The Vicious Cycle of Child Abuse In The Black Community

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Let me start by letting you all know that I consider myself a black woman; therefore, I believe I qualify as a member of the so-called “black community.” That said, I believe the black community is as diverse as saying “the American community”, but I digress.  This past weekend, I had the privilege of being a guest caller on the radio show Cole And The Cure.  This show has a large Black American audience, and is based in Tampa, FL.  While some people might argue if Tampa counts as “the deep south”, the callers certainly considered themselves southern.

The show focused on the issue of Child Abuse.  Mr. Cole, the host, called me to participate after reading my blog from last week on Adrian Peterson.  Before addressing the audience, I had a chance to listen to many callers’ views on spanking.  I have to admit, I was shocked and appalled at what I was hearing.   Several callers claimed that “whooping” a child was just a part of black culture, and blamed police for intervening in the way Peterson decided to “discipline” his child.  Others claimed that while Peterson shouldn’t have left a mark, they believed it was ok to beat their child.  Even the co-host admitted that when she first heard the story she believed that Peterson was just “handling his business” as a parent.

Out of all the callers, however, I was most concerned when a woman explained her belief that you should beat your children young, because they were too young to understand reason.  She went on to say that since police officers beat prisoners, she is just getting her children ready for the real world by hitting them when they “step out of line.” So after the show, I went straight to my computer and jotted down some take away thoughts about the state of the black community:

Are are raising our children to be prisoners?

 Do people actually think that because prison guards use physical punishment, using this same type of behavior on your child will stop them from becoming a prisoner?   I firmly believe that if you hit your child in an attempt to curb violence, you are going to likely spur the very thing you are claiming to be trying to stop.

When I was a teacher in California, I was told during one of the State training sessions that the State of California used third grade writing assessments to project how many prisons the State would need to build in the future.  Now I won’t get into the obvious parallels they were making between the education of third graders and prison projects; however, the debate on child discipline vs. abuse had me thinking about this statistic.  Was there something to this?  Not only was the State making a judgement on children ending up in prison, many parents were raising their children as if it was a forgone conclusion.

The Impact Of Violence At A Young Age:  

One of the most disturbing things about the radio show was the common believe that people should hit their children as a form of discipline when they are “too young to understand reason.”  This was shockingly illogical to me.  Imagine being a child who is not yet verbal, and you hit or bite someone.  In response, because you are too young to be reasoned with, your parent decides to hit you with a switch.

(Let’s take a moment of contemplative silence to think about the irony here…)

Do you really think that this child, after being smacked, is going to “learn his lesson”?  This poor kid is likely to be intensely confused by the fact that you were angry about him hitting someone, and your response was hitting him.  By showing your child this odd form of discipline, or child abuse as I would call it, you have effectively taught your child that when you are upset – the logical response is to hit.

Psychological research shows that a child learns to form attachments before the age of five.  If your form of discipline involves intentionally inflicting pain on your child, I would like to challenge you to think about the life long scars that you are forming that might not present in a physical mark.

Social Responsibility:

Another response that I heard on the radio show was this idea that “spanking my child is my business”, and “I know the difference between spanking and abuse”.  People often hear about my tragic case, and insist that the way they choose to discipline is not at the level of what happened to my son, and therefore, they don’t have to worry about it.  My response to these people is this:  While many things that happen behind your doors at night is your business, you better hope that police don’t take the stance that child abuse is not something for police to get involved in.  Many people like to believe that this issue is not impacting them, however, there are many abusive parents who hide behind the idea that their form of discipline is their business.  By propagating this crap that police should stay out of your form of discipline, you are putting children at risk of being hurt or killed.

Slavery And Child Abuse:

I anticipate that many folks will not want to hear this, but just because you were beaten…your parents were beaten…and your ancestors were beaten does not mean that you need to continue the cycle.  Charles Barkley, in all his idiotic wisdom, defended Adrian Peterson by that, “every black parent in the south” whoops their child.  Barkley went on to say,  “Every black parent in the South is gonna be in jail under those circumstances.  I think we have to be careful letting people dictate how they treat their children.”  I have news for you Charles:  There was a time when it was legal for white people to beat black people too.  I am thankful that the government stepped in, and dictated that black people have Civil Rights and should not be owned and abused as property.  If that hadn’t occurred, both you and I would be in a field picking cotton, or serving as an unpaid hand in masters’ kitchen.

 

I cannot say how my son’s father was raised, or what created the monster who killed my son Prince.  I do, however, know for sure that violence begets violence.  Until we are man and woman enough to break the cycle of violence, these terrible things will continue to happen in our society.  Many of you are likely thinking that my stance against child abuse comes from having grown up in a cushy non-abusive environment.  That is not the case.  I am the first person to stand here and say that while I was hit as a child, due to the same cultural acceptance of child abuse, I am strongly against it for my child.  My child will be raised to respect me, and not fear me.  She will be raised to understand that she is entitled to the same Civil Rights as an adult.  She will not be raised to assume that one day she will be a prisoner, and she will understand that violence has no good place in our society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Rice – The Child Of An Adrian Peterson

 

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson

Almost a year ago, I wrote about a terrible tragedy - the murder of Adrian Peterson’s two-year old son.  In the past week, you would have to have been hiding under a rock not to hear about how this same man, who lost a son he never had the chance to know, was now being indicted for abusing his four year old son.  I cannot accurately describe the rage I felt when I heard this story.  I defended Peterson a year ago, and was sad for him that he never had the chance to know his child who was murdered.  Now, after seeing the graphic pictures of his four year old son’s battered little boy, I want to spit on this poor excuse for a father.

Close to home:

For those who are familiar with my story, you know that I am intimately familiar with how it feels to lose a child.  I also know the pain of learning that your child was murdered as the result of a horribly abusive incident.  I simply cannot understand how a man whose child was murdered in this violent way can justify raising his hand to another one of his children.  As I read more and more about the story, I felt as though I had entered some strange alternate reality.  I couldn’t believe how bold this man was to believe he would not have to face the law after what he did.  In case you missed it, the following text messages show Peterson’s reaction to what he did to this innocent child.

(The following are text messages he sent the child’s mother after returning the child from a visit.)

Mother: “What happened to his head?”

Peterson: “Hit his head on the Carseat.”

Mother: “How does that happen, he got a whoopin in the car.”

Peterson: “Yep.”

Mother: “Why?”

Peterson: “I felt so bad. But he did it his self.”

(The messages go on with Peterson describing how he was “disciplining” the child for cussing at a sibling.)

Mother: “What did you hit him with?”

Peterson: “Be still n take ya whooping he would have saved the scare (scar). He aight (all right)”

(Translation in the event you cannot understand Peterson’s poor use of the English language:  “If he had not tried to escape me when I was beating him up, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten a scar.  He will be alright.”)

