A Miscarriage Of Justice

A couple of months before my son Prince was murdered, another little boy was killed just miles away from where Prince died in Manassas, VA.  His name was Elijah Nealey.  Elijah was only 23 months old when his monster of a babysitter, Jessica Fraraccio, killed him.  Fraraccio had been frustrated because Elijah was crying.  So frustrated that she pulled a chair out from under him, causing him to hit his head on the table and floor.  Elijah cried harder in pain, and Fraraccio carried him around the house upside down, hitting his head on the metal stair rail and other objects.  She then covered his mouth and nose with her hand and suffocated him to death.

I have never been subtle about my desire to fight for children’s rights.  Little Elijah, sadly, has suffered a miscarriage of justice in addition to his brutal murder.  Elijah never lived long enough to celebrate even his second birthday.  The 22 year old babysitter who killed him, however, will only serve 5 years in jail.  She will likely go on to have children, and if she doesn’t kill them she will have the opportunity to enjoy the many firsts that Elijah’s parents will miss.  In a decision that shocks the hell out of me, and likely just about anybody with a soul, Judge J. Howe Brown sentenced Fraraccio to 50 years but suspended 45 and required that she send a check of at least a dollar to a charity of her choosing on the date of Elijah’s death every year after her release.  So when the she devil is writing a check for a dollar to the charity of her choosing, Elijah’s parents will have to live with the fact that not only was their son brutally murdered, but that the woman who killed him is allowed to live a full life.

This shocking sentence had me thinking about the value our system puts on the lives of children.  Had this woman murdered an adult, I suspect she would have had a longer sentence.  What will this judge think when this monster gets into a bar fight and kills someone else, or maybe even goes on to kill another child someday.  I didn’t read any part of this sentence that ordered the woman to have her ovaries removed, so I suspect that she will have children and they, too, will cry.  Someone who is evil enough to suffocate a child to death because she cannot handle their cry cannot be rehabilitated and should not be let out amongst the general population after serving a mere 5 years.  This reckless decision, however, does not appear to be an isolated move.  Poor Elijah seems to be yet another victim of our broken system – more evidence that children in our country do not have the right to live.

Virginia is not the only state that is lenient on child abusers.  Back in 2007, a Prince George’s County, MD judge sentenced a man to only 18 months in jail after he shook his month old son to death.  Both Judge Brown and Judge Ronald D. Schiff cited that harsher sentences wouldn’t bring the children back, as if this fact made giving their killers light sentences make any more sense.  It is true that nothing can bring a murdered child back, but there are several reasons for sentencing a child murder to the full extent of the law.  (Note:  I recognize that the below points don’t take a rocket scientist to recognize, but clearly there are some in our justice system who need a reminder.)

1)  Once A Killer, Always A Killer:  Someone who is capable of murder has more than just a few screws loose.  The two murders I described above were not unfortunate accidents.  They were the result of two people who snapped and killed children merely because the children were crying.  Now think about this for a moment.  Even if these people never went on to take care of another child, would you feel safe even standing next to this person in the grocery store?  I sure as hell wouldn’t.  A few months in jail is not going to give this person those extra screws they need to be not dangerous!  In case you still don’t believe that some time in jail makes these killers remorseful, check out this story.  Daron Davis, another one of these child killing monsters, spent 11 years in jail for beating his daughter to death just a month before her first birthday.  After he was released, he killed a second daughter.

2)  Justice:  These children who were murdered by people who should have been caring for them took away lives.  Having to spend a short amount of time in prison does not bring justice to the victims, and it certainly doesn’t bring justice to the families of the victims either.  How would you feel if someone killed your child, and then a few years later you had to run into them in the grocery store laughing and chatting with their friend about how great their life is?  Possibly more insulting might be having to celebrate the birthday of your dead child, and wondering what charity his killer would be sending her one dollar check to that year.

3)  The Message:  Part of what is important about our criminal justice system is the message sentences send to the community.  In the cases I have highlighted here, it seems the message is that the life of a child doesn’t hold as much value as that of an adult.  Those who kill children are allowed a second chance at life because we assume that they feel the remorse they should feel after committing such a vile act.  (News Flash:  A psychopath does not feel remorse.  They often know what goes against society norms or is immoral, but they don’t care.  These people don’t have souls like the rest of us.)

Finally, these examples can shed an interesting light on what is happening to children in the Family Court system as well.  Decisions are made on a daily basis that negatively impact children for the purpose of parental rights.  How do we expect that judges are going to hold the best interest of our children in any sort of priority when even those who kill children have their rights respected at the expense of their victims.  America is in crisis.  We are having what appears to be a war on children.  Children are being physically and emotionally abused, and children are being killed.  When children are supposed to be seen as the future of a country, I ask you – what is to become of our future when we don’t protect our nation’s children?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce Corpse

 

“An unhinged man involved in a bitter child-custody battle tossed his toddler son to his death from the roof of a 52-floor building on the Upper West Side Sunday, then killed himself by jumping, law-enforcement sources said.”  - NYPOST.COM

“An Arizona woman is accused of fatally poisoning her two children a day before she was supposed to turn them over to their father as part of a custody agreement issued in a courtroom last week, an attorney for the woman’s ex-husband told NBC4 on Monday.” – NBCLOSANGELES.COM

“That day, Rob King bought each of his twin daughters a fish, signed them up for swim lessons and gave them a bath. Hours later, he pumped carbon monoxide into their bedroom and slit their throats…Rob and Kristi were in the midst of a bitter divorce and custody battle. Kristi had offered joint custody of the three-year-olds. Rob wanted the girls to himself.”  - WUSA9.COM

 

These are just a few examples amongst countless articles I have read since the murder of my son Prince.  It seems like nearly every week there is a new story about a parent, involved in a bitter custody battle, who kills their child.  The most disturbing part of reading these stories is knowing that each and every one of these killer parents was in court at some point and granted access to the child for whom he/she ended up killing.  Each one of these children could have been saved had our system not been so hell bent on parental rights and equal access.

This Friday, a documentary titled “Divorce Corps” hits the theaters.  From watching the previews, it would appear as though the focus of the movie is to expose the horrible Family Court system and how the fate of children has been turned into big business.  While I believe that the big business aspect is a part of the system that needs to be reformed (note:  I spent over 100k trying to save my son in this failed system), I have deep concerns about this movie.  There are parts of the movie that would lead the public to believe that because divorce and custody are such “big business” that people have more incentives to lie and make up false allegations.  The movie also seems to argue for presumptive joint custody.

