Thursday, November 8, 2012

AVOIDING PEOPLE WHEN YOU GO BACK TO HIM



                Today I am going to describe a pattern that sometimes plays out with when a woman is struggling with a partner who doesn’t treat her right. If it sounds familiar, you’ll find it helpful to recognize it and not let it happen again. And if you haven’t lived this one, you can think ahead about how to make sure you never do.
 
                It goes like this: First, you find yourself mired in one of those periods when he is just being rotten to you day after day, and you feel like you just can’t take it anymore. You rant to some of your closest people about what a jerk he is, and they are right behind you on it. You say you’re done with him, and they cheer you on to give him the boot, helping you to plan how you’ll do it. You’re all a team.
  
              But over a period of days or weeks you are feeling less and less sure. The thought of ending your relationship starts to feel overwhelming, and the loss seems too great. He senses that you are leaning toward the door – or you tell him outright – and he improves his behavior some and promises to make bigger changes. The upshot is that you are going to give it another try.
  
              Now comes the tricky part. You’ve been bonding with loved ones about how awful he is, so how do you explain to them that you’re staying?
  
              And something else starts to happen, which is that the crisis of your relationship almost coming apart makes you and your partner feel closer. He’s being sweet, and you’re feeling a little resentful towards people around you for being so negative about him. You tell yourself that they don’t really understand him, or you for that matter; in fact, you feel like he’s the only person who really gets you.
  
              So now you and he have become a secret society, a special team together against that hostile, non-comprehending world out there. You have a deep connection with each other that they just can’t grasp.
  
              In short, you have two reasons to keep them all away; you are a little ashamed in front of them, but at the same time you are feeling that you and your partner are a little bit above them.
  
              But what is really happening is that you are growing more traumatized and more isolated. Your partner is drawing you into a traumatic bond, and leading you away from your support system. Your secret society is not a healthy place to be. It’s an illusion, and a destructive one.
  
               Your people love you. Don’t cut them out. Whatever you decide about how to handle your relationship, keep reaching back toward the hands that are reaching out to you.


“I can’t ever let my partner come between me and my people. I have to see this for what it is.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THE TRUTH COMES OUT IN ANN M.'s CASE



[Here is an amazing update on Ann M.'s case, written by Ann herself. The names of all of the children have been altered, but the names of professionals have not been changed.]

Hi Lundy, 

            I want to thank you again for blogging about my case earlier this year. 

            Here are the latest events: My ex took me to court saying he should have full custody of the last minor child, Emma, age 16. Ezra and Will are at college and the three oldest are out of the house. Five days before the trial my attorney told me he would need an additional fifteen thousand dollars to represent me in court saying he had already used up the other five thousand I gave him just reading up on my case. 

            So I represented myself, knowing God would be my defense! We did great! My ex's first witness was Dr. Douglas Darnall, a "Parental Alienation Syndrome" expert from Ohio. He made lots of outrageous statements about my alleged alienating behavior but stated that the "Parent Alienation" conclusion doesn't "work" if there was domestic violence. So when I cross-examined my ex I went through more than 20 incidents on the restraining orders and police reports, asking him if on such and such a date he remembers picking me up and throwing me out of the bedroom and locking the door, etc., etc. He admitted to some of the violence and the suicide threats. He admitted knowing the 15 and 17 year-olds were afraid to drive with him because of a previous incident that happened while we were still married. He also admitted to texting Will, who was 17 at the time, from the scene of two accidents (six months and three months prior to when I was put in jail) telling them he had just totaled his vehicle. Then he admitted insisting later that they drive with him to parenting time.

        (I was put in jail because the kids refused to drive with him to his house. They wanted to drive their own car. When I got out of jail they were told by their father's attorney that they could now drive themselves to parenting time.)

            I also had an opportunity to cross examine Ben Burgess, the Friend of the Court investigator who wrote in the investigative report that it appears that domestic violence did occur in the home, but that he believed from his investigation that there was severe parent alienation going on by Ann M.. On that basis, he had recommended that parenting time for the father start, progressing over time to unsupervised overnights at their father's house. When I asked him who were the "experts" that he said he had interviewed during his investigation, he said that was confidential information. When I pressed him, Judge Hulsing asked him who it was. Hulsing said, "Who was it?" three times before Mr. Burgess said, "Mariel Silverman." Mariel is my daughter, which means that he had lied the last time he was on the stand, saying he had interviewed "experts" to confirm the parental alienation conclusion.

            Mr. Burgess admitted on the stand that my kids had all said there should be no parenting time. Then he admitted that once supervised parenting time with their father began, he was only present the first two sessions. (Ezra and Emma were to meet their father once a week at a restaurant.) Then he admitted never contacting them after that to see how it was going. He admitted that he didn't know it had stopped after 8 weeks. He admitted that four months went by and he still did not know the parenting time had stopped even though he was the supervisor. Then he admitted to texting their older sister Mariel, age 27, to see how parenting time was going. She told him that the kids were doing great now with their father out of their lives.

            Then I asked him why he was texting Mariel pictures of his kids fishing.  He said he only sent one. (That's not what Mariel told me. She felt like he was "hitting" on her.) Then I asked Mr. Burgess why he texted Mariel last week asking her to find out about some letter "this Wendi person" mailed. I asked him what was that all about and why was he asking Mariel to find out about some other case. I said, "Mariel feels like you are hitting on her!" At that point, Judge Hulsing interrupted and changed the subject.

