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?

Monday, December 18, 2017

How the Church can Show Love and Support to Non-Custodial Protectetive Mothers

Author and former non-custodial mom, Waneta Dawn, wrote the comment below on one of my blog posts. Any Christian who is interested in responding to domestic abuse or domestic /violence compassionately and biblically, needs a basic understanding of the family issues that could be involved. Below, is a slightly edited version of Waneta's story. to read her entire comment, go to the "GOOD MOTHERS DON'T LOSE CUSTODY," post on the Dorcas Network blog:

Thank-you for this opportunity to share some of the support needs a non-custodial parent has. In my case, the judge awarded my daughter to her dad--the man who abused me, and only allowed me every other week-end, 2 weeks in the summer, and approximately 1/3 of holidays, although it was called 1/2. They didn't count minor holidays, and the court document frequently allowed me to have her 4 days during the Christmas holidays, while giving my ex the remaining 10 days. I was allowed one day every other year at Thanksgiving, while my ex got the other day one year and both days the next year. I was allowed no visitation on no-school days that were not connected to a holiday. I was not allowed any mid-week visitation, unless my ex chose to allow it. Far too often he would tell us we could have a particular mid-week evening together, and then when I went to pick her up, would deny us that time. We never knew if we would actually get to have time together.

I share these details so that you will understand how this impacts a child of divorced parents going to sleep-overs, birthday parties, church functions--especially all night ones.

If the event occurred on my weekend, I often did not allow her to go, and people did not support me in that, and pressured me to let her go to their events. They did not seem to understand the yearning, the longing in my heart to be with my daughter and to parent her (her dad chose a "sugar-daddy combined with neglect" style of parenting, and I had a huge responsibility to try to compensate so that my daughter could succeed in school and in life. She needed MORE than those four days a month with me, not less.

A night of fun with friends cannot possibly make up for a lack of quality parenting. May I comment here that I'm not sure why people seem inclined to offer what appears to be genuine caring at special events, but the rest of the time behave as if we are too undesirable to socialize with. The double message is very confusing, and I'm more inclined to believe the week-to-week message than the special occasion one.

Even if her dad had been the perfect father, I still would have wanted those 4 days a month with my child. (that's 26 fewer days than other parents have with their children!)

I understand most parents see their children every day, and may welcome an evening of freedom from that responsibility. In my case, my daughter desperately NEEDED me and I desperately needed and wanted time with her. To deny her yet another day would have been neglectful and would have suggested to her that I really didn't want her--a message her dad was already telling her. To deal with this issue, I often asked to be allowed to be present and/or to help out at birthday parties. If they were all-night ones we often chose not to stay the night. In addition, if my daughter went to a sleep over (even if I was present at the sleep over) the next day she would spend a large portion of the time sleeping. That meant I would essentially lose BOTH days of my weekend, and I may not be allowed to see her or speak to her again for 12 long days. Her dad often refused to allow telephone or any other contact between us, too. This was so painful, for awhile I visited her at school when my work permitted.

I so appreciated the comment one woman made to me. I don't recall the exact words, but I do recall the feeling of being 100% understood and supported. She said she tried to imagine what it would be like to not be allowed to be with her children, to be a part of their lives and parent them every day, and that the thought was so horrid to her, she felt sure she would be devastated and barely able to handle it if her children were kept from her. It was very difficult to even think about--the thought was so painful.

Another place support is needed is when the single mom needs people to be open with, people who will listen to her pain and grief and genuinely CARE. I admit I'm a talker. I lived alone, I worked alone. I had no human being to talk to most of the time. It was painful at church when people wanted to limit our conversations to the 30 second variety of "hi, great weather, bye." And then they went home to their husbands and children, and I went home alone--again.

Suggestions that I go to a counselor felt like a slap in the face. It felt like they were saying I was unimportant, unwanted, that I needed to PAY someone to take the time to listen to me, to share my pain. I did try the counselor route, and it did not help. It only made the pain of my loneliness and my longing for my daughter all the more raw. It highlighted the lack of genuine caring of those around me.

