Child’s Drawing of Emotional Abuse: Sad Mom


It is a great source of pain that my child’s earliest impression of “mom”, of what it means to be a woman, involved witnessing the emotional abuse and degredation I suffered. My child drew this picture (above) for me, and told me that it depicts “You is sad Mom – you got called horrible names.” The lines by the eyes are tears. Note the figure has no mouth and cannot speak. 

Emotional abuse is an attempt to gain control and overpower a victim, just as physical abuse.  The only difference is that emotional abuse uses emotion and not physical force as a weapon. Emotion becomes a weapon when words, threats, body language, mind games, bullying and coercion (etc) are used to confuse, manipulate and control the victim.

Children become victims when they are used as pawns in the perpetrator’s efforts to dominate the victim, witness abuse directly and/or are abused themselves. About one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 90 percent will directly witness the abuse..” (Source: Domestic abuse: Long lasting effects on women and their children)

That domestic abuse is a re-occurring behavior means that children are repeatedly exposed to incidents of violence. Each incident of abuse causes a trauma or a physical, mental and/or emotional wound. The effects of abuse cause a lifetime of damage. (Read more: Impact of Domestic Violence on Victims and the Community)

In my situation, my child was so traumatized by abuse that she would repeat the “horrible words”, saying over and over again in a singsong voice things like “stupey” (stupid), “fuckey” (fuckin) and “stupey baby” and “dad call me stupey and fuckin'”. This was heard by numerous bystanders, people either visiting my family or professionals working with my family. It was also witnessed when my child visited father in his supervised visits.

It was noted by the therapist working with my family that my child “repeated power and control themes in play”. With the male doll fighting the female. Or the female trying to run away. The child would throw the male doll in anger. Once breaking the arm off “Prince Eric” after he was slammed against the wall. Only then did my child feel safe.

Healing and recovery is only possible when the victim is safe, and no longer being harmed. It is a courageous act for a victim of abuse to leave the perpetrator and seek safety. But, too often, the system will punish the victim for escaping the abuse. This happens when lenient sentences are given for abuse related crimes. Or when a victim is criticized and held under suspicion for leaving an abusive relationship, and not believed by authorities when coming forward with allegations. And happens when victims lose custody of children to an abuser, even after they speak out, in family court.

Professionals, including those working in family court and social services, who fail to recognize domestic abuse or ignore concerns from victims, not only put the victim’s life in danger but also become an enabler for abuse to continue. And the system that is supposed to protect becomes another source of trauma, and pain.

This happened in my family court case – despite the signs of abuse, despite the child being diagnosed with PTSD consistent with abuse and/or trauma, despite overwhelming evidence of abuse, the family court and Guardian ad Litem denied any abuse occurred. After I sought to protect my children, and remove them from a home that was unsafe and volatile, the family court gave sole custody to the identified abuser and banished me from the lives of my children.

My child is right… “You is sad Mom…” has become my everyday reality dealing with the loss of my children, and witnessing the family court system decimate my family with the impact of an atom bomb. 

My own family court case of losing custody of my children to an identified perpetrator of abuse is  just one tragic example among thousands more…there are anguished parents across the U.S., and the world, who have not only been abused and tormented by a former partner but are also being re-abused by the failures, and injustices, of the legal and social service systems.

– Emily Court

About Emily Court

It takes "Just Us" To Fight Injustice in Family Court. I blog to raise awareness about problems existing in the family court system, and use my own story as a personal example of how the systemic failures in family court, and the Guardian ad Litem Program, affect families, in an effort to encourage needed reform. Written by a survivor of domestic violence and homelessness working to create a better life for her children, in a stable home free of violence. In her efforts to rebuild her life, she has not only encountered harassment and intimidation from her alleged abuser but faced systematic failures in family court that have empowered her alleged abuser and put her children at risk. She has spent over a decade trapped in family court until her children finally aged out of the system. Through writing and blogging, FCI is working to raise awareness about domestic violence, and the urgent need for family court reform. She is currently working on a memoir titled "'Til Prayers Are Answered".
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3 Responses to Child’s Drawing of Emotional Abuse: Sad Mom

  1. zararajj says:

    Hi, I have been reading your story, and as a domestic violence survivor myself I sympathize with you and your situation. My question is, why didn’t you call the police the night you and your child were assaulted so that this man could have been put in jail for what he did? I don’t mean any disrespect, I’m honestly just curious. I remember you mentioned he has no record of domestic violence. This is such a tragic situation. I couldn’t imagine going through something like this with my child. Have you managed to gain custody back?