            All in all, these witnesses had revealed that Judge Hulsing falsely put me in jail and that it wasn't parental alienation, it was domestic violence. Mariel told me later that Ben Burgess texted her ten times from the courtroom saying negative things about how I was doing. She said she responded a couple of times to try to get information on how it was going. Then he texted her, "Do you really think I'm hitting on you?"

            Judge Hulsing gave me full legal and physical custody of Emma. God delivered me of my fear of my ex and Judge Hulsing that day. I am still rejoicing!

Monday, August 27, 2012

GOOD PEOPLE ABOUND



              You may feel quite shaken up in your view of the human race. Any woman who suffers serious mistreatment from a partner she had loved and trusted struggles with feelings of betrayal. And betrayal can knock you off your foundation at a core level, so that:

·           the world starts to feel like an unsafe place.
·           everyone’s motives start to be suspect
·           you start to question your sense of what is real

            If your partner were terrible all the time, it would actually be easier to deal with in many ways; you would tell yourself, “Well, he turned out to be a jerk.” But when someone you love goes back and forth between kindness and cruelty, generosity and selfishness, tenderness and intimidation, loving you and cheating on you, you can come to feel that it’s impossible to understand people. Your feelings for the primary person in your life tend to carry over into how you view everyone.

              Your partner may further feed the problem by encouraging you to think badly of others. He may tell you that people are lying to you or taking advantage of you; that your friends have hidden motives; that you are na├»ve in your dealings with people; that “everyone is just out for themselves.” He’s talking about himself, though he probably doesn’t know it. 

              And yes, there are sharks out there. But the world is also full of so many thoughtful, caring, honest individuals. Most people don’t use other people, or trick them, or threaten them. In fact, most people are doing their best to live ethical lives and to be decent and responsible for other people.

              So don’t let your partner (or ex-partner) distort your outlook on your species. Look for the good in people, and notice their efforts to make human connection. Be smart, yes, but don’t harden your heart. You will find many gems in the human race.


“I will stay open to people and give them a chance. I’m keeping my heart alive.”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Document the Judge Won't Allow Into Evidence

For those of you who have been following the "Wendi G." case that I've been blogging about for a year now  -- and for those of you who are new to it -- a document that I have recently put up on my website should stun you -- because Judge Jon Hulsing won't allow this "Forensic Report" into evidence. He has declared that Wendi is lying, and that she manipulated her children into making statements, and on that basis ordered Wendi to jail for 90 days -- but he won't allow into evidence the only thorough and objective interview that was done with the children. And to make matters even more stark, it was an interview that was conducted by a team that specializes in interviewing children.

To read the full report that was barred from evidence click here.

I believe that you if you read the full report, you will find yourself entertaining serious questions about why Judge Hulsing wouldn't allow this into evidence at hearings or at the trial. This is the type of case the FBI should investigate.

If you feel concerned after reading the report, please call the Michigan governor at:

(517) 373-3400

and request an investigation into Judge Hulsing's conduct. (This is only one case among several that have been brought to my attention regarding misconduct on Judge Hulsing's part.)


AN UPDATE ON THE CASE:  Wendi is out of legal options for the moment, though additional routes are likely to open up in the future. In the mean time, she is seeing her children regularly (once per month) with supervision, as ordered by the court. I would like to write more about what happened at the trial, but I am still waiting to find out what I can say about the children's statements at trial, which is the most important thing to write about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

EXAMINING THE WENDI G. CASE (2)



           There is one more piece of background we need to examine before I bring everyone up to date on the recent history of the Wendi G. case:  The key parts of the forensic interview with "Monte," also from June of 2011. (For a full explanation of this interview, and key excerpts from the detailed interview with Caleigh, see my last post.)

           "When asked how come he is here today, Monte stated he needs to process some stuff and let the truth go out. Monte explained he needs to process everything that has happened the last two years with his parents divorce and how things are going. Monte stated things are going good at his mom's house... Monte added sometimes it is uncomfortable for him when his mom and Caleigh are crying together. When asked to tell me about that, Monte stated they were crying while they were in the hospital because of Caleigh's foot and then Caleigh processed some stuff with the counselor and they were crying when their mom found out some of the things that dad did... When asked to tell me about that, Monte stated he was playing videogames and their dad asked them if one of them would rub lotion on his back. Monte stated Caleigh told him okay and Monte said no because he thought it was gross. Monte stated he did see Caleigh rubbing lotion on their dad's back and Monte noticed Caleigh was rubbing lotion close to his dad's bottom. Monte stated he is pretty sure it's true that Caleigh rubbed lotion on his dad's back and bottom. Monte stated he also knows their dad was hugging her. Monte stated he saw his dad hugging Caleigh while they were standing up and his dad was naked...

          "When asked to tell me more about their dad being naked at home, Monte stated he comes out of the bathroom in a towel but sometimes he is naked and will come into their bathroom... Monte stated sometimes he sees his dad naked with shaving cream on his face or sometimes Monte is making breakfast and his dad will walk naked to a different room. When asked where his dad is going, Monte stated mostly Caleigh's room...

        "...When asked if he feels like his body is safe at his dad's house, Monte stated sometimes he doesn't because of all the things Caleigh has said...

         "When asked where he wants to be, Monte said Michigan [where his mother lives] because he has closer friends there, he feels safer, and he is more at peace. Monte stated he loves both of his parents but he would rather be in Michigan..."

