Category: domestic violence

cps, domestic violence, parental alienation syndrome
THE BATTERER IN CUSTODY AND VISITATION DISPUTES

 

If you are involved in a custody battle with your abuser, this article is a must-read.  I have included below only the topics and first paragraph of each, click on the topic to read the entire article.

UNDERSTANDING THE BATTERER IN CUSTODY AND VISITATION DISPUTES

by R. Lundy Bancroft c 1998

A sophisticated understanding of the mind of the abuser, his style as a parent, and of the tactics that he most commonly employs during separation and divorce, are essential to anyone making custody recommendations or working to design visitation plans that are safe for the children and their mother. 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. A genuine batterer can be difficult to distinguish from one who is unfairly accused, and batterers who will be a grave risk to their children during unsupervised visitation can be hard to separate from those who can visit safely. The insights and expertise of those service providers who have extensive experience working directly with abusers needs to be drawn from, and the level of contribution from victims themselves to policy design also needs to be greatly increased. Custody and visitation battles amidst allegations of domestic violence require policies and interveners (judges, mediators, and Guardians Ad Litem) based in the most detailed knowledge, experience, sensitivity, and integrity. The stakes for children are very high.

This article is drawn largely from the author’s ten years of experience working as a counselor and supervisor in programs for abusive men, involving contact with some 1500 abusers, and hundreds of their victims, over that period. During the first few years of this period I worked almost exclusively with voluntary clients, and during the latter period worked primarily with court-mandated ones. The characteristics of the clients changed remarkably little during that shift. In the late 1980’s, professionals in batterer programs began paying particular attention to the behavior of clients with respect to probate processes, and we began asking victims more questions about the man’s conduct with respect to visitation and custody. Since leaving direct work with batterers, I have served with increasing frequency as a custody evaluator (both as Guardian ad Litem and as Care and Protection Investigator), and have worked closely with child protective services. I also have drawn from numerous published studies, several of which are listed in the back of this article. [I have chosen for reasons of ease to refer to the abuser as “he” and the victim as “she,” but I am aware that there is a small percentage of cases of domestic violence to which this language does not apply.]

PROFILE OF THE BATTERER  (view article)

Generalizations about batterers have to be made with caution. Batterers come from all socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of education. They have the full range of personality types, from mild and mousy to loud and aggressive. They are difficult to profile psychologically; they frequently fare well in psychological testing, often better than their victims do. People outside of a batterer’s immediate family do not generally perceive him as an abusive person, or even as an especially angry one. They are as likely to be very popular as they are to be “losers,” and they may be visible in their communities for their  rofessional success and for their civic involvement. Most friends, family, and associates in a batterer’s life find it jarring when they hear what he has done, and may deny that he is capable of those acts.The partner and children of a batterer will, however, experience generalizable characteristics, though he may conceal these aspects of his attitude and behavior when other people are present:

BATTERERS’ STYLE IN MEDIATION OR CUSTODY EVALUATION (view article)

Batterers naturally strive to turn mediation and GAL processes to their advantage, through the use of various tactics. Perhaps the most common is to adopt the role of a hurt, sensitive man who doesn’t understand how things got so bad and just wants to work it all out “for the good of the children.” He may cry in front of the mediator or GAL and use language that demonstrates considerable insight into his own feelings. He is likely to be skilled at explaining how other people have turned the victim against him, and how she is denying him access to the children as a form of revenge, “even though she knows full well that I would never do anything to hurt them.” He commonly accuses her of having mental health problems, and may state that her family and friends agree with him. The two most common negative characterizations he will use are that she is hysterical and that she is promiscuous. The abuser tends to be comfortable lying, having years of practice, and so can sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser benefits to the detriment of his children if the court representative fails to look closely at the evidence – or ignores it – because of his charm. He also benefits when professionals believe that they can “just tell” who is lying and who is telling the truth, and so fail to adequately investigate. Because of the effects of trauma, the victim of battering will often seem hostile, disjointed, and agitated, while the abuser appears friendly, articulate, and calm. Evaluators are thus tempted to conclude that the victim is the source of the problems in the relationship.

WHY CHILD ABUSE MAY BE REPORTED AT SEPARATION/DIVORCE FOR THE FIRST TIME (view article)

Allegations of child abuse that arise during custody and visitation conflicts are treated with similar skepticism by court personnel and service providers. A large-scale national study found that the rate of false child sexual abuse allegations does not increase at this time, contrary to popular belief (Thoennes and Tjaden). As with domestic violence allegations, there is no substitute for careful and unbiased examination of the evidence. Batterers who do abuse their children can be convincing at portraying themselves as victims of a deliberate strategy on the part of the victim in order to derail proper investigating. There are two salient reasons why child abuse reports may first arise at separation or divorce. First, children may disclose abuse at this time that is longstanding. The awareness of the custody battle can make the children afraid of being placed in the abuser’s custody, or of being forced to spend increased time with him without the protective presence of the other parent. This fear can lead children to make the frightening leap involved in discussing the abuse. After separation, children may begin spending extended unsupervised time with the abuser for the first time ever, so that the abuse escalates or they fear that it will. Increased visitation may cause panic in a victim of child abuse; a case of mine illustrated this point, with a child disclosing a detailed history of sexual abuse immediately after her visitation with her father was increased from one night every other weekend to two. Finally, children are known to be more likely to disclose abuse in the midst of any disruption or major change in their lives. (See MacFarlane et. al. on the above points.)

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN BATTERING AND CHILD ABUSE (view article)

Batterers are several times as likely as non-batterers to abuse children, and this risk appears to increase rather than decrease when the couple separates. Multiple studies have shown that 50% to 70% of men who use violence against their intimate partners are physically abusive to their children as well. A batterer is seven times more likely than a non-batterer to frequently beat his children (Straus). A batterer is at least four times more likely than a non-batterer to be an incest perpetrator. (Herman 1991, McCLoskey et. al.) Psychological abuse to the children is almost always present where there is domestic violence; in fact, the abuse towards their primary caretaker is itself a form of emotional abuse of the children, as numerous studies now document. It is true that battered women are also more likely to abuse children than non-battered women are, but unlike with batterers, those levels decline rapidly once the relationship separates(Edleson and Schecter).

