Claudine Dombrowski--Insanity? Nope. Family Court in Kansas


Help Moms Protect

Help MOMS Protect---Claudine Dombrowski

Open Letter

High Profile Mothers

***Claudine Dombrowski


Please carefully view these pictures.  Notice the bruises on her arms above her wrists on both arms.  Do they look like this was a mutual fight or are those marks of trying to defend herself against the brutality inflicted on her?




Insanity? Nope. Family court in Kansas

Imagine that your home was broken into, vandalized and burglarized one night. You were roughed up and tied up while he ransacked your home. Fortunately, he left you shaken and hurt, but not seriously injured such as to require hospitalization. You were successfully able to identify him and his vehicle as he sped away.
Upon your call to the police, the offender is apprehended with the goods in his possession and brought to court to stand trial for his crimes against you.
You arrive in court and the first thing the judge asks you is if you are willing to go to mediation with the burglar. When you refuse, the judge labels you ‘uncooperative’ and ‘hostile’ to the burglar's continued relationship with you. Even though the burglar was caught red-handed with your goods, and you were an eye witness to the crime, the judge now decides that he can't possibly decide the case without first appointing a social worker termed a "burglary evaluator"
to assess yours and the burglar's relationship.

When the social worker/evaluator can not determine what is best for your relationship or your stolen goods, they ask the judge to have both you and the burglar psychologically evaluated, because you seem "anxious", "angry" and "uncooperative" with the burglar. The court-appointed psychologist, who has no experience in being the victim of violent crime and has not studied the effects of such trauma, also determines that you are uncooperative, hostile, anxious, and you
have a negative opinion of the burglar that can't be healthy. After all, the burglar had nothing but good things to say about you, your home and your belongings during his evaluation.

The psychologist recommends that you be restricted from access to your belongings until you can accept the burglar's rightful relationship to continued access to your home and personal effects. He further recommends you attend weekly conjoint therapy with the burglar to work on being more cooperative with him in the future.
All at your expense of course.

The judge decides to wait a year or so to see how you work through your relationship with the burglar before he can decide upon the burglary conviction. He chastises you that you had better really work at the relationship or he may just grant the burglar's request to maintain sole ownership of your property. None of these "experts" can be sued civilly for their negligence and incompetence because they have judicial or quasi-judicial immunity.
Insanity? Nope. Family court in Kansas.

Domestic violence victims walk into family court to ask a judge to protect their children from a known abuser. Instead, they face the above-described nightmare that can span years and put them into financial ruin, mental and emotional exhaustion, not to mention directly back into the path of the abuser. Judges pressure them to mediate, assign a custody evaluator who pressures them to accept 50/50 joint physical and legal custody with theirs and their children's abuser.
They and their children are put through psychological evaluations by persons with little to no training in domestic violence, and some judges force co-parenting therapy and reunification therapy upon mother and child with their perpetrators. If they can not fit into the mold of cooperative "co-parenting" and the children continue to be reluctant to visit with the man that abused them, they face losing custody to him.

We have spent millions of dollars printing brochures and making public service announcements to victims of domestic violence encouraging them to leave violent relationships and telling them of the harmful effects on their children.

But when they do get the courage to leave, the same system tells them they are wrong to try to protect their children once they have divorced their abuser, and that they should now fully and freely support unsupervised visitation with the same dangerous person. Contrary to popular belief, children of batterers can be at just as much risk psychologically, sexually, and even physically after the couple splits up as they were when the family was still together. In fact, many children experience the most damaging victimization from the abuser at this point.

Most people assume that a fit mother never loses custody. If only that were true. The American Judges Association reports that "Studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases." Unfortunately, the state of Kansas’s current laws also says that none of these people can be held accountable, either.
And so we go on, handing down family violence from one generation to the

KMFCJ-founded by Claudine Dombrowski,a Protective Parent and survivor of Domestic Violence and systemic abuse. The goals of KMFCJ is to publish informed news releases, links and commentaries relating to protective parents and their children who continue to be victimized by the abuser and or the court system.

Kansas Mothers For Custodial Justice BLOG|Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories-Abusers getting custody

‘An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”-Gandhi - All rights reserved


CLAUDINE DOMBROWSKI CASE, Shawnee County, Kansas. Claudine lost custody of her baby daughter  to  the man who did this, thanks to Judge James P. Buchele, who refused to permit adequate testimony at trial, shortening it to benefit his docket, and also ordered Claudine to move back to Topeka to live near the man who did this, for the sake of their "co-parenting." WHAT?! He is a man with multiple criminal convictions for violent behavior (Battery, Attempted Battery, Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer, Obstruction of Legal Process, Possession of Marijuana and violation of Open Container law), a man who has beaten and raped Claudine multiple times before and after her divorce from him, a man who has threatened to kill her and her child.
            Worse, Judge Buchele also ordered Claudine not to call the police any more without the permission of her case manager. When Judge James Buchele retired, Judge Richard D. Andersonaffirmed Buchele's previous orders, including the illegal prohibition on Claudine's being able to call the police. 
Guardian ad litem Scott McKenzie deserves a substantial portion of the credit for this travesty. I ask, how in hell can this happen in the United States of America?

The following is from  Stopfamilyviolence.org   Please visit there site.

Claudine Dombrowski - Kansas

Claudine was a psychiatric LPN. Now she is disabled and though a cane is medically indicated, she continues to be mobile on her own. The father owns his own business in Topeka. The abuse started when she was four months pregnant when she found out he was married to another woman. The child was already 11 months old before they were married in late 1995. Four months after marrying, the father filed for divorce in March 1996. In May 1996, mother asked for permission to move with the child to another city in Kansas because of the closing of a hospital where she worked. She had obtained employment in the other city and it would help her escape from his unremitting violence. Permission to move was granted. Four days later, father filed to change custody of the child to him.

During the course of the litigation, he admitted hitting Claudine and that it was a reason for her to leave the home but claimed it was not the reason she left every time. He admitted he told her to leave, pushed her out of the home, and paid no child support. He admitted to twisting her leg and scratching her face. According to her, he beat her 2 - 3 times a week. He pointed and cocked a shot gun at her while she was feeding the baby. He cut up her military uniform. He beat her when the baby dirtied the house. She was kicked out, locked out and would leave 3-4 times a week to escape the violence. Often she was gone for 2-3 weeks to maintain her safety and that of the child. Though she had a perfectly valid reason to leave and was in fact protecting the child, court personnel later used that to claim she would hide the child and therefore he should have custody.

In one incident, he hit her in the head so severely she required 14 internal stitches and 14 external stitches. When the court questioned the parties about this on the stand, the judge was far more worried about where it happened and who was telling the truth than the admitted and verifiable fact that he did hit her in the head with an object that left that much damage. Whether he hit her in the head with a big stick in his driveway or he hit her in the head with a tire iron in her apartment – he hit her in the head resulting in severe injury. The judge however lectured both parties about lying. See Exhibit 1 for photos of the petitioner after beatings by the child’s father.

While the father admitted the abuse, he claimed it was mutual combat. However not only did she have a protection order against him, but the man has eight criminal convictions - three convictions for domestic violence against her, a conviction for a bar fight, a conviction for assaulting a police officer, a conviction for obstruction of justice, one for possession of marijuana and one for driving under the influence. Pursuant to his various convictions, he was ordered to attend alcohol treatment – he didn’t. He was ordered to a psychiatric evaluation – he didn’t go. He was ordered to anger management classes but was asked to leave because of his inappropriate behavior. Domestic violence professionals know that anger management is not a suggested treatment modality for domestic violence perpetrators.

Court personnel not only were blind to the violence, they were completely ignorant of safety issues for the mother and child. Dr. Bernie Nobo, a licensed social worker, testified that it was a volatile situation. He actually had to stop the father from assaulting the mother in a meeting. Still he said there was no danger to the child but suggested she might hide to protect herself. In fact, that would be a very sensible thing to do. He diagnosed her as primarily depressed and the father as adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features (depression or anxiety). Not only is depression a reasonable response to the situation, but as a social worker, he is not qualified to make such diagnosis. Nobo did say her parenting was fine and he recommended supervised visitation to father.

The court services officer knew of the domestic violence and in fact listed it as the biggest concern. But rather than deal with the perpetrator, she suggested that the child should be put into foster care – thereby punishing the child who would lose a perfectly good loving and protective mother and would punish the mother for being a victim of abuse. The officer claimed the mother was a risk to run though she admitted she had never had any trouble contacting her. The officer was more concerned that the father have access to the child than the safety of the child or the mother.