          Monte is nearly two years older than Caleigh (he was almost 12 years old at the time of this interview, while his sister was 10). There are large implications to the statements quoted from him above, which I will discuss soon but some of which are obvious I believe.

        These are all the excerpts from the Forensic Interview that I'm going to post. I will have the full interview available at my website soon, and will let everyone know when that's available. Reading that interview is crucial to anyone who want to form their own opinion about the case. 

       With the crucial backdrop of this Forensic Interview, I can move in my next post to discussing the hearing this past January and the events that have come since, including Judge Hulsing's order sending Wendi to jail for 90 days (of which she served 60).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

EXAMINING THE WENDI G. CASE

I am finally free to write about Wendi G.’s case, after months during which I have been asked not to do so by the attorneys. Wendi has been released after serving two months in jail. I know many of you have been deeply curious about what took place. In order to make a great deal of information comprehensible for people, I am going to move somewhat chronologically through the story, and it will take me a number of blog entries to describe even the key points of what occurred.

 I have carefully reviewed Judge Hulsing’s most recent findings and rulings on the case following the January 2012 hearing. The crux if this ruling is Judge Hulsing’s determination that Wendi G. pressured her children to make sexual abuse allegations against their father that were entirely false. I will have a great deal to say about what he wrote, but what people first need to understand is that his order makes no reference to the original Forensic Interview Report, done by a specialized team of four professionals a year ago. I don’t understand how he can make a ruling on this case without addressing the Forensic Interview Report; and I believe that after you read it you will feel the same. Furthermore, Judge Hulsing barred the transcript of this report from being introduced as evidence!

As you read the sections below from the Forensic Interview Report, ask yourself the following questions: Would it be possible for a mother to rehearse this performance with her ten-year old daughter? Could a ten year old possibly remember all these facts, keep them straight in the interview, and respond to questions from the interviewer without knowing ahead of time what those questions would be? And if she could, somehow, memorize this much material, would it come out sounding anything like the statements below? Why would the judge bar the transcript of these interviews from the evidence at the January, 2012 hearing, and then rule that the mother caused it all?

 (As soon as possible I will make the full Forensic Interview Report, with the names of the children altered, available on my website, LundyBancroft.com.)

 The report is entitled “CHILDREN'S ADVOCACY CENTER OF OTTAWA COUNTY FORENSIC INTERVIEW REPORT,” and is dated June 28, 2011. The interviewer is listed as Bresh Groen, and the “team members involved” are listed as Detective Derek Christensen of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, Jennifer Hnilca of Ottawa County Child Protective Services, and Rachael DeWitt of the Children’s Advocacy Center, all of whom are listed as having observed Mr. Groen’s interviews of the children (presumably through a one-way window).

 Here are various excerpts from Mr. Groen’s interview with Wendi’s daughter, whom I will call “Caleigh”. Caleigh was ten years old at the time of the interview:

 “When asked how come she is here today, Caleigh stated her dad sexually abused her. When asked to tell me about that, Caleigh explained it all started one year ago when he made her put lotion on his back and she didn’t feel comfortable with it. Caleigh added a ‘child support lady’ came out and asked Caleigh some questions about if she is comfortable putting lotion on her dad and she told the lady she wasn’t. Caleigh stated the lady told her dad not to make Caleigh do that anymore but he did it again and he made her put lotion on his bottom and said it was because his wrist was hurting from playing basketball. Caleigh stated she felt like she had no choice…

 “When asked to tell me about putting lotion on his bottom, Caleigh stated one day he asked her if he [sic – apparently meant to write “she”] could put lotion on his bottom because he couldn’t reach that part. Caleigh stated she told him she was uncomfortable but felt like she had no choice. Caleigh stated her dad’s clothes were off and they were in the bathroom in his bedroom. Caleigh stated he was standing and she was standing with her clothes on for school. Caleigh clarified bottom is the butt area. Caleigh pointed to her butt to clarify... Caleigh stated she has only put lotion on his bottom one time but has put lotion on his back many times. Caleigh stated he kept asking her to do it and she didn’t want anything else to happen so she just did it. Caleigh added after she put lotion on his bottom he said thinks [sic], she left, and asked him if she could never do that again but he told her she might have to if it hurts him again.

 “When asked if there are any other times he doesn’t have clothes on, Caleigh stated when she was in 4th grade he laid with her in bed without his clothes on. Caleigh explained it was in the morning and they were getting ready for school and she said that she missed her mom. Caleigh stated he came into her bedroom and said, ‘Sweetie, why don’t you get ready for school?’ Caleigh stated she told him she missed her mom. Caleigh stated he climbed up her ladder to the top bunk and she didn’t notice he had no clothes on until he hugged her. Caleigh stated she felt his private touching her but she still had her jammies on. Caleigh clarified she was at first lying on her back when he was on the ladder. Caleigh stated she saw him at the top of the ladder and she saw his chest and his private part. Caleigh stated then he got in bed and was lying on his side and his ‘thing’ was touching on the side of her stomach and when she turned away from him his ‘thing’ rubbed against her body and touched her butt. Caleigh clarified that this was on top of her pajamas. When asked how she knows she felt his private, Caleigh stated it was pushing against her and she knew it was his private because she saw him naked. Caleigh added his arms were around her arms. Caleigh stated he told her to get ready for school. Caleigh denied he hugged her like that before. Caleigh stated she felt really weird because she never hugged anyone naked in bed before. When asked what his private looked like, Caleigh stated ‘dangling’ and ‘hairy’. Caleigh stated after she turned away from him she scooched away and he get [sic] down. Caleigh stated then she got ready for school. Caleigh clarified she had seen her dad’s private before when he would be naked and ask her to put lotion on him. Caleigh clarified he climbed in bed with her in March of her 4th grade year. Caleigh stated Monte was already at school. Caleigh added it was a little awkward to be around her dad after it happened but then she just got used to being around him again…

