Despite the many changes ushered in, and promised, from the top of the family justice system, the reality for most on the ground is that little has changed. The lack of legal aid hasn’t helped, reducing the odds of vulnerable families getting the right support from good lawyers. The system too, still has a lot to learn about domestic violence perpetrators and how they function, and in a Court which relies heavily on character analysis, having to as it does because evidence of abuse or wrongdoing is often too expensive to procure or hidden from plain sight, the lack of knowledge and understanding nationally about these issues is still unacceptable.
And so we still have parents, like this mother, losing their children to a violent partner given the responsibility of caring for them, in spite of their pleas to be returned to their mother. The voice of the child, too, is still too often ignored, the consequences too dire to mention.
Maypole Women, a widely respected domestic violence charity, features a mother’s thoughts on how the family justice system has failed her and her children in their newsletter this month. It will be a familiar narrative to those of us who assist families when things go horribly wrong, but it doesn’t make it any easier to read, because as you will discover, this mother and her children’s lives, are still in danger. And the Family Courts have facilitated that risk of harm.
This is the mother’s letter to the family justice system:
To the Family Court
‘I am mute from the pain and fear and the enforced silence. My mind is no longer mine, it takes over and blocks the agony, helping me live and breath. I exist, I do not live.
He said he would hunt me down and kill me. He has succeeded. I am as dead, but worse, I am still living with unbearable pain, the pain returns throughout the day, always as intense. At night, I am tormented, sleeping little, afraid to sleep, haunted.
My children stolen and given to the man I have tried to protect them from, the courts help him continue his abuse…the silencing, the denigration, bullying, twisting words and actions, gas lighting, telling me I’m mad or lying , not believing my crying children begging to come home to me, abusing them and cutting down my maternal instincts to protect and love my children.
What type of people are you who cannot see you are puppets in the hands of an abuser or at very least colluding with him in abuse of the vulnerable … mothers who ran from the terrible abuse of a man and tried to protect her children, struggling alone.
And we will be left changed, damaged, some may not survive, children will live with this inner pain for the rest of their lives, mothers living in darkness, crying, howling in despair, their children torn from their hearts, part of them missing, worrying, worrying about what their child is going through.
Shocked that this country allows this, why, why. How did it happen? We have been labelled, thrown into a strange alternate universe where we are judged, told we are someone we are not, abusers of our own children, made up stories.
We cannot believe the madness of your beliefs, the excuses you will make to tear children from their mother..why are you like this, what do you gain? A wage at the end of the month? Power, twisted vengence … did you have an abusive childhood, are you sick yourself?
You are killing women and children, emotionally, mentally, physically…we will not live as long as we were meant to and our lives will not be the best they could have been because you have burdened our souls with excruciating, deep, and terrible pain.
My children were sweet, gentle and harmless. They have changed, they are troubled…. but no-one notices because they have learned to be silent, to hide their feelings and get on with life as best they can. They think I abandoned them.
You are responsible for this, inflicting pain, neglect, utter lack of compassion or understanding, made up models and tactics, used to trap mothers and children into silence. Nothing changed, men and powerful women rule, mothers and children considered the lowest and weakest, there to be bullied and squashed.
Society does not want to help women who are trapped in abuse, they don’t understand why, how it happens, the clever baiting and trapping, the threats, the pummelling of all self-worth, the fear, confusion, mind and spirit barely existing.
And now, instead of support, you act as fellow abusers, you fail to protect children and you break mothers, barristers relishing the win with no thought, or even perception of the suffering they cause.
You believe you can get away with this horrific abuse of some of the most vulnerable in society.
You are right, you can.’