Rhode Island taxpayers have contributed an enormous sum to wage a war that most of us know nothing about. The systems our state established to protect children have instead subjected many to danger and trauma that will profoundly shape the rest of their lives. Who will help to build public awareness and political consensus to protect children from those who prey on them or who profit from their abuse? How should government respond in ways that are transparent and accountable?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I believe you, "Molly" and "Sara".

Not a day passes that I do not think of "Molly" and "Sara" and their Mami and the horrifying ways that Rhode Island Family Court tortured them after Molly described sexual abuse by their father when she was three. I look at their photographs and wonder how and where they are now that Sara has turned 18 and Molly is still in her father's custody. 

I have copies of the graphic drawing Molly made a decade ago to show her father's behavior -- so painful and inexplicable for a child -- to the court's inept psychologist. Her sister drew an enormous red erect penis and got down on the car floor in terror outside the psychologist's office.  A cabal of women lawyers and clinicians accused their mother of coaching the girls to lie, but the cabal's reports reveal their own complicity in a culture of deceit. 
When I read Pamela Jacobs' story, I wanted to tell Molly and Sara once again: I, like many others, believe you. We condemn the clinicians and court officers who robbed your childhood of its loving foundation. We hope you will find the kindness and healing that will finally release you from this Court's legacy of trauma. 

Pamela Jacob's story from the Huffington Post: 
My grandmother had her back turned, her voice was cold. I was 15 years old and had just tried to end my life. After my attempt was interrupted by a phone call from a friend (or divine intervention), I put away the pills and walked into the kitchen, sobbing and shaking. I told my grandmother I needed to tell her something. But, I didn't have to say it, because she already knew.

"Let me guess, he molested you."
He was my step-grandfather. And he had been sexually abusing me since I was 5 years old. What I wanted more than anything was for my grandmother -- the woman who raised me -- to hold me and tell me how sorry she was. I wanted her to believe me. But, instead, she stood coldly, with her back turned, and snarled, "You're lying. I want you out of my house."
Lying. The word stung. It was my worst fear. It hung over me, ran through me, for many years. Of all the horrible words I heard throughout my childhood, that was the most difficult to forget.
My grandmother refusing to believe me was as painful as the abuse itself. It made the abuse my fault. It validated his threats that no one would believe me, that I didn't actually matter to anyone. And it made me feel worthless -- which is exactly what he wanted.
After years of working on my own healing, and working with thousands of sexual assault survivors, I have learned that what we often need, even more than justice, is simply to be believed. And the fact is, we have no reason not to believe survivors. Only about 2-8% of sexual assault reports are "false" -- and many believe the actual number is much lower. The myth that people frequently lie about rape is just that -- a myth. In fact, most sexual assaults are never reported at all, largely due to survivors' fear that they won't be believed.
Our society tells us not to believe survivors. It's easier to live in denial and pretend these horrific things don't really happen. We often don't believe survivors because it's too hard to accept that these otherwise "nice guys" are doing such awful things. (People thought my step-grandfather was a "nice guy" too). And it's even more difficult to accept that we could all be at risk.
But, we have to stop disregarding the truth simply because we don't want to hear it. The more we ignore the truth, and disregard survivors' experiences, the more this epidemic will grow. Every time we refuse to believe a survivor -- the rapist wins.
But with just three words -- I believe you -- we can instill hope and healing. We can change the conversation about sexual assault and encourage survivors to come forward. And we can take power away from rapists and give it back to those who deserve it -- those who have survived.
It has been more than 20 years since my grandmother refused to believe me. Yet still, every time some caring person who has heard me speak reaches out and says "I believe you," every time a friend or loved one tells me they believe me -- I am speechless. Every time I hear those words, I feel empowered, supported, and I heal a little bit more.
If you truly want to help survivors heal, if you truly want your loved ones to be safe, you have to start by believing. When someone courageously shares his or her story with you, say "I believe you" -- and mean it. It is the most powerful and meaningful gift you can give.
If anyone reading this has survived, and has never heard it, or needs to hear it again -- I believe you.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you are not alone. Advocates are available to talk with you 24 hours a day at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
[Pamela Jacobs is an attorney, advocate, and speaker dedicated to empowering women and ending sexual and domestic violence. Find her at http://pamelajacobs.com.] 



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About the Author & Purpose

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service provided since 1996 by Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. The coordinator, Anne Grant, is a retired United Methodist minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter and service agency for battered women and their children. We research and write about official actions that endanger children and the parents who are trying to protect them. Our goal is to reform this area of government and to establish an effective, transparent and accountable child protective system.

We first reported on this case at http://custodyscam.blogspot.com/

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Comments and corrections may be sent in an email with no attachments to parenting project @ verizon.net

About "Parental Alienation"

If you are not familiar with Richard Gardner's theory of "parental alienation" and how it is being used in custody courts, scroll down to the earliest posting, "Junk Science in Custody Courts." For more scholarly research, visit  http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/1.html

For more on the scandal in custody courts, see: