Monkey In An Orange Jumpsuit

It’s been a while since I have spoken directly about what is happening in the State’s case against Luc.  Anyone who follows my blog is aware that since the murder of my son, I have spent nearly all of my waking hours (when not in my full-time job trying to stay afloat financially) fighting for justice.  Though the justice system moves much slower than most victims would like, this past Monday was a small victory for justice in what is sure to be a long and tiresome journey.  While I have taken on a lot of issues lately on this blog related to child welfare, domestic violence, and family law, for today’s post I want to share with you what the pre-trial was like for me.  I hope this will allow you all to see a small window into what our “justice” system is like for the victims.

Before Court:

The night before the trial, I couldn’t sleep.  I spent hours wondering how I would feel when I would have to come face to face with my son’s murderer.  I also wondered how I would be able to contain myself from flying over the witness stand and slapping both him and his attorney across the face.  After spending months attempting to properly grieve for my son, while making sure all of the people involved in signing my son’s death papers (attorneys, judges, police, fraudulent therapists) couldn’t hide from their role in this horrible situation, I was left to think about how to deal with something that might seem like a fairly simple task – walking into a court room and telling the story all over again to a judge.

The morning of the trial, I woke up in a Manassas hotel and looked over the clothes I had packed.  ‘What do I even wear to the trial for my son’s murderer,’ I thought as I stared down at my clothes.  I immediately remembered having a similar feeling when I was forced to decide what to wear to my 15 month old son’s funeral.  ‘Was this really my life,’ I thought in disbelief.  ‘Who does this?!?!’

The Arrival:

I arrived to the court in full on mafia-like style.  I have a huge family (who some jokingly refer to as “The Catholic Mafia”) walking along side me.  We were a force to be reckoned with – several angry Mamas who had nothing to lose.  My father joined us later in the day as well as Shawn Mason’s family who were also out to see Justice served.  Walking in with all these people beside me, I felt so proud.  I thought to myself, ‘this is how we roll Luc…you had no idea what you messed with here.’

Shortly after I arrived, the media started rolling in.  I took that opportunity to point them in the direction of Luc’s supporters (all two of them).  For the purpose of this blog, we will just refer to his main supporter as “the boyfriend”.  Luc’s boyfriend, in true psychopath fashion, saw me pointing him out to the media and immediately called for police protection as if I was going to bother touching him.  This display of ridiculousness made me chuckle as it reminded me of the pathetic antics Luc used to play in Family Court when he tried to make the world believe he was the victim.  The boyfriend was terrified.  He was not terrified that I would hit him, but he was terrified at my power to expose him for his involvement in this whole nightmare.

The Entrance Of The Monkey In The Orange Jumpsuit:

As the judge entered the room, my heart started beating faster as I anticipated the arrival of the devil himself.  A few minutes later, Luc was led into the room in an orange jump suit by a police officer.  To my surprise, he didn’t look much like I had remembered at all.  His hair was matted to his head and frizzy, his skin a grayish tint, and his face was puffy as if he had been eating a few too many donuts while in prison.  At first I had to do a double take to even make sure it was him, but then I saw the menacing look in his eye and the familiar smirk that came across his face as he noticed a full courtroom.  He looked like a caged monkey who had just been taken for a walk by the prison guards.

While I had been worried about how I would feel in this moment, I immediately felt a huge sense of relief as I realized that I would walk out of this courthouse at the end of the day without Luc in my life.  I would leave his pathetic existence behind me in that courthouse – the fight would end here.  This wasn’t even my fight – now it was the State who had the job of exposing the horror to the court.

After being sworn in, me and the other witnesses were told to leave the courtroom and wait for our turn to be called to the witness stand.  I walked out of the courtroom confident that this day would be miserable for Luc as he would finally have to face the reality of what he had done.  Family Court had been full of second chances and lies, however, I had a sinking suspicion that criminal court might play out a little differently.

On The Witness Stand:

My testimony seemed to be simple.  I explained my last morning with Prince and how he had been feeling.  I told the judge about how I had let Prince sleep in that morning, and how he followed me around the house saying “Mama, Mama…” in his quiet voice.  I talked about how I brought him to the grocery store right before the visit and let him run around and get out some energy.  We played tag that morning as he laughed, sang, and spoke to all the grocery store employees.

