What is Fair for Children of Abusive Men?

Written by Jack Straton, Ph.D.

What is Fair For Children of Abusive Men?originally presented at What About the Kids? Custody and Visitation Decisions in Families with a History of Violence National Training Project of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Project – Thursday, October 8, 1992, Duluth, Minnesota from the Journal of the Task Group on Child Custody Issues*of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism

Volume 5, Number 1, Spring1993 (Fourth Edition,2001) c/o University Studies, Portland State University, Portland, OR, 97207-0751 503-725-5844, 503-725-5977 (FAX) ,  straton@pdx.edu

What is Fair for Children of Abusive Men? by Jack C. Straton, Ph.D.


I want to express my deep gratitude to Ellen Pence, Madeline Dupre, Jim Soderberg and the others from the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project for giving me this opportunity to speak with you. The State of Minnesota should be proud that, quite literally, the world looks to this program for guidance on understanding and ending domestic violence. I also want to acknowledge how much I continually learn from Barbara Hart, of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

I will first critically examine the criterion at the base of all custody laws today, "What is in the best interests of the children?" I will the talk about children’s choice in these matters. Then I will examine the actual effects of wife-battering on children, and develop an alternative paradigm for custody based on those effects. From this I will examine the question, "Is it ever appropriate to ever give a batterer custody of a child?"

In the process, I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control. I know that it is popular these days to de-gender family conflict, to talk about "spouse abuse" and "family violence" rather than "wife beating" and "rape." I know that we want a society in which men nurture children to the same extent that women do.

I know that fathers and mothers should both be capable parents. But if you ask "What about the kids?" I want to give you a serious answer. I cannot seriously entertain the myth that our society really is gender neutral, so to consider "What about the kids?" while pretending such neutrality is to engage in denial and cognitive dissonance. I cannot hope to arrive at an answer that will positively affect reality if my underlying assumptions are based on fantasy.

So I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control. As I cite examples, some of you may hear your internal voice saying, "But women do that, too." As this happens I would ask you to be aware that such voices are often the voice of guilt that try to distract us from what we really know about men’s violence so that we need not take responsibility for this violence.

It is true, for example, that some women do batter men. But the number of severe cases of this type is so low when compared with the virtual war of men’s violence against women, that they cannot be seen above the statistical noise. This voice that says "But women do that, too" has as its purpose, not compassion for battered men or lesbians, but a distraction from the noble goal of ending battering of women.

So as you hear this voice today, become consciously aware of it. Let it into your conscious mind for a moment, and then let it drift on. It is just a tape recording that you can always come back to in an hour or two if there is a need. If you find that you just can’t contain this voice, that others must hear this tape recording, please do not hesitate to raise a hand or even to shout it out. We will pause to give it some space.


I want to begin by instilling in you a healthy skepticism about the "Best interests of the child" criterion that underlies custody laws today. It is important to acknowledge that the term "the best interests of the child" is so vague that some adult must state what constitutes "best interest."

In practice courts rely on social and psychological professionals to make this determination. While such individuals are surely skilled and caring individuals, it must be admitted that they operate out of a set of professional norms that are never openly discussed, and are subject to professional fad. For instance, Irene Thèry of France notes that today "there is a real reversal of traditional models. The stigmatization of remarriage and the prescription of fidelity have given place to the stigmatization of solitude and the prescription of ‘remaking one’s life,’ i.e. finding a new partner." 1

As Martha L. Fineman, of this country, says, "A desire for sole custody has now been labeled ‘pathological’."There are obvious and serious consequences for battered women with the "creation of professional norms which would give custody to… the parent most willing to share the child with the other parent." 2

In addition, the "best interests" criterion is flawed because of its unpredictability, which presumably "has an impact on the number of cases brought before courts, since there is a stronger reason to have a case tried when the outcome is un- certain… The threat of bringing the case to court, with an uncertain outcome, may easily be used as pressure on the other party in order to obtain advantages in the [out of court] economic settlement," e.g. lower child support payments. 3

In this way the "best interests" criterion ironically may lead to the impoverishment of children. This is more serious in cases involving child abuse where the mother’s fear of losing custody to the father is extreme. Finally, Fineman notes that "rules that focus on the performance of nurturing or caretaking have been attacked, not because they are explicitly gender biased, but because in operation they will act to favor women who traditionally perform such tasks," 4 though clearly any man can choose to become the primary caretaker. So instead of viewing past behavior as a predictor of future behavior on behalf of the child, the "best interests" criterion looks at present status, such as income or a new partner (a more frequent occurrence for the fathers).

But Sandberg observes that in "consequence, the result of treating people equally when their situation is in fact different is a de factoinequality. Fathers have, because of the new legislation, obtained a stronger position in child custody cases than their efforts in the caretaking of children should fairly allow." 5

Joint Custody

Joint Custody is clearly a type of "best interests" criterion. It explicitly assumes that joint custody is in the child’s best interests. There are severe consequences for battered women subjected to joint custody presumptions.

Joint custody forced upon two hostile parents can create a toxic psychological environment for a child. Because 95% of all joint custody awards are for joint legal custody 6 the living arrangements are exactly the same as under a sole-custody/ visitation order. However joint legal custody does expand the right of the non-primary-caretaking parent to impede the ability of the primary-caretaker to make needed and timely decisions.

Some provisions in joint legal custody laws require a minimum visitation period for the noncustodial parent that can be limited only when there is a threat of physical harm to the child. This threat is difficult to prove, especially when the accuser is perceived as a litigant with a vested interest in distortion. And such provisions also do not address psychological and emotional abuse.

The threat of a joint custody decision may be used by the husband to bargain out of court for a reduction in child support payments (trading children for money in a throwback to the 19th century laws in which children were considered to be property of the father). The potential for bartering away the child’s financial resources because of a bad faith request for custody is reinforced by ("friendly parent") provisions that give a preference to the parent requesting joint custody when the alternative of sole custody is considered by the court. Such "friendly parent" provisions also guarantee an abusive father or husband access to the victim. Men who batter their wives may also sexually abuse their children. 7 The more fearful a woman is of the father gaining sole custody, the more willing she may be to submit to joint custody or to a reduction in child support.

Children’s right to choose vs. abuser’s manipulation of a child.

I want to talk about the question of children advocating on their own behalf. As one who would like to see the rights of children recognized and affirmed, I am tempted to say that, yes, a child should have some input into a decision about with whom they will live.

Yet in the present case we have a man who, though he beats his wife, is often very charismatic to the rest of the world, and perhaps to his kids. And even if he beats his kids as well, it is known that intermittent affection can be a stronger binding agent than consistent affection. We also have a man who has demonstrated his power over another human being through brutality.