Kansas statutes require joint custody unless there is a reason for sole and the GAL recommended custody to father because he lived near the court while mother had moved out of town (with the court’s permission) and he wanted to keep this child near the other three step-children from other marriages of the father. The GAL never talked to the mother or child, to the day care or the child’s physician nor did he do a home study. The GAL said the violence was so far fetched he didn’t believe it though he only knew of one conviction for DUI and never talked to the battered women’s shelter. Astonishingly, the GAL recommended the mother go to anger management classes.

On April 17, 1997 during a settlement conference, the mother was stunned by her own attorney suggesting she agree to a joint custody arrangement with a man she knew to be extremely dangerous. Her lawyer and the judge threatened the mother that he would grant sole custody to the father because allegedly she would not work together with him. This of course completely discounts the impossibility of working with a man as violent as this perpetrator. Though admitting that the violence lessened when she moved away, the judge said he would give shared custody only if she moved back to Topeka where the father lived and where the violence occurred. Forcing her to resettle in Topeka near the perpetrator, a routine practice of family courts, is the state forcing her directly into danger. It is a violation of the fundamental rights of life, safety and to be free from torture and other maltreatment. Essentially the court required the mother to give up her right to life and safety for custody of child. She did. Only to lose custody as well. She agreed to the settlement only to change attorneys and file a motion to set aside four days later.

In 1998, the child's doctor reported the child had very poor hygiene when staying with father. The day care provider reported a change in her behavior after being with the father. She became either withdrawn or aggressive. A nurse requested an investigation of psychological abuse because of his treatment of the child.

On 31 July 2000, without any motion from either party and without a hearing, the judge simply issued an order that the mother had to relocate to Topeka if she wanted any possibility of obtaining custody. She did so but then in August, the judge ordered the child to remain with the father. In December 2000, supervised visitation was ordered for mother because she had allegedly returned the child late to the fathers over Christmas. They suspended all contact for several months and then she was allowed two hours a week supervised. The bizarre behavior of the courts was evident from as early as 1998 when they granted a divorce twice as evidenced by their own records – April 17 and October 28, 1998.

At the time of this filing, the mother had supervised visits once a week after having had no contact for 10 months based on an ex parte order without an evidentiary hearing issued 3 February 2004. At time of this filing, the mother had last seen the child on 15 April 2007 for one hour.

Over these 11 years of litigation, the judge was changed several times. One judge limited each side to five witnesses at trial and then continued to call them liars when they could not prove what they had said or disprove what the other had said because they were prohibited from calling witnesses. While the judge chastised the father for game playing in the court, he then berated the mother for not coming to agreement with the father. He could see how unreasonable the father was and the judge was not subject to violence from the man but yet he blamed the mother for not reaching an agreement. He said any child in this situation would grow up damaged but then blamed the mother rather than the father who was the one committing the violence. The judged focused on the mother’s move to escape the violence rather than the harm of the violence itself. The court excluded evidence of his extensive criminal record, medical records and other records of violence. In addition to mother, other witnesses knew of the violence and that the child witnessed it. But still the court saw no danger to the child.

In spite of an order of protection against the father and his eight criminal convictions, three against her, one judge said it was mutual violence and besides she provoked it. He said there was no evidence that the father mistreated the children and ordered joint custody and both parties to anger management. She was ordered not to call law enforcement about the father without getting permission of the case manager. In other words, he could assault her freely and she was not allowed to even call the police. She was told to stop gathering evidence against the father. In March 2005, she was ordered not to file any more motions in the court without permission from the case manager – she had filed a motion to remove that case manager. In other words, she was even denied access to the court.

ex parte order without an evidentiary hearing issued 3 February 2004. At time of this filing, the mother had last seen the child on 15 April 2007 for one hour.

Over these 11 years of litigation, the judge was changed several times. One judge limited each side to five witnesses at trial and then continued to call them liars when they could not prove what they had said or disprove what the other had said because they were prohibited from calling witnesses. While the judge chastised the father for game playing in the court, he then berated the mother for not coming to agreement with the father. He could see how unreasonable the father was and the judge was not subject to violence from the man but yet he blamed the mother for not reaching an agreement. He said any child in this situation would grow up damaged but then blamed the mother rather than the father who was the one committing the violence. The judged focused on the mother’s move to escape the violence rather than the harm of the violence itself. The court excluded evidence of his extensive criminal record, medical records and other records of violence. In addition to mother, other witnesses knew of the violence and that the child witnessed it. But still the court saw no danger to the child.

In spite of an order of protection against the father and his eight criminal convictions, three against her, one judge said it was mutual violence and besides she provoked it. He said there was no evidence that the father mistreated the children and ordered joint custody and both parties to anger management. She was ordered not to call law enforcement about the father without getting permission of the case manager. In other words, he could assault her freely and she was not allowed to even call the police. She was told to stop gathering evidence against the father. In March 2005, she was ordered not to file any more motions in the court without permission from the case manager – she had filed a motion to remove that case manager. In other words, she was even denied access to the court.

The complete failure of the court to protect the victim continued after father received custody. When she complained that the father forced her to have sex if she wanted to see the child, the case manager said that it was just part of co-parenting so deal with it.

She appealed twice to the Supreme Court of Kansas. In the appeal, she alleged not just for herself but that the policies and procedures of the Kansas courts denied the right to a full and fair hearing, denied equal protection and due process, and violated fundamental rights. She first filed in 1997, the appellate court affirmed the lower court in 1998 and the Supreme Court rejected review in 1999. She appealed again in 1999 and again the appellate court affirmed the lower court in 2000.

In July 2002, mother again regained unsupervised visitation.

On 25 August 2003, Claudine was attacked with a hammer and her arm broken by Kathleen Sales. Sales later admitted she was paid by the father who assured her no charges would be filed. They weren’t.

On 3 February 2004, false allegations were made against mother that she sought to have harm done to the father. The mother objected to the order and asked for an evidentiary hearing. The request was never even heard. By March 2005, mother had only supervised visitation that has remained to this day.

In March 2002, Dr. Dale did an evaluation for unsupervised visits with mother and recommendation for therapy. The evaluation cost $5,000 and father admitted violence and the mother was found not to be any danger to the father or child. She was however ordered to shut down her web site that she had constructed. On the website she expressed her opinion and her facts about the case and the danger the child was being put into by the court. In a second order later, she was ordered to remove the child’s photo from another website. After this evaluation, she had unsupervised visitation from May 2002 until 3 February 2004.

Repeatedly when father files motions, they are heard with negative consequences for mother and child based on the flimsiest of evidence or none at all. But when mother files motions, they are never even heard. A home study ordered into the father’s home in February 2006 was never done. On 14 April 2006, the court held a conference in chambers and refused to allow the mother to attend. The court changed the orders from a home study of father to a study of mother to assess her risk to the child. The evaluation found no risk and was positive for mother. Still supervised visitation was not changed.

In a hearing on 10 April 2007, the mother has asked yet again that the child be protected from abuse and at least she have unsupervised visitation. Again the court refused. The child spoke out in 2003 and three CPS reports have been filed but in all three, they claimed that the mother coached the child who is now 12 and certainly able to speak for herself and punished both mother and child by restricting visitation time further. The lesson is clear – don’t report abuse.

The latest in Claudine's own words except we remove the child's name per court order.


The written testimony that you have was filed at the inter American commission human rights known as Dombrowski v us 2007 For the Policy and procedure of Family/Juvenile Courts routinely placing battered mothers children with abuser and pedophiles. The Court’s record is complete, as well as a simple Google search of my name for any more information and court records on this case alone are available as they are to massive to even begin to present.

My name is Claudine Dombrowski, I am a US Army Veteran. I was a psychiatric nurse for thirteen years with the state of Kansas and the VA. Until December 2000 when I was placed on 100% physical disability related to violence inflicted by the batterer.

In May of 1996 I was given permission to relocate to western Kansas to avoid the unremitting violence that I and my daughter suffered at the hands of the batterer, this was after I had been beaten with a crow bar, by an admitted and convicted batterer.

In July 200o without any motion from any party the Judge simply on his own issued a 11 page Order by ‘snail mail’ giving complete custody of my 6 year old daughter to a man known to have a violent drug and alcohol addiction past.