JANET JOHNSTON’S TYPOLOGY OF BATTERERS AND THE AFCC RISK ASSESSMENT:THE QUEST FOR SIMPLE SOLUTIONS (view article)

Efforts are underway nationally to ease the complexity of assessing risk to children from visitation with batterers by placing batterers into distinct types, based largely on the work of Janet Johnston. For example, a risk assessment distributed nationally by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) draws heavily from Johnston’s work. The types Johnston posits are as follows:

Type A: “Ongoing or Episodic Male Battering”

Type B: “Female-Initiated Violence”

Type C: “Male Controlled Interactive Violence”

Type D: “Separation and Postdivorce Violence”

Type E: “Psychotic and Paranoid Reactions”

ASSESSMENT OF RISK TO CHILDREN FROM VISITATION WITH A BATTERER (view article)

Assessing the safety of children with batterers during unsupervised visitation requires careful examination of all available evidence, with as few preconceptions as possible about the credibility of either party. Even a highly skilled service provider cannot “just tell” that an alleged abuser is telling the truth or is not dangerous, even after several hours of interviews and even with the assistance of psychological testing. These can be important sources of information, but careful assessment of the alleged victim’s version of events, comparison with outside sources (to assess credibility), examination of court records, and confrontation of the alleged abuser to assess his reactions are all essential to an evaluation.

(view article)

cps, domestic violence, shelter policies
Heroic Dog Saves Woman from Abuser, Incites Change in Shelter Policy | Life With Dogs

This story is one that brought me to my knees in tears.  Not only am I a dog lover, but I am also a survivor of domestic violence, and I had stayed in an abusive relationship (for nearly 5 years) because I could not find a shelter that would allow me to take my dog.  I finally walked to the homeless shelter The Bridge, in Dallas Texas, with my dog, Baby Girl, because I had heard there was a kennel on site.  The police officers that worked at The Bridge and a code compliance officer came to talk to me. This was on a Thursday.  They told me that they required me to “prove I was homeless” by going and sleeping under the freeway bridge in one of the homeless camps (they even gave me a bag of dog food and a blanket to take with me), and someone from the crisis intervention department of code compliance would drive over to find me and bring us in on Monday or Tuesday (4 or 5 days later).  My dog and I did as we were told.  We were terrified, and yet, we found a homeless camp. the first night next to the freeway on-ramp on a slope, then after that in a crevice beneath I75 freeway since it was raining.  The crisis intervention people never came to get us, but I was sexually assaulted under that bridge. Had it not been for my dog I would have been raped, possibly gang-raped by the homeless men at the camp.

I fully promote and encourage the change in policy for shelters to allow women to bring their pets.  This is a glorious breakthrough in the areas of domestic violence advocacy.

Please share this article wherever you can.

Thank you.

Hero Dog Saves Abuse Victim

(Click to watch video)

When the Rose Brooks Center for women took in a domestic violence victim and her heroic dog, they bent the rules in doing so, setting the wheels in motion for a much needed change in policy.

Like most battered women’s shelters, the Rose Brooks Center did not accommodate pets. But this was no ordinary dog: when her boyfriend tried to kill the woman with a hammer, her fearless Great Dane jumped in the way, laying over her body and taking most of the blows until the man threw both of them out of a second story window. The dog suffered multiple broken bones in the attack, sparing his owner’s life in the process.

Despite their injuries, the woman was able to escape with her dog, and eventually made her way to the Rose Brooks Center. When they offered her a bed and told her no pets were allowed, she was defiant, and for the first time in its history, the shelter overlooked regulations and allowed the dog to stay.

That decision would eventually lead to a permanent change in policy. Knowing that forty percent of battered women with pets stay in abusive relationships in order to protect their pets, the center’s chief executive officer, Susan Miller, said adding a pet-friendly wing would remove a serious barrier that women face when attempting to leave an abuser. Miller was the one who had ultimately made the call to admit the woman and her dog.

“They provide so much comfort, and to have to leave that pet behind is so heartbreaking,” Miller said. “It has become abundantly clear that the incredible therapeutic benefits that pets can have on a family greatly outweigh the cost and inconvenience of housing them.”

The center is investing $140,000 in renovations that will add seven kennels, a walking trail and pet-friendly play area. Future victims of abuse in the Kansas City area will no longer have to choose between personal safety and the well-being of their four-legged loved ones, a change that shelter officials believe will save lives.

Miller points out that none of this would have been likely were it not for the fierce devotion of a pet and the unwavering love of the woman he saved, and that there was just no way she could turn the two away.

“She was not going to leave her pet alone with him,” she said. “He saved her life.”

awareness, child, child adoption, child custody, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, custody, domestic violence, families, kids, law, lawsuits, legal, legislation
Texas harms foster children with inattention, shoddy system, lawsuit says
By ROBERT T. GARRETT
Source: Dallas Morning News Austin Bureau
rtgarrett@dallasnews.com

Published 29 March 2011 10:38 AM

AUSTIN — Texas violates the rights of abused and neglected children by running a shoddy foster care system, the New York-based group Children’s Rights says in a class-action federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Too many youths are isolated and linger for years in care, the suit says. The state countered that it is working on fixes and that most foster children are safe.

In the suit, filed in federal court in Corpus Christi, the group zeroes in on about 12,000 youths who’ve been removed from their birth homes by Child Protective Services and kept in the state’s care for more than a year, saying the children suffer after “permanency” deadlines of 12 to 18 months have passed.

