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.

Another Holly Ann Collins?

Melinda Stratton: Another Holly Ann Collins?
February 4 2009

Another terrified mom runs from Family Court, only to be hunted like an animal. Not to condemn or defend anyone, but the mother and child should not be punished by overzealous people who are tracking her with the sole intention of taking the child and punishing them both.

Battered moms is well aware how no matter what the disclosures or evidence, all who are accused of abuse will say they are falsely accused. There is certainly another type of false allegation going on all over - that is false allegations of fictitious syndromes such as PAS.