One of the most mind bending decisions for a family lawyer is how to advise a mother whose child has suffered child abuse by a father or partner. Any mother making such a discovery is immediately put into a quandary. Where should I go? Who should I talk to? How do I protect my child?
There are many ways that the perpetrator can abuse children. Some of them are not detectable by investigation in the early days of abuse. The grooming period starts as young as 2 years old. The child who loves his father will follow any direction that that the father suggests. The paedophile father will tell his child that he loves her dearly and what he teaches her is "a secret between her/him and daddy" and "do not tell mummy" sometimes the child is rewarded. As time goes by the conduct of the father and his child goes beyond the 'touching' and into digital abuse and later penile abuse. Later in life the child is told by the father "do not tell mummy what we do or you will lose your father and mummy will go to Jail" In fear of losing both mummy and daddy the secret is kept until the physical pain can no longer be tolerated.
From my experience with mothers, there are the early warning signs which alert them as to "something is wrong". The child starts to act out some of the behaviour taught by the perpetrator not only on the mother, but friends and even strangers. One mother went to a coffee shop with friends where her young child started to touch the man on his scrotum under the table. On other occasions the child attempts to hump the mother and touch her body all over. Unfortunately, this behaviour will not be visually seen by anyone investigating the alleged abuse. However, the seeds have been sown. The child does not know that this behaviour is wrong.
As to digital and penile abuse, there are tell-tale signs, of bleeding or redness around the child's anus or vagina. Many years ago, I was told by a father, who informed me he was given a lecture at a father’s group about how to answer questions in court when allegations of sexual abuse have been raised. When asked "How do you explain that the child was bleeding from the anus?" he said that he was informed to say "The child was constipated". As to reddening around the anus or vagina - "The child had nappy rash or rubbing too hard with toilet paper". It would appear that it was of concern to the fathers that they did not know how to answer these allegations. This was after the child spent time with the father during shared parenting, and a mother in her affidavit would include that the child was returned in such condition.
The problem emerges when the mother or friends are told by the child that "Daddy hurts me". I have seen a video of a children taken after the abuse, where the child is writhing in agony. This video together with other has been shown to politicians seeking their assistance. At least two of them could not see them right through, they found it too distressing. As can be expected nothing has been done. The Family Court may not allow them into evidence. Again the mother is seen to be a liar.
When the mother reports the abuse it is usually some time after the event that she finds out and very little or no tell-tale signs are visible. Which gives rise to the charge that the mother is lying. Sometime a Mother of the child's friend informs the mother. Unfortunately the informant is in a dilemma because she may know both parents and is in a quandary what to do. When the friends mother decides to tell her, It could be sometime later. The mother may report it to the police or JIRT, or see a solicitor to make an application to the Family Court to seek orders for the protection of the child. It is when the mother visits a solicitor to assist her to protect her child that she first is informed of the reality of reporting sexual assault in the Family Court. Most experienced Family Lawyers will advise their client NOT to report sexual assault in their application. Nearly all the mothers I have met were so warned, but went ahead anyway. They would tell me that "when the court hears my case they will believe me".
The Solicitor in some cases would refuse to take on the case because he knows in advance the outcome and doesn't want the stress of fighting a losing battle. Or, losing a case that would damage his reputation. Because of equal parenting laws and attitude of judges towards equal parenting it is a task that few solicitors would wish to challenge.
Often mothers would tell me that her solicitor/barrister and the solicitor/barrister for the father would get into a huddle and discuss a deal to end the case as soon as possible. The advice usually given after the conference is "allow 50-50% shared parenting or the father will go for full custody". I have been told that in some cases that her solicitor will advise the mother "agree now before he changes his mind'.
The mother is caught between 'the devil and the deep blue sea'. Knowing if the father obtains equal parenting or similar orders, the child will still be abused, and not realising by fighting the agreed parenting order she may lose her child completely until he/she is 18 years old. Many mother do not wish to be party to such a proposal and stand their ground and wish to fight on. It is from this time onwards the mother and her child's fate has been set in concrete.
Now begins a four act stage play which is repetitiously performed by the Court. The mother's complaint on a form 4 together with a supporting affidavit is filed, and a copy of which is served on the father.
The father goes to a family law solicitor who advises the father to say that the mother is 'delusional' and has been for a long time suffering from mental illness, including in one case of post-natal depression, even though the child was 4 years old. The father's affidavit reports that the mother's behaviour has affected her reasoning and she is delusional.
The judge orders legal aid to provide an Independent Childs lawyer (ICL) who is far from being independent, and the ask ICL to obtain a psychological/family report from one of the approved psychologists/psychiatrists. There are only a hand full, and independent psychologist's reports are not accepted by the court
The report is completed at exorbitant costs and is reported in a manner which supports the father's contention that the mother is "delusional' suffering from "borderline personality disorder", "enmeshment", "over protective", "over anxious", "post-natal depression" "bi-polar disorder" to name a few. The report is so predictable that it reminds me of the final scenes in the film "Casablanca" Where the police officer stated "round up the usual suspects."
One cannot help wondering if these psychologists have a template that they can fill in the names of their next victim. Dr Rikard-Bell claims he has done 2000 of these reports in 25 years in which he claims 90% of the mothers are liars. Simple mathematics tells us that 1,800 mothers that he has reported on have lost their child/children until they are 18 years old or consent to shared parenting. Yet, neither the Judge nor the psychologists have the power to investigate any criminal activity. The only way of making such an outlandish claim is by making a report that the mother is mentally ill, and agreeing with his own false report and without any evidence to support it. No interviews are recorded so a false report can be made with impunity.
In some cases, mothers are forced to admit they were delusional if they wish to see their children again. This admission will automatically create 'Orders' that will prevent the mother from reporting any future offence or, take them to a hospital or doctor or psychological help for the child without the father's permission. You require the abuser's permission to report his conduct. These inhuman order are sometimes made even when there is no admission as to being delusional.
What if a well advised mother tries to find a sympathetic policeman to investigate what the abuser has done. Assume the police officer or JIRT team decide the child is at risk and seek a DVO for the protection of the child. The race begins to the Family Court. The father makes application for parenting orders in the Court. The Family Court will override the DVO leaving the child unprotected until such times as the Family Court has undertaken their investigation and deliberation. These cases can take many years and interim orders for contact will usually provide an abundance of time with the father. The JIRT or police report supporting the child are dismissed out of hand.
A family lawyer who knows from experience the dilemma the mother must face once she commences proceedings to protect her child and his own dilemma on what to advise her, knows that the father with a grin on his face can say "Heads I win - tails you lose!"
Thousands women this week marched through the streets of Poland in protest of their government initiating a law that makes abortion illegal. How many mothers here would march through the streets of our capital cities in protest of the inhuman conduct of the Family Court in failing to protect children and allowing their sexual and physical abuse?
Until a sufficient number of the 12,000,000 women in Australia are prepared to come together with one voice, nothing will change. Join the National Child Protection Alliance and let's fight.
Maurice Kriss ASM
(hon)President of the NCPA
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