When it was time for cross-examination, Luc’s attorney was clearly full of misinformation and intent on filling the room with smoke and clouds.  His line of questioning was such that he seemed to be trying to set the stage to say that my son had been sick and that somehow I had hidden this fact from Luc.  After setting the record straight, and informing the judge that I had provided Luc will all the necessary information on how to care for a baby (in writing and via the supervisor of the exchanges), it seemed as though Luc’s attorney had nowhere to go.  He fidgeted with his notes and stuttered that he had no further questions.  His questions about seizures annoyed me.  I wanted to scream and inform him of the large elephant in the room by saying, “Sir – I hate to state the obvious here, but seizures don’t cause drowning.”  As I walked past the defense table, I turned and looked straight at Luc (who was actively avoiding eye contact as he looked down at his bright orange attire) and said, “ugh…baby killer…good riddance.”

The Ruling:

Once all of the witnesses had been called, we were all allowed back in the courtroom to hear the judge’s ruling.  Since it was only a hearing to establish probable cause and whether or not the case should go to trial, I wasn’t too worried about the judge setting Luc free that day.  (Though I am sure that Luc believed he would be going home with his boyfriend that very afternoon)  Oddly, as I walked back into the courtroom, one of the police officers warned me not to have an outburst once the verdict was read.  In that moment, I think my jaw might have dropped a little as I gave the officer a confused look.  I wondered if in my stressful morning I had dressed in Jerry Springer guest type attire or if this was a common warning given to all victims of such a hideous crime.

After shaking my head and assuring the man that I would not release my inner “angry black woman”, I came back to my seat to listen to Luc’s fate.  The defense lawyer muddled through his closing statement and tried to make it appear as though he had more medical experience than the medical examiner.  The prosecution, however, was not phased by his feeble attempts to shift the focus and hijack the discourse.  She elegantly and simply spoke to the judge and reminded the court of why we were there, and that the judge was only supposed to determine that a crime had occurred and that Luc was likely the person who committed the crime.

Luckily, this did not appear hard for the judge as he quickly noted his belief that the threshold had been met, and that this matter should be sent onward to the grand jury.  Of course, in true Luc fashion, he began his monkey like dance in his chair and a scorned look came across his face as if he had been the person wronged by the system.  For all the sane people in the room, excluding Luc’s boyfriend of course, a wave of relief overcame us all.

Upon my exit from the courtroom, Luc’s boyfriend decided to make an attempt to show his dismay by starting toward me as if he had something he wanted to say.  As he opened his mouth to verbally abuse me (likely in an attempt to defend his man), I simply said to him, “you are next to be in that orange suit *****”.  I walked out of the courtroom with my head held high – happy that I would not be followed by the monkey wearing the orange jump suit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incredibly Disgusting Double Standard

It is no secret how I feel about the state of women in America (and all over the world).  I have often referred to the fact that it appears as though the courts have waged a war on Motherhood.  In recent news, it appears as though the justice system has intentionally turned a blind eye to the idea of a woman’s right to choose when and where she has sex – and with whom.  The message young boys and men are being sent in our current society is that they are allowed to have sex with whomever they desire – regardless of whether or not the woman is consenting.  If the woman doesn’t want to have sex, a man can simply just video tape her and tell everyone she is a whore.  Instead of going to prison, the rapist will be able to terrorize his victim relentlessly without any consequences for his behavior.

Some people might read this and think I am being overly dramatic.  ‘Come on Cappuccino Queen, its not like men are running around raping women in the streets,’ you might be thinking.  While it might not have reached that level of social exception, it is disturbing that according to a 2010 Center for Disease Control survey, nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have been raped at some point in their life, including forced and attempted forced penetration and alcohol/drug facilitated penetration.  Forty-two percent of female rape victims experienced their first rape before the age of 18.

Current Events:

Just this month, two teenage girls have killed themselves after photos of their sexual abuse were posted online. Rehtaeh Parsons was 17 years old.  She was called a slut and bullied after her abusers emailed photos of her sexual assault around the school.  The other girl, 15-year-old Audrie Pott took her own life after pictures of her sexual assault by three boys appeared online.

A sane person would think that the fear of getting caught for raping a girl would deter a rapist from posting the evidence of the rape online; however, many times rapists use video tapes or pictures in an attempt to claim that a girl consented to sex.  Those who find it easier to blame the victim instead of consider the horrible truth, might jump to the conclusion that the girl wouldn’t let somebody take their picture if they weren’t consenting to sex.  The breakdown of that argument, however, comes when you consider the obvious reality that in most cases the woman is not consenting to be photographed or video taped and unless you are present in the room when the event occurred – there is no way to determine who controlled the video, how it was taken, and the level of consent from all parties.

