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Showing posts with label BMCC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BMCC. Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2019


Testimony Regarding How Child Abuse Allegations are Ignored in Family Court and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is used as a Rationale to Award Custody of Children to an Abusive Parent

Joan Meier, JD
Professor of Law, George Washington University
Founder, DV LEAP
February 4, 2019

My name is Joan Meier, a law Professor at George Washington University and Founder of DV LEAP, an advocacy group for expert appellate litigation to reverse unjust trial court rulings and to protect the legal rights of women and children victimized by family violence. We would like to take this opportunity to testify and express our concern for current legislation being introduced to promote the use of Parental Alienation Syndrome as a tool to abuse domestic violence (DV) victims in family court.

Dr. Joan Meier

The Problem

“Protecting our children is one of the most important things that we can do for society. Unfortunately, some courtsare overlooking potential signs of abuse and are relying on scientifically unsound factors to make decisions that impact a child’s life.” Congressman Ted Poe

Despite numerous legislative and policy reforms designed to protect DV victims, many survivors and their children are denied legal protections in family court. Expert commentators assert that family courts are awarding unfettered access or custody to abusive fathers, and increasingly cutting children completely off from their protective mothers. This has been observed especially where mothers allege child sexual abuse. Studies show that an abuser will invoke the “alienation” defense, accusing the mother of trying to turn the children against him, rather than the court acknowledging that his abusive behavior has driven the children away. 

Studies also have identified a trend toward favoring fathers, in contrast to widespread assumptions that mothers are favored in custody litigation. The findings reveal a pattern of family court failures to consider evidence of intimate partner violence, disrespectful treatment of battered women, gender biased treatment of mothers, and granting of physical custody to perpetrators of intimate partner violence.  One study found that court preferences for joint custody and the “friendly parent” principle outweighed judicial consideration of abuse claims. More in-depth empirical research has examined the lack of expertise in domestic violence and child abuse—particularly child sexual abuse—among forensic custody evaluators, who are relied on heavily by the courts. 



A primary mechanism giving evaluators and courts a quasi- scientific rationale for rejecting or ignoring abuse allegations is the theory of “parental alienation (PA),” originally called “parental alienation syndrome (PAS),” and also called “child alienation,” or simply “alienation.” PAS is a construct invented and promoted by Richard Gardner to describe a “syndrome” whereby vengeful mothers employed child abuse allegations in litigation as a powerful weapon to punish ex-husbands and ensure custody to themselves. Gardner claimed that child sexual abuse allegations were rampant in custody litigation, and that the vast majority of such claims are false, designed by the mother to “alienate” the child from the father and drive him out of the child’s life. Gardner also characterized PAS as profoundly destructive to children’s mental health and as risking their relationships with their (purportedly falsely accused) fathers for life. Recommended remedies to PAS were often draconian, including a complete cutoff from the mother in order to “deprogram” the child. PAS quickly became widely incorporated into custody litigation when any abuse—not just child sexual abuse—was alleged. 

The Solution

On September 25, 2018, The U.S. House of Representatives passed H Con Res 72, a concurrent resolution urging state courts to determine family violence claims and risks to children before considering other ‘best interest’ factors. The resolution, backed by dozens of organizations advocating for protection of women and children*, encourages states to ensure courts rely only on admissible evidence and qualified experts, and adopt qualification standards for third-party appointees.  It also affirms that Congress is prepared to use its oversight authority to protect at-risk children. The resolution also asks for   strengthened evidence admissibility standards to help ensure only scientific facts or qualified expert testimony are used to prove or disprove child abuse allegations.

