9/30/09

Don't believe he's molesting the children? What kind of custody did he ask for?

"In a study of more than 300 custody cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, 70% resulted in unsupervised visitation or shared custody with the alleged sexual abuser. In 20% of the cases the nonviolent parent lost custody completely." - The Journal of Child Sexual Abuse
"Violent and abusive fathers are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children as non-violent fathers." - Report from the American Physiological Associations Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family
"When fathers choose to fight for custody, they win in nearly 70% of contested custody cases." - National Center for Protective Parents
Sojourn frequently screens the video "Small Justice" in our Volunteer Trainings to unveil the atrocity of battered women losing custody of their children. The minute allegations are raised that the father is sexually abusing the children, the courts begin to punish the mother.
Small Justice, an award-winning, independent documentary, exposes a lurking national scandal. Contrary to everything you might think, everything that makes sense, men who beat their wives, sexually abuse their children, and then ask the court for custody, usually get it. It is so counterintuitive, most people simply do not believe it is possible for a judge to hand over custody of children to men who beat their wives and sexually abuse their children. But it is something that happens every day in America, in every state, because the system is broken.
www.smalljustice.com
Although the documentary itself was produced in 2001 the issue is as current as your last Facebook update.

Check out a clip from the video interview below or go to www.smalljustice.com to see the whole thing.

video

CJE Photo Exhibit
Family Court Crisis: Surviving A Broken System is a moving new photography exhibition from the Center for Judicial Excellence in Marin County, California.
This new video, which will also be shown at the 2009 Battered Mothers Custody Conference, was created to show that the problems exposed in the documentary Small Justice still exist.
www.smalljustice.com

It's Never Okay To Hit A Child - Period.

In the October 2009 issue of O Magazine we recently came across a disturbing response in the O Advice section titled, “Now What Do I Do?”

The question below regarding whether or not so spank a child was so badly handled by the magazine’s “experts,” we felt we absolutely had to respond.

Q: My 3-year-old son has acquired the habit of running away from me,
sometimes right into traffic. The other day, he did it, and I was so angry
and scared that I spanked him pretty hard. I got a lot of dirty looks, but
he hasn't done it since. Is spanking always a bad idea?

A#1 by Anita L. Allen, professor of law and philosophy, the University of Pennsylvania Law School:
Never hit a child in anger! Children can experience what you intend
to be "discipline" as violence. Parents who strike children in anger may
injure them or set a bad example. You say spanking works -- but research
does not back you up. I am categorically opposed to corporal punishment.

A#2 by Jack Marshall, president, ProEthics:
I agree: A spanking should never be motivated by anger. Administering a spanking out of emotion, rather than as a calculated effort to teach, is misguided parental conduct that can turn into a dangerous habit. But I don't believe spanking is inherently wrong, if it is controlled, explained, just, symbolic, and rare, rather than routine and excruciating. Spanking, if used, must be seen by the child as a reluctant act of a loving parent who has a clear message to convey -- not the impulsive act of a vengeful adult.


_________________________________________________________

SOJOURN’S RESPONSE
By Children’s Advocate, Roger Hyde

Violence is never a useful communication tool unless you wish to kill or disable. Every use of violence puts a whole list of distracting emotions and ideas ahead of the lesson desired. A child learns slowly and tends to be distracted and confused when Fear, Pain, Disillusionment with the good intentions of the parent, crying/snot/cringing and various reflexive urges to flee the danger are interposed in the learning process. Parent as enemy, terrorist, dictator creates a long hike back after each punishment if they hope to have fences mended and a happy tuck-in at bedtime.

The option is there--and universally used by Sojourn and other agencies-- never to be the users of revenge. When a child does something dangerous and irresponsible: be loud, dramatic, emphatic: "It's DANGEROUS! I'm Scared! Never, ever do that again! You could get hurt and have to go to the hospital!
Or you could die and we'd never play again!! All of your plans and dreams could stop. Please: never do that again!!!"