Wendy Murphy, a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor and now adjunct professor and trial and appellate attorney specializing in crime victims, recently noted that a more appropriate title for a documentary on this issue would be “Divorce Corpse”.  Divorce Corpse would at least accurately label a system in which children are killed by parents who should never have had custody or access to them.

In case after reading about my story it isn’t already clear, let me point out why the troubling themes present in this movie are dangerous for children.

1.  All claims of abuse should be taken seriously:  This should be a no brainer, but unfortunately it isn’t.  The creators of this documentary seem to think that parents make sport out of launching false allegations of abuse.  It is my firm believe that while I am sure false allegations occur, this is not the norm.  Approaching all family court cases as if any abuse allegations are false is extremely dangerous.  Children who are abused will be sent to their abuser without investigation into the allegations.  I would rather see several innocent parents investigated than loose one child because the allegations were not taken seriously.

2.  The danger of presumptive joint custody:  Abusers love to talk about how the courts should automatically look toward equal access.  If the courts did this, parents would no longer have to worry about things in their lifestyle that are not conducive to a healthy environment for a child.  While there are plenty of situations where it is best for a child to have equal access to both parents (i.e. when both parents are good parents without psychological disorders or abusive tendencies), there are too many scary cases that come to court where presumptive joint custody would hurt the child.  The courts should not presume anything when there is a case before them.  There are no two cases alike when it comes to Family Court and each case should be evaluated based on the best interest of that particular child and not based on what is comfortable for the parents.  If the courts continue to try and split children down the middle, they will end up with more abused children in the system.

David Levy, who is currently one of the members of the Maryland Commission on Child Custody, wrote an Op Ed after the murder of Amy Castillo’s three children in Baltimore, MD.  In his editorial, he stated his belief that joint custody would have prevented the tragedy – as if Mark Castillo killed his three children just because he wasn’t awarded joint custody.  News flash Mr. Levy, Mark Castillo killed his children because he was a crazy monster and had he been denied access to those children, they would still be here today.

3.  Leave Parental Rights at the door please:  After reading the press on this documentary, I am hearing too much crap about parental rights.  We all know that both men and woman abuse children.  This shouldn’t be a fight about gender because parents should not be who the court is seeking to protect.  I didn’t spend over 100k in court because I felt like I needed more time with my son and just wanted to be a time hog.  I spent the money because I truly believed he was in danger, and it was the only legal way I knew how to try and save him.  I take no pleasure in knowing that I was right because it means that my son is dead.  I would have gladly laid my own rights as a parent on the table if it meant my son could have some.

Finally, I refer you back to the quotes that I started out with in this post.  While many cases don’t deal with life and death, a startling number of them do.  Making rash generalizations about the need for equal access in all cases, and assuming everyone who fears abuse is lying only harms children.  This movie discusses how many people profit off of the misfortune of those who end up in Family Court, and that is absolutely true.  More alarming, however, is the number of people who end up dead (or emotionally/physically abused) as a result of decisions made in those court rooms.

If you plan to see this movie, I encourage you to question the motives of those who created it.  While it is clear that there are many who profit from Family Court,I challenge you to think about exactly who benefits from a system that believes that the child’s best interest is served by equal access to both parents – regardless of the situation.  I would argue that only an abuser would want the courts to grant all parents equal access without regard to circumstance.

 

Haters Gonna Hate

Last Friday, The Washington Post’s Jo-Ann Armao wrote an emotional and beautiful article which told the story of what happened to my son.  It also included the joys of my daughter.  To the surprise of nobody, trolls came out of the bowels of the Internet to shine their hate on a story that was meant to tell a story of tragedy and hope. Some folks think that I have asked for this attention.  Let me assure everyone that if I could change my story, and make it less like a bad lifetime movie (particularly the part about my son being murdered by his own father) – I would in a heartbeat.  Nobody wants to have something like this happen to them.  That said, I will make no apologies for my decision to use what happened to my son to try and change the system and protect other children.  I will also never make any apologies for my decision to keep living, and pursue a happy life despite the pain I have (and will continue) to endure.

Several of the trolls stayed along the lines of all too typical victim blame, noting that because I wanted to settle down and have a family (and chose to try online dating) I somehow deserved to run into a serial killing psychopath.  The other trolls chose to preach their troubling agendas with all too familiar attacks on single motherhood.  These nasty, judgmental, and flat out ignorant comments serve as a sad reminder that many Americans are still stuck in the dark ages where alternative families are shunned, and women are pressured into living through abuse for fear of becoming a pariah in society.  To demonstrate what I am talking about, I thought I would highlight some of the most ignorant comments.  This is not to give a platform to the ignorance, but show why there is a need for more successful single parents to speak out and call bull shit on some of this trash.

Things Folks Actually Said: ( I couldn’t have made up better examples of hate/ignorance/buffoonery if I tried)

1.  “You made a terrible choice in your partner, now you want to fill your inner void with another child? I don’t get the psychology here at all. As someone said earlier, yet another public tab we have to pay for.  Maybe we need to offer child parenting classes in high school, along with the academics.”

(Note:  This “genius” assumes that every single parent is on welfare and will eventually force the public to pay for their child.  I would like to note that I am an example of someone who has a very good job, and can afford my child all by myself.  Thanks for the offer to help pay for my kid though.  This person also assumes that single parents are not educated and that we need parenting classes in high school.  I have a Master’s Degree in Education.  I think I will pass on your offer for parenting classes as well.)

2.  “Single, out of wedlock parents don’t do well historically, and for her to do this to make herself feel better, is sad. She will likely place too many expectations on this child, almost a switch in roles, from her as mother to her as child who needs to be cared for. It is of concern that this type of story with the clear message of support of out of wedlock parenting is on the front page of this newspaper.”

(Note:  This person believes that all children born to single parents (or those born out of wedlock) don’t do well.  He even tries to make it appear as though there is some sort of historical evidence to this claim.  I guess this person didn’t get the memo that our current President was raised by a single mother.  This person also must be psychic because without even knowing me, he/she seems to think it’s possible to predict my future merely based on the fact that I had another child after the loss of my son.  This person seems to suggest that every parent who loses a child should never have another child for fear that this child will somehow need to take care of their grieving parent.  I think there are millions of people who would disagree on this one.)