It urges Congress to:
  • identify child safety as the first priority in custody and visitation adjudications, considering it before all other interest factors;
  • allow only qualified scientific evidence and certified expert testimony to be introduced in cases involving child abuse claims; and
  • mandate Congressional hearings around the practices of family courts when handling family violence allegations.
DV LEAP also partnered with the Dept. of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women on a 2-year cooperative agreement to improve the family court system’s ability to protect children in custody cases involving domestic violence or child abuse. The agreement has concluded but great accomplishments and resources were achieved. In partnership with the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, we provided education on critical issues that often determine case outcomes, such as the misuse of flawed parental alienation theories and failure to consider evidence of abuse. One particularly powerful aspect of the Project’s work was the development of a unique database of cases that have “Turned Around.”  These are cases in which the initial custody order placed a child (or children) in dangerous contact with an abusive parent and a subsequent order protected the child. Analysis of these cases provided valuable understanding of how and why custody evaluations so frequently fail to identify or predict actual risk to children who are victims of family violence.

As as result of this Cooperative Agreement, DV LEAP and the Leadership Council produced a number of written tools and resource materials to assist professionals working in the family court system.  Links to each of the documents are provided below.

I. Resources on the misuse of Parental Alienation Syndrome/Parental Alienation

II. Resources for attorneys and advocates representing protective parents

III. Research Summaries

IV. Other Resource Materials
Critiques and Case Reports of GALs’ Failures to Protect Children in Custody and Abuse Cases

Data on False Allegations in Custody Context.

We respectfully suggest that any family court legislation involving custody, PAS, allegations of child abuse and  DV be thoroughly vetted by experts in the field of Domestic Violence.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this written testimony. I can be reached with any questions at

*The list of organizations that have been advocating for passage of H. Con. Res 72 includes Advocates for Child Empowerment & Safety (ACES); California Protective Parents Association (CPPA); Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE); City of Covina; Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP); ACTION OHIO Coalition For Battered Women; Azusa City Council; Battered Mothers’ Custody Conference; California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV); Center for Child Protection and Family Support; Child Abuse Forensic Institute (CAFI); Child Abuse Solutions, Inc.; Child Justice; Child Protection Institute (CPI) at Liberty University; Child USA; Children’s Civil Rights Union (CCRU); Children’s Justice Fund; Coalition Against Domestic Violence – Lynchburg VA; Courageous Kids Network (CKN); Darkness to Light; Distinction in Family Courts (DFC); Families Against Court Travesties; Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP); Futures Without Violence (FUTURES); Incest Survivors Speakers Bureau (ISSB); Joan of Arc Lawyers Foundation, Inc.; Justice for Children; Kids Are Human; Legislative Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse; Legal Momentum; Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; Lundy Bancroft; MassKids (Massachusetts Citizens for Children); Moms Fight Back; Mothers of Lost Children; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV); National Coalition for Family Justice (NCFJ); National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV); National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS); National Organization for Women (NOW); National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence (NPEIV); National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence; Peace Over Violence; Piqui’s Justice; Senator Ed Hernandez; SOAR for Justice; Stop Abuse Campaign; Support Network of Advocates for Protective Parents (SNAPP); Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids (TAALK); The Hofheimer Family Law Firm; The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence; The Nurtured Parent; and Wings for Justice.

Saturday, May 7, 2016









Sunday, May 17, 2015


I first became involved in this issue when a group of parents came to me and wanted their stories heard and asked me to find a journalist who would write them.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone I felt would tell their stories properly.  So I began to take on the task and luckily I have a background in journalism.  For those who are interested, the slides accompanying this presentation are located at the link below:

What I did is I reviewed around 200 cases in CT and I concluded that many judges, many court personnel are not corrupt.  But the question was, what happened when they were?

I asked the question, what happened in your case?  Were there elements of fraud, was violent crime excused, did you lose everything you ever had in your whole life, your children, your jobs, your homes, your entire financial base, and sometimes your freedom.  Some people lost their lives.  Some people walk away with PTSD, depression, severe anxiety--quite simply, their brains don't work like they used to.  Please know, this is not an anomaly.  You are not alone.  