It is known that older children will sometimes join in the abuse of their mother. Since it is the older children to whom we might be tempted to accede some measure of choice, I find this mirroring of the father’s brutality disquieting. I do not ask you to take one side or the other of this question, but to be cautious until someone more wise than I can resolve the knot for you.

The Primary Caretaker Rule

My preference for the primary caretaker criterion will be obvious as I speak today. In Sandberg’s summary: This criterion "would hardly lead to worse decisions than ‘the best interests of the child’, considering all the uncertainty it implies." "It should only exceptionally result in a worse solution than if the other parent was chosen… That parent has demonstrated a willingness to take care of the child and has practice doing the job. There is also reason to believe that the child is emotionally more attached to her or him. Besides, during the marriage the parties after all set up the caretaker arrangement together, and would hardly have done this while thinking that the actual primary caretaker was less fit than the other parent."8

For today’s discussion, I will point out that since men are nearly always the batterers in domestic violence and women are nearly always the primary caretakers for the children, adoption of the primary caretaker criterion for custody would enormously relieve both the courts and advocates for battered women of much of their work around custody decisions.

Murdering one’s wife

Before leaving this section, I want to note just how far the "best interest" criterion can be stretched. A Florida court in 1987 acknowledged 9 that a "man’s violent and irrational behavior included throwing his wife to the ground, beating her when she was four months pregnant, and threatening to kill her, her father, and himself,… [yet] the court accepted a psychologist’s conclusion that the man’s ‘past violence was related to the deterioration of his relationship with [his wife],’ and was presumably unrelated to his fitness as a parent." 10

Incredibly, "[c]ourts often are precluded from considering the actual abusive act of killing the other parent" 11 in custody decisions. Moreover, in one case 12 that explicitly considered the domestic violence factor as mandated by Illinois statute, a father who had killed the mother of his children was given not only visitation but custody. The appeals court in 1989 noted that "a single criminal conviction, without more, will not support a finding of unfitness based on depravity." If I may be somewhat flippant, they apparently require multiple murders before they are willing to terminate a man’s control over his children. Moreover, it stated, neither Illinois courts nor the state legislature "has seen fit to set forth a rule of law that the killing of one parent by the other in the presence of the children no matter what the circumstances is sufficient to deprive that parent of his or her children on the basis of unfitness."

As with Minnesota law, Illinois only had to consider domestic violence as one of many factors. In contrast we have a case in West Virginia 13 "in which a mother was accused of firing a rifle at her ex-husband when he came to visit their child. Although the evidence did not prove conclusively that the incident actually occurred, the court found the woman to be an unfit mother because she had ‘demonstrated [a] tendency to be violent… when she was upset but not in any way threatened.’ " 14

Their extreme cognitive dissonance indicates that courts are clearly loathe to deprive men of a "right" of access to and control over their children, though the same cannot be said of such "rights" for women. The paradigm in which these jurists are trying to stuff reality is leftover from the 19th century notions of men’s ownership of both children and women. If the "best interests" criterion can encompass such bizarre rationalization, it is time we moved on to a new paradigm of relationship between men and women and children.

A new paradigm

Since I have cast doubt on the gender-neutrality of professionals’ norms in relation to the best interests of children criterion, I will not impose my own norm-base arguments for what constitutes "best interests." I will instead focus on an alternative criterion for custody of children exposed to domestic violence; what constitutes demonstrable harm. In particular, I will next argue that it causes demon-strable harm for a child to be given into the power and control of an abuser.


Our choice, as a society, to give parents control over children is predicated on the idea that parents’ love for their children will cause them to act in the child’s best interests (there’s that phrase again). Yet a man who violates his love for his wife by assaulting her is demonstrating that his actions are not in consonance with his avowals of love. In fact, those who are most remorseful are the ones to whom we might be tempted to give custody, and these are the men whose actions and love are in greatest dissonance. What basis, then, do we have for presuming that he will act in his children’s best interest simply because he loves them? None. So the sensible thing to do is to look at his actions to see what effect they really do have.

The overlap between wife beating and abuse of children

The most obvious place to begin this examination is to determine how often men who batter their wives and partners abuse their children. We start by noting that 25 to 63% of domestic violence victims are pregnant when beaten. 15 While you may say that it is the woman, not the fetus, who is the target here, there is in any case total disregard for the welfare of the child-to-be. Lenore Walker and coworkers 16, 17found that 53% of the batterers associated with their study had sexually or physically abused their children as well. In a longitudinal study of battered children of battered wives, Jean Giles-Sims found that 63% of the men who abused their wives also abused their children. 18

Rosenbaum and O’Leary 19 found that 82% of men who observed in- ter-parental spouse abuse were themselves victims of child abuse. In the most extensive study to date, of 1000 battered women, Bowker and coworkers found that 70% of the children were also abused. 20They also noted that daughters of abused women are six and one-half times more likely to be sexually abused as girls from non-abused families. Thus 14% of girls in abusive homes will be sexually abused by a family member. 21 Furthermore, Bowker found that as the severity of the wife abuse increased, so did the severity of the child abuse. While it is true that women will spank children, Bergman et al. determined that men are ten and one-half times more likely than women to inflict serious harm. They found that every known perpetrator of the death of a child in their study was a father or father surrogate. 22

There should now be no question in your minds that access to children by abusive men constitutes serious probable harm to children. Given the serious consequences of physical and sexual abuse to children, which of you is willing to play roulette with a given child’s life, hoping that he or she will be one of the 30% or so not physically or sexually abused?

Prevalence of children who witness abuse

Let us consider for a moment that a 70% probability of physical or sexual abuse is deemed an insufficient barrier to deprive a man access to, and control over, a child. To put it most favorably, "But we would be depriving 30% of fathers who have never abused children the love and affection to which they are entitled by"… ah, by… well, let’s set aside for the moment the issue of entitlement. What are the consequences for the children in violent homes who witness their fathers abusing their mothers?23 Studies of battered women’s reports of child witnesses range from 68% 24 (to 76%, 25 to 80%26) to 87%.27 "However, from interviews with children [Jaffe, Wolf and Wilson found] that almost all can describe detailed accounts of violent behavior that their mother or father never realized they had witnessed." 28 Wallerstein and Blakeslee report that even if there is only one violent incident, children will remember it. 29

