FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -
CONTACT: UNITED FOR JUSTICE
OPEN MESSAGE TO UNITED STATES SENATE & HOUSE OF
The American Judges Association reports one of the most
common reasons for resuming an abusive relationship is fear the abuser
will act on threats of taking the children. Studies show that batterers
have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or
undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases.
This is one of America's darkest most shameful secrets. The
problem has taken on epidemic proportions and we call upon our Senators
and Representatives to act swiftly to ensure prompt investigation. We want
to be heard and to have these issues addressed openly. Please make this
your top priority for all the mothers and children in this country and for
generations to come.
Growing numbers of protective, non-offending, loving and fit
mothers are losing custody of their children everyday. They are losing
despite being good mothers, despite a lack of past involvement of the
father with the children, and regardless of being the primary caregiver.
Women who seek to exit bad or even dangerous relationships and/or seek
child support are met with retaliatory suits for child custody. Many women
who try to leave an abusive partner find that the court system can become
a place where the abuser is enabled and even facilitated in victimizing
her and her children.
Courts increasingly not only ignore, but even bar evidence
of child abuse, including sexual molestation. Amazingly, the perpetrators
the women seek to leave, or protect their children from, are increasingly
awarded sole custody or unsupervised visitation with the children they
have harmed. This results in ultimate control over the child victim,
ultimate revenge against the child's mother, and an end to the father's
child support obligation. The abuser is hence provided further control of
the mother by collecting support from her while she is often denied
contact with her children. In this way, both child and mother are
A junk science theory called " Parental Alienation Syndrome"
or "PAS" is being used as the primary courtroom tactic to shut the mouths
of abused children and mothers. Developed by Richard Gardner of Columbia
University, this "syndrome" he purports is not based on systematic
research, instead developed from personal observation and prejudices.
Gardner has never tested his theory, it is not contained within the
DSM-IV, and most of its foundational assumptions have been disproved.
Gardner has espoused recommendations called "Threat Therapy" to send
children to juvenile detention centers and mothers to jail for reporting
abuse. He has written articles expressing the idea that incest and
pedophilia may not be as traumatic as current social attitudes suggest.
PAS is routinely used in courts across the country to inappropriately
remove custody from loving, safe and fit mothers under a variety of
scenarios: domestic violence, child abuse of any sort, reluctance to
support flip-flopping shared custody schedules, reluctance to send
children on unsupervised visitation with fathers with anger-management
problems, substance abuse problems, poor parenting, etc.
Abused and molested children have lost their voices in
court. There exists a pattern of court rulings which reflect that
molestation or other abuses of one's own child can earn a father sole
custody, whereas if the same crime had been committed upon the child who
lives next door, the same perpetrator would be sentenced to a long prison
term. While these re-victimized children lose their mothers, protracted
litigation pads the pockets of lawyers, mental health providers, custody
evaluators, and visitation monitors.
One of us lost all 5 of her children. One teenager hanged
himself rather than see his mom jailed for his refusal to visit his dad. A
medically fragile child died from neglect less than 3 weeks after he was
wrongfully removed from his mother by the court. One of us stood criminal
trial for "kidnapping" our own children -- and the jury who acquitted her
admonished the county for the arrest and prosecution. One of us was jailed
for refusing to turn her children over to a convicted child molester.
Routinely, mothers are illegally jailed for trying to protect their
children from documented abuses. Some of our phones are tapped, some of us
have to pay monitors to see our children, most of us are impoverished by
spending life savings and losing employment to keep up with endless court
proceedings, entirely impossible child support payments, orders to pay the
father's attorney fees, contempt charges, fines and sanctions -- all
intended and strategically ordered to lead to certain financial ruin of
mothers. This is but some of the hundreds of tactic designed to bankrupt
the protective parent.
This is no longer an individual state issue but a federal
government issue. Federal funding to court systems for various unsound,
discriminatory and unscientific programs ordered in many of these cases is
of great concern. Congressional findings in the Violence Against Women Act
(VAWA) 1999 specifically identifies the use of PAS as an act of violence
toward women which endangers children. It states that PAS is frequently
and improperly used by courts and custody evaluators to discount
children's reasonable fear and anger toward a violent parent and that this
"syndrome" is used almost exclusively against women. It further states
that when domestic violence is or has been present in the relationship,
shared parenting arrangements, couples counseling, or mediation
arrangements may increase the danger to the children and to the
non-violent parent. We call upon you to investigate why our state courts
are allowed to proliferate its use unchecked.
We desperately hope our open public letter will be published
and broadcast across the country and that it will cause readers to demand
investigations and journalists to expose a "system" which is seriously
As mothers who care about all children, we ask that you
expose a system that does not work. We further ask that you eliminate
federal funding of discriminatory groups and programs that enable
continued harm to women and children.
UNITED FOR JUSTICE
United foPlease feel free to download this
Open Message for distribution to the media, state legislators, Congress,
your local NOW chapter, etc.
File: UJF Open
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