An adult with any communications skills equal to or better than the child's can devise a way to get the message across dramatically and make a BETTER, STRONGER impression--and a teaching one--that is NOT eclipsed by fear of the parent, pain, disillusionment with the parent, and the ultimate distraction of having a whole new crisis push the original issue off the screen.

The simple question is: does the adult want control or education? Even trying to have both is more trouble than it's worth--ever.
________________________________________________________

If you're still not convinced, check out this article, "Study Links Spanking to Aggression" by DAVID CRARY

©The Associated Press NEW YORK

Study Links Spanking to Aggression


After analyzing six decades of expert research on corporal punishment, a psychologist says parents who spank their children risk causing long-term harm that outweighs the short-term benefit of instant obedience. The psychologist, Elizabeth Gershoff, found links between spanking and 10 negative behaviors or experiences, including aggression, anti-social behavior and mental health problems. The one positive result of spanking that she identified was quick compliance with parental demands. ``Americans need to re-evaluate why we believe it is reasonable to hit young, vulnerable children, when it is against the law to hit other adults, prisoners, and even animals,'' Gershoff writes in the new edition of the American Psychological Association's bimonthly journal.

Her analysis, one of the most comprehensive ever on the topic of spanking in America, was accompanied in the Psychological Bulletin by a critique from three other psychologists. They defend mild to moderate spanking as a viable disciplinary option, especially for children 2 to 6, but advise parents with abusive tendencies to avoid spanking altogether.

Gershoff, a researcher at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, spent five years on her project, analyzing 88 studies of corporal punishment conducted since 1938. The studies tracked both the short- and long-term effects of spanking on children. Gershoff stopped short of endorsing a legal ban on parental corporal punishment, saying the United States was unlikely to emulate a group of European countries in taking that step. However, she urged parents who spank to reconsider their options.

``When they're in a situation where they're considering spanking, think of something else to do - leave the room, count to 10, and come back again,'' Gershoff said in an interview Tuesday. ``The risk is just too great.''

Several major national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have taken an official stand against corporal punishment by parents. The psychological association has not taken a stance, though it is on record opposing corporal punishment at schools and other institutions.

Robert Larzelere, a psychology professor at the Nebraska Medical Center, was one of the three experts critiquing Gershoff's findings. He noted that while she found links between spanking and negative behaviors, she did not assert categorically that spanking caused those behaviors. Larzelere, in an interview, said he remains convinced that mild, non-abusive spanking can be an effective reinforcement of nonphysical disciplinary methods, particularly in dealing with defiant 2- to 6-year-olds. He shared concerns about spanking that is too severe or too frequent.

Gershoff cautioned that her findings do not imply that all children who are spanked turn out to be aggressive or delinquent. But she contended that corporal punishment, on its own, does not teach children right from wrong and may not deter them from misbehaving when their parents are absent. ``Until researchers, clinicians, and parents can definitively demonstrate the presence of positive effects of corporal punishment, including effectiveness in halting future misbehavior, not just the absence of negative effects, we as psychologists can not responsibly recommend its use,'' Gershoff wrote.

9/22/09

"Dr. Phil" and the "Supernanny" Give Bad Parenting Advice

If you asked Sojourn how to break the cycle of violence that batterer's perpetrate we'd point you straight to parenting. The future of prevention hinges on raising children in a way that is empowering, not controlling. Unfortunately, most parenting advice that you see in pop culture teaches parents to use the same controlling behaviors that we see echoed in domestic violence. Check out this article from the New York Times that should make "Dr. Phil" and the "Supernanny" think twice.


When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’


By ALFIE KOHN
Published: September 14, 2009

More than 50 years ago, the psychologist Carl Rogers suggested that simply loving our children wasn’t enough. We have to love them unconditionally, he said — for who they are, not for what they do.

As a father, I know this is a tall order, but it becomes even more challenging now that so much of the advice we are given amounts to exactly the opposite. In effect, we’re given tips in conditional parenting, which comes in two flavors: turn up the affection when they’re good, withhold affection when they’re not.

Thus, the talk show host Phil McGraw tells us in his book “Family First” (Free Press, 2004) that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”

Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.

