Jan. 21, 2011
by M. C. Moewe
Former fugitive Holly Collins recalled the day her panicked young
daughter clung tightly to her skirt, begging a court official not to
make her go live with her abusive father.
“It was the worse day of my life,” said Collins, speaking publicly for
the first time Saturday in Albany, New York, at the 8th Annual
Battered Mothers Custody Conference. “The guardian ad litem pulled her
fingers one by one off my dress.”
In 1994 the mother left the U.S., kidnapping her two children rather
than follow the judge’s orders to give the kids to the man they said
Collins found an odd champion – the Netherlands, a small country that
granted Collins and her two children political asylum from the abuse
they were suffering in the United States.
Fourteen years after kidnapping her children, the FBI found Holly
Collins and made a request to the Dutch government to extradite her
back to the U.S.
Dutch officials declined the request, and in 2008 a settlement was
reached in U.S. courts dropping the U.S. kidnapping charges.
Jennifer Collins, once the panicked little girl begging her mother to
protect her, spoke via Skype from the Netherlands. “Only sixty-six
more days until our baby brother turns 18 and we are free from the
U.S. Family Court System,” said Jennifer, now 25. “I promise, one day
I will be the biggest, baddest child advocate that you have ever
Advocacy is the theme for this year’s conference, which touts the
slogan Join Up! The Unity Conference. The event is organized by Mo
Therese Hannah, a professor and activist.
Karin Huffner, has launched the Legal Victim Assistance Advocates, a
group dedicated to training advocates. Information on the group can be
found at http://www.lvaallc.com/.
“Holly’s story is remarkable, but there are thousands and thousands of
families and children who are victims of the family court,” said
Garland Waller, a professor and producer who is filming a documentary
about the Collins family.
About 20 mothers stood during a Friday session, when Lundy Bancroft,
an author who has written books such as The Batterer as Parent, asked
mothers to stand who have been court ordered to have only supervised
visitation or no contact with their children.
“In criminal court there are procedures you have to follow,” Bancroft
said. “Moms are stunned to get into family court and discover they are
in kangaroo court.”
Bancroft stressed the need for parents supporting each other and
promoting activism. “It is important to keep battling against
isolation,” said Bancroft, who acknowledged that retribution for
protest is a real problem. “Moms should start having demonstrations
with their faces covered. I think that will be very powerful.”
Holly Collins is sometimes perplexed by the attention she is getting
for protecting her children. “I just did what any one of you would
do,” she said.
She does not recommend that protective mothers try to duplicate her
15-year ordeal, especially with the new laws enacted since the
September 11th terrorist attacks.
“I’m lucky, but the bar has been set so low,” Holly Collins said. “I
think being lucky should be never being abused.”