Too often, CPS is unable to reunite the child with family or find a lasting home, such as with a relative or adoptive parents, and drops the ball because children from then on aren’t required to have their own lawyer and another adult advocating for them, the suit says.

“Once children cross the line into permanent foster care, the state essentially gives up on their prospects for ever leaving state custody with permanent families of their own,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights.

Anne Heiligenstein, commissioner of CPS’ parent agency, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said the lawsuit threatens to do more harm than good.

“We’re on the right path and will continue to do everything we can to protect Texas children, but I worry that a lawsuit like this will take critical time and resources away from the very children it presumes to help,” she said in a written statement.

Children’s Rights asks the court to order the state to lower caseloads for CPS workers, recruit more foster homes and do a better job of supervising private foster-care providers.

Lowry said some of those extra costs could be offset by eliminating the state’s wasteful spending on institutional care.

“It costs less to run a better system where children get permanence and get out of foster care,” she said.

The department has warned state leaders for months that the suit might be filed. A memo sent to legislative leaders in September emphasized large amounts of attorneys’ fees that have been awarded to Children’s Rights in similar lawsuits in other states.

The memo also touted CPS overhaul legislation passed in 2005 and a foster-care overhaul passed two years later for bumping up staffing and making sizable reductions in CPS workers’ caseloads.

The suit highlights the plight of nine unnamed children that the group wants the court to accept as a representation of the class of about 12,000 youngsters in Texas’ mostly privatized system of long-term foster care who it alleges have been mistreated.

One of them is “A.M.,” a 13-year-old from Canton who with two half sisters was removed from her home after witnessing fights between her mother and her mother’s boyfriends. The department “has separated her from her sisters, shuffled her from one placement to another, placed her in inappropriate foster homes and left her for years in an institution,” the suit says.

It says Texas frequently fails to keep children in the “least restrictive setting” and is too quick to move them into institutions and give them psychotropic medications.

David Richart, executive director of the National Institute on Children, Youth and Families, which tracks lawsuits in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, says Lowry picks her targets carefully and almost never loses a case.

“The writing’s on the wall here,” Richart said, and Texas leaders should “spend time improving their CPS system instead of being in a reflexively defensive mode.”

awareness, child, child adoption, child custody, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, custody, domestic violence, families, kids, law, lawsuits, legal, legislation
Texas harms foster children with inattention, shoddy system, lawsuit says
By ROBERT T. GARRETT
Source: Dallas Morning News Austin Bureau
rtgarrett@dallasnews.com

Published 29 March 2011 10:38 AM

AUSTIN — Texas violates the rights of abused and neglected children by running a shoddy foster care system, the New York-based group Children’s Rights says in a class-action federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Too many youths are isolated and linger for years in care, the suit says. The state countered that it is working on fixes and that most foster children are safe.

In the suit, filed in federal court in Corpus Christi, the group zeroes in on about 12,000 youths who’ve been removed from their birth homes by Child Protective Services and kept in the state’s care for more than a year, saying the children suffer after “permanency” deadlines of 12 to 18 months have passed.

Too often, CPS is unable to reunite the child with family or find a lasting home, such as with a relative or adoptive parents, and drops the ball because children from then on aren’t required to have their own lawyer and another adult advocating for them, the suit says.

“Once children cross the line into permanent foster care, the state essentially gives up on their prospects for ever leaving state custody with permanent families of their own,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights.

Anne Heiligenstein, commissioner of CPS’ parent agency, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said the lawsuit threatens to do more harm than good.

“We’re on the right path and will continue to do everything we can to protect Texas children, but I worry that a lawsuit like this will take critical time and resources away from the very children it presumes to help,” she said in a written statement.

Children’s Rights asks the court to order the state to lower caseloads for CPS workers, recruit more foster homes and do a better job of supervising private foster-care providers.

Lowry said some of those extra costs could be offset by eliminating the state’s wasteful spending on institutional care.

“It costs less to run a better system where children get permanence and get out of foster care,” she said.

The department has warned state leaders for months that the suit might be filed. A memo sent to legislative leaders in September emphasized large amounts of attorneys’ fees that have been awarded to Children’s Rights in similar lawsuits in other states.

The memo also touted CPS overhaul legislation passed in 2005 and a foster-care overhaul passed two years later for bumping up staffing and making sizable reductions in CPS workers’ caseloads.

The suit highlights the plight of nine unnamed children that the group wants the court to accept as a representation of the class of about 12,000 youngsters in Texas’ mostly privatized system of long-term foster care who it alleges have been mistreated.

One of them is “A.M.,” a 13-year-old from Canton who with two half sisters was removed from her home after witnessing fights between her mother and her mother’s boyfriends. The department “has separated her from her sisters, shuffled her from one placement to another, placed her in inappropriate foster homes and left her for years in an institution,” the suit says.

It says Texas frequently fails to keep children in the “least restrictive setting” and is too quick to move them into institutions and give them psychotropic medications.

David Richart, executive director of the National Institute on Children, Youth and Families, which tracks lawsuits in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, says Lowry picks her targets carefully and almost never loses a case.

“The writing’s on the wall here,” Richart said, and Texas leaders should “spend time improving their CPS system instead of being in a reflexively defensive mode.”

children, cps, crime, death, domestic violence, haiti, social workers, tampa florida
Florida Mom Slain With Her 5 Children Endured Abuse

ist1_2685442-domestic-violence

September 21, 2009    Filed at 11:09 p.m. ET TAMPA,Fla. (AP)

A Florida woman slain along with her five children endured regular abuse from her husband but seemed overwhelmed by trying to raise the kids herself and wanted him around as a father figure, Department of Children and Families records show. Police in Haiti on Monday detained Mesac Damas, wanted for questioning in the slayings of his wife, Guerline Damas, and the couple’s three boys and two girls in their Naples, Fla., apartment. A relative said detectives told them their throats had been slit. Collier County Sheriff’s deputies have called Mesac Damas a person of interest in the slayings. The 33-year-old boarded a flight to Haiti from Miami International Airport on Friday, a day before police found the bodies. Mesac Damas told The Associated Press at the police station where he was being held in Port-au-Prince that he had planned to surrender and that he returned to his native Caribbean nation ”to say goodbye to my family.”