3.  “Why didn’t she adopt? There are many children in desperate need of homes, particularly bi-racial children for whom this family would have been a good match. Though that child would not have had 2 parents, with McLeod’s extended family he or she could have had a real chance at a normal home life. THAT would have honored Prince.”

(Note:  I agree that there are many children who are in need of being adopted.  If we all listen to this person’s theory, however, we would all agree to stop having children until all of the children in the world who need homes are adopted.  This person believes that if you are bi-racial like me you should always choose adoption first because there are many bi-racial children for whom your bi-racial family would be a good match.  I don’t think I need to go into how racist this comment is.  I have many friends who have adopted children outside of their race, and their children were perfect matches for their family regardless of ethnicity.)

4. “… its terrible to purposely bring a child into a single family home.  Not wanting to come off as judgemental, but it is fact that it is more difficult to raise a child by one’s self. Have many single mom friends, and not one of them did it intentionally, and all of them, to varying degrees, have issues with the lack of support, whether its presence, money, support, or all three… Not sure why someone of sound mind and clear thought would purposely do this.”

(Note:  Mr “not wanting to come off as judgmental” is coming across as just that – judgmental.  This is the type of person who thinks he knows what it is like to be a single parent because he has “single mom friends.”  He also seems to think that all single parents are in need of financial support, and none of us have family support around to help out.  Since Mr. “not wanting to come off as judgmental” can’t seem to understand what it is like to be financially independent and have a strong family support system as a single mother, I would suggest that HE (or she) never try it.)

My Conclusions:

I don’t expect everyone to follow in my footsteps, and I don’t claim to have lived a life without mistakes.  That said, my daughter isn’t one of them.  I often hear people argue that there are all these “statistics” of how poorly children do in single parent homes.  Those who make this argument, however, feel perfectly comfortable painting all single parents with the same brush.  There are also ugly statistics showing that prisons are made up of a disproportional amount of black men.  Does this mean that we should all assume that every black male will become a criminal?

Choosing single parenthood is becoming something that many women choose to do.  There will always be people for whom this decision is intimidating.  Single parenthood isn’t easy, but neither is co-parenting.  Parenting is challenging.  Every child, regardless of their family dynamic, will have to face challenges in life.  If you ignore that reality just because you happen to have two parents living under the same roof with your children, your child might soon become one of those ugly statistics that you rely upon when launching your judgements against single parents.

And to all my fellow single parents, whether by circumstance or by choice, don’t listen to the trolls of our society.  There are just as many successful people in the world who were raised by single parents as those who had two parents.  Children need a loving and safe environment.  They need to know they are special, and they need to be allowed to grow into healthy individuals.  Just because you are a single parent, doesn’t mean you cannot create a healthy environment for your child.  Just because you have a spouse, doesn’t not mean you have automatically created a healthy environment for your child.

If you don’t have haters, it means you aren’t being loud enough about what you believe in.

 

 

 

 

Rising After The Fall

“The greatest glory in living lies not from never falling, but from rising every time we fall.”  -  Nelson Mandela

On December 5, 2013, heaven gained another angel when Nelson Mandela passed away.  Thinking about how this man chose to live his life has offered me some much needed reflection.  Here is a man who served over 27 years in prison because he chose to fight for freedom and equality.  When he was released, nobody would have blamed him for having a chip on his shoulder the size of South Africa itself; however, Nelson Mandela taught us something different.  He taught us the value in lifting yourself up after falling.  While I am not on board with forgiving folks for the sake of forgiving, I do believe that holding a chip based on something terrible that has happened will inevitably leave you feeling as if you have never been released from whatever bad situation led you there in the first place.

Falling:

In many ways, the past few years I have felt like I have been in prison.  Whether it was the emotional prison created by Luc, the prison of Family Court, or the emotional prison caused by the loss of my son – I have been in some version of prison since February of 2010.  When I first heard the above quote back in 2002, when I as studying abroad in South Africa, I didn’t have enough life experience to really understand what it meant.  I still thought it sounded profound, but until recently I didn’t really know what it felt like to “fall.”

For a while after my son died, I felt a large chip forming on my shoulder.  I thought I had a right to be angry at the world for allowing this monster to take my son’s life.  What I didn’t realize at first was that this anger was causing me to fall deeper into my own prison.  By carrying that extreme anger, I was allowing Luc to keep me in the hell that he had created.  I couldn’t stay angry at the world and still get justice for my son.  I needed to focus my efforts and I needed to “rise” after my fall.

Since my son died, I have noticed how often people say things like, “Oh, he had a bad day.  That is why he is in a bad mood and why he did XYZ (insert terrible thing here).”  If I lived by this idea, I would be able to wake up every day for the next ten years and bitch slap random strangers in the street.  I would be able to do this and then excuse myself by saying, “I have had a bad few years…my son was murdered.”  With his actions, Nelson Mandela taught us to move forward with life instead of getting consumed with the pain.  He taught us to hold those who hurt us accountable and face what they did to us, but to move forward by rising above and bettering yourself (or your country) in the face of injustice.

Rising:

I used to be a runner.  Running was my stress relief and my form of cheap emotionally therapy.  I have run two marathons, two half marathons, several 10k races, a few 5k races, and an olympic triathlon.  Before recently, the last serious training run I went on was in July of 2010.  In the past week, however, I have realized that in order to rise after my own fall I need to work to get back some of the things that I lost.  I will never be able to have my son back, but I can work on rebuilding parts of myself that I do have control over.

Just last week, I decided enough was enough.  Despite the extreme anxiety I had built up around getting back to running (partly because my postpartum body was now 30 pounds heavier then it was in 2010), I put Stela in the running stroller and decided it was time to overcome my fears in order to rise above my emotional prison.  With every step I took, I felt the pain of the last three years.  As I ran (and pushed Stela), I could almost feel some of the chains falling away.  The run was slow, I didn’t break any records, and I ended up having to walk a few hills.  When it was over, I felt like a hot mess – but the million dollar version of a hot mess.  After 30 minutes of pain, I felt as though I was on my way to getting back something I had lost.  It was going to be easy because I had fallen pretty far, but the reward at the end would be worth it.

