Recent comments from Bill Windsor, about the family courts falsely labeling women who raise abuse allegations in family court, prompted me to think about my own experiences with the same..
The video “Enough of No Love” by Keyshia Cole has always reminded me of how the Hennepin County Family Court (and most recently Judge Patrick Robben, who is not a psychologist and certainly should not be diagnosing any litigant as “mentally ill”) attempted to portray me as crazy in order to discredit the abuse allegations I have raised. The Court needs to say that I am crazy in order to justify giving such a dysfunctional, unsafe person custody of two vulnerable children (who still struggle while in his care).
“Cuz I can’t stay here, if there is no love... ”
“Enough of No Love” is a powerful video that to me, expresses, much of what I have endured in the continued domestic assault endured in family court, which takes on many forms including harassment, defamation, legal abuse and abuses of the psychiatric or mental health practice. To be honest, I do not really care for the explicit lyrics of the song, so maybe turn the volume down and just watch.
The video begins with Keyshia Cole in a beautiful bride’s dress with sparkling black shoes, her world is being turned upside down, and she finds herself in a padded room, struggling to make sense of what has happened to her life. The scene changes angles rhythmically, like a monarch folding and unfolding its wings in flight. Keyshia covers her arms over her head, curls into the fetal position, an indicator of trauma. The scene turns again and again, evoking the image of a shattered heart, or a shattered mind.
There is a brief moment of darkness, then the violins swell and a golden light fills the room – as the past is brought into focus. Long stemmed roses, beautiful jewelry, expensive shoes are flung through the air. The idealized romance every girl dreams of, horribly gone wrong.
The scene flashes between Keyshia fighting for her sanity in the padded room, and the hip, confident woman standing in the gold room. A contrast of who she once was, and who she became after the heartbreak and betrayal of a bad relationship. The items continue to fly, now into a suitcase, symbolizing freedom.
Keyshia sings, “I admit that you almost had me, I admit I was almost crazy..”
Keyshia’s internal struggle is depicted in a collage of images: Beating her fists against the walls of the padded room. Her emotions released in soulful notes. The silhouette of a man, standing in front of a window, a glowing red light falling on his form. Shadowy high heels walking down a dark hallway, a door is slightly ajar, a man sits on the bed. Will she go inside towards the man or just walk away?
“Can’t say I’m not hurt, I’ll be damned if I’m broken…Cause I-I can’t stay here, if there’s no love. Yeah I-I can’t stay here, cause I’ve had enough. Enough of no love, enough of no love. No love!”
Another interesting aspect of this song and video, is that when Keyshia is hurt (or traumatized) she struggles with destructive thoughts, wanting to lash out in anger or do something to vindicate herself.
“And I admit that I thought about creeping, So you could get a dose of how I feel. Cause our hearts can never seem to break even. But what’s the use I’d rather pack it up and leaving. Cause here we are again, cause you’re wrong again..”
Now that is truth. People who are abused, betrayed, and hurt at a deep level do suffer from a trauma – a real emotional and psychological injury. When people are in that fragile and broken state, they may have conflicting thoughts or display behaviors that are not normally seen. With time, and given the right support or help, the person will usually heal (maybe never completely) or resume to a more normal life. But if the trauma is inflicted again and again, or the person is not allowed heal, the wounding continues.
This is exactly what happens in family court. When the courts fail to recognize domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, family dysfunction, the wounding continues. Court professionals who do not understand, and are not trained, to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse and trauma inevitably re-traumatize the victim. A secondary trauma happens when judges, attorneys and court officers make decisions that put parents and families at risk of harm. Or fail to recognize the abuse and falsely label the person with mental illness, parental alienation, failure to co-parent (etc). Another thing that commonly happens is that the abuser or the dysfunctional parent is not held accountable, and is favored by the court. While the victim, and the children, are blamed for being the cause of the problems in the family. The “problem” is reporting abuse or concerning behavior, or a child not doing well (or refusing to visit) an abusive parent.
Then the psychiatric abuse, perpetrated through the legal system, begins – the false diagnosis, the forced therapy, committing a parent without cause or due process, imposing threat therapy on children, allowing untrained professionals to treat children and families. These abuses happen because the victims are discredited by the court system (or even by CPS), and not believed, once labelled as “mentally ill”. There is also a serious lack of accountability in the court system. Not to mention that the court professionals hide, conceal, and conspire to cover up, remove or destroy evidence that would indicate that abuse has happened.
