Photo ~ My children
I don't know where exactly to begin. I was severely abused as a child by my biological mother and her new husband, Eleanor and Thomas J. Gallagher. In an attempt to escape the abuse, I married Mark J. Collins of Salem N.H. when I was still a teenager. During the first month of marriage, Mark beat me up and put me in the hospital 3 times. I was 17 years old, 4 months pregnant and already defeated. I just accepted that this was the way life was. Mark joined the military and we traveled throughout the States from one military base to another. His abuse continued and escalated over the years. The last place we ended up together was in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
In 1987 Mark beat our 4 year old son, Zachary so severely that he fractured his skull. I brought Zachary to his pediatrician, Dr. Estrin, who rushed us to the Minneapolis Children's Hospital. I was falling apart. I could accept the abuse to myself but not to my children. I confided in our family priest at Holy Family Church, and Father Eugen spoke with Mark. Mark admitted to abusing me and the children. Child protection was contacted. Child protection threatened me that if I didn't leave Mark, I could be charged with "failure to protect." When Mark moved out, the case was turned over to the family court where they granted me an order for protection but allowed Mark to have the children alone 2x per week for visitation. That is exactly why I didn't want to leave him. - The children had to go alone with him and I was no longer there to protect them.
Mark's abuse continued and the children were terrified of him. My children would cry and plead with me not to make them go with him. 6 year old Jennifer would cry so hard that she would throw up. I just couldn't bear to send them with him anymore. Mark would call the police and the police would enter my house, pull the children out from underneath their beds and hand them over (crying and screaming) to this man who was beating them. Mark used these very police reports to support a crazy claim of PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome because I refused to force the children to go with their abusive father against their will.
Even though Judge Michael Davis found domestic violence, the family court evaluator, Susan DeVries recommended a change in custody because "My evaluation of these children strongly indicates to me that there has been interference in the relationship between Mr. Collins and the children… I believe that what happened here is that Ms. Collins because of her anxieties, perhaps because of her abuse from Mr. Collins or perhaps because of some internal anxiety, has over responded to remarks the children have made about Mr. Collins or things she may have observed.”
On December 22 1992 custody was reversed to my ex-husband. There were several witness around as the Hennepin County Guardian ad Litem, Michael London pulled the children out of my arms and handed them over to their abusive father. Jennifer was screaming hysterically “MOMMY, HELP ME MOMMY! HE HURTS ME AND HE HURTS MY BROTHER! MOMMY. I WANT MY MOMMY!”
I wasn’t allowed to have any contact at all with Zachary and Jennifer for 6 weeks then I was granted 2 hours supervised visitation a week at Kahtadin visitation supervision sevices in Minneapolis. During the visitation the children told me that they were still being abused. During one particular visitation Jennifer lifted her shirt to reveal strap marks, welts and bruises on her back. She said “Mommy, He’s still hurting us.” The visitation supervisor scolded “you know you are not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore.”
I tried desperately to protect my children, but the Hennepin County family court kept trying to cover up their mistake by covering up the continuing abuse to my children.
In March 1993, I gave birth to my son, "Chip." Although I was in a relationship with his father, Jeff Imm for several years, he threatened to end our relationship if I kept the baby. I choose for the child. Jeff decided that he did not want anything to do with me or his son and ended our relationship.
I tried to get Jeff involved with his son. He didn't want anything to do with his son. He only met with him a few times in the first 18 months of his life. The very same judge who restricted my visitation with Zachary and Jennifer awarded me full custody of the baby and Jeff Imm was granted supervised visitation with his todler son. However Jeff wasn't interested in his son and in June 1994, Jeff told me that he was moving to England and we arranged a goodbye visitation between Jeff, his parents and the baby.
It was also aroung this time that my 11 year old son Zachary told me during supervised visitation that he couldn’t take it anymore and he was going to kill himself. Mark took both children out of their Catholic school, away from all their friends and put them into the public school system in Crystal Minnesota. The Hennepin Family Court stopped checking in on the children and they were being abused on a regular basis. I just couldn’t leave them in danger any longer. I knew in my heart that their lives were in danger. Their father had already fractured our son's skull and he his abuse to the children escalated again. Both Zachary and Jennifer reported to the court appointed child psychologist that their father, Mark, held pillows over their face until "It all turned black." I promised that I would come get them before July 1st 1994. The children and I began planning our escape by exchanging messages during visitation.
On June 30 1994 I rescued my children and fled Minnesota. For Approximately 6 months I traveled around the United States, Canada & Mexico searching for safety. I spent a lot of time at the local libraries and during the children’s story hours and activities I researched everything I could. I learned of the Elizabeth Morgan case, where an American child was granted sanctuary in New Zealand. We spent many nights sleeping in the car, homeless shelters and battered women shelters and even the airports. I was desperate to find a way to New Zealand.
Eventually I found a way out of the United States. I can not reveal how because I do not want to incriminate myself. I was apprehended in the Netherlands and arrested for not having appropriate travel documentation. I immediately asked for asylum. The children and I were detained together in a cell along with approximately 15 other men and 1 woman from Somalia, Iran, Iraq and Bosnia. After much pleading and proving my case we were granted an opportunity to try our case. We were in refugee centers for almost 3 years and eventually I was granted asylum.
We lived in secrecy for 12 years. I met a Dutch man and had 4 biological children together. We also took in several (war orphaned) children from Africa whom we met at the refugee centers. 3 Children became permanent members of our family. We are now the proud parents of 10 children! Even though we are no longer together we are still the best of friends.
In May 2006 the American authorities were made aware of our location. A local, drunk townsman heard of our case through gossip and decided to turn us in for the reward money. We were contacted by the FBI and the American Central Authority tried to have me returned to the United States.
In November 2007, my 22 year old daughter, Jennifer, launched an email campaign and sent out hundreds of emails to every Minnesota Representative, every United States Senator, every State Battered Women’s’ Coalition and anyone else she could think of. We were eventually contacted by Attorney Alan Rosenfeld who agreed to take on my criminal case pro bono. Through his skillful negotiations, all kidnapping charges were dropped and the Dutch government upheld my asylum and refused to deport me. On September 23 2008 I made an appearance in Minnesota and I pleaded guilty to one court of Contempt of Court. I defiantly admitted to having “Contempt for the Court who failed to protect my children.”
Suddenly the father of my son Jeff Imm, who never wanted anything to do with Chip, has demanded his return to Minnesota and he received temporary custody in an ex-parté order from the same judge who wouldn’t protect my children. Judge Porter appointed the same guardian ad litem, Mary Laughead, who also refused to believe the children’s accounts of abuse.
Now that we have been found, the criminal charges have been dropped and Zachary and Jennifer are both over the age of 18, I would like to return home to Massachusetts. However I am afraid that I will risk loosing custody of Chip to a man he doesn’t even know. He would like to get to know his father. He has contacted him several times in the last 2 years begging him to come meet him. The father has refused. He even told our son that he will not come to Holland because he does not want to be held responsible for paying child support.
After 14 years of living in exile, I am desperate to return home to the United States of America, but I want to make sure that my son's best interest is protected. We have been advised that we must remain in Holland for 3 more years until he is 18. Again, I choose for my child. ~Holly