Saturday, January 9, 2010
2010 Battered Mothers Custody ConferenceDay One & Two - part one
"Since "Christ," she wrote the word and underlined it twice. This has been happening since "Christ." Most of these women have been molested and raped and they all say the same thing, "Once your virginity has been stolen it doesn't matter, 10 men, 100 men, it is all the same."
I am trying to understand what I am hearing, so I ask for clarification, "You mean that many of these women are not selling their bodies to support a drug habit or otherwise extravagant lifestyle?
"None of them are." She was emphatic. “They are paying lawyer fees and court costs associated with protecting their children from abusers in custody hearings. They are just trying to keep their kids. They call me every day. I'm out on the streets working with these women, trying to help them. This is my story. This is my message. This is the seedy side of this issue that no one wants to deal with.”
Nicky, of course was not speaking of all prostitutes, nor of all mothers involved in prolonged custody battles, but rather about a special group of those she is personally in contact with on a daily basis. I thought I had heard the worst at the 2008 Battered Mothers Custody Conference, but this on-the-side conversation with Nicky, attending the conference as an advocate, did me in. The tears I thought I had dried two years ago in a resolved effort to do something about the horror that is family court began flowing anew.
Garland Waller, creator of the film, “Small Justice,” talked about the “Yuck Factor,” and why the media refuses to cover the national shame and scandal of child molestation and custody injustice. “Children being molested and raped by their fathers is simply not something anyone wants to hear about when they come home from a long day at work and listen to the news during supper.” The subject is simply too distasteful to the American pallet. So it is with “Nicky’s” story. Even those who understand the multifaceted “Yucky” abuser/molester custody issue don’t want to delve too deeply into the “seedy” side of it—at least not yet.
Do all mothers who have to come up with attorney’s fees and court costs in order to protect their children end up like the mothers Nicky is talking about? The vast majority do not, but does that mean we ignore the plight of what Nicky claims is becoming epidemic,. "Especially since the recession, thousands,” she says, “they are in every state, every city.”
Wendy Murphy, attorney and author of the book, And Justice for Some, shared a tragic story of a mother ordered by the court to surrender her two children into harm’s way, within easy reach of a father who was sexually molesting them. The day came to surrender the children, but the children did not show up. The police went to the mother’s home to forcibly take the children from her. They found bodies—both Mother and children were dead, victims of murder suicide. Who is guilty of murder here? The dead mother? or the judge who ordered her to do the unthinkable?
What will a desperate mother do to protect her children?
Almost anything it seems.
Author, workshop leader, and activist, Lundy Bancroft says it is a cruel injustice to harm children by removing them from the home of a caring parent—either mother or father—but it is especially cruel when that parent is a mother.” He went on to say, “I am a great father. I adore my kids—but I am not a mother. I believe fathers should have 50% custody…as soon as they are taking 50% of the responsibility for the child, including 50% of the pregnancy…and 50% of the breast feeding.”
Attorney Barry Goldstein, the first male to become involved with the annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference, talked about the broken system and gender bias which places a higher burden of proof on women than on men in custody proceedings. He cited two cases in which there was a “100% certainty” standard of evidence given for mothers and a “50% probability” standard of evidence given for fathers. 15-20 different judges looked at these cases and saw nothing wrong with placing a “certainty” standard on the testimony of a woman and only a “probability” standard on the testimony of a man, yet, as Goldstein pointed out, “This is a blatant rights violation.”
Were these judges bribed? Do they hate women? “No,” Goldstein says, the system is broken…misinformation is so deeply ingrained that even when presented with overwhelming evidence, they (the judges) cannot see it.”
In relating the issue of custody to the issue of domestic violence, Goldstein asserts that the broken system that supports abusers in the family courts undermines 30 years of progress in the domestic violence arena.