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| Chapter 11 Violent Women |
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Combat amongst adults pales to insignificance when compared to violence against children by adults, particularly where the adults are the child's parents. By this I do not mean to criticize the normal discipline, including controlled, limited spankings, or other physical discipline and restraints that a parent must impose on their children as part of their upbringing.
Time and time again tales of men being arrested for domestic violence against women come to my attention where the biological father was attempting to protect his children from abuse by their mother. Though data are sparse, it seems apparent that women who abuse their partners are also very likely to abuse their children as well or, as in two cases below, the woman begins with child abuse and then becomes violent towards her partner.
Anyone still inclined to blame family violence on the patriarchy and male aggression should look at the statistics on violence against children. A 1998 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, Child Maltreatment in the United States, finds that women aged twenty to forty-nine are almost twice as likely as males to be “...perpetrators of child maltreatment” or about two-thirds were female. For cases of neglect and medical neglect, the estimate is that three-quarters of the perpetrators are female.
We know that child abuse takes place overwhelmingly in the homes of single parents, who are almost exclusively mothers. A British study found children in single-parent homes up to 33 times more likely to be abused when a live-in boyfriend or stepfather is present.
Neonatacide, or the murder of children aged one year or less is almost exclusively a female crime. No reliable statistics exist but estimates range up to 5,000 infants a year killed in the United States.
Get a copy of Patricia Pearson's book When She Was Bad, How and Why Women Get Away With Murder. Or read the stories below. Or take Fred Reed's outlook on child abuse as the cops see it from the streets.
Another chilling view of child abuse is given in Margaret Talbot's Femme Fatales where British researchers videotaped women (and a few men) smothering, poisoning, and, in one case, deliberately breaking the arm of their children.
Recognizing that it is virtually impossible to distinguish at autopsy between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and accidental or deliberate asphyxiation with a soft object such as a pillow, the American Academy of Pediatrics now calls for an investigation by a child abuse expert in all such deaths. The updated guidelines were published in the February, 2001, issue of the journal Pediatrics. These guidelines are based in part on the work of the British researchers referenced above, as well as The Death of Innocents about a New York woman who killed five children of hers claiming SIDS before she was caught.
Obviously, if we are to fix the problem of child abuse it would be more profitable to begin with women. Not, however, in the sense of simply placing the blame, but in determining what factors can be improved or changed that minimize the risk of women abusing children.
For example, Fagan has pointed out that “...the greatest danger many American children face is not from drugs, gangs or lead poisoning. It is from Mom and her live-in boyfriend.” Our approaches to these problems are addressed in family evolution.
Take for example the story reported by Linda Chavez in February, 2001, as summarized here:
“Clarence, 7, and Ernest, 8, are now being treated in New York's Presbyterian Hospital, the victims of multiple facial stabbings and beatings by their mother, Linda A. Harley, 38, who now sits in jail awaiting trial on 41 counts of abuse. Harley is no stranger to the criminal justice system. She has been arrested at least 29 times for drug possession, prostitution and for stabbing the boys' father, Ernest Wright, 18 times. Her children, including three older children, have spent most of their lives apart from their mother because of her history of violence and abuse.”
According to a 1994 Department of Justice report, mothers are responsible in 55% of cases in which children are killed by their parents. The National Center on Child Abuse Prevention attributes 50% of the child abuse fatalities that occurred between 1986 and 1993 to the natural mother, 23% to the natural father, and 27% percent to boyfriends and others.
The role of fathers in raising children is indisputable. For example, Stephen Baskerville has pointed out that:
Recent figures from the Department of Health and Human Services confirm that violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, emotional and behavioral disorders, teen suicide, poor school performance and truancy all correlate more strongly to fatherless homes than to any other single factor, surpassing both poverty and race. The overwhelming majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists all come from fatherless homes.