    • Emily Court says:

      Thank you for your reading FCI. Good Question!

      When I was assaulted, I did call the 911. There were two separate calls made from other people as well. A police officer did arrive on scene. The officer did visually witness that my child had a black eye (got hit in the face with the brass door knob after alleged abuser kicked in the door). Both children were crying. I had a bruise on my leg but did not notice it immediately. I believe the bruise happened after the alleged abuser grabbed me, swung me into the air and slammed me down to the ground repeatedly. The police officer did not give me a blue card for victims of domestic violence that includes community resources (I did not know this existed at the time). The police officer told the alleged abuser to give me money, and then told him to leave the house for 24 hours (and come back later). I did not know what my options were. I was not in the state of mind to understand legal implcations or what to do next. The only thing I felt was “run” and “get out”. I was hysterically crying. I was trying to explain what happened but was shaking, upset and not able to speak properly. I don’t think the police officer took the situation seriously but wrote it off as a squabble. Had I been given a blue card, I would have had been given the number to a domestic abuse shelter or hotline and would have been given support and legal options. A blue card was never given to me. Police officers are mandated reporters as well. A call to CPS should have been made for my child. That never happened. I was later told by someone in law enforcement that police rarely call CPS because it is too much paperwork. I cannot speculate why this officer made his decisions.

      A comment from Lundy Bancroft (link below) I feel is relevant and offers additional explanation about why those with authority to protect an abuse victim often fail to do so, “Because of the effects of trauma, the victim of battering will often seem hostile, disjointed, and agitated, while the abuser appears friendly, articulate, and calm. Evaluators are thus tempted to conclude that the victim is the source of the problems in the relationship...”

      After I was assaulted the alleged abuser left the home for some time and later came back when the police arrived. I later learned that when he left, he made a call to his attorney to discuss how he should handle the situation, and how he should talk to police. He knew to remain calm, and act in a way that would appeal to police. I also learned that the alleged abuser had actually visited the police station (5-10 minutes away), in person, and had told the desk officer that if a call came in, that he did not do anything wrong but I was just crazy. The desk officer remembered this person because the visit was so unusual.

      It should also be noted that I had met the alleged abuser in my senior year of high school (he was much older than me) and had never been on my own before – I had no idea what life in the “real world” was like, or what to expect, or what I needed to do to secure food or shelter. In an instant, I became homeless with two small children. Survival was the first priority. It has taken many years of prayer and healing to get to the point where I can publicly speak out; and I do so, in part, because so many victims have been silenced and do not have a voice.

      The family court – meaning the two Guardian ad Litems appointed to my case, the judges, the court appointed evaluator and the court appointed therapist to conduct reunification between the children and alleged abuser (she has a previous lawsuit filed against her for misconduct related behavior before taking a job at Hennepin County) – overlooked the vast amount of evidence that abuse did occur, and that the children were both a witness and victim to abuse. My child was only 6 years old at the time but suffered from tremendous guilt that he could not protect me from his father. The child reported the assault, later, to the court appointed therapist / reunification therapist. The court appointed therapist coached my child to recant abuse allegations, and told him that abuse since the assaulted happened “in the past” there is no reason to be afraid. The “past” really was a recent incident. The only reason another assault did not occur is because I fled the home with the children, and was physically out out of reach. However, the abusive behavior did not stop. It took new forms, and continued through legal proceedings.

      It should be noted that the GAL appointed to my case, had been part of (I think co-founded) a non-profit organization that trained family court professionals on how to handle custody cases. She is well connected, and respected among court professionals and among the AFCC. It is my opinion that no one in family court would speak against her because the court system itself is collusive, and protects it’s own. Also, I often wonder if this GAL’s views and practices, which in my case involved clear abuses of her position and serious misconduct, have
      tainted the entire court system by training other court professionals to accept or adopt her methods. In addition, the court appointed therapist was serving on the board of the GAL’s non-profit while also working on my case, so they had an existing relationship that created a conflict of interest.

