Rapists can legally get joint custody of children conceived during the rape

June 21, 2013

It may be difficult to believe, but only 19 states restrict the rights of rapists to custody of the children fathered through the rape.

Rapists have been known to blackmail their victims with threats to seek joint custody, so that the victim will remain silent and not pursue criminal charges.

That is how deep the family court joint custody presumption runs. Despite evidence indicating a violent assault and/or criminal charges or convictions, family court judges still seek to protect the rights of both parents to be involved in their children’s lives.

Consider this terrible story of a teen raped at age 14 and now involved in a custody battle with her rapist.

Court upholds conviction of faith healing parents who let their daughter die

July 7, 2013

It appears to be a complex issue. Religious freedom is a constitutionally protected right in our country. There are those who do not believe in modern medicine as a religious principle. They believe God will cure their ill family members if they pray for a cure.

When a child has a serious or potentially fatal illness for which modern medicine has an absolute or potential cure, should it be criminal for faith healer parents to refuse medical treatment for their child? Faith healers’ religious beliefs may extend to concepts including death and the afterlife. They may believe that it is God’s place to determine who lives and dies and when.

Last Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided in one case that yes.

Upholding the convictions of two faith healer parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, without an organized religious affiliation who prayed and refused medical care while their 11 daughter died of undiagnosed diabetes on Easter Sunday of 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that despite legal protections for parental decision making in religious situations, in this case, the parents went too far.

The parents argued that they did not expect their daughter to die. However, two juries had already made factual findings that the parents were responsible for their daughter’s preventable death when they watched her grow weak until she could no longer eat, walk, or talk and nonetheless did not get her medical care, believing that going to the doctor is akin to worshipping an idol.

Wisconsin and more than a dozen other states protect parents who choose to refuse medical treatment for their children for religious reasons. However, some question the appropriateness of the religious exemptions.

According to Shawn Francis Peters of the University of Wisconsin, approximately a dozen children die every year of treatable illnesses when parents refuse medical care for them on religious grounds.

Read this Huffington Post article for more information on the subject.

Study links childhood neglect to adult relationship problems

June 5, 2013

A recent study, reported on at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, found a direct link between childhood neglect and relationship difficulties in adulthood, including an inability to form lasting close relationships with others.

The study, conducted by Thachell Tanis and Lisa J. Cohen, Ph.D., on 114 non-psychotic patients, used clinical self-report surveys with 114 patients to evaluate the patients’ childhood histories and adult relational capacity

The Multidimensional Neglectful Behavior Scale measured the subjects’ history of neglect in childhood, and the Severity Indicies of Personality Problems assessed the capacity for intimacy and enduring relationships.

The findings were striking.

Childhood neglect as a whole correlated with an 81% negative affect in ability to form lasting relationships in adulthood.

See the report in Clinical Psychiatry News: Childhood Neglect Affects Close Adult Relationship Capacity

Moving art exhibition by traumatized children in the UK

June 3, 2013

Last year at this time, Kids Company, a charitable organization in the UK, working with severely abused and traumatized children and youth, put on a highly lauded art exhibition called Child Hood, the Real Event at the Royal Academy of Arts. The artwork from over 1000 children included paintings, poetry, and sculpture depicting the painfully troubled lives the young artists lived on the streets of London.

Consider this review of the exhibition by Florence Waters in The Telegraph.

Many traumatized and abused children exhibit extraordinary artistic talent, and much of the art exhibited speaks to the suffering and unbelievable violence these children endured. For instance, one room in the exhibition, the Pink Room, featured a sculpture of a girl lying on a bed, her body cracked in places, beneath a hanging mobile decorated with mens’ shoes.

Kids Company uses a wraparound model in its work with abused and neglected children and youth, providing therapy, social support, education, and living facilities. Its mission includes the goal of influencing other organizations around the world to adopt its model. Like a nonprofit organization in the United States, Kids Company is funded by private donations and government funding.

Dutch attorney receives Children’s Humanitarian Award

March 19, 2013

The Dutch government and a prominent Dutch attorney received a humanitarian award yesterday at George Washington University Law School for helping the American Holly Collins and her children receive asylum in Holland twenty years ago as they escaped from an abusive husband and father from whom the American government failed to protect them.

These efforts and the story of this family’s saga involving domestic violence are documented in the film No Way Out But One. Holly Collins became the first American woman granted asylum by the government of the Netherlands.

Els Lucas is the Dutch attorney who helped Holly prove the violence from which she and her children suffered and the U.S. government’s refusal to safeguard them. In fact, it was the United States government from which Holly needed protection because in 1994 the FBI had turned her into a fugitive for having to run from the orders of an American family court which endangered her children.

This brief synopsis of the film No Way Out But One from the Stanford University Law School’s Center for Internet and Society is very descriptive.

