuse. The PAS accusation is used to blame the victim for trying to protect her children and is almost exclusively used against women. The paradox of PAS is that since it is not a real mental health disorder there is no cure, so once a woman is falsely accused of parental alienation, there is no recourse for her or her child. The mother can only stand helplessly by as suspicious authoritative eyes keep a close watch on her while she prays for someone to see the truth and intervene because she’s no longer able to do so. In the meantime, the child is left struggling with questions they don’t get answers to: “How could mom do this to me? How could she leave me with him? Why is she letting a stranger (a judge, therapist, GAL, etc.) make all the decisions now? Why won’t she protect me like she used to? Doesn’t she love me anymore? Was she lying when she said she believed me and loved me?”

Even though PAS has been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association as not an actual syndrome, thousands of children have been forced to live with their abusers and denied a meaningful relationship with their protective mothers. This false diagnosis, which is improperly used by some “experts”, is also not recognized by the American Psychological Association. Parental Alienation Syndrome does not appear in DSM IV which includes all valid mental and emotional conditions. Recently some psychologists have started to lose their licenses for testifying in support of PAS allegations. These former professionals lost their license because they gave a diagnosis that does not exist. Hopefully if enough “experts” lose their licenses it will discourage a practice that has destroyed the childhoods and often the lives of so many children.
"Fathers' Rights" groups appear to be dominated by extremists who act like they speak for most men when in fact they represent a small minority. Even when a good father feels that he is being unfairly portrayed by his ex-wife, he does not set out to rip his child away from a loving mother and attempt to destroy the close bond his child has with that other parent. Yet these abusers systematically support the removal of any child from their mother despite the valid concerns of abuse. Their goals are to reduce or eliminate child-support, roll back protections against domestic violence and in some cases condone or encourage incest. If they openly and honestly presented their real agenda obviously they would be discredited as the extremists they are. Instead they use their great manipulation skills and speak of equal time, joint custody, friendly parenting and other terms that seek to create the illusion that their goals are reasonable and in the best interest of children.

These self-admitted “Feminist Haters” (as one site refers to themselves) have come to realize that the best way to hurt their partner and punish her for leaving or pressure her to return is to go after her children. Unfortunately we have seen this strategy play out in murders or murder-suicides, but most of the time abusive fathers who had little involvement with the children during the relationship suddenly seek custody after she leaves. This is Domestic Violence by Proxy in its purist form. The court system and the inadequately trained professionals often used by the courts have been slow to recognize this all too common phenomenon. Men who are identified by their children as being the person who physically or sexually hurt them use PAS to conceal their abuse. They misuse the term PAS to try to convince the courts that they are the “real victims” of lying children and vindictive wives. Protective mothers are viscously attacked by the courts and even jailed for doing what the law requires them to do: keep their children safe.

It is in this context that PAS is so often used in domestic violence custody cases. In our case, too much emphasis was put on the discredited theory of PAS and all of our treating medical doctors and treating psychologists were dismissed. In research totally unconnected to custody issues, numerous researchers have found that by the time a child reaches 18, one-third of the girls and one-sixth of the boys have been sexually abused. Although the stereotypical sex-abuser is a stranger in a raincoat, in reality most of this abuse is committed by someone the child knows, often the father. Nevertheless courts rarely find allegations of sexual abuse valid because they use experts with little training or understanding of these issues and they can't imagine a father, particularly one who is successful in other parts of his life would be capable of something so horrible. My father was excused because a family court evaluation testified that he didn’t “look like an abuser.” He was cooperative and my mother was unrelenting in her determination to protect us.

Research shows that when children lose their primary attachment figure (the parent that performed most of the child care in the first couple of years of a child's life), they are more likely to experience depression, low self-esteem and suicide among other harm. Children who witness domestic violence (see it, hear it, see their mother's wounds, feel her fear, hear her screams) are far more likely to engage in harmful behaviors when they get older. In other words there is valid scientific research that provides good reason to insure custody to the primary, non-abusive parent. There is no research to support the common practice of taking children away from protective domestic violence survivor moms based on allegations of a syndrome that doesn’t exist.

Parental Alienation is the primary tool of choice that empowers and emboldens batterers to manipulate the facts, conceal child abuse and perpetuate their abuse through Domestic Violence by Proxy. My mom was once asked when she escaped the domestic violence from my father. I was surprised when she replied “the day I got my kids back.” When she was asked to elaborate she replied “even though he wasn’t hitting me anymore, his abuse continued through my children and that was even more devastating than any beating he gave me.” It was at that moment I realized that we were nothing but a tool for my father to continue to abuse his mother. It is time to recognize Domestic Violence by Proxy and understand that condoning the Parental Alienation deception is the route of “Court Appointed - Child Abuse.” It’s time to stop the “CA – CA!”

Jennifer Collins
CA3 Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse

An Introduction to Domestic Violence by Proxy by Dara Carlin

By Dara Carlin, M.A.
Domestic Violence Survivor Advocate

Have you ever taken a chance in your life? Has anyone ever assured you of something and then reneged once you held up your end of the bargain? Have you ever been completely betrayed and abandoned by someone you trusted? If you've experienced even one of these, then you have a little idea of what it feels like to be a victim of domestic violence fleeing her abuser with her children. But what do you think happens to those women and children who've escaped an abusive home? They'd probably go to a shelter first, then maybe get some counseling, then divorced, right? What do you think happens to her abuser in the meantime? If he's not court-ordered into therapy or management classes (chances are he's not going to go voluntarily) and even if he did go he'd have to genuinely want to change his ways and take responsibility for the harm he's inflicted on his family. For abusers, this is a tall order and one they're not likely to take because "no one's making HER responsible for anything that happened".

With child custody and visitation issues however, SHE is made as responsible as HIM and the perpetrators just love this set-up; the focus of the court is no longer on the domestic violence that occurred (reasoning that "no marriage = no domestic violence") but is on "the best interests of the child". If the perpetrator hasn't changed his abusive behavior towards his ex-wife and children (and why would he want to change something that works so well for him?) then nothing's changed - the risk for violence and abuse remain - the only thing that's different now is marital status and living arrangements. For many women, this time is more dangerous for them and their children because when the batterer feels that he is losing control he becomes desperate. If he can not access his ex-wife/girlfriend then he knows that the next best thing is to "get to" her through the children and all too often he finds this to be more productive and more entertaining for him. After all, what's the best way to hurt a mother? Through her children!!! Dr. Alina Patterson described the “specific tactics used by abusive individuals to continue controlling their victims after they are no longer present” as Domestic Violence by Proxy.

What is Domestic Violence by Proxy? Simply put, it's the extension of domestic violence beyond the termination of the marriage and/or family. Prior to this, divorced abusers would allege "Parental Alienation" when their ex-wives would report their ongoing abuse or newly initiated abuse against the children to authorities or the family court. “She won’t allow me to see my children! She's turning the kids against me - look, they're even afraid of me! She is alienating me from my children and cutting me out of their lives! All I want to do is be a father to my children.”

The perpetrator's declarations of "Parental Alienation" work like magic for him: his abusive behaviors towards his ex, the children and his court order violations are ignored while the focus becomes the investigation into confirming the mother's use of "Parental Alienation" against him. Many legal and therapeutic professionals think “Ah ha… I have seen this definition before” and comfortingly attribute all the post-decree drama to the bogus "diagnosis" of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) missing the real diagnosis of Domestic Violence by Proxy as described by Dr. Joyanna Silberg, “A batterer with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation uses the child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his victim, the former partner”. Practitioners and service providers take notice: Domestic Violence by Proxy is just as insidious, damaging and potentially life-threatening as domestic violence is!

The smoke screen of PAS was introduced in 1985 by Richard Gardner, a man who openly condoned adult and parental sex with young children. Many of these children who were victims of this flimsy hypothesis are now coming of age and have horrendous stories of abuse. Not only were they tortured at the hands of their own parent but they were further betrayed by the justice system who assigned "supervisors" to ensure their protection from harm.

Jennifer Collins, a young advocate who has survived her father’s severe life threatening abuse as well as the court’s appointed (child) abuse, has researched PAS thoroughly. Jennifer has written an interesting article from a child’s point of view entitled "Clarity on the Parental Alienation Debate From a Child Who Lived Through It" and has also started her own organization CA3 to help children of abuse find their voice like she did. Way to go Jennifer!