Behavioral and health effects on children who witness abuse

Pagelow has observed "children as young as one year begin to regress into states later diagnosed as ‘mental retardation’ when they were exposed to parental hostilities that never went beyond the verbal abuse level." 30 It is important to note for the question of contact with the abuser that the symptoms of retardation quickly disappeared after the parents separated. If even verbal abuse can be so traumatic, consider the cases in which women are sexually brutalized in front of their children.31 If we look at children who have chronically witnessed abuse we find reactions similar to the reactions of children who have been physically abused; "disruptions of normal developmental patterns that result in disturbed patterns of cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral adjustment… Infants who witness violence are often characterized by poor health, poor sleeping habits, and excessive screaming (all of which may contribute to further violence toward their mother)." 32

"Among preschoolers, [Davidson 33 and Alessi and Hearn 34] found signs of terror, as evidenced by the children’s yelling, irritable behavior, hiding, shaking, and stuttering." 32 They often experience insomnia, sleepwalking, nightmares, and bed wetting. They suffer psychosomatic problems such as headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, ulcers, asthma, 31as well as regression to earlier stages of functioning. 33

Adolescent boys exposed to domestic violence may use aggression as a predominant form of problem solving, may project blame onto others, and may exhibit a high degree of anxiety. Girls are more likely be withdrawn and turn blame inward. 33 "Sadly, both boys and girls have been known to participate in the beating of their mother after having witnessed such behavior over many years." 33 Jaffe and co-authors state in sum that "clinical and empirical data… suggest that children exposed to wife abuse may be similar to those children described as suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)." 35

Effects on children’s relationships when they witness abuse

Children exposed to wife abuse 36 often have "difficulties with school, including poor academic performance, school phobia, and difficulties in concentration… They are constantly fighting with peers, rebelling against instruction and authority, and [are] unwilling to do school work. 37" 38 Children who live in abusive homes are at higher risk of juvenile delinquency, including crimes such as burglary, arson, prostitution, running away, drug use, and assaults. 39 Heath and coworkers compared 48 inmates incarcerated for violent crimes and 45 nonviolent incarcerated males and found exposure to television violence at ages 8-12 and maternal or paternal abuse was highly related to violent crime. 40

Lewis et al. found that 79% of violent children in institutions reported that they had witnessed extreme violence between their parents, whereas only 20% of the nonviolent offenders did so.41 Longitudinal studies 42 have shown that on-going marital violence in childhood was significantly predictive of perpetration of serious crimes in adulthood – assault, attempted rape, attempted murder, kidnapping, and completed murder.

The next generation of batterers

Studies show that boys who witness their fathers beating their mothers are three times more likely to abuse their own wives. Sons of the most violent families have a wife beating rate that is 1000 times larger than of sons of non-violent parents. 43 This finding is not only significant from the point of view of a society that wants to protect its future members from violence. If we look at the transition from child to abuser with greatest compassion, it is a testimonial to the very great trauma that these boys endure. Which of us would trade places with them. Of course there must be some (at least imagined) benefits these abusers gain from their behavior because there is no data suggesting that girls who witness abuse grow up to be abusers.

Finally, we noted earlier that daughters of abused women are six and one-half times more likely to be sexually abused as girls from non-abused families. Not all of this behavior is likely to be attributable to direct actions of the father or father figure. 44 "Just as there is a high statistical incidence of boys who witness their fathers battering their mothers growing up to become batterers themselves, so there is a high incidence of fathers and brothers [perpetrating sexual abuse against] female children in those families where the father is a batterer." 45


In almost three-fourths of spouse-on-spouse assaults, the perpetrator and survivor were separated or divorced at the time of the incident. 46 More then 1/4 of the women killed by a man with whom they had resided were separated or divorced at the time they were killed, according to one study in Philadelphia and Chicago. 29% of the women were attempting to end the relationship when they were killed. 47 In one study of spousal homicide, over half of the male defendants were separated from their victims. 48

Also, let me stress that the effects of witnessing violence on children are more severe the longer the exposure continues. 49 Pett 50 found that the most important predictor of a child’s social adjustment in recovery from violence was the quality of the relationship with the custodial parent, a relationship severely hampered by ongoing conflict.

Retaliation by Kidnapping

After separation, "batterers frequently abduct children as a way to retaliate against their mothers. Each year, more than 350,000 children are kidnapped in this country, most of them by fathers. More than half of these abductions occur in the context of domestic violence. 51 The impact of abduction by an abusive parent can be severe. Studies 52 have shown that this event alone can result in a Post-traumatic stress disorder." 53


I want to pause and acknowledge that I have just taken you through a morass of horrible statistics surrounding the effects of wife beating on children. Having passed through, scratched and shaken but alive, it will seem incredible to you that, by and large, courts in this country have declared wife beating to be unrelated to a man’s relationship to his child — no less than declaring a man’s murder of the children’s mother as irrelevant.

In my role as an advocate for children, I ask you, how can you give custody of children to an abusive man when you now know what effects that choice will have on those children? There are those who will have you focus on this issue from the perspective contained in the phrase"But that would be taking away a man’s rights!"

One could certainly play the game from this perspective and insist that if a man has a right to access and control his children, he loses it the minute he abuses a woman. There is precedent. A man who commits any other violent crime can lose his "right" to vote and to run for public office. This is a part our system of deterrents to crime. Minnesota showed the world that arresting batterers decreases the recidivism rate. Don’t you think that if fathers knew that they would automatically lose custody of their children if they brutalize their wife, they would stop this abuse? If they didn’t stop even though they knew of this consequence, what does that say about their concern for their children and for their relationship with their children?

But I don’t even want to begin from a diversionary discussion of taking rights from men. I want to begin from the demonstrable fact that children exposed to woman abuse are harmed by the experience. As Michelle Etlin says, "When a child comes into a hospital with gangrene, we don’t ask about how amputating the leg will affect his father’s right to play baseball with him. We operate to save the child’s life."54 Children of abusive men are at high risk, are we going to cut the disease from their life or are we going to worry about the rights of the disease?


But aren’t we also depriving children of their father if we deny them custody and possibly visitation? In answer, there can be no denying that children of abusive men may feel love for them and feel pain at separation, but an amputation is expected to be a painful but necessary act to avert foreseeable harm.

What are the long-term consequences? A study done in 1987 by Furstenberg, Morgan, and Allison, 55 found that children who had not seen their father in 5 years did significantly better than those who had spent 1 through 13 days with their father in the previous year. Another study by Zill 56 found that the well-being of children following divorce is not related to father-child contact.

I must qualify this assertion by noting that wherever the father rather than a mother is the primary caregiver for the children, there would likely be severe consequences to terminating the relationship. 49 As much as we might wish it, such a role is seldom adopted by men today.


