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!

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