Domestic VIolence by Proxy, Leadership Council

Why Terrorist Tactics Employed by Batterers Are Not "PAS"
Leadership Council
September 16, 2009

As more and more abused women lose custody to batterers in family courts, they are wrongly embracing the very ideas that enabled their abusers to gain custody in the first place. False accusations of “parental alienation" are often used by batterers to gain custody and to defend against accusations of abuse.

Some unfortunate women after years of enduring domestic violence have lost custody to the batterers who abused them. In these cases, batterers have made good on their threat to attack their ex-partner in the place she is the most vulnerable—by taking her children away from her. After separation, these batterers continue to wage their campaign of manipulation and abuse by attempting to convince involved children that their mothers never loved them. Looking for a way to describe their batterers' behavior, some mothers have called what their batterer is doing "parental alienation syndrome."

In reality, what these women are describing from their ex-partners is better termed Domestic Violence by Proxy (DV by Proxy), a term first used by Alina Patterson, author of Health and Healing. DV by Proxy refers to a pattern of behavior which is a parent with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation, uses a child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his former partner. Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.

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. Moreover, by emotionally torturing the child and severing the bond between children and their mother, he is able to hurt his intended victim -- the mother -- in a way she cannot resist.

DV by Proxy includes tactics such as: threats of harm to children if they display a positive bond to the mother, destroying favored possessions given by the mother, and emotional torture (for example, telling the child the mother hates them, wanted an abortion, and is not coming to get them because they are unloved).

DV by Proxy may also include coaching the child to make false allegations regarding their mother's behavior and harming or punishing the child for not complying. DV by Proxy perpetrators may also create fraudulent documents to defraud the court in order to prevent the mother from gaining custody. Whether or not the child is biologically related to them is irrelevant to perpetrators of DV by Proxy. The perpetrator's main motivation is to hurt his ex; whether or not his own child is harmed in the process is irrelevant to him.

This is very different from "parental alienation syndrome" as described by the late Richard A. Gardner. Dr. Gardner described PAS as an internal process by which a child aligns themselves with a preferred parent to protect themselves from the divorce conflict. “PAS” is conceptualized as a psychological process of identification with a parent who, according to the theory, encourages this identification at the expense of the other parent.

PAS inducing parents, according to Gardner, are often unconscious of what they are doing to encourage the identification. In contrast, perpetrators of DV by Proxy are very conscious of what they are doing. Controlling, coercive, illegal acts often done by abusive and controlling people, usually men, are not subtle, and do not encourage an identification with a parent. Criminal, fraudulent, coercive acts are visible and obvious. These behaviors encourage compliance by threats and fear. Behaviors involved in DV by Proxy are deliberate and often illegal. These behaviors include: battery, destruction of property, locking children in rooms to prevent them from calling parents, falsifying documents, along with other similar overt behaviors.

The most dangerous aspect of Gardner's PAS theory is that that the alienating parent's behavior is theorized to be so subtle as to be unobservable. In other words, the behaviors that are supposed to cause the alienation are assumed to be happening without any proof that they have actually occured. As many women have discovered this makes a charge of "alienation" almost impossible to defend against.

While Gardner's theories regarding PAS have been shown to be overly general and have not been supported by careful research, behaviors seen in DV by Proxy can be readily observed. Behaviors involved in DV by Proxy are deliberate and planned; many are illegal, and if the child is given the freedom to talk, will be described in great detail by the child.

If the child's formerly favorable view of the victimized parent changes when exposed to tactics like this over time then it is more likely a form of "Stockholm Syndrome" or traumatic attachment to the abuser, rather than the alignment with one parent and negative reaction to the other that Gardner described as "alienation".

A recent and comprehensive article on PAS and its use in the court system, by Jennifer Hoult can be downloaded here.

For further information:

◦Are Protective Parents Losing Custody to Alleged Abusers? Evidence shows that women who raise concerns about family violence during custody litigation run the risk of losing their children.
◦Stopfamilyviolence.org: The people's voice for family peace. Stop Family Violence is a national grassroots organization with a mission to organize and amplify our nation's collective voice against family violence.
◦CA3 -Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse
◦High-conflict divorce or stalking by way of family court? Massachusetts Family Law Journal, 2004. http://www.mincava.umn.edu/reports/linda.asp
◦Hoult, Jennifer. (Spring 2006). The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy, Children's Legal Rights Journal, 26(1) pp. 1-61. (download PDF)

Domestic Violence by Proxy by Dr Alina Patterson

Abuse by Proxy
Doctor Alina Patterson

What is Domestic Violence by Proxy?

Domestic Violence by Proxy (DVBP) is a term I have invented to describe specific tactics used by abusive individuals to continue controlling their victims after they are no longer present. It describes a pattern of behavior I’ve observed many times in my own practice. It consists of using the systems designed to protect the victim in order to continue to abusing them, while projecting the appearance that what they are doing is completely legitimate. These abusers twist the truth and successfully sell it to attorneys, judges, guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, private counselors, parent coordinators and Children and Family Services, just to name a few.

DVBP is often used in family court during custody and visitation litigation. Often, the purpose is to use the children as a tool to “punish” the victim for either leaving the relationship or filing an injunction for protection. It is often confused with a “high conflict divorce,” which is different, because while the former is perpetrated by the controlling individual, the later is carried out by both parties. It is not just a matter of poor communication between parents.

Accusations of Domestic Violence or a request for an injunction are generally the very things that cause victims to loose custody of their children in family court. Professionals often advise victims of domestic violence to leave the environment to protect their children, and when they do, the family court system sometimes punishes them by fulfilling their worst fears.

As a result, DVBP must be stopped in family court.

CA3 - A Safe Place for "Children of Abuse" to Find Their Voice!

My name is Jennifer Collins. When I was a little girl I was abused by my father. When my mother tried to protect my brother and me, my father accused her of “Parental Alienation.” The court found that both of my parents were correct; my mother was right that my father was abusive and my father was right that my mother was keeping us from him. So… the court decided that the current custody agreement wasn’t working and they reversed custody to the very man who was beating us. How do I sanely explain what insanely happened to me? How do I make sense of something that can’t be rationalized? Even now, it seems unreal - except I know what happened to me and the court documents show that this "drama" is really a documentary.

"Happy childhood" - I've wondered a lot about that throughout my life. Does that mean the same thing for everyone? Is a "happy childhood" a break in between beatings or is it never being beaten at all? My father used to beat me and my brother. Just as (or perhaps even more) traumatizing was watching my father beat up my mother. It wasn’t just a quick smack or just one excessively hard blow. He would go on and on for what seemed like an eternity; tormenting her, slapping her, yelling at her, punching her, kicking her, pulling her hair, etc… I used to hide in the closet with my brother and it wasn't for a game of "Hide & Seek". We would leave the door open a little bit because I was afraid of the dark. Through the crack, we would watch with horror the savage abuse of our poor, sweet, loving mommy. That memory alone has scarred me for life.

When my father repeatedly slammed my 4 year old brother into a wall and fractured his skull, that is where it all should have ended, but it was only the beginning... Child protection was called by our priest or the doctors. (I still can’t figure out who was the first one to call because that is kept anonymous.) My mother was threatened that if she didn’t leave our father, we would be taken away and she would be charged with “failure to protect.” She did what she was told to do; she fled with us and filed for a temporary Order for Protection which was extended for a year.

As a child I thought what happened up until this point was both of my parents' responsibility. This is a common mistake also made by many professionals and the public who fail to understand the abuser is solely responsible for his actions. Once the court system “took responsibility” for the safety and well being of my brother and me, they must share the blame for failing to protect us since they were completely aware of my father’s abuse. Even though it was my father's fists and his ongoing use of violence against us, he was allowed to hurt us under their "watch." So from this point on, I hold the court 100% responsible for every ounce of terror, trauma and injury we suffered at our father's hands! Although my mother was awarded custody of us, despite my father's well-known and well-documented use of force and violence against us, my father was somehow awarded unsupervised visitation with my brother and me! This is our entry into the “INjustice System” (as I experienced it.) How could this happen? The search into answering that question became the root of my investigation and examination of our family court system, which subsequently led to the creation of my organization CA3 – Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse.

My mother was only 22 years-old when she fled from my father’s violence yet she was even willing to return to my father when she came to understand how she had been betrayed by the system that was put in place to protect her and her children. Can you imagine escaping abuse, then coming to the realization that it was safer for your children if you went back to your abuser because you could distract some of the abuse away from them? This young battered woman was overwrought with guilt because we were forced to go alone with our father on visitations which left us facing the brunt of his anger since she was no longer there to protect us from him. My father continued to beat us and threaten our mother that he was going to kill us and himself so she would have to suffer for the rest of her life. This scared the heck out of all of us! Time after time my father would hold his hand or a pillow over my face and suffocate me until it “all turned black.” Every single time he had me gasping for air I thought I was going to die. Now that I am older I realize how close he came to really killing us.