Another source of pain was that they never called me to ask how I was, how my week was going. I had to call them. They usually talked to me, but also excused themselves if their children came home from school, if their husband was home from work, whatever. I finally understood that they really did not want to talk to me, and I tried very hard to stop calling, in spite of my huge need for emotional support. (When I didn't get support for a week or so, I tended to get very stressed, which resulted panic attacks.) No one called or made an effort to keep up the relationship. I guess I was seen as too needy, perhaps as someone who "sucked the life out of them."

I started keeping my mouth shut. With God's help I carried the burden alone, deciding it must be too much for people to handle. I thought perhaps they wanted me to help them carry their burdens, even though I was dealing with a super-full load of major trauma myself. But keeping mum about my situation. Asking them about theirs didn't result in close or long-term friendships, either.

Even if I was successful at laying aside my own grief and pain, I still had no trust-worthy spouse to consult about parenting, about my daughter's needs. Although some women did listen to me, I often got the sense from their suggestions that they didn't understand.

In addition, my daughter needed one or two men to step forward and model for her what a respectful, loving dad was like, but men (and their wives) shied away from that, too. I didn't want to leave her alone with a man, I just thought if perhaps a family would include the two of us in their family time at least once a month, and allow my daughter to be their daughter, too, that could meet her need to see real manhood in action. But that didn't happen, either. It took a school teacher, secular and bordering on atheist, to show her what a father-figure is like.

I lived like that for 8 years, trying different churches, looking for a place to fit in, especially for the support my daughter needed.

When she was nearly 15, my daughter came to live with me, but then went to see her dad every other weekend. For a long time the pain of being allowed to see her so seldom and never knowing if I could see her even on court-mandated times, made me unwilling to part with her for sleep overs, etc. Indeed, I had to parent very carefully, making sure I did not demand too much, because that could send her back to living with her dad. So my daughter has not been raised like your children have.

For 8 years she lived with a man who did not teach her discipline, yet expected her to be able to handle adult skills. When she came to live with me when she was in 9th grade, the focus for the first 4 years was to help her develop the discipline, study and communication skills, to succeed in school.

Now that she's in college, that is still the focus. I can't expect her to help around the house much, since school is hard for her--frequently from her poor choices in time management--which is a throwback to her days with her sugar-daddy. What I'm trying to say is that the traits you don't like in children who are from single-parent homes, may not be from the mother's inadequate parenting, or just because they are from a "broken home." It may be because of the threats, nastiness, and traumas the abuser in their lives continues to use to maintain power over his ex-wife.

Asking a non-custodial mom what you can do to help is key. Be willing to discuss and help Mom figure out what she needs. Please, don't appear to listen, but be mentally elsewhere. It is very frustrating to have to repeat what you've said, yet to be blamed for your much speaking.

If the Mother lost primary physical care and only sees her child(ren) a limited number of days, don't pressure Mom to allow you to act as "big brother" or "big sister" by taking the child to a movie or other fun stuff so Mom has more time away from her child(ren). Neither Mom nor children need more time away from one another. They have plenty of apart-time as it is. Whatever you offer for the child(ren) offer to include Mom, too.

Closing comment from Jocelyn:

I have spoken with Waneta Dawn, and found she is delightful to visit with. On the other hand, I have spoken with non-custodial moms who were so traumatized by what was happening in their lives that we were hard-pressed to carry on a coherent conversation. The first time that happened, I just wanted to get off the phone and away from the distraught woman on the other end of the line. I thought she was an absolute nut case and in need of serious psychiatric help--which by that time, she may have been. But it was in the midst of that first chaotic conversation with a non-custodial parent, that the Holy Spirit quietly spoke to my heart and said, "Listen."

So, rather than finding a convenient excuse to hang up the phone--which was exactly what I wanted to do--I listened. And in spite of the chaotic words spilling from the non-custodial mother's mouth, I began to hear her heart. And the heart I heard was full of pain and unspeakable anguish.

Church, we gotta step up to the plate. The Bible says we rejoice with those who rejoice and we weep with those who weep. Sometimes all we can do is weep with a brother or sister who has lost children to an unjust legal system. Let's don't shy away from that privilege, but let's realize, that sometimes we can do more.

Thank you Waneta for being so transparent in telling your story, for giving us a peek into a life most of us have no comprehension of, and most of all, for suggesting ways we can get involved and truly help.

