FINALLY – some good news to share with you all!!!
After years of effort, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to know what the problem is. If the problem was simply abuse, that might be easier for them to look at then what they’re going to get!
The challenge on our end is breaking the problem down into comprehensible pieces and doing so in a manner that will get the wheels of justice started up. This is MUCH easier said than done because the subject matter is incomprehensible to begin with and once someone “gets it” the temptation is to look the other way or find an excuse about why nothing can be done to correct it. What problem am I referring to? Something that can be summed up as the family court crisis.
Here’s the first incomprehensible fact: Domestic violence is a nightmare but what happens after a victim “successfully escapes” (is not killed in the process of leaving) with her children is worse. HOW can it possibly be worse? Let me tell ya…
The “up” side for a victim being in a DV situation is that she knows what “the rules” are; she knows what the consequences will be for every action, inaction and nuance that occurs in her home. A peaceful, pain-free existence for all is her total responsibility - the abuser demands it of her and her children depend upon her for it. If she fails in some way - if something goes wrong or not as planned - the punishment could be long-lasting, painful and severe so it is crucial that she, as peacekeeper, gets everything done “right” according to the abuser’s specifications and rules.
By the time she leaves, she KNOWS what she’s up against. Many victims, with faith in the justice system, leave resigned with the idea “My relationship didn’t work out with him but he is still my children’s father” so they’ll initially argue to keep the abuser in the children’s lives (which they'll soon learn benefits no one but the abuser).
Ready for the next incomprehensible fact?: Just because the victim leaves doesn’t mean that the abuse is over so her nightmare might be over but her stint in purgatory is just beginning!
The “reward” for “successfully escaping” is NOT the safety and freedom from abuse she imagined would be guaranteed to her and her children - it's simply being alive. By the time the survivor realizes that leaving does not end the abuse and the system's broken beyond belief, it’s too late: she’s disclosed intimate details of the abuse to authorities and/or third parties, has taken legal steps to keep her and her children safe and has broken the cardinal rule of DV (“You will not leave me”). She knows all this has enraged the abuser and knows that punishment will follow. In effect, her naive faith in the system will contribute to an increase in risk for her and result with her children being placed with a man who she fled to keep them safe from.
Here’s where it starts to get complicated: The survivor learns that leaving doesn’t stop the abuse but everyone else doesn’t learn that lesson because they’re still on the previous page under the erroneous assumption that “Once she leaves, the abuse is over”.
What difference does that make? All of it because by this time a child custody “battle” is well underway. In states like Hawaii where the law states that an abuser does not get sole or joint custody of a child (see HRS 571-46(9) http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol12_Ch0501-0588/HRS0571/HRS_0571-0046.htm ) there shouldn’t even be any DV-related custody “battles” because if the law was correctly applied and upheld, there’d be nothing to battle over but because DV is aggressively factored out or litigated away in the name of “fairness and equity” Hawaii is shamefully and heavily entrenched in the family court crisis. (Many DV cases are quick to be relabeled as "high conflict" cases; guess that sounds better then "mishandled DV cases"...)
Enter the next incomprehensible fact: Some of “the good guys” who are supposed to help DV victim-survivors and their children turn out to be the bad guys – and in some cases, they’re worse then the abusers themselves!
Know that saying “Out of the frying pan into the fire”? Before the victim left, she had one abuser to contend with where she knew what the rules were; now as a survivor she can have multiple abusers, many of whom are introduced as “good guys” and many of whom are supposed to be “on her side”. Unlike her abuser these new abusers often have insensitive and inconsistent rules, change the rules as they go along, have been granted professional immunity and are not seen by others as abusive because they hold professional titles and are seen as the good guys.
For the survivor, the experience is like a permanent seat at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party: court orders may or may not apply; laws may or may not be upheld; Child Protective Services may over-zealously jump in without cause for no reason while in some cases that scream “Rescue me!” they adamantly refuse to get involved; professionals who are supposed to know all about DV (court evaluators, psychologists, social workers, GALs, judges, etc.) prove themselves to be clueless yet continue to serve in DV-related cases (just to name a few “very merry unbirthday” moments). In what other situation can a good and protective parent lose custody of a child to an abuser for doing the right thing?
What’s absolutely astonishing is that the professionals who oversee such cases miss even the most basic and obvious of premises from the get-go, ie: if the victim’s sole purpose in the DV relationship was to keep peace for the family and the abuser’s primary role was that of a bully, what do you think’s going to happen when the peacekeeper is removed from the situation?
For some inexplicable reason, everyone expects the abuser to automatically be a competent, capable parent (despite any evidence to support this assumption) and because she left they believe no more abuse can occur. What happens is that the kids become the abuser’s secondary victims and the family court's "best practice" Frankenstien experiments – what a way to spend a childhood, huh?
Tragically, some of these children don’t make it out of the experience alive and in that instance, there will be no professional consequences for malpractice because the professionals have been granted immunity from it. The more the protective parent raises concerns, the more barriers are placed in-between her and her children. Case-in-point: the ongoing case of Dr. Ariel King and her daughter, Ariana-Leilani http://www.examiner.com/article/a-case-that-fell-through-the-cracks-rises-internationally (see attached the You Tube video for an update). Like too many other children, Ariana-Leilani's life has turned into a race - will justice prevail and Ariana-Leilani get the medical treatment she so desperately needs or will she end up paying the ultimate price for corruption?
Sound outrageous and unbelievable? If you were in the survivor's shoes, what would you do? Explain all this to authorities? What happens when the authorities ARE the problem? When survivors turn to local remedies, they're listened to UNTIL the offender's names are revealed: Judge X, Custody Evaluator Y, Attorney Z. When the issues and concerns of the victim-survivors are ignored, marginalized or buried and business goes on as usual - or perhaps with a retaliatory spin - that's called CORRUPTION and last I knew, corruption was a CRIME. (Last I knew too, a crime is a crime no matter who commits it!) and THIS is what the DOJ wants to hear about.
If you or someone you know has been affected by this family court crisis or experienced systemic corruption in a family court-related case, please check out the instructions for submitting a complaint to the DOJ here: http://www.examiner.com/article/us-department-of-justice-calls-for-examples-of-outrageous-child-custody-outcomes?goback=%2Egde_2149994_member_5819920173368369155#%21 and be aware - there's a January 15, 2014 deadline!