We must give credence to fathers who are trying to protect their children from abusive mothers. All too commonly, women who abuse their husbands and lovers abuse their children in turn. The following story is fairly typical of what comes to our attention (edited for grammar and spelling):
“I heard my wife beating my five year-old daughter upstairs for falling asleep while watching television at 8:00 P.M. on a school night. When I went up to investigate she was beating the child on her bare bottom as hard as she could.
I pushed my wife away and grabbed my daughter. That sent my wife into a rage and she began beating me and throwing things.
She then went downstairs and came back up with a butcher knife and stick. She began beating me with the stick and waiving the knife saying: 'I'll kill you if you ever interfere again.'
I took my daughter into my bedroom and called 911. After the police arrived they took my wife's statement first and arrested me on the spot. After being released and reading the police report, I found out my wife (as the police put it), had a blood dot under her nose and claimed that I had pulled a knife on her.
They examined the child's bottom over an hour after the beating and claimed only to see a faint redness. The police further stated, after arresting me, that I had no right to interfere with the child's punishment.
I could not afford an attorney this time and represented myself ( Ed . In such cases it is rare that the police are only called to a house once). My wife refused to testify, but also refused to tell the truth, believing she would be in trouble. The State then called the three responding officers to the stand to read off her statement. One officer saw a tiny dot of blood and two didn't. [Note: Such evidence based prosecution is now prohibited by the Crawford v Washington decision of the US Supreme Court.]
In is my opinion the Judge convicted me based mainly on the fact that there had previously been twelve 911 calls placed from my house. The end result was that I was given a six months suspended sentence, placed on six months probation, and ordered to attend domestic violence classes again.”
As might be imagined, such stories seldom have a happy ending, and the couple are now divorced with the child living with her abusive mother. The chances of this little girl developing normally range from zero to none. Drugs, alcohol, teenage pregnancy, school dropout, and other problems are a virtual certainty, whether she remains in the home of her mother, or child protective agencies eventually place her in a foster home. That prognosis would likely be quite different if she lived with her father but in today's climate that is almost certainly not going to happen. Thus, she will likely become another child of what Amneus calls “The Garbage Generation.”
We receive far too many stories of this sort, and three with documented evidence are given below, to suggest these are isolated incidents and that the fathers are simply trying to cover up their own misdeeds.
Note that extensive documentation has been provided for the facts stated below. Names have been changed but the locale is Portland, Oregon, in the United States of America.
The story begins as an office romance. Jane wants some excitement in her life. Bob is handy, she flirts, he is single, she is attractive but married. After about a year of working together, while things heat up, he gives her what she wants. She wants more of it but ends up pregnant. This isn't her first child as she has two older daughters from her husband, whom she still messes with.
Bob wasn't the only excitement Jane craved, and the boy has cocaine in his system when he is born in June, 1993, according to hospital and social worker records. Bob doesn't even find out he is the father until a month later.
Jane also has problems with alcohol abuse.
Jane's husband isn't exactly thrilled about all this but she deludes him for a time with the notion that the boy is his. However, the little boy doesn't look like her husband nor exhibit features common to the two older daughters. A separation follows that revelation.
Having been told by two doctors that he could never father a child, Bob wants to become involved with his boy. They move in together at her suggestion. Result is Jane has a two-month premature baby girl in August, 1994. Jane isn't big on prenatal care, obviously, and the baby suffers from anemia and respiratory distress, but lives.
Jane isn't showing any signs of settling down and, as you might imagine, the affair becomes a rocky one as Bob isn't the only man she enjoys. After tolerating her behavior for a year, he moves out.
Mom has some living expenses and figures Dad should contribute a little more. So while Bob and the kids are at church one Sunday during the summer of 1995 she boosts the oldest girl through the window of his house to unlock the door. Bob makes a police report but nothing is done as it is a “domestic” and the “victim” in such circumstances can't be a man.
Jane isn't the type to tolerate bother and noise, and cocaine does tend to make one irritable. In September, 1995, children services are notified that she has given the oldest daughter a bloody nose. The report states: “Both of mother's former partners report Mom has substance abuse problems and the oldest girl reports that Mom hits her and her siblings.” Girl also points out small, healed scars on her arms and tells the social worker that her mother inflicted them. Mom also is given to shaking the baby girl when angry.