”I was going to turn myself in. You see I’ve got my suit on and everything,” Demas said as police led him from a backroom where he was interrogated to a jail cell.

He did not respond when asked if he killed his wife. Just days before he left the country, a Department of Children and Families caseworker assigned to the family had made an unannounced visit to the apartment and noted in a report that the children, ages 11 months to 9 years, seemed healthy and safe. Mesac Damas was home and dinner was cooked. The toddler was wearing a sundress and playing with her doll while the older daughter, dressed in pink, asked the caseworker if she had brought her a pink book bag, because she was going to school next year. The boys were in T-shirts and shorts and the worker didn’t see any bruises or marks.

Mesac Damas was due to finish a court-ordered battery intervention course in November. ”There is no safety concern,” the file reads. ”Children are doing fine.” But relatives of Guerline Damas, 32, said her husband was a ”loose cannon” who would take away his wife’s cell phone and be rude to her family. ”You’d never know what he’d do,” said her younger brother, Mackindy Dieu, 23, who lived with the couple several years ago. Dieu said his sister wasn’t open about the details of her personal life and her family didn’t know she was being abused until January, when Mesac Damas was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after he hit his wife as she held their baby daughter in her arms. According to DCF records, he choked her and ripped her shirt off.

”As this is occurring, the child slipped out of the mother’s hand and fell to the floor,” the report states. It was one of a handful of times that sheriff’s deputies had been called about domestic disputes between the couple.

But this one was different: Mesac Damas was taken into custody and a restraining order filed. The other children had been outside playing and were terrified by what had happened, a caseworker noted. In interviews, two of the older boys described seeing their parents fight regularly. The oldest, 9-year-old Michzach, told the caseworker that he would try to take all the children in a bedroom when the abuse happened. ”If he tries to call 911, dad hits him on the hand or in the head,” the file noted. When it was especially bad, Guerline Damas would sleep in her car. She hadn’t had an easy life — she immigrated to Florida from Haiti as a teenager after her father was murdered in their home. She went to high school and later found work in a Publix supermarket.

”What are you doing with this guy?” Dieu said the family told her when they learned about the abuse.

”You need to leave.”

The couple separated — for two months. Guerline Damas began counseling at a shelter for abused women. A caseworker noted she seemed overwhelmed at the thought of raising five children by herself. She started pushing for the restraining order to be lifted.

”She believes that a father should be with his children and she has faith in him, that he will not repeat domestic violence against his wife,” records from a visit in late March state.

Mesac Damas pleaded no contest to the battery charge and was given 12 months probation and ordered to take parenting classes and enroll in a battery intervention program. Around April, he moved back in. The family seemed to make progress. Mesac Damas said he was learning to control his anger and talk with the children more. The children said they had missed their father. The caseworker described observing a ”loving relationship” between the father and children.

”This clinician believes that this family will be a solid family unit once again,” the file states. —- Associated Press writer Jonathan M. Katz reported from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

domestic violence, parental alienation syndrome, system failure
When he kills me…

Dear Presiding Justice, Police Officers, Senators, Legislators, Doctors, Clergy, Parish Members, Family and Friends:

I am a battered woman.

Do you remember me?  I was your neighbor.  I sat next to you in church every Sunday.

I was your patient in the emergency room. I was the woman who dialed 911 and begged for your help. I sat in your court room and pleaded with you to protect me and my children. I came before you and asked you to make laws to ensure our safety.

I was the loving young mother you noticed playing tag with some children in the park.

Do you remember me now?

I am writing this letter for I know that he will surely kill me and I don’t want to be forgotten. My advocate has promised to give you this letter if I should die.

I feel as though I should apologize. Maybe for not being a good enough person or for not readily admitting how my face was bruised or bones broken.

Maybe if I would have tried a little bit harder he wouldn’t have had to beat me.

Maybe if I was smarter I wouldn’t have fallen in love with someone like him.

Maybe if I was stronger I would have left sooner. But maybe, maybe if you would have helped me I would never have to write a letter like this.

I would not have to worry about whether or not today would be the day that he would kill me and you would not be inconvenienced by having to read this letter because I would still be alive. (But I am not.) Do you understand?

If you should come to read this letter -I am dead.

He killed me!

So what happens now?

I don’t want to be another statistic.

I don’t want to be blamed any longer. I don’t want you to make excuses or justify my death because it never should have happened. I was a good person. I was a devoted wife and a loving mother. I did leave. I tried to protect my children and myself, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

I asked for your help. I told you that he would kill me. You saw the bruises. You knew that he was dangerous but you wouldn’t help. It wasn’t your problem. You turned your back on me and my children.

Oh my children.

My sweet little children. I don’t know if they will survive because he promised to kill them also, but if they still are alive who will take care of them?

Who will love them? Who will sing to them at night? Who will hold them and wipe away their tears when they cry for their mommy?

This isn’t right. I should be alive. You should have helped me. Why didn’t you help me?

I know that if he kills me it will be extremely painful and violent. He promised to use a knife. Oh I am so afraid to die that way.

Please don’t let my death be in vain.

Please help the others.

Please protect their children…

And please don’t forget me…

Holly Collins – Letter 1990

accountability, cps, domestic violence, system failure children
We Were Voted in Top 100 for Domestic Violence Blogs!

Top 100 Blogs Award

It’s Almost Tuesday was voted in the Top 100 for Domestic Violence Blogs!  This is a wonderful accomplishment for the work we’re trying to do for our children in foster care and for survivors of domestic violence.