You will note that my remarks imply that demonstrable harm to children has as its rational consequence not just termination of custody, not just requiring supervised visitation, but termination of visitation. I want to acknowledge that this is really what I mean to say. [If a child wishes to visit with the father, an affirmative attitude toward children's rights would lead one to allow this contact, even knowing the harm it may cause, and even knowing that further contact on the part of a male child might increase his indoctrination into abusive behavior himself. However, knowing of abuser's abilities to manipulate children's attitudes it would be prudent to enforce a cooling-off period of 6 months or so, after which time the child might find that he or she is happier without visitation.

I also want to acknowledge that it is a political reality of today that visitation between an abusive father and his children will not often be severed, even when the child is unwilling to go. In particular, although a judge would be in the right to establish a "no-visitation" policy in an ex parte hearing for an order of protection for the abused mother, it is unlikely that a permanent "no-visitation" order based solely on the statistical likelihood of harm to the child would survive appeal.

It follows that we must develop protocols for determining actual harm to the children in question during the time between the ex parte hearing and the final custody decision. In any case, if we are to order visitation despite the realities of probable demonstrable harm to children, it is essential that we consciously acknowledge that we are disregarding the rational conclusion that follows from the harm.] Of course if the abuser ever really changes his beliefs in male supremacy and ends all psychological and physical abuse, it may be a productive healing experience for a child to hear his apology. It is conceivable that a positive relationship could follow from this. Unfortunately, very few men ever really make the necessary changes. 57

Barring such a radical conversion, even supervised visitation will harm children. Lenore Walker summarizes the plight of children who witness wife battering eloquently: Children who live in a battering relationship experience the most insidious form of child abuse. Whether or not they are physically abused is less important than the psychological scars they bear from watching their fathers beat their mothers. They learn to become part of a dishonest conspiracy of silence. They learn to lie to prevent inappropriate behavior, and they learn to suspend fulfillment of their needs rather than risk another confrontation. They do extend a lot of energy avoiding problems. They live in a world of make-believe. 58

Consider the supervised visit in light of her remarks. Consider first the 14% of girls in abusive homes who have been sexually abused by a family member. 21 I would like to quote from Michelle Etlin: 59 What, then, can be expected from supervised visitation with a molester who does not admit what he has done, and thus wants his victim’s revelations to be disbelieved? First of all, supervised visitation sets up a paradigm for the child to follow. In the past, contact between the abuser and victim was unsupervised, and the abuser did something he made the child feel part of. The primary thought in a child’s mind when she is being molested is — how should she act? Then she must carefully design how she should actevery single minute after being molested, because she never feels normal and natural again.

Mark these words: nothing, nothing, ever feels normal and natural again for a child who has been molested. So, when a supervised visit occurs, the supervisor is seen as a powerful, authoritative figure defining – not how the abuser should act but how the child must act.

This is the case because a child is not accustomed to anyone defining adult behavior… — she’s used to adults defining children’s behavior. Therefore, a visitation supervisor is perceived by a child as someone who lets her know what interactions are acceptable and valid — for her. Since the supervisor does not discuss the parent’s abusive actions with him and the child, the child learns they are not to be discussed. Since the supervisor does not display outrage and anger toward the adult, the child learns they are not acceptable.

Since the supervisor covers over the reality of this enforced access, and pretends things are normal, the child’s reality is altered and her need to "pretend normal" is insidiously reinforced. Since the supervisor facilitates the availability of the child for the pleasant pastime of the adult, the child’s belief in her own status as a commodity — as a prostitute, really — is sealed.

* * *

Supervised visits with a molester also set up a clear preference for the pretend good visit interaction and the fake smile, something that causes rapid psychological deterioration in any child who has already suffered child sexual abuse. During visits, the supervisor acts as if nothing had happened wrong between father and child, and as if the father loves the child and the extra person is there to enforce a certain kind of protocol upon, and to bless, the interaction. The protocol is cool, dishonest, fraudulent and deadly. The supervisor invariably acts in a polite and accommodating manner to the father, setting an example for the child as to what is socially acceptable in the circumstances.

What this does to the child’s fragile psyche is to remove permission from the child to be angry, withdrawn, afraid or honest about her feelings. She is supposed to, and does, act as if the offense had not occurred — returning her to the condition she suffered during the abuse. At worst, every supervised visit is an emotional replay of the dissociative feelings of being molested; at best, every supervised visit tells the child, very clearly: ACCOMMODATE THE ABUSE!

You are to pretend nothing happened because Daddy pretends nothing happened and even this stranger who has authority agrees that we all pretend nothing happened. This is the correct way for everyone to behave. Yes, supervised visitation, in its own subtle psycho-tyrannical manner, is more invalidating to the child victim than any other form of coercion.

Not all children we are considering today have been sexually abused by their father, but the principle of accommodation of the father’s abuse through the act of providing a neutral supervisor carries over into visits with any of the kids from violent homes. At the very least, supervised visitation should not be automatically assumed.


Let me sum up what I have shared with you. I have criticized the "best interests of the child" criterion as being so vague that it requires us to rely upon the opinions of adults as to what "best interest" means. And the norms behind these opinions are seldom acknowledged, and thus not refutable. I then showed that courts who apply this criterion have disregarded the severe effects of domestic violence on children, even to the extent of saying that killing a child’s mother is not a sufficiently depraved act so as to deny a man custody. If it is possible for a custodial criterion to allow such twisted result to result from a jurists value system, that criterion itself is severely flawed.

We then looked at the flaws inherent in presuming joint custody to be in children’s best interests. I then described the primary caretaker criterion and showed that for violent families it will almost automatically remove a child from harm’s way.

Finally I presented an alternative criterion based on demonstrable and foreseeable harm to children, and applied it to cases of domestic violence. We found that some 70% of men who batter will also abuse their children, with 1/5 of these children being subjected to sexual abuse. We found that virtually all children witness or are aware of domestic abuse, even those children who do not experience it themselves. It was demonstrated that the psychological and somatic effects of chronically witnessing abuse are very similar to the effects of being physically abused, a Post-traumatic stress disorder.

We found that children who witness wife beating have difficulty in school and are much more prone to juvenile delinquency and, ultimately, violent crime than children from non-abusive families. They have poor relationships with peers and siblings, learn to despise their mother for her abuse, and learn to emulate their father in his expressions of aggression. We found that the longer the abuse witnessed, the more severe the resultant disorder. Given that assaults on women actually increase after separation and divorce, we would expect that children have more traumas associated with this phase.

I was able to find only one rational conclusion from this cascade of phenomena; that a cessation of contact with the abuser is the only way to minimize demonstrable and foreseeable harm to these children. When I look at the possibilities this society has to offer the word today, and the generations unborn, I mourn the tragedy of generation upon generation of children who are brutalized themselves, or psychologically scarred as they witness their mothers being brutalized by their fathers.