Conditional parenting isn’t limited to old-school authoritarians. Some people who wouldn’t dream of spanking choose instead to discipline their young children by forcibly isolating them, a tactic we prefer to call “time out.” Conversely, “positive reinforcement” teaches children that they are loved, and lovable, only when they do whatever we decide is a “good job.”

This raises the intriguing possibility that the problem with praise isn’t that it is done the wrong way — or handed out too easily, as social conservatives insist. Rather, it might be just another method of control, analogous to punishment. The primary message of all types of conditional parenting is that children must earn a parent’s love. A steady diet of that, Rogers warned, and children might eventually need a therapist to provide the unconditional acceptance they didn’t get when it counted.

But was Rogers right? Before we toss out mainstream discipline, it would be nice to have some evidence. And now we do.

In 2004, two Israeli researchers, Avi Assor and Guy Roth, joined Edward L. Deci, a leading American expert on the psychology of motivation, in asking more than 100 college students whether the love they had received from their parents had seemed to depend on whether they had succeeded in school, practiced hard for sports, been considerate toward others or suppressed emotions like anger and fear.

It turned out that children who received conditional approval were indeed somewhat more likely to act as the parent wanted. But compliance came at a steep price. First, these children tended to resent and dislike their parents. Second, they were apt to say that the way they acted was often due more to a “strong internal pressure” than to “a real sense of choice.” Moreover, their happiness after succeeding at something was usually short-lived, and they often felt guilty or ashamed.

In a companion study, Dr. Assor and his colleagues interviewed mothers of grown children. With this generation, too, conditional parenting proved damaging. Those mothers who, as children, sensed that they were loved only when they lived up to their parents’ expectations now felt less worthy as adults. Yet despite the negative effects, these mothers were more likely to use conditional affection with their own children.

This July, the same researchers, now joined by two of Dr. Deci’s colleagues at the University of Rochester, published two replications and extensions of the 2004 study. This time the subjects were ninth graders, and this time giving more approval when children did what parents wanted was carefully distinguished from giving less when they did not.

The studies found that both positive and negative conditional parenting were harmful, but in slightly different ways. The positive kind sometimes succeeded in getting children to work harder on academic tasks, but at the cost of unhealthy feelings of “internal compulsion.” Negative conditional parenting didn’t even work in the short run; it just increased the teenagers’ negative feelings about their parents.

What these and other studies tell us, if we’re able to hear the news, is that praising children for doing something right isn’t a meaningful alternative to pulling back or punishing when they do something wrong. Both are examples of conditional parenting, and both are counterproductive.

The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who readily acknowledged that the version of negative conditional parenting known as time-out can cause “deep feelings of anxiety,” nevertheless endorsed it for that very reason. “When our words are not enough,” he said, “the threat of the withdrawal of our love and affection is the only sound method to impress on him that he had better conform to our request.”

But the data suggest that love withdrawal isn’t particularly effective at getting compliance, much less at promoting moral development. Even if we did succeed in making children obey us, though — say, by using positive reinforcement — is obedience worth the possible long-term psychological harm? Should parental love be used as a tool for controlling children?

Deeper issues also underlie a different sort of criticism. Albert Bandura, the father of the branch of psychology known as social learning theory, declared that unconditional love “would make children directionless and quite unlovable” — an assertion entirely unsupported by empirical studies. The idea that children accepted for who they are would lack direction or appeal is most informative for what it tells us about the dark view of human nature held by those who issue such warnings.

In practice, according to an impressive collection of data by Dr. Deci and others, unconditional acceptance by parents as well as teachers should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraging without manipulating, and actively imagining how things look from the child’s point of view.

The last of these features is important with respect to unconditional parenting itself. Most of us would protest that of course we love our children without any strings attached. But what counts is how things look from the perspective of the children — whether they feel just as loved when they mess up or fall short.

Rogers didn’t say so, but I’ll bet he would have been glad to see less demand for skillful therapists if that meant more people were growing into adulthood having already felt unconditionally accepted.