A victim recently reached out to the newly appointed White House VAWA Advisor, Lynn Rosenthal and during the conversation, Rosenthal stated, “I can’t do nothing to help your situation.” Rosenthal continued by saying, “the Vice President is very concerned on this topic and I relay your situation to him.”

The Womens Legal Resource Blog reports the same sentiments as we feel about it, concern and a diminished faith in the system.

We invite you to read the comment placed by this victim, Heather Thompson at the article titled Working with the White House to keep victims from falling through the cracks by Alexis A. Moore, another advocate who is the owner of Survivors in Action, and an expert in cyberstalking, stalking, and domestic violence.

When domestic violence resources fail, victims die. Family law and criminal courts are failing victims nationwide.

When a victim of domestic violence has to write a letter like the following letter – something is wrong:

I know that when I went through it—I had no support from friends or family—nor from the law—I had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn and I felt it was my fault and that I deserved it. When you are not valued as a child, when you are abused physically, emotionally, sexually and mentally you have no basis to believe it should or could be any other way. I felt it was my lot in life. Where do you go with 4 small babies at 19 years old, without an education, without any money, without any help or support, coming from an abusive family and where he will not find you? How did a 19 year old get into a fix like that in the first place?
It’s always about how little she is worth compared to how valuable he is and she has been born and bred to believe she is less valuable then he!

There is the whole thing in a nutshell.

Some of us make it out alive—some of us don’t—but none of us make it out without deep scars. Can’t we put aside everything else to stop this now? We are at epidemic proportions- they are killing us figuratively and physically- violence against women is a hate crime. Both my daughters were victims of violence. The cases are pending and I am not able to discuss these issues at present. Two sons-in-law are in jail. My oldest daughter Denise 45 passed 3/7/09. My youngest, Louisa 41 , remains hospitalized to date. It’s cyclical—daughters raised in these households go on to be abused—sons go on to abuse. From birth to death women must be valued.

—BJ, mother of domestic violence homicide victim
When resources fail, victims die.

Or when a woman makes a video documentary “just in case something happens to her” – something is very wrong.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek37imbFbIA&feature=player_embedded]

I pleaded for help before my son was taken.  I took a stack of police reports proving numerous violations of my protective order into the victims/witness office at my State Attorneys office, and was told my case was too complicated and escorted out.

I haven’t seen my son in 4 years.

Something is very wrong.

child, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, divorce, domestic violence, families, family, fear, General, kids, law, lawsuits, legal, murder
Help! I fell in love with the boogeyman!

(c) Forever May, 2009

The boogeyman.

Everybody knows the boogeyman isn’t real. Right?

Well, to some, the boogeyman is very real and he is the one you love.  How does someone fall in love with the boogeyman?  What makes the boogeyman become what or who he is? A monster – an abuser…

Abuse at its worst is when the one person you look to as your life partner hurts you.  That’s the person you should trust, confide in, turn to, and be there for…. til death do us part does not mean a death because of the very relationship the wedding vows refer to.  The pain is ten-fold, the emotions run especially high, the betrayal, and bitterness is raw, and in the end – the wounds & scars run deep. Very deep.

I have been an advocate against domestic abuse for years. I know the cycle of abuse. I know the pain. I know the scars. I lost my son to domestic abuse.  So, I would know better than to involve myself into another abusive relationship. I would never mean to get in a relationship with a man who would hit me or take my freedom and will away from me. I know the signs, the symptoms, the who gamet.

If you have noticed my blog has been slow posting over the last year or so, this is the reason.  I somehow managed to get myself into a relationship, again, with an abuser. Its taken me a year and 1/2 and several dozen attempts to get away.  I did, finally, get out.

*I* fell into the cycle again knowing better…. I know SO WELL what to look for, what to avoid, and what to do – I’ve been through this before. I couldn’t believe where I found myself again.  I asked “why did this happen” each time I would be swallowing my tears, hiding in my dark room, or  sneaking past his sleeping quieted body to the fridge to grab a piece of bread and scurry away to eat it without waking him or his rage…How did *I* get trapped by another monster?

He was the boogeyman, you see, wearing a disguise.  He offered me a helping hand when I needed it badly, and he was so beautifully charming.  He had a good paying job, a nice house, car, he worked hard, he was kind, sensitive, good looking, a good listener, we had fun times together.  We had so much in common on our views, opinions, passions, and goals. It was perfect…too perfect.  He even got me a puppy.

Sure, I thought “this is too good to be true” and was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I was expecting another shoe to drop.

I didn’t expect it to be a boot …( a steel-toed boot).

I had plenty of space, as his job took him out of town for weeks at a time too. While he was away, I would have plenty of time to myself, to do my thing.  It was my time to recharge my inner batteries so-to-speak.

The weekends when he was home we’d have a great time together.  Then I told him I wanted to get a job.  Instantly, he changed into the boogeyman.  He quit going to work, became extremely possessive, and if I had a job interview, he would subversively sabotage any chance I had of getting it.  A job meant indepedence.  A job meant I would leave.  He lost his job then his car, and eventually his house.  He moved us into an old house that had once been scheduled for demolition and every other week I was running away from home, but with my dog by my side, it was difficult to find anywhere to go for any period of time.  I went to the shelter. I wanted to work, but the inconsistency of my life couldn’t allow me to keep a job.  I went back after I would run out of options, just to leave again within the next few weeks.

For the first year and 1/2, no matter how abusive it got, he hadn’t “hit” me.  The abuse was mental, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial.  Intimidation tactics, threats, but he always promised he’d never hit me.  I lost all my friends, one by one, who got tired of the “drama” or who were afraid of him coming over there.

Then he hit me for the first time.  It was an “accident” he said, a “freak accident.” Right.

I was so afraid and in shock I stood frozen in the corner he’d backed me into and then played possom all night until I had the chance to run. I went into a shelter, but was kicked out of the shelter for eating yogurt after 9pm. I was starving – food had been a special commodity with him. 