 [Now describing a different event]

 “…Caleigh stated she went to the bathroom and had blood in her stool and asked if her dad could come into the bathroom. Caleigh stated she had her pants up but she asked her dad to look at her poop because there was blood. Caleigh stated her dad then asked if he could check her bottom and she told him she did not feel comfortable with that. Caleigh stated she told him she only felt comfortable with a doctor checking her bottom. Caleigh added he told her he needed to check it for her safety and if she didn’t let him check it he would spank her… When asked how he checked her, Caleigh stated he checked the inside of her bottom and was poking around there so she told him to stop and then he told her she looked okay… Caleigh explained he was pushing her butt cheeks, spreading them out, poking around and feeling stuff. Caleigh explained he checked inside of her butt by touching the butthole and feeling around the hole. Caleigh stated then he checked ‘under.’ At this time Caleigh grabbed her vaginal area to clarify how he went ‘under’ with his hand from behind her. Caleigh stated he poked the inside and around of that area too. Caleigh stated it didn’t feel good and she didn’t like him doing that. Caleigh stated she told him to stop and he did. Caleigh denied he has ever checked her bottom before. Caleigh denied he ever checked her bottom again. Caleigh clarified this happened during her 4th grade year before summer started. When asked if she talked to anyone about it, Caleigh stated she felt scared and didn’t want to tell anyone. Caleigh added she was scared something really bad would happen if she told someone…

 “When asked if anyone talked to her about coming today, Caleigh stated her mom told her to be strong, trust in her heart, and say the truth. Caleigh denied anyone told her what to say today… When asked how she knows the word sexual abuse, Caleigh stated her mom told her that it is wrong and parents shouldn’t do that to a kid. Caleigh stated her mom told her that after Caleigh told her mom about what happened with her dad.”

 Does this sound to you like a rehearsed or coerced set of statements? After reading this wouldn't you, at the very least, believe that this case needed a careful, thorough, unbiased investigation? Yet the reality is that no further investigation or evaluation was ever performed concerning Caleigh's disclosures -- with the exception of her testimony at the January trial, which I will discuss in detail soon.

In my next post we’ll look at what the Forensic Interview Report had to say about Mr. Groen’s interview with Caleigh’s brother Monte, and then continue on from there. Please stay with us. In the mean time,  I encourage you to write your reactions to the above excerpts in the Comments.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A SURVIVOR WRITES

(** I received these two powerful letters from the same person -- I think you will appreciate the writer's perspective. **)

Part I

I just wanted to write to say thank you. I just received your book Why Does He Do That? the other day and I can't put it down. It's like someone has had a camera in my house for 12 years. For the first time I feel like I'm not going crazy! My ex was a Water Torturer mixed with Mr. Sensitive & Mr. Right. Since splitting up he's become The Victim to everyone else.

Things were bad enough when we were married but the torture and abuse he's put me through for the last 18 months since splitting up have been 1000 times worse: Trying to take my daughter; telling social services that I abuse and neglect her; he's taken all my friends & family (spent Christmas with my family at their house while my daughter and I were alone for the holidays with no cards, calls or anything); lied to my work colleagues, my daughter's school, my neighbours, police, the courts, and my daughter; he's totally alienated me, had me arrested, destroyed my business and all but destroyed my life; everyone thinks that I'm crazy and that I'm the violent, abusive, lying bully; he's put (and still putting) my daughter and me through hell, and I've never understood how all these people can fall for his charm, even when presented with absolute proof (I even took a polygraph test!) and how they can think so little of me and not see who he really is. But for the first time in over a decade things make sense! Someone understands and knows! I'm going to send copies of your books to our mothers, the school head teacher, social services, the court appointed guardian for my daughter, the judge...

My daughter remembers what he was like & sees right through him, she hates him & wishes him dead, but since she's only 5 the judge is of the opinion that she has no right to a voice in this. The stress of court-ordered forced contact has given her chest pains, palpitations, nightmares, made her confidence & behaviour plummet, she's wet herself, she calls him mean & a liar, she's been referred for counseling, but she won't be 5 forever, she just has to bide her time & I just have to keep fighting in the mean time & trying to help her through it.

Part 2

I'm a few weeks on now since finishing your book and the power has stayed with me. I feel so much more positive & in control, my depression has all but disappeared, it all makes sense at last. I'm continuing to fight and since reading your book I have been researching DV & contact after divorce etc. and am using this research in the various court battles. The headmistress at my daughter's school read your book on my request, as have some friends of mine, and she has since started supporting me and has said she's realized my ex has been lying to us both, causing the friction between us, and has requested that from now on before either of us react to anything we will check it with each other to prevent further manipulation by my ex. She's realized he's been playing her like a fiddle. I've also started a law degree, something I could never have done whilst under his control, and intend to use my experiences and research to help other women in the future once I'm qualified. You've shown me where my backbone is & reminded me who I am.