This is the result of my work, the article which appeared in The Washington Times entitled: "CT Court Employees Face Tough Questions Over Conflicts of Interest" For instance, there was the Susan Skipp case where they took her children, knowing she'd fight tooth and nail to get them back, then appointed all sorts of experts to the case who then falsely billed her.  Also about another case where the child had been raped and the child was given to his abusers and mother was denied access.  

What I'd found out was that Judges and attorneys had established a private organization called the AFCC and were operating this organization out of the CT Judicial Branch and were getting federal grants for this organization to run programs and services within the Branch as well as training outside the branch.  So when litigants came to family court, the employees would sift through the cases and find those that would be suitable for their schemes to force parents into business relationships with unvetted, untrained vendors.  

Judges had conflicts of interests and the Court was acting as a collection agency for the GAL's associated with the AFCC.  Judges were calling payments owed to GALs child support, parents were selling their homes and going into bankruptcy to pay these fees.  GALs were accused of double billing, and not meeting with their child clients.  They also charged for hundreds of thousands of dollars for problems they themselves had created.  The result was the loss of parental rights, loss of employment, bankruptcy, bogus criminal charges, jail, and the loss of freedom if litigants didn't pay.  

In Connecticut activists showed that a group of parents stuck with the same professionals and proof that the money doesn't add up can cause a raucous and get an investigation opened.  

What are some of the bases for complaint:

1.  Conflict of Interest:   This is the real or seeming incompatibility between one's private interests and one's fiduciary duty.  N.J. Judge Melanie Appleby conspired with a lawyer to help in her custody matter, then assisted him in his cases.  

2.  Fraud:  This is the intentional perversion of truth in order to induce a person to part with something of value or give up his or her legal rights.   

3.  Racketeering:  This is organized crime which involves extorting money through intimidation, violence, or other illegal methods.  It includes a pattern of illegal activity such as bribery, extortion, fraud, and murder carried out as a larger conspiracy, etc.  Pennsylvania attorney Danielle Ross of Lackawanna County served as a GAL paid to represent the best interests of the child in family and juvenile court cases and make custody recommendations.  She was paid by court and family.  The Court would order her to be appointed and forced parents to pay her hundreds and thousands. Then at the same time, the county paid her a $38,000 salary and if parents couldn't pay earned $50 per hour in those cases.  She was earning $400,000 per year.  However, it turned out she had billed the court and the family for services, double billed and did not report her billing to the IRS; this represented a form of racketeering.

Organized crime operating within the justice system itself is not just unethical or unfair, it's a serious threat to public safety, particular when children are given to their abusers. 

Billing fraud is a threat to public safety  Children are put at risk when GALs don't investigate properly.  

However, putting children in harm's way is more profitable for family court professionals.  Thus, GALs and family court professionals get less money if kids are safe; they get more money if they knowingly leave children in a position where they can get hurt and then earn money investigating the injuries that resulted from their inaction or improper actions.  

Corrupt GALs have no incentive to close cases.  This is fraud, because the services would not be needed if not for the trouble caused by these service providers.  In order to discredit the victims of these scams, the victims are falsely diagnosed with mental illness or deliberately traumatized so they appear irrational and incoherent.  Violent and dangerous offenders are allowed to get away with their crimes, and victims end up being told they are making it all up.

After reading of these outrages in my articles in The Washington Times, parents went to the legislature and complained about the false billing and started a task force.  However, once the task force was put into place, low and behold the majority of people chosen for the task force were members of the AFCC.  Eventually, there was a big hearing before the legislature, which included 100 people who showed up.   These parents showed their representatives copies of their billing invoices, and this hit home with the legislature.  When you saw the financial loss on paper, it was considerable.  

The parents had a state auditors report which I had located through freedom of information act requests showing that significant money and resources were missing from the coffers of the family services.  They also had evidence that the AFCC affiliated vendor CT Resources Group had double billed clients and improperly billed health insurance companies for services.   

In Susan Skipp's case the psychologist billed the insurance company with a coding that indicating that the child had major depression, but in court he said the child was fine.   It was clear that AFCC affiliation resulted in policies that  protected vendors, attorneys, and providers, but not consumers. Judges made decisions based on business interests.  

