Friday, July 05, 2019

The Dorcas Network Scholarship for the Battered Mothers Custody Conference

The picture above features Yours Truly with a group of AWESOME Advocates and Protective Mother's at the the 2008 Battered Mother's Custody Conference in Albany New York (I also attended in 2010 and plan to send another advocate or protective mother with in 2020!). 

No one knew that I attended one of the above-listed conferences without a penny to my name beyond flight money, conference registration and hotel room. 

 I was flat broke. 

From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, I had zero dollars for food or drink.  

Thankfully, the conference organizers are well aware that protective mothers desperately need the resources presented at this conference but are usually financially devastated from legal fees forced on them by their abusers, so I was thankful indeed for the continental breakfast the hotel served and for the conference-provided late morning coffee and finger food along with the afternoon snack on Saturday. 

With no money for dinner, I was sustained largely by English muffins and peanut butter [carried back to my hotel room from the continental breakfast] .

I share this story for a couple of reasons. First, I was there as an advocate who almost could not attend because I was strapped for cash. I Thank God I was able to go. The knowledge and insights I received have proved invaluable to my understanding and ability to function as a good advocate (and this was after I went through abuse myself and published my book!). 

At the conference I met protective parents from all walks of life (protective fathers as well as protective mothers--but mostly mothers, hundreds of them), I met other advocates, listened to the presenters, met judges, lawyers, social service professionals, and business professionals from outside of the expected legal and social service fields protective parents might need. 

The protective parents I met at that conference desperately needed informed advocates! And trust me, Google cannot come close to achieving what just one of those conferences achieved in opening my eyes and equipping me as an advocate. 

Prior to attending my first Battered Mothers Custody Conference, I began an outreach to the Christian Community that I called The Dorcas Network. My hope was, that every church would have a "Go To" person in their congregation should a battered/abused wife or protective mother approach them for help. The Dorcas Network focus was on Christian response to domestic violence (which includes child custody issues) education and empowerment. To my delight, I received an enthusiastic response from women across the country. To my disappointment, I never heard from any pastor or church leader, and the idea never made it past a single pastor's desk when approached by their church members.

The other reason I share this behind-the-scenes story about my hungry conference experience (Oh my, how the savory aroma's coming from the hotel restaurant and other attendee's take-out made my mouth water!), is that I have a great hope that churches and ministries would see fit to sponsor someone from within their congregations (whether victim or advocate) to attend annually

What a difference something like that would make in so many lives (remember, battered mothers have children)!

Money is often the only hindrance to someone being empowered by the information and resources that abound at this conference. 

The Battered Mothers Custody Conference (*BMCC) is an annual weekend event dedicated to educating professionals and the general public about the serious legal and psychological challenges faced by battered women who seek protection for themselves and their children from the family/divorce court system. These (primarily) survivors of domestic violence often encounter disbelief of their allegations of intimate partner and/or child abuse by the legal agents involved in their child custody cases. 

*BMCC is a secular event that lots of Christians attend (and lots more need to), but do not expect a Christian environment--sometimes far from it. Do expect an abundance of practical, useful, and empowering information in navigating the difficult and sometimes deadly landscape of marital violence and abuse. 

Despite the disheartening experience of The Dorcas Network so many years ago, I am doing it again! I am putting my money where my mouth is and starting a scholarship fund to send advocates and protective parents to the conference each year beginning with the 2020 conference.  It is my hope that every church, pastor, and Christian leader will do the same. Start your own scholarship fund. If not, join the Network and help me get this thing off the ground .

My lunch-less/supper-less conference was worth it. 

But why should any advocate or victim have to attend a conference hungry?  Contact me through the form in the sidebar of this blog or leave your comment below and share with others what you or your church or organization is doing. Many hands make light work.  Join the Network!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Has your Church helped a protective parent pay for legal services?

Today is an anniversary of note: Despite opposition against including parents in custody disputes under a law mandating mental health evaluations--even for those who have never exhibited mental health problems-- HB 439 Mental Health Services in the Criminal Justice System passed into Florida law on 3/25/2016 (open link and read lines 115-229).  

I post this today--two years later--because it still adversely effects children and protective mothers who attend and support our churches.  

Our family courts are horrors when one of the parents contesting custody is an abuser. And statistics show that abusive fathers are more likely to sue for custody than loving, mentally healthy, fathers. Statistics also show that when an abusive father sues for custody, he stands an 80% chance of a Family Court ruling in his favor. 

It is the belief of many, that abusive parents are the ones who primarily benefit from custody related mental health provisions included in this law. 

I am disappointed that pleas to stop HB 439 [in 2016] fell on deaf ears. That means it is more important than ever for churches to reach out in support of members who are protective parents battling a broken family court system (the vast majority of these are single mothers). Children are the main victims in this travesty. They often suffer unspeakably.

Do what you can to help these families. And be aware that it might take more than just prayer. It may require action. Put your money where your mouth is. I know of some churches that assist protective mothers with attorney's fees...Now, that's love.