Alfie Kohn is the author of 11 books about human behavior and education, including “Unconditional Parenting” and “Punished by Rewards.”

9/11/09

Mysterious Disappearance of Domestic Violence Victim

This article caught my attention because it describes a terrifying story about a victim of domestic violence and captures an all to common scenario: no hard proof left behind.

Although no forensic evidence has been found, a basic understanding of domestic violence points unwaveringly at the batterer as the culprit of this woman's disappearance (and likely her death). This article captures the dynamics that we know are typical of batterer's techniques to gain control of their victim including the "whirlwind romance", hasty marriage, isolation from family by moving to another state, and threats with weapons (not proven but something I strongly suspect). Another thing we know about batterers is that they do not take a liking to seeing their partner leave them. If the victim "packed up and left with another man" like the batterer said, I doubt he would've reacted so calmly. In fact, the most violent time for a victim is when she attempts to leave her batterer.

I sincerely hope that more evidence surfaces to bring justice to this case.

You can find the original article at CNN.com


Nurse vanished 10 days before domestic violence hearing
09/07/09 07:12 AM, EDT

By Rupa Mikkilineni
Nancy Grace Producer

(CNN) -- She was 24, a newlywed who moved to Orlando, Florida, with her husband just a few months before she vanished in May 1994. In the 15 years since, there have been no clues or signs of Melisa Brady Sloan, despite periodic searches.
Melisa Sloan has been missing since May 1, 1994. Police in Orlando, Florida, are seeking the public's help.

The native of Louisville, Kentucky, was close to her family and a devoted nurse working long hours at Orlando Regional Hospital. She disappeared just 10 days before she was due in court to testify against her husband in a domestic violence case.

"She loved him and wanted to work things out with him," says Melanie Brady Drury, Sloan's sister.

It was a whirlwind romance, Drury said. The two met in Louisville, where Melisa was a nurse and John Sloan was a night security guard at the same hospital. He said he had just been discharged from the Army Special Forces.

They dated only a few months before marrying quickly. Within weeks of the wedding, they moved to Orlando. Her family was concerned about the move because they barely knew this new man in Melisa's life.

"He was very controlling of her, and that's when the physical violence between them began," Drury said.

In early spring 1994, Melisa Sloan called police, saying her husband had beaten her up at their home. According to Drury, Melisa left him and went back to her family in Louisville, but returned a couple of weeks later hoping to work things out.

The first week of May, her mother tried calling Sloan but could not reach her for days. On May 7, she finally spoke with her daughter's husband, who said, "She'll call you when she's ready," Drury said. It was then that the family grew worried and reported Sloan missing to police.

According to police, Melisa Sloan was with a good friend when she was last seen by anyone other than her husband. She and the friend, a paramedic who worked at the hospital, left work together to go to a street fair, and Sloan did not return home until 2:30 a.m., police said.

The next afternoon, she was captured on a video surveillance camera withdrawing $20 from an ATM.

At the Sloans' apartment, police found none of Melisa's personal items, clothes or shoes. The apartment looked as if she had never lived there. All that was left was an old bathrobe, hung on the back of the bathroom door, and her beloved cat, police said.

"She would never leave that cat behind, that cat was like her baby," said her sister, Drury. As police searched the home, they found that one of the bedrooms was unfurnished, with only a rifle and knife propped against a wall, said Detective Andre Boren of the Orlando Police.

"We searched for days in the woods behind their apartment," Boren said. Three searches have been conducted over the years on the land behind the Sloans' home. The 1-square-mile parcel is federal property. Nearly 75 percent of the property has been searched, Boren said.

According to investigators, there was no activity on Melisa Sloan's credit cards, bank accounts, Social Security number or driver's license. Her car was left parked in front of their home.

Police quickly focused on John Sloan and named him a person of interest in his wife's disappearance.

The phone listed in Sloan's name has been disconnected. He did not respond to e-mails from CNN, or to messages sent through his father.