Public Reaction:

When I heard about Peterson, I was appalled, and I regretted ever believing he would have been a good influence for any of his children.  What is equally appalling is the reactions that I have heard from people after the news that Peterson had been indicted.  People came out of the woodwork to defend child abuse.  Since Peterson used the term “discipline”, many folks believed this gave him a free pass to beat the shit out of his four year old.

Here is a sample of some of the vial things I read in response to the felony that Peterson committed against his son:

1)  “If it left bruises and welts, okay fine, charge him. I’m just waiting for the anti-spanking brigade to use this to push their parenting ideas on others. While everyone has their own ideas about punishment, I don’t think using a switch constitutes abuse.”

In what reality does beating a child with a stick NOT cause bruises and welts?  How about I have you grab a branch off of that tree so I can hit you with it, and let’s see if you still think this doesn’t constitute abuse.

I am not in the business of giving random unsolicited parenting advice (ok, maybe sometimes I do – but you all have the choice to continue reading or not).  It isn’t my business whether you choose to give your kids veggies for breakfast, sleep train a certain way, or wait until they are older for kindergarten.  That said, I will ALWAYS stand firm against child abuse because your abused child is going to turn into an adult who thinks abuse is an acceptable behavior when you are upset with someone.  Whether or not you choose to abuse your child is not a personal parenting decision.  It is something society has a right to judge and speak out against.  And yes, I am from the anti-spanking brigade.

2)  “This is insulting. Why in the hell would he be charged with anything for this? He is a parent and can discipline his children however he sees fit!!!!”

Just because people like this disguise child abuse with the term “discipline” doesn’t make it any less illegal.  Newsflash, you don’t have a right as a parent to abuse your child.  Period.

3)  “No big deal, my Mom/Dad did the same to me.”  And one of my favorite variations of this argument:

“I was spanked as a kid. I think I turned out fine. I am 23, and even to this day, my mom wouldn’t hesitate to slap me across the face.”

This quote I have seen in several different locations.  This argument is just as silly as saying, “well, it isn’t a big deal that my husband beats me…I mean, my Dad beat my Mom and she didn’t get killed.”  Wake up folks!!  Just because you were abused as a child, doesn’t mean you should continue the abuse just because it happened to you.  I also wonder what sort of respect you have for yourself, and for your mother, if you are 23 and your Mom is slapping you in the face.  Congratulations for surviving an abusive childhood, but please stop the cycle.

Alarming Parallels:

I could go on for pages with the amount of people who were defending this sorry ass human.  Wasn’t just a few weeks ago when we had to watch another football player knock out his wife in an elevator?  After the way people reacted to Peterson, it shouldn’t shock us that domestic violence has become so damn common.  So many people seem to think its ok for an adult to hit a child (which nobody would argue is a fair fight), but when a grown man beats a grown woman we wonder why she is staying in the marriage.  Why do we have such double standards when it comes to children, yet we are all appalled and confused when we see story after story about children getting murdered by their parents?

Finally, I hope that in the past month you all are able to see the parallels between these two stories.  Here you have two men for whom violence appears to be the norm.  I bet if we asked Ray Rice how he feels about Peterson’s situation, he would likely say something like, “I don’t see why it’s a big deal…I mean, my Dad and Mom made me get my own switch before they beat my ass.  I call that discipline.”  Sure Ray, and I bet you also call what happened in the elevator a love tap too right?

Domestic Violence: Our Definitions And A Victim’s Denial

 

Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer.  Picture taken from jacksonville.com

Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer

 

In the past week, many of you have likely heard a lot about Ray Rice being released from the Baltimore Ravens, and being indefinitely expelled from the NFL.   For those of you who haven’t heard what happened, a video of Rice beating his wife in an elevator forced the NFL to make the call – one that many people have said should have been made some time ago.  I am not going to argue about the NFL, and its domestic violence problem.  I would like to, however, focus on another related issue that is close to my heart.  While Rice has his fair share of haters now, because he is clearly an abusive ass who in my opinion deserved to have his career shattered, his wife is also catching some serious heat.  I would like to describe what happens in a relationship before physical abuse occurs, and why many abuse victims do not believe they have been abused.

What is the scene that comes to mind when you hear about someone who has been a victim of domestic violence?  If you are like I was four years ago, you probably envision a women in a hospital bed with hear face beaten beyond recognition, while her husband explains to the doctor how his klutz of a wife fell down the stairs.  Or maybe you imagine that someone like Ray Rice started beating on his wife after the first date.  While many women suffer at the hands of physical abusers, there are many more who suffer a  discrete and insidious form of domestic violence – emotional abuse.  Often times, it is the less obvious forms of abuse that lead to situations like the elevator beating that occurred at the hands of Rice.

When I first fled my ex’s house (two weeks after my son Prince was born), I refused to believe I had been a victim of domestic violence.  I was proud, and even after of the terrible things he put me through, I didn’t want to admit that I had stayed in an abusive relationship for as long as I had.  I held onto this belief that I hadn’t really been abused for longer than I should have.  It makes me terribly sad when I see other women who have suffered abuse remain in denial.

Through the Eyes of a Child:

It is often hard to assess your life situation while you are deep in the throws of a terrible situation.  Many abused children do not believe they have been abused.  Even though most schools talk about violence, and try to get children to report abuse, it is often hard for a child to see their situation as abusive if it is they have ever known.  For example, I once asked the child of a known abuser if he had been abused by his father.  He said, “no my father was not abusive – he was just strict.”  Upon further questioning about the term “strict”, the child revealed details about how his father had stripped him naked, and put him out in the cold as a form of punishment.  He also mentioned how his father would “spank” him, often leaving bruises.

While this child was uncomfortable with the idea that he had been a victim of child abuse, he didn’t hesitate to explain how afraid he was of his father.  He had spent his entire life being afraid of his father, so this was his normal.  To him, child abuse was not something normal; therefore, he assumed that what he experienced was just a “strict” parent.

Parallels and Revelations:

As I heard this child speak about his experiences with his father, I felt a flood of emotion.  The thought of him not identifying as a child abuse victim seemed crazy, but in that moment I realized that I needed to come to terms with my own abuse history.  How many times do we hear women who say things like, “he is really a great guy, he just gets upset every so often.”  Just because the dude doesn’t punch you in the face, and cause you to have frequent trips to the ER doesn’t mean the abuse you have endured doesn’t reach the threshold of domestic violence.

I give you the following examples, and I ask you to think about whether you would consider these things “abusive”:

Lechery: Does your husband have a problem keeping his man parts in their appropriate place?  Is he that guy at the party who is hitting on the other women in the room right in front of you?  Does he constantly talk to you about how many women think he is attractive?  Any man (or woman) who cheats on their spouse with a complete lack of regard for their emotions (not to mention their health, i.e. STD risk) is an abuser.

Insulting:  Does your partner belittle you in private, or even in public?  If your spouse purposefully says things with the intention of making you feel bad about yourself, this is abusive.

Rages:  Do you feel like you frequently walk on egg shells for fear of being yelled at?  If someone is screaming at you on a regular basis, and you find yourself scared to communicate with this person for fear of being verbally attacked – this is a problem.