My father’s abuse continued up until my brother was 9 years-old and I was 7. We would beg our mother not to send us with him. She tried to protect us and let us stay home, but then our father showed up at our home with the police. They would enter our home, search for us and literally pull us out from under our beds where we were trying to hide to find safety - then the police would actually hand us over to the man who was hurting us! Sometimes our mom gave up and would just hand us over to him with tears running down her face, apologizing and trying to explain that she didn’t have any other choice. We were two terrified little kids who couldn't understand WHY our mom, who loved us so much, wouldn’t protect us. Regardless of all the evidence and witnesses to the facts of our abuse, our father filed for a reversal of custody claiming that our fear and unwillingness to go with him was actually caused by our mother's use of “parental alienation” against him. In another step deeper into the injustice system, we were ripped away from our mother and forced to live alone with our father!

Considering the circumstances, you'd think my father would at least try to put on a good show with the court’s oversight, but he continued to severely beat us regardless! The GAL’s "sage" words did little to help us: “Visitation with the mother is to remain supervised as long as the children keep reporting abuse.” Can you believe it? All my father had to do to keep control was to make sure that he kept beating us and he had it writing! This is 100% the fault of the court. I would show up at court supervised visitation with my mother and lift up my shirt to display the welts and bruises on my back and bottom that my father had left on me saying “He’s still hurting us.” Everyone gasped but did nothing. They'd tell me “You are not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore.” That is what I call “Court Appointed Child Abuse” - when the legal authorities KNOW that a child is being abused and does not do a thing to protect them. I thought what happened to me and my brother was unique but through research, I learned that thousands of children each year are court ordered into such abuse!

Having survived this nightmare, I’m sure you can understand that I wouldn't wish such a fate on any child. Can you imagine how I felt when I discovered that it's still going on in family court cases all over this country? Mind you, these are DOMESTIC VIOLENCE cases where violence, abuse and trauma were the reasons for the divorce and disintegration of the family in the first place!

Something has to be done! It is up to us grown children of abuse to come forward with our stories of how the system failed us. Then we need to demand change! That is how CA3 “Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse” was born. Many people, even some politicians, are starting to take notice. Let’s join together to stop the CA-CA!

Please send me your story to me at: CA3CACACA@hotmail.com



Custody Visitation Scandal Cases by Barry Goldstein

Custody Visitation Scandal Cases
by Barry Goldstein Esq.

The movement to end domestic violence started when women began to speak to each other about their experiences of spousal abuse, which had always been considered a private matter. These discussions led to the realization that domestic violence was far more common then generally believed. This discovery was necessary in order to begin the work to end domestic violence.

Today, disturbingly, in thousands of custody-visitation cases all over the country, abused women and children are being revictimized rather than protected. Some of the cases have been publicized, but most have been hidden from public view. Often the media is reluctant to feature such cases, because they don’t have the resources to determine which side is telling the truth or out of fear of lawsuits. As a result, only the victims and genuine experts are aware of the pattern and frequency of such cases.

When women first started to learn about the extent to which men were abusing their female partners, there was no term to describe such behavior. Only later was the term domestic violence invented. This was an important step, because it gave us common language to describe an all too common and harmful behavior pattern. I believe we now need a term that describes cases in which women and children are further abused by the courts instead of being protected. I suggest using the term CUSTODY-VISITATION SCANDAL CASES, which would help us to better detect and understand the pattern and frequency of such atrocities, so that we can stop such abuse in the future.

Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases can be defined as having many but not all of the following attributes:

1. Allegations of domestic violence and/or child abuse made by the mother and/or child(ren)
2. A failure or refusal by court agents (attorneys, law guardians, forensic evaluator, therapists, and/or judge) to take such allegations seriously.
3. An outcome that places the children at serious risk
4. An outcome that appears to be 180 degrees from what it should be.
5. An outcome that gives custody to the alleged abuser and restricted visitation to the protective mother.
6. The use by the abusive father and his attorney of “standard abuser tactics” (i.e. seeking custody to punish the mother or maintain control; using visitation or custody to harass mother; claiming that unfounded child protective claims were made falsely and maliciously by the mother; attempting to manipulate the children etc.)
7. The propogation of myths and stereotypes about domestic violence (i.e. that mothers and children frequently make false allegations of abuse to gain an advantage in litigation) by the court and its agents.
8. Using “experts” with little or no training and understanding of domestic violence.
9. Gender bias and double standards (mothers being held to a higher standard than fathers)
10. Failure to consider and use up-to-date domestic violence research.
11. Approaches that blame the victim.
12. Use of biased or unsupported theories (i.e. Parental Alienation Syndrome; “Angry women”; “Vindictive women”; alienation; masochism etc.)
13. Extreme penalties against protective mothers.
14. Outcomes that make it appear like the judge was bribed even though that is usually not the cause of the judicial abuse.

I am not saying that every case that fits many of the above criteria has to have been improperly decided, but I believe research will find that 98% or more of such cases have been tragically mishandled. Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases should be identified, examined. and corrected when necessary. Even more important, society must create a system to prevent such cases from happening.

Barry Goldstein - the Believer


Dear Friends:

For many years, the NCADV, Battered Mothers Custody Conference and many other domestic violence, professional, educational and community organizations have been privileged to hear Barry Goldstein speak about domestic violence, child custody and related issues. He speaks with a passion and knowledge on these topics that many of us envy and over long years of service to the cause has earned our trust.

As most of you know we have a crisis in the custody court system that has resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with abusers. Too often the courts have responded to justified criticism of their mistakes with retaliation against protective mothers and anyone daring to support them. In January, the NY courts retaliated against Barry by suspending his license for exposing an abusive judge. This involved a case in which the judge gave custody to an abuser and denied any contact between a woman who had been named Dutchess County Mother of the Year and her children. The judge used a certainty standard against the mother and probability standard for the father and jailed her for almost a month when she was seven-months' pregnant because she kept saying objection in order to preserve her right to appeal. Among the charges the court had the nerve to make against Barry was that he said the judge was "biased" and "on the wrong side of history." Their real complaint was that Newsweek and other media used the case as an example of the failure of the court system to protect children from abusers.

Obviously the court was hoping to silence Barry, but he has decided to work full time speaking, writing, consulting, teaching and as an expert witness. If any of you need an expert speaker, I would strongly recommend you consider hiring Barry. He has a diverse group of experiences including 14 years on the board of My Sisters' Place, 10 years as an instructor and supervisor in a NY Model Batterer Program, 30 years as an attorney representing protective mothers and writer of books and articles. This informs his speaking on many issues including domestic violence, child custody. role of men in ending domestic violence, domestic violence in higher education and many related topics.

We are particularly excited about a book Barry is co-editing with Dr. Maureen Hannah, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. The book includes chapters by over 25 of the leading experts in the US and Canada including judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, journalists and domestic violence advocates. Although the writers come from many different backgrounds and disciplines, there is remarkable agreement that custody courts have failed to protect mothers and children in domestic violence cases. We believe the up-to-date research and information in this book has the potential to fundamentally change the broken system. Once this book is published later this year, the existing failed practices will have to be abandoned because they can only be viewed as malpractice. Barry Goldstein is already including this information in his workshops and doing so in ways professionals can hear. You can learn more about Barry's speaking and these issues on his web site http://barrygoldstein.net/ He can be contacted by email Barryg78@aol.com or phone 914-643-3142.

In his first book, SCARED TO LEAVE AFRAID TO STAY, Barry told the story of three children who complained their father was abusing them physically and sexually. Their mother obtained an order of protection and sought custody. The children told the judge, evaluator, their attorney and CPS caseworker what their father did. As happens too often, these "experts" decided the mother was brainwashing the children and threatened to change custody if she didn't stop. Right before the first unsupervised visit, the baby sitter confronted the father in the presence of the law guardian and the father admitted to kissing the girls on their privates. The law guardian immediately filed a motion to stop the visitation. The judge consulted with the evaluator who said the father used bad judgment but there was no reason to stop the visitation. Barry called CPS to report the father's admission. When the judge found out he yelled and screamed at Barry saying CPS already investigated so there was no reason for a new report. The four-year-old was penetrated during the first unsupervised visit. A different caseworker investigated Barry's complaint and found the father's actions were even worse then reported. They filed charges against the father and he never again had anything more than supervised visits. The mother invited the caseworker and Barry for a celebratory dinner after the mother won custody. The children had a name for them. They called them "believers" because they believed the children when all the professionals who were supposed to protect them didn't. Barry Goldstein has received the highest honor someone in the movement to end domestic violence can earn. The children called him a "believer."


Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse Unite

Hi My name is Jennifer Collins.

I took some time away from the craziness our case has attracted to try to make sense of it all. I have met the most wonderful people who support me and my brother. However, it is truly disturbing that there are still men (and some women) who have gone out of there way to try to discredit and intimidate us. What are they thinking? We were the kids who were abused! We know better than anyone what happened to us!

My father abused me! He broke my brother’s bones! He beat our mom in front of us! How in the world can total strangers say that it just didn’t happen?

I researched all of the court records and child protection reports. There is so much documentation and proof! It is outrageous that there was (and still is) a conspiracy to cover up child abuse in Hennepin County, (Minneapolis Minnesota) and throughout the whole United States of America.

When I was a kid, I innocently asked my mom “Why won’t the judge talk to me?” I was sure that if he found out what my father was doing to us, he would protect us.

When I was finally an adult, I thought that now they will have to listen. They will know that they made a mistake, yet that same judge is still trying to silence me. He knows he was wrong and instead of owning up to his failure he is abusing his power to cover up the corruption in his court.

Thank goodness our mom had the courage to take us away from the abuse, to run with us and hide for 14 years until we were legally free from abuse. When we were first discovered in hiding I was determined to make sure that justice was served and that my mother would not be punished for protecting us from abuse. I am so proud that all kidnapping charges have been dropped and my mother is a free woman! We are safe in the Netherlands and I have been wondering what I should do next. I don’t have anything to prove. I tried to forget about the past and put it all behind me, but no matter how hard I tried, I can not do that!

There was such an injustice done to me and my brother. Court officials lied under oath. They perjured themselves and got away with it. I have clear cut documentation that there was a cover up of child abuse in our case. I can not just walk away. Now that the truth is being exposed, it is amazing the lengths that some people will go through to protect themselves. Why aren’t these people being held responsible for their crimes? They should be held accountable for every bit of torture, beating and tear that my brother and I suffered at the hands of our father after they were made aware of his abuse!

So many brave children have contacted me and begged me to help them. Moms (and some Dads too) have expressed their desparation knowing that their children are being hurt at this very moment and no one is doing anything to protect them. It is almost unbearable to know that these children are going through that same hell that I escaped from. It has to stop!

I am told that if I want justice the laws have to be changed, yet most politicians don’t think that court appointed child abuse is a pressing subject. After all children can’t vote! But I can! Children grown up! We are coming together and demanding change!

We want the adults who failed to protect us held accountable for the abuse that happened to us. We want justice! Maybe, just maybe, if they know that someday those little children grow up they can seek justice for the crimes committed against them, that they will do their very best to make sure that every child is safe.

It is terrible that child abuse exists, but we want a stop to compounding the pain with “Court Approved Child Abuse!”

If you were abused as a child and the court failed to protect you, please contact me, Jennifer Collins at CA3

Children Against
Court Appointed
Child Abuse



Concerns Regarding "Deprogramming" Therapy

Leadership Counsil

1. Being Confined and Isolated from Family and Friends in an unfamiliar Setting May be a Traumatic Experience for Children Leading Them to Feel Trapped, Helpless, and Powerless.

Isolating a child from everyone they are familiar with and attempting to force a new view of their parents, especially by strangers who know little about the child's experiences with their parents can be traumatic. This is of particular concern as many children being exposed to these techniques have reported a history of abuse from the very individuals they are being forced to reunify with.

Coercive and punitive “therapies” are especially inappropriate when used on children who have already been traumatized. These children may find this kind of setting a “trigger” for further post-traumatic reactions. Forced reunification against a child's will and without taking into consideration the child's point of view and emotional well-being, can be expected to reinforce a sense of helplessness and powerlessness in an already vulnerable child. Such “treatment” can be expected to do more harm than good, and could potentially cause lasting emotional harm.

2. According to APA Ethical Standards, Psychologists Respect and Protect Civil and Human Rights (Preamble to the APA Ethical Guidelines)

The right to one's belief system is considered the most basic of human rights. The confinement of a child who has committed no wrong doing away from parents and friends in unfamiliar surroundings in order to force them to adopt a new belief system may violate a child's basic civil rights.

3. According to APA Ethical Principles, Individuals have a Basic Right to Self-Determination (Principle E: Respect for People's Rights and Dignity)

Being forced to change one's belief system may violate the principle of self-determination.

4. According to APA Ethical Principles, Psychologists Avoid Multiple Relationships to Avoid Conflicts of Interest (APA Ethics code: 3.05)

According to ethical standards set forth by the APA, "a psychologist refrains from entering into a multiple relationship if the multiple relationship could reasonably be expected to impair the psychologist's objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing his or her functions as a psychologist, or otherwise risks exploitation or harm to the person with whom the professional relationship exists."

A psychologist who has contracted with a parent to force a child against his will into a relationship is engaged in a dual relationship. One with the contracting parent and one with the client-child. The child's goals and interests may be in direct conflict to those of the parent that has engaged the therapist. This dual role presents an unavoidable conflict that would keep the child's feelings, beliefs, and desires from being central during treatment.

5. According to APA Ethical Principles, Psychologists Must Engage in Therapeutic Services Only After Obtaining Informed Consent – Even when a Client is Not Legally Capable of Giving Informed Consent, The Psycologist Still Must Explain the Procedures, Consider the Individual's Preferences and Gain Their Assent Prior to Treatment. (APA Ethics code: 3.10).

According to ethical standards set forth by the APA, "For persons who are legally incapable of giving informed consent, psychologists nevertheless (1) provide an appropriate explanation, (2) seek the individual's assent, (3) consider such persons' preferences and best interests.."

It is not possible to obtain meaningful informed consent from children who are isolated from family and friends, confined in a facility and subjected to coercive treatment.


Corrupt Family Court Judges & Lawyers

Battered Moms Lose Custody
February 7, 2009

The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission is Tired of Corrupt Family Court Judges and Lawyers

Recently punished Judge Daniel C. Banina, Miami Superior Court 2, and Lawyer Jeffry Price, of Peru, Indiana, has brought a warning from the Commission to all family court judges and lawyers:

In the Commission’s view, there is perhaps no greater injustice than to strip a parent of custodial rights without an opportunity to be heard and in the absence of an emergency. The Commission calls upon all judges and lawyers in Indiana to respect this fundamental notion, on the Commission and its counter-part, the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, attempted to convey now for several years, only to repeated address the same violation.

Read the story from the Peru newspaper about the dastardly duo:

A local judge and attorney are being publicly reprimanded for violating the state’s professional and judicial conduct rules. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has issued a public admonition against Judge Dan Banina and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has imposed a public reprimand against Attorney Jeffry Price, both stemming from a February 2007 incident concerning the custody of a child. According to a press release, the commission states the incident involves a mother and father who were divorced but living together.

The couple had a child, but that child was under the sole custody of the mother. In January 2007, the mother decided to move from their home and take the child with her. The father and local police intervened and demanded she leave the child with the father. Then Price, the father’s attorney, filed a petition to establish paternity which included an emergency order for his client to receive temporary custody of the child. Banina granted it the next day, February 2, 2007. The order was granted in favor of the father without prior notice given to the mother - the only notice she received was service of the petition about two weeks after it was filed.

According to the commission, Banina should have ensured the mother had notice of the petition and held a hearing to resolve the custody dispute. Likewise Price, in seeking and obtaining the order, deprived the mother of an opportunity to be heard before the order was granted. Banina says he “made a mistake.” “I thought I was doing the right thing at the time,” he explained. “I should have required more information.”

Although charges were warranted, Banina’s admonition states, the judge is not being formally charged with misconduct. He cooperated fully with the commission and acknowledges he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. His only punishment is to be publicly warned concerning the matter, which is the purpose of the admonition.

The decision of whether or not to file charges is generally based on prior history of disciplinary action or lack thereof, severity of the misconduct and whether or not the code was willfully violated, among other things. That’s according to Kathryn Dolan, the Indiana Supreme Court’s Public Information Officer.