The problem with the AFCC:  it was inbred, and funded with tax dollars and private donations.  The AFCC is a trade association founded by family court judges, court administrators, and professionals who appear before these judges.  This could be a court vendor hired to run vital services, conduct studies, for example mediation, dv screening, etc.  

CT Resources Group also came up as a problem.  This was a private practice of  mental health evaluators who ran the GAL certification program, and conducted private evaluations of litigants,  Parents provided invoices from this group indicating billing irregularities.  Meanwhile through the FOI there was evidence in emails that providers were having private conversations with judges.  Judges were approving payments for services not provided and there was no push to sanction these guys.  Parents were afraid to come forward.  Still, the end results was that legislation was passed to reel in the GALs.  

What did parents do right?  They focused on the billing not the right and wrong of their cases.  

Currently, there is a federal law enforcement agency investigation into corrupt public officials in CT.

So how do you get the press to listen to your story?

Put together a press list; look for journalists who are the right fit for the type of story you are pitching--do your homework on that.  Make sure of the reputation and honesty of the reporter before you contact them.  Blog for someone else re their story.

Send out an email making initial contact reviewing your story briefly.   Never talk about your own case, focus on the money, don't bash fathers, include fathers, refer to parents, talk about violent crime rates, do not traumatize others with your knowledge.  Keep it simple.  Don't be a  conspiracy theorist.  

Buzz Phrases.  Use sympathetic terms.  For example, instead of domestic abuse talk about violent crime, instead of father's rights groups, talk about male offender advocacy groups, instead of judicial corruption, talk about extortion rings, organized crime, operating within the justice system. Talk about abusers getting custody, and professionals who deliberately place children in dangerous homes for profit.  

When you meet with a journalist, be sure to appear credible, dress appropriately, i.e. dress like Arianna Huffington, clean, simple, no frills.  When it comes to things to bring with you to a meeting, include a cheat sheet, and agenda. Bring your invoices, bills, contracts, vendor names, and evidence of financial fraud to illustrate your point.  

In order to obtain information on the corruption make Public Record Requests to the judicial branch, to the public  defender's office, state controller, etc. seeking copies of communications, invoices, contracts, bids, etc. IRS filings are available via Guidestart, plus there is the Secretary of State's Office Business filings.

Resources: Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press which includes a FOIA Letter Generator, federal or state specific. There is information on how to draft motions, administrative appeals, and complaints, etc.

Afterwards say thank you, email to the reporters, send a hand written thank you card to the editor at the newspaper and include followup with a phone call.


I will go through some of the ideas which led to the model of Coercive Control.  I don't go to these conferences deliberately, because I ordinarily work with custody cases and I understand how much pain is in the room.  

I had a man come to my men's group who had fired his psychiatrist.  The first week of the group he told this story--he said there was a medicine man (he was half Ojibway) who was very ill and was going to die.  So he wanted his son to meet this medicine man before the medicine  man died.  He looked very ill; his hands were palsied.  The fellow asked the medicine man why are you retiring?  The medicine man replied, I've been at this business for 30 years and every time someone comes to me with an illness, I take a little bit of it inside of me.  

What did this story mean?  The fellow had left his old psychiatrist and was coming to me.  The question was he had taken so much pain; could he open up with our group?  

The reason why I haven't come here before and I've been doing this for 50 years, the reason is that we have experienced a lot of this pain.  

I know Sharon Horn who started the domestic violence shelters; last weekend she was killed in a car accident.  She is the reason why I started in this field.  At one point, my wife and I tracked her down to this house.  A woman answered the door and slammed it in my face.  It was around the time I had very young kids, and one of my babies was in the car.  So I took him out of the car, poked him a bit to make him cry, knocked on the door again, and the women opened the door and let me in when they saw this bald fellow with a crying baby.  