How can these children, who will become adults, ever find the mental peace with which to create the miracle of justice and prosperity that is the eventual destiny of a conscious and loving species, if they are entangled in fears and anxieties from childhood? How can we hope to bring true civilization into our lives when each day children are taught aggression and brutality as the means to power? How can we face future generations of our kind and say that we knew about the abuse and did nothing to help? Join with me; take your place at the front of our march toward freedom; let it never be said that our generation was too afraid of male violence to stand up for the lives and hearts of children.

Want To Be A Good Dad? Support Mom And Avoid Father’s Rights Groups

Want To Be A Good Dad? Support Mom And Avoid Father’s Rights Groups

Written by Trish Wilson

Over the past decade, fatherhood has been all the rage and dads are naturally the talk of pundits on Father’s Day. So let’s say you’re a divorcing dad and you’re having trouble coping. You look for help on the internet and discover the father’s rights movement.

Be warned – avoid father’s rights groups like the plague. According to the pro-feminist men’s group The National Organization For Men Against Sexism (NOMAS), “male supremacist groups (“Father’s Rights”) have caused unspeakable harm to our country and to our children by encouraging abusive fathers, often with little past involvement with their children, to seek custody as a tactic to pressure a mother to return or to punish her for leaving. “Shared parenting”, “friendly parent”, involvement of both parents and other concepts that seem fair and benevolent have instead been used to manipulate courts and legislatures to help abusive fathers.

For instance, women are routinely denied custody of their children after being classified as “unfriendly” for asserting that the husband has abused them or their children.” Father’s rights groups prey on confused men angry and sad over the break-up of their relationships by stoking their rage and insecurities. In addition, father’s rights groups encourage men to fight for custody of their children by using harmful tactics that further erode their relationships with their ex’s – and by extension their children.

How can a dad – unemployed or working outside the home – be a good father? Not by fighting for custody or demanding “shared parenting” after divorce or breakup. The best way a dad can be a good father is by providing support to the mother of his children, including both financial and emotional support. According to Florida attorney Elizabeth Kates, “a father’s most important role, and the one common “father factor” in all research that indicates any correlation between father involvement or presence and positive effect on child well-being is: a father who emotionally cares for, financially supports, respects, is involved with, takes some of the work load off of, and generally makes life easier, happier and less stressful for. . . his children’s mother.”

If dad wants to make sure his children thrive he must do whatever he can to ensure that their mother is thriving. Stop fighting for “shared parenting” or sole custody if you are in court. Don’t badmouth their mother. Stop hiring paid mouthpieces that tout the latest psychological theory to show that the children are best off with a dad who had never acted as their primary caregiver. I know this will piss off lots of men but it is the truth.

Don’t believe me? How about the research?

A seven-year study by Dallas’s Timberlawn Psychiatric Institute found the one factor that was the most important in helping children become healthy, happy adults, was the quality of the relationship between their parents. This one factor was more important than giving kids hugs, providing good discipline, building their self esteem, or any other aspect of what is traditionally considered ‘good parenting’.” Other studies found that “the strongest single factor associated with resiliency in early years is social attachment to a primary caregiver. There is considerable evidence linking secure attachment to social and academic competence and positive developmental outcomes, such as improved communication, problem-solving, social relationships and grades” and “the single most important determinant of child well-being after divorce is living in a household with adequate income.”

Even the National Fatherhood Initiative agreed with the mother-needs-support assessment when it found that “the best thing a dad can do for his children is love their mother.” Researcher Michael Lamb, known for his studies of fatherhood, noted that “…the warmer, the richer, the more supportive the relationship he has with the mother, the better he is able to be a supportive and loving father for the child.”

So dads, the message is clear. If you want your children to grow up to be happy and healthy adults, the best thing you can do for them is to make sure that their mother is comfortable, healthy, and happy. When primary caregiving moms thrive, children thrive. And happy children enjoy their fathers more.

FATHER Runs Over And Kills His Two Children With His Car

Robert Carter accused of hitting, killing his 2 kids with his car

DERMOTT, Ark. (KTHV) -- A Chicot County father is accused of hitting and killing his two young children with his car. It happened Sunday afternoon. Police say Robert Carter, 23, is expected to be charged with two counts of capital murder.
Crime tape and tire tracks are all that's left of a horrific scene in Dermott.
"Crazy tragedy. What pushes a person to that point?" says Chicot County Sheriff Ron Nichols.

He's been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and says he's never seen anything like it.
Nichols explains, "I feel so sorry for the kids and the mother, and the entire family."

He says 18-month-old Amoni Elasia Carter and her sister Nekole Carter, 4, were murdered Sunday afternoon. Their mother, Latasha Figures, 24, was injured.
"They were going across the yard and the dad came up in a yard and just run over them," explains Nichols.
Police say it happened not once, but twice. 
Carter is the children's father and mother's ex-boyfriend. He was reportedly driving about 25 to 30 miles an hour
Nichols says, "Backs up comes around and does it again from what I've been told."
Police say that's when the children's grandfather got a gun and shot Carter in the knee. Meanwhile, a motive is unclear. Police had never responded to a problem with the couple before. But Today's THV has learned there was a no contact order in place.
Sheriff Nichols says they hope to learn more once they can interview the mother. She's in stable condition at a Little Rock hospital.
"I don't know if there is closure," adds Nichols.
They are the first murders in the small town of Dermott in at least five years. It's a yard forever scarred, but the girl's memories police say not forgotten.
Nichols says, "My heart goes out to both sides of the family."
Deputies say Carter wasn't drunk. As for his mental state, police aren't saying. He is in the hospital under protective custody. He is recovering from a gunshot wound to the knee.

'Daddy had a big gun,' Fort Pierce toddler who witnessed murder-suicide tells police



A 22-year-old pregnant woman and her 48-year-old mother were shot dead on Friday by the younger woman's live-in boyfriend, who then committed suicide, an initial police investigation has determined.

A 3-year-old girl, the child of the younger woman and the man, was the only person found alive when police arrived. A responding officer heard her say, "Daddy had a big gun," according to the police report. The child was uninjured.

"The child was in the house when the shooting occurred and unfortunately did witness this horrific incident," Fort Pierce police Sgt. Dennis McWilliams said in an email on Monday.

McWilliams, a police spokesman, said that the state Department of Children & Families had taken custody of the girl.

Investigators received a phone from the home on Quincy Avenue about 7 p.m. on Friday by a woman believed to be either Stephanie Carrier or her mother, Robin Carrier. Police arrived to find those two women and Christopher Covington, 25, all of the same address, dead with gunshot wounds to their heads.