These are just a few examples of domestic violence that don’t result in bruises, and likely are gateways to this sort of behavior in the future.  Loads of women could likely identify with the three examples I have included, and they would also identify with remaining in the relationship after such abuse.  While it might be controversial, I argue that Janay’s staunch support of her husband is just another example of what millions of women do on a regular basis.  She is in the throws of an abusive relationship.  The abuse that she is experiencing is seems so obvious to everyone else, but at home Janay has an abuser in her ear explaining away every bruise and pleading for her public support.

Janay’s statement over social media should look alarmingly familiar to those who have experienced domestic violence:

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As I read her post, I could almost imagine Ray standing over her shoulder writing it.

 

It is really easy to feel strong when you don’t have to face that person on a daily basis.  Many people cannot imagine what it is like to be afraid every single day, and wonder how you will get out of the situation.  It is not always easy to walk out that door.

Victim Doesn’t Need to Define You:

One of the reasons I had such a hard admitting to myself that I had experienced an abusive relationship was the fear I had that this would somehow define me.  People often ask me how I have been able to survive the Lifetime-esque life that I have had.  The best advice I can give on that front is that you can choose to not let these things define who you are.  Just because you have been abused, does not mean that you need to remain a victim.  In order to take back your identity, it is important to follow the following steps:

.  Face the reality by admitting to yourself that you are being abused.

.  Get yourself out of the abusive situation

.  Understand how you got there to begin with, so not to repeat the mistake.

So when you read the media reports about this incident, and the others that will likely follow, imagine yourself in this woman’s shoes.  Even if you don’t think it could happen to you, I am living proof that it can.

 

Reflections On Pregnancy

 

My giant stomach, while pregnant with my daughter.

My giant stomach, while pregnant with my daughter.

This week, I am releasing a post from the Cappuccino Queen vault that had been archived.  I wrote this post while I was pregnant with my daughter.  I hope you enjoy my reflections on pregnancy. :)


 

By the time this blog post is posted, I will be on the way to the hospital to have my little girl.  As I enjoy my last warm cup of coffee on a Sunday morning (which has become a routine for me), I reflect on the last ten months I have had with my daughter.

Yes, I said ten months – I will never understand why people insist on saying women are only pregnant for nine months when 40 weeks is really ten months. I digress…

Here are some things that this pregnancy has taught me that I thought you all would enjoy:

You really do forget:  Though the last month of my pregnancy of Prince was terrible, I vaguely remember people assuring me that as soon as I saw him I would completely forget.  I can only just now remember wearing the same Muumuu and flip flops during the last weeks leading up to Prince being born.  When my male coworkers raised an eyebrow about this inappropriately casual choice of dress, I would constantly remind them that I had gotten my big butt out of bed (even though I could barely walk) and this was the only thing in my closet that would fit.  I would also show them my swollen feet and dare them to say something about my flip flops.  Needless to say, my coworkers never said a word about my hideous outfit.

As I waddled around in those last few weeks (in the height of what was one of the hottest summers in the DC area), I swore that I never wanted to be pregnant again.  Then, something amazing happened – my son was born.  As soon as I looked into his chocolate chip brown eyes, I instantly had a form of Mama amnesia.  All of a sudden the entire experience was colored by rainbows and butterflies.

So while I swore I would never get pregnant again (and was considering adoption for any future children), when I made the decision to have my daughter I was still under the influence of Mama amnesia.  I thought, ‘eh, it wasn’t so bad the first time.  Sure, I was huge and a bit uncomfortable toward the end…but it’s temporary and all worth it at the end.’  It wasn’t until I found myself doubled over in the parking lot at work throwing up for what seemed like the sixth month in a row (yet still gaining weight) that the memories from my first pregnancy started coming back to me.  ‘Really?!?!  Did I really forget this?  Damn, I guess I really did,’ I thought.

Babies are different – even in utero:  Though I had suffered from a healthy dose of Mama amnesia after my pregnancy with Prince, I didn’t forget some of the more pleasant things about pregnancy like learning my son’s personality.  Until my pregnancy with my daughter, I didn’t even think about how different a baby could be even before they were born.  For example, my son was very laid back – both before and after he was born.  I would be at work and he would gently punch me in the side, and after playing tag for a few minutes he would stop and fall asleep.  While he occasionally lodged his feet in my ribs, it didn’t take much manipulating to get him to realize this was not cool with Mama and he would move.  When I would walk and jog during my pregnancy, this seemed to lull my son to sleep.  He continued this trend on the outside with his love for the baby swing while watching Ann Curry on The Today Show.

My daughter, on the other hand, is a yoga baby.  She is always moving, bouncing, dancing, and stretching.  She loves to show off during business meetings by making my entire stomach shake.  When I turn the music on in the car, she actually seems to have favorite stations which I can assess by her level of movement.  Unlike with Prince, my walks and workouts don’t lull her to sleep.  Instead, this wakes her up and makes her think its time to dance.  When she stretches and finds a spot she likes, she is not easily moved.  They are both very different, but I find myself falling in love with her little fire of a personality even before I have officially met her.

Society and pregnant women:  One of the most intriguing things about being pregnant is watching the way the world treats you when it becomes obvious you are growing a small person inside of you.  With Prince, I didn’t “show” until I was almost six months.  With my daughter, however, it seemed that as soon as I peed on the stick my hips spread and I was forced into maternity wear.  I tried to hold out in telling my job until I was well past the first trimester; however, my college -aged sister didn’t hold back in giving me some tough advice.  “Hera, you are throwing up everyday and getting fat.  You are going to need to tell them soon because its getting obvious,” she said with the clear tact of someone who had never been pregnant.

After telling people at work, it was funny how many of the men began to move way out of the way as I walked down the hall – as if touching me by accident would cause me to give birth immediately and right in front of them.  This only seemed to get more hilarious as I got bigger.  People who tended to have a scowl on their faces would act more friendly when they started to see me waddle (note:  this I appreciated).  Finally, many people treat pregnant women as though they shouldn’t be doing anything themselves.  Carrying a package, pushing an office chair, or even grocery shopping on my own elicited gaping stares and constant offers from complete strangers to help me.  Given my tendency toward independence, I often found myself smiling and saying, “It’s ok…it looks heavier than it is.  I got this.”

Being single and pregnant has been great:  I used to be one of those women who was terrified at the idea of being a single parent.  That was, of course, until I experienced being in an abusive relationship.  One of the reasons I stayed with Luc for so long was because I had convinced myself that it would somehow be worse to be single and pregnant than with a man who clearly didn’t give a damn about me (or anyone else for that matter).  When I was pregnant with Prince, I would come home from working a full day (while Luc had been sleeping and playing xbox) and Luc would ask me to rub his feet.  I would cook him dinner and take care of him as if he was the person growing the baby.