In a hearing on 10 April 2007, the mother has asked yet again that the child be protected from abuse and at least she have unsupervised visitation. Again the court refused. The child spoke out in 2003 and three CPS reports have been filed but in all three, they claimed that the mother coached the child who is now 12 and certainlyable to speak for herself and punished both mother and child by restricting visitation time further. The lesson is clear – don’t report abuse.

In May 2007, I was enrolled automatically into the states Address confidentiality program Safe at home- a program administered by the secretary of state for victims of Domestic Violence-thereby protecting at least my address from the Abuser and the Courts by proxy.

In June 2007 the courts denied my daughter to see her grandmother for the last time (in supervised vists) related to her terminal illness- Grandmother had made her last trip to Kansas with child’s dog to say good bye to all her grandchildren- all except child ; however they did allow the dog to visit child.

November 4th 2008 The courts denied child to go to her grandmothers funeral. And further gave the batterer complete control in allowing mother to see child under the strict supervised visitation that had been implemented this past 11 years.

October 2009 Claudine spoke on a local television station regarding Domestic Violence. The next day, she was held in contempt of the court and her rights to see her daughter have been suspended.

I have never been shown to be a threat or harm to my daughter- yet for the last 11 years I have not been able to see her past the confines of extremely structured supervised visits at best when I have been allowed to see her. There are numerous psychiatric reports on the courts file that state that I am not a threat or harm to my daughter quite contrary to that of the well documented violence and substance abuse of the perpetrator.

Then points to add in: to the written testimony are the illegal 2000 custody switch after a 6 year litigation.

Keeping in mind that the this man had 8 criminal convictions of violence

· 2000 custody switch

· My mother was denied to see her granddaughter for her last visit as her health would preclude any future visits- my child in 2007- they did let the dog however

· In fall 2008 my mother died Rikki was not allowed to go to funeral

· Last week attys called DC iachr

· Abusers has 8 criminal convictions et el

· Ten years in SUPERVISED visits

Current order of the Courts and my sentence for contempt Dec 16th reads.



MISC. Petitioner in person and by Don Hoffman. Respondent in person and by Robert E. Duncan, II. G.A.L., Jill Dykes, in person. Court Reporter: Digital Div. 13. Matter comes before Court on Respondent's motion for unsupervised visitation and Petitioner's motion for contempt. Parties have agreed that motion for contempt will be deferred pending Petitioner's locating and removing all referenced items to the minor child on the internet. Matter to be reset if disagreement between the parties about removal of items referring to minor child and her likeness from internet. Court interview minor child - no record per agreement of the parties. Court suspends parenting time of Respondent due to Respondent's continued use of her website and the internet to publish photographs of minor child and statements reference minor child. Court will entertain motion to reinstate parenting time once Respondent deletes all photographs and likenesses of minor child, any reference to minor child on her website and the internet, agree not to discuss Court proceedings with minor child and not to discuss divorce with minor child. Review set for December 16, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. T. Duncan to do JE. DBD

Click for court documents

Click for Breaking the Silence


No way Out But One – Battered Mothers Loose Custody to Abusers

No Way Out But One is a documentary currently in post-production. It focuses on the first American woman to be granted asylum on grounds of domestic violence



This is WHY we March This is wht we Rally this is why we MUST make the Court Genocide against Mothers and their Children PUBLIC!!!


NEVER stop NEVER give up Not EVER!!!

How lawyers manipulate doctors in custody cases: Do-No-Harm vs. Take-No-Prisoners

By Anne Grant (about the author)


A 12-year-old sent his mother this note three years after he last saw her.



When soldiers are ordered to "take no prisoners," it means to annihilate their enemies. Physicians who vow to "do no harm" step onto a treacherous path when they sell their expertise to lawyers trained to take no prisoners in adversarial lawsuits.

For more than two decades, I have researched domestic abuse custody cases in Rhode Island Family Court, trying to understand how this publicly financed process crushes children and families. In many of these cases, lawyers, who are officers of the court, have manipulated clinicians. (Below I am naming only those lawyers and physicians specifically responsible to protect children.)

First Case: At Hasbro Hospital's Child Protection Program (CPP), Providence, Rhode Island, in 1997, a 6-year-old girl sat rigid, a blanket over her head. Children often try to disappear when life gets intolerable.

The girl's father had a documented history of aggression against his first two wives and their children. This child, the youngest, showed symptoms of sexual abuse. CPP Director Dr. Carole Jenny reported: "There is no doubt in my mind that some event happened because of the child's clear and consistent disclosure."

The father harassed those who tried to help his families: a security guard, social workers, therapists, teachers, pastors. He bullied a Providence Journal editor. He took aim at Kevin Aucoin, chief legal counsel at the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), for not responding quickly enough after the father appealed DCYF's findings against him. When he threatened to sue, Aucoin needed Dr. Jenny to revise her assessment.

She listed warning signs in the father's behavior, then minimized them in a summary of court documents. Her new "forensic review" freed the father to demand possession of his children. He held them for thirty months, until the eleventh Family Court judge to hear the case denounced his behavior in 2003 and sent the children home to their mother with damage that has not yet healed.

Second Case: In March 2006, attorney Lise Iwon began writing letters to the CPP about a case in which she purported to be a neutral guardian ad litem. She secured an astonishing report from Dr. Nancy S. Harper at CPP. Instead of medical information, Harper's report glibly summarized court documents Iwon had provided, repeating the conjecture, hearsay, and biased rhetoric in the father's defense strategy.

Harper's supervisor, Dr. Jenny, never saw or signed off on her CPP report before Iwon whisked it off to the judge who ordered DCYF to remove two young girls that day from their mother for a "psychiatric evaluation." Police arrived with a social worker to take them from their schools into "temporary" custody. The children remained in foster homes and a shelter at taxpayer expense for more than sixteen months before the state awarded the younger girl to the father she had accused of sexually assaulting her; the older girl went to yet another foster home. 

Scores of neighbors, teachers, and others wrote letters attesting to the mother's superb parenting, but Iwon never interviewed them. Dr. Jenny told me the mother's behavior sounded "bizarre" but candidly admitted she herself might seem bizarre if she believed her children were in danger.

Third Case: A German father, head of a vast multinational corporate empire, retained several law firms in the U.S. and Germany to retrieve his two American sons after his estranged wife brought them here to her parents for one to have surgery in 2007.

The mother told me she had confronted her husband in Germany with evidence that he was sexually abusing their sons. She said she had walked in on this happening and found disturbing photos on a laptop computer her husband had given her. She related that her sons had pointed out a store where their father got hardcore pornography. They allegedly told her that he forced them to watch it and act it out.

The father hired a former U.S. official (at $700 an hour) as one of his lawyers, who reached out to Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr., and paid the chief's assistant David Tassoni over $2,300 to help. The father's attorneys met alone in chambers with U.S. District Judge William E. Smith and intervened to end the involvement of Family Court, DCYF, and the FBI. They secured attorney Sharon O'Keefe, who had been assistant child advocate in Rhode Island, to serve as guardian ad litem.

O'Keefe contracted with Dr. Jenny to evaluate some of the father's photographs and a stack of German legal documents with apparent translations. O'Keefe's bill exceeded $13,000, including at least $2,000 to be paid directly to Dr. Jenny.

O'Keefe hardly talked with the boys, and Jenny never met them. Both concluded they saw no evidence the father was a pedophile. Judge Smith gave the boys and their American passports to their father, who took them back to Germany in April 2007. 

Judge Smith ordered the father to give the boys plenty of time with their mother. But she has not been allowed to see or communicate with them since 2007. On Mothers Day 2010, one son wrote a plaintive note asking why "these people" would not at least let them Skype her.

It is troubling that Dr. Jenny never talked to the boys, who might have helped her interpret the photos. Nor did she demand an independent search of the hard drive by state police who are trained and equipped to examine electronic evidence of child pornography--and who do not accept private payment for their services.

In January, I wrote expressing these concerns and asked Dr. Jenny to improve CPP's protection of children by:

  • Establishing ethical standards that forbid CPP staff to produce reports for private clients in litigation without a full investigation into the family's history;
  • Making a complete inventory of past reports produced by CPP or its staff to see how these have been used in litigation and to examine the outcomes for children;
  • Providing CPP staff with training in domestic abuse, coercive control, and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that clinicians need to recognize in protective parents who may seem "bizarre" in their appropriate efforts to protect their children.