Investigators believe that Covington became enraged and shot both women inside the home, then shot himself in the home's garage. Police said the motive for the shootings is still under investigation.

Police arrested Covington on Jan. 11 and charged him with aggravated domestic battery on a pregnant woman, after witnesses reported seeing him hitting Stephanie Carrier in the parking lot of the Fort Pierce Kmart store and, later, in a green Ford Explorer that Covington drove from the scene with Stephanie Carrier as a passenger.

Covington reportedly fled the vehicle on foot when police stopped it on Colonial Road. The couple's 3-year-old daughter and Stephanie Carrier, who had a bloody lower lip, remained in the truck.

According to the police report, Stephanie Carrier reportedly told officers that she and Covington had been together, on and off, for four years, that they had a 3-year-old daughter, and that she was currently three months pregnant with his child.

Stephanie Carrier refused to complete a victim statement, the police report noted. It also recorded that Stephanie Carrier told officers that Covington had never before hit her, but that Robin Carrier told police Covington had hit her daughter on at least one prior occasion.

Police apprehended Covington and charged him after a foot chase that ended at the intersection of Mayflower Road and Mayflower Lane. Asked by officers why he had struck Stephanie Carrier in front of their daughter and other witnesses, Covington reportedly said it was because she had been unfaithful to him.

On Friday, a neighborhood witness told police that she had heard five shots coming from the house.

The apparent double-murder and suicide remains under investigation.


Justice For Children WARNING: Don’t Fall for discredited “Parental Alienation Syndrome day” April 25th

Justice For Children WARNING: Don’t Fall for discredited “Parental alienation syndrome day”

For Immediate Release             Contact: John Hrabe

March 27, 2009                                                                                   (562) 276-5898


(Houston, TX) – Justice for Children, one of the country’s leading child advocacy organizations, issued a warning to all 50 Governors and state legislatures against the latest attempt to legitimize a dangerous pseudoscientific theory by designating April 25thas “Parental Alienation Syndrome Awareness Day.” Judges, prosecutors, psychologists and child advocates agree that parental alienation syndrome is “junk science” that abusive parents commonly use to shift attention away from their abuse. 

“Parental alienation syndrome has been debunked, disproven and discredited by every major group and association involved withchild abuse cases,” said Tom Burton, General Counsel of Justice for Children. “Even with nearly unanimous agreement, defense attorneys continue to propagate this bogus theory in order to protect abusive parents.”

Seventeen US states have issued proclamations honoring April 25th as “Parental Alienation Awareness Day.” This year, PAS radicals have targeted Texas Governor Rick Perry with an online petition. Child advocates like Justice for Children warn that such honorary proclamations give dangerous legal legitimacy to this debunked pseudoscientific theory.

The Children’s Protection Alliance shares on its website the story of Alanna Krause, one child affected by this bogus theory.

“Finally, one day my father threw me into a stone wall at school and a teacher called Child Protective Services. He’s never said as much, but my father panicked. He had worked so hard to build a delicate set of lies and twisted truths to present himself as the well-meaning parent whose “unstable” ex-wife had given his troubled daughter “alienating parent syndrome,” resulting in abuse “delusions.” The truth was his worst fear.”

The public can learn more about parental alienation syndrome from the attached fact sheet or by visiting the Justice for Children website at www.justiceforchildren.org.

For over two decades, Justice for Children has been the country’s leading voice for abused and neglected children. JFC provides free legal support for abused children, sponsors legislation to increase children’s right, and exposes the systemic failures of bureaucratic child welfare agencies.



Parental Alienation Syndrome: Debunked, Disproven and Dangerous Theory 

Abusive Parents Commonly Use PAS to Shift Attention Away from their Abusive Actions

National District Attorneys Association: Parental Alienation Syndrome is “Unproven Theory That Can Threaten the Safety of Abused Children”

“PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused children. It is not capable of lending itself to hard data or inclusion in the forthcoming DSM-V.  In short, PAS is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law. Prosecutors and other child abuse professionals should educate themselves, their colleagues and clients when confronting PAS in the legal realm.” (Source: National District Attorneys Association, Update – Volume 16, Number 6 & 7, 2003 “Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Professionals Need to Know”)

Parental Alienation Syndrome: “Unscientific Piece of Garbage,” “Not Research Based” & “A Great Injustice to the Family”

“Probably the most unscientific piece of garbage I’ve seen in the field in all my time. To base social policy on something as flimsy as this is exceedingly dangerous. PAS is not research-based, and it has done a great injustice to the family and the justice system.  The criteria that Dr. Gardner has developed are virtually useless. He operates on the premise that if you say a lie often enough, people will believe it.” (Source: Dr. Jon Conte, a psychologist at the University of Washington, “Has Psychiatry Gone Psycho” April 26, 1999, Insight on the News)

Past President of American Psychiatric Association: “Junk Science Used Nationwide by Batterers as a Courtroom Tactic to Silence Abused Children”

“Parental Alienation Syndrome has been used nationwide by batterers as a courtroom tactic to silence abused children by attempting to discredit their disclosures of abuse. This theory is not recognized as valid by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Medical Association. Parental Alienation Syndrome is not accepted as a psychiatric diagnosis, and has been rejected by the mainstream psychological community. Parental Alienation Syndrome is junk science; there is no valid research or empirical data to support this unproven theory.”(Source: Dr. Paul J. Fink, past president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Hon. Sol Gothard, retired judge and former faculty member for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Los Angeles Daily Journal, November 1, 2005)

Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family: Parental Alienation Can Be Used by Violent Parent Against Victim

“Noting that custody and visitation disputes appear to occur more frequently when there is a history of domestic violence.  Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions.  In this context, the nonviolent parent may be at a disadvantage, and behavior that would seem reasonable as a protection from abuse may be misinterpreted as a sign of instability. Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women’s responses to chronic victimization.  Terms such as `parental alienation’ may be used to blame the women for the children’s reasonable fear or anger toward their violent father.” (Source: American Psychological Association, “Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family” 1996)

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges: Parental Alienation Syndrome “Discredited by Scientific Community,” Should Be “Inadmissible in Court” & “Diverts Attention Away from the Behaviors of the Abusive Parent”

“The theory positing the existence of “PAS” has been discredited by the scientific community. In Kumho Tire v. Carmichael , 526 U.S. 137 (1999), the Supreme Court ruled that even expert testimony based in the “soft sciences” must meet the standard set in the Daubert case. “Parental Alienation Syndrome” does not pass this test. Any testimony that a party to a custody case suffers from the syndrome or “parental alienation” should therefore be ruled inadmissible. The discredited “diagnosis” of “PAS” (or allegation of “parental alienation”), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be “alienated” have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the children’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways toward the children themselves, or the children’s other parent..” (Source: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. (2006). Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide, 2nd edition Page 24)

