My mother is a formerly battered woman who is the first American to receive asylum in Europe. My brother and I were abused children who were failed by the American Justice System, but fortunately we received asylum in the Netherlands.
We are from Minneapolis Minnesota. In 1992 custody of my brother (9) and I (7) was reversed to my abusive father because my mother denied visitation. In 1994 she ‘kidnapped’ us back and went underground. We fled the United States and were apprehended in The Netherlands for having inadequate traveling documentation. After living in refugee camps for 3 years, we were finally granted asylum in 1997. We have been living (in secrecy) in Europe for 13 years. In May 2007 we were discovered by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. We are trying to get the charges dismissed so we can return home safely to the United States of America.
Our mother lived a horrible life as a victim of terrible violence: from severe beatings as a child, sexual abuse as a teenage girl and the systematic physical and emotional abuse of being a young, battered wife. After two decades of being beaten, raped, tortured, demoralized, criticized and even blamed for accepting the violence, she finally got up the courage to leave her abusive life when my father fractured my brother's skull. (He was only 4 years old!) Child Protection threatened my mother that we would be removed from her care and she could face charges of “failure to protect” if she didn’t leave my father. Yet once she left, the case was remanded to the Family Court and our young mother (22) was thrown into an outrageous legal battle of ’he said / she said.’
The family court case dragged on for years and during this time, my father continued to beat my mother (in front of us) when he picked us up for court ordered visitation. During the visitation… he beat, punched, kicked, tortured and tormented me (7) and my brother (9.) We would cry and beg our mother not to send us. My father would call the police to enforce visitation and we would be physically dragged out from underneath our beds and given to this man who was hurting us. Rather than accept that our mother was advocating on behalf of her abused children, she was accused of “Parental Alienation” and interfering with our father’s "Rights of Access.”
There was an abundance of evidence regarding the abuse: visible injuries, medical records, psychological evaluations, police reports, child abuse investigations, witness statements, etc… My father testified on several occasions that he hurt my mother (admittedly in the presence of us children) which required emergency medical care, but that every single incident and injury was an “accident.” The judge even found that domestic violence occurred, but personally decided that our mother was too traumatized from the abuse to care for her own children. On the record the judge admitted that he personally couldn’t understand my mother’s fear of my father: “I’ve seen them and I’ve seen her in Court. I thought they had just separated and that he had just beat her with a belt and put her in the hospital because she was shaking like a little bird, and then I find out that they had been separated for a number of years, and it wasn’t the behavior of a person that had been separated from a man for a number of years.” He concluded that she must be suffering from a mental illness, although he wasn’t sure what ‘psychiatric affliction’ she had. Every single medical and psychological professional involved in our case denied this! The judge decided that it was easier to monitor my father’s physical abuse than the potential physiological harm from having a “broken” mother and he awarded the known abuser custody of two young children!
The court officers literally ripped me out of my mother’s arms as I was kicking and screaming “MOMMY HELP ME! HE HURTS ME AND HE HURTS MY BROTHER! MOMMY…. I WANT MY MOMMY!” The memories of that dreadful day still bring tears to my eyes. I will be haunted by that moment for the rest of my life!
My mother kept fighting for our return and stressed that children should
have rights too! The right to be safe! However the judge tried to silence her and a “Gag Order” was issued. My mother was warned that she would not be allowed to see her children as long as she continued to speak out against the court. A family court worker told us kids that we would not be able to see our mom until we stopped saying that our father was still beating us (which he was.) When we were finally allowed to have (supervised) visitation with our mother, I showed the visitation supervisors the bruises on my back and bottom. I told them “He’s still hurting us!” The county supervisor scolded me saying: “You know you are not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore!” I was told to cover up immediately or we would be taken out of the room and we would not be allowed to see our mom anymore. The judge issued a subpoena for our pediatrician to be held in contempt until he apologized to the court for accusing the judge of not protecting us. Even though the Judge claimed that my mother was a ‘danger’ to my big brother and me, he awarded sole custody of our baby brother, Christopher, to my mother in 1994! It is all too strange for words!
After trying every legal possibility to secure our safety, on June 30th 1994 this brave woman “kidnapped” us children right out from underneath her abuser. Please note that we voluntarily went with our mother! It was one of the happiest days of our lives! We went “underground” and eventually fled the United States in 1994. (Apparently the Judge reversed custody of Christopher as well, after we left.) After spending 3 years in various refugee camps our shy, petite, young mom won her case under the High Commission for Refugees and was the first American Citizen granted Asylum in the European Union! (My brothers and I also received our own asylum.)
Although we were always afraid of being caught, we finally found sanctuary and slowly but surely began to heal from the abuse. Now my brother and I are in University and thriving! Christopher is in High school and doing very well. After 13 years of living in secrecy, we were found in the Netherlands by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation in May 2007. While the U.S. has agreed to drop all federal charges against us, the Hennepin County Attorney is determined to prosecute my mother! My mother was told that she needed to turn herself in and accept her punishment! My mother is a sweet, soft woman. She is terrified of getting ‘in trouble’ and going to jail. She has been mistreated her whole life. It is time for her to have peace!
My brother is 24 and I am 22. We are the “victims!” We want to be heard! We don’t think that our mother should be punished nor silenced any longer. We want to expose the injustice, help rectify the inadequacies of family court and find a way to insure the protection of bruised and beaten and children. First we need to help our own mother who faces criminal charges for protecting us. Surely it is an affirmative defense that she reasonably believed that she was protecting us, when the judge even found in a court order that my father was abusive!
It is quite remarkable that this shy, insecure, defeated, battered, young woman was the first American to receive asylum in Europe! It is embarrassing that our country fails to protect the most vulnerable citizens! Things need to change! We need to make a difference! We would appreciate any help you can give.