      The abuse continued after the court placed the children into the custody of the alleged perpetrator; there were many reports of mental and physical abuse and neglect. There were calls to both police and CPS – not just by me but from professionals involved with the children. During one occasion the court appointed GAL interfered in a CPS investigation involving the children and lied to the CPS worker to convince her to close the case. This happened with the child reporting what happened, with a visible injury to the child, and a doctor report documenting the incident.

      As a result of reporting concerns, to professionals and in my court motions (as my legal right), I have faced threats and retaliation from family court professionals. My rights were repeatedly violated in the family court. Concerns of safety for my children went ignored. I have never been able to regain custody of my children, and remain estranged from them by court order. There has been NO allegations or findings of abuse against me. I have never been investigated by CPS. I have have a squeakly clean background and have a long history of volunteering in my community. I pose no risk to anyone. There is no evidence to justify the court’s treatment of me.

      What has happened to me in family court is happening to mothers and fathers in family courts across America, and the world. There are different tactics in how a woman is treated vs a man but the outcome is always the same. The common pattern – the family court is taking children from fit, loving parent and placing the child with an abusive or unfit parent as a sole or primary custodian. Victims of domestic abuse are vulnerable and especially at a high risk of losing custody to an alleged abuser in family court. In my opinion, the family court system is severely dysfunctional and ripe with abuse and corruption.

      For Consideration:

      Many couples mistakenly believe that family and criminal courts will decide that a domestic violence case using the same laws and legislation. This is far from the truth. Each court has an entirely separate process for trying domestic violence cases. The family court system is not designed to deal with the criminal implications of domestic violence in a divorce, custody, or other family court order. Trusting the family courts with a domestic violence case puts the victim at risk of being vulnerable without the proper prosecuting attorney…

      During a family law case, there are no legal protections offered to the victim. Family law proceedings operate on the underlying assumption that a family dispute is not a criminal dispute. Thus, the courts have no remedies for criminal acts involved in family dispute cases. Accusations of abuse in family court open the floor for the alleged abuser to defend him/herself and put forth his or her own allegations. Ultimately, the abuser has the ability to turn the courts against the victim—an ability that is absent in criminal court cases.” “The Differences Between Family and Criminal Court in a Domestic Violence Case” (June 18, 2017) by The Law Office of George Gedulin: THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FAMILY AND CRIMINAL COURT IN A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE

      Despite a growing understanding of, and urgency in dealing with, domestic abuse across the justice sector and the new offence of coercive control (which was enforced in December 2015), there was a clear consensus between the witnesses at this APPG Hearing regarding the existence of an embedded culture within the family courts to allow contact with the child(ren) to the applicant parent, most of the time. This is also reinforced by evidence which shows that less than 1% of child contact applications are refused, despite domestic abuse featuring in around 70% of Cafcass caseloads, and in 70-90% of cases going to the family courts…” “Domestic Abuse, Child Contact and the Family Courts. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence. Parliamentary Briefing” (United Kingdom). by All-Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Women’s Aid. Source: Domestic Abuse, Child Contact and the Family Courts

      Further Reading:

      “Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t ‘Just Leave’. The reasons partners remain in abusive relationships” (2018). By Wendy L. Patrick, JD, Ph.D. Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t “Just Leave”

      “Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes” (1998). By Lundy Bancroft. Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes

  2. jimjam83 says:

    Heart breaking 😢. I was lucky in the end, I got to keep my kids and he got zero contact but the journey was horrendous. Good luck to you 💙

Comments are welcome on FCI. We appreciated thoughtful and respectful comments/feedback that offers a variety of views. Any view or opinion represented in the blog comments are personal and belong to the respective commentor. This blogger reserves the right to moderate comments for suitability and may remove or edit comments that contain abusive or offensive language, images, links or accusations. Comments may also be removed if they contain personal information, identifying information or sensitive details about your location, case, minor children, those involved in your case. Please do not post full articles from other sites, as it could be a violation of copyright or intellectual property laws. Thanks for visiting!!

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