Professor of Pediatrics and Child Abuse Expert: Parental Alienation Syndrome is an “Atrocious Theory with No Science to Back It Up”

“Dr. Eli Newberger, a Harvard University Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, states, “This [parental alienation syndrome] is an atrocious theory with no science to back it up.” Harvard’s Dr. Eli Newberger, an assistant professor of pediatrics and an expert on child abuse, said he’s been called on by state child protection agencies to evaluate ambiguous disclosures of abuse in divorce casesand believes that PAS deflects any real investigation into such allegations.” (Source: Talan, J.  Richard Gardner and Parental Alienation Syndrome: In Death, Can He Survive? Psychiatrist Richard Gardner’s theory Used by Parents in Child Custody Battles Gained Prominence — And Critics. Newsday, 07/01/03.)

American Medical Association Does Not Recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome

“PAS is not listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as a psychiatric disorder and is not recognized as a valid medical syndrome by the American Medical Association, or the American Psychological Association.”(Source: Dr. Jon Conte, a psychologist at the University of Washington, “Has Psychiatry Gone Psycho” April 26, 1999, Insight on the News)

There have been numerous studies regarding Maternal Deprivation, with a large source of information coming from Bowlby, based on Spitz and Goldfarb, and also from unethical animal experimentation. Overwhelmingly, research shows that severing this natural bond between a mother and child causes severe emotional and behavioral problems, such as depression and psychosis. The phrase maternal deprivation is the terminology used in the early work of psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, John Bowlby on the effects of separating infants and young children from their mother. Some of the research was previously used to discourage mothers from working or using childcare, but it seems important to revive these studies as children are being deprived of their mothers intentionally by abusive men who claim to be “parentally alienated” in an ongoing scandal that rivals that of the Catholic Priest sexual abuse cover up. 

Maternal Deprivation Abuse (MDA), has been identified as occurring with great frequency in legal proceedings, with specific unethical lawyers, psychologists, and judges perpetrating the the same scam on mother after mother with similar horrific results for the children. There has been death by suicide, suicide attempts, depression, academic distress, retaliation by a child against a PAS claiming father, and untold misery for the victimized children and mothers.

Based on Bolwby’s theories, Maternally Deprivation affects children as follows:

  • Complete or almost complete deprivation could “entirely cripple the capacity to make relationships.”
  • Partial deprivation could result in acute anxiety, depression, neediness and powerful emotions which the child could not regulate.
  • The end product of such psychic disturbance could be neurosis and instability of character.(Bowlby J. (1951) pps. 11–12)

“Mother love in infancy and childhood is as important for mental health as are vitamins and proteins for physical health.” (Bowlby, 1953.)  Child psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1907–1990).

FATHER Slaughters his Family, Wife and Three Children (all under age of 4)- Marital Problems alluded too..

There is ALWAYS a “history” of ‘domestic’ or a divorce, or other legal action being sought or pending in all these cases where the father kills his wife and children. Entitlement at all costs. Ownership pure and simple—then, they blame MOM- for stressing DAD out with “marital problems”  or other—e.g. “She ran her face into his fist”.

This is what Father’s Rights- a Federally Funded program is creating—not More FATHER involvement—Just more FATHERS killing. More MOTHERS being stripped of their children, in any way—including death. Maternal Deprivation, Revenge Murders. Gee, thanks dad!

Dawn Atwater.OAK HARBOR -- Investigators are not releasing any details about what caused a Salem Township man to kill his wife and three of his children, then himself late Friday night.

Police believe Alan Atwater, 31, shot his wife Dawn, 30, and their children Ashley, who just celebrated her fourth birthday about two weeks earlier; Isaac Atwater, 2, and Brady Atwater, 1 1/2. Alan Atwater called the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office at 12:11 a.m. Saturday morning.

Brady Atwater.Ashley Atwater.Isaac Atwater.

"There's been a terrible accident at my house," Atwater matter-of-factly told a dispatcher. "My wife and three children are dead. Gunshot wounds, and I'm getting ready to kill myself right now."

The chilling call lasted only about 35 seconds.

Alan Atwater told the dispatcher he shot his family members, but ended the call as soon as she began asking him details of what happened.

Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said deputies arrived within minutes to the two-story farmhouse, but saw and heard no movement within the house. Bratton said the sheriff's office Special Response Team set up a perimeter for their own safety, noting that even with what Atwater said in the call, they couldn't be sure if it was a hostage situation -- or a set-up for an ambush.

Atwater's grandmother Joan Atwater, who lives only several hundred feet from the home, was listening to the police scanner when she heard deputies dispatched to the house. She tried to call 20 or 30 times, by her estimation, but got no answer.

Sheriff's deputies tried to reach Alan by phone. They also enlisted the assistance of Joan as they tried to contact Alan using loudspeakers. They received no answer with that, either.

At 2:52 a.m., SRT officers broke into the house and found the bodies in an upstairs bedroom. Brady was in bed; the remaining family members, including Alan, were on the floor. No note was found, Bratton said.

On Sunday, Bratton said investigators had been made aware of marital circumstances that may have caused problems, but declined to elaborate.

"We're more aware of certain situations than we're going to talk about early on in the investigation," Bratton said. "During the press conference yesterday, we still had investigators at the house."

More information will be made available after the investigation is complete, Bratton said.

In what turned out to be the last time Neil Atwater saw his grandson Alan, there was something about him that seemed a little off.

Neil's wife Joan described her grandson, 31, as a workaholic and the kind of person who was always there for his family, be it working the family farm, helping them through times of illness or helping her learn how to use a computer.

"He didn't act like Alan," Joan remembered Neil telling her Friday.

"Obviously, this is a tragedy," said Ottawa County Sheriff's Capt. Olen Martin. "The community is shocked."

Including Atwater's grandmother.

"I cannot believe this happened," Joan Atwater said. "I never expected something like this.

"We don't know what went on," she said. "He said they had marital problems, but we all have marital problems."

Bratton said Alan Atwater had no criminal history beyond traffic violations, and they were never called to any kind of domestic incident at the home.

Todd Schneider, spokesman for FirstEnergy, said Alan Atwater worked in the maintenance department at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station.

"He was a skilled craftsman and an instrument control technician," Schneider said.

