I clearly remember the day, back in 1st grade, when the teacher explained “good touch, bad touch” then instructed the class to tell a “safe person” or go to police if we had been touched in a way that made us feel afraid, or was unsafe. For most of my life I believed what I was told – that if a child discloses abuse they will be believed, that adults will act to protect a child in need. That the job of police and social workers (and the like) is to keep kids safe.
Years later, as an adult, my horrific experiences with family court showed me just the opposite – that disclosing abuse to the authorities is dangerous. In family court, there is great suspicion of those who disclose abuse, they will be called a “liar”, accused of mental illness and even told they are “harming” their child for reporting abuse. In family court, when you disclose physical, sexual, or emotional abuse you risk losing everything – even the child you are trying to protect.
A Broken Promise: Tell a Safe Person
1st Grade – I was a spirited child who colored outside the lines to see how far I could go, and thrived under the creative guidance of my teacher, Mrs. Paris.
I absolutely adored Mrs. Paris – she reminded me of Mom’s vintage Black Barbie doll, Julia. Julia was tall and slender with beautiful, dark skin. Julia’s almond shaped eyes were framed by long, black lashes. Her burgundy colored hair was styled in a Pixie cut. How Mrs. Paris, a Black woman, became a school teacher in a small town settled in a river valley by stern German immigrants who held tight to their religion, and prejudices that were passed down to successive generations, is an accomplishment in itself. I could count all the colored people in town on my one, small hand – to say you were a minority was more than being a smaller number, it mean you were treated differently, and generally not welcome. Mrs. Paris roared into town in her sporty, red Pontiac Fiero, with lots of attitude to give anyone who had a problem with her, and lots of love to give to us children. She was a sight to be seen – wearing long, flowing dresses with bold patterns and colors. Geometric shaped earrings dangled at her lobes. I instantly adored Mrs. Paris, and did my best to behave, even if I was a bit rambunctious.
On the day of the “Good Touch, Bad Touch” lesson, Mrs. Paris instructed the class to sit down on our carpet squares in a circle that contorted with our wriggling bodies that absolutely could not be still. Mrs. Paris walked around the circle, put her finger to her lips and silenced us with a gentle but firm “sssh”. Coloring sheets were handed out to explain “good touch” and “bad touch”. The boys got carried away with “bad touch” and punched each other, falling to the carpet squares with exaggerated moans. Mrs. Paris was having none of that – we needed to be serious, to listen. She pointed again to the paper and slowly explained until the class fell silent.
In my little girl world, Mrs. Paris was my “safe person”. She understood the “bad touches” that no one else in class did, children whose grandparents claimed this land as their own over a hundred years ago, and made all the rules we now follow. Mrs. Paris understood being called the “N” word, and worse. Understood how people move away from you when you went into a store or restaurant. That even when people gave you that stiff, polite smile and let you in they were just tolerating your presence, and not really welcoming you. Sure, there were some that really didn’t see you for the color of your skin, and some that even became friends..but they were few. And the pressures of “being a good person” and “doing the right thing” could even turn someone close to you. I wasn’t bitter – and am not today – it was just how things were. But I saw in Mrs. Paris that you could overcome “the way things are” – and even be successful, and happy, and admired her for that.
As a little girl, I didn’t really understand “bad touches” other than watching Skeletor battle He-Man with a sword. Skeletor was the obvious “bad guy”, that wicked laugh gave him away every time! But I trusted Mrs. Paris when she said if anyone made you afraid, or hurt you, did anything that made you feel uncomfortable, go tell a “safe person” like a police officer, a teacher, your mom and dad. As children we were promised that if we spoke out about abuse that we would be believed, and someone would help us. We were promised that grown-ups care about children, and would protect us. So we colored our “good touch, bad touch” sheets with naive trust.
We Should Have Been Warned
We should have been warned that not all adults listen to children – and that disclosing abuse does not mean you will be believed. That bruises can be covered up. And tears are a sign of weakness.
In family court, parents who disclose abuse, and make efforts to protect children, are labeled as being seriously mentally ill or harming their children.
Parents who abuse their children – beat them bloody, sexually abuse them, scream angry words into their heads until the children hate themselves – are considered model parents in family court.
When allegations of abuse are raised, the abusive parent is considered the victim – it is obvious, the ex is only saying these things because they are mentally ill or trying to gain an advantage in court! So he abuser is given sympathy and legal assistance by the family court system. Coddled by the family court and its judges, a dangerous abuser becomes a monster.
The process is always the same, you hear this happening time and time again from parents involved in family court proceedings, across the globe. After raising an allegation of domestic violence or child abuse, the protective parent is court ordered into psychiatric testing conducted by one of the court’s hired guns. The court appointed expert always detect mental illness, and will diagnose parents over and over with the same problem, one that can never be fixed. A parent who obtains their own testing is simply not credible or a Guardian ad Litem or attorney will over rule the results. Even with no medical experience, a GAL or attorney or court professional is ALWAYS more credible than a parent, and anyone perceived to be supporting them. Psychiatric testing – even if you “pass” the test with no sign of mental illness – is just a step towards having your child unjustly taken from you. The family court goes to great lengths to create a false reality. The protective parent is ordered into unnecessary mental health treatments designed to get them to recant abuse allegations. Or forced into classes to learn how to “co-parent” with an abuser aka shut up and just take it. Parents pay the “court-poration” until they are broke and homeless in a desperate attempt to save their children and their family for attorneys, court fees, GAL fees, unnecessary treatment, supervised visitation, child support etc
And in the end playing by the rules does you no good because there are no rules, or law, in family court.
The abusive, unit parent will be awarded sole custody in proceedings that are not only unjust but cruel. Parents who have lost custody of children to an abusive or unfit parent has a similar story – children being ripped from their arms, screaming. Children being taken by the courts under threats, and against their will. Children being taken by the police who are supposed to protect. Children being taken as the result of an ex-parte hearing where the protective parent is not present, and not able to defend themselves. And the abuse will continue under a false pretense of “justice”.
Only then do you realize that you have been lied to all along.
~ “Emily Court” © 2017