Back I went with the utmost of apprehension… the second time he hit me, a week later, he didn’t just hit me, it was an all out brawl, and my dog bit him… the puppy he’d gotten me… protecting me.  He threatened her.  I left that day and never went back.  I had the good fortune of some of his friends who were nearby, picked my dog and I up from the corner gas station, and had a feeling the abuse had been going on, but weren’t sure.  He kept me too isolated to know. 

Now they knew, and his secret was out.  Finally, I was out too.

He still tries, and thinks I’m his, and will be home. I received roses yesterday.  I won’t budge.  My things are still at his house, in my bedroom there that has notes he painted for me all over the walls and ceiling.  His obsession with me hasn’t diminished, & he can’t control me anymore.  So far he’s had the desire to save face in front of his friends enough to leave me be.  So far.

What happened to him that made him this way?  If you ask him he’ll say it was all my fault, an accident, or a result of my “craziness”.  He’ll never admit he’s a monster.  He doesn’t seem that way at first of course.  He has a good side, a good heart, a generous nature, but the flip side is a controlling abusive man.

Whats going on in his mind?  Why is he abusive?  Thats why this topic is particularly involving my focus right now.  Why did I fall into it again, even knowing so well what to avoid and look for.

It goes to show one can never have too much knowledge. Thank goodness I’m away and safe.  I thought he was going to kill me one day. He might have. I am sad for the way things turned out, but knew it was the only choice, for me to leave. 

I want to reunite with my son one day, and I want to have a close relationship with my daughter and granddaughter, and my son too, which I could never have with an abuser around me.  He didn’t see himself as an abuser, so he didn’t see things the way I did.  He has the mind of an abuser, fits exactly the profile in the article to follow.  So exact in fact, its spooky, like it was written about him.

There’s some very useful information about domestic violence and abusers in the following articles, how abusers’ minds work how their loved ones can deal with them, and where to find help.

Thank you for your patience and loyalty over the past year while I was dealing with this.  As for me, I’m okay, a little traumatized again, with my PTSD acting up. Hypervigilence at its best… or worst, I guess.  

I’m making new friends, finding support of wonderful people around me, and enjoying the peace. I’m starting to feel happy again, and hope again.

For anyone out there involved in an abusive relationship, take it from me, its not your fault, stay strong, and there is a light out there somewhere – keep trying to find it.  I know its hard and frustrating and often times hopeless.

You can make it, and you don’t deserve to stay.  Its hard getting out. I know.  Have faith in yourself and keep trying to find a way out.

I think I’ll stay single for a while though.

Thanks again for your support!

 _________________________________

For More Information read:  Exploring the Mind of An Abuser

cps, domestic violence, kidnapping, sexual abuse
Abuse By Proxy and Abuse by Stalking

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, mates, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours, the media, teachers – in short, third parties – to do his bidding. He uses them to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer, retreat, tempt, convince, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware instruments exactly as he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same mechanisms and devices. And he dumps his props unceremoniously when the job is done.

One form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios of embarrassment and humiliation provoke social sanctions (condemnation, opprobrium, or even physical punishment) against the victim. Society, or a social group become the instruments of the abuser.

 

Abusers often use other people to do their dirty work for them. These – sometimes unwitting – accomplices belong to three groups:

 I. The abuser’s social milieu

Some offenders – mainly in patriarchal and misogynist societies – co-opt other family members, friends, and colleagues into aiding and abetting their abusive conduct. In extreme cases, the victim is held “hostage” – isolated and with little or no access to funds or transportation. Often, the couple’s children are used as bargaining chips or leverage.

Ambient abuse by the abuser’s clan, kin, kith, and village or neighborhood is rampant.

II. The victim’s social milieu

Even the victim’s relatives, friends, and colleagues are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser and to his impressive thespian skills. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favor. Others rarely have a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown: harassed, unkempt, irritable, impatient, abrasive, and hysterical.

Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally. The prey’s acts of self-defense, assertiveness, or insistence on her rights are interpreted as aggression, lability, or a mental health problem.

III. The System

The abuser perverts the system – therapists, marriage counselors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges. He uses them to pathologize the victim and to separate her from her sources of emotional sustenance – notably, from her children.

Forms of Abuse by Proxy

  • Socially isolating and excluding the victim by discrediting her through a campaign of malicious rumors.
  • Harassing the victim by using others to stalk her or by charging her with offenses she did not commit.
  • Provoking the victim into aggressive or even antisocial conduct by having others threaten her or her loved ones.
  • Colluding with others to render the victim dependent on the abuser.
  • But, by far, her children are the abuser’s greatest source of leverage over his abused spouse or mate.

Abuse by proxy continues long after the relationship is officially over (at least as far as you are concerned). The majority of abusers get the message, however belatedly and reluctantly. Others – more vindictive and obsessed – continue to haunt their ex-spouses for years to come.

These are the stalkers.

Stalkers

Most stalkers are what Zona (1993) and Geberth (1992) call “Simple Obsessional” or, as Mullen and Pathe put it (1999) – “Rejected”. They stalk their prey as a way of maintaining the dissolved relationship (at least in their diseased minds). They seek to “punish” their quarry for refusing to collaborate in the charade and for resisting their unwanted and ominous attentions.

Such stalkers come from all walks of life and cut across social, racial, gender, and cultural barriers. They usually suffer from one or more (comorbid) personality disorders. They may have anger management or emotional problems and they usually abuse drugs or alcohol. Stalkers are typically lonely, violent, and intermittently unemployed – but they are rarely full fledged criminals.

Contrary to myths perpetrated by the mass media, studies show that most stalkers are men, have high IQ’s, advanced degrees, and are middle aged (Meloy and Gothard, 1995; and Morrison, 2001).

Rejected stalkers are intrusive and inordinately persistent. They recognize no boundaries – personal or legal. They honor to “contracts” and they pursue their target for years. They interpret rejection as a sign of the victim’s continued interest and obsession with them. They are, therefore, impossible to get rid of. Many of them are narcissists and, thus, lack empathy, feel omnipotent and immune to the consequences of their actions.