 

The Amazing Male Circle of Trust:

While I don’t have the personal experience of being raped, video tapped, and then assaulted again when the sexual assault video footage goes viral, I do know exactly what its like to be written off as a liar simply because of my gender.  It is amazing how Judge Algeo had no evidence to suggest that Luc cared about Prince, other than his word, yet he was so convinced that Luc’s motives were pure.  He chose to believe a man who couldn’t even tell the truth about how old he was, and who had a history of abuse and chaos that followed him where ever he went.

One of my witnesses, who Luc had been involved with at some point, was written off in court by Judge Algeo didn’t agree with the choices she had made when she was younger and the jobs she had chosen to work.  Luc had never held an honest job in his life, but his word meant more than this woman who has worked steady jobs since the day she left school.  Judge Algeo didn’t seem to be concerned about the fact that Luc had no problem leeching financially off of this woman, but couldn’t seem to get past his own personal bias against her former lifestyle choices.  She was written off as a slut in Algeo’s eyes, while the man who sexually abused and exploited her  was brought into the court’s circle of trust.

 

It’s all connected:

In the “lovely” state of Maryland, even sex offenders and rapists have rights to their children.  Regardless of their personal history, the slate is wiped clean when you enter into custody court.  While I understand that there are men out there who have suffered through the abuses of Family Court as well, I see all to often that when it comes down to he said/she said the court seems to revert to the early 19 hundred before women were trusted to vote in this country.  Women are most likely to be written off as “scorned” and judges assume they are making “false accusations” while often times men are looked to for the “voice of truth and reason”.

The recent examples that we are seeing in the media surrounding rape and suicide are yet another example of a man’s word continuously being taken over that of a woman.  When a woman is seen on a sex tape, she  is automatically viewed as dirty regardless of her role in the planning of the video.  A man, however, is still given a pat on the back for his sexual conquest.  Even if you are disgusted by the video, you might be of the camp that says, “well boys will be boys.”

When Luc presented his illegal sex video to the police depicting a sexual assault.  The police responded by saying, “Well, he isn’t a good guy – but we don’t believe he is a rapist.”  Why not Prince William County?  What about this man’s character makes you just want to trust his word?  He is not an honest tax paying citizen, your patrols have been called to his home for domestic disturbances several times in the last few years, and he has nothing to prove that he is honest – yet he is standing in front of you as a man telling you that the woman in the video wanted it.

The police officers and school officials who ignored the cases involving Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons should be ashamed that they didn’t do something sooner to prevent these deaths from happening.  The police officers who allowed Luc to go free after he sexually assaulted an innocent woman (just because he had the nerve to illegally video tape the incident), should be ashamed of themselves too.  They should feel responsible for what happened as a result of letting a criminal go free.

There are many people who can ignore injustices like this and look at it like someone else’s problem.  One of the parents from Newtown said it well when he said, “you can keep ignoring the problem saying it only happens in other neighborhoods..until one day you wake up and it has not only happened in your neighborhood…it has happened to you.”

Injustice to this disgusting degree is everyone’s problem.

 

 

 

 

Single Mama – My Badge of Honor

I distinctly remember being 16 years old and walking through the mall with my friends.  My eye was suddenly drawn to a teenage boy (who happened to be black) with his pants sagging nearly to his knees.  He had on a poorly fitting belt and his boxers were completely showing.  He walked around as if he owned the mall, all the while loudly cursing at his girlfriend and friends and attracting all sorts of negative attention.  I remember cringing as I watched him.  I didn’t cringe because I was embarrassed for him.  I cringed because I was embarrassed by him.  I knew that there would be people who looked at him as some sort of prime example of blackness.  I knew that I would have to fight daily to erase that image of blackness from the minds of many people.

16 year old Cappuccino Queen believed she was the most mature teenager who ever lived.  I thought that I knew a whole lot about the world.  Even though my short 16 year old life experiences had taught me something about the ugliness of racism, and I had what I felt to be a good reason to cringe at the thuggishly dressed – ill behaved black teen, I didn’t realize how much about the world I still needed to learn.  I didn’t realize how my judgements on other groups was just the same as the ignorant people who chose to judge the entire black race based on one immature teenage boy who was trying to “show out” for his friends.

What did being a single mother mean to me?

I was the young woman in college who told all of her friends that she would never have sex before marriage.  I didn’t ever think it was possible for me to “end up as a single mom” because I believed that I commanded more respect from men – I believed in the stigma that has haunted single mothers for generations.  I judged single mothers the way ignorant people judged all black people based on rap videos and loud mall kids.  I believed that people had complete control over their destiny and that single mothers were single because it was their own fault.