Moving on:

While most of you won’t ever have to face the pain of losing a child in the manner that I did (Thank God), we all have situations in our lives that cause us to fall.  Many of you have had the experience (or will someday) of waking up, looking in the mirror, and barely recognizing the person you have become.  I still have many days when I am angry.  I still intend to hold those who are responsible for my son’s death accountable; however, I will not allow what happened to me to destroy who I am.  We all must learn from Mandela and realize that whether or not we rise after we fall is entirely in our hands.  So when life hands you a pot of boiling water, and you have fallen, get up and help that person staring back at you in the mirror.

I still have a long way to go on my own personal road to recovery.  I recognize that it is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.  Just the other day someone asked me, “how often do you do things related to Luc.”  I was baffled at this question as it implied that I devoted significant time to Luc related activities.  My response was, “Despite what you may imagine after watching the news media, my life is no longer centered around all things Luc.”  As Luc awaits trial for the murder of my son, I am moving on to pick up the pieces of my life.  Luckily, I am not the person who has to fight Luc in court.  He is now fighting the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Instead of going into unnecessary detail, I should have simply just told this person, “I am rising after the fall.”  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.  I thank you for the lessons you have taught us all, and I am glad that my son has another angel beside him to watch over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grown Ass Man Child

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what I believed it took to be a good father.  In the past few weeks, given that it is now the holiday season, I am thinking even more about family.  One of the things that people ask me a lot, in reference to Luc, is why I stayed with him so long.  While the answer to that is much too complicated to get into in the confines of one blog post, one of the most obvious reasons many women (myself included) stay too long is because of societal pressure.  Many women are so terrified to face the stigma of being a single mother (or the terror of fighting a monster in custody court).  Everywhere I turn lately, there is another article about the importance of a father or the miserable statistics about children raised by single mothers.  In the past few years, my view on single motherhood has changed drastically.  When I was with Luc, however, the overwhelming presence of negative press against single mothers made me fear becoming one.  This fear had me resolved to stay with a grown ass man child.  In addition to this fear,  our society (myself included) has become accustomed to allowing poor behavior for the sake of keeping a family together.  While it is important to keep families together, it is also important to have clear boundaries and realize when someone’s behavior is too toxic to be healthy for that family.

Note:  Before I learned that Luc was potentially a serial killer, I had come to realize that he was a grown ass man child.

Some of you might be wondering what I mean when I say “grown ass man child”.  A “grown ass man child” is a man who essentially hasn’t matured beyond childhood.  He plays video games, refuses to work (or cannot keep a job), refuses to cook, clean, or help out around the house in any way.  He would rather play video games than go to your child’s music recital and when he goes, he will complain about how he would rather be somewhere else.  He doesn’t change diapers and doesn’t deal with his own crying baby.  If the father of your children is a grown ass man child, you are essentially a single mother.  In fact, being a single mother seems a bit easier than living with a grown ass man child, because at least you don’t experience disappointment when you make the mistake of thinking you can rely on this person.

Here are some real world examples of what I am talking about:

1)  Gaming:  Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I am not talking about the guy who plays guitar hero with his kids and uses video games as an acceptable form of bonding with his children.  I am talking about the extreme gamer – the man who doesn’t sleep well, shower enough, or work enough because he is glued to a violent video game.  Instead of playing a child friendly video game with his child, he plays violent video games at the expense of quality time with his children.  If your man would prefer staying in a dark room shooting zombies than going to the park with his children, you have a big problem on your hands.

2)  Bad Work Ethic:  I have noted before that I understand that everyone falls on hard times every now and then.  If your man is a hard working man who got laid off, I am not talking about him in this category.  If your man refuses to even look for a job, has every excuse in the book as to why he cannot find one, or keeps getting fired from the jobs he does get – you have a problem on your hands.  Grown ass man children don’t have a problem letting the women in their lives pay their bills indefinitely.  If you allow this to happen, it will be at the detriment to you and your children.  You will be run raged working several jobs to supporting his gaming habit.

3)  “That’s a woman’s job”:  It isn’t the 1950′s anymore.  Women work outside of the home and it is plan ass backward to think that a man shouldn’t help out with cooking, cleaning, and child raising.  A grown ass man child, however, refuses to work or help out around the house.  While you are working, he will be at home playing video games, eating cereal, and leaving dirty dishes for you to clean.  When you get home from working, he will ask you to make him a meal and expect your to clean up after him just as if he is one of your children.  If you have children together, you will be expected to feed them, change diapers, and attend school events all on your own.  In one example, obtained from one of my readers, the husband came to his daughter’s holiday music show and complained the entire time.  When it was over, as the little girl was asking him what he thought of her solo, he said, “this music show was terrible.  That is two hours of my life that I will never get back.”  Anyone who has ever been to a children’s concert knows that it isn’t always the best singing; however, if your child is singing you should want to be there and you will care enough about them to tell them you enjoyed watching them sing.

 

Finally, the point of this post is to both assist women in spotting a grown ass man child (or recognizing that they are with one), and empowering them to either call this person out and attempt to force a change (very unlikely that they will change) or take their children and leave.  Living with one of these men can drive you crazy, and you might believe that you can ignore his antics and still achieve the perfect looking family.  The danger, however, occurs when your son or your daughter views this man’s behavior as normal.  Most grown ass man children are not dangerous sociopaths, but most sociopaths will display this sort of apathetic and dispassionate behavior toward their family.  If your children grow up seeing this behavior as normal, they will be more likely to invite a grown ass man child into their lives in the future (or become one themself) – and he/she could be the dangerous type.

Grown ass man children and sociopaths alike prey on good people.  It is natural for a woman to want to take care of her husband and her children; however, it should also be natural for her husband to want to help take care of his family.  There is a big difference between caring for your significant other, and allowing that person to drain the life out of you.  Having been in a relationship with a grown as man child (who turned out to be the dangerous type), I can assure you that being a single mother is much easier.