Being pregnant and single has been great in comparison to the stress I was under being pregnant and living with a demon.  I come home from work, put my feet up, and thank God that I am not sleeping next to a psychopath.  I feel empowered from my decision, and I am confident that I can be a great mom regardless of my marital status.  I am less stressed out this time around, and I am extremely hopeful for the future.  Looking back on what I faced during my pregnancy with Prince makes me sad.  It makes me sad that it took me so long to realize that I could do this on my own.  It makes me sad that I spent the majority of Prince’s life being scared, anxious, and confused.  That said, I am not that woman anymore.

The best decision of my life:  In the past three years, I have lived through some bad times.  I have made some astronomically bad decisions (the most obvious being my relationship with Luc).  There is one thing I can say, however, without a doubt – my decision to have my daughter has been the best decision I have made in my entire life.  When I first started telling people about my choice to have another child, I was not met with over whelming positivity.  Many people made ugly judgements, and told me that I needed to wait.  A lot of people in my life insisted that I was making a decision driven by grief, and that I would change my mind.  Having been a victim of societies belief in what was appropriate, I chose my own path instead.  I had never felt stronger about anything in my life.  I knew that it was the right time to make this decision, and I didn’t let anyone’s prejudice stand in my way.

During the last ten months, I have gone through my fare share of pain – both emotionally and physically. Getting to know my daughter in this last ten months, however, has kept me living.  It has allowed me to have hope for the future, and it has proven to me that I have come out on top and stronger in the face of tragedy.  Some of my close friends have told me that my daughter will be lucky to have such a good mother.  Every time I hear this I respond by saying, “I am the lucky one.  I am pretty sure this little girl has saved my life.”

Finally, the best moment of pregnancy happens when it’s over.  As I hit the publish button on this post, and head to the hospital, I feel almost delirious with excitement about meeting my daughter face to face.  I remember the moment I met my son as if it were yesterday.  There is nothing more incredible than meeting someone for the first time who you feel like you have known your whole life.  That is what meeting my children feels like it me.

 

 

 

Michael Brown’s Murder And The Death Of Justice

 

Michael Brown, who was set to begin college in August 2014

Michael Brown, who was set to begin college in August 2014

 

On August 9th, Michael Brown was shot six times, twice in the head by a Ferguson, Mo police officer.  While it has been a couple of weeks since this happened, many heavy emotions continue to rush through me about this incident.  I am stunned, afraid, ashamed, and I have a deep anger burning inside of me that I cannot begin to describe in writing.  I have sat watching the news, at times in complete shock that these events are taking place in my own country.  As a nation, we have a tendency to pass judgment on other nations for the atrocities that occur between their foreign borders.  What occurred in Ferguson, and continues to occur across our pious nation, is something we should all be ashamed of.

Media Spin:

While the media seems to be doing an effective job of covering how peaceful protestors are being gassed and beaten by police officers, they are also making sure to focus on how they believed Michael had been using drugs and had robbed a store. (Note: there has been no definitive evidence that there was a crime committed, and Michael Brown had no prior criminal record.)  Having been a victim of a violent crime (my son being murdered), I am the first person to stand in line to watch criminals be prosecuted.  That said, this officer had no clue that a crime had occurred.  He saw an unarmed black man, and decided to kill him in cold blood.  Even if we were to accept that Michael had done something wrong before he was murdered (which I don’t really believe he did), since when do robbers get sentenced to a firing squad before their trial?  If we are going to start doing things like this as a country, I would kindly ask that we start with murderers and rapists – not a young adult who decided to make the poor choice of stealing a pack of cigarettes.

I would also like to address the fact that the kid had pot in his system.  (And yes, I still think 18 year-olds are kids.)  From reading some of these articles, it would appear as though the media were trying to make references as though the kid was hopped up on crack and acting aggressive.  I have never done any drugs, but from what I know about weed it doesn’t seem as though the kid would have been acting particularly aggressive from having some of it in his system.  Having weed in his system should also not be seen as an excuse to why the kid should have been gunned down.

The Aftermath:

Another disappointing, shocking, and appalling issue that has come up during this tragedy is how many criminals take advantage of bad situations and make them worse.  Store owners in Ferguson didn’t have anything to do with the police officer murdering Michael Brown.  Seeing people rioting in the streets, and ruining businesses in their neighborhood infuriates me.  This sort of behavior is not justified, and will end up hurting the very people that are most impacted by this level of police brutality.

Police Accountability:

Those of you who have followed me from the beginning of my blog know that I have experienced first hand what it’s like to be mistreated by police officers.  Just weeks after I fled an abusive and dangerous man, the police arrested me for removing something I owned from a house that I had been paying for.  After paying thousands of dollars to an attorney to clear my name, I forced a police investigation.  While the Police Captain admitted that his officers had not handled the situation appropriately, or even within their own policies, he refused to hold his officers accountable in any way that would stop the same atrocity from occurring in the future.  I firmly believe that the Prince William County police have a problem with corruption.  I am hopeful that the police officers who allowed my ex (who is now in jail awaiting trial for the murder of my son, and the murder of his ex-girlfriend) to remain a free man, by turning a blind eye to his crimes, will some day be exposed for their unethical behavior.

While some people have chosen to have sympathy for the police officer who shot Michael Brown, I am not one of them.  I believe that the police should be treated as common citizens when they commit crimes.  It is injustice at its worst to see police officers behaving poorly, while obtaining the shield of safety merely because of their badge.  If someone without a badge had murdered Michael Brown, in cold blood, he would be in jail awaiting his trial.

Despite what has happened to me and my family, as a result of police activity, I am not one to believe that all police officers are bad people.  There are many officers who take their oath seriously – people who accept the job to serve and protect.  Criminal police who abuse their power bring shame to the profession.  They also bring shame to our entire justice system.  Police officers are people too, and when they show themselves as criminals – they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Racism remains a problem in America.  Stories like the murder of Treyvon Martin, and now Michael Brown, prove that we still have a long way to go as a country before we can say that we don’t have a race problem.  I am disturbed that in 2014 our police officers are still gunning down unarmed black men in the streets, and trying to justify their actions afterward.

When I saw Michael Brown’s parents on television, my heart ached for them as I looked into their eyes.  I saw the same look that I had in the days after my son was brutally murdered.  I saw sadness, despair, hopelessness, and anger.  I have not taken to the streets in Ferguson, however, I am thankful for the people who have peacefully done so.  I know first hand about how, even when the murderer is held accountable, it doesn’t take away the pain of never being able to hold your son again.