Bob then has custody of his two kids but in June, 1996, Jane stops by and picks them up from a day care center despite being on file not to be allowed to take them. Mom claims she will be back in 10 minutes. Doesn't happen. Note that is very unlikely a father on such a list would have been given the kids in the first place. Day care worker thinks Jane is on drugs at the time when she reports to children's services but gave Jane the kids anyway.
One doesn't imagine that things are all sweetness and light with maternal love dominating Jane's home, but the next reported incident isn't until May, 1997. The report states that Jane hit the then 3-year old girl in the face with the screen door, splitting her lip and knocking out half of a front tooth. As a result, police give the kids to Bob to take care of while a custody evaluation is conducted through the summer.
In October, 1997, Bob is awarded custody of his son and shared custody of his daughter in a court settlement conference before Judge LaMar.
Jane doesn't take kindly to this decision and their 4 year-old son tells a therapist his Mom said she was going to kill his Daddy. A couple of weeks later she gives it a go and hits him with a car in front of the three kids and two witnesses willing to sign affidavits they saw her run down. Bob was then looking at complete knee replacement surgery and was out of work for about four months.
Bob is granted a restraining order against Jane in November, 1997, by Judge Merri Souther-Wyatt. Like most such women, Jane doesn't think a restraining order, or any other law, applies to her. But when she violates it she is sent to jail. That doesn't do much for harmony and quality time for the kids with their parents. As a result, custody of the children is disputed by Jane.
On December 12, 1997, the court appointed a guardian ad litem, or GAL, for the children and ordered that the son remain with his father until a custody hearing can be held. The three daughters all go with their mother.
Moving with remarkable speed in such proceedings, on December 15-18, 1997, Judge Merri Souther-Wyatt held a custody hearing. During the hearing she:
Vacated the court order appointing counsel for the children.
Vacated Jane's restraining order.
Ignored expert testimony about abuse of children by Jane.
Ignored evidence of Jane's drug and alcohol abuse.
Ignored evidence of Jane's motor vehicle assault on Bob, telling him from the bench that: “You probably provoked her to hit you with the car.”
Terminated Bob's rights to review and consult with doctors and the counselors treating the children, and he is refused access to any of the children's therapists, school, medical, or children protective services records.
Bob is granted visitation so long as he is: “clean, sober, not agitated, and doesn't question children about their mother and her family.” Note that Bob does not have a problem with drugs or alcohol and has evidence that he does not use either.
Ordered that son be returned to his mother, together with the three girls who were already in her custody.
Bob is further barred from making any reports of abuse and having the children examined or photographed for evidence of abuse.
As most divorced fathers will recognize, she hasn't yet played her denial of visitation rights card. That game begins a couple of months later in February, 1998. Phone message left for Bob saying she will be out of town this weekend with the kids so don't bother to stop by for them.
In early March, 1998, the children talked with people at a day care center. Bob's son demonstrated with stuffed animals what his mother did to him. Documents indicate Jane performed fellatio on her four year-old son until he was erect and then mounted him. His daughter was examined and found to have sores on her buttocks as the result of sleeping in her own urine.
When Jane finds out she has been reported again, this time for sexual abuse, she calls Bob and tells him if he doesn't forget about the molestation he'll never see his kids again. She also tells him the boy: “Can't do for me what a man can do.” Bob wisely records such calls, including this one.
Bob then filed a report with the child protective services despite the court order not to by Judge Merri Souther-Wyatt. As a result, he is asked to take a lie detector test. The person administering test states Bob: “Could be guilty because O. J. Simpson and Jeffrey Dahmer were.” Bob walks out without taking test.
Bob is then required to appear before Judge Merri Souther-Wyatt on March 9, 1998. She prohibits him from playing back any of the recorded phone messages and finds in favor of Jane. When told of Jane's sexual molestation of their son, she storms off the bench.