Again, thank you from me, and from my daughter who has a much stronger more confident mother now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WHEN HIS PUT-DOWNS SOUND TRUE

Some of the hardest put-downs to deal with are the ones that seem to have aspects of truth to them. Maybe he’s snarling at you that you can’t handle money, and the truth is that your finances really are in a mess. Maybe he’s calling you fat, and in reality you have indeed put on some pounds. Maybe he’s saying that everyone thinks you’re a psycho, and the truth is that some important friends actually have turned against you.

Does this mean that he’s trying to help you to face some things that you need to face? Does this mean you are wrong to feel bad about the ways you are being verbally torn apart?

No.

The truth is that even when he seems to be right, he’s still wrong. And he's definitely not trying to help, though he may tell you he is. Here are reasons not to take his statements to heart:

1) Because he’s exaggerating your difficulties in order to hurt you, even if there are partial truths in his words.

2) Because he’s telling you that everything that is difficult in your life is your own fault, and that it shows what a weak person you are underneath. And that’s completely false.

3) Because he’s ignoring how profoundly his mistreatment of you has contributed to these problems, or even created them entirely. When you live with a chronically insulting and undermining partner, your self-esteem suffers, your friendships suffer, your concentration suffers. He’s certainly not helping – he’s making everything worse.

4) Because people’s difficulties don’t – and shouldn’t – define who they are.

A man who chronically mistreats you is a terrible source of information about who you are. His vision is too distorted, too self-centered, and too self-serving to have any useful clarity, especially when the subject is you.

To put it concisely: It is impossible for a man to see a woman clearly while he is controlling her, abusing her, or cheating on her
.

A meditation for today: “I will listen carefully to my own inner voices, and to people who love me and treat me well. His harangues need to go in one ear and out the other.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

ABOUT THREE WEEKS IN JAIL LEFT FOR WENDI G.

I have not had the opportunity to communicate with Wendi G. directly, but my understanding is that she will be released from jail in about three weeks.

I realize that people are needing very badly to know more about what has taken place. I have been in a bit of a bind as a writer, because I have received a message from at least one person close to the case that it would be a mistake to write more about it right now, while a couple of other people are saying I should go ahead. I've decided I am going to write something soon and hope that I'm making the right choice.

I do know from people that have written to me that Wendi is in good health and in remarkably good spirits considering what she is enduring.

One thing I can say right away is that contributions are desperately needed for Wendi's legal fund. Here is information on how to contribute:

If paying by check:
Make it payable to Wendi Goulet, and write on the memo line "Legal Assistance Fund Acct. ending #995", and mail it to:
United Federal Credit Union
Holland North Branch
12540 Riley Street
Holland, Mi 49424

To make an online deposit:
call 1-888-982-1400 ask for Holland North Branch, and provide the information above.

More soon.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Judge Hulsing Jails Wendi G.!

Judge Hulsing has jailed Wendi G. for 90 days after the two-day hearing in January. Given all of the evidence that was presented at that hearing, his decision comes as an absolute shock to all. Wendi is already serving her sentence. I am in touch with her husband and with another relative of hers.

I will write a detailed post about this soon, including ideas for actions that you can take, but I wanted to let everyone know now.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

RETHINKING CHARM

As a society, we place a high value on charm; when we meet new people, we love it if they are very quickly smooth, funny, entertaining, and flattering. We are charmed when they seem immediately ready to jump into doing favors for us. We love confidence, lively story-telling, and a sharp personal appearance.

And it all can be bad news.

This is a hard pattern to overcome. We have been so heavily taught by our culture, by romantic stories, by television and movies, and by popular songs, to fall in love with charm that we are addicted to it. We run after it like children after the Pied Piper, thinking it will deeply meet our cravings. And it usually leads either nowhere -- which is okay, but disappointing -- or into harm.

It's not our fault that we got hooked on charm, given our societal training, but we need to get past it. Abusers tend to be charming. Sociopaths tend to be charming. People with personality disorders tend to be charming. Con artists tend to be charming. Users tend to be charming.

Is every charming person exploitative? No. But charm is not a good sign. We need to do a 180 degree turn in how we think about charm. Our current thinking is:

"Because you are so charming, I will need a mountain of bad experience to convince me that you are actually not a trustworthy person."

We need to switch this to its opposite:

"Because you are so charming, I will need a mountain of good experience to conclude that you are okay."

In other words, charm should count against the person in deciding whether to trust them, not for them. If we would practice this, we would often save ourselves from an abusive relationship, from people who steal our money, from bosses who turn out to be terrors, from nightmarish housemates, and from other situations of harm that we find ourselves sucked into.

Why is charm a warning sign? First of all, developing and maintaining a charming exterior takes a lot of work all the time. People who choose to put that much exaggerated effort into how they present themselves are often doing so because they have something to hide. They move through the world taking advantage of people, so they need to put that way of operating in a package that looks appealing or everyone would run away from them. Exploiters tend to be charmers.

Second, the other most common reason for people to be so focused on putting forth an exaggeratedly powerful positive image is that they deeply hate themselves (way beyond the typical kinds of self-esteem issues that we all struggle with). They are convinced, largely unconsciously, that anyone who saw who they really are would despise them and want nothing to do with them. And as a result they have developed a psychological condition known as a personality disorder. This self-hating charmer is not meaning to take advantage of people, but ends up doing so anyhow (for a complex set of reasons -- I'll write about personality disorder and how it works another time). If someone with a personality disorder plays a key role in your life, that can be as stressful as dealing with an abuser or a sociopath.

