Thursday, July 18, 2013

Defending A Women's Rights Activist Who Is Under Attack

NOTE:  This post is about some of the internal dynamics of the national movement fighting for the custody rights of abused women (also referred to as "protective mothers," because they are in the position of needing to protect their children from the other parent, but family courts are not permitting them to do so). If this issue doesn't interest or affect you, or if you get triggered by news about infighting, I encourage you to skip this post. But for those of you who are involved in the custody issue, it's important to know about the attacks on activists that are happening.




For over a decade I have been one of the leaders in the international effort to secure full human rights for protective mothers and their children. There is no cause that remains as close to my heart day in and day out.
            I am writing in response to the ongoing controversy on the web regarding the Protective Mothers Alliance (PMA), a grassroots advocacy organization that I helped to co-found and that is directed by Janice Levinson. I have been following the claims that have been made about PMA and about Janice; specifically, I  have had the opportunity to review communications that have been shared between Janice and other individuals, and to see some of the extremely negative postings that have been made. In my opinion, the attacks that have been made on Janice and on PMA have to be called out for what they are: vicious, dishonest, threatening, and dehumanizing written assaults on a committed advocate and survivor, one who has worked tirelessly for the interests and rights of protective mothers and their children.
            There are a number of sources of these attacks, but they come overwhelmingly from Claudine Dombrowski and the American Mothers Political Party (AMPP). I am not relying on Janice's word in forming this conclusion; I have looked at many postings by Claudine and AMPP, and they are cruel, irresponsible, and outrageous. And they don't stop; in fact, they're getting worse over time.
            Moreover, Claudine and AMPP have begun to attack a significant number of other protective mothers and their allies as well, with similar viciousness. The predictable effect of the movement's reluctance to denounce this behavior is that it is growing and spreading.             
            To make sure that there is no doubt or confusion, I want to state that I give my wholehearted support to PMA and Janice Levinson. PMA has been an important and exciting development in the custody rights movement, and Janice Levinson's work in organizing protective mothers has been excellent. I have found her to be a person of the highest integrity and commitment, combined with a deep commitment to treating participants with fairness and respect. Although she has been accused of various things, I cannot find a shred of truth to any of these accusations, and none of the accusations come from any source that I find in any way credible.
            The accusations that have been made about PMA have been insulting and derisive in their tone, and have involved outright fabrications about the organization and how it works, and about Janice herself. There have also been accusations that Janice's work is not actually associated with me, which is as bizarre as the other attacks. The attackers have used gutter language, have put up photos of Janice, and have written what can only be interpreted as threats against her. These behaviors serve to further discredit those who are making claims about PMA. These behaviors appear to come from just two or three disgruntled individuals who were angry about the appropriate requirements that the PMA structure involves, and who chose to retaliate in harmful and divisive ways.

            Now for the most important part of this letter:
            Claudine Dombrowski and AMPP are doing severe damage to the custody rights movement. Whatever their intentions may be, the actual effects of their actions is only to strengthen the position of the abusers. I have known of a number of individuals who have dropped out of the movement and/or who have declared that they won't come to the BMCC anymore because they can't stand the infighting and accusations, which are almost all traceable to the same few sources. I therefore have decided today -- after viewing the latest round of unbelievable psychological assaults on Janice (see, for example, janicelevinson.blogspot.com, a blog that was created just to attack and humiliate Janice) --  that I am taking the following stands:
1)  I will not participate in any event or campaign that Claudine Dombrowski or AMPP are officially connected to.
2)  I will not attend any event where Claudine and AMPP are present unless the organizers of the event have done everything in their power to keep them from attending.
3)  I won't work on any projects or collaborate with anyone who has worked with Claudine or AMPP in the past unless they now publicly and visibly denounce her actions.
            I have waited some four years to take these steps, but now I regret that I waited so long. We cannot fight against the power and actions of abusers, and of the courts that enable them, while we remain silent and acquiescent in the face of severely abusive of treatment of our own allies.
            Whatever divisiveness may result from drawing a line that places Claudine Dombrowski and AMPP outside of the custody rights movements will be far less than the divisiveness and other damage that are resulting from our failure to draw that line. So the movement needs us to take this stand.
            But there is an even more important reason to take this stand, which is that it's the right thing to do.
            I ask that you not stand by quietly and allow Janice to be dragged through the mud. Please look at the attacks that have been made on her (and at the lack of any similar behavior coming from her). And then please inform everyone in your networks that you are denouncing the behavior of Claudine and the AMPP and that you do not intend to have them be part of the custody rights / protective mothers movement.
           You can also help by complaining to Google about the hate-oriented website created against Janice, by going to:
     and where you are asked for the URL of the site, type in "JaniceLevinson.blogspot.com"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"HOW MUCH SHOULD I STAND UP TO HIM?"