My 2016 letter to Governor (emailed to him as soon as I learned of this on March 15, 2016)

Dear Governor Scott,

I am all for getting mental health services to those who need them rather than overburdening the criminal justice system, but for heaven's sake why has the issue of child custody between two parents who are not criminals been sandwiched into  House Bill 439 (Senate Bill 604), Mental Health Services in the Criminal Justice System? It does not belong there! This bill will force people who have never committed a crime nor given any indication of having mental health problems into the mental health system. It will force them into "certain mental health programs" just because they are involved in a child custody dispute! That is so unfair to families. Governor Scott, please do not sign this Bill into law until the part about parents and custody disputes is removed.

Thank you
Jocelyn Andersen

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What is Domestic Abuse?

   Marital abuse and domestic violence is nothing less that war waged in the battlefield of what should be a sanctuary and haven to everyone--the home. 

Moreover, it is a shameful, sometimes fatal, and secret war. 

What Angelina Grimke wrote of slavery in the 19th Century, applies just as much to domestic abuse in the 21st.

“TELL IT NOT in Gath publish it NOT in the streets of Askelon….” They never suspected that many of the gentlemen and ladies who came from the South to spend the summer months in traveling among them were petty tyrants at home.
Angelina Emily Grimke, An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, 1838

What is domestic abuse? Domestic abuse is WAR (both psychological and physical warfare) waged in the home, usually in secret, against members of one’s immediate family, most especially against wives and daughters.

Does domestic abuse and violence really take place within professing Christian families? Google currently lists over 400,000 entries for the search term “Christian Domestic Violence Seminars.” Does that answer the question?

Enough domestic abuse takes place within professing Christian homes that addressing the issue has become a popular cause within the Christian community. But all the seminars in the world will not change a thing in regards to domestic abuse and domestic violence until the doctrine of female submission to male leadership is dealt with,a that is what lies at the very heart of the issue and is what perpetuates it

It is a doctrine of systematic, institutionalized, discrimination that not only perpetuates abuse but also prevents Christians from responding compassionately, biblically, and effectively to victims of abuse.

Jesus said, "You shall know them by their fruits." What is the fruit of traditional-role-religion and complementarianism? Without qualification, the answer to that question is many abused and battered women—dead women—lot's of them, centuries of them. The adverse influence of such dogma on the world views, psyches and everyday lives of Christian women, children, and men is pronounced.
...  ...This article is an excerpt from the book, Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery, & the Evangelical Caste System, by Jocelyn Andersen.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Should Abused Wives get Divorced?

The second question I received during my interview on the IMPACT RADIO USA "Family Talk" podcast [about Christian response to domestic violence] had to do with divorce and did I recommend it?

A few of the questions I was asked:
  • God hates divorce. How do you advise women [in abusive marriages] concerning divorce?
  • What kinds of adverse effect do boys experience who grow up watching fathers abusing their mothers? 
  • How do you break the pattern of abuse?
Listen to my answers HERE

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

What if an abuser is not physically abusive? Should a wife Leave him then?

In 2003, when I experienced the horrific assault described in the first chapter of, Woman Submit!, the Holy Spirit had been dealing with me for some weeks prior, about how very much God hates it when his children are mistreated. And no one disagreed that I needed to leave that violent man. In fact, It was my Pastor who encouraged me to divorce him. And it was my Pastor's wife who assisted me in completing and filing my petition for divorce.

God not only hates it when his daughters are abused, He also hates it, when spiritual leaders and trusted advisors refuse to do everything in their power to get a woman to safety, because, in their theological opinion, it may compromise wifely submission and respect towards an abusive husband.

It is never wrong to ask, "are you safe?" It is never wrong to advise a woman to leave a dangerous spouse. But is it wrong to advise her to leave an abusive husband who is not physically violent?

This brings us to the question, about whether a non-violent husband can be considered a physical threat  to his wife. And if advising a woman to leave a non-violent abuser is the appropriate Christian response to her unhappy situation. What if her husband is verbally and emotionally abusive but does not batter her? Can he be considered a danger, then? Many would say, No. But I disagree. I say, all abusive husbands are--or are potentially--physical threats to their wives.

What about the wife who is advised to stay, pray, and submit, and is ultimately driven to suicide by such callous advice and by her husband's verbal and emotional cruelties? That husband was a not only a physical danger to his wife but ultimately her murderer. Those who guilted her through religious terrorism also become her murders. Her blood is on many hands.

What about the wife who's health is neglected because her non-violent abuser controls the finances and uses economic abuse to manipulate her options? He successfully prevents her from getting the health and dental care she may [desperately] need. Her health deteriorates. She lives a substandard life, perhaps becomes disabled, a terminal disease is allowed to run its course, and she ultimately dies because of the abuse. Who can say that "non-violent" abuser was not physical threat to his wife?

A husband need not batter a wife to place her life and health at risk. The question, "Are you safe," entails much more than the obvious, "Does he hit you?"