I sure did talk a good game in college.  I went through my entire college years with my virginity completely intact.  I had intended on keeping it that way until I was married.  I believed that would ensure that I would not end up a single parent and fall victim to the evil statistic of black single mothers.  I never imagined that my first sexual experience would not be with my husband – it would be rape.

What does being a single mother mean to me now?

Life has slapped immature and naive Cappuccino Queen in the face.  Before I was a parent, I had no idea what it was like to be any kind of parent.  I had no business passing judgement on anyone.  Being a parent is hard – period.  It is the most amazing gift from God, but it is hands down one of the hardest thing in life.  It isn’t hard because of the diaper changing and the crying, it’s hard because it requires you to love with your entire heart – your entire being.  Before Prince, I didn’t know what it felt like to literally be willing to lay down my life for someone else.  I had never fought so hard and loved so completely.  To love someone that much is hard because you expect the best from yourself.

Despite my naive childhood belief that I would, under no circumstances, become a single mother – I became one.  It was only after becoming a single mother that I was able to truly appreciate the struggle, pain, and joy that being a mother brings.  I don’t sit here on a high horse looking down at other mothers saying that I somehow had it harder because I was a single mother; however, I do wear being a single mom like a badge of honor.  It’s an invisible badge that I am proud of because it represents love, struggle, battle wounds, and shows how far I have come.  Something I would have been ashamed of in college is now something that represents a source of pride.  Being a single mother is part of my identity because its my experience.

Every parent has a unique experience with parenthood.  No easier – no more difficult – but different.  Whether you are a single parent, working parent, stay at home parent – you should wear it with pride because it represents something important for which you undoubtedly have worked your hardest.  (Note:  …unless you are a deadbeat parent…in which case you should wear a neon sign on your head so that we can all be sure to avoid you in the future.)

 

A few days ago, Michelle Obama slipped up during a press interview and called herself a single mother.  She quickly corrected herself and said she was a “working mother”, but that sometimes she felt like a single mother because her husband worked so hard and was often gone.  While I cannot pretend to imagine what it would be like to walk in Michelle Obama’s shoes (and I believe she is one amazing woman in her own right),  she also cannot pretend to imagine what it would be like to walk in my shoes – as a single mother.

In the past few days, I have heard folks make comments that single mothers “just like to complain” and that it “isn’t that hard.”  That is a laughable and silly notion.  Just as silly as if I told a military wife, whose husband was serving in Afghanistan – was home raising their children in his absence -and worrying that their father would never come home, that she was being ridiculous for expressing how tough things were.  Being a parent is tough.  I try not to compare the apples and oranges of parenthood.  For those of us who love our children with all our hearts, we will face challenges as a parent in various ways.

I am Prince’s SINGLE MAMA:

Prince was my heart.  Every single day, I woke up knowing that he relied on me to take care of him.  I was the one and only person who was responsible for making sure he was clothed, fed, and healthy.  When important decisions were to be made, I had tons of support from friends and family – but it was my ultimate decision alone.  Nobody on this planet cared about him the way I did, and that was evident by the way his father treated him in the end.  There are many people who loved Prince so much and who feel terrible about what happened to him  They might even feel personally responsible for not doing more to try and stop what happened to him.  For me, however, as a single mom – and the one who was solely responsible for his well being – I bear this on my shoulders the way nobody else can.  I don’t say that to complain or to cause people to feel bad for me.  I say this so that people understand what being a parent is like for one single mother – what it was like for me.

Raising a child truly takes a village of people.  I used to think that was a corny statement that only politicians pulled out of cans when they were trying to sell some education bill.  After being a mother, however, I know how true this is.  Despite how big or small your village is, being a parent is a tough job if done well.  Moving forward, I pray that people will look beyond their personal situation and dig deep.  Be thankful for the situation you have, the life you have been given, and the people who share the love of your child.  And the next time you see a single mother with her child (or children), don’t assume you understand her situation or begin to judge her just because her path was different than your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child Soldiers

On March 24, 2013,  a Washington Post Editorial shed light on the ugly realities of Child Abuse in our country.  According to the Washington Post, experts estimate that more than 2,000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, with nearly 82 percent of victims being under the age of 4.  The Post then goes on to disclose a possibly even more disturbing comparison when it mentions that between 2001 and 2010 15,510 children were reported to have died from child abuse and neglect.  This number is 2 1/2 times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When I read the Post editorial, I stared at my computer in shock – completely hung up on these statistics.  Ironically, while I was reading the editorial, the national news was playing in the background.  The newscaster was discussing how careful we must be when we send our troops to war, and the tragedies that occur on the home front when a soldier doesn’t return.  My son was sent to war too, but it was a different war.  It was a domestic war that children are fighting every day.  Healthy mothers and fathers are forced to send their children to the battle lines of a disordered/crazy/abusive “co-parent” –  armed with nothing more than the hope that they will return unharmed.