Inside there were women all over the place, and this woman came downstairs looking like Katharine Hepburn with long sweeping skirts and told us this was a battered women's shelter--that was Sharon Horn.  Originally, the group found a home, but ran out of money within a week.  However, when the word went out that there was no money, envelopes arrived in the mail from grateful women who wished that there was something like this when they were experiencing DV.  Eventually, the amount of money collected was $30,000 so that the Center stayed open.  

Women battering is not about what men are doing to women.  Women battering is what men keep on doing to prevent women from doing for themselves.  No woman can be free  from oppression unless she is free and equal, and you cannot  be free and equal if you are not that way everywhere.  

Family Court is not a safe place.  It is a place where people allow litigants to be treated in ways they would never allow themselves to be treated. Then they expect litigants to be rational and calm or else they will take your children away from you.  Scenarios of this kind happen all the time in court testimony, "Your honor, he pointed a gun at the woman and pulled the trigger." Judge, "Oh, Doctor, you know the gun wasn't loaded."  

Women who have succeeded in custody want to leave the situation behind and they leave thousands of women behind.  Women need to stay to fight for their sisters, even when they have resolved their own circumstances.

We should not allow men to diminish what we have achieved.  

Originally when we talked about sexual violence, we would advise women to simply talk about violence.  

The U.S. is the only country in the world that defines the abuse as physical abuse not as gender violence.  

We are the only country that does not subscribe to the Istanbul Convention which states as follows:

"Violence against women is...a violation of human rights & a form of discrimination against women and sell mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in...physical, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty." 

The more trivial the rule a man demands we obey, the more degraded we feel.  The only reason we obey is because of fear and domination.    

I ultimately want to talk about politics because this is how we can get positive change, particularly through demonstrations.  Building alliances, and talking about rights and liberties.  

The Ray Rice case threw into relief that 90% of domestic violence doesn't appear as if it is.  If we only think of the deaths, if we only respond to the deaths, then we have only a narrow picture of what is going on.  

The vast majority of women who scored the highest on battered women's scales have never experienced physical violence.  

In 2001-2002 out of the reports to police of domestic violence only 3.6% of them result in convictions.  For every 100 calls to police, only 2 will be convicted.

Last year over a million men were arrested for DV.  In the last ten years, serious violence against women has dropped considerably and so we have been very successful in our work.    

Part of the problem we are going to evaluate tonight is the question of whether we are dealing with stupid venial judges, and stupid venial GALs or are we dealing with systemic bias.  Of course, they are not mutual exclusive.  But it is important to know what we are dealing with.  

Educating people who are systematically prejudiced and biased against women only provides a limited payoff.  

So with the situation we are talking about, are we dealing with bad police?  Way back when if a woman was the victim of DV then DCF would take the children away stating that the couple had engaged in domestic violence.  I then put together a group, we took this to federal court, and won so as to stop this practice.  

I had a major prejudice against DCF, but when I was placed on a board with them I found they were such dedicated people.  

Yes, I agree that women can be as violent as men can be.  I am against the use of violence as an instrument of control.  We need to understand that when we talk about DV, we are talking about a lot more than violence.  We are talking about a liberty crime in which assault is simply one weapon.  

We have reduced homicides dramatically among men, among African American's by 80%, but the drop in homicides against women has not dropped that much.  Part of this has to do with the context in which the violence takes place.  Men tend to kill women around the time that women leave.  Women tend to kill men when they feel themselves and their children at risk.  By establishing the shelters, women had an alternative to killing men.  

How is DV treated?  A man can have 50 to 100 assaults and no convictions.  This is because the assault is treated in traffic court.  Further, our system considers each incident separately; it does not consider the accumulation of incidents.  If the police aren't putting men in jail, it is because they are considering each incident separately.  99% of DV is trivial; it consists of pushes, shoves, kicks, hits.  In the history of abuse in a particular relationship--95% is non-injurious and non-serious.  No one ends up in jail with non-serious incidents.  

