Fighting Family Court: Battered mothers take their case to Washington

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2013 —To escape a father Damon Moelter said was molesting him, Damon ran away from home.

While on the run from his father, Damon moved between secret havens provided by Good Samaritans. He conducted a social media campaign and petitioned the court to honor his right to be safe, to grant custody to his mother or give him emancipation.


SEE RELATED: Damon’s Story: Are Family Courts enabling child sexual abusers?


All avenues failed to bring him the security he desperately sought.

Although the question of Damon’s abuse has remained in dispute, there is close to unanimous agreement between contending parties and their supporters that ten-year litigation over child custody is clearly not a sign that court processes are working in the “best interests of the child.”

The traumatic injury Damon has suffered is symptomatic of a far bigger picture.

Figures released by the Leadership  Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence (a nonprofit independent scientific organization composed of scientists, clinicians, educators, legal scholars, and public policy analysts), show as many as 58,000 U.S. children a year are being taken from their protective parent and placed into custody or unsupervised visitation with molesters and batterers.

These statistics must be viewed in relation to the fact that only 4% to 5% of divorces go to trial and it is largely these cases that produce custody battles involving allegations of abuse. It is widely acknowledged there are many good fathers who avoid the trial option and agree to share parenting, or in some cases, are obliged to take a back seat while the mother continues in her role as primary custodian.

Yet where abuse and sexual molestation is concerned, it is evident from reports and statistics emerging from The Leadership Council, various domestic violence agencies and the Center for Disease Control, vast numbers of children are being taken from “good enough” mothers and placed in harm’s way in the custody or care of their abusive fathers.

Statistics on domestic violence and child sexual abuse show that perpetrators of violence and sexual molestation areprimarily male, usually the child’s father or someone who is part of the child’s familial circle of trust.

In the case of child sexual abuse, the Leadership Council examined law enforcement as well as victim self-report data. As a result, it is estimated up to 90% of perpetrators are male

When divorce rates over time are factored in, Dr. Joy Silberg, Executive Vice President of the Leadership Council says;

“A conservative estimate, based on available research leads us to conclude: at any point in time, it is likely that half a million children are left unprotected from a violent parent after their parent’s divorce and this parent is, more often than not - their father.”

Many advocacy groups have sprung up to serve the parents who believe they have been mistreated by Family Court processes and practitioners in the attendant cottage industry that thrives on the lucrative business of divorce and child custody. A regular annual meeting place for some of these groups and individuals is the Battered Mothers’ Custody Conference (BMCC). This year, the tenth annual conference, BMCC X was held in Washington DC at the George Washington University Law School over the Mothers’ Day weekend, in a bid to bring concerns to the heart of government.

Speakers, representing many of the keenest minds in research and advocacy for battered mothers and their children gathered to share ideas and push for change.  

At one recent conference, several speakers explained how millions of taxpayer dollars have been poured into the federally funded “Fatherhood Initiative” to encourage fathers to become more involved in child rearing. It seems a tragic and unforeseen result has been the reunification of children with their abusive fathers to the detriment of child safety concerns.

Camille Cooper, Director of Legislative Affairs for “Protect,” which spearheaded two successful acts of Congress to further child protection provided one of the most interesting revelations. Cooper unveiled an interactive map produced by the “Internet Crimes against Children Taskforce.” She said law enforcement knows the whereabouts of 500,000 individual IP addresses trading in sadistic images. She insisted it is not appropriate to refer to the 30 million images produced simply as child pornography. “These are crime scene images of very young children being tortured and raped.”

She said it was the first time in the history of this issue that such a map had ever been shown to the American public displaying the magnitude of child sexual abuse.

Cooper said the evidence gives the lie to claims that incidences of child sexual abuse are on the decline.

Combined with CDC findings that there is an incidence reported of overall child abuse or neglect every 10 seconds, the clear record of criminal, anti-child, Internet activity casts a dim light on the trend of family court judge’s to automatically doubt the validity of mothers’ claims when they make allegations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse.

Phyllis Chesler, a keynote speaker for the conference, used strong language to define her frustration:

“There is now a toxic bias in the family courts, resulting in court enabled incest and the legal torture of protective mothers.”

Damon and his mother attended the conference and follow-up promotional and lobbying events on Capitol Hill. They appeared calm and collected and very relieved Damon is now free to take up a more “normal” life.

Addressing a crowd outside the White House, Dumas said:

“I’m here to speak out for other kids and hope the public become aware that this is a very serious and prevalent problem in our courts. Our Family Court judges every day give custody of children to abusers and molesters. This is not an accident. It is not out of ignorance and incredulity. It is a systematic, methodical cover-up of abuse, especially of sexual abuse. Just like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts. We have to do something about it. Kids are suffering. There are thousands and thousands of children suffering because our Family Court judges are handing them over to abusers.”

(This is the second installment of an article profiling Damon Dumas.  Read part one Damon’s Story: Are Family Courts enabling child sexual abusers?)


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Clare O'Toole

Clare O'Toole is a journalist who has written for several Australian publications, including Times of the West and Freemantle Community Radio.  With an MA in Journalism, O'Toole seeks to uncover injustice in the family courts and what happens when families breakdown. 

Contact Clare O'Toole

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