Police say John Sloan has not cooperated with them since the initial questioning. When police first came to the Sloan's home when she was reported missing by her family, he told police his wife had packed up and left with another man. Since then he has refused to speak with police.

Last year, homicide detectives attempted to question Sloan in Bellingham, Washington, a city near the Canadian border where he now resides with his new wife and family, but he walked away without answering questions from police.

Forensic tests on the Sloan home and Melisa Sloan's car were completed, but police found no evidence of foul play in the car. However, they did find small blood stains in the Sloan home. Investigators have requested DNA samples from Melisa Sloan's family.

"We are not resting until we solve this case, and I believe the key to this case is her husband," Boren said. "We've made contact with his current wife, who is now aware of the situation, and we hope she will shed some light for us."

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Melisa Brady Sloan is asked to call the Orlando Police Department at 321-235-5300.

Batterer kills 2-year old, wife, and son

This Louisiana murder-suicide is another instance of an all too common event.

We found this article at Yahoo! NEWS

2-year-old, 3 others dead in La. murder-suicide
AP

By DOUG SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer Doug Simpson, Associated Press Writer – Sun Sep 6, 7:12 pm ET


HOLDEN, La. – A man shot his estranged wife, son and 2-year-old grandson to death and seriously wounded his pregnant daughter-in-law at their rural Louisiana home, then killed himself as police tried to pull over his car 20 minutes later, authorities said.

The pregnant woman later gave birth, about three months early, her father said.

The shootings late Saturday appeared to stem from an ongoing dispute between 50-year-old Dennis Carter Sr. and his wife, Donna Carter, who had a restraining order against him, Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office Chief of Operations Perry Rushing said Sunday.

The father of the pregnant woman, Amber Carter, said the suspect had a history of abusing his estranged wife and recently tried to attack her with a machete.

"This had been going on for quite some time," Paul Williamson said. "It was one of those domestic violence things that just gets worse and worse."

Another 16-month-old boy was in the house during the shootings but was not hurt. The child was related to the Carters but Rushing was not sure how.

Authorities were called around 10:30 p.m. Saturday to the home in Holden, about 30 miles east of Baton Rouge. Donna Carter, 49, and Dennis Carter Jr., 26, were dead inside. Dennis Carter Jr.'s wife, Amber Carter, was badly hurt and their son, Masson Carter, 2, was found dead outside.

Williamson said Carter Jr. had previously fought with his father to protect his mother.

Rushing said it appeared Amber Carter, who was about six months pregnant, and Masson Carter managed to escape from a second-floor window but it was not clear if the gunman shot them inside or followed them outside and shot them there.

Rushing said deputies spotted Dennis Carter Sr. about 20 minutes after the shootings driving on a highway. When they tried to pull him over, he shot and killed himself.

"It's very unusual to have this many victims," Rushing said. "This is an anomaly by any stretch of the imagination."

All the Carters lived at the house in Holden except Dennis Carter Sr., who used to live there but had recently been residing in nearby Hammond. Williamson said Carter Jr. and wife Amber had been planning to move out of the house where the shootings occurred.

Williamson said the senior Carter was a semi-employed mechanic.

He said his pregnant daughter had bullet wounds to the kidney and liver and spinal damage caused by her leap from a second-story window.

After the shootings, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Aubrey, Williamson said. He said she was taken initially to a Baton Rouge hospital and later was transferred to a hospital in New Orleans.

Rushing said that state police ballistics experts were conducting tests on a gun found in the senior Carter's car.

Williamson said he didn't expect to ever learn fully how the killing spree transpired.

"We won't ever know what happened inside that house," he said.

9/10/09

LGBT Domestic Violence: A good example of good policing

Here's something you don't see everyday (or ever) in the US. When was the last time police publicly appealed to LGBT victims of domestic violence to report?

Check out this article "Metropolitan police urges gays to report domestic violence" that we found at Pinknews.co.uk


Exclusive: Metropolitan police urges gays to report domestic violence

By Jessica Geen • September 3, 2009 - 15:17

The Metropolitan Police Service is calling for more LGBT people to report domestic violence, saying that it is hugely underreported.