Waneta Dawn is author of the novel, Behind The Hedge, 

Friday, December 08, 2017

She Says Abuse is Going on? Give Her the Benefit of the Doubt

   One protective battered mother wrote that she wanted the court to order a mental health assessment for her abusive ex-husband. She believed this would show that he needed help, and that he would be court-ordered to get the help he needed. She naively believed the Judge would see that he was not safe for their children to be alone with until he received help for his abusiveness. 
   But the court refused her request.  
   Unless things have changed, this was probably just as well, as it is a sad fact that many batterers score within normal ranges on mental health assessments, and judges know this. 
   This is but one of the symptoms of patriarchal influence that has governed the laws and psychological "norms" of our culture. 
   Pray that this will change.
  Unless another, more easily diagnosable problem exists, wife-beaters  /abusive husbands almost always present normally, not only on psychological assessments, but also to friends and co-workers. Knowing someone for years, does not mean we really know them, and spouse abusers are very good at hiding their abuse, isolating their victims, and even influencing friends and acquaintances to suspect their wives may be liars or mentally unstable.
   Abusers are master manipulators of their self images. 
  Among other things (fear, economic and child custody concerns), often because of loyalty, hope for things to get better, and also to avoid social censure, abused Christian wives almost always collude with their abusers [at least for a while--sometimes for years] to hide what is going on. 
      Only about 25% percent of abuse claims prove to be false, and this usually happens in child custody disputes with the lying parent going to the court with the fabrication--not to their pastor or friends. Statistics show that fathers suing for custody are just as likely to make false claims as mothers, so discounting the story of a woman who finally becomes desperate enough to escape her violent or abusive situation is not an option when dealing compassionately and biblically with the sin of domestic violence
   When she approaches her pastor, friend, or family member, seeking help, give her the benefit of the doubt--even if you know her husband, and the story seems unbelievable. 
   Her life, safety, and the safety of her children could depend on it.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Domestic Violence: Jocelyn Andersen Talks about her Experience and Insights

Added this interview to Hungry Hearts Radio to play once every day. I don't know of another  Christian Radio station that streams as many resources to help those trapped in abusive relationships or for those they are most likely to turn to for help (Heads-up, there is a glitch in the audio a few minutes into it, but hang on for a few moments. It corrects itself and comes back loud and clear for the rest of the interview [also, my apologies for the Geico ad--couldn't remove it).

Click HERE to Listen

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mommy Fight for Us! Children of Abusers

 Proverbs 24:10-12 kjv says, If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. If you neglect to deliver them that are drawn to their deaths, and those that are ready to be slain; If you say, Behold, we knew it not; does not he that knows the heart consider it? And he that holds your soul in his power, does not he know it? And shall he not hold you accountable?

   Women die from domestic violence. Children handed over to abusers in the name of "justice" are killed—and not just a few. Those who do not die or suffer permanent physical injuries, carry internal scars that affect them for the rest of their lives. 
   As humans and as Christians, this is our business! 
   He who searches the hearts tells us clearly that it is our business. It is also part of the way that we, as Christians, respond compassionately, effectively, and biblically to the sin and crime of domestic violence. It is part of the way we obey the command of Christ to bear one another's burdens, and be light and salt in our world.
   The Battered Mother's Custody Conference addresses what this writer calls a Family Court Holocaust. This issue has become an international crisis of battered women, abused children, and child custody litigation abuse. It is a secular conference with many suffering Christians in attendance. Our churches are full of protective mothers as well.
   If pastors and leaders cannot or will not attend this annual conference, which provides an education [on this issue] that is available nowhere else, then finance the trip for financially overburdened protective parents, who would otherwise be unable to attend a conference that puts practical tools in their hands for going through the very expensive, completely exhausting, legal nightmare of trying to protect their children.