Clinicians must recognize the pitfalls when officers of the court reach out to them. Lawyers are hired to zealously represent their clients, no matter who gets hurt. Doctors trained to "do no harm" are easy prey for them; children suffer the consequences.


In order to protect children's identities, I am referring only to case numbers.

First Case: P92-4797 in Rhode Island Family Court; Carole Jenny, MD, signed the Child Safe Clinic #0629-23-38 report of January 14, 1997. After an extensive sexual abuse assessment by St. Mary's Home (April 16, 1997), DCYF sent a letter (April 18, 1997) to notify the father he had been "indicated." He appealed and a year later  threatened to sue DCYF and its senior counsel Kevin Aucoin for failure to schedule a hearing. DCYF asked Dr. Jenny to review her records. Her report (July 29, 1998) was followed by a revised DCYF report (August 6, 1998), and Aucoin's motions (August 6, 1998, etc.) to launch an expedited trial. DCYF investigator Edward J. O'Donnell sent a letter (August 18, 1998) to the father stating that the findings against him "are hereby overturned . . . pursuant to . . . a forensic review of the investigation and all associated material conducted by Dr. Carole Jenny" (DCYF Administrative Appeal of SCR 425142 I/6).

Second Case: N04-0106 in Rhode Island Family Court and 1676-86-32 AC 000119896231 at Rhode Island Hospital. The court file, which is now sealed and presumably held at the Rhode Island Supreme Court, contains Lise Iwon's Motion (March 31, 2006) regarding her communications with Nancy Harper, and Iwon's Motion (April 5, 2006) asking to release clinical reports and court documents to Harper, whose report (March 21, 2006, signed April 5, 2006), shows that Harper already had those documents. I interviewed the mother and secured documents from her and the court file until Judge John Mutter imposed a gag order forbidding all parties to disclose anything further about the case and sealed both the divorce and DCYF files, on or about August 16, 2007.

Third Case: 07-46S in the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, which holds transcripts, including the ex parte chamber conference of January 31, 2007, and court orders, including the decisive order of March 28, 2007; Jenny's report to O'Keefe (March 15, 2007); and the father's documentation of payments to Tassoni and others. The mother provided scores of documents, including the rental list from the German video store (October 2005), an initial DCYF report by Paul Ventura (January 31, 2007), O'Keefe's bills (March 12 and 28, 2007),  hundreds of photographs from the laptop, and her son's letter (Mother's Day 2010).


Anne Grant writes several blogs about legal abuse in custody courts and wrote a chapter for Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues,  ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

In addition to her book reviews and general writing, much of Anne Grant's research focuses on legal abuse in family courts and child protective services that place traumatized children at greater risk. She writes several blogs, including those that (more...)

Horror as mom prepares for release of husband who murdered their three children


Cordon (left), Kaitlynne (center) and Max Schoenborn (right) were murdered by their father Allan Schoenborn in Merrit BC in April 2008. The Canadian justice system is allowing Schoenborn out for escorted leaves. His ex-wife is terrified.  at large and a threat to himself and the public.

Cordon (left), Kaitlynne (center) and Max Schoenborn (right) were murdered by their father Allan Schoenborn in Merrit BC in April 2008. The Canadian justice system is allowing Schoenborn out for escorted leaves. His ex-wife is terrified. at large and a threat to himself and the public.

Photograph by: Neil McLeod, Special to The Province

The mother of three young children who were murdered by her ex-husband Allan Schoenborn is living in a prison of fear after learning the killer could soon be allowed out of a secure mental hospital and into her community on escorted passes.

Stacy Galt told Global News her cousin Darcie Clarke believes Schoenborn will try to escape his escort and do her harm.

“The fact they are even considering this just makes me sick,” Galt said in a Global interview broadcast Tuesday.

Schoenborn, now 42, was estranged from Clarke when he visited her Merritt home over few days in April 2008.

While she was out of the house, he stabbed, strangled and suffocated their children — daughter Kaitlynne, 10, and smothered sons Max, 8, and Cordon, 5.

But at his trial, the judge found Schoenborn not guilty of murder by reason of a mental disorder.

The B.C. Review Board ruled last week that after three years in custody he is now well enough to leave the Coquitlam mental hospital where he is being housed on escorted leaves, at the discretion of the hospital’s clinical director.

Schoenborn told the board he wants to go to a local coffee shop and to the Coquitlam pool.

Clarke lives in Coquitlam, said Galt.

“She feels that if he escapes, the first thing he is going to do is kill her mother … because he knows where she lives,” said Galt.

“He [then] would basically find [Clarke] … and kill her.”

Politicians and citizens are outraged over the board’s decision to give Schoenborn a chance to be allowed out in public.

Clarke has said in her victim-impact statements she believes Schoenborn is evil and capable of violence.

After killing the three children, Schoenborn posed their bodies, knowing Clarke, who had moved with the children to Merritt to escape him, would be the first to find the dreadful scene.

When he was tracked down 10 days later in a wooded area outside Merritt, he told his captor Kim Robinson he was surprised that Clarke had not committed suicide.

“She doesn’t feel safe,” said Galt.

“She’s broken, she can’t do anything.”

Galt also said that she has been encouraging Clarke to get out more and she recently got a membership to the same Coquitlam pool where Schoenborn wants to visit.

His prosecutor Lyle Hillaby told The Province last week Schoenborn is “cagey and not to be trusted.

“We don’t believe he was insane — he killed his own children in order to lash out at his wife.

“He is an angry and volatile individual,” said Hillaby.

Read more:http://www.theprovince.com/Horror+prepares+release+husband+murdered+their+three+children/4604998/story.html#ixzz1JWNNb6lp


Entry Citation:  Caplan, Paula J. “Mother Blame.” Encyclopedia of Motherhood. 2010. SAGE Publications.


Mother Blame

The blaming of mothers for virtually anything that goes wrong with their young or adult offspring, as well as for a host of societal ills such as juvenile delinquency and teenage pregnancy, has been described as similar to air pollution: it is pervasive but unnoticeable until one’s attention is drawn to it or the environment changes.

Revealing the Roots of Mother Blame

Mother blame may seem to make sense, since in contrast to fathers, mothers are still generally expected to do the lion’s share of child rearing and childcare. Societal pressures on mothers to be the ones to take children to doctors and therapists render them disproportionately available for scrutiny by clinicians and researchers, and thus more likely than anyone else to be blamed for their child’s troubles. In contrast, researchers Caplan and Hall-McCorquodale found that even when professionals wrote about fathers, it tended to be either complimentary or unrelated to the child’s emotional disturbance.


A tendency to blame mothers still pervades even when the host of other influences on children is taken into account: adults visiting or living in or near the home, teachers, other children, the media, books, and the children’s innate temperaments or predispositions. Nevertheless, in a study of 125 articles written by mental health professionals in scholarly journals, mothers were blamed for 72 different kinds of problems in their offspring, ranging from bed-wetting to schizophrenia. Each article was classified in relation to 63 types of mother blame, such as numbers of words used to describe mothers and fathers, direct attributions of children’s problems only to mothers, and unquestioning acceptance of mother blame from previous writers.

In no category did the authors blame anyone else nearly as much as mothers, and this was true of female and male authors alike. In many of the articles, the authors went to extreme lengths to blame mothers, despite facts presented within these articles that often strongly suggested another, obvious source of the children’s problems. In contrast, fathers—even those who are sexually abusive—are rarely blamed for children’s problems.

Different Standard for Fathers

Often, a mother’s presence in her children’s lives is considered potentially dangerous, so much so that some theorists and clinicians urge mothers to decrease their involvement with their children; however, the father’s presence is considered highly desirable, and even when the father’s absence is lamented, the father is rarely blamed for being absent. This curious pattern may be partly related to the common expectation for mothers to be the primary nurturer, which results in the labeling of lapses in a mother’s nurturance as unnatural. This standard is not expected from fathers, so even a father’s absence is often described wistfully or sadly but not with anger or blame. However, evidence has shown that very young babies smile at their fathers as well as at their mothers and can form strong attachments to both, and nurturance from both fathers and mothers can powerfully affect their children, as can the absence of nurturance from either.
Because of society’s tendency to blame mothers for children’s behavior problems, mothers often blame themselves as well.

