“A 2017 study showed that 89% of women who had companion animals during an abusive relationship reported that their animals were threatened, harmed, or killed by their abusive partner.” – Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence
The Hennepin County Family Court, it’s judges and Guardian ad Litem Jamie Manning, ( The Players Involved) schemed and colluded to give sole custody to a perpetrator of abuse who killed my pet cat as a way to get revenge against me. When I expressed concern of this man due to his behavior and actions, the family court said that speaking about abuse means “I cannot co-parent” and, thus, am not deserving of custody. When the abuser was awarded sole custody, he excluded me from the children’s lives, and interferred in our relationship. He did not “co-parent” but in the eyes of the court that was acceptable. The most recent judge on my case, Margaret A. Daly, basically said she sympathizes with the abuser and supports his actions to alienate the children from their mother, family and cultural background. Judge Daly went on to say that she will never allow me to have a regular visitation schedule with my kids and basically said that I got what I deserve. In addition, Guardian ad Litem Jamie Manning said I should not talk about abuse because “it happened in the past” even as my pet is dead and nothing will bring him back. Watching the Hennepin County Family Court’s failures over the past 14 years of family court litigation has made me an even stronger voice to urge needed reform in the family court system, CPS and the Guardian ad Litem program.
I fled an absuive relationship in April 2006 after being physically attacked by Martin. My children and I would become homeless as a result, living on the streets and in shelters for almost 2 years until we were able to secure permanent housing. When I fled the house, I was not able to find my pet cat and was forced to leave him behind. When I called to Martin, and asked him to return the cat, he began to threaten that he will “get rid of him” and “take him to the Humane Society to be put to sleep“. Martin seemed to really enjoy the begging and tears, how I pleaded for te return of my pet. Martin said that he “wanted me to know how it felt to be hurt“. It was risky to make that phone call because once Martin discovered where I was staying, he began to harass me.
The drawing above is a representation of my cat, and that terrible time in my life. To this day, I still have nightmares. The picture to the left is one of the few I have of my cat. The other picture is one made by my child to express grief at the loss of our cat. My child glued a picture of a cat on a piece of paper then wrote “Mom Sad” to share feelings.
My cat disappeared, and was last seen in the family home. Martin returned to the home after I fled, and”got ride of” the cat just as he said he would. I never saw my cat alive again.
I had an advocate assisting me, while I was homeless, who volunteered to help locate my cat. He found credible information that shortly after I fled the home, Martin took my cat to the Humane Society where he was euthanized. I remember the advocate telling me the details and showing me a piece of paper from the Humane Society but, honestly, the rest is a blur. I knew my pet was never coming back but I just couldn’t face it. The cat was healthy. He was loved. And he had a home (relatives were willing to take him in). He did not need to die. He should have been in a home where he would be loved and well cared for. I did not even get to say good-bye. I wanted to say I’m sorry. I could not even get to cry because I needed to “prove” to family court that I could co-parent.
And if that is not bad enough, I have to listen to family court judges, a Guardian ad Litem and court professionals defend the person who did this. Listening to Judge Daly’s latest defense of Martin made me so sick that I was forced to leave the ZOOM hearing because I was heaving. As I lay with my head agains the rim of the toilet, the tears and vomit streaming down my face exposed all the things I have been through for the past 14 years… and I knew that no matter how difficult or painful it was, I needed to speak out. The injustice needs to be laid bare in order to fight for real justice.
I have always wanted to write a book about my nightmare experiences in anti-family court. The book would be a collection of memories, stories and photographs from my life. For the past 14 years, this book has slowly been written. Below is one of the chapters, written from the perspective of my cat who experiences abuse at Martin’s hands. It is a true story. My cat is one of those who cannot speak out; this is my way of honoring his short life.
I live in my second home for only a short time. I love the two children who live there. They are always happy to see me and scratch my back just the way I like… Until I flip onto my side and fall asleep with a lazy purr on my lips.
The boy shows me the hiding places in the home. At first I think it is a game. I swat at stray toys left in the dusty corners. And scamper after the spiders crawling along with floorboard. I realize it is not a game when the man’s angry voice rumbles through the house, a thunder followed by the resonating boom of a toy being kicked across the room or a small body thrown to the floor. The man yells, “Don’t make me the be the ‘mean Daddy’!” He swears. He smashes the boy’s face into a mirror and tells him that if he keeps it up no one will ever like him, he will spend the rest of his life in jail. But I like the boy and do not understand why the man is so angry. The man chases the boy who runs in one of the hiding places. I curl at his side, my small body is no protection but I can offer a bit of warmth.