When other countries are forced to provide asylum to United States citizens to protect them from our laws and their implementation, shouldn’t that give us cause for reflection? Shouldn’t we in the United States, our legislators, and those working on writing and influencing our family law rules, laws, and procedures recognize that something is wrong and requires change?

Misreading family court practices

May 3, 2013

It’s hard to understand why family courts throughout the world continue to torment innocent children by forcing them to live with abusers. As just one example of this common scenario, consider this very sad story: Teenage Wedding Brings Runaway ‘Out of Hiding‘.

Despite the mounting evidence and the large numbers of families coming bravely out of hiding to tell their horrible family court stories, many in our culture continue to believe that parents will do anything in a custody dispute and that previously good parents will lie to keep the other parent from seeing their common child.

It appears that this fiction, which leads to extensive suffering for abused children and the protective parents trying to keep them safe, may be based in the way family courts were previously structured and in the fact that most people are simply not informed about the current law and the way it functions.

It used to be that family courts were based in an all or nothing approach. In the days of the movie “Kramer vs. Kramer” and earlier, custody was more clearly an all or none affair. In those days, one parent was generally chosen as the child’s caretaker, and that parent was more often the mother. The other parent would get very limited visitation. This type of approach led to “custody battles”, the kind of “knock down drag-out” fights in which one parent would try to blame the other for being the bad guy in the relationship and as a parent because losing one’s child depended on it.

At some point thereafter, studies were published and brought to light which showed that children needed their fathers and that children with an absent father are disadvantaged over those with an involved father. This, along with other social changes, such as an increase of women in the workforce and cultural increase in male participation in the home, led to a widespread revision of family court systems toward the direction of joint custody. The new standard in the average case became not sole custody to one parent with very limited visitation to the other, but instead children seeing both parents equally.

The implications of the legal term “custody” changed. Generally, joint physical and legal custody became the norm, and even where a judge ruled that one of the parents had sole legal or physical custody, visitation ordered could be so extensive that the arrangement would look physically like a joint custody type arrangement, since both parents would have their children with them an equal amount of time. The term custody became primarily a legal construct with limited practical usefulness (with a few exceptions, a notable one being sole physical custody giving a parent some advantage in attempts to move away with the child.)

The new way of doing things has many clear advantages. In a model family situation, the children end up with more involvement by both parents, the children get to know their father better, parents have a more equal role in their children’s lives, women have more free time to pursue their careers, and parents have no need to blame each other to win the right to “custody” of their child because they both have equal rights to see their children. In all, it leads to a more progressive evolved understanding of a family and serves as the embodiment of a positive modern policy to bring fathers closer into their children’s lives.

However, it is becoming apparent that it has failed in lacking a very important exception and in persisting in its refusal as a procedural and policy matter to implement it. It is this failure that has led to the suffering and continued abuse or thousands of children and their loving protective parents.

he failure occurs in cases involving abuse. Abusive and dangerous situations in the home are not uncommon. In fact, the numbers concerning the prevalence of severe domestic violence and physical and sexual abuse in the home are staggering. Often this abuse is hidden, victims forced by the abuser to keep quiet under threat of more severe harm.

Statistics show that if the victimized parent or the parent seeking to protect the victimized children seeks divorce, the abusive parent uses threats, further violence, emotional manipulation, and even the system to harm the children and the protective parent further.

It is a fact that generally, absent some serious extensive therapy, abusers will continue to seek to hurt their victims unless they find a way to latch on to new ones. The only rationale behind the abuser’s behavior is to subconsciously persist in hurting their innocent victims as the abuser him or herself was previously hurt.

The psychology of abuse and the family court reform are converging in a deeply unfortunate way for many families, such as the teenage boy in the story above.

As an example of what transpires, consider the hypothetical yet very common and very real situation in which the father of a family rules his home with violence. His family lives in fear of his anger, and he flies off the handle easily, attacking his wife and children with physically violent outbursts on a regular basis. After years of suffering and believing he would get better, fear of her own inadequacy, and emotionally hampered by her own history of childhood trauma, the mother finally finds a way to break free – likely with the help of supportive friends, relatives, or an organization.

She takes the kids at night probably bruised and in pain, realizing she can’t take another one of her husband’s horrific attacks, bravely sneaking away while her abuser sleeps. She files for divorce, trusting that the system will support her in protecting her children now that she is out in the open. Sadly, this is where the current family court model fails. The judge, required to order joint physical custody absent very strong proof that it would be detrimental to the children, views with strong suspicion the mother’s accusations that her husband was violent. He tells her that she needs proof, that her word and the children’s word is not sufficient, that she appears to be just making up negative accusations against the father to gain advantage in a custody dispute, that she is alienating the father from his children and needs to stop making negative comments about him or she will lose custody.