I waited three months before my ex was finally arrested for the murder of my son.  Those three months were arguably the worst three months of my entire life.    Every single day that my son’s killer walked free, I felt as though another piece of me died.  The flame of justice that had burned inside of me was extinguished.  I pray that the Brown’s will get to see the justice that they deserve.  I stand with the thousands of peaceful protestors who are demanding justice – and demanding our system to practice the core of what it is that we as a country preach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Rutherford Files Emergency Order To Keep Her Children In US

 

Kelly with her two children

Kelly with her two children

 

Almost two years ago, just a month before my son was killed as the result of a Family Court disaster, I heard about what happened to Kelly Rutherford’s children.  Reading Kelly’s story terrified me.  Here was a woman who was so successful, someone who most would assume could wield tremendous political power, and someone whose financial success could far rival your average American.  Even with all these things, she still lost her children in what seemed to be one of the most blatant attacks against the civil rights of a child that I had ever seen.  While many people likely went about their day as usual after hearing her story, maybe chalking this up as just another celebrity divorce in the news, I was glued to the news and terrified.  At the time, I was still in Family Court.  I wondered what a decision like this meant for my son’s future, when it was clear that the civil rights of children did not matter at all.

For those who don’t know the story, what it boils down to is that Kelly’s children were forced to leave their country to live in France with their father.  The strange thing about this story is that the children are not French citizens, they are American.  A California judge believed that since their father could no longer return to the United States, due to some sort of attempted visa fraud, they would have to go live with him.  This judge made the decision that their father’s parental rights were more important to the rights of these children to remain in their home country.  What also seemed bizarre was that the judge believed the decision to send the children to France would allow for equal parenting.

There are two reasons I chose to write about this case this week.  One is because Kelly has filed an emergency petition with the US District Court asking the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security for a temporary restraining order to keep her children in the US.  The second is that I believe this case exposes many terrible realities that is exist in our broken Family Court system.

1)  Money Doesn’t Always Mean Power:  Lawyers will eat you alive financially in Family Court.  They will take every penny you have, and the battle will continue until you don’t have two pennies to rub together.  I spent my entire life savings, my entire 401k, and the majority of my salary for 15 months trying to save my son.  Nearly two years after my son has died, I am still paying off the debt I acquired trying to pay attorneys.  Kelly has been very public about how, even though she acquired huge financial success in her acting career, her Family Court battle forced her to file bankruptcy.  The bottom line here is that no matter how wealthy you are, Family Court will ruin you.

2)  Children Are Objects – Not People:  No matter what state you live in, Judges typically like to split children in half.  In many cases, it appears as though the easiest decision is just to tell people to “share” by awarding joint custody.  While this judgement might make perfect sense for parents who live in the same community, and in situations where both parents are healthy and have the best interest of their children at heart, this is not realistic for many families.  If children were viewed as people, vice objects, judges would more often try to make judgements that would be comfortable for the children and not just what is convenient for parents.  For example, in Kelly’s case, since the father couldn’t travel to the US, the judge decided it would be better for the father if the children relocated with him.  The children had been raised in the United States, however, this judge believed it make more sense for the family for the children to be uprooted and moved with their father.

3)  One Size Fits All:  This lesson is similar to the one above.  What I find extremely disappointing about Family Court is that despite the billions of dollars of taxes and family contributions, the court still seems to have an inability to cater decisions.  Sawing children in half never works, however, this is often what happens when you try to apply current laws to “outside the box” cases.  Most divorces and custody conflicts ends with some sort of amicable agreement between two parties.  It is only the most contentious cases that end up in court, and most of the time these cases include someone who intends to legally abuse the other party.  Kelly’s case highlights this “one size fits all” mentality in the court, as it appears here that the judge just tried to force a 50/50 custody situation on two people who weren’t even able to remain in the same country.

 

Just the other day, when I heard that Kelly had filed an emergency order to try and keep her children in the United States, all the anxiety that I remember from my own Family Court War came rushing back to me.  I remember the panic I felt every time I had to turn my son over for a visit.  I distinctly remember the last night my son was alive.  I was trying to think of a million and one ways to keep him with me the next day instead of sending him for the visit, fully knowing that if I did I would likely get criminally charged for disobeying a court order.

I know there are people who read about Kelly’s story, and think that what she is doing is extreme.  I, however, read her story and see a mother who is willing to fight tooth and nail with every fiber in her body to protect the rights of her children.  She is trying to be a mother, even though her own country has told her she has no right to keep her children safe.  I pray that Attorney General Holder will take notice, and I pray that he will take a stand.  I pray he will stop the injustice that is evident in this case.  I pray he will allow these American citizens to remain in their home country – that he will allow their mother to take care of them.

 

 

 

The Parallels between Family Court and the Tobacco Industry: What We Can Do as a Nation to Protect Innocent Lives

Protest Photo of Grandparents 10-21-13

This week’s post comes from a my friend and fellow child advocate, Patrice Lenowitz.  Patrice is the founder and co-facilitator of The Nurtured Parent Support Group for survivors of domestic abuse. She is also the co-playwright of FORBIDDEN TO PROTECT, a three year play project written with author and dv expert Lundy Bancroft. FORBIDDEN TO PROTECT is a theatrical production that tells the true stories of family court victims, and raises questions about the improper court response to domestic violence and child abuse. FORBIDDEN TO PROTECT is expected to open to audiences in the fall of 2014. Most recently, Patrice and actress Kelly Rutherford co-founded the CHILDRENS JUSTICE CAMPAIGN, a non-profit that seeks to educate the public through the media about the injustices occurring to innocent children in the U.S. family court system.


In January of this year, Liz Szabo wrote an article in USA TODAY entitled U.S. smoking warning made history, saved lives. The article was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s 1964 Report on Smoking and Health. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that with the Surgeon General’s report, “this was the first time that the government was saying, no, there is no doubt that smoking causes cancer.” Although the tobacco industry has extreme economic and political might, America quickly began to question the health related risks of smoking due to the new research being presented. Responding to public concern, Congress was forced to take action. Although it took another six years to implement, in 1971 Congress passed legislation requiring a “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING” be placed on all cigarette packages. The tobacco industry responded in kind by switching up their advertising tactics, and began targeting women, children, and minorities.

Fortunately throughout the years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health have continued doing research, and have been responsible for 29 reports on the numerous health consequences of smoking. It was research that inspired the Surgeon General’s 1986 report determining that secondhand smoke was dangerous to non-smokers and smokers alike, and because of which, more life-saving measures were set in motion by public outrage. In 1989, Congress banned smoking on domestic flights, which lead to restaurants, offices, and most public spaces being declared non-smoking. Despite the powerful economic and lobbying influence of the tobacco industry to promote something that not only makes the public sick, but kills, the public’s anti-smoking campaigns have continued to take a stand to protect innocent lives by educating the public about the health risks of smoking. As Szabo’s article states, the U.S. smoking “WARNING” did make history, and because of which, it has saved countless lives.

So what does this have to do with Family Court?

1n 1998, the first Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This study, led by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda, is the largest study of its kind ever conducted to examine the health and social effects of adverse childhood experiences over the lifespan. What they discovered is that adverse childhood experiences will represent medical and social problems of national importance. A child being exposed to certain traumas, such as an alcohol or drug-addicted parent, domestic violence in the home, being sexual abused, or being separated from a primary attachment parent, are strong predictors of childhood illnesses and injuries, later health risks, disease, and premature death. Similar to the harm caused by smoking tobacco, adverse childhood experiences will determine the likelihood of the 10 most common causes of death in the United States. The good news? Just like with tobacco related illnesses, adverse childhood experiences are preventable.