Results of Mother Blame

Three major problems result from the use of mother blame in trying to understand the causes of problems. One is that blame easily leads to the neglect of factors other than the mother that might help in addressing the problem; a second is that most people, when blamed, tend to feel overwhelmingly responsible, guilty, and anxious, which can impede their efforts to help their child; and a third is that focusing only on mothers’ influence leads to a narrow view of human experience. The patterns of therapists’ mother blame that Caplan and Hall-McCorquodale reported in their articles have continued in a wide array of arenas. As just one example, Regina Edmonds has documented the ways that some of the most prominent family systems therapists have overwhelmingly pathologized and targeted mothers, despite the fact that a family systems approach is not supposed to be selective toward anyone in the family group.

The power of mother blame places mothers under immense pressure, creating conscious or unconscious worry that everything they are doing in raising their children could be wrong and that if anything does go wrong, they alone will be held responsible. Under the circumstances, a different perspective could include increasing attention to and appreciation of the good that mothers manage to do despite such pressure.

The consequence for fathers of the ubiquity of mother blame is a paradox about the visibility of their role and the frequent distortion of it when it is noticed. Research shows that the vast majority of fathers in two-parent, heterosexual households do less than one-third of the housework and child-care; however, this work becomes far more visible than the work of the mothers, because it is not generally regarded as their responsibility. In contrast, actual harm clearly caused by some fathers, such as sexual abuse of their children, is often less visible, because victims and others focus blame on the mothers for allegedly failing to protect the children from the abuser.

Mother blame is common among not just therapists but also laypeople, and is powerful in a sexist society. Caplan revealed that quite often, those who will not tolerate offensive jokes about women will not object to the identical jokes if they are about mothers. Mother-blame has been taken to extremes, such as hate speech that is intended to shame, silence, and/or render its victims powerless, helpless, and hopeless. Mother blame can be reduced by increased awareness of the prevalent myths and perceptions about mothers that give rise to mother blame, consideration of how these perceptions affect attitudes toward mothers, consideration of other factors that may contribute to children’s problems, and acknowledgment of mothers’ strengths and positive contributions to children’s development.


Million Mom March


We hope everyone will be able to attend the Mothers Day event on May 8-9, 2011 in Washington DC.  The bigger the crowd, the more of an impact we will make! More information is coming.

“Hearts Across America” -- Million Mom March Mother's Day 2011, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Washington, D.C.

If you are not able to come to DC, please contact Amanda ata.hodges611@yahoo.com who is coordinating similar events in states. We plan to all wear white t-shirts  and white pants/skirts. That way, across the country people know we’re a team. 

Amanda is also compiling your one page histories, photos of you and your kids, 1 excellent piece of “proof” of abuse claims (such as a forensic interview) and 1 “outrageous” piece (such as a transcript where the judge says something really stupid!). Send to Amanda Hodges, 611 Burke Place, Auburn, AL 36803. She will present the histories to the White House advisor on domestic violence who is horrified at what is going on in family court.



We are going to be at the White House again on Mothers Day, to protest the use of taxpayer funds to support fatherhood initiative programs, which have been effective in helping abusive fathers in taking custody of children away from their victims.   Accommodations can be secured at the hostel or other lodgings in the DC area.

We had started collecting mothers stories on a sister website, but have since found out someone else is doing this, so here is information on where you can send your case information. 

Hello Moms!

I hope you are all well. I still need stories for our Really Big Box for Lynn Rosenthal (White House Domestic Violence Advisor).  Moms, please participate.

Send me a photo of you and your kids, 1 excellent piece of “proof” of abuse claims (such as a forensic interview) and 1 “outrageous” piece (such as a transcript where the judge says something really stupid!). If you have copies of any press stories, send them too.  I’ll compile a box for Lynn Rosenthal at the White House.

Moms, the White House has it’s first advisor on domestic violence, we CANNOT let this sit.  She’s there…waiting for us!!! Please take 10 minutes out of your day to put the copies together and send them to me:

Amanda Hodge
611 Burke Place
Auburn, AL 36830

Some of the organizations taking part and supporting the Million Moms March “Hearts Across America” include but not limited too:  Mothers For Custodial Justice, Courageous Kids Association, American Mothers Political Party, Chapters in California, Indiana, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin and Delaware, California Protective Parents Association, Center for Judicial Excellence, National Organization for Women, and the Battered Mothers Custody Conference. Many other organizations are also included.  If you cannot attend the event in Washington, D.C. on Mothers Day, something will be planned in other states that you can attend.  Other states will be holding similar events, and Ms. Hodge will be coordinating a lot of these as she has publicity contacts nationwide. See link here for more information.

We will NEVER stop until the practice of giving abusers custody of children stops.



Entry Citation:

Vallance, Denise. “Maternal Absence.” Encyclopedia of Motherhood. 2010.

Nearly 7 million U.S. children, about a third of all children with a nonresident parent, live apart from a biological mother.

Although this reference material includes mothers who chose to be noncustodial and other cases, it is excellent in it’s discussion on the effects of maternal absence on the children.

Maternal Absence

Most mothers expect to live with and care for their children from childhood through to adolescence. However, either through choice or force of circumstance or a combination of both, some mothers find themselves living apart from their children on a long-term or permanent basis. The process of maternal absence typically involves a physical, emotional, social, and sometimes legal shift in the nature and quality of a woman’s relationship to her birth children.

The last century has seen an increase in maternal absence, and the main reason appears to be the diversification of family structures. Among these changes are a decline in fertility rates, an increase in nonmarital cohabitation or common-law relations (including same-sex couples), an increase in the divorce rate, and an increase in the prevalence of reproductive technology. In the last 100 years, blended- and lone-parent families have replaced the nuclear family as the most common family structures in North America, Europe, and Australia.

Reasons for Maternal Absence

There is nothing new about mothers leaving their children or handing them over to other people, as has been seen throughout history. For example, the Greeks and Romans left their unwanted babies on the mountainside. One of the most well-known examples in the Bible describes how the mother of Moses sent her baby into the bulrushes to be found by the princess so that he could escape the fate of fellow Jews at the hands of the Egyptian enslavers.

In times of war and political unrest, children are often sent away to relatives or strangers who live in the safety of the countryside—as is the case of children who were evacuated from London to escape the bombings during World War II. On a grander scale, thousands of Jewish children were sent out of Europe to escape the Holocaust.

Economic policies and the demand for cheap labor also lead mothers to part from their children. Many women from the Philippines and from countries in south Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean leave their children in kinship care in order to care for other people’s children in North America and Britain. These women work for years, sometimes decades, in low-paying jobs so that they can send money home to educate their children. In some African countries, out of desperation, families sell their children into slavery.

Some mothers lose their legal rights to parent due to incarceration, institutionalization, abandonment, allegations of abuse, or history of substance abuse or addiction. Others may be separated from their children because their ex-partners engage in maternal alienation, in which the ex-partner refuses to let the mother see her children.

Other mothers may relinquish their children for the purpose of adoption due to emotional, relational, or social circumstances that will not allow for adequate care of their child. Military service, study, work, adventure, and personal growth are other reasons that some mothers leave their children in the care of others.

Stigma Related to Maternal Absence

Mothers living apart from their biological children are greatly stigmatized. The woman who disrupts the maternal bond by living separately from her children threatens the deeply entrenched, idealized image of the traditional family in which the woman’s primary (if not sole) responsibility is to care for her biological offspring. In a world that values maternal presence, mothers who live apart from their children are often seen as unfit, unnatural, improper, or even contemptible, thereby deviating from the dominant social and moral expectations of society. Because a mother often is held primarily responsible for her children, her absence is implicated in any negative outcome associated with her children.

Research suggests that noncustodial mothers who voluntarily gave up custody reported they felt stigmatized by strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family. Studies show that absent mothers feel pressured to explain their circumstances. Though women who choose to be childless are often seen as selfish, it is often seen as more socially acceptable than a mother who has abdicated the care of her children. Additional research indicates that absent mothers tend to be viewed more negatively than absent fathers in terms of interpersonal adjustment, psychological deviance, morality, and professional competence. These mothers are seen as lacking respect for themselves and for their children, and as irresponsible and avoiding family obligations. They have sometimes even been viewed as depraved, immoral, or crazy. The result for the mother is that any feelings of grief and loss of their children are intensified by the shame and social isolation at home, work, and in the everyday world.

Affects of Maternal Absence on Children

An abundance of theoretical and empirical literature focuses on the negative affects of maternal absence on children; however, absent fathers are not scrutinized in the same way as absent mothers. There is a disproportionate amount of scholarly attention given to maternal absence.