The War:

I have spoken with many parents about Family Court, my beliefs when it comes to the system, and tips I learned the hard way.  When I describe Child Custody as a Custody War, I am not trying to be dramatic.  That is exactly what it is.  If you are faced with going to court for custody of your child, with someone whom you believe to have a personality disorder, it will not just be a battle it will be a full on war.  These individuals need to feel as if they win no matter what happens and they will continue the battles until the war is won to their satisfaction.  The reality is – this war could very well last 18 years.  It will be ugly, your child will likely suffer as a result, and the court will inevitably not put the child’s needs first – ever.

Difficult Questions:

Not every custody situation needs to turn into a war.  While I understand first hand how emotions can run high when it comes to your child, it is in the best interest of your child to step back and try to look at the situation with the most objective eye possible.  Before entering into a war, I suggest asking yourself the most important question every parent should ask themselves in a situation like this:  “Will my child’s parent physically harm my child – intentionally or by neglecting the child’s immediate needs?”

 

Honest Answers:  

If the answer to the above question is “yes”, you need to find the most intelligent/aggressive attorney you can afford, dig your heels in, and prepare for an all out Custody War.  Your child deserves to be protected and deserves the healthiest life you can possibly provide them.  If the unthinkable happens to you, as it did to me, you will need to know that you did everything in your power to save your child or else you will blame yourself forever.

If, however, the honest answer is “no” then you need to think hard about what is making you uncomfortable about the other parent.  The hard reality is that the world is full of terribly immoral jerks.  Your child’s father or mother might just be one of them.  Your child will run into a lot of jerks in his/her life and you will not be able to shield them from these deplorable people forever.  Trust me when I tell you that if the other parent is a scumbag, your child will probably realize this before you need to even utter a word.

One of my readers told me about something her young daughter recently said after coming home from a visit with her father.  (Note: the child is about four years old)  The child wisely said, “Mama, I don’t think Daddy is a very good person.  He lies a lot.”  The woman was shocked (and a bit worried) as she had worked very hard to make sure her daughter never heard her speak negatively about the father.  While the father would without a doubt blame parental alienation for his daughter’s statements, the reality of the situation is that this child is just perceptive.  Children can spot bad sometimes sooner than adults can.  Prince hated evil.  He was always able to spot it and it didn’t take me having to tell him.  In fact, he wouldn’t have understood me even if I had tried.

Little Soldiers:

Possibly the most painful part of any Custody War is the days when you will have to send your child to someone you wouldn’t even hire to be your daycare provider.  Even worse, the constant reminder that you had a child with this person and will be battling this monster for 18 years.  No matter how awful it feels to constantly drag yourself into court day after day, turn most or all of your salary over to attorneys, and face legal abuse every single day – your child is the real soldier.  Your child will be on the front lines of this war and you will not always be there to protect him/her.

I wish there were something I could say – some advice that I could give on how you could prepare your child with some sort of weapon for protection.  The only weapons there are in this fight are the weapons of love and hope.  I will never forget the last time I saw my son.  As I placed him in the supervisor’s car, I kissed him on the face, hugged him tight, and told him how much I loved him.  I armed him with love that day.  It was all I had to give him.  There are days when I am angry at myself – wishing that I could have armed him with more.  In the end, however, I know that at least my son knew real love in his 15 months of life.  My son knew that day how much his Mommy loved him.  That is what I hold onto when I am so angry and full of rage at the outcome of my Custody War.

I had hoped and prayed that I would be able to give Prince more, but that is all I had – love and hope.  I now fight every day to make sure that your children are armed with more than mine was.  In order to make children safe, we need to stop making them soldiers and stop sending them to the front lines of battle.  We need to change the minds of those who feel the need to send them – the courts.

Prince was a brave soldier.  I am a proud Mama knowing that even after he is gone, he will fight to protect those who will stand on the front lines after him.  I will fight to make sure of it.