New figures show there were approximately 53,000 domestic violence crimes in the London boroughs covered by the Met last year. It is estimated that between six and nine per cent of the population are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, but as only 503 of those related to LGBT people, police believe those suffering abuse from partners are not coming forward.

There is little research on reporting rates, although a 2008 Stonewall survey of lesbian and bisexual women found that eight in ten who had experience domestic violence to the police, and only half of those were satisfied with how officers dealt with the situation.

A 2003 paper by research institute Sigma found that only 13 per cent of LGBT women and 18.8 per cent of LGBT men reported domestic violence to police.

PinkNews.co.uk spoke to Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell, of the Met's violent crimes division, about why LGBT people should come forward and what they can expect.

He said: "The first important thing we have to get across is that the Met is wholly committed to tackling violent crime, which includes domestic violence and hate crime. In a similar tone, we will and do work in participation with LGBT-focused groups to improve our service delivery.

"Domestic violence and other forms of hate crime are underreported, especially for LGBT people. If people in same-sex relationships are experiencing domestic violence, this means rape, harassment, violence, intimidation and damage to property.

"It's a cause for concern for us. If people are not reporting it, then they're not being supported. They're still open to risk and danger and will become repeat victims of these serious crimes, which impact on their health and their quality of life. If they're not reporting them, we don't know who some of these dangerous and violent suspects are."

DCI Campbell also set out what victims can expect when they report crimes and the different ways they can access help.

He said: "Victims will always lie at the centre of our decision-making. We will work with victims and a number of organisations to look after their safety.

"Let's be clear about this - it's about the power dynamic of the domestic violence setting, it's not their faults.We know it takes a lot of courage to come forward and tell us about these sensitive and personal matters. But they're also very serious and dangerous crimes. We want people to know they will be handled in a sensitive and compassionate manner.

"People can request to speak to LGBT liaison officers. There are about 215 dotted around the London boroughs covered by the Met and these officers will have a better understanding of being LGBT and same-sex domestic violence.

"It's about wrap-around support - actual and perceived safety. Then we look next at deciding what evidence to gather, gather evidence and decide whether the offender will be prosecuted."

For those who do not want to contact police, he stressed that other channels are available, citing Stonewall Housing, Broken Rainbow, the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Galop as the four main strategic groups the Met works with on LGBT domestic violence.

He added that LGBT liaison officers have profiles on Gaydar, which LGBT people can access for advice, although he added that these profiles are not checked every day.

"I don't want anyone reporting a crime through them, but they are there to offer advice, especially for people who aren't out or who have a heterosexual partner and don't want letters about it coming through the door."

According to the most recent Met statistics, there were 503 cases of LGBT domestic violence in the last year, compared with 415 the previous year. DCI Campbell believes this is due to increased rates of reporting. Of the figures for the latest year, 164 victims were female and 332 were male.

He said: "It's really important to get across to LGBT people, whether men or women, that domestic violence does exist in same-sex relationships. Some guys are embarrassed about coming forward, they think it can't be domestic violence if they're a guy and it's another man. But it is prevalent. If you get this level of criminality against you, it is a crime, it is likely to escalate."

He added that women in particular, whether heterosexual or LGBT, tend to underreport domestic violence, a statement borne out by recent Met research which suggested they are up to seven times less likely to report the issue compared to men.

DCI Campbell acknowledged that LGBT people have been traditionally reluctant to approach police, due to laws and discrimination in the past.

He said: "We understand there are legacy issues, with the previous relationship between the police and LGBT community. But we know more LGBT people are coming forward, not just with domestic violence and hate crimes, but also to report things like theft as mainstream service users.

"But we recognise that for older people there will be more worries as they remember how some things used to be. We want to give them the knowledge that we will deal with this is a sensitive, confidential way.

"They can speak to LGBT liaison officers, third party groups and report crimes through the website (www.met.police.uk). There are a number of different outlets for those who are openly LGBT, those who are out to some people or those who are not out. Our first priority is safety."