(By the way, sociopaths are considered to have a personality disorder, but I choose to put them in a somewhat separate category, because they know they're using people, and they just don't care.)

And people can have mixtures of these issues; for example, there are abusers who have personality disorders (although most don't even though they may seem like they do).

So what's the solution? Here are a few things we can do:

* Be wary of charmers. Keep one hand on your wallet. Listen carefully to your own inner voices and warnings, and get to know the person gradually, watching their behavior. Stop respecting and admiring charm.

* Look for a different set of qualities in people, instead of charm. Look for sincerity, dependability, good listening, and an ability to share the spotlight (not having to always be the center of attention). Look for an ability to take feedback and realize when they have made mistakes. Look for flexibility. Look for deep kindness over time (not just big generosity right now, which is part of charm). Look for a person who has successful relationships with (healthy) friends and relatives that have held up for many years. Look for substance.

* Look for people whose entertaining qualities are a little subtler. There are many people who are tremendous fun, have great senses of humor, or are quite uninhibited, but it doesn't all come pouring out at once the second you meet them.

* Look for people who aren't overly dramatic. The drama-junkie is entertaining at first, but will bring a lot of bad drama into your life that you don't need.

* Stop expecting romance right at the beginning of a dating relationship. Meaningful, satisfying romance takes a while to build. The guy who is instantly romantic is often a guy who can't really make friends with a woman or can't take women seriously as people. The most romantic first dates rarely seem to lead to the most romantic relationships.

There are so many great people in the world. But to find them, we sometimes have to change where we're looking. Some charming people turn out to be genuinely great, but so often they don't. Keep your eyes open and look for people who have something deeper and more genuine to offer.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

CAN THE FAMILY COURT GET UP TO SPEED ON THE PAST FORTY YEARS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE RESEARCH?

Family courts across the continent are continuing to operate largely disconnected from the last four decades of research and clinical writing on incest perpetration, including the stories of survivors. The unfortunate result in many cases that I have researched is that court and court-appointed personnel are basing their decisions on myths and misconceptions that went out long ago, sometimes leading to disastrous results for children and their non-offending parents. Here are some of the key points that family courts are often missing (I use "he" for the suspected perpetrator and "she" for the alleged victim, since this is statistically the most common scenario):

* A child's relationship with a parent that is sexually abusing her will often have some positive (or at least positive appearing) aspects.

Courts in some cases stop looking carefully at evidence of sexual abuse by a father if they get reports that the child is sometimes happy to see him, is physically affectionate with him, or expresses interest in seeing him. The reality is that incest perpetrators typically develop a bond (though not a healthy one) with their victims through doing favors, giving positive attention, expressing love (and even describing the sexual abuse as proof of that love), and buying gifts. This is extremely confusing for the child and tends to leave her with powerful ambivalent feelings and adds to the difficulty she faces in making the hard decision of whether to disclose his behavior, and then whether to testify against him.

Furthermore, incest perpetrators do profound psychological damage to their victims without being horrible to them all the time. In fact, survivors say that the positive-appearing aspects of their relationships with their fathers made the emotional wounds in many ways deeper and harder to heal from.

I have been involved in a number of cases where court personnel acknowledged that the sexual abuse had occurred or had probably occurred, but then have gone on to state that the child's relationship with the father has some positive aspects, and therefore is very important to preserve in an extensive form. This conclusion does not follow from the research evidence regarding harm and is specifically contradicted by survivors' stories; contact between an incest perpetrator and a victim should occur only with highly-trained and vigilant supervision, and should stop any time the victim wishes it to or starts to show significant emotional deterioration following visits.

* It is common for a victim to recant disclosures of sexual abuse some time later, and even more so in cases where she has continued to have unsupervised contact with the suspected perpetrator.

Incest perpetrators are known to control and intimidate the victim in various ways following a disclosure; commonly reported tactics include threatening to harm the child or actually doing so, telling the child that he will go to jail if she doesn't recant, threatening to harm the mother, telling the child that she will never get to see him (the father) again if she doesn't recant, promising her purchases, vacations, or other rewards in return for recanting, and promising her that the abuse will stop in return for recanting. Obviously the more extensive access the suspected perpetrator has to the child through visitation, phone calls, texting, and email, or if the child is continuing to live with him, the greater the risk of a forced recantation.

* The suspected perpetrator will make angry, outraged, and hurt-sounding denials in close to 100% of cases. A correctly-accused perpetrator will be very difficult to distinguish by his public behavior, including his behavior at court, from one who is false accused. The perpetrator is often a respected and successful member of the community.

Courts have to rely on the evidence, not on how the suspect presents himself or what his public reputation is like.

* Incest perpetration is almost always surrounded by a other behaviors by the man that violate the child's boundaries in subtler, less overtly illegal, ways. These behaviors usually begin well before the outright sexual abuse begins, and then continue along side it.

Courts sometimes make the mistake of discounting evidence of boundary violations toward a child "because they don't rise to the level of sexual abuse." Such boundary violations need to be taken seriously always, but in a case where there are other indications of sexual abuse -- such as a child's disclosure, for example -- such lower level boundary violations should be treated as evidence pointing to the likelihood that the outright sexual abuse being disclosed did in fact take place.

