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Child Abuse Professionals Hope Case Will Spark Change
Desperate to protect her children from skull fractures, black eyes, and repeated beatings, Holly Ann Collins fled to the Netherlands. There, the Dutch Court granted her human rights asylum, ruling it would be too dangerous for them to return to their father. Now, 14 years later, Collins and her children are finally coming home. In a Hennepin County, MN, courthouse, Collins pled guilty to contempt of court and accepted 40 hours of community service. The more serious charges of kidnapping and custody interference that could have resulted in a long prison sentence were dismissed.
Eli H. Newberger, MD, a member of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence’s Board and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard University, evaluated Jennifer and Zachary before they were placed in the custody of their father. “Despite the children’s clear disclosures of abuse, their documented history of serious injuries, and our team’s strong conclusion that the children needed to be protected, the court still chose to place them with the person they feared most in the world,” states Newberger. The court acknowledged abuse had taken place but was swayed by the bogus legal argument that the children’s fears were a result of parental alienation syndrome, which claimed their mother brainwashed the children into false abuse disclosures. Collins was allowed only limited, supervised visitations. When they were 9 and 11, Jennifer and Zachary passed her secret notes during supervised visits begging to be rescued from their father’s home.
Joyanna Silberg, PhD, executive vice president of the Leadership Council, spoke about the case, stating that the problems in family court have gotten worse in the last 14 years. The Leadership Council estimates that over 58,000 children a year in the United States are abuse victims that are ordered by family court to have unsupervised contact with abusers when their parents divorce.
The Leadership Council, a coalition of professionals committed to education about child abuse, does not condone breaking the law, but hopes the story of Collins and her children sparks needed reforms that protect children from abusive parents involved in custody disputes.