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy And Deranged

When I was with Luc, he always used to refer to the woman he dated before me as “crazy and deranged”.  He would force his son to call her by that name despite the fact that it was clear the child didn’t harbor the same ill will against her.  Though Luc claimed that they had broken up a whole year before we had met, he frequently spoke about how terrible the relationship was due to the physical and emotional abuse she put him through.  Of course, from what I now know of Luc, it was Luc who was physically and emotionally abusive.  Instead of the ex-girlfriend, it was Luc who was “crazy and deranged”.

Every so often, you run into someone who has been in an abusive relationship.  When you meet someone who claims this, whether male or female, you should be weary.  I say this knowing that someone will meet me in the future wondering about my story too.  They should be weary too because many times the abusive person claims that everyone else around them is crazy.  Their relationships have failed because they keep running into “crazy and deranged” women, etc.  These people always seem to have an excuse as to why there is constant chaos in their lives.  Luc would always say, “I must have been a bad person in another life to deserve all this back luck.”  Newsflash psychopath:  You are a bad person in this life – that is why all these bad things are happening.  I digress.

Before meeting Luc, I really didn’t know how to spot a crazy and deranged person.  By “crazy and deranged”, I don’t mean what we would typically think as someone who is insane.  This person isn’t always as obvious as a grown man walking around talking to his imaginary friend.  Sometimes, it takes a while for the person to show their true crazy.  That said, there are always clues and when you see those clues you should question them – listen to your internal warning system – and run.

Gaslighting:

For those of you who are not familiar with the term gaslighting, it is a form of mental abuse where false information is presented with the intent of making the victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.  This may range from denial by the abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.  For people who have been through this form of abuse, it can be terrifying, upsetting, and extremely confusing.  When I was going through it, I was dealing with pregnancy hormones at the same time.  Luc’s gaslighting episodes would have me questioning my own sanity and wondering why I had perceived certain events as abusive when Luc swore that the events never occurred.

If you have heard a variation on the following, you are probably dealing with someone who is gaslighting:

1)  “I wish I had a tape recorder because I would play back that conversation.  I never said ____.  You are making that up.”

2)  “That never happened, you must be imagining that.”

Luc’s Gaslighting:

Every single person who came into Luc’s life likely experienced some form of this type of abuse.  Before Luc’s mother was found laying dead on a plastic bag (police ruled this a suicide and claimed that she must have suffocated herself), Luc had her believing she had alzheimer’s disease.  While I never met the woman, I suspect that she didn’t have alzheimer disease.  I suspect that Luc was staging bizarre events to make this poor woman believe she was loosing her memory.

In December 2010, Luc beat his older son.  After the abuse, the boy went into school and told his teachers who then reported the abuse to police.  The child had physical evidence on his back in the form of Luc’s ring marks.  While Luc awaited trial for the domestic assault of his son, CPS believed it was best to put the child back in the home.  Luc spent the next three months before trial convincing this child that he had imagined the entire event.  At one point, his son asked him, “don’t you remember punching me in the chest?”  Luc responded by saying, “that never happened!  You must have imagined that!”  The boy’s face dropped and he looked both terrified and confused.  He then dropped his head and quietly uttered, “maybe I did imagine it.”

A few days after giving birth to Prince, I was hungry and went downstairs to get some food.  Luc had left us in a room upstairs, and disappeared for days.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to be going up and down the stairs, but I also knew I couldn’t starve myself.  As soon as Prince fell asleep, I put him in his crib and went to the kitchen.  As I was returning upstairs, I saw Luc glaring at me from the top of the stairs.  “What are you doing,” he asked in an angry tone.  “I was hungry.  I am having trouble with my milk coming in….I have to eat or else Prince won’t get enough milk.”  As I stood there explaining, I was tearing up at the fact that I even needed to explain why I was getting food.  “You shouldn’t be eating all that food.  You need to lose weight,” he said.  I immediately broke down crying.  I was sore, tired, and hungry.  Here I was with a bagel and some greek yogurt, and my son’s father was making it seem like I was eating chocolate cake and bon bons.  As I cried, Luc started yelling more.  “What is wrong with you,” he yelled.  “I am just trying to help you!  You are overreacting.  It must be your hormones.”

There is no rehab for a psychopath:

People often wonder if abusive people can ever change.  I am not in the camp of people who believe that they can change.  If someone is exhibiting the above mentioned behavior, chances are that this person is far past the point of rehabilitation.  If you stay with a person like this, you will be driven crazy by the constant mental abuse and life chaos.

One of the most dangerous things about these people, perhaps, is their ability to remain calm as they fabricate bizarre scenarios to make those around them look criminal.  For example, George Zimmerman has been in the public eye for the last few years.  He first entered our radar when he shot a teenage boy in cold blood.  Of course,  he created a whole story about how this teenage boy (who was only armed with skittles and iced tea) attacked him.  Since the teenage boy was dead, Zimmerman’s story was the one that stood up in court.  In the past few months, two different women have accused Zimmerman of domestic assault.  According to Zimmerman, both of these women are crazy; however, in these two cases Zimmerman is the only common denominator.

The most recent 911 tapes released in the Zimmerman domestic assault charge brought me back to a bad place.  Listening to this man who had just pulled a gun on his girlfriend calmly explain to the police that she had been the aggressor made me sick to my stomach.  For years, Luc got away with so many violent crimes against women and children.  When accused, he created fantastic stories while remaining calm.  His victims, however, are never calm because they have had to endure the trauma of the abusive incident.

My greatest regret in life allowed me to experience one of the greatest joys in my life.  I biggest regret in life is my relationship with Luc, but everyone who has read my story knows that without that relationship I would not have had the opportunity to meet my angel (Prince).  I am forever thankful and grateful for having known that child.  That said, if there is any wisdom that I can impart on other women – if you see any of the above behavior from your partner, do not have a child with this person.  If you have a child with this person, leave now and prepare yourself for the fight of your life.  Sometimes I wonder if Prince would have survived if I had stayed with Luc.  About two seconds after I start thinking that, I remember that Luc is now an “alleged” serial killer.  Not only would Prince likely have still not survived, but I likely wouldn’t have either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Be A Good Dad…

Last week, my good friend Daddy Doin’ Work called me a week ago and asked me if I would answer an important question as part of a guest posting on his blog.  He wanted to capture the opinion of Mom’s he respected on what it meant to be a good Dad.  At first, I laughed and told him, “Doyin…seriously…you know my story!  What makes you think I would be in the position to preach about what it means to be a good father?”  I probably couldn’t have consciously picked a worse Dad than the man who was my son’s father – even if I had tried.  After some thought, however, I realized that having scraped the bottom of the barrel of fatherhood I had learned some important lessons about what my son’s father should have been.