When it is calm, the woman will call for the boy. She tries to be brave but the slight tremble in her voice betrays fear. She will search all over the house for the boy. But the boy will not come out. Often times he falls asleep, his tawny head curls into my soft, striped fur. In his dreams, the boy is a builder who wears a bright yellow hard hat and blue overalls. He builds a giant house where every day ice-cream is served for dinner; the freezer is stocked with a million flavors: bubble gum, marshmallow mango, chocolate mint truffle … and tasty tuna treasure for me! The house is filled with toys and you never get yelled or hit when you forget to put one away. In this house, it’s okay to run around and be wild, you are never called names or told you are stupid. The man is not allowed inside; the only dragon allowed is the one outside, guarding the door so the man cannot come in. It is a wonderful dream that the boy does not want to wake up from.
The dog is friendly but warns me to run away. The dog is white with black spots, each circle like a target for the man’s rage. When the man is angry, the dog lays on the floor, refusing to move. One in a while she whimpers, a long, sad sound. Her entire body shakes but she will not move. Her brown eyes scan across the room, watching the feet that stomp and fists that flail, but she will not move. Once the man kicked her down the basement stairs. He has shoved her and thrown things at her. Like me, the dog is threatened and called names but when the man is calm again, his fists will ease into hands that pat your head or toss a ball your wall. Sometimes he takes the dog for long walks, and it is like they are best friends again. Like the dog, the entire family follows the commands of the man. Stupid. Sit. Shut up. Smile. Say you’re sorry. Start all over again.
I have happy memories of this family too. The little girl has a large doll house; I love to stretch across the pink, plastic living room floor with my paws peeking through the front door. The little girl does not mind the intrusion, her dolls go about their day – cooking, shopping, dancing – despite the massive fluff of gray and white striped fur laying in the middle of their house. She poses the doll in various positions using me as a couch, a pet for Barbie and even a fur coat.
The boy built a fort with blankets and pillows. He proudly displays the various cars that park in the fort. He is most proud of his “builder” trucks. The cars race around my paws, I swat at each one like they are mechanical mice. The children eagerly, and without reserve, show their love for me. They squeeze me, kiss the top of my head, and sit on me. At night I crawl into bed next to the little girl, finding the softest lump of covers to snuggle into. I love how she smells like strawberry bubble bath, one thumb hangs from her mouth while she sleeps. I even like the dog, who tolerates me as long as I understand that she IS the queen of the house.
What is good and what is bad melt together with this family until you cannot tell one from the other. Happiness electrified with tension – a hysterical, giddy feeling. And highly volatile.
The last memory I have of the family is loud, frantic. A thud. The high-pitched yip of the dog. The Boy screaming over and over again. The man kicked in the door, slamming the brass doorknob into the Boy’s face, blackening his eye. The shallow breathing of the Little Girl, watching this all, her eyes wide. The loud clatter of the phone as it was knocked out of the woman’s hand and fell to the floor. The sounds of struggle. The heavy sound of the woman’s body being dragged out the door followed by a steady thud-thud as her body was swung in the air and slammed to the ground. I hid then. I did not want to see anymore. I will never see my family again. They fled the house with some assorted bags and bundles. The streets will become their home.
When the woman returns to look for me, she will not find me. She will search the hiding places but I will not be there. She will plead, she will cry, asking the man to give me back to her. The man will not relent. He says that he wants her to feel hurt. He says he will “get rid of” me. He threatens to take me to the Humane Society to be “put to sleep”. All of the rage he felt towards her is now inflicted on me. Darkness in my final moments. Dumped into a pile of other forgotten bodies to be incinerated, ground to ash, and no more.
There is another dollhouse I now sleep in. Everyday the sun streams through the windows. Ice-cream is served for dinner every night. I take mine with tuna. The children can run and play, and make as big as a mess as they want without ever getting in trouble. I am pet by small, sticky hands. Hugged by little girls. And rescued by little boys when a dress or bonnet is put on me. The boys are rough but I don’t mind. I ride in their red wagons over hills and bumps. There is laughter when the wagon tips over, and we start all over again. I am happy in this place.
— “Emily Court”