In Europe they recognize the accumulation and history of abuse.  But in American, they see a series of separate incidents which have to be proved and which each present evidentiary problems.  Family Court, juvenile court, and criminal court are like separate planets.  For instance, how many people have a restraining order in criminal court and your ex cannot get near you, and then you go to family court and they say you will lose custody if you don't allow access.  

The system is crazy making.  

The guy on Monday is the offender and is treated as a bad person, will come the next day to Bergen family court as a good enough Dad.  If a Dad shows a modest amount of interest in the child, he is a great Dad, but if a Mom shows the same interest she is entrapping, enmeshing, alienating.  

Family Court has no constitutional basis; its very shaky.  This is because there has to be a level of congeniality there, which is not required elsewhere.  

There has a been a considerable improvement in the Family Courts in Colorado because a change in the law.  Now, a woman cannot be prosecuted if what she does arises from her belief that what she is doing is for the safety of the child.   

In terms of abuse experienced, the frequency of being choked is considerably lower that being slapped, pushed, or shoved.  

Physical abuse is incredibly frequent.  

What informs the system is the concept that there are "episodes of violence" and "time between violence"  The vast majority of DV is non-injurious.  There is a pattern of low level but frequent assaults.  It is typical of women to be assaulted up to 100 to 500 times.  What happens in those situations is that it develops into a hostage situation.  

I asked did he ever prevent you from leaving when you wanted to?  

The cumulative effect of those minor incidents was the same as if she'd been beaten.  

However, the fragmentation of the abuse into separate incidents has taken the problem off the map.  

In reality, there is no decline in forms of low level violence.  

Thus, the vast majority of incidents of dv go under the radar.  

The guys are not being convicted.  

Women and children's reality:  DV is ongoing; rape and DV fall on a continuum; there is a cumulative effect; crosses social space; "help" often makes things worse.  

The vast majority of deaths of children are the result of men.  

There are some highly publicized cases of women killing children, but the vast majority of men.  DV  has been associated with high rates of homelessness, suicide rates.  Not every one, but DV is associated with highest levels of substance abuse.  40% of caucasian women attempt suicide with the context of DV and 50% of African American women attempt suicide within the context of DV.  At Yale-New Haven Hospital these battered women were being labeled as victims, but not in the ordinary sense.  

The question was why is this happening?  The answer was trauma.  But trauma is associated with severe violence and the violence we were seeing was non-serious.  

For example, with one wealthy couple, the wife was told she had to give up her job to take care of her husband's 20 something children.  Further, her husband told her that she had to pick up the phone before the 3rd ring.  So he would come home, check out the phone to see that no phones had rang more than three times, get in her face if any had, and eventually locked her in her room at 8:00p.m.  In my office, when I interviewed her if a phone began to ring, she would be covered with hives.  It would be terrible what that phone did to this woman.  

You cannot be a person without rights.  Within this framework of violence we normalize and trivialize abuse in a way you would hardly think possible.  So what we have is for the better part coercive control in up to 60-80 percent of cases, not the major assaults in the 20 - 40 percent of cases.  

Some people fight, hit each other and use a lot of violence.  That's not the issue here with the coercive control I am talking about.  

When violence is linked to inequality and oppression that we want to step in and intervene.  This is what should concern prosecutors.  

There are some cases in which physical violence is the problem, but usually in these cases of low level assault, the woman retains her job, and some of her autonomy.  

Women who manage to mother through domestic violence are amazing.  

Thus, around 60 percent of women we are seeing in family court, criminal court, and child welfare system are they are experiencing this pattern of coercive control.  It is often and frequent.  This involves sexual coercion.  Men get a lot out of abuse--economic privileges, social privileges, status privileges.  This is about men who plan, scheme, strategize.  Being abusive and controlling is hard work.  Such men use  rational, instrumental thinking within their pathology.  Combine manhood along with opportunity for exploitation then you have coercive control.  It is not about conflict; it is about control.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


I am a child of parents who escaped the holocaust.  Many of the most horrible things that Nazis did was done lawfully under the color of German law.  German citizens who attempted to save Jewish children were  violating the law--in fact, they faced the execution of their own children.  