While I kept my comments somewhat brief for the DDW guest post, I wanted to take the time to elaborate on some lessons I have learned for my readers.  Some of you might think that having been through such a terrible experience with a man, a person would naturally turn into a man-hater.  Though I am in no rush to get into another relationship, I look forward to someday meeting a man who is capable of being the type of father that every woman should expect for her children.  Let’s jump right in…

1) Selflessness:  While the rest of this list is in no particular order, this particular characteristic should always come first.  Lucifer was one of the most selfish people I have ever met.  At first, he didn’t seem this way.  He knew it was not a good quality so he hid it well in the first few months we were together. That said, when selfish rears its ugly head – you better run.  There is no room for this trait in parenting.  Children need their parents to ALWAYS put them first.  You don’t eat before your children have eaten.  You don’t sleep before you know they are safe, warm, and have what they need.  A selfish person is not capable of being a good parent.  When I was a kid, my mother showed up at just about every kid event.  I know she couldn’t have enjoyed watching my middle school basketball team lose or the terrible singing that went on in the Christmas shows; however, it didn’t matter because she came to show me how much she loved me despite how painful the show.

2) Presence:  Some parents think that if they are physically present that is enough.  Some think that if they are financially present that is enough.  Lucifer believed that just because he claimed a child was his and “was around”, that made him a good father.  This couldn’t have been further from the truth.  A good father is a man who is all the way present – physically, financially, and emotionally.  A good father is present for his entire family.  When Mom comes home after a hard day at work, a good father makes a point to help her feel better.  A good father knows that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  One of the biggest mistakes that I see many women making is that they believe that if Dad is present in one of these areas, he is good enough.  I would argue, however, if he is absent in at least one of these areas he is dead weight and likely a bad Dad.  (Note:  the exception to the physically present rule would be someone who cannot be as physically present because the only way they can be financially present is to be away sometimes – i.e. men and women in the military.  That said, when they are home with family they can make the most of their physically present time and this is key.)

3) Responsibility:  Last week a Facebook friend of mine posted a picture of her husband with one of their children.  The caption on the photo explained that he was “babysitting”.  A parent is never a babysitter.  The differences between a parent and a babysitter are abundant but the most obvious difference between a parent and a babysitter is responsibility.  A parent is responsible for raising a child in a way that a babysitter will never be.  A babysitter is merely around to make sure the child doesn’t get hurt while the parents cannot be there.  A parent is responsible for raising a productive member of society.  A good Dad will not only accept this great responsibility, but he will embrace it and enjoy it.  You should never have to ask the father of your child to take responsibility.  You shouldn’t have to ask him to help you make important decisions because he should want to.

Finally, one of the hardest lessons I have learned in the past few years is the importance of boundaries and standards.  I was with someone who pushed my boundaries and consistently drained me physically, emotionally, and financially.  I didn’t hold the father of my child to the same standards to which I held myself.  The father of your children should be your best friend, the love of your life, and your partner.  He should respect your opinion as much as you respect his.  He should be the person you want to consult with.  He should make you feel safe, and you should never be scared of him.  He should push you to be the best version of yourself without making you feel like you are less than wonderful.

There was a time when I settled for much less than what I have outlined above.  I have paid the ultimate price for my mistakes.  When you are choosing a partner, realize that you are not just choosing for yourself – you are choosing for your unborn child.  No matter how terrible this person turns out to be, the child will never have the choice to walk away from them.  A mother  can divorce the father of her child, but the child will not have this luxury.

 

My Survival Date

This past weekend (October 20th and 21st to be exact) marked the one year anniversary of the worst two days of my entire life.  While I am still relatively young, I am willing to bet that October 20-21, 2012 would have been considered astronomically bad by anyone’s standards – and even that seems like an understatement.  For those of you who don’t know, October 20th last year was the day that I found out my son had been murdered by his father.  It was the day I learned that I would never again see my little boy open his eyes, give me a hug, or say “Mama”.  All of my hopes and dreams for him shattered in that single moment.  A year later, I write this post reflecting over the past year.  I received more messages this past weekend from people telling me they were thinking about me than I received on what would have been Prince’s second birthday (which to me was a more difficult milestone).  My response to everyone who sent that message went something like this:

“Thank you for your kind words.  Today is not a bad day though.  I will not be spending it thinking about the worst day of my life.  I don’t care to celebrate or commemorate this day.  I refuse to allow a date that a demonic man chose to terrorize me for the rest of my life.  This day was not a good day for my son and it was not a good day for me.  I do, however, see it as a day that marks strength.”

Many people seemed confused with my response.  Maybe they were expecting me to curl up into a corner, and spend the two days crying as I forced myself to relive the nightmare that occurred just one year ago.  While I could have chosen that path, and I would not judge someone else who did, I continue to choose survival.  So instead of curling up into that ball and crying, I thought about all the things and people who have gotten me to this place of strength.  I will never say that the path I have taken in the last year should be followed by everyone who has endured tragedy, but it was my path and if my words can help someone then it is worth sharing.

1)  Find your people:  I put this one at the top of my list because without my friends and family I know I wouldn’t have survived this past year.  When my son died, everyone who knew him was devastated.  It rocked my family in a way that a family should never be rocked.  That said, many of my family members were able to rally around each other and we gave each other the strength to keep living.  In addition to my family, I learned who my true friends were.  As soon as I sent out the text message that my son was dying, several of them dropped everything and drove to the hospital just to be there with me.  One of my oldest friends got on the next plane from Louisiana to visit.  She listened to me, sat with me while I cried, made me laugh when I didn’t think I would again, and cooked when nobody seemed to have the strength to even think about food.  When chaos and tragedy strikes, find your people.

2)  Clean house on the toxic folks:  Throughout life its never a good idea to allow toxic people to hang around.  This is especially important during the hard times.  I found that there are some people who enjoy chaos.  They will gravitate around you during these times and make you feel worse.  If you find that someone is making you more sad or appears to be feeding off of your bad situation, drop them like a bad habit and move on.  In the past year, I have made no apologies about getting rid of bad people.  For example, two weeks after my son died, someone who I thought was a friend told me that I needed to “just get over it and stop talking about how angry and upset I was about what happened.”  After that conversation, I promptly told this person to lose my number and I truly believe I am better off because of it.

