allow me to share with you an email from the man who battered
and abused myself and my son. The email is regarding an extended,
unsupervised visitation he will soon be having with our child. It
epitomizes the absurd and unjust situation in which a battered mother
The batterer has a long-term restraining order against him.
He asked, "I appreciate you letting me know where John will
be staying when he is with you, and your phone number there, as
well. We have a logistical problem when John goes from you to me,
because I can't legally be in your presence. How do you propose
to do the transfer?"
Indeed. A very good question. Because there is no safe way to,
as he put it, "do the transfer". (And how ugly that such
an expression could be used about a child, as if the child were
an object, a possession, and not a human being.)
No wonder the abuser was puzzled. The same system that handed him
a restraining order handed him perpetual access to the people he
As a battered
mother bullied by the court system into accepting unsupervised visitation
that I know is dangerous to my son -- and to me -- I have posed
the batterer's question myself. I have posed it to my lawyer, I
have posed it to domestic violence experts, and frequently I pose
it to myself in the middle of the night when I wake up, clammy with
fear, wondering first of all how I can bear to entrust my child
to this man, and secondly, how I can cope with the dangers I myself
face, dealing with this person "regularly" for the next
13 years, until my son will be 18.
This batterer, this violent
abuser, with the energetic support of a batterer-identified guardian
ad litem, was able to achieve seven weeks of unsupervised visitation
in our custody settlement -- most of it in his own state, which
is thousands of miles from my own. Twice a year I must spend thousands
of dollars to bring my child for two of the three visitations, and
I must deal personally with the batterer.
Furthermore, I have shared
legal custody with the batterer, which means having to frequently
communicate with someone who chronically screamed at me and called
me names like cunt (in front of our child) if I so much
as asked a question he had not approved my asking. That this man
-- whose son received a diagnosis, after we left the abuser, of
post-traumatic stress disorder -- should have any right to custody
or unsupervised visitation is bizarre enough, but the circumstances
this visitation and custody create are nothing short of human rights
Even here, though, it
could have been even worse -- much worse. Over and over, I have
heard stories of women who were stripped of all custody of their
children, and denied even visitation with them, because they dared
to challenge an abuser in court. An abused mother in the court system
is the center of a target continually fired upon by attorneys, paid
"experts," batterer-identified court personnel, and a
patriarchal society bent on perpetuating the oppression of women.
This is particularly
true of women whose husbands sexually abuse their children; raising
an allegation of child sexual abuse is tantamount to fully surrendering
custody of the child to the abuser. If that sounds incredible, you
need only watch the harrowing documentary, "Small Justice,"
produced by Garland Waller, or the documentary produced by the Wellesley
Centers for Women Battered Mothers Testimony Project, which
shows women testifying about the brutal and legal theft of their
children by batterers through the family court system.
When mothers, attempting
to protect their children from sexual abuse, bring such allegations
to court, almost inevitably the custody of their children is wrestled
away from them to abusers through bogus counter-accusations by the
abuser that the mother is "alienating" the child from
the father, through a so-called "parental alienation syndrome,"
or "PAS," a situation that can only be "cured"
by stripping the mother of all parenting rights. This so-called
"PAS" was a syndrome invented by a self-published psychologist
who also advocated parent-child sexual relations, and whose "work"
was gleefully brought into the family court system by batterers
and their attorneys. Incredible? Unfortunately, it was entirely
credible to the patriarchal, oppressive family court system of this country.
The court system has
a sickening history of fully endorsing such outrages against women.
Even in cases where sexual abuse is not raised as an issue, batterers
(and let there be no mistake, the overwhelming majority of batterers
are men) are entirely likely to achieve sole or at least shared
custody of children.
There is no such thing
as a "good" battering parent. Batterers batter. Removing
the woman from the batterer's home does mean the batterer becomes
a good parent, as many people, incredibly, believe. Instead, he
turns his abuse more fully on the child.
The family court system
is nothing short of a ruthless war on women and children. The so-called
"Father's Rights" groups are the militia that have fueled
this war to reach unprecedented degrees of viciousness and cruelty.
Recently I spoke with a retired probation officer, who had studied
the endless streams of batterers who came before him. The retired
officer concluded that "Father's Rights" groups were nothing
more than "Batterer's Rights Groups."
Those who purport to
care about the safety and rights of battered mothers and children,
must make the family court system their very first priority -- both
in terms of preparing women effectively for the grueling abuses
of the courtroom, and by lobbying for substantive changes in the
As I write, children
are suffering in the custody of abusers, and women across the country
are living the nightmare of losing their children to their abusers.
Meanwhile, in two weeks, I will be facing my own personal batterer,
thousands of miles from home, and handing over my beloved child
to him, unprotected, for a month. It is crucial that we transform
our legal system into a justice system, and we can begin, right
here, right now, by educating ourselves, and by making reform of
the family court system an issue which our congressmen and women
must make a priority. Right here, right now, and without exception
-- because the alternative, for millions of women and children,
is a nightmare beyond bearing.
If you are ready to learn
more, please get a copy of the powerful "Small Justice' video,
available at www.intermedia-inc.com,
or of the Wellesley Centers for Women stunning human rights reports
and video documentary, which can be ordered through their website,
wcwonline.org. Read Lundy Bancroft and Jay Silverman's "The
Batterer as Parent", as well as Lundy Bancroft's "When
Dad Hurts Mom". Read as widely and as well as you possibly
can, then act.
Woman by woman, we can,
and must, transform this brutal and cruel system.
mmo : June