While Schneider said FirstEnergy wouldn't release any more details on Atwater's employment Sunday, he did confirm that Atwater, as a condition of employment at Davis-Besse, had previously completed at least one psychological evaluation.

Bratton said Dawn Atwater didn't work outside the home.

Joan Atwater said her grandson also helped with the family farm run by her husband, whom Alan Atwater addressed not as "grandpa," but as "chief."

She said Dawn Atwater was a quiet person, but the children were starting to get chatty as they got older. Isaac always came up to her and tried to talk to her, she said.

"Ashley was getting older and a little more talkative," Joan Atwater said.

Atwater also had a 12-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Bratton said.

Atwater and the girl's mother had joint custody, and she was in Lucas County this weekend, Bratton said.

On the social networking site Facebook, Dawn Atwater's profile features family photos, including her husband and children.

In one comment on the Atwaters' wedding photo, which features Alan, Dawn and Atwater's 12-year-old daughter, a friend asks why no one's smiling.

"Yeah, we were fighting on our wedding day!!!!" Dawn wrote.

The friend followed up with kind encouragement.

Bratton said he doesn't understand Alan Atwater's actions.

"The one thing I can't get over is that he chose this," Bratton said, going on to say there is help for every person in any given situation.

"This is just a tragedy," he said. "I am baffled how anyone could point a gun and kill a little child."

The case remains under investigation by the sheriff's office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

Bratton said Sunday he wasn't certain if autopsies had been completed by the Lucas County Coroner's Office.

Funeral arrangements for all five Atwaters are pending at Crosser Funeral Home in Oak Harbor.

This is the second multiple murder in Ottawa County in six months. B.J. Liske was arrested and charged with the Halloween murders of his father, stepmother and stepbrother in their Benton Township home. Liske is at the Erie County Jail awaiting trial.

"For some reason, this is how people are finding a resolution to their problems," Bratton said. "I wish I had an answer, but I don't."

Email Vince Guerrieri at vguerrie@gannett.com.
Email James Proffitt at jproffit@gannett.com.

Race to Stop the Silence: Seventh annual 8K/5KRace to Stop the Silence in DC on April 23, 2011. (Stop Child Sexual Abuse)

Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, Inc.


The seventh annual Race to Stop the Silence (Stop Child Sexual Abuse) is nearly around the corner and back at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 2011. It's an 8K Race, 5K Fun Run and Walk, and 1K Kids' Fun Run.  There is a fast, flat course. There are awards (e.g., fancy restaurant dinners, UnderArmour shirts, and more) and random prizes for overall winners, placers, and participants. Lots of yummy after-Race food and beverage.  Speakers. Entertainment. Lots more! Great for the whole family.  More than 1,200 are expected.  Come join us! For more information and registration, please go to: www.stopcsa.org/race
Use the link below to register online now!
See you there!

Pamela Pine, PhD, MPH
Founder and CEO
Stop the Silence
P.O. Box 127
Glenn Dale, MD 20769
Join the Race to Stop the Silence on April 23, 2011. Register at www.stopcsa.org/race.

Join the Race Facebook event page at: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=177338488955827&num_event_invites=0#!/event.php?eid=163268997034661


The Mission of Stop the Silence, a 501(c)(3) organization, is to expose and stop child sexual abuse (CSA) and help survivors heal worldwide. Our Goals are to: 1) help stop CSA and related forms of violence; 2) promote healing of victims and survivors; and 3) celebrate the lives of those healed. Through our work, we aim to address the relationships between CSA and the broader issues of overall family and community violence, and violence within and between communities. Our focus underscores a needed focus on positive development within social complexes (e.g., relationships between men, women, adults and children, cultural groups) to support peaceful – and to hinder violence-prone – relationships. Our areas of focus are: 1) support for services; 2) advocacy; 3) training of service providers; 4) community education and outreach; 5) policy; 6) research and evaluation; and 7) other prevention measures (e.g., a focus on offenders).


Why do Battered Women Stay with Their Abusers? - The Holly Collins Case



A few months after Holly Collins turned 22 years old she opened the front door of her family home in St Louis Park, Minnesota to Hennepin County Child Protection investigators. They made it known that they were aware of her husband’s abuse to her and her children, specifically citing a recent fracture to her little boy’s skull. This young mother was warned that if she didn’t flee immediately with her children and file for an Order For Protection her children would be removed from her care as well and there would be a procedure of Failure To Protect charges filed against her. This is one way to force a battered woman to leave her abuser and protect her children. One may think it is a bit harsh to threaten an abuse victim with criminal charges but perhaps necessary to protect her and her children.

It is incomprehensible that as a result of the Order For Protection, which was granted and forbade Mark Collins from abusing his wife and children, the father was simultaneously granted unsupervised visitation with the very children he abused. This girl, barely a woman couldn’t understand the ramifications of the family court system. Holly Collins sought out the Child Protection Investigators who forced her to take her children away from their abusive father and went directly to the Child Protection office in a panic begging them to protect her children. “This is why I stayed” She wept “At least I could protect the children MOST of the time. Now my children have to go alone with him and there is no one there to protect them.” The child protection desk agent was sympathetic but explained that once this battered woman took actions to protect her children and left her abuser the case was then transferred from Juvenile Court to Family Court and it was her duty as a mother to get the family court judge to protect her children.

In the meantime Holly’s young children would return from court ordered visitations battered and bruised. Holly’s little boy was treated by their pediatrician for injuries sustained from his father‘s abuse. The doctor’s report documents the bruises to the young lad and clearly states “Mother will be alert for abuse potential situation.” For 5 more years Holly Collins was alert and vigilant to protect her children but time after time and one court hearing after another Mark Collins somehow managed to convince the judge that Holly was trying to “Alienate” him from his children’s lives. Eventually a family court judge instructed Holly to take the children to the Boston Children’s Hospital to be evaluated by the Child Abuse Trauma Team and he simultaneously ordered a custody evaluation. Both Dr. Eli Newberger and the entire investigative team at the Boston Children’s Hospital found that the children and their mother were severely abused by the father. Back in Hennepin County the Family Court Investigator also confirmed domestic violence but conceded that Holly’s fear of her husband was although unwittingly was indeed interfering in the children’s relationship with their father. And just like that custody was reversed to the very man who terrorized, beat and battered this woman and her children.

Holly eventually fled the country with her children and was the first American citizen granted asylum in the Netherlands. After 14 years in hiding she was found by the FBI. After a lengthy investigation All international and domestic kidnapping charges were dismissed. When questioned by reporters in the lobby of the Minneapolis Court House Holly Collins responded that the biggest mistake she ever made was leaving her abuser.

Is this really the message we want to send to abuse victims?

written by Jennifer Collins