3)  Grieve your way:  In the past year, I can’t even count the amount of times people have tried to tell me how to grieve for my son or passed judgement on me for decisions I have made.  Many of these people have never lost a child and seem to project how they think they would feel if in my situation.  Recently, one of my coworkers lost his son tragically to a brain aneurism.  The child was six years old and he was devastated.  He asked me what he should be doing.  I told him that he needed to do whatever he felt he needed to do and that he shouldn’t let anyone tell him that what he chose to do was the wrong path.  That said, I would advise someone against doing something that was hurtful to themselves or others.

4)  Don’t be afraid to go to therapy:  Admitting that you need to see a therapist shouldn’t be seen as a weakness.  If a person broke their arm and just decided that surgery or casting it wasn’t for them, they would end up with a jacked up arm for the rest of their life.  If you find yourself in an emotionally unstable place, sometimes you just need to seek medical help and talk to a therapist.  I am not ashamed to say that after Prince died (and while I was in the throws of the custody war), I have seen a therapist regularly.

5)  Take back your happy:  Ever since I met Luc in February 2010, my life has been in some level of chaos.  He has tried to control and torment me.  While I believe he killed my son primarily for money, his secondary motivation was likely to destroy me.  He chose the first time he saw Prince after my birthday as the day he would drown him.  He intended for that day to make me sad for the rest of my life.  I will always miss my son.  I will always hold a certain sadness about the fact that he will never grow up and do the things he should have been allowed to do.  I will not, however, allow the man who killed him to destroy me.  I chose to take back my happy.  I chose to do this for myself and for my daughter.

Finally, I leave you with one of the wisest things I heard after my son’s death.  I was speaking to the priest at my church.  I asked him why so many Christian people were telling me that in order to have peace I needed to forgive the man who killed my son and all of the people who allowed my son to be killed.  I asked him if I needed to forgive these people before finding peace.   Father John looked at me and said, “Hera, hold onto your anger.  It is that anger that will help get your son Justice.”  Father John went on to explain that forgiveness should be reserved people who can understand forgiveness.  It was clear that Luc had no soul.  Forgiveness would simply allow him to feel absolved for what he did, and possibly even allow him to continue to torment me.  So I will not be forgiving Luc.  It is a waste of my energy –  energy that should be used on happiness.  While I don’t forgive him, I also don’t dwell on him either.  I stayed angry for as long as I needed to in order to get the wheels of justice to turn.

I would never tell someone else NOT to forgive someone who has hurt them.  I simply offer you an alternative.  If forgiving the person who has hurt you allows you to heal, then do it.  Just don’t allow that forgiveness to let them continue to hurt you.  For me, what was more important was learning to forgive myself.  This remains the hardest part of my journey.  While I know how hard I fought and how much I loved my son, there is still a level of survivors guilt and victim guilt that I will likely face for a long time to come.  As I continue on this journey, however, I will focus my efforts on life - on the legacy of my son through telling his story and helping to try and protect other children.  Soon, I will also focus on raising my daughter.  I am starting a new chapter of my life and Luc is not a part of that chapter.

So next year, when my daughter is about a year old and the anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, I will think of strength and survival.  I will have survived one more year, and I will be thankful for all the wonderful things life has given me.  This is my survival date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Child Of A Football Player

In the past week, many of you have likely heard about the murder of Adrian Peterson’s two year old son.  Though the brutal murder of this innocent toddler should have made headlines regardless of who his father was, the fact that his father plays for the Minnesota Vikings became a center piece for the story.  At first, I wondered why the media was referring to this child as Peterson’s “secret child”.  After reading more, I learned the sad reality that Peterson didn’t even know this was his child until a couple of months before the child’s death.

Even though it appeared that Peterson had been robbed of the chance to know this little boy, some internet trolls had no problem throwing him under the bus for continuing to play football despite the news.  Before I move on to the real issue here – the child – let me just say some words in support for Adrian Peterson.  Peterson is one of the victims here.  He lost a child he never even had the chance to know (and not through fault of his own).  If he felt the need to dance on top of Mount Everest or run naked on the beach as a coping mechanism, I would have no judgement.  People grieve in all sorts of ways.  Many people choose to throw themselves into their careers in order to keep living.  This man also has two other children for whom he is financially supporting.  Keep living Adrian – it’s what your son would have wanted and it’s what your other children need.

Under The Media Frenzy:

While many of the articles I have read focus on Adrian Peterson being a football player, as if the death of his child is somehow more shocking than the thousands of other children who die after being abused, this story can serve as an example of many disturbing trends in our society.  Just weeks after my own son’s murder (at the hands of his own father), I continued to say that I hoped my son would be the last child who had to suffer in this way.  Though that was my hope, I knew that would never be the reality given the current state of affairs in America.

Adrian Peterson’s son, whom family members called “Ty”, was a happy and vibrant two-year old boy.  His mother had left him in the care of a man named Joseph Robert Patterson.  Without details about how much the mother knew about this man (or more importantly how much information the system allowed to be public information), I will refrain from judging her for the moment.  I will, however, come down harshly on a system that allowed this abuser to roam a free man long enough to kill a child.  It is now known that Patterson was indicted in June 2012 on several counts of simple assault involving an ex-girlfriend and her 3-year-old son.  He was also later charged for violating a no-contact order.  While he was sentenced to one year in jail for both of these cases, his time was suspended upon the condition that he attend domestic violence counseling.

Abusers and Deadly Plea Bargains:

In December 2010, my son’s father was arrested for violently assaulting his then 11 year old son.  To avoid a conviction and criminal record, Luc agreed to family counseling and the child was put back in the home.  Child Protective Services issued a report that the abuse was founded, however, records disappeared and Luc was allowed to go on as if this assault had never occurred.  Luc, just like Patterson, is an abusive man who prays upon women and children.  A few months of family therapy didn’t turn Luc into a loving non-abusive father, and “domestic violence counseling” clearly did nothing for Peterson either.  If Luc had served the mandatory year in jail for abusing his older son, Prince would likely still be here.  If Patterson had served the two years in jail that he was sentenced, I wouldn’t be writing about this story because little Ty would be here too.