Beginning in the late 1990’s however, a most catastrophic trend began to emerge. Family court judges, lawyers, guardians ad litem, parenting evaluators/coordinators, therapists and child protective service organizations began to ignore the health and safety of children in divorce and custody litigation. Comparable to the tobacco industry who knowingly concealed evidence that demonstrated how harmful nicotine was, family court vendors began to take children away from safe loving protective parents, and placed them with parents that pose a risk to their short and long-term health and safety – for money.And they continue to get away with it today due to a complete lack of transparency and accountability within our courts.

Is family court really a “kids for cash” business?

An estimated 58,000 children a year are court-ordered for custody or unsupervised visitation with reported abusers. That means in many cases, children are being ordered to live with their rapists. Child custody courts are generating approximately $50 billion dollars a year from the business of exploiting families in crisis and putting children in direct harm’s way. Adverse childhood experiences are the most basic cause of health risk behaviors, morbidity, disability, mortality, and health care costs. In fact, it costs taxpayers $500 billion dollars a year in health care related costs due to adverse childhood experiences.

In Jane Ellen Stevens article entitled, The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – the largest most important public health study you never heard of…, she references a subsequent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in 2012 that estimates just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment costs $124 billion over the lifetimes of the traumatized children. She states that the researchers based their calculations on only confirmed cases of physical, sexual and verbal abuse and neglect, which child maltreatment experts say is a small percentage of what actually occurs. Stevens remarks that the breakdown per child looks like this:

•       $32,648 in childhood health care costs

•       $10,530 in adult medical costs

•       $144,360 in productivity losses

•       $7,728 in child welfare costs

•       $6,747 in criminal justice costs

•       $7,999 in special education costs

“You’d think the overwhelming amount of money spent on the fallout of adverse childhood experiences would have inspired the medical community, the public health community, and federal, state and local governments to integrate this knowledge and fund programs that have been proven to prevent ACEs. But adoption of concepts from the ACE Study and the brain research has been remarkably slow and uneven,” said Stevens.

 

So what can we do as a nation to protect innocent lives?

The public cannot protest what it does not know, so let’s tell them! It is time to stand up and speak out America! We need to educate and inspire the unsuspecting public to take action. Reference the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ACE’s study to start the conversation. Hold family court rallies and protests. Write to your local newspapers, policy makers, medical community, and contact the media demanding that they begin to expose and address one of the greatest social injustices of our time. Eventually, our outrage will inspire Congress to hold our governors responsible for their respective judicial branches of government partaking in dirty deeds. The research is indisputable, and as such, illuminates what our hearts and minds already know to be true. It is our duty to honor the precious life and spirit of a child, and because of which, we must do everything we can to ensure that our courts will protect them from adverse childhood experiences.

Mr. Boris Lushniak, Surgeon General of the United States of America, we call upon you to issue your first WARNING on the U.S. family court system. It will make history, and save countless lives.

 

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Children exposed to the U.S. Family Court System (i.e. judges, lawyers, guardians ad litem), and their vendors (i.e. parenting evaluators/coordinators, social workers from Child Protective Services and Mental Health professionals not properly trained in domestic violence and/or trauma), will likely suffer childhood injuries and illnesses, later health risks, disease, and PREMATURE DEATH.

 

Cappuccino Queen with the lovely ladies of The Children's Justice Campaign.  (Far left: Kelly Rutherford, Far right: Patrice Lenowitz)

Cappuccino Queen with the lovely ladies of The Children’s Justice Campaign. (Far left: Kelly Rutherford, Far right: Patrice Lenowitz)

 

 

 

 

When Two-Parent Households Become Dangerous

broken home A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times opinion section published a piece by Sara Shoener titled, “Two-Parent Households Can Be Lethal:  Domestic Violence and Two-Parent Households.”  Shoener discusses how she has been studying Domestic Violence since 2011, when the Center For Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than one-third of American women are assaulted by an intimate partner during their lives.  After years of studying the services for domestic violence survivors, she came to the shocking realization that one of the most common barriers to a women’s safety was the high value our culture places on two-parent families. Of course, after making a bold statement such as this, she received many haters.  In my opinion, however, those who hated on her realization didn’t really understand what she was trying to say.  It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that Shoener was somehow making a statement against two-parent households, but this is not how I read her statement at all.  I think the crux of her argument hits on how dangerous societal pressures can be when it comes to relationships.  For example, many women internalize the idea that marriage should be equated with success.  Women are often told by our culture that the right thing to do is to marry the father of your children, and support a relationship between them.  On the flip side, our society also puts tremendous pressure on men to marry the mother of their child, regardless of the health of that relationship at the time when the child is born. I think supporting two-parent households is a good thing; however, it is dangerously naive to think that a two-parent household that features an unhealthy marriage is better than two parents co-parenting separately.  Raising children in a two-parent households is not the only way possible to raise healthy children.

The Night I Should Have “Stayed Gone”: When I read Shoener’s article, I thought back to December 2010.  I was  a little over two months pregnant with Prince, and things started to get really strange in my relationship with Luc.  One night in December, Luc started asking me for money.  He expected me to pay for his bills, and seemed to have every reason under the sun as to why he couldn’t make ends meet.  When I pushed back, questioning why he was unable to help pay the bills, he exploded into a psychopathic rage.  It was one of the scariest things I had ever seen, and I distinctly remember thinking, ‘omg….he looks crazy’. The night Luc raged on me, I left.  I drove for hours, and fully intended on never returning to the house.  I was scared, but I didn’t know what I was more afraid of – Luc or the idea of being a single mother.  As I drove that night, trying to clear my head and make a decision, I talked to many friends and family. Regardless of how many of them were already having doubts about Luc, the overwhelming response was that because he was the father of my unborn child, I had to try and make amends.  As I sit here writing, I cannot express to you all how much I wish I had kept running that night.

The Dichotomy: I don’t blame society for what happened to me, or even for the fact that I stayed in a relationship with a psychopath for way longer than I should have.  I do, however, recognize how my beliefs at the time were molded by what society has taught me.  The sad dichotomy in our society is that we encourage people (both men and women) to stay in a relationship with the mother/father of their children often despite whether that relationship is toxically unhealthy.  Almost at the same time, we admonish those who stay in abusive relationships and overwhelmingly “blame the victim.” I have often talked about how it is my belief that children have access to healthy people who love them.  While I see healthy fathers, and mothers every single day who could be posters for positive parenting, I also see negative role models on both sides of the fence.  There are fathers and mothers who stay in unhealthy relationships for fear of losing their children in a divorce, or because of the pressure they feel from society to stay married.