After speaking with Judge Souther-Wyatt, detectives are sent to Bob's house, allegedly to speak with the children, but instead they issue him a citation for a criminal misdemeanor alleging two counts of making false reports about his children being molested by Jane. In the meantime, Bob has gone to the governor's advocacy office, who tell him: “If you feel that there has been abuse, immediately take them to a third-party mandatory reporter.”
On March 31, 1998, Bob appeared again before Judge Merri Souther-Wyatt. During that proceeding she dismissed the citation and terminated all his parental rights except for child support obligations. Visitors in the courtroom were aghast at her actions and demeanor, and she had two of them forcibly removed when they murmured sotto voce “What about the children?” One of the state social workers present attempted to intimidate Bob in such a threatening manner that three other men forcibly restrained the state employee, and a state trooper came to calm Bob down.
Since then Bob has not seen his children for nearly three years and the only contact has been through cards and telephone calls. The first week of September 1998, the youngest girl had to spend a week in the hospital for reasons Bob can't discover due to Judge Merri Souther-Wyatt's order. He only knows of it only through billing by his health insurance.
“Bob” has had strong support from his church and community and on January 6, 2000, filed a civil suit for violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 et seq. in the United States District Court, District of Oregon, case no. CV 00-0035 and asked for relief of $15,000,000 under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. His complaint was dismissed by Federal Judge Ancer L. Haggerty on September 20, 2000.
However, the Federal court has given Bob the right to amend his complaint and sue Judge Merri Souther-Wyatt and the Children Services Division personnel in their individual capacities. He was also told that he could not act for the children and needs to find an attorney to represent them.
The case is now on appeal with the United States 9 th Circuit Court of Appeals, docket no. 00-35991 as of November 24, 2000.
© John Stapleton
The Weekend Australian
Saturday, June 3, 2000, p. 28
Used with the permission of the author
Nobody believed “Frank” when he tried to protect his son from bureaucratic bungling. John Stapleton reports that, nearly 20 years on, Frank has been proved right, even though he has lost in court.
The boy was eight weeks old when his father called welfare authorities and pleaded with them to take his son into foster care. He alleged that the mother was being violent towards the child, throwing him against walls and trying to smother him. The authorities ignored him, as they did for years to come, but the father persevered.
Twenty years, 550 days in court and tens of millions of dollars of public funds later, the matter, which has run across civil, criminal and family law jurisdictions, reached its final chapter this week.
Last year the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, satisfied there was a prima-facie case, laid charges against the mother for tying her son in a cot with a rope, striking him in the face, throwing him against a wall and “causing him actual bodily harm,” events alleged to have occurred in 1981-82.
But earlier this week, in a judgment highly critical of earlier police inaction, Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court issued a permanent stay on proceedings, primarily due to the time that has elapsed since the alleged offences occurred.
Magistrate Hugh Dillon said the disappearance of police records raised the suspicion of a cover-up. But he said the “appalling” treatment the Police Service meted out to the father did not detract from the issue of the mother facing possible abuse of process because of the 20-year delay.
One of the sad ironies of the case is that, although the father does not see it this way, in many ways his claims of judicial, police and political inaction as well as inappropriate behaviour by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Community Services have been vindicated in a series of court judgments. But nobody has been found guilty, no compensation has been paid.
The long history of the case means it offers a time-tunnel view of the behaviour of bureaucracies in the face of an outraged and persistent litigant. Its resolution comes as sex and family issues are attracting worldwide media attention, with focus on the high suicide rates of separated men and the behaviour of family courts, child protection authorities and court-appointed psychiatrists.
An expert on female abuse of children, Dr. Malcolm George of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London, says it is “par for the course,” where the mother is the alleged abuser, for institutions to spend large amounts of money defending their decisions, based on an ideology that “denies that women can be violent and abusive.”
It was nine years ago that The Weekend Australian broke the story of “James” and his father “Frank” on its front page, illustrating one of the most under-reported and under-discussed crimes in Australia today: physical and sexual abuse of children by women.
