September 2008 - Jennifer Collins IVAT Presentation

The courts get it wrong!


Hello My name is Jennifer. I am 23 years old and I am a survivor. Well… that is what I am supposed to say, but it sounds like an alcoholic admitting to something I’ve done wrong.

You are all professionals in this field. You should be able to handle the truth.

My dad beat me! Plain and simple.

Pattern of Abuse

The judge said that there was not enough evidence to prove a pattern of abuse to us kids. Did you hear that? “Pattern!” There was 'only one' Fractured skull and a few other minor injuries, but they were isolated incidents and not necessarily a clear consistent pattern!

So… Id like to know... How many beating are okay?

Isn’t one fractured skull enough?/ Isn't one beating too many?

Court Evaluation

When my father fractured my brothers skull, child protection threatened my mom with ‘failure to protect’ if she didn’t leave him and take us with her. But then the case was remanded to family court where they gave him unsupervised visitation 2x per week. The court battle continued on for years.

My mother was caught up in the role of being the sole advocate for us kids. She believed us and was penalized for it. It seems like she was the only one who fought for us kids. Doctors told her we were in danger. The court evaluator said that we weren’t. Our young mother was caught in the middle of trying to decide who to listen to.

Sometimes she even doubted us when we returned home with horrid accounts of what he did to us.

Then my father found an attorney who came up with this “PAS” (Parental Alienation Syndrome.)

Trauma of Witnessing Abuse

What was even worse than the abuse was watching him beat my mom and my brother. There was at least 14 times when he beat my mom severe enough to put her in the hospital? My brother and I were there every single time! We witness it! Isn’t that damaging enough?

Let’s start over again…. My dad beat my mom! Many people think "That is her problem." But it was my problem too, because I witnessed it! Don’t just take our word for it. My father testified that he dislocated my mother's shoulder and broke my mother's nose three times. He also admitted (under oath) that he did it in front of us kids. The judge found that he was an abuser. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Father’s Right of Access vs. Child’s Right of Safety

This shouldn’t be about fathers’ rights. It shouldn’t be about mothers’ rights. It should be about kids’ rights. Kids like me!

Position of the Minnesota Family Court

“It is the recommendation of the gal that (the father) is granted sole legal physical custody of the children because of this belief that Holly’s fear of Mark causes fear and anxiety in the children… and deters any possible father child relationship.”

Family court services “The father’s abuse is not the issue and even if he was abusive it is irrelevant to the custody evaluation … allegations of child abuse are handled by child protection and not family court services…”

Reversal of Custody

Custody was reversed to my father because my mother denied visitation. My mother denied visitation because he was abusing us. The judge and custody evaluator even determined that my father physically abused my mother.

So that was it…. My Mom was punished by the courts. She lost custody of her children for interfering with his rights. The Courts never once spoke about our rights!

Worst day of my life!

Do any of you remember being 7 years-old? Do you remember what your mom was to you back then? She was beautiful, right? If she smiled, your world lit up. Her kiss made the booboo go away. If she hugged you or held you, you felt like there was nothing bad in the world, right?

Now imagine being 7 years-old, holding onto your mom for dear life, while a strange man is trying to pry your fingers off of her, one-by-one. You don't know what's going on; all you know is that someone's taking you away from your source of safety, love and light. Somebody's physically lifting your little body off the ground and pulling you away from the one person you love most in your life. You feel helpless, terrified, and you don't know when or if you'll ever see you mom again...

I don't think you need to be a therapist to understand how devastating that is to a 7 year-old little girl. What I wouldn't give to have that scene erased from my memory...

There I was being ripped away from my mom screaming "Mommy Help Me Mommy! Mommy! I want my Mommy!"

Visitation with Mom

During one of the first supervised visitations we had with our mother. I said “Mommy He’s still hurting us” and I painfully lifted up my shirt to show her the bruises on my back. My Mom and the supervisor gasped but then the supervisor scolded me and told me to pull down my shirt immediately. Then she said "You know you are not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore."

After that my brother and I would write notes for my mom when we were at my father’s house and we would slip the notes in her pockets during supervised visitation.

