If you have been following my blog, Thriving in Crazy Land, you know that I am a victim of domestic violence now co-parenting with my abuser.
I’ve written about my journey navigating the rough waters of parenting teenagers with the man who once strangled me, beat me, spit on me, left me, sued me for custody, and has basically found any number of ways to attack me verbally whenever he wants.
But, what I don’t write about much are my children’s feelings and their journey with an abuser for a father. I choose not to write publicly about this aspect out of respect of my children’s wishes and my best parenting instincts. That information belongs to them, not me.
I will say that mothering children whose father is an abuser is the hardest aspect of my life. And every good parent can imagine what I mean. And, my patience with this is wearing thin.
Tonight, I got a Tweet from one of my dearest cyber friends who let me know that the Boston Globe has tackled the issue of domestic abusers winning custody of their children. Evan Allen and Nestor Ramos followed the story of a young girl being placed with her abusive father despite mountains of evidence and against the wishes of the mother.
This little girl was placed with her father, a man who had been accused in the past of sexually abusing another child, after a custody dispute and after the judge assumed the mother was lying about her fears.
“I tried to tell anyone who would listen, but no one believed me,” said the 7-year-old girl (The Boston Globe published)
After I read the story, I cried and then got mad. I am so angry and fed up. Enough is freakin’ enough.
(If you have had enough, too, please go to this link and sign this petition, click here to access change.org)
I’ve been writing and studying this issue of domestic abusers winning various forms of custody for years and it all makes me sick. There is not a single study out there that says abusers make good and trustworthy parents. In fact, they make horrible parents because of their choice to abuse in the first place. Abusers don’t put the needs of anyone over their own. They don’t know how to have healthy relationships. They often fall in the personality disorder spectrum and in the majority of these cases, they abuse their children just as they abused their spouses. Victims of abuse are in more danger after they leave their abuser, as well.
Do you remember Josh Powell, who was suspected of killing his wife and who blew up his two little children and himself on a supervised visitation? Do you remember Scott Peterson who killed his 8-month pregnant wife and dumped them in the San Fransisco Bay?
Recently, in Jacksonville, Fl, the boyfriend of a young mother shot and killed her twin babies while she held them in her arms before he took his own life. He left her alive to suffer a hell I can’t imagine.
Enough is enough. What more is it going to take?
I have been conducting a survey for many months on social media using a simple, anonymous Google form. And I am shocked at what I’ve discovered so far.
Of the 106 people who responded to my survey, 85 percent are co-parenting with their abusers and 7 percent have had their time with their children reduced by a court to less than just 30 percent of their children’s time or even less.
These are violent abusers with a history of many forms of abuse toward these victims. Rather than find a safe haven with authorities sworn to protect them, almost all of these victims have been re-traumatized in court. Judges have dismissed the abuse assuming that the abuse is trumped up to gain advantage. Though the American Bar Association reports that only 1 percent of women have been found to fabricate abuse in custody cases.
In my survey, nearly 20 percent of the victim’s attorneys told them not to bring up the domestic abuse in their custody case, even though that in the cases where it was introduced, abusers were awarded less time with their innocent and vulnerable children.
In the survey, 70 percent of the respondents had been physically assaulted by their exes and 30 percent had been choked or injured with a weapon. Seventy-four percent of the abusers had threatened their partners that they would take the children away from them and 47 percent told their partners they would sue them if they didn’t give them their way.
And most dramatic, 95 percent of those who responded, remember anonymously, reported that their child had been the victim of abuse or witnessed abuse by one of their parents against the other (in almost all cases it was a man abusing a woman in the results.)
One woman wrote after taking the survey:
“I am so scare that I can’t protect my daughter if the court decides to give him over nights. He is an alcoholic and very manipulative. He won’t tell me where he is living or where he plans to take out daughter.”
Another respondent wrote:
“No one seems to really care about the truth. My judge actually said she didn’t want to hear any further testimony because it’s all he-said-she-said, but I had witnesses of the abuse. Our system is so broken and I still feel just as trapped as when I was in the abusive relationship.”
“There is a massive disconnect in family court regarding violent men and their ability/willingness to “parent” or co-parent/cooperate in a non-abusive manner. Just because you are no longer together doesn’t mean they are no longer batterers and there is false believe that a violent man can be a good parent.”
“My judge is corrupt. My abusive ex has temporary custody of my daughter when I have had custody her whole life and have two GALs (guardian ad litem) that reported that I should have sole custody. The judge ignored all the evidence.
I’m just fed up. How many more children are going to be used in this way before family court is reformed?
But unfortunately, I have pages and pages of comments from these victims of abuse about the injustices they have faced in trying to protect their children from domestic abuse. No one seems to want to listen to the evidence they have presented.
“The lawyers not only failed to present the evidence of domestic abuse, they were insensitive and dismissive about my history as a domestic abuser victim, asking victim-blaming questions. One even said the problem of the abuse and conflict is due to “cultural differences” and she is suppose to be a very experienced family lawyer. The judge, who simply described the marriage as “turbulent,” only paid attention after I kept pushing,” one woman wrote.
And maybe the most heartbreaking testimonies of all:
“He kicked me out of the house because I was “being irrational” and he refused to allow me to take our 5 month old daughter with me.”
“I left a highly toxic abusive relationship when my child was only 3 months old. I was immediately drug into court, he lied about his involvement with our child and the judge deviated from the Arizona state guidelines for such a young child and awarded 50/50 custody on a rotating 2 day schedule … I spent a year defending myself against all sorts of false allegations, fighting motion after motion to reach a final parenting plan of 2-2-3 rotating days, which is extremely difficult for my now 2-year-old, who is constantly shuffled between homes. He has no consistency and recently started showing signs of anxiety.”
Barry Goldstein, a tireless advocate in the Northeast, has written several books on this and writes for stopabusecampaign.com and says gender biases are showing up in the majority of these family court decisions.
Lundy Bancroft, who has been working and treating abusers for more than 20 years, says “Good fathers don’t abuse their children’s mothers.”
I say too many children and victims have already suffered enough and its time for it to stop. It is very easy to do and family court officials are just making it too hard. Abusers should not be the parent in charge of their kids. Period.
Julie Boyd Cole is a mother of two sons, a journalist, writer and business woman. She has written for the Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Yahoo.com among many publications around the country. She is the author of “How to Co-Parent with An Abusive Ex and Keep Your Sanity” available on Amazon.
Currently, she is the chief executive administrator of a non-profit in North Florida. And Julie is a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband, an NFL sportswriter, and today is an advocate helping other victims sort through the trauma of domestic abuse.
Julie also writes for bruisedwoman.com and @bruisedwoman on Twitter about the topic of domestic abuse, co-parenting with an abuser and the emotional damage caused by narcissists and personality disorders.
Surviving domestic violence wasn’t easy or the PTSD that followed, but Julie has found a path through the trauma and now encourages all women that they can too. Julie leads YANA support, speaks to church groups, community groups and women made homeless by abuse. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org