Even so, some stalkers are possessed of an uncanny ability to psychologically penetrate others. Often, this gift is abused and put at the service of their control freakery and sadism. Stalking – and the ability to “mete out justice” makes them feel powerful and vindicated. When arrested, they often act the victim and attribute their actions to self-defense and “righting wrongs”.

Stalkers are emotionally labile and present with rigid and infantile (primitive) defense mechanisms: splitting, projection, projective identification, denial, intellectualization, and narcissism. They devalue and dehumanize their victims and thus “justify” the harassment or diminish it. From here, it is only one step to violent conduct.

Domestic Violence and Abuse statistics – Click here

Before we proceed to outline the psychological profile of the stalker, it is important to try and gauge the extent of the problem by quantifying its different manifestations. More plainly, studying the available statistics is both enlightening and useful. Contrary to common opinion, there has been a marked decline in domestic violence in the last decade. Moreover, rates of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse in various societies and cultures – vary widely.

It is, therefore, safe to conclude that abusive conduct is not inevitable and is only loosely connected to the prevalence of mental illness (which is stable across ethnic, social, cultural, national, and economic barriers). There is no denying that the mental problems of some offenders do play a part – but it is smaller than we intuit. Cultural, social, and even historical factors are the decisive determinants of spousal abuse and domestic violence.

The United States The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) reported 691,710 nonfatal violent victimization committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends of the victims during 2001.

About 588,490, or 85% of intimate partner violence incidents, involved women.

The offender in one fifth of the totality of crimes committed against women was an intimate partner – compared to only 3% of crimes committed against men. Still, this type of offences against women declined by half between 1993 (1.1 million nonfatal cases) and 2001 (588,490) – from 9.8 to 5 per thousand women.

Intimate partner violence against men also declined from 162,870 (1993) to 103,220 (2001) – from 1.6 to 0.9 per 1000 males.

Overall, the incidence of such crimes dropped from 5.8 to 3.0 per thousand.

Even so, the price in lost lives was and remains high. In the year 2000, 1247 women and 440 men were murdered by an intimate partner in the United States – compared to 1357 men and 1600 women in 1976 and around 1300 women in 1993.

This reveals an interesting and worrying trend: The number overall intimate partner offences against women declined sharply – but not so the number of fatal incidents.

These remained more or less the same since 1993!

The cumulative figures are even more chilling: One in four to one in three women have been assaulted or raped at a given point in her lifetime (Commonwealth Fund survey, 1998).

The Mental Health Journal says:

“The precise incidence of domestic violence in America is difficult to determine for several reasons: it often goes unreported, even on surveys; there is no nationwide organisation that gathers information from local police departments about the number of substantiated reports and calls; and there is disagreement about what should be included in the definition of domestic violence.”

Using a different methodology (counting separately multiple incidents perpetrated on the same woman), a report titled “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey”, compiled by Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes for the National Institute of Justice and the Centres for Disease Control and published in 1998, came up with a figure of 5.9 million physical assaults against 1.5 million targets in the USA annually.

Profile of a Stalker

Stalkers have narcissistic traits. Many of them suffer from personality disorders. The vindictive stalker is usually a psychopath (has Antisocial Personality Disorder). They all conform to the classic definition of a bully.

Before we proceed to delineate coping strategies, it is helpful to review the characteristics of each of these mental health problems and dysfunctional behaviors.

I. The Narcissistic Stalker

The dramatic and erotomaniac stalker is likely to show one or more of these narcissistic traits:

  • Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements);
  • Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
  • Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
  • Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);
  • Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favourable priority treatment;
  • Is “interpersonally exploitative”, i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;
  • Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;
  • Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of his or her frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions as he or she believes that they feel the same about him or her and are likely to act similarly;
  • Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, “above the law”, and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people he or she considers inferior to him or her and unworthy.

II. The Antisocial (Psychopathic) Stalker

APD or AsPD was formerly called “psychopathy” or, more colloquially, “sociopathy”. Some scholars, such as Robert Hare, still distinguish psychopathy from mere antisocial behaviour. The disorder appears in early adolescence but criminal behaviour and substance abuse often abate with age, usually by the fourth or fifth decade of life. It may have a genetic or hereditary determinant and afflicts mainly men. The diagnosis is controversial and regarded by some scholar as scientifically unfounded.

Psychopaths regard other people as objects to be manipulated and instruments of gratification and utility. They have no discernible conscience, are devoid of empathy and find it difficult to perceive other people’s nonverbal cues, needs, emotions, and preferences. Consequently, the psychopath rejects other people’s rights and his commensurate obligations. He is impulsive, reckless, irresponsible and unable to postpone gratification. He often rationalises his behaviour showing an utter absence of remorse for hurting or defrauding others.

Their (primitive) defence mechanisms include splitting (they view the world – and people in it – as “all good” or “all evil”), projection (attribute their own shortcomings unto others) and Projective Identification (force others to behave the way they expect them to).

The psychopath fails to comply with social norms. Hence the criminal acts, the deceitfulness and identity theft, the use of aliases, the constant lying, and the conning of even his nearest and dearest for gain or pleasure. Psychopaths are unreliable and do not honour their undertakings, obligations, contracts, and responsibilities. They rarely hold a job for long or repay their debts. They are vindictive, remorseless, ruthless, driven, dangerous, aggressive, violent, irritable, and, sometimes, prone to magical thinking. They seldom plan for the long and medium terms, believing themselves to be immune to the consequences of their own actions.

III. The Stalker as a Bully

Bullies feel inadequate and compensates for it by being violent – verbally, psychologically, or physically. Some bullies suffer from personality and other mental health disorders. They feel entitled to special treatment, seek attention, lack empathy, are rageful and envious, and exploit and then discard their co-workers.