I grew up in the 60s and participated in social activism at the time.  I believe deeply that there are times in history when the moral thing to do is to break the law.  I graduated from law school in 1982.  I don't talk about this much, but the first time I took family law I got a D in the class.  I got a D because the professor asked a question, put up a scenario and asked what would you advise a client in this situation; I wrote a lengthy answer which the professor didn't like.  

I've been confronted sometimes regarding what I said at a meeting such as this.  At one point, a person confronted me and asked, "Did you really say that "Our family court system is intended to give abused children over to abusers."  No what I actually said was "If someone were to create a family court system which was intended to guarantee that a large number of children would be handed over to their abusers it would like like our family court system."  

But I don't assign bad motives.  I don't go out of my way to draw the conclusion that people in the system have bad motives.  It is really one of the most frustrating things, angering things, about our family court system.  There are good people in the system who just don't do their jobs and as a consequence of them not doing their jobs, children are hurt.  

I can understand people who have psychological disorders and they do horrible things because they have psychological disorders.  I can understand they can't control themselves.  I can understand running into some evil people in the family court system.  Yet Family Court is full of good people.  

From my perspective in order to make the system work, this means they have to do their best.  Mom's have to do their best at every level when it comes to choosing a good lawyer, doing their best in taking care of themselves and not being self harming. Evaluators have to do their best and also Judges have to do their jobs.  That is the only way it is going to work.  It is bad how many psychologist are doing what they are doing and yet they know better.  

You folks as you go out and become activists, for many of you, something horrible has already happened.  

I use the cancer analogy, it is nobody's fault when a child gets cancer, but it happens.  Mothers losing custody to abusers is a national health epidemic.  You all have been the victims of it.  You've suffered from it.  You caught it.  You stepped in it.  Yet you are still Moms and you still have to do the best with it, and if you have an hour with your child, you have to make the best with that hour, because that will make a big difference with that child when he or she grows up.  You have to commit yourselves to being with your kids and also to being a part of the movement and working consciously to stop this epidemic.  

One of the things that is very depressing, really upsetting, was when Marilee McLean talked about her case last night and I know because I was at the rally at Denver which was 20, 25 years ago that her daughter was failed by the Court, and that story that Marilee told is still going on.  It has't changed.  

I just talked to a person here today who had the exact same story a month ago.  Whatever we are doing we aren't doing enough and we aren't doing it well enough.  

There aren't as many people doing it as long as I've done it, so it's my failure.  You are newer advocates and now the mantel of activism is handed over to you.  

I will acknowledge that some of the experts witnesses in my day were sloppy and incompetent.  In the 1980s there was a psychologist who acted as a validator; people came to her to verify that there was truly sexual abuse.  She turned out to be doing a bad job.  Perhaps we made a mistake of looking for expertise from bad experts.  Now these bad experts are out of business, but the good experts have been silenced at the same time.  

There are bad experts now out there making fortunes selling quack theories and they get away with it in court.  

I remember when I was starting out there was a brilliant psychologist in VT that everyone used.  But she had one quirk; if you asked her six months in advance what her opinion was in summary, she'd give it and produce a report six months later matching that initial summary.  

Finally, an opposing attorney asked her on the stand why she did a particular test, and she responded, in order to corroborate my opinion. That lost the case.

I had another expert who was considered a good evaluator regarding child sexual abuse.  Good judges wanted to find out what was best for the child.  Good lawyers representing Moms would tell them this Dr. V saw no evidence of abuse so you might as well give up.  Dr. V. had done thousands and thousands of cases.  

I then did a depositions of Dr. V and I asked him how many of these cases included ones in which a child was sexually abused, and he said maybe one.  

You see, nobody had ever asked him that question.  

PAS.  PAS exists and judges know it exists.  And when we spend our time screaming that PAS is junk.  PAS is misused, but it exists.  

