There are thousands of "protective mothers" unable to protect their children in Family Court. I am one. For ten years I battled unsuccessfully to protect my youngest son, Damon, from sexual abuse by his father. Three San Diego judges, along with their cadre of appointees, disregarded and covered up abundant evidence of abuse and ordered Damon to live with the man who had sexually assaulted him for many years. In the end, Damon had to protect himself. He ran away, lived in the underground for almost two years, and finally became emancipated at 16 by hiring a prostitute from a legal brothel in Nevada to marry him
Although Damon’s story sounds inconceivable to the average person, it is actually an epidemic that judges order children into the custody of their identified abuser or molester, usually by labeling the mother as a liar or "alienator", despite abundant evidence of abuse. The reason the general public does not know about this is because mainstream media has, for the most part, refused to cover it. Damon’s case was one of the few covered, and only because it was Damon himself speaking out rather than me.
Safe Kids International, an organization I started, is sponsoring an event on Facebook, where mothers are encouraged to post their stories on Daily Kos. Investigative journalist, M.C. Moewe, and I will be writing articles about this serious social problem, linking to these mothers’ stories. Please help us end this “court licensed abuse” by recommending and sharing our diaries. The tag “SafeKids” will be used so all stories and articles are easily accessible.
But first, Damon’s story.
My 9 year-old son was the one who had alerted me to the fact that “something weird” had happened to his brother on their weekend visit with their father back in 2003 in the suburbs of San Diego. 6 year-old Damon quickly chimed in, telling us what his father had done to him in his top bunk in the middle of the night. This disclosure, soon followed by many more, began a long and sordid trip in the underbelly of our so-called justice system, which I had thought was about facts, evidence, the law and, well, justice. Not so in Family Court, as it turned out.
Damon bravely told many professionals about years of sexual abuse by his father, but Judge Michael Smyth ignored them all and warned me that if I did not “act like the abuse did not happen” I would lose my children. After two years of trying to protect Damon, I gave up and my three sons and I made a harrowing escape into hiding, very nearly getting caught on the way out of California. With the FBI, U.S. Marshals and D.A. on our tail, we criss-crossed the country, moving every six months to avoid detection. A National Center for Missing and Exploited Children flyer with our pictures was actually delivered to one of the places we stayed!
Damon suffered flashbacks of the abuse for the first year we were in hiding. It was so painful to watch, I cannot imagine how painful it was for him to experience. He would lose touch with reality and climb under anything he could find to hide—tables, beds, couch cushions. He would think his father was coming after him and he would scream out "No, no, get away!" with his eyes showing tremendous fear. But his flashbacks and dissociative episodes gradually began to diminish and he began to heal. His brothers helped so much by giving him lots of attention and affection and playing imaginary games with him. By the time we returned, Damon was almost completely recovered.
After three years on the run, some prominent organizations, including the National Organization for Women and California Protective Parents Association, petitioned D.A. Bonnie Dumanis to drop the abduction charges against me and charge Damon’s father instead. Dumanis agreed to drop the abduction charges and, along with the new family court judge, said they would listen to Damon and protect him if we returned.
But their promises of safety were just lies to trick us into returning in order to silence us. After all, we were making a judge and other officials look bad for not having protected Damon. Judge Lorna Alksne-McKellar said on the record that it didn’t matter whether Damon had been abused, he still had to live with his father, and if I did not change my position, I could not see my boys anymore. She isolated them completely from me and from anyone who would support Damon’s truth and ordered them into “reunification” and “deprogramming” therapy. These are just deceptive terms used by judges to disguise the fact they are brainwashing the children, coercing them to “put the abuse in the past”, act like it didn’t happen and agree to live with their father.
The worst time of my life was when they took my three boys away from me. I missed and worried about them so much that I cried every night for a year. I was completely stunned that so many judges and other professionals would collude to cover up sexual abuse (this was pre-Sandusky). The coercive persuasion worked on my older boys, who I believe were also Stockholmed by being placed under the full control of an abuser, but it did not work on Damon, ironically, likely because he had learned to dissociate during his years of abuse.
After a couple years, Damon ran away from his father’s house and lived in the “underground” going from safe house to safe house. He was terrified because he knew if he were caught he would be sent to a camp. That is the last card in the judge's hand. They send teens who won’t comply to an out-of state camp where prisoner-of-war methods are used to break and silence them. Few teens ever escape these camps without serious mental damage. Alana was one teen who outsmarted her captors and, at twenty-six, she told Fox News that it was the hardest thing she had ever done.
While on the run, Damon, with the help of wonderful pro-bono attorneys Kim Robinson and Pat Barry, filed for a protective order from the D.A. in Monterey County where the abuse first occurred, filed a motion for a restraining order in Los Angeles, filed for emancipation, and became the first child to file his own custody motion under a new law. All were denied. Meanwhile Fox News L.A. had found out about Damon and ran a story on him. It became the first in a series called “Children Lost in the System”.
After almost two years on the run, we decided to try an innovative idea. Nevada is the only state where just one parent’s signature is needed for a 16 year-old to marry and the only state where prostitution is legal. By going to Nevada and hiring a prostitute to marry him, he became emancipated and was finally free of his father and the court.
Damon is now divorced and living happily with with me while completing high school. He is a straight A student and has acted in a leading role in a comedy at his school. But, more importantly for the movement, Damon continues speaking out to help end Court Licensed Abuse. He will be writing his story from his perspective for Daily Kos soon.
[Pictured: Cindy with Damon and his older brother while in hiding in Fort Collins, Colorado]