A New Perspective: If someone told me five years ago that I would one day choose to be a single mother, I would have laughed (nervous laughter) before starting to cry.  The idea of being a single parent terrified me, because I had bought into society’s negative view on single parenthood.  While I knew it was silly to believe that people raised by single parents are automatically destined to become criminals and prostitutes (yes, some people actually believe this to be true), the idea of actually being a single mother still worried me. Having had the experience of staying in an extremely dangerous relationship, simply because of the belief that a two-parent household was better than one, I recognize the need for our societal beliefs to change.  We need to get to the point where we can encourage people to seek out positive and healthy relationships, and as a society we need to recognize that not every two-parent household is good for children. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be at least one man, and at least one woman, reading this post who is suffering through an unhealthy relationship.  There are loads of reasons people stay in relationships, but I am going to guess that the man and woman I am talking about…they are in the relationship because they love their children.  What they fail to realize is that their unhealthy relationship with the other parent is also likely an unhealthy situation for their children.   

An Excerpt from the Upcoming Book, Bullied to Death: The Chris Mackney Story

 

chris


The author of this week’s guest post is freelance, investigative reporter Michael Volpe.  Michael is based out of Chicago and the author of two books, Prosecutors Gone Wild and The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers.  His current project is a book based on Chris Mackney, a father who committed suicide in late 2013 after a long and chaotic Custody War over his two young children.  This week’s post is an excerpt from Michael’s book about Chris Mackney.  Please give Michael a warm welcome to the Cappuccino Queen community.  


At the end of January 2014, Mackney’s suicide note was removed from his website, Good Men Did Nothing. Chris Mackney’s note first resurfaced on the website of Henry Makow in February 2014.

Makow lives in Canada. He gained fame in the 1980s with his board game, Scruples. He has since gone on to become a conspiracy theorist believing that the world is controlled by Jewish banking interests and the illuminati. Those who subscribe to such conspiracy theories view the family courts as an extension of a feminist takeover. As such, he is interested in any family court corruption, at least against males.

Though Makow is part of a fringe movement, he has thousands of followers, and as a result, the note’s initial run created some buzz.

From there, it was published on about fifteen websites throughout the months of February, March and April of 2014.

The run was driven by the so-called fringe, or more kindly counter culture movement. In fact, from the beginning, movements which believe in conspiracies like the illuminati, a feminist take over, and other conspiracies have had an insatiable appetite for Mackney’s suicide note. This is especially true of the Men’s Rights Movement which turned Chris Mackney’s suicide into a cause celebre after the website, A Voice For Men, publicly challenged Dina Mackney’s copyright notice.

Though the MRM has made Mackney into a cause celebre, he wasn’t necessarily a believer in their world view. No longer in a position to give permission, Mackney had become attached to a movement viewed by many as extreme. As an example, here’s one comment following an Imgur.com post on his suicide. “The association with MRAs (Men’s Right’s Associations) and AVFM has seriously undermined my ability to believe this guy’s story.”

The Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) was originally started as an answer to feminism, which it viewed as trying to punish the male species today for prior injustices against women, real and imagined. In its most extreme form, it is misogyny of the highest order. The extreme elements of the MRM are led by a man named Peter Andrew Nolan, who runs the site Crimes Against Fathers. Nolan is a victim of family court abuse in Australia who now lives in Europe. He regularly advocates violence saying this to me on Facebook, “If men cared about men someone else would have killed Dina Mackney and do Chris the favor. I have long told men that if they cared about each other they would watch each other’s backs.” Nolan attempted to justify his call for murder by suggesting that there is a war against men in family courts, and this is a legitimate response to war.

His website published some of the most extreme and inflammatory statements against Dina Mackney after her news of her copyright notice went public, calling her a “man hating bitch” and publishing most Dina Mackney’s personal information: her office address, Twitter handle, Facebook page, Linked In page, and other personal information.

Publishing personal information about women he dislikes is nothing new for Nolan. In 2013, Nolan revealed the name of a female Ohio University student who he believed had filed a false sexual assault claim, publishing personal details like her name, phone number, street address, and email. The student he identified turned out to be the wrong individual, not to mention that it’s far from clear that the sexual assault allegation is false, and the female student was forced to go into hiding and even dropping out of school that semester.

In a Buzzfeed article on the controversy, Nolan was unapologetic saying that even if the woman “goes out tomorrow and buys a gun and blows her head off that’s not a problem for me. I’m prepared to say that in the public,” he said to Buzzfeed. “Now the reason I’m prepared to say that in the public is because I’m reflecting back the exact same attitude that it would be if it were a man.”

People like Nolan likely did more harm than good in regards to spreading Mackney’s story. “They (sites like Nolan’s) discredited themselves (with their rhetoric)” Jill Peterson Mitchell told. (Jill Peterson Mitchell is a friend of Mackney’s whose ex-husband is now dating Chris’s ex-wife)

Hera McLeod runs a site called Cappuccino Queen, in which she details her own nightmare in family court. On May 21, 2014, she published an article on Mackney’s suicide and she made the same point. “Upon googling Chris’ name to find out the details of his death, I noticed many websites that have attempted to exploit and twist his story in an attempt to make it appear as though it was something that it was not.”

The more mainstream elements of the MRM center on the website A Voice For Men (AVFM) which is run by Paul Elam, a man I’ve come to know and work with in relation to this story. Elam has been criticized for writing a blog post in 2010 which his critics say he made light of rape, and even encouraged others to commit the act. Elam has repeatedly countered that the post was a piece of “provocative satire”. In June 2014, Elam and AVFM hosted the first International Conference on Men’s Issue. Local feminists protested the conference so vociferously that it needed to be moved from the Double Tree Hotel in Detroit to a Veteran of Foreign War facility in the suburbs. Despite the controversy, or possibly because of it, the conference was covered by most mainstream media, with stories appearing on Fox News Channel, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, Salon, and others. AVFM condemned Nolan as an extremist in a blog post in May 2014.

I’ve personally found Elam, like Henry Makow, to be honest and professional in my own dealings with them, while I found Nolan to be frightening. Furthermore, though I believe that both Makow and Elam have a very specific agenda when it comes to this story, I’ve found they want the whole truth to be told, and as evidence, they were both willing to highlight and detail the 1960s murder for hire by Dina Mackney’s father, Pete Scamardo.

Outside of the MRM, such folks are often viewed as extremists. As an example the so-called Manosphere, a loose collection of blogs and other websites, has been blamed by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center for the shooting massacre perpetrated by Elliot Rodger at University of California at Santa Barbara because these website often become a forum for men to take their frustrations out on individual women and the female race in general. This was a dubious and inflammatory charge given that three of Rodger’s six victims were male and his long history of mental illness but shows just how extreme many view the MRM.

Elam told me that rather than a fringe or extremist movement, the MRM is a form of counter culture.

When the far left website, Raw Story, picked up the saga on May 2, 2014, the comments section turned into a screaming match between feminists and father’s rights activists with each side calling the other extremists.