A lot of Moms who know from direct first hand experience that their father is a dangerous, violent person.  It isn't necessarily a bad thing for  Mom to let their child know that, that there is some danger here.  But it has nothing to do with a situation where a child has been sexual abused and the mother has also experienced rape and violence from the father.  Further, if a child reports sexual abuse and yet there is no evidence this does not mean a child hasn't been sexually abused.  

I have defended mothers who fled to protect their child.  

What makes me crazy are these cases where the mother has already been determined either by court order or stipulation to be the best parent, where the mother is already the primarily custodial parent, and then the child discloses sexual abuse that hasn't been proven. I don't understand how the mere fact of this disclosure leads good mothers to lose their children. I don't understand the concept of how that leads the court to take that child away from the good mother and hand it over to the abuser who may not be an abuser, but maybe he is.  

I hope that helps you to understand why that is crazy.  

Again, on this theme of good people doing bad things this is what is hard for me to get my head around.  There is this phenomenon where a parent comes to court with the accusation, an evaluator gives a report that he just doesn't know.  Then, it comes up again on emergency docket, and another evaluator does testing which also doesn't show anything, but Mom shows stress.  Or Mom says, "Tell the evaluator what you told me" which comes across as coaching. Still, the evaluator finds nothing. Unsupervised visitation resumes, and then a month later Mom comes back.  Good people don't like believing that sexual abuse might have occurred.  If there is a mistake and it turns out the child is being sexually abused, judges don't like to admit their mistake.  So judges blame the mother.  This is what is happening.  

So for those of you undergoing this, you are not alone.  People make mistakes--that's understandable.  There is a tendency under these situations for mothers to fall apart and stop taking care of themselves.  Keep in mind that you need to survive so that you can be there for your child.  

When I was in VT an attorney called me and asked to meet with me.  He told me and said I think I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't ask you what you meant by a comment you made, "I can't recall how many times I've been arrested."  I responded, "I can only say that each time that happened I was exercising my first amendment rights."  

There are times when it is necessary for people of good conscience to break the law.  I am not talking about mothers who break the law to protect their children.  I am talking about everyone else who is an activist and talking about building a movement.  Those of you who have lost your children, those of you who know someone who lost their children, keep in mind that no great movement has ever succeeded without people committing civil disobedience.  

I did want to share with you a famous NE story which most of you have heard of.  Henry David Thoreau ended up in jail for not paying his taxes and Ralph Waldo Emerson came to visit him and asked, "What are you doing in there?" and Thoreau answered, "What are you doing out there?"  

When people ask why are you so obsessed with this, you need to ask why are you so complicit?  

Rabbi Prince was a young rabbi in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis and he was charismatic and dynamic.  He was giving sermons against the Nazis even before they took power, and when they took over, he gave sermons ever week telling Jews they have to leave.  Finally, the Nazis deported him.  Keep in mind that in the early years of Nazis they first deported people, but as time went on they killed them, only killed them when other countries refused to accept people and gave tacit approval of the death programs.  

Here is what Rabbi Prince had to say at the March on Washington just before Martin Luther King spoke: the most important thing I learned under those tragic circumstances is that bigotry and hatred is not the most urgent problem, the most disgraceful problem is silence.  

One last repetitive request, become active.  There was a time in the South in this country when people grew up thinking racism was inevitable and the brutal system they lived under would never change and it was unimaginable how quickly things changed.  Who would have imagined that when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, this was the beginning of such a great civil rights movement.  At first, protesters against the war in Vietnam were a handful, and then within a few years the movement swelled into thousands and thousands.  When college students began to protest apartheid no one imagined that this system could change.  In Nazi Germany during the darkest moments during WWII people really didn't think they had a chance--the Nazi's were powerful, they were everywhere.  But these people knew that if they didn't do anything, then evil would triumph.  

They didn't know how long it would take, any more than you do.  But don't give up please!