Dolan said this is the first disciplinary action to be taken again Banina. Additionally, the Governor Mitch Daniels’ office said Wednesday that Banina fully disclosed the matter while it was pending in his application for appointment as judge over Miami County Superior Court 2, which he was appointed to as of Jan. 1. At the time of the incident he was judge of what is now Miami County Superior Court 1.

The admonition was issued on Jan. 20, 2009, as was Price’s public reprimand. It was issued by Randall T. Shepard, Chief Justice of Indiana, and states Price cooperated with the commission and has no prior misconduct.

Messages left at Price’s firm and home were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon. Dolan declined to release the name of the party who initiated the process to have the incident reviewed by state officials.


Court Appointed Child Abuse - Jennifer Collins

My name is Jennifer Collins. I am a 23 year old American, university student living in exile in the Netherlands. My brother (Zachary who is two years older) and I were severely abused by our father when we were children. My father also beat our mother (who was only 22 years old at the time) but she stayed with him because she was terrified. Our father, Mark Collins was extremely violent and he vowed that if our mother ever left him, he would murder us all. This young woman didn’t know what else to do and she tried her best to protect her family. So many times our mom stepped in front of us and took severe beatings which were intended for her children. When my father fractured my brother’s skull by repeatedly slamming him into a wall, child protection became involved and threatened to charge our mother with “failure to protect” if she didn’t take us and leave our father. When we finally left, the child abuse case was transferred from juvenile court to family court. We were granted an ‘Order for Protection’ but we were forced (by the family court) to go alone on visitations with our father. (Child Protection claimed that they no longer had jurisdiction in our case.) Our father regularly beat up our mom in front of us during the exchanges and he continued to abuse us during his visitations.

We told our Mom that our father was still hurting us and she believed us. We would show our mother the bruises when we returned from our fathers and we would beg her not to send us again. She pleaded with the court to protect us but they refused. When my father appeared at our home to pick us up I would cry so hard that I would throw up. Many times my mother would also cry and sometimes she couldn’t bear to make us go with him, but then my father would call the police. The policemen would enter our home and search for us. My brother and I would hide in the closets or under our beds. It was terrifying. The police would pull us out from underneath our beds and hand us over to this man who was beating us as we were kicking, screaming and begging for help.

My father filed for a custody reversal based on Parental Alienation Syndrome and used the police reports as evidence that our mother was interfering in his relationship with his children. Even though the judge found that our father was abusive, in the very same order he issued a reversal of custody, citing that our mother was too traumatized from the abuse to care for us. I was 7 years old when a court officer arrived with my father and pried my fingers loose from my mothers dress. I was fighting with everything I had. Witness heard me screaming “Mommy, Help Me Mommy! Please don’t make us go with him. He hurts me and he hurts my brother!” The court officer simply stated “I know” as he handed me to my father. I continued screaming “Mommy! Help Me! Mommy! I want my Mommy!” It was the worst day of my life!

We weren’t allowed to have any contact with our mom for what seemed and eternity. My father and his new wife told us that our mommy didn’t love us, that she was crazy and she didn’t want us anymore. Even though we knew it wasn’t true, it was devastating. When we were finally allowed to have very limited supervised visitation with our mom I showed my mom and the court supervisor the bruises on my back and said “He’s still hurting us.” The court supervisor scolded me, “You know you are not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore.” We started writing notes to our mother at our father’s house and we secretly slipped them into her pockets during the supervised visitations. We kept begging her to come rescue us.

On June 30 1994, I ran away with my 11 year old brother and we met our mother at a parking lot. We fled the United States and were granted asylum in Europe. We lived in secrecy for 12 years until we were publically found by the FBI in 2006. (The US authorities were aware of our location for 12 years, but kept our secret until it became public.) Fortunately I was already 20 and Zachary was 22 but the United States demanded my mother’s extradition from the Netherlands. The Dutch Government requested an FBI investigation to answer the questions: Were we physically abused by our father? Were we telling the truth about the severity of the abuse? Did my mother exhaust all legal options to protect us? Did our mother reasonably believe that she was honestly protecting us from severe physical danger? The FBI concluded yes to all of the questions! Even though they were adamant that our mother broke the law and should be turned over to the American authorities to face criminal charges, the Dutch Government refused. We were protected under the Hague Convention and we were granted indefinite asylum in the Netherlands.

In November 2007 I started an email campaign and I have sent out over 1000 mails demanding justice for our mother. I also wanted to find a way to hold the responsible officials accountable for the (court appointed) child abuse we suffered as children. I wrote to every US Senator, all of the Minnesota State Representatives, and any organization I could think of. Eventually all International and Federal kidnapping charges against our mother were dismissed. The ‘parental interference’ charges were dropped as well. My mother was instructed to apologize to the local judge for disobeying his order but she refused. In September 2008 my mother returned to the United States and (I think) she was bullied into plea bargaining to one count of ‘contempt of court.’ Our mother replied “I admit to being in contempt of a court which failed to protect my children.” She completed 40 hours of community service and has been officially released from probation. Our mother is a free woman! Now the same family court judge who failed to protect me and my older brother has issued another warrant for my mother’s arrest for not returning our younger 16 year old brother (from another relationship) to the United States. Despite the conflict of interest, and the fact that he is not presiding in family court, this bias judge refuses to recues himself. My little brother’s father wanted nothing to do with him, but the judge is using this case to try to punish my mother. Even though my brother contacted his biological father 2 years ago and asked to meet, his father still won’t visit with him even though he has been in Europe several times for his work. In the criminal plea bargain with the district attorney, they agreed that they would not bring any future criminal charges against our mother pertaining to our little brother. However the judge has issued a civil warrant demanding my mother to be held incarcerated for contempt of court for a minimal of 6 months. It doesn’t really hold any legal weight, but we are forced to remain in the Netherlands for 2 more years until my brother turns 18.

Surprisingly, I was invited to Washington D.C. and I have met a couple of times Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (Democratic Majority leader) and several of his colleagues. I have had numerous consultations with Marlene Kaufmann, General Counsel CSCE (Commission for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.) I was a key speaker at various conferences around the United States and I have started my own organization, CA3 (Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse.) I have attained all of the court documents in our case and over 10 boxes of all of the records have been shipped to Washington DC. for investigation and safe keeping. I am working with several leaders and organizations in Washington and nation wide to try to find a way to prevent this from happening to other children. I have had personal interviews with ABC/CBS, Inside Edition and even appeared on a live American Talk Show with Dr. Joyanna Silberg, and Geraldo Rivera opposing a ludicrous cover up of child abuse called PAS (parental alienation syndrome.)

On the negative side, there are several fathers’ rights activists who are furious that our case has challenged their cause and that I am demanding that children come first, before mothers and before fathers! These organizations are known for supporting batterers and child molesters openly. A popular fathers rights advocate, Glenn Sacks has launched a full fledged personal attack against our family. He has recently printed a lengthy article full of half truths and outright lies. I am trying to find out if he can also be held accountable for his blatantly false, slanderous public statements. Now I’m receiving threats from his followers who threaten that I should be “deprogrammed” and my mother “gang raped” as a punishment for denying my father his rights to his children. It is disgusting and terribly frightening.

My mother is a remarkably strong, incredible woman and an amazing, loving mother. She has welcomed numerous war orphans into our home and has adopted several as well. We have 10 children in our family and our mother is awesome! It has been unsettling watching her being pulled back into her past of trying to prove that her children were telling the truth about being abused. We have been advised that her current fears are indicative of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so I have decided to take over my own case. Now that I have reviewed the court documents, I am even more outraged. The supporting evidence is overwhelming! They knew our father was abusing us and they tried to cover it up. I was determined to find a way to find a way to hold court officers in our personal case accountable although it looks like that is not possible. Even though they have clearly broken the law, they have immunity and can not be held accountable. It is so unfair and I want justice!

I am determined to use our case as an example to initiate change in the family court system and demand protection for children.

Jennifer Collins

Judicial Abuse

How Judicial Abuse Began

The Kinsey Era
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the first scientific study on sex was lead by Dr Alfred Kinsey played a major role in the western populations views on sexual behavior. Whilst his work contributed to promoting liberation for same sex couples, he aided and supported the molestation of hundreds of children to obtain data on "child sexuality". If you have ever wondered how they were able to come to the conclusion to the infamous phrase that "Children are sexual from birth", then look no further than the Alfred Kinsey Institute in Indiana, USA.