So, now extend that same perspective to Chris Mackney’s story. If his story is a cause celebre to the MRM, then by extension, he must become a villain in the world of the feminists. One can see a microcosm of that in the Raw Story article where a feminist using the handle Sharon Armstrong, possibly a pseudonym, repeatedly defends Dina Mackney’s actions, attacks Chris Mackney, and at one point even attacks Marc Randazzo (the first amendment attorney who defended AVFM against the copyright infringement filed by Dina Mackney’s attorney) referring to him as “man hating.”

MRM activists blistered Ms. Armstrong suggesting she was stupid and a man hater. The name calling between Armstrong and the MRM activists mirrored those which can be found in most arguments, on the internet and otherwise, between liberals and conservatives. (Armstrong’s comments have since been removed by Raw Story)

Whatever the analysis of the MRM or the feminist movement, Chris Mackney had nothing to do with either of them. Some called him a father’s rights or family court reform activist but that’s strictly because he started Good Men Did Nothing. Chris Mackney no more believed in the illuminati than I believe in the illuminati. Furthermore, while father’s rights groups claim the proverbial deck is stacked against men in family court, Mackney reached out both women and men for help.

While both feminists and the MRM believe that the family court system is corrupt and biased, but disagree on which gender is on the receiving end of the bias, Chris Mackney had no time for such philosophical debates. All he was looking to do was find someone, anyone, who would help him.

Hera McLeod, in the same May post, echoed this sentiment.

The very fact that Chris had asked to work with me shows that he was not a man trying to tie himself with an anti-women’s movement or speak out against mothers.  From what I knew of Chris through our conversations, he was a man who was trying to survive the horrible legal abuse he was enduring.  He was trying to find a way to get back into his children’s lives.  He was trying to navigate a broken system.

None of those things have much to do with gender politics.

(DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this piece are that of the author, Michael Volpe, and don’t necessarily reflect that of Cappuccino Queen.)

Co-Parenting With A Psychopath: The Story of The Headless Bear

 

bear-suicide

Some of you who have been following my blog since the beginning, may remember this story.  I am releasing it from the CQ vault today, because I think it illustrates the complete chaos that many parents feel when forced to co-parent with another parent who is mentally unhealthy (or specifically, a psychopath).  I wrote this post a little over two years ago, when I was in the throws of co-parenting hell with Luc.  Every visit was a nightmare, and my mind would race from the time I dropped Prince off to well beyond the time when I picked him up.

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June 2012, a week before Prince’s first birthday: 

When I first became exposed to the term “co-parenting”, I remember having a visceral reaction.  I was sitting in the three hour court mandated co-parenting class, breaking into a sweat, and having what felt like a full on panic attack as the woman leading the class showed slides of “parenting schedules.”  ‘How in hell was I going to co-parent with a man who was capable of such terrible things,’ I thought as I tried to get myself under enough control to not look like a crazy woman.  At the beginning of the class, the leaders made a point to tell everything to disregard most of what was being said if you were in a situation with abuse/domestic violence.

For some reason, this statement made me feel worse because I knew that somehow the courts were not going to treat my case the same as a cookie cutter domestic violence case (as if there ever is one).  I knew how good Luc was at playing in that “grey area” of criminality and how adept at making himself look like the victim he was.  That panic that I felt throughout the entire three hours of that class only seemed to get worse as the months passed.  While I don’t break out into sweats and actively panic every single time I drop my son off, I never feel at ease because I know his father is damaging.  The point of co-parenting is to allow the child to have a healthy relationship with both parents even if the parents are no longer together.  My motherly instincts will not allow me to trust that baby boy is ever going to be able to have a healthy relationship with his father because his father is not healthy.

One of my coworkers wrote on the white board at her desk the phrase, “Crazy people make sane people crazy.”  Most people who have never had the misfortune of co-parenting with a sociopath (if that is even what you would call this) might think that the below story sounds a little crazy.  Honestly, I feel a little crazy sometimes whenever I try and get in Luc’s head and proactively prepare for his next crazy stunt.  You tell me, is this crazy?  Or is this just a reaction to the insanity of being forced to co-parent with a sociopath?

 

The Headless Bear

When a person creates an environment of distrust, it makes you question everything.  Since the beginning of this nightmare (i.e. the existence of Luc in my life), I have been lied to on a regular basis by this man.  Many of the lies have put both me and my family in harms way.  Every time I think that things have calmed down, the man pulls another crazy move that I didn’t anticipate.

These crazy moves have left me attempting to anticipate the lies and deception before they happen.  Please note, this is not easy as sometimes it makes you feel like you are going down the rabbit hole of crazy.

For my son’s first birthday, Luc bought him a build-a-bear.  This was the very first thing that Luc had ever gotten the baby so as you can imagine I was a bit skeptical of this furry creature.  Part of me thought, ‘come on cappuccino queen, it’s just a bear’ but then the other voice (the skeptic) said, ‘wait a second…he never does anything just because he is trying to be nice.’

(Note:  Two years later, I now know that the bear was not the first thing Luc bought for Prince.  The first thing Luc actually bought Prince was a life insurance policy worth over 580k if Prince died.  I guess the policy wasn’t for Prince.  Oh well, I digress…)

While my first instinct was to tear the bear apart with my teeth and throw it in the mall trashcan, I decided I would do the more sane thing and ask my mother and aunts (who were standing right next to me when I first saw it) what they thought.  This is when I realized how truly traumatized my entire family had been.  One of my aunts said (before I even told them how I was feeling), “you better check that and make sure he didn’t bug it.”  The other said, “It’s too risky, just throw it out – don’t even let it in the car.”  I shook my head, threw the bear back in the box and took my son home.

I thought about the stupid bear the whole ride home.  I also thought about how throwing it out wasn’t the answer as this could be the ONLY thing my son would ever get from his father (I suspect it was purchased in order to look good in front of the court ordered supervisor who would be testifying in court the next day).  That being said, I still didn’t trust the bear.  That night the bear spent the night in the garage.

The next morning, I walked downstairs (having dreamed about that stupid bear) and low and behold my mom was awake and didn’t waste any time to ask me what I had decided to do with the bear.  I told her that we were being paranoid and that there was nothing wrong with the bear.

On the drive to work, I couldn’t stop trying to figure out if there was more to this bear thing. This is a man who has been lying and terrorizing since he met me.  A bear couldn’t JUST be a bear.  Once I got to work, I brought up the bear to my coworkers.  Some of the more paranoid ones were all for the idea of cutting the bear open and making sure it wasn’t bugged.

Eventually, I allowed my mom to check for a bug.  She cut the bears head off and pulled out all the stuffing.  Of course, there was nothing there.  It was JUST a bear filled with stuffing and a fake heart.  (A lot like Luc himself actually)  I felt terrible – and a little crazy.  My mom told me I shouldn’t feel bad and that the bear was a “casualty of war.”

Yes, one could say it was JUST a bear – but it was more than that symbolically.  That bear became a symbol of the environment of distrust.  It also made it very obvious to me that co-parenting would be impossible.  I have a lot of work to do on myself to get to the point where the little things don’t bother me.  I also need to get to the point where I can safely stop anticipating his next crazy move.