Although Australian and international research clearly indicates that children are most at risk from their mother, followed by their stepfather and live-in boyfriends, almost a decade on crimes of this type remain significantly under-reported and under-researched.
During his early years, Frank the family's real names have been suppressed by the courts made hundreds of calls and applications to police, welfare organizations, the NSW Department of Community Services, parliamentarians and the Family Court. But it was not until 1984, when the child was four years old, that at least some members of the department appear to have begun taking the accusations seriously.
A report by an independent clinical psychologist gave a graphic account of James attempting to have oral sex with her behaviour considered to have been acquired from a woman. A departmental psychologist and a child protection worker then interviewed the mother and the child. They concluded that James was an “emotionally deprived little boy who has been sexually abused and has been exposed to adult sexual behaviour.”
For almost two years from this date, the father was prevented from seeing his son through Family Court orders, actions by departmental officers and recommendations by Sydney psychiatrist Dr. Brent Waters, who has been a favourite of DOCS, the Family Court and Legal Aid over many years.
Waters recommended custody be with the mother and that the father be denied access. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which campaigned for the Chelmsford deep sleep inquiry in the 1980's, has helped prepare a number of complaints against Waters in the past year. Waters has declined to comment.
The journal Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law's editor-in-chief Dr. Ian Freckelton says there is a long and disappointing history of bureaucracies responsible for the welfare of children not acknowledging errors.
“A particular difficulty exists in relation to the independence of the advice,” he says. “ Welfare departments often utilize services offered by mental health professionals who interlink with the departments in a complex of advisory, consultant and expert roles, all of which can be well paid and career-enhancing.”
Repeated attempts by Frank in the early '80's to gain custody failed. In 1986, James was bashed with a cricket bat. Frank alleges the boy's mother's then de facto husband was responsible. The man was never questioned. A Children's Hospital report from the time reports evidence of a recent severe beating “suggesting he had been held on the face and struck.” The report noted “extensive bruising... blue-black in colour” and records the six-year-old's long association with the hospital for similar problems.
In desperation, the father finally gained full custody of his son by locating the home of then federal attorney-general Lionel Bowen. Braving dogs, he knocked on the door. Bowen was not at home but his wife answered the door and listened to Frank's story. James has not seen his mother since.
The Ten network's footage of the child when he was 11 shows a quiet, well-mannered boy asking: “Why was it me, why was it me that got hurt?” He said his mother “should be put in jail for life, I just hate her.”
James, now 20, is on medication and rarely leaves the house. He has consistently maintained for several years that he remembers psychiatrist Waters saying: “Don't tell anyone about the naughty things mummy's doing.”
“I was so young,” James recalls. “The main things that come across now I get flashbacks: a smell, an idea can trigger them. It is more a sense of fear. I used to dream a lot, nightmares... about my mother. I was extremely scared of her. I remember certain episodes and events... when her husband beat me with a cricket bat... I felt anger, but more than anything, now I feel pity.”
The obsessive campaign for justice by Frank has touched many of the Australia's best known people and been mentioned in parliament 14 times. Among the judges who ruled against the father was Elizabeth Evatt, a former chief justice of the Family Court and now a member of the UN Human Rights Committee. Justice John Ellis, now a senior Family Court judge, also ruled against Frank.
The dozens of politicians whom the father approached unsuccessfully for help include Paul Keating, Gareth Evans, Neville Wran, NSW Minister for Women Faye Lo Po' and NSW Police Minister Paul Whelan.
DOCS officers in the early 1980s accused the father of being violent and threatening a number of solicitors. None of these accusations was proved.
After press coverage his local member, the then shadow minister for industrial relations John Howard, called for an independent inquiry. In 1992 he told parliament: “I have satisfied myself, from very lengthy interviews with my constituent and from an exhaustive examination of a huge file, that the complaints that he has brought to me about the conduct of officers of the then Youth and Community Services Commission in NSW are justified.” Independent Ted Mack also claimed welfare officers showed “prejudice and bias... against the father when he made efforts to protect his child.”