Dr Judith Reisman was among those who witnessed the pedophilia movement grow within the psychological community. In 1981, she recieved a reply from the co - author from the book that contained the source for the data on child sexuality. These were tables(30 - 34) that interpreted violent screaming as "orgasms" from children as young as two month old babies. Dr. Paul Gebhard, the co author and suceedder of the Kinsey institute stated in his reply, "The children in Kinsey's tables were obtained from parents, school teachers and homosexuals who liked young boys and that some of the men used "manual and oral techniques" to catalog how many "orgasms" infants and children could produce in a given amount of time". See table 34 below:

Richard A Gardner
Dr Richard Gardner was a disciple of Kinseys Work as a child psychiatrist who became famous for creating, "Parent Alienation Syndrome". He described Parent Alienation Syndrome as a disturbance in which children are obsessively preoccupied with depreciation and/or criticism of a parent. In making allegations of sexual abuse he wrote, “the mother’s own suppressed and repressed sexual fantasies are projected onto the child and the father. By visualizing the father having a sexual experience with the child, the mother is satisfying vicariously her own desires to be a recipient of such overtures and activities.” (RICHARD A. GARDNER, THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME 126) (1992).

Like Kinsey, he promotes the notion that children have sexual urges and writes, “At the present time, the sexually abused child is generally considered to be the victim. I believe that there are situations in which the sexually abused child has been the initiator. . . Many believe that young children do not have strong urges and that they are therefore unlikely to be initiators in any kind of sexual encounter with an adult. This assumption is not necessary valid. I have seen many children whom I would consider completely normal who developed strong sexual urges during the first few years of life.” RICHARD A. GARDNER, THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME AND THE DIFFERENTIATION BETWEEN FABRICATED AND GENUINE CHILD SEX ABUSE 165 (1987). Stephanie J. Dallam, RN, MSN, FNP provided a review of his theories and compared them to the NAMBLA(North American Man Boy Love Association), a pedophile lobby group that seeks to have pedophilia widely accepted and decriminalized.

The Fathers Rights Movement
All over the world, there has been an upsurge of divorced fathers who have invaded public space with claims that the courts deny them access and favor mothers over fathers in custody cases in the context that mothers are given more time with the children above the father. Despite the scientific community largely debunking Parent Alienation Syndrome and the exclusion of it in the DSM IV manual, fathers rights movements continue to promote its propaganda. Whilst they appear to promote shared parenting, much of the support has been towards fathers obtaining full custody and some groups have been known to Fathers' rights groups coach men on stalking, harassment and sabotage tactics. A whistleblower at one of their visitation centers quit in disgust and told about the pattern of set-ups against the mother.

Many of the fathers Rights advocates have been discovered with criminal records for abusing children and violence, but continued in their advocacy. In some countries, there has been a great deal of evidence to suggest that the Family courts are plagued by professionals with this agenda. The motives of fathers rights movements are to continue to control the mother and the child, reflective of the behaviors noted in intimate partner terrorism. Despite the lobbying of domestic violence experts, fathers rights movements have had a significant impact on laws and treaties that undermine previous protections against violence and child abuse. Hence, the major ingredient for systematic abuse and oppression towards victims of violence and child abuse.

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Parental Rights And Wrongs

The Washington Times
Friday, April 25, 2008

After another tragedy of children being killed by their father in the context of high-conflict custody litigation, court professionals, fathers-rights' leaders and others have been engaging in excuses including: inadequate evidentiary standards, or insufficient evidence or biases against mothers, to avoid blaming the courts.

As the founder of the National Alliance for Family Court Justice (NAFCJ), the oldest grass-roots national group of protective mothers (since 1993) with a data bank of more than 1,500 intake callers, I know of many mothers with mishandled cases worse than that of Silver Spring's Amy Castillo, except for the lethal ending. Her estranged husband is held in the drowning deaths of their three children in a Baltimore hotel.

Many mothers not only lost all custody rights but all visitation rights. Judges and court professionals routinely disregard and proactively work against mothers who make abuse complaints against fathers. Even the mother's own attorney will tell her to keep her mouth shut because nobody want to hear about abuse.

Omitted from the debate are important factors:

(1) Widespread use in custody litigation of the discredited pro-incest/anti-mother Parental Alienation Syndrome (P.A.S.), a custody evaluation methodology that purports to identify manipulation by one parent against the other parent.

(2) Steering to judges who are cross-affiliated to fathers' rights leaders, facilitated by a secretive judicial group.

(3) Organized case-rigging to ensure abuse complaints by mothers are discredited.

(4) Use of federal HHS-ACF (Health And Human Services Department — Administration For Children And Families — Access-Visitation) program funds, intended for parental counseling and resolving disputes but instead diverted to pay for pro-father custody evaluations.

Knowledge of this pattern has come from sources such as fathers' rights literature, feedback from whistleblowers, documents mistakenly placed in court files, and threatening remarks by fathers demanding the mother agree to their litigation terms: (e.g., You better agree to joint custody, because the judge is on my side and will never rule in your favor).

Judges handling these pro-father rigged cases leave a trail of evidence — such as refusing to hear witnesses against the father as being prejudicial, then ruling against the mother on false grounds that she lied about the abuse because she had no witnesses to support her complaint while ignoring the fact the judge refused to listen to the witness or read submitted medical documents.
Other dishonest tactics include signing emergency ex-parte custody changing orders for the father on frivolous grounds, such as he 'fears' the mother will abduct the child — after she files an abuse complaint against him with CPS (Child Protective Services) or police.

The court never gives the targeted mother the required counter-hearing to rebut the father's claim. Her child is summarily removed from her home by police for an abduction that did not occur, or wouldn't have been a violation of any court order, law or prior agreement, even if she took the child on a short out-of-state trip. Many of the affected mothers don't see their child again for years.

A good example is the D.C. case of Lillian Porter, who lost custody of her 2-year-old boy to the biological father on the dishonest grounds she was incarcerated after abducting him.

She never married or cohabited with this father, who hadn't paid her child support and had pressured her with threats into signing an out-of-court joint custody agreement. He next proceeded to destroy her ability to work and pay for child-care by calling the DC government and have her benefits terminated by having his high income added as a factor. She moved to live with relatives in Arizona, but returned after he threatened abduction charges. Despite flying back to DC and turning the child over to him at the airport, he continued to pursue abduction and custody when she was incarcerated in the DC jail and not allowed to attend any of the court hearings. He claimed and got sole custody on grounds the child was with him and she was unable to care for the child because she was incarcerated.

Nobody cared that the father's abduction and custody grounds were bogus and contradictory. Fortunately after some time, she got the case reversed and now has primary custody again, but this devious father continues to litigate on various frivolous points.

Fathers' rights groups coach men on stalking, harassment and sabotage tactics. A whistleblower at one of their visitation centers quit in disgust and told about the pattern of set-ups against the mother. The fathers' rights men working at the center tell a mother the visitation time had been changed or canceled by the father, then quickly go to court with the cheating father to get him an emergency ex-parte custody switch claiming the mother refused to bring the child(ren) at the appointed time.

This is not happening by chance. HHS-ACF family program grants are used for monetary incentives and kickbacks. Some mothers obtained written or taped evidence of the collusion between fathers and judges.

The founder of a judicial association by Los Angeles, Calif., family court judges, started in 1982, was also the founder of the leading fathers' rights group, and the two groups are still heavily cross-affiliated. In Maryland, the Montgomery County Family Court's evaluation unit is headed by a member of this judicial association along with leaders of the fathers' rights group.

Many other courts and people all over the country in this group are involved in training custody evaluators and using the anti-mother PAS methodology against protective mothers to discredit abuse complaints against fathers.

Men and their co-conspiring court professionals are running custody mills to deliberately fuel high-conflict litigation to justify billings to HHS-ACF fatherhood programs intended to resolve these problems with nonlitigious counseling and mediation and not for paying custody evaluators and fathers attorneys. They are essentially running a litigation racketeering scheme funded by the federal government.

Shouldn't we doing something about this, including congressional oversight investigations and in-depth discussions with HHS officials to stop these program misuses?

National Alliance for Family Court Justice

Key Differences Between Family Court & Criminal Court

Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,

Despite some new protections patched into family law for victims of violence against women, the family law and family court system remain a flawed and risky venue for victims of family violence. It's especially risky for victims who present claims of violence and abuse in family court without any criminal case documents to back up those claims.

The structure and powers of the family court system are radically different from the criminal system. By understanding these differences, victims and advocates can minimize the risks of family court, and get the best of each system to work for them.