One of the common contradictions that women hear goes like this:
“Well, it’s your own fault because you let him get away with treating you like that. You have to stand up to him.”
    while other people say
“If you’re going to get right up in his face and push his buttons like that, what do you expect? You already knew how he’d react if you said that to him, because of what has happened before, but you said it anyhow.”

            So what’s the correct way to handle him? Should you stand up to him or shouldn’t you?

            The answer is that no one has any business telling you what to do, because there are so many factors involved in the decision in each specific situation. You are the expert on your partner. You know which issues you can (usually) get away with challenging him about. And you know that there are others where he will punish you if you stand up to him. Some days you will choose to hold your ground despite the pain his retaliation will cost you; you’ll do that because the issue that you’re arguing about means that much to you, or because you can’t take being bullied anymore, or because your soul and dignity need to see you resist his dictates from time to time.
            Most people don’t understand how payback-oriented controlling and abusive men are. They don’t understand what a high price you may pay for calling him on how wrong his statements and actions are. How can someone else know when it’s worth it to you and when it isn’t?
            And as for people who are telling you not to challenge him, they too have no idea what they are talking about. While it’s true that confronting him can cost you a lot, failing to fight back eats away at your soul over time. These people are saying, in effect, that you should consent to be oppressed because it will make life look a little more peaceful, a little less overtly injurious, a little less scary. It’s the same thing as saying to someone, “You should let the invaders take your children one at a time, because otherwise they might take them all at once.”
            There are no simple solutions in dealing with a partner who bullies you, and you deserve respect and understanding about that fact from the people in your life.

Friday, January 4, 2013

WHEN YOU KNOW YOU NEED A GOOD CRY



                I wrote a previous post about the powerful healing role that crying can play, especially if you can train yourself to cry hard and long. Many women who have heard me speak about this subject have said to me, “There are times when I can tell that I need to cry, because I've built up so much pent-up emotions, but I can’t do it. How do I get that cry to come out of me when it’s stuck?”

                There are several techniques to use to get that dam to break:

  •  Make a crying date with yourself, where you actually set aside time and find a way to be alone. Tears are much more likely to come when you know you won’t have to choke them right back off again.
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  • Collect some of the music that has brought you to tears before. Listening to your favorite sad or touching song can be a great way to get your crying started; and once the ice breaks, you’ll move on soon to crying about issues that have been weighing on you.
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  • Spend some time thinking about memories from long ago. It’s usually easier to start crying about sadnesses from far in the past. 
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  • Let your crying take you where it wants to go. Sometimes you will be sad about an old loss, and suddenly you’ll find that instead you’re crying about an event from yesterday. The opposite will happen also, where tears about a recent emotional wound carry you into deep sobbing about a much earlier period in your life. Don’t fight this process; your soul knows exactly which piece it needs to grieve today. 
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  • Photographs can be powerful for evoking emotion. So can certain passages from books, pieces of poetry, or scenes from movies. Draw on whatever gets you going.
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  • If you have a trusted friend, see if she would sit with your or hold you while you cry. Similarly, you can imagine your best friend or closest relative sitting with you even if you are actually crying by yourself, and that image can help the tears flow.
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  • Anger can help to unlock crying. Yell into a pillow or pound on couch cushions, and keep at it for a long time, ten or fifteen minutes or more. Try to make yourself feel powerful; the more your rage comes from a place of power, the more likely it is to unleash your tears.
                Almost anyone can cry (especially among women), but not many people can cry deeply and at length except by training themselves to do so. In other words, learning to cry is a skill, like studying an instrument or developing your athletic abilities. The more effort you put in the deeper the rewards.