* It is virtually unheard of for children younger than teenagers to make up reports of sexual abuse, and even in teenagers it is very rare.

Mistaken reports of sexual abuse do not come from children making them up. They come from one of the following sources: 1) A statement by the child that was misinterpreted by adults; 2) The child having been manipulated or intimidated into making the false allegation. Proper unbiased investigation makes it possible to find out if one of these two is functioning in a case.

* Most sexual abuse allegations that are brought to the attention of family courts are brought in good faith, not as a "tactic."

Every large-sample study that has been done has found that true reports of sexual abuse are substantially more common than mistaken ones even when they occur in the context of child custody litigation. Further, the research has found that even most mistaken allegations are brought in good faith, meaning that the parent heard a disclosure or witnessed behaviors that would have worried most responsible parents. And finally, the research shows that sexual abuse allegations that are deliberately false are made equally by fathers and mothers; there is no basis for the belief that women are especially likely to make a false sexual abuse report during litigation.

* Domestic violence perpetrators (specifically, men who batter women), have been found in study after study to commit a far higher rate of incest than non-battering men do.

You can read a review of many studies on the subject in Chapter 4 of my book The Batterer as Parent. When there is persuasive evidence of a history of domestic violence, courts should make sure to investigate sexual abuse disclosures, and reports of lower level (not illegal) boundary violations, by that father with even more care and diligence.

* When a child discloses sexual abuse to a parent (by anyone), the parent needs to believe the child and take every possible step to protect her.

It may seem odd that I have to say this, but it is regrettably common for mothers in family courts to be criticized for believing the child, particularly if other systems such as child protection or the family court have declared that they cannot find enough evidence to restrict the father's visitation. If a mother persists in believing her child, and tries to explain the different ways in which systems failed to make a properly thorough and unbiased investigation, she may have various negative labels attached to her by court personnel or may be threatened with having the child removed from her even if any other responsible parent in her position would also remain concerned, given the facts of the case.

Everything I wrote above remains true if the child making the disclosure is a boy, by the way.
It is my fervent hope that family courts across the continent will take rapid steps to get themselves in alignment with the research and with the published accounts of survivors. A tremendous number of lives are in the balance.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

WAITING FOR A RULING ON WENDI G.'S CASE

I know a lot of people are dying to hear what's going on with Wendi G. and her children. The answer is we don't know yet. She had a hearing on January 10th and 12th with a lot of important testimony. She expects a ruling from Judge Hulsing in about two weeks. I will let you know the minute there is more news.

Thank you for keeping her and the children in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A POWERFUL KEY TO HEALING FROM TRAUMA

We are designed, deep down in our genetic structure, to heal naturally from emotional injury, including trauma. Amidst all of the focus on modern invention and discovery, we are missing the oldest, and for most people the most powerful, route to emotional wellness: deep crying.

Crying is the most misunderstood aspect of human experience. If we could get this one right, we could get everything else right; our failure to grasp how crying works is in many ways the core of the difficulties faced by our species.

I read a book a few years ago about crying that went on for chapters and chapters about what a mystery there is about why people cry. But there is no mystery about tears; they exist to make us well. From the time we are born until we grow as old as the ancients, we cry to relieve our pain. There is no more effective pain-killer on the earth, and that’s what it’s there for.

But crying does much more than make us feel better; it literally heals grief, and does so more deeply and powerfully, and in a way that is much longer lasting, than any other emotional healing approach we know about. Tears literally wash our grief away.

So why are we putting so much energy into trying not to cry, and to trying to stop each other from crying? Here are a few of the reasons:

• We confuse the pain (the grief, for example) with the healing of the pain. We think that when someone is crying, that’s a sign of how much they are hurting. But it isn’t. It’s a sign that some of their hurt is getting out of them. We mistakenly believe that if we stop them from crying (by “cheering them up” for example, or by “getting their mind off of it”), that we have made them feel better. But we haven’t. We’ve stopped their healing process, and left them with all the same pain they started with, which will come up to hurt them another day soon… So remember, the sadness is the pain, and the crying is the healing of that pain.

• We’re afraid that people will feel sorry for us if we cry, and it doesn’t feel good to have people feeling sorry for us… So stop feeling sorry for people who are crying, and just love and support them, and hope that people will learn to do the same for you.

• We believe that crying makes people weak. But it doesn’t, it makes them strong, especially if they cry long and hard. (It’s true that hours and hours, or years and years for that matter, of shallow, hesitant, lonely, weepy crying can sap your power. But deep, gut-wrenching, cleansing crying will leave you with more strength than you started with.)

• We don't cry long enough and hard enough to discover its benefits. If you cry only a little bit, keeping it shallow and short, which is what most people do, you’ll come out thinking that crying doesn’t really do much. But watch how babies and young children cry; they cry with every fiber of their being, their heart just pours with grief as if the world were ending. And then – if no one makes fun of them for it or treats them unkindly – they keep it going for quite a while. And finally, they get the cleansing of their pain that they needed, and they are in high spirits and high energy for a long time afterward! Why are we denying children a healing process that obviously works so well? Just watch and see what happens when you love a child while he or she cries, and let them – in fact encourage them – to cry as long and hard as they need to. You will see what I’m describing.

• We’re afraid that we’ll get ridiculed for crying. And tragically, that is sometimes exactly what happens.