Part I of this text describes some of the key differences between the family and criminal court systems. It explains why family court is so prone to fail victims of family violence. Part II provides some strategies for avoiding family court when possible, or for protecting against the risks when a family court case is opened. Parts III & IV provide some general tips for handling your family court case.

Part V offers some tips on what to do if you lose in family court, particularly if you lose child custody. And Part VI tells a story of how one domestic violence victim who had become badly trapped in family court hell, ultimately managed to get free.

Part I - Key Differences Between
the Criminal and Family Court System
Most people mistakenly think that the difference between family court and criminal court consists mainly in the different issues these courts deal with. It's a mistake that can seriously endanger victims of family violence who too often trust that the family court system is built to protect her in much the same way as the criminal system. Nothing could be further from reality.

Family court and criminal court are profoundly different in premise, structure, power, and purpose. The moment a victim steps into family court, whether to seek a restraining order, custody and visitation rulings, a divorce, or any other family court order regarding her abuser, she's literally opening the door for her abuser to launch unchecked counterattacks against her, in an arena that was never designed to deal with criminal dynamics, with the very real possibility that the abuser may end up turning the family court against her. In family court, an unprepared victim of family violence can be as vulnerable to the perpetrator's abuse as she is in the home.

The following are some of the reasons this is so. As you read this, don't give up on getting justice in family court. Remember, we're pointing out the risks and flaws of family court so that in later sections, you can better understand how to avoid them.

A. In Family Court a Victim Is on Her Own Against the Abuser.
In Criminal Court it's the State That Takes On the Abuser.
The criminal court system pits the immense powers of the state against the accused. In marked contrast, family court is merely a stage set by the state where two private individuals can come to battle out their personal differences, using their own devices, with the state acting more as a weak referee, and wielding very little power.

This is why criminal cases are named in the form of 'The People (meaning the state or society) versus John Doe', whereas family court cases are named in the form of 'Jane Doe versus John Doe'.

If you take a minute to ponder the significance of just this difference alone, you'll begin to see why victims of family violence can be very unsafe in family court.

When victims of violence against women try to deal with a violent relationship in family court, it's as if the victim, herself, is getting into a boxing ring with the violent perpetrator; a boxing ring where the victim must fight it out with her abuser using only her own devises. In contrast, in criminal court, it's the all powerful state that gets in the boxing ring with the abuser.

In family court, the family issue at hand - whether custody, divorce, visitation, or restraining orders, etc. - is deemed a private matter of such minor consequence to the community that the two individuals in a family court case are on their own; each responsible for investigating, preparing, conducting, and defending their own cases. To be sure, they are each free to hire their own private attorney to help them if they wish - or if they can. But this factor also generally serves to further disadvantage a victim of family violence and to further empower a violent abuser, since it's usually the abuser who controls the family funds and can hire a private attorney, and the victim who cannot.

In contrast, in criminal court the issue being dealt with is considered an offense against the public. A just outcome to a criminal case is considered so important to society that it is the state itself that pursues justice and protection. In criminal court it's the state that makes the accusations. It's the state's power and the state's resources that takes up the fight against the accused. It's the state, through its police and prosecutors, acting as state agents, that carries out the investigation, the preparation, and the prosecution of the offense. In criminal court, none of this burden falls on the victim. The victim need only serve as a witness, and, many times, even that isn't necessary either.

B. In Family Court an Abuser can Launch Free Ranging Counterattacks against the Victim.
In Criminal Court, Counterattacks by the Abuser Are Forbidden or Tightly Restricted.
In family court the two contesting parties are presumed to be equal, basically law abiding individuals who have a disagreement over a private family matter. A core assumption of family law is that family disputes are not criminal disputes. As such, there are few safeguards built into the family court system to protect against the criminal dynamics that dominate family disputes in cases of family violence.

In addition, the accusations the victim makes in family court, no matter how serious, carry no more authority than one private person's say so. Given the totality of this framework, one of the most serious consequences is that when a family violence victim opens a case in family court against her abuser, the abuser is given equal opportunity, not only to fight back against the victim's accusations, but to put forth his own set of accusations against her.

(At the start of this text we mentioned that some protections for family violence victims have recently been patched into family law. But to date, the scope of these protections doesn't reach to correct this flaw, that the abuser can launch an attack against the victim, with the ever present possibility that he may ultimately turn the court against her.)

In family court, no matter how horrendous the violence claimed by the victim, the abuser is free to make any counter charges he wishes against the victim. And precisely because the abusers are, in reality, violent criminals, many seize the opportunity with a vengeance. They hurl all manner of back attacks, true or false, often with false evidence and false witnesses to back them up. You don't have to work with domestic violence victims for very long before you see the endless procession of cases where the batterers easily fashion the family court system into one more weapon he can wield against the victim, and a very sophisticated weapon at that.

For example, consider the case of a domestic violence victim who petitions family court to obtain a domestic violence restraining order against her abuser. Even if the family court grants the victim's request by giving her a temporary restraining order, the court simultaneously sets a date a few weeks hence for both the victim and the abuser to come back into court and to fight it out.

It's at that next court date that the abuser so often comes into court fully armed not only to shoot down her accusations, but also to launch his own set of unrestricted accusations against the victim. True or untrue, he piles it on: 'she uses drugs', 'hits the kids', 'neglects the kids', 'drives drunk', 'is crazy', 'won't get a job.' 'works all the time,' 'is mentally ill', "spends the rent money," and whatever other rant comes into his abusive head.

When this happens, as it so often does, victims who didn't understand the family court system are stunned. They naively appealed to the family court thinking the court's purpose was to protect victims like her from a perpetrator's abuse. She reached out to the court because she was already exhausted by the abuser. Now look! She not only has the burden of proving her own case against a violent perpetrator, she must now also mount a defense against as many accusations as the batterer wishes to hurl against her. And she must do it in an arena that was never really built to deal with, nor protect against, criminal behavior.

In contrast, in criminal court the accused cannot launch counter charges against the victim who is only a witness for the state. In criminal court, the abuser can attempt to disprove the specific elements of the victim's testimony, but he cannot push beyond this strict boundary and open new charges and accusations against her, even if they are true.

Even if the victim does, in fact, use drugs, or is crazy, or hits the kids, it's simply not relevant and not admissible unless it goes directly to disproving her testimony. This is because, in contrast to the family court situation where it's just the victim's 'say so' making the accusations against the abuser, in criminal court, it's the state making the accusation of a specific criminal act against the abuser. And those state accusations already carry the considerable authority of 'probable cause' that the abuser did the criminal act; 'probable cause' based on the impartial investigation done by the police and on the district attorney's review.

Once in criminal court, the accused already has the heavy boot of the state pressing firmly on his neck. He can defend himself against the specific accusations of the state. But he cannot open free ranging attacks against the victim or anyone else.

These beginning points should also make clear the immense injustice being perpetrated when police tell domestic violence victims that her situation is a family matter, and that she should deal with it in family court. In essence, the officer is wrongly telling the victim she doesn't merit the exercise of state powers on her behalf, and that she should deal with the violence on her own.

C. Family Court has Virtually No Power to Protect Victims from Violence.
Criminal Court wields the Ultimate State Power to Protect Victims from Violence.
In family court, even if a victim does successfully prepare and conduct her own case and then successfully defends against her abuser's accusations, and even if the family court judge decides in her favor, family court has virtually no power to wield on her behalf. Certainly family court doesn't have the kind of power needed to control a violent perpetrator. Remember, a founding assumption of family law is that family disputes are not criminal disputes. Family court can write paper court orders, such as family court restraining orders or visitation orders, but even so, family court depends mainly on the criminal law system to handle violations of those orders.

Again, you don't have to work with domestic violence victims for very long to know what happens when victims go to police because the abuser has violated a family court order. Though the situation is improving, it's still difficult to get many police to enforce what they consider to be minor violations of a lowly family court restraining order. And it's even more difficult to get most police to enforce violations of visitation and custody orders, even though violations of any court order are criminal offenses.

Police have so little respect for family court orders, that when victims call police to report violations, the all too common police response is to tell the victim (wrongly) that the abuser's violation of the family court order is a family court matter and that she should go back into family court to deal with it.

But if the victim does go back into family court, the same flawed dynamics prevail. The abuser once again is given the same opportunity as in the first go-around to invent another whole set of denials and counter accusations, with the same risk to the victim that he may end up turning the family court against her. Even at best, if the family court believes the victim, they may scold the violator, or issue a modified order which the abuser has no intention of respecting, or the judge will roll his or her eyes, and send the case for mediation, psych evaluations, or child protective services workers, etc.