   You’ll pray for them? That’s a good thing, a wonderful thing, now take the next step and put hands, feet, and wings to your prayers, add physical time, effort, and money to them. Hear the cry of one 2010 conference attendee’s daughters, who pleaded, “Mommy, fight for us. Do something every day to try to get us back, and don’t ever stop.”
   The Battered Mothers Custody Conference is held every January, in Albany, New York. Plan on attending next year’s conference and, if you can, help send a protective parent as well.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Personalized Domestic Violence Safety Plan

If you are in danger, please use a safe computer, or call 911, your local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

If you do not have a working phone but have an old cell phone with no service plan, do not discard it, It may still be used to call 911. Keep the battery charged and keep it in a quickly accessible location. "Any old, decommissioned cell phone can be used to make 911 calls, as long as the battery is good. The Federal Communications Commission requires all cell phone service providers, like Sprint, AT&T, etc., to accept 911 calls from any wireless phone"  ( ).

Your safety is the most important thing. Listed below are tips to help keep you safe. Call 1-800-799-7233 to get help with your safety plan, if you need to.

If you are in an abusive relationship, think about...

  1. Having important phone numbers nearby for you and your children. Numbers to have are  police, hotlines, friends, and local shelters.
  2. Friends or neighbors you could tell about the abuse. Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises. If you have children, teach them how to dial 911. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.
  3. How to get out of your home safely. Practice ways to get out.
  4. Safer places in your home where there are exits and no weapons. If you feel abuse is going to happen try to get your abuser to one of these safer places.
  5. Any weapons in the house? Think about ways that you could get them out of the house.
  6. Even if you do not plan to leave, think of where you could go. Think of how you might leave. Try doing things that get you out of the house - taking out the trash, walking the pet or going to the store. Put together a bag of things you use everyday (see the checklist below). Hide it where it is easy for you to get.
  7. Go over your safety plan often.

If you consider leaving your abuser, think about...

  1. Four places you could go if you leave your home.
  2. People who might help you if you left. Think about people who will keep a bag for you. Think about people who might lend you money. Make plans for your pets.
  3. Getting a cell phone.
  4. Opening a bank account or getting a credit card in your name.
  5. How you might leave. Start doing things that get you out of the house (taking out the trash, walking the family pet, or going to the store). Practice how you would leave.
  6. How you could take your children with you safely. There are times when taking your children with you may put all of your lives in danger. You need to protect yourself to be able to protect your children.
  7. Putting together a bag of things you use everyday. Hide it where it is easy for you to get, or leave it with a friend.


 Children (if it is safe)
 Keys to car, house, work
 Extra clothes
 Important papers for you and your children
 Birth certificates
 Social security cards
 School and medical records
 Bankbooks, credit cards
 Driver's license
 Car registration
 Public Assistance identification
 Passports, green cards, work permits
 Lease/rental agreement
 Mortgage payment book, unpaid bills
 Insurance papers
 Protective Orders, divorce papers, custody orders
 Address book
 Pictures, jewelry, things that mean a lot to you
 Items for your children (toys, blankets, etc.)
     8. Think about reviewing your safety plan often.

 If you have left your abuser, think about...

  1. Your safety - you still need to.
  2. Getting a cell phone. At the very least, keep one that is programmed to only call 911. These phones are for when you need to call the police and cannot get to any other phone.
  3. Getting a Protective Order from the court. Keep a copy with you all the time. Make copies and give a copy to the police, people who take care of your children, their schools and your boss.
  4. Changing the locks. Consider putting in stronger doors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a security system and outside lights.
  5. Telling friends and neighbors that your abuser no longer lives with you. Ask them to call the police if they see your abuser near your home or children.
  6. Telling people who take care of your children the names of people who are allowed to pick them up. If you have a Protective Order protecting your children, give their teachers and babysitters a copy of it.
  7. Telling someone at work about what has happened. Ask that person to screen your calls. If you have a Protective Order that includes where you work, consider giving your boss a copy of it and a picture of the abuser. Think about and practice a safety plan for your workplace. This should include going to and from work.
  8. Not using the same stores or businesses that you did when you were with your abuser.
  9. Someone that you can call if you feel down. Call that person if you are thinking about going to a support group or workshop.
  10. Safe way to speak with your abuser if you must.
  11. Going over your safety plan often.
WARNING: Abusers try to control their victim's lives. When abusers feel a loss of control - like when victims try to leave them - the abuse often gets worse. Take special care when you leave. Keep being careful even after you have left.
This personalized safety planning is adapted from the Metro Nashville Police Department's personalized safety plan.