The mother persists arguing that the father can’t have these children with him alone overnight (likely not even being able to afford an attorney who can advise her to seek supervised visitation). She is doing what a good mother should – protecting her children from suffering and abuse. The judge warns her that this persistence is wrong, that the father should see his children, and that her behavior in talking about him negatively is harmful to her children, the family court term “alienation” having arisen from this very scenario. In her valiant attempts to protect her children and unadvised about the prejudices in the current court system, incredibly the mother often loses her own rights to see her children because in this system, “joint custody” is more important than protection from abuse. Even fathers with violent criminal records and protective orders keeping them from coming near the mother due to their proven past violence against her, have the right to have their children with them unsupervised overnight. Even allegations of sexual abuse are viewed through the same lens.

We need to stop holding on to the outdated relic of an idea that allegations of abuse made in a custody dispute should be viewed with extreme suspicion!

In the modern system, what motivation would a protective parent have to accuse the other parent of abuse if it were untrue? The other parent still gets to have his children regardless. The protective parent would only be harming him or herself by risking losing rights for being labeled an alienator.

Our system needs to take any allegation of abuse seriously, and, while advanced in its understanding that a child needs both parents, our system needs to advance much further in carving out strong protections for children who may be abused. Courts must always lean toward safety and protection. There have been far too many instances of family court judges who have viewed allegations of abuse with suspicion exposing children to extreme risk, sexual and physical abuse, and even death, as well as taking away their right to see their loving protective parent. This state of things is unjustifiable.

Read some of the cases here.

Corporal punishment in the home: the evidence

April 22, 2013

I recommend the following strong and very well-written article on the subject of corporal punishment in the home. In reading the article, consider the author’s experience with thousands of youth in the delinquency system as a court based assessment psychologist, as well as his training and education.

Don’t Believe Everything in the News, by Ralph S. Welsh, PhD, ABPP, The Attached Family, October 2, 2012.

America and the roots of violence

April 10, 2013

I have just read three interesting facts that co-exist:

1. The United States has a homicide rate of 8.5 per 100,000 leading to its classification as the most violent of the industrialized countries (this number is three times the Canadian rate of 2.3 per 100 000, and about eight times the rate of Western European countries).

2. The United States has been called the most religious of the developed countries, with 83 percent of its residents claiming to belong to a religious denomination.

3. The United States has the highest rate of child abuse of any of the industrialized countries. A BBC investigation finds that the United States has the worst child-abuse record of all the industrialized nations. Every week, 66 children under 15 die from physical abuse or neglect in the developed nations, 27 of them in the U.S.

Certain religious denominations, often based in fundamentalist Christianity follow precepts commanding the spanking of children from very early ages, even infants.

Significant evidence indicates that the United States is particularly resistant in contrast with other industrialized countries to legally outlaw the hitting of one’s children, being one of the last hold outs on signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children, to this day having failed to ratify it.

31 countries have absolutely banned corporal punishment by parents by statute or court order. In the United States, no state has instituted such a ban.

The latest research shows that corporal punishment leads to more aggressive children who grow into violent adults, that it reduces children’s IQ’s, that it can cause trauma and permanent brain abnormalities, and that a long list of prominent organizations oppose corporal punishment against children (at home and school), including the American Public Health Association, the National PTA, the National Organization for Women (NOW), Society for Adolescent Medicine,the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), among others.

Please take a look at this 1993 quote from Ian Hassall, then New Zealand’s Commissioner for Children:

“Consider the injustice of hitting children. We hit in order to inflict pain. The law does not permit us to inflict pain on anyone other than our children. Floggings of prisoners and in the armed services, the beating of wives and servants are part of an unwanted brutal past. Our laws prohibit us from inflicting pain on animals. Why our children?”


March 27, 2013

There’s only one matter I can write about today: the life and death of my brother Alex Slepoy. He was so complex, understanding, brilliant, humble, generous, an amazing teacher. Alex was a wonderful father to his children, a talented physicist, a person who was loved by many. He suffered a lot at the end. I wish I could have saved him.

Grief is a painful emotion, but there are times when it is worse than others, when someone dies prematurely and leaves behind a family, people who need to go on.

Human nature is so complex, and in line with the topic of human development, one thing comes to mind at this time of pain – we human beings know very little about life and death.

Texas couple kept daughter locked in cage for 6 years without food

March 10, 2012

A Texas couple, Brian and Shannon Gore, have pled guilty to child abuse after being found to have kept their own daughter locked in a cage for 6 years. Sentencing is scheduled for June 10.

The police arrested the Gores in May 2011 after finding the girl in a cage made of an upside down crib held down by objects, starving, naked, covered in her own waste, and weighing under 16 pounds at age 6.

Officers also found an infant in the home who appeared unharmed and the dead body of another child which was so decomposed that it was unrecognizable.

Take a look at this Huffington Post article which provides more gruesome details on this story.

Authorities have placed this girl with another family but believe she may never be able to have a normal life due to the trauma she has undergone.