In the latter case, the abuser is now in a better position than ever. He now has gotten the victim completely outside the court room, and outside the rule of law. The psychologists, mediators, evaluators, and social workers to whom the case is now assigned are non-judicial personnel. Their processes, their decision making, and recommendations are not bound by any rules of evidence or law. Here, then, in this virtually lawless terrain, the abuser can continue to counter attack and make false accusations, and he can now do so with impunity. (A situation which we describe in more detail in the next section.)

In stark contrast to the weak powers of family court, criminal courts wield the ultimate power of the state, the power to throw the abuser in jail, or to hold that threat tightly over his head. In addition, once police name the abuser as the suspect, state protections are available to the victim (and other witnesses) without any burden on the victim (or witnesses) to prove their need.

One of the questions we're asked all the time is "Why, then, do so many officials in the criminal system continue to try and shunt domestic violence victims into the family court system?" A big part of the answer is because a defining tactic of any sexist system is to deny females real power. And the real power is in the criminal system.

But there's more...

D. The Family Court System Operates on the Weakest Standard of Evidence.
The Criminal Court System Operates on the Strictest Standard of Evidence.
Family law operates on a 'preponderance of evidence' standard of proof. This means that family court decisions can be made when as little as 51% of the evidence supports the decision. This is the weakest standard of proof. Criminal law, on the other hand, operates on a 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard of proof, the strictest level of proof.

On first thought, you may think that this low level of proof in the family law system will work in the victim's favor since she doesn't have to come up with that much evidence to prove her case. At times, this may, indeed, work in the victim's favor. But, more often, for a number of reasons that follow, the low standard of evidence in family court favors the abuser.

For one thing, the low standard of evidence required to support decisions in family court leaves lots of room for arbitrary, biased, and non-evidence based factors to fill the evidence void and influence the court's rulings. With evidence playing such a weak role, sexist and racist stereotypes can insert themselves virtually unchecked. As can the well oiled family court mantras that have flourished in its denial of domestic violence, such as "It takes two to tango", "Everything should be split down the middle", and "Every child needs their father". Similarly, very sexist, and already disproved syndromes, such as the infamous 'parental alienation syndrome' are allowed to be hurled against the victim, without any rigorous test of their admissibility.

Secondly, a weak standard of evidence leaves ample room for a perpetrator to construct his counterattacks unrestrained. There's so little rigorous inspection of the evidence that he can often concoct phony charges, bogus witness statements and documents. She can too, of course, but, remember, he's a criminal and she's not. And remember also, she's fighting her own case, and she doesn't have the first clue on how to cross examining or challenge the evidence the abuser puts forth. And add to that the fact that the perpetrator generally has more time, money, and resources than the victim, and you can see why the low standard of evidence makes both the court and the victim highly vulnerable to a big snow job by the perpetrator, the kind of snow job that would never survive, or even be admissible, under the much stricter examination of evidence that governs the criminal court.

And there's one more negative consequence of the low standard of evidence that infects both the letter and the spirit of family law. It's a consequence we referred to earlier that in many ways embodies the family court problem overall. Once the family court is confronted with the high voltage counter accusations common to the criminal dynamics of domestic violence, the family court judge isn't going to initiate a rigorous investigation to find out who's telling the truth. That isn't what family court is designed for. So over the last few decades, as women have increasingly dared to bring the desperate realities of family violence into family courts, the family courts have devised ever more elaborate ways to show her out the back door.

The family courts have hired all manner of non-judicial, non-official investigators, mediators, psychologists, evaluators, - family court janitors really - whose job it is to mop up the messy little problems of family violence and remove them from upsetting the harmonious, 'his and hers' ideals of the family court system. Confronted with the harsh conflicts of family violence, the family court judge simply turns the case over to these 'family court janitors' so that they can make the determinations of who's right and who's wrong, and they can do so unencumbered by any standard of evidence at all, nor any rule of law.

Now the victim is in the worst situation possible. She's been thrown out of the court room and back into a total state of lawlessness to deal with her abuser. These mediators, psychologists, and evaluators operate on NO standard of evidence. There is NO law governing how they go about making their decisions and recommendations. NONE! They make their recommendations to the judge as they personally see fit, and the judges, in virtually all cases, blindly rule accordingly.

The family violence victim, who came to the family court seeking the power of the law to help her deal with a violent abuser, has been shown the door and been piped right back into the lawless terrain of psychologists, mediators, and counselors; not very far from where we started out thirty years ago. Here, as always has been, the perpetrator can ply his manipulations with impunity.

And while it's true some women come out of this swamp with court decisions that are just and in her favor, it's a risky, arbitrary, roll of the dice. Way too many family violence victims become hopelessly entrapped in this family court hell, sometimes for years. And in far too many cases, the abuser succeeds in turning the family court against her. Some victims end up losing custody of their children, and some lose their lives. Which brings us to the final distinction between the family and criminal court system we want to point out here.

E. Family Court Can Take Harmful Actions Against the Victim.
Criminal Court Cannot Take Any Action Against the Victim.
This last distinction we discuss between the family law and criminal law system is perhaps the most ironic. At the same time that the family law system provides only minimal protections for victims of family violence, it also has the power to take devastating actions against them. The most tragic example of this occurs when the family court wrongly gives custody of the couple's children to the abuser (see Part IV). Less severe examples, but more common, occur when victims who go into family court attempting to get the abuser out of their lives, and end up under family court orders that bind her to him in ways that are oppressive or dangerous to her, or to the children.

These things, of course, don't always happen. There are many women who are helped by family court. But a final irony is that it's often the most dangerous and manipulative abusers who are the most successful at turning the family court process against the victim.

In contrast to family court, the criminal court has no authority to take any action against the victim, with the one exception that the criminal court can order the victim to testify.

(Looked at in a broader framework, the criminal system can take action against the victim. When a family violence victim first calls police, the abuser may convince the police that she is the real perpetrator, in which case the police may arrest her. No doubt this occurs all too often.(See Advocating for Domestic Violence Victims Who Have Been Arrested for Domestic Violence.) But once the abuser is named as the suspect or defendant in a criminal case, he cannot turn the criminal court against her.)

NOTE: Recent Protections for Family Violence Victims ~ At the very beginning of this text, we mentioned that there have been some recent protections for domestic violence victims added to family law. An example of one such protection, and why it's inadequate, is the California family law which creates a rebuttable presumption that custody cannot be given to a domestic violence perpetrator. On first take this seems like exactly the kind of law that would protect family violence victims on this crucial issue of custody in family court.

Indeed, this new family law, and others like it, are big improvements. And many victims have benefited. But because the law doesn't alter the flawed, underlying structure of the court itself, the result has been all too predictable. Now when abusers and their attorneys come into court to respond to a victim's petition, many of them come prepared to put forth a case that she is the real perpetrator of the violence, either against him or against the children. In other words, the abusers just escalate their counterattacks so as to override the patched in protections. In which cases, the judge shakes his head, rolls his eyes, and predictably marches them off again to the mediators, back to the murkiness and lawlessness of the quicksand swamp.

NOTE: Family Law Attorneys ~ A very small percentage of domestic violence victims who have sufficient funds may seek to protect themselves and advance their cause in family court by hiring a family law attorney to represent them. All too often, however, this only compounds the disaster in that now the victim loses her life savings to a family law attorney and comes out no better than if she had no attorney at all. This is because, even at their very best, family law attorneys are steeped in and bound by the same flawed family law tenets as the court.

But that's only part of the story. Despite the severe limitations of family law for dealing with family violence, it's rare that a family law attorney will advise victims of these limitations. And it's even rarer that family law attorneys will make sure that victims get the appropriate legal help they so desperately need.

Suppose a person who has been run over by a truck mistakenly goes to a facial reconstruction surgeon for help, and it becomes evident that in addition to facial trauma, the patient is suffering from multiple life threatening traumas. If that facial reconstruction surgeon doesn't immediately get that patient to a trauma surgeon, he or she is guilty of gross malpractice. In our opinion, every last one of these family law attorneys who don't at least advise family violence victims of their limitations in dealing with the matter, is similarly guilty of gross malpractice.

And one more note of warning. Many family violence programs have a family law attorney on staff to represent victims in family court. If a victim uses these attorneys it's critical to keep in mind that a) these attorneys are burdened with hundreds of such cases and cannot possibly give every case more than cursory examination, and b) these attorneys are also steeped in and legally bound by the same flawed family law structure as the courts.