My son, Prince McLeod Rams, and little Ty were both brutally murdered by men who shouldn’t have been free to walk amongst us.  While Prince and Ty had  different circumstances leading to how these men obtained access (Prince was forced into the custody of a killer by the courts and Ty was left with his mother’s abusive boyfriend),  the two cases have frighteningly similar roots.  Both killers found dangerous loopholes in a broken system.  Both killers had previous run ins with the law where they were able to convince psychological professionals and court officials that they could be rehabilitated and should be given another chance to behave.  As long as society remains in denial about personality disorders, more children will be at risk for deadly child abuse.  It is not possible to rehabilitate a sociopath.  My son, Ty, and all the other children who have been victims of our broken system (and those who will be victims in the future) deserve better from us – they deserve justice.

Shocking Statistics:

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analyzed data that showed that 80 percent of the 1,570 U.S. children who died from abuse were 4 years old or younger.  In 87 percent of these cases, the perpetrators were biological parents of the victims.  The Every Child Matters education fund reports that 15,510 children are known to have died between 2001 and 2010 from child abuse related incidents.  This is about 2.5 times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Though these statistics are shocking in and of themselves, the U.S. Government Accountability Office states that these numbers are underreported because there is no national standard for reporting.

When my son arrived at the hospital, nurses and doctors immediately called police and Child Protective Services as his injuries were consistent with child abuse.  Though every person who encountered my son in those initial hours after he arrived at the hospital was likely horrified at the scene, my son’s death went unreported for nearly a month after the incident.  Police didn’t release a press release of any sort and my son’s killer wasn’t arrested for over three months after the incident occurred.  I often wonder how many other cases where children have been murdered go completely unreported.  For months after my son’s murder, I was told that the case was “under investigation” and that authorities were not releasing the cause of my healthy little boy’s sudden death.

Ty’s story was reported because his father is a football player.  Perhaps my son’s story was reported because I am loud, and continue to scream at the top of my lungs.  Perhaps my son’s story was told because a brave reporter from The Washington Post Editorial section took a chance and reported about a case that officials seemed dead set on burying.  The sad reality, however, is all the cases that go un reported – all the children who are born into this dangerous world with no weapons to protect themselves – no Civil Rights – no voice – and no future.

 

 

 

 

 

I Am No Damsel In Distress – You Are No Prince Charming

After an invigorating Sunday morning prenatal yoga class, I waddled my way to the local coffee shop to catch up on some news from the week.  Once I got through the depressing news about the Government shut down, I started to read The Washington Post Magazine.  For those of you who don’t follow the post magazine, every week they do something called “Date Lab” where they set up two Washingtonians on a blind date and then write about their reactions to the date in the magazine.  This week featured two people in their 40’s who were clearly not a very good match.  The man raved about his dog – the woman was deathly allergic to animals.  Beyond the obvious incompatibility of this pair, the thing I found most disturbing was something the man said:

“My usual type is more…for lack of a better word, a damsel in distress.  I got the sense that she was a lot more established and could definitely take care of herself:  She is not a damsel in distress!”

The poor woman who had to sit through this date with someone I would qualify, as a non-evolved male was an attractive, intelligent, and successful federal policy advisor.  He was the assistant manager of a recreation center.   While his job is nothing to be ashamed of, his comments made him appear as though he couldn’t handle the idea of being with a woman who was more financially successful than him.  What baffled me even more than his statement was that he didn’t realize how bad this made him look in the eyes of many women.  This man is not evolved.  While he saw himself as a classic Prince Charming, he was appeared to me as nothing more than a toad who would never become a Prince.

The Evolution of Women:

Gender roles are changing and women are changing rapidly with them.  Reading the musing of this man in the Washington Post Magazine, however, made me realize that many men are not evolving at the same rate.  It appears as though this man would have been happier with a woman who was less successful, more financially needy, and emotionally distressed.  The man on the date was right in that the woman sitting across from him didn’t need a man – she wanted a man.  There was once a time in this nation when women did need men for even the most basic things.  A woman was seen as a man’s property regardless of how much he loved her.  In the age where women are balancing work and raising a family, it concerns me when I see men who aren’t willing to evolve with them.

One of my earliest memories of gender differences occurred when I was about 8 years old.  I was driving home with my father from school and bragging about how I had finally achieved first honors on the honor roll for my class.  My father, clearly proud and taking a possibly disproportional amount of credit for this accomplishment, said, “It’s too bad you weren’t born a boy.”  Eight year old Cappuccino Queen was stunned and confused.  ‘Why the hell does Daddy wish I were a boy,” I thought confused.  I then responded by saying, “I like being a girl.  I don’t wish I was born a boy.”  (I added a “damn it” in my mind but wouldn’t have dared utter that last part to my father.)  My father then explained that he believed it would be harder for me to achieve the kind of success I was destined for because of my gender and she wished that weren’t the case.

My Little Girl:

As a soon to be mother of a little girl, I have given a lot of thought about my feelings on women in society and about what my father said to me when I was eight years old.  Despite the fact that we are now seeing women in politics, leading companies, and holding all types of powerful positions across our country, women are still forced to break down gender stereotypes on a regular basis.  Many of us have dated Mr. “I want to save a distressed woman” and I am sure my daughter will run into her fare share as well.  Despite the fact that I have gone through a tremendous amount of distress, I do not wish to be saved by a man who believes that I need to be dependent upon him in order for our relationship to be complete – and I do not want this for my daughter either.

From the moment my baby girl makes her arrival, I plan on telling her every day how happy I am to have her – how glad I am that she is a girl – and how I am happy that she is who she is.  I will also tell her that she is destined for great things, but that she has to realize that she will need to work harder knowing that there are some people who still don’t want a woman to be doing great things. She should never feel as if she needs a man in order to survive.  She should want to find a partner who is the kind of person who has evolved enough to realize that he needs to be special enough to be wanted, and not just needed because he is a man.

And to my strong women out there who have been through enough to be justifiably distressed – don’t ever move through life expecting that anyone else will save you.  You must first save yourself and get to the point where you can stand on your own two feet.  Then, search for that person who will respect your strength, love you like the Queen you are, and make you want him even when you don’t need him.