Neglect caused by economic, verbal and emotional abuse [and manipulation] is physically dangerous. And God hates it when his children are subjected to this kind of treatment. He really hates when people who profess to know Him, advise His daughters who are in such circumstances, to stay, pray, and imperil their lives for the sake of religion.

Monday, June 25, 2018

75% higher chance of dying when you try to leave: The CHARLENE HUMMERT Tragedy

Remember the TV series, Forensic files? I was a watching a rerun  and it turned out the woman's killer was her husband of twenty years. 
   Charlene Hummert was a Christian woman, beloved by many, who had been married for twenty years and never reported a single instance of domestic violence or abuse.
   But the abuse was happening.
   There was one incident of child abuse that she reported against her husband. Charlene was not about to allow her children to be abused. But she never uttered a word about the abuse she was experiencing against herself--not to her Pastor, not to anyone.
   Finally, after 20 years of marriage, Hummert  had, had enough. And said so.
   He killed her as she was leaving. 
   One of THE most dangerous times for a woman experiencing domestic violence or abuse, is when she is leaving. Even, as in Charlene Hummert's case, when there had been no previous physical abuse. Any kind of abuse can turn physical if the abuser becomes desperate enough. And the most desperate moment for any abuser, is when their victim is walking out the door. 

Advice for women experiencing violence or abuse:
   It is important to have a plan for safely exiting the home that includes letting the abuser know you are leaving, only after you have left and are in a safe place. Charlene Hummert's story is a tragic example of what can happen if the abuse is kept secret and a safe exit plan is not followed.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Good Mothers Do not Lose Custody of Their Children

   Old ideas about divorce and child custody shattered when I attended the annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference, where I spent a weekend with over 200 non-Custodial Protective Parents (mostly mothers) and Custodial Protective parents (again, mostly mothers) who through their efforts to protect their children, either lost custody of their children or live under the constant threat of losing custody of them to the abuser. 
   Many of the protective mothers I met are members of churches across the nation. I met non-custodial protective mothers who told me they how they long to fit in and just be a normal mom like the other mom's at church, but in addition to the horrific details of their lives, feel they cannot even attend their fellowship's MOPS group for mom's because of the stigma and shame attached to being a mother who lost custody of her children.
   The old stereotype persists
that good mothers do not lose custody of their children.
   But this is simply not true. And it is past time for Christians to educate themselves as to what is happening within the United States family court systems.
   As we strive to be light and salt to those within our spheres of influence, as we strive to be obedient to the command to "Bear one another's burdens" let's be aware of the protective mothers in our midst, who may or may not (as yet) have lost custody of their children. And let us begin to lovingly support these parents as they struggle with a horrendous reality that is incomprehensible to most of us. Sometimes that can be costly in terms of emotional investment, time, and even money. To their credit, one church in Central Florida, went so far as to pay the legal fees for one battered mother to regain custody of her children from their abusive father. 
   This church was not complementarian, so had no issues with supporting a mother wife who refused to be "submissive" and divorced an abusive husband. Refusal of male-headship churches to respond when possible victims of domestic abuse are identified is both a contributing and exacerbating factor in abuse and subsequent child custody issues  among church members.
   In cases of divorce, most loving fathers agree that children (especially babies and small children) need their mothers. A child's first primary relationship is usually with its mother. Although a protective parent can be either a mother or a father, it is usually the mother. If a mother is abusive, this writer agrees that a loving father should be granted custody, but the sad fact is, that many (probably the majority) of the fathers who sue for custody, are abusers of both their wives and children. In attempting to protect their child[ren] from abuse or sexual molestation, protective mothers risk being called liars and experiencing retaliation [or the threat of retaliation] by the family court system, in being accused of parental alienation (PAS) and of having their child/children ripped from them [often despite overwhelming evidence substantiating the abuse] and placed in the home of the abuser. 
   Family courts operate outside the criminal justice system. The two systems operate under completely different and unequal standards of investigating reports of abuse. This often results in evidence of criminal acts not ever being report to or being investigated by the police (only investigated by "case-workers" and "guardian ad litem's"). It is common, the family court system, for criminal acts never being brought to prosecution. 
   Additionally, protective mothers who report crimes against their children [by the abusive parent] often find they are ones penalized by having to endure the additional heartache and stigma of being granted only supervised visits with their children, in some cases not even being allowed to touch them during the visits.
   Can you imagine, no hugs allowed
   Some mothers lose relationships with their children altogether because of unjust custody rulings and the stiff protocol that comes with many supervised visit rulings. Children are robbed of close loving relationship with a loving parent--often their only loving parent. This is beyond crime. It is pure evil.
   And this is happening
   Good mothers do lose custody of their children. And they attend our churches. Visit the links in this post for more information about the family court holocaust that has been devastating American families for decades.

Protective mothers who read this, we ask that you comment to this post with suggestions as to how we can give you the support you need. What is it that you need most from your friends and family in Christ?