In the dialogue of “caregivers” or “parents,” the assumption is most often made that the writer’s intention is to refer to the mother. This is exemplified in the famous quotation by Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, who continues to be cited in texts on parenting: “There is no such thing as a baby,” meaning that without a mother, an infant cannot exist.

John Bowlby, whose career as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst spans from the 1940s to the late 1980s, is most well known for developing Attachment Theory, which has implications for understanding the effects of maternal absence on children. An attachment is an emotional bond or tie between a preferential caregiver and a child for the purpose of protecting children from danger and providing them with a sense of safety and security. Bowlby’s view had ethological/evolutionary origins, as he observed a biological predisposition in infancy within many species to obtain physical proximity with a parent in the event of danger, which ultimately provided for the survival of the species.

Infants develop attachments to adults who have been consistent care givers from approximately 6 months to 2 years of age. Secure attachments are created when the adult is perceived by the infant to be sensitive and responsive in social interactions, especially when the infant is distressed. Insecure attachments are created when the adult is perceived by the infant to be unavailable or unresponsive, or is inconsistently responsive, to the infant’s needs. Infants need to have secure relationships with adult caregivers, without which normal social and emotional development will not occur. When events interfere with attachment, such as an abrupt separation of a child from a significant caregiver, most often the mother, there are short-term and sometimes long-term negative effects on the child’s emotional, relational, and cognitive life.

Nearly 7 million U.S. children, about a third of all children with a nonresident parent, live apart from a biological mother.


Psychological Process of Separation

Bowlby describes the psychological process an infant goes through when he or she is deprived of, or separated from, his or her primary caregiver in terms of a framework of reactions to separation—where protest upon separation leads to despair and then detachment. Protest begins with the infant perceiving a threat of separation, and then upon separation, an urgent effort to recover the lost parent. Protest lasts as long as a week and intensifies at night, and it is marked by crying, anger, attempts at escaping, and searching for the parent. On occasion, the infant has feelings of hope and an expectation that the parent will return. Despair follows protest and involves apathy, diminished movement, intermittent crying, sadness, withdrawal from contact, and an increased likelihood of hostility toward another child or a favorite object brought from home. A phase of mourning for the loss of the attachment figure seems to take place. The final phase of detachment is characterized by a return to sociability, where attempts by other adults to offer care are no longer spurned. Interestingly, the infant who reaches this stage will behave in a remarkably abnormal way upon reunion with the primary caregiver, such as appearing to ignore or not recognize the parent, or alternating between crying and appearing expressionless. The detachment period can persist to some extent following reunion with the expression of clingy behavior suggesting a fear of further abandonment.

In older children who are beyond infancy (0–3 years), the process of grief related to separation and loss is more complex. Every person’s experience with grief will be different; however, people’s mourning responses tend to fall into three basic categories: early grief, acute grief, and subsiding grief. In early grief, there is a shocking, numbing alarm, denial, and disbelief. Acute grief typically involves longing, yearning and pining, searching, disorganization, and despair. Subsiding grief is characterized by integration of loss and grief, one in which a child is able to invest in a new life that takes the loss into account but is not preoccupied with it.

The effects of separation from a primary caregiver on children can be severe, lasting well into adult life if the grief is not resolved. However, studies suggest that children who have sufficient and positive information about the circumstances leading up to maternal separation and family reorganization manage better, irrespective of maternal absence.

—Denise Vallance


ENTRY CITATION: Jordan, Carol E. “Safety Planning for Battered Women.” Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention. 2010. SAGE Publications.

The harsh experience of violence against women can be witnessed in the face of its victims and measured in prevalence rates, underscoring that no woman stands immune from this form of victimization. Not only is the shadow cast by gendered violence long, but also the impact on a woman’s health and mental health can be profoundly negative and enduring. Violence against women, particularly when perpetrated by an intimate partner, is associated with higher mortality rates, acute injury, and chronic illness in its victims. The 1998 National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) reported that 41.5% of women physically assaulted and more than 36% of women sexually assaulted by an intimate reported injuries as a result of their most recent victimization; in a single year, half a million women sought medical treatment for their injuries. Studies in hospital emergency departments document that more than one third of women seeking emergency medical care for violence-related injuries have been injured by a current or former spouse. Violence against women leaves its mark in bruising and broken bones, and every year, thousands of women ultimately lose their lives to violence from an intimate partner. In fact, homicide is one of the leading causes of premature death for women in the United States.

The widespread nature of violence and the severity of its impact give compelling reason for criminal justice, health, and mental health professionals to attend to the reduction of risk for women and their families. Strategic safety planning is an important tool to help survivors of intimate partner violence achieve that risk reduction and live lives with improved safety. In the largest femicide study conducted to date, almost half of the murder victims had been observed in the criminal justice or mental health system during the year before their deaths. The message here is not only that danger is inherent in cases of intimate partner violence but also that professionals have an opportunity to prevent homicide if they attend to that risk.

Risk, Lethality, and Reassault

General Risk of Intimate Partner Violence

The assessment of risk is fundamental to safety planning, but more than one construct is important to the process (see Figure 1). First, although no woman is immune from victimization, the general risk of exposure to intimate partner violence is not the same across populations of women. For example, minority women, women who live in poverty, and women with severe mental illness may experience higher rates of violence. An elevated risk of exposure to certain forms of intimate partner violence may also be experienced by younger women. Research shows that battered women are at higher risk of sexual violence than the general population and that incidence rates among battered women in shelter samples are even higher. The implication of the general risk construct for professionals addressing safety is that universal screening for violence among all populations of women observed in health, mental health, and criminal justice settings is important and a particular focus on subpopulations of women may be warranted.

Figure 1 Risk, lethality, and reassault

Lethality Risk

At a practical level, knowing which cases of violence will expose a victim and her children to the greatest degree of harm is fundamental to safety planning. “Lethality risk” can be defined as measuring not just who is at risk but also what kinds of cases are associated with the most danger. Studies of homicide of women give clues to which cases may pose greater risk, and the results suggest that the presence of such factors as the offender’s access to a gun, previous threats with a weapon, having the offender’s stepchild in the home, and physical estrangement or separation should give cause for concern. The abuse types experienced by the victim may also shed light on the risk level, as stalking, forced sex, and abuse of the victim during her pregnancy have all been identified as key markers of victim risk. Importantly, within some of these risk factors are indicators of both increased risk of physical harm as well as increased risk of homicide. For example, research finds that victims of intimate partner violence whose abuse includes rape by their partner will sustain greater physical injury than women raped by nonintimates; partner rape and rape during pregnancy have been identified as a risk marker in femicide research.
Studies on offenders also provide valuable insights into lethality risk. For example, research suggests that generally, violent offenders whose abuse is indiscriminant with respect to victim rather than being limited to an intimate partner pose a greater threat. Offenders with impulsive or angry dispositional traits have also been found to pose an elevated risk. Clinical features of the offender may also be telling, as studies find that substance abusing offenders, those who are jealous and obsessive, and those whose levels of depression are indicative of suicidality may also be more lethal to the women in their intimate lives.

Risk of Reassault

Studies find that more than two thirds of victims of intimate partner–related homicide were previously abused by the partners who killed them. As a result, the third construct central to safety planning is the risk of reassault, that is, the ability to identify contextual or situational factors that can assist in predicting when a woman’s risk will escalate and violence reoccur. Historic factors, such as prior abuse, and contextual factors, such as separation, are two chief risk markers.

Among the contextual factors most salient to the risk of reassault is that of separation or estrangement of the intimate couple. Research has long made clear that batterers do not cease violence on the victim’s departure, and in fact, criminal justice data show that the rate of intimate-offender attacks on women separated from their partners is about 3 times higher than that of divorced women and about 25 times higher than that of married women. Studies of women housed in battered women’s shelters find that fully one third have been physically assaulted during their separation from the offender, and research finds separation-associated stalking and psychological abuse as well. Similarly, studies of intimate partner homicide show that the murder is frequently preceded by a history of physical and other domestic abuse and often involve a recent attempt at or completion of separation by the victim.

Familiarity with the three constructs of risk, lethality, and reassault are central to laying the groundwork for the step-by-step planning that becomes the focus of strategic safety planning with victims.

What Is Strategic Safety Planning?