The part of the video with Keyshia running down a hallway where all the doors are shut, and she comes to the closed door, feels trapped and turns her head with a pained look on her face.. reminds me of that struggle in family court. Before litigation began, I just wanted to be a stay at home wife and mother. That dreamed ended when the abuse began. I was isolated from the world, controlled, and whether I had a good day or a bad day was based on the mood of “Mr. X”.
I fled the abuse, and fought to rebuild my life. I secured new housing. I was the primary caregiver of my children. I volunteered in my community, taught Sunday school. And for the first time I could discover what it meant to be “me”. But the control, the rage continued..the hallway of shut doors is family court.
Through the family court system my abuser has been enabled by the co-abusers: judges, GALs, psychologists, attorneys, etc Once again I find myself in the realm of his control, now exerted through his power over my children, and his ability to influence my relationship with my children. The Family Court decided that I had not “proven” to their satisfaction that domestic violence had occurred. Being physically assaulted and thrown out of your home with two young children, apparently does not meet the criteria. And since the Court decided that there is no domestic violence, that also meant any concerns about what happened in our home, and the abuse now inflicted on my children was not valid but rather a manifestation of my illness. Time and time again, Hennepin County 4th Judicial Family Court has covered up allegations and documentation of physical, mental and even sexual abuse of my children. The Court has intentionally ignored the severe emotional, psychological and acting out behaviors present in my children. The Court has dismissed credible evidence, a forensic report, witness statements. The Court has even rejected credible evidence and instead relied on the perjured testimony of my abuser. And I am told that I am crazy for trying to protect my children, and keep them safe. Where is the justice? I cannot find it anywhere, I am trapped in the hallway of closed doors.
In the last scenes of this video, Keyshia confronts the shattered aspects of her self, and the wreck that has become her life. Those fragments are symbolized as the dancers, whose movements suggest they are fighting back, and alternately crouched on the ground in a fetal position. In once scene, Keyshia goes chest to chest with ‘Lil Wayne, asserting herself, “I can’t stay here ‘cuz I’ve had enough, enough of no love.” The lighting changes from gray to red to black, the suitcase explodes, the scene becomes blurry… images of the padded room flicker again as a delicate monarch.
What will Keyshia decide? To stay in this dysfunctional relationship, or to break free and step into the life she was meant to have?
The scene goes black. We see Keyshia again in her frilly white wedding gown crouched on the floor of the padded room, her fist clenched.
I have found myself in that same position. Feeling beaten down. My heart broken. The tremendous loss of my children was so great that I could hardly breathe. The times I wanted to fall in bed but the pillow smelled like my daughter, and I was up all night remembering the times we giggled together, or the special conversations we shared, and in those dreams I felt my daughter so close to me that I woke up saying her name, only to have the chill of night grasp my fingers. And in the darkness was the devastating realization: My children were not coming home. My children were placed in the custody of their abusive father. I remembered the anguished cries when my daughter was about to reveal something and my son told her “Don’t tell Mom!” Or the fear in my son’s eyes when he came home with a bite mark in his skin, a full set of teeth indented into his soft tissue. Or the time my son cried because “Daddy took the door off my room because I was bad”. My son was humiliated, and afraid to get dressed in his own bedroom. And yet the Hennepin County Family Court told me that this man was a good father, someone they would recommend for sole custody. While I just get one visit a month – no overnight visits, no holiday visits, no vacation time. I will have to go to my abuser for additional time with my children and again he will control and belittle me. Hennepin County Family Court has rejected my motions for additional parenting time for over 5 years, and Judge Robben has even punished me for asking for additional parenting time by ordering me to pay attorney’s fees to my abuser’s attorney. This attorney has contributed to the suffering of my children, and depleted any money their father could provide towards their future or college fund… and yet he is so greedy that this attorney has to now seek what little pennies are left from me.
In those moments of painful realization, I clench my fist just as Keyshia did and vow to fight…because even in my brokenness, I am all that my children have of sanity.
~ Emily Court, 2015
“I admit that you almost had me,
I admit I was almost crazy..
Can’t say I’m not hurt.
I’ll be damned if I’m broken,
Enough of no love, enough of no love
“Enough of No Love” by Keyshia Cole feat. ‘Lil Wayne (YouTube): Enough of No Love