What did the notes say?

We slipped mom notes in my moms pockets during visitation which said the same thing over and over again:
Come Get Us!
Mommy, don’t you want us anymore?" (You see… my father told us that our mother didn’t want us anymore.)

Somewhere Out There

We had a favorite Disney song that we used to sing with our mom called “Somewhere Out There.” She used to sing it to us every night before we went to bed. After we had to go live with our father she promised that if we looked at the stars every night and sang our song, she would be doing the exact same thing at the same time. But even that is a tainted memory… because the guardian ad litem decided that we could not sing that song anymore at the end of visitation because it contained the words “Soon We’ll be Together…” and he said that it interfered with us accepting the custody reversal.

Our Rescue
18 months and 8 days latter our mom rescued us! We call it our “Gotcha Day!” We celebrate every year with a lobster dinner. I can’t tell you how we did it but it is amazing that we were able to flee the USA. The minute we were in the air I knew we were free. Who would have known that leaving the United States of America would be the moment of my freedom.

Opinion of The Hague Asylum Court

“The president (presiding judge) is in agreement with the defendant’s (Ministry of Justices)position that generally speaking it should be initially expected that such a large and developed country as the United States must provide sufficient protection and guidance for victims of domestic violence. Even if this does not happen in a specific case, it does not mean that the plaintiff has grounds for admittance into this country. Admittance can only result from a specific case where there are extenuating circumstances in which the plaintiff cannot be expected to return to the country of origin where the violence occurred... The present case may be considered as a situation of extenuating circumstance."

Decision of Dutch Court

"Asylum - Indefinite/unlimited... There is sufficient reason to grant the plaintiff and her children residency in the Netherlands on humanitarian grounds."

My Mom – My Hero

Rosa Parks defied the law and wouldn't stand up on the bus. We applaud her today. My Mother wouldn't stand for her children being abused. She should go down in history books as being a courageous battered woman who challenged the system. She was the first American to receive asylum in Europe and is going to be the catalyst for initiating change in our severely damaged family court system.

Mom’s Message

I asked my mom, if you could be here what would you say. Sadly my mother told me "If I knew that the courts wouldn't protect my children, I would have stayed... I should never have left him.”

Is this really the message we want to send battered women?

What Should be Done?

American family investigation centres for abuse evaluations.
Federal domestic violence standards.
Innocent until proven guilty standard... abuse treated as true until disproved
Alegations of child abuse prevent the use of "PAS" theory.
Spousal abuse is found to be emotional abuse to children.
Abuser is forbidden to seek/receive custody of children.

1 comment:

  1. I am proud of you all!!! You are very brave!!! I have a daughter named Jenny too and we went through a 4 year custody battle and divorce with an abuser. I also have a son. Jenny was 7 then and my son a baby. The same thing happened to us 1990-1994. The judge "punished" me when I fell behind on the mortgage payments during the divorce. I was a stay at home Mom and my Jenny was also pried away from me. Our abuser kept saying I was interfering with his rights as a parent over and over and could never prove that, but he said it so many times it became record and they gave him custody. I watched your mom after the hearing and I could see the PTSD in her. I have it too. Just going to the government center or thinking about it makes me sick and it is hard not to shake. So many bad memories of trying to fight for my kids there and always getting abused by the system. You are right how can it be legal for an abuser to get custody. If a woman has an order for protection, how can she cooperate with visitation. My husbands lawyer made mincemeat of any and everyone who tried to help or intervene. My ex felt so powerful to always see me cry in court and then would say "see she is mentally unstable". He had tape recordings of me crying for his pleasure. He drugged my kids if they didn't pretend everything was fine after they went to live with him. He even found counselors and pshyciatrists that would help him "control" the kids with drugs. God Bless you as you try to recover and I think it is so sad that now that the truth is out your father is not charged with a crime, but you mom has to do community service instead of receiving an apology and an award. I wish you success in your endeavors to fight on I know your Mom is tired and I know how we all long for justice, but fear seeking it now. I wish that Henn. Co. could be sued for the lives it has ruined.