Strategic safety planning involves a crisis-oriented approach, informed by the presence of risk factors that focus attention on both achieving and maintaining safety for the victim of intimate partner violence and her children. It is not a singular or one-time event; rather, it is an ongoing process that adapts as contextual and clinical factors associated with the women’s situation change and the danger potential increases or decreases (e.g., contextual factors such as the offender’s loss of a job, initiation of stalking the victim, or his increase in alcohol consumption; or clinical factors, such as his growing depression or the beginning of suicide ideation, would necessitate changes in the safety plan).

Safety planning also cannot be confined to just the logistics of physically separating from the violent partner. Separating from an abusive partner is an important option for a victim, but it may not be the one she views as safe or viable at the time the safety plan is being drawn. It is critical to remember that leaving does not automatically stop violence (and, in fact, it can be associated with its escalation), so professionals should not force that goal on the survivor with whom they are creating a safety plan.

Strategic safety planning should be understood for the complex process it is: Risk assessment measures more than one thing (i.e., both lethality and reassault), and it is measuring a level of risk that is influenced by multiple variables (historic, clinical, dispositional, and contextual factors). Additionally, strategic safety planning is not just a tool for professionals to use or provide to their clients; rather, it is a dynamic partnership that professionals and survivors enter into as a way to achieve and maintain greater safety.

Stages of Strategic Safety Planning

Step 1: Risk Appraisal

The first step in organizing a strategic safety plan necessarily starts with a process of identifying cues that risk exists or is increasing in the victim’s environment. This process involves scanning the environment, evaluating the offender’s behavior or noticing key changes in what he does or says, and recognizing threatening circumstances. This risk appraisal process is unique to every victim, as personal history and the immediate context of the violence means the same behavior that is threatening to one woman will not attach that same meaning to another.

The risk appraisal process also changes over time as a woman’s experience with the offender teaches her to associate certain actions or cues with subsequent violent behavior (e.g., when he drinks or becomes more depressed, that is most often when the abuse occurs). Victims and survivors may also learn more subtle cues over time, such that a glance or a nondescript behavior that is unnoticeable to another person conveys significant threat to her. A change in the appraisal process may also occur during a woman’s pregnancy or when she has children in the home. What a victim can tolerate for herself in the way of threat may not be tolerable if it seems to expose her children to a risk of harm.

This more sophisticated understanding of the offender’s behavior and its meaning is critical to the effectiveness of safety planning. This means that the victim herself serves as the greatest source of expertise to the safety planning process. Women who have suffered repeated exposure to violence are best positioned to understand the offender’s behavior in the context of their relationship and prior history and to identify the subtle cues to heightened risk. Ironically, however, the very experience that creates the expertise to assess risk can also impair a victim’s intuitiveness. This is particularly true for women who have been exposed to egregious psychological abuse, which robs a woman of her ability to appraise cognitively her relationship to the world. Risk assessment skill on the part of the victim can also be hindered by her use of alcohol or drugs and by the long-term effects of trauma exposure and related psychological distress reactions.

Step 2: Identification of Resources and Protective Factors

The second step in the safety planning process focuses on what can be done. It is the process by which victims contemplate their options in light of elevated risk and begin decision making regarding concrete steps that should be taken. As in the case of primary appraisal, the victim’s perspective is imperative. Not only does she need to identify the cues or “red flags” of risk, it is her appraisal of the consequences of taking any remedial actions that will have the greatest impact on what steps she takes. If she does not perceive herself as worth saving or that available resources are viable or safe, she may be stymied from action. For some women, for example, experience has taught them that contacting law enforcement will bring swift and lethal retribution from an abusive partner. In that case, knowledge of how to contact 911 is not useful because she perceives that police protection is not a viable safety resource.

The safety planning process includes identification of concrete steps that can be taken or implemented by a woman and her children. Tangible, specific steps that women are encouraged to take include the following:

  • Practice quick exits from the shared residence with the abusive partner.
  • Have children participate in the safety plan, which includes teaching them how to telephone police and fire departments. This can also include setting up a code word or signal for children or friends or both so they will know that the situation has become dangerous.
  • Keep car keys near the door or in a location where they can be readily accessed and keep an extra set of keys hidden.
  • Hide a purse with extra cash and sources of identification.
  • Store important documents in a safe place, which include birth certificates and social security numbers.
  • Keep a suitcase packed and stored in a safe place at home or at a friend’s home.
  • Keep an accessible list of important telephone numbers to call, including police and fire departments, battered women’s shelters, mental health crisis lines, and numbers for professionals assisting on her case including attorneys, victims advocates, therapists, physicians, or others.
  • Know how to access Internet safety resources in a safe, nontraceable way.
  • Have ready access to copies of civil orders of protection or court orders related to the case.

It is important to include in the risk appraisal and strategic planning processes the consideration of the victim’s mental health status. Long-standing abusive relationships can take a psychological toll, and if left unattended, these effects may diminish the internal resources she needs to achieve and maintain safety. Tracking her levels of depression or substance abuse may be important parts to reducing suicide risk and keeping her maximally capable of protecting herself and her children.

Strategic safety planning, in a real way, is a means to end intimate partner violence, one woman at a time.

—Carol E. Jordan


Jordan, Carol E. “Safety Planning for Battered Women.” Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention. 2010. SAGE Publications.


The National Organization for Women has been putting more focus on bringing attention to the fact that many mothers are losing their children to their abusers in child custody battles.  Not only do they lose their children, but often they are put on supervised visitation, only seeing their children a couple hours a month with some stranger watching them. Sometimes all contact is cut off!  And as a final insult, courts garnish mother’s paychecks to pay their abuser to keep their children from them!  

Take a look at what is on NOW’s website, on the front page under HOT TOPICS…it is the Spring 2011 Family Law Newsletter.  Please show your support for this effort, and go to the NOW website at www.now.org and download it to read.  It starts with an interview with Linda Marie Sacks, who will be one of the featured speakers during the press conference at the March and Rally at the White House on Mothers Day, May 8th.


Linda Marie will be speaking at the White House on Mothers Day, May 8th.

Linda Marie Sacks and her two daughters

From the Spring 2011 National Organization for Women’s Family Law Newsletter:

In our Summer 2010 Newsletter, the NOW Family Law Committee posed the following question: What better way to control a mother than to take full control of her children?

This Spring 2011 Newsletter issue explores what can happen to a protective mother and her children when she does nothing more than try to protect those children.

The NOW ad hoc Family Law Committee is privileged to share the following personal interview of Linda Marie.

Linda Marie Sacks was a stay-at-home, soccer mom in Daytona Beach, Florida, known to be very devoted to her two little girls. Linda Marie’s daughters are currently 14 and 16 years old. In April 2002, Linda Marie was told by the preschool administrator that her daughter, who at the time was in kindergarten, had sexual knowledge beyond her years. A school teacher at the pre-school had heard Linda Marie’s seven-year-old daughter say “I suck my daddy’s penis.”

These education personnel never called the human services hotline even though they were mandatory reporters. Furthermore, Linda Marie saw the father wiping down the vaginas of her then elementary-school-age children. The daughter, who was eight years old at the time, drew her father as an erect penis on legs in the therapist’s office. The father also had a physical altercation with the eight year old daughter and gave her a split lip. Additionally, the father was verbally and emotionally abusing Linda Marie. Linda Marie filed for divorce in January, 2004. During the three and one-half year divorce proceedings, the father refused to leave the family home, and all of Linda Marie’s attempts to convince the court to protect her children were denied. In June 2004, the father was granted a protective order against the girl’s therapist, so she was prohibited from testifying. In April 2007, the court awarded sole custody of the two daughters to their father and Linda Marie was court-ordered to leave the home within 14 days.

Linda Marie was awarded only two hours per month of supervised visitation with them and must conduct the visits at a visitation center. Visitation is so restricted that it totaled only 80 hours in three years and 11 months. In August 2008, the Fifth District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the custody issue for violating Linda Marie’s constitutional rights. This rare reversal provided no relief, as Judge Shawn L. Briese refused to protect the children, refused to hear witness testimony about the documented abuse, and refused to be disqualified from the case. In addition, he refused to vacate the unjust supervised visitation order. The events that led to this miscarriage of justice and the additional harm caused to these two children by a biased family court is well documented and, sadly, is typical of family court actions happening all over the U.S. Linda Marie continues to advocate for her daughters and to work to overturn the judge’s tragic decision by charging judicial misconduct.  She is speaking on behalf of her children, and all of America’s children affected by the failure of family courts to protect them. The NOW ad hoc Family Law Committee is privileged to share the following personal interview of Linda Marie.

