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.