Bullies are insincere, haughty, unreliable, and lack empathy and sensitivity to the emotions, needs, and preferences of others whom they regard and treat as objects or instruments of gratification.

Bullies are ruthless, cold, and have alloplastic defences (and outside locus of control) – they blame others for their failures, defeats, or misfortunes. Bullies have low frustration and tolerance thresholds, get bored and anxious easily, are violently impatient, emotionally labile, unstable, erratic, and untrustworthy. They lack self-discipline, are egotistic, exploitative, rapacious, opportunistic, driven, reckless, and callous.

Bullies are emotionally immature and control freaks. They are consummate liars and deceivingly charming. Bullies dress, talk, and behave normally. Many of them are persuasive, manipulative, or even charismatic. They are socially adept, liked, and often fun to be around and the centre of attention. Only a prolonged and intensive interaction with them – sometimes as a victim – exposes their dysfunctions.

Zona M.A., Sharma K.K., and Lane J.: A Comparative Study of Erotomanic and Obsessional Subjects in a Forensic Sample, Journal of Forensic Sciences, July 1993, 38(4):894-903.
Vernon Geberth: Stalkers, Law and Order, October 1992, 40: 138-140
Mullen P.E., Pathé M., Purcell R., and Stuart G.W.: Study of Stalkers, American Journal of Psychiatry, August 1999, 156(8):1244-9
Meloy J.R., Gothard S.: Demographic and Clinical Comparison of Obsessional Followers and Offenders with Mental Disorders, American Journal of Psychiatry, February 1995, 152(2):258-63.
Morrison K.A.: Predicting Violent Behavior in Stalkers – A Preliminary Investigation of Canadian Cases in Criminal Harassment, Journal of Forensic Sciences, November 2001, 46(6):1403-10.
accountability, amber alert, child, child death, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, crime, custody, domestic violence
Violent Relationships in Family Court
Duncan Connolly
Duncan Connolly

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Clear and Present Danger by SusanMurphy Milano

Like most of us I am deeply disturbed by the escalating number of parents murdering their own families. This past weekend was no exception as police discovered 9-year-old Duncan Connolly

(left) and 7-year-old Jack Connolly (right) were found murdered in rural Putnam County, IL. Their father was found dead not far from where his car was left.

Jack Connolly
Jack Connolly

According to police sources, the boys’ father had a rope around his neck when he was found. The discovery brought to a close a national three-week search for the man and the boys, precipitated by Michael Connolly’s abduction of his sons following a weekend visitation.

The last time Amy saw her two boys alive, something was not right. Connolly was acting strange when they met at the police station.

Amy refused to hand over her boys on March 7th, an officer threatened her if she didn’t give them to their father, she would be arrested according to her lawyer.

Amy Leichtenberg filed orders of protection against Michael Connolly more than once after his repeated physical and emotional abuse in the later years of their marriage. Amy filed for divorce that year and moved out of their home. In a 2006, a petition for a protective order against her husband was filed, saying that his “controlling and obsessive behavior” included threats to kill himself and others along with a series of bizarre demands he made of her. Within a 15-month period, Connolly violated the orders of protection 57 times.

In 2007, Amy was awarded full custody of the boys with Connolly given supervised visitation. According to court reports from the family visitation center, Connolly’s behavior was dangerous enough to temporarily cease all visits with the boys.

In my experience, when a family visitation center terminates interaction between parent and child, it sends a red flag of danger. Connolly, the ever witty and clever abuser, was able to resume visits when his psychiatrist sent a “sympathy letter” to the judge “if my client is able to spend more time with his sons, Mr. Connolly’s depression and outbursts would lessen.” The judge responded by setting a series of “behavioral guidelines.” This included obtaining employment, housing and continued therapy. “

(He) tells me if I ever take the boys away he will hunt me and my parents down and cut us open,” Amy Leichtenberg, then known as Amy Connolly, stated in the 2006 petition seeking an order of protection. Amy said during their marriage Connolly had tried to isolate her from her family. A common characteristic among abusers.

Despite the 57 violations of the protection orders, dangerous behavior and deadly threats, McLean County Judge James Souk “rewarded” Connolly unsupervised visitation with his sons. Connolly filed numerous motions with the court, basically wearing the judge down. Despite pleas from Amy and her lawyer, which were ignored.

This mother’s plea for supervised visitation was dismissed without regard to serious safety concerns.

There is an automatic presumption that it is in the best interest of a child “regardless of court orders”, prior violence or threats, to maintain visitation with both parents.

Victims of domestic violence face a double edged sword. Either expose their children to imminent danger, or defy the court system refusing to allow visitation.

Like so many others before her, Amy tried to deal with a violent relationship in a family court environment. In family court the two parties are presumed to be on a level playing field–law abiding individuals who have a disagreement over a private family matter.

A core assumption of family law is that family disputes are not criminal disputes. As such, there are few safeguards built into the family court system to protect against the criminal dynamics that dominate family disputes in cases of family violence. In addition, the accusations the victim makes in family court, no matter how serious, carry no more authority than one person’s say so.

One of the most serious consequences is that when a family violence victim opens a case in family court against her abuser, the abuser is given equal opportunity to fight back against the victim’s accusations, often because the abusers past is not an issue.

Unless, of course, he is brought in from county or state prison sporting an orange jump suit and leg shackles.

There are lawyers and men’s groups who argue using domestic violence with a broad brush is not a reason to deny fathers visitation with their children. Accusing mothers of lying or making up stories to keep fathers’ from their children. Under the current laws, a parent without custody is entitled “reasonable visitation.”

There is a high burden of proof as evidenced in this case when a court refuses to take into account dangerous abusers pose to their children. Until we place the issue of labeling these cases as a “private matter” or an isolated incident, expect the death toll among children to rise.

Expect the courts to continue to ignore clear and present danger signs when a victim of violence seeks a divorce.