Adele: Linda Marie, who was your children’s primary caregiver during your marriage?

Linda Marie: I was the primary caregiver, and I was the class Mom, car pool Mom, soccer Mom, and truly lived my life for the care and nurture of my children. I am a ‘squeaky clean Mom’ and never imagined that I could lose custody of my children in the United States of America.

Adele: It is public knowledge, Linda, that you are allowed only two hours of supervised visitation a month with your children. What reason did the court give for mandating supervised visitation?

Linda Marie: Yes, it is public knowledge that I am seeing my daughters for only two hours a month. I am the longest family law referral at the local visitation center. The family court has not given me a case plan or reunification plan, and every Motion to be re-united has been denied by the court. The court-mandated supervised visitation because I believed my daughters and tried to protect them. Judge Briese called my daughter a liar. Dr. Deborah Day, the court-appointed psychologist wrote that my daughter, R.S., has pediatric bipolar and that negates any [credible report of] child sexual abuse. My daughter has never had pediatric bipolar disorder, and the judge knew this. Dr. Day then thwarted the investigation by the police and Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), and said there is no abuse.

Adele: Do you believe the court punished you for doing a Channel 9 news interview in New York?

Linda Marie: Yes. Judge Briese said (on transcript) in his oral ruling June 2009 that my doing an interview at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference in New York was a “concern to the court,” and that while I was on supervised visitation I did not buy greeting cards for the children to give to the father. Judge Briese said because of this, I must continue to have my visitation with my daughters supervised. The judge was not concerned that the father admitted to abusing the children, and awarded him sole physical custody once again.

Adele: Linda Marie, why do you think your children should live with you and not their father?

Linda Marie: In the Retrial of Custody April 2009, Judge Briese heard the father admit to the physical altercation he had with our daughter, R.S., at eight years old that gave her a split lip and blood, and he admitted to wiping down the vaginas of our school-age daughters, S.S. and R.S., and admitted to verbally abusing me in front of the children. These admissions matched the police reports, DCF reports and the Injunction of Protection. This gives me great safety concerns for my daughters and my case is a Justice for Children (JFC) case. They advocate for children when “official avenues” have failed to protect them. JFC also has safety concerns for my daughters in the custody of their father.  JFC expressed concerns about DCF and said “the evidence collected was never
properly investigated by your agency” and this resulted in a verdict that was contrary to the best interests of the children.

Adele: Has there been confirmed abuse of your children by their father?

Linda Marie: Yes, the father admitted in the retrial (on transcript) that he abused the children, and Dr. Kathy Pearce has documented evidence of abuse by the father to the children, but Judge Briese has refused to allow her to testify.

Adele: What impact do you think the custody decision has had on your children?

Linda Marie: I can’t imagine what trauma this has caused them, but I hope it helps that they knew I believed them, and always will.

Adele: And what impact has the custody decision had on you?

Linda Marie: My daughters said in April 2006, “Mommy fight for us, and do something every day to get us back and don’t ever stop.” I have become a national spokesperson for my daughters and all of America’s children. I will continue every day to advocate for them. This is a national crisis all over the U.S., and I will continue every day to keep my promise to my children.

Adele: For how many years have you been involved in family court and at what financial cost?

Linda Marie: I filed for divorce in January 2004. Since April 2007, I have spent over $140,000 to be re-united with my daughters. The first appeal cost $80,000. For the last few years I have proceeded pro se, and now I am a formidable legal advocate as I have law books and I know Rules of Procedure in both the family law and appeals courts.

Adele: How many attorneys have you retained?

Linda Marie: Six.

Adele: Why have you had a number of attorneys?

Linda Marie: I had to terminate the first Dissolution of Marriage attorney in the first few months because she failed to protect my children, and then admitted, when I asked if she knew my husband or his family, that her husband’s (a partner in the law firm) parents were best friends with my husband’s parents, and she never disclosed this. The second dissolution attorney and third domestic violence attorney (who saw Judge Briese recuse himself, and when we accepted then he “Unrecussed” (on transcript)), the fourth was a slander attorney, the fifth an appeals attorney, the sixth a retrial attorney, and now I am pro se, representing myself.

Adele: How many judges have you had?

Linda Marie: Three.

Adele: How many courts have you appealed to and are you currently involved in an appeal?

Linda Marie: My case is now being presented to U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. on May 6, 2011, with my filing of my pro se Petition for Certiorari. My case has been at the Fifth District Court of Appeals three times.

Adele: Approximately how many organizations are you in that are fighting for the same cause?

Linda Marie: I am honored to be working with numerous groups such as the Battered Mothers Custody Conference, Center for Judicial Excellence, California Protective Parent Association (CPPA), Justice for Children, and Florida NOW Child Custody and Family Court Committee, as well as all of the advocacy organizations listed in the FL NOW Brochure on the Crisis in the Family Courts, and wonderful individuals all over the U.S. who are advocating for my daughters and all of America’s children.

Adele: Have you spoken out publicly about your case?

Linda Marie: Yes, after the custody was reversed for constitutional violations, I was sent back to the very same judge at the Fifth District Court of Appeals who denied my Writ of Prohibition showing documented violations of judicial misconduct. The family courts are broken, and I could
not be silent anymore.

Adele: Have you made any videos, web sites or any other media appeals about your case?

Linda Marie: Yes. I was chosen by the Center for Judicial Excellence and the California Protective Parent Association (CCPA) to be the spokesperson for the first public service announcements addressing the family court crisis. Mom Logic (momlogic.com) has featured my story two times. I am so thankful to all of the national advocacy groups, advocates, and mothers all over the U.S. who are part of the solution to the family court crisis and who help to publish press releases about this injustice, and who highlight my case and other cases in an effort to bring media attention.

Adele: If you had any advice to give to mothers planning to divorce, what would that be?

Linda Marie: Mothers should research this issue and see all of the resources in the NOW Ad Hoc Committee brochure “Crisis for Women in Family Court: What to Expect and How to Fight Back,” get the book “Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody Legal Strategies and Policy Issues,” by Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D. and Barry Goldstein, J.D., and read the book “Why Mothers are Running from The Family Courts” by Michael Lesher Esq. and Amy Neustein, Ph.D. Mothers of America must know that family courts are giving custody to pedophiles and batterers. The American Judges Association’s website states “Studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases.” [See citation below.] Document, document, document! Become knowledgeable about the laws in your state, go to the Clerk of Courts and read your case file.

Adele: What sort of specific advocacy for mothers engaged in custody disputes would you like to
see from NOW?

Linda Marie: I am thankful to NOW for doing this story, and I hope that NOW can join with other national organizations like California Protective Parent Association and Center for Judicial Excellence to ask for congressional hearings to address this crisis. The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence states that “58,000 children a year are court-ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents after a divorce in the U.S.” This is an epidemic and is worse than the Catholic Church scandal. My daughter’s teacher said “America better wake up, if you of all mothers can lose custody of your children, anyone can.”

Adele: Linda Marie, thank you so much for sharing this valuable information with others who may need to hear it. I hope your story can spare another mother and her children from this experience.

The NOW Family Law ad hoc Advisory Committee sincerely appreciates Linda Marie Sacks allowing us to interview her for this publication. Mothers in similar circumstances may ask NOW leaders in any location for help. Perhaps the telling of Linda Marie’s story will encourage NOW members to help and support mothers who have lost or are in danger of losing their children while trying to protect them from violent or abusive fathers.  Additionally, the NOW Family Law ad hoc Advisory Committee would like to thank member Adele Guadalupe for facilitating the interview. Ms. Guadalupe was born in New York City. She has resided in Palm Beach County, FL, since 1985.  Ms. Guadalupe has been a member of the National NOW Family Law Committee since its inception in 2004. Additionally, she has participated in other organizations to advocate for mothers’ rights. She is an active member of the Florida NOW Child Custody/Family Law Committee and is one of the original founders of Families Against Court Travesties (FACTs), formed nine years ago, which is a local ad hoc committee of the Palm Beach Chapter of NOW, and may be located on the web at www.FACTscourtwatch.org. Having attended many hearings in family court as a member of FACTS Court Watch and testifying in judicial and governing body hearings, Ms. Guadalupe has also given numerous workshops related to women in the courts.

[Citation: American Judges Foundation, Domestic Violence and the Court House: Understanding the Problem…Knowing the Victim, available at http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/domviol/page5.html.]