A study years back found that 80% of women and 70% of men said that they felt better after a “good” cry – meaning a deep and extended one. You will not find it easy to unearth any other healing approach that is successful with three-quarters of the population. Participants in that study also described numerous additional benefits, including that they found that they could think more clearly after crying, that they were capable of finding solutions to problems that previously had seemed impossible to overcome, and that they felt more loving and understanding towards other people.

And we are born to do it. No one has to teach us how to cry. It's in our biological programming.

Rather than being seen as a sidelight in the healing of trauma, we should come to recognize deep crying as the key.

This is the first round of a series of posts I am going to write about crying. In the weeks ahead, I will be answering questions such as: 1) How come some days I can cry my pain out and other days I can’t?, 2) But what if I’m one of those people who feel worse after crying, not better?, 3) How should I deal with my children’s crying?, 4) What should I say when a friend starts to cry?, 5) Does crying have to be a lonely activity?, and 6) How can I bring more crying -- and more deep emotional healing in general -- into my life?

In the mean time, I would love to have people write in with stories of transformative experiences you have had through crying.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A JUDGE PULLS CUSTODY STRINGS BEHIND THE SCENES

Several glaring pieces of evidence indicate that Judge Jon Van Allsburg in Ottawa County, Michigan, is working in violation of court standards to influence the outcome of a case on which he is not the judge. The case involves his sister, Ann M., and has been covered before on this blog (see "Judge Hulsing Jails Mother Because Her Kids Refuse to See Their Father," November 11, 2011).

A few weeks ago Judge Hulsing wrote the following letter to the attorneys on Ann M.'s case: "I write to inform you of a comment that was made in my presence by a judicial colleague regarding a disputed fact in this case. The comment was, 'the kids want to see him [their father].' This comment was not solicited by me, or in response to any inquiry made by myself - as I made no inquiry. That comment was not considered, nor will it be considered, by the court in this case." The letter is not dated.

We can't know with certainty who the "judicial colleague" is that Judge Hulsing is referring to, but it is only reasonable to assume that it is Judge Van Allsburg, who happens to be Ann M.'s brother and has become an active campaigner against Ann M., speaking in favor of her ex-husband despite the children's statements to various witnesses that they are afraid of him.

I have obtained copies of numerous emails demonstrating Judge Van Allsburg's efforts to intervene in the case. An email he wrote to a relative on August 25, 2011 offers a crucial example: "I'm not surprised the kids are angry about the court ruling requiring parenting time - I don't think Ann would accept any other response from them, and they know it; therefore they're angry... Ann's anger and retaliation are the major issues at this point in the case. Doug's emotional instability and domestic violence are considered older history at this point..." From there he went on to explain what "the court has concluded" at this stage in the case. And at another point he writes, "Court employees with knowledge of this case already think Judge Hulsing is some kind of saint for the patience he's extended in this case."

There are several aspects of this email worth noting. First, Judge Van Allsburg is admitting that he is discussing the case with court employees, which appears to be an unethical effort to affect the case's outcome and strengthens the suspicion that he is the "judicial colleague" who spoke to Judge Hulsing. Ann M. has been requesting to have her case moved to a new jurisdiction because of her brother's efforts to affect the outcome of her case. With the combination of Judge Hulsing's letter and these emails by Judge Van Allsburg, there is plenty of reason to believe that there is inappropriate interference happening in the case. It isn't realistic (nor is it good ethical practice) for Judge Hulsing to claim that he won't be influenced by his colleague; Ann M.'s request for a change of venue should be granted.

Second, Judge Van Allsburg is acknowledging two major points:

1) That the father of Ann M.'s children's is a perpetrator of domestic violence, and
2) that the children are expressing their anger at being required to see him.

A mountain of research evidence has accumulated over the past twenty years showing how disturbing and harmful it is to kids to be subjected to violence towards their mothers by fathers or step-fathers. Many of these studies have also looked at the question of whether men who batter are more likely than other men to harm children directly, and the conclusion has always been yes. So it is both illogical and unscientific to conclude that these children's reluctance to visit unsupervised with their father is a product of poisoning by their mother. (And by the way, the email correspondence I obtained shows that other relatives don't share Judge Van Allsburg's conclusions at all.)

It is also important to mention that according to Ann, Judge Van Allsburg has not had contact with her two minor children -- the kids who are the subject of the litigation -- for over four years, so she does not understand how he could know what the children want. The fact that Ann's brother is siding with the alleged abuser is not at all uncommon in my experience; in fact, I wrote in considerable detail in my book Why Does He Do That? about why so many abusers succeed in recruiting one or more of the woman's relatives as allies.

Finally, I want to draw your attention to Judge Van Allsburg's statement that the court now considers the father's battering of Ann M. to be "older history." Regrettably, he may well be correct about this. Family courts commonly labor under the misconception that domestic violence perpetration has to be very recent to be relevant, despite all the research and clinical experience demonstrating that abusers do not change except through a long period of hard, serious work on themselves. The judiciary seems to be confusing domestic violence perpetration with a virus that will just go away over time. Note that in this case "the court" means Judge Hulsing, whose case this is currently; once again, Judge Van Allsburg is giving indications that he is in dialogue with Judge Hulsing about the case, since he is claiming to be reporting on Judge Hulsing's thinking.

Ann M.'s children are still refusing to see their father. She is therefore waiting in suspense to see if she is going to be jailed again, as a result of their entirely natural reactions to the serious and repeated violence that they say they have witnessed in the past.