The Weekend Australian concluded in the early 90's that documents unearthed under freedom-of-information legislation showed government officers had made false claims that the father was an arsonist.
The Ethnic Affairs Commission also expressed concerns.
During the past eight years, Frank has sought compensation via the NSW Supreme Court. Last year, after 64 days in court and a transcript stretching to 3000 pages and 330 exhibits, the court handed down a judgment absolving a string of DOCS officers of bias and negligence.
However, the court did find the department “in breach of its duty of care owed to the plaintiff” in failing to fully investigate affidavits that alleged abuse of the child, filed by women who had lived at the refuge where James and his mother were staying.
The court also found the department failed to attend promptly on notification of a child at risk to provide material and give clear written instructions to Waters.
Psychiatric reports link the son's present problems with his early sexual abuse. However, in a subsequent ruling last April, the NSW Supreme Court found there was “absent an essential link in the chain of causation” between breaches of duty of care by DOCS and conditions now suffered by the son. Justice Timothy Studdert was unable to conclude that due investigation “would have led in the exercise of reasonable care to the avoidance of... exposure to sexual abuse.”
Frank believes his son needs treatment and the ruling leaves him without vital help. His main focus now is his outrage at the way the NSW Supreme Court dealt with the case.
He originally acted as 'tutor,' or guardian, for his son, the plaintiff. Well known Sydney silk Alec Shand QC took on the case. In the end, the father was removed from the case after allegations that his emotional involvement went against his son's best interests.
Frank may well not have helped his case through the years by calling everyone who would not help him, including judges, politicians and police, “evil, disgusting, protectors of pedophilia” and so on. Transcripts from the Supreme Court show much legal huffing and puffing over the man's 'scurrilous' attacks.
Frank alleged in a complaint to the Legal Services Commission that Shand, once granted legal aid, 'hijacked' the case. He alleges that Shand deliberately concealed evidence from the court and failed to cross-examine witnesses. The commission found no wrongdoing on the part of Shand.
Frank believes that the system, including the judiciary and politicians generally, has acted to protect the interconnecting webs of Legal Aid, DOCS and the Family Court. He says that his case is not just a failure of the system:
“I am saying the whole system is immoral, inhuman.
The abuse of my son was known to the authorities from when my son was weeks old to when he was 6 1/2. Instead of the system protecting my son from horror abuse, they left my son in a dangerous situation and then proceeded to protect the people who were abusing him.
I believe one thing: every child should be given every right to live without abuse and pain and suffering.”
Although Frank has been dismissed by members of the legal profession as 'paranoid' and 'unpleasant,' his is not that uncommon a view. Whistleblowers Australia's national president Dr. Jean Lennane says DOCS, Legal Aid and the Family Court “have very close connections incestuous, you might say.”
“What tends to happen is that the aggrieved party, the whistle blower or litigant early on gets labelled as a troublemaker and mentally unbalanced, unofficially or with the help of a hired-gun psychiatrist or psychologist,” says Lennane.
“Once that has happened, nobody in any part of the bureaucracy is usually willing to examine the facts of the original complaint. You find it constantly. The main point is the waste of public money.”
The scars of what happened to the family in the early 80's are still visible. James, after struggling to concentrate at school, is at a turning point, not sure where his life will lead.
His mother has remarried and has two other children.
Frank, a pensioner, is fearful that he will be hit with a cost order for millions of dollars for his Supreme Court action. His hope that his case would help stop other children being abused and provide a comfortable future for his beloved son is in ashes.
He believes there are other fathers doing, as he did, everything they can to protect their children and being frustrated in the process. “There is no doubt it is still happening today,” he says.
The following are excerpts from this week's judgment in the Local Court of NSW by magistrate Hugh Dillon, who granted a permanent stay on the case against the mother of “James,” which alleged she bashed and tied up her son in 1981-82. The real names of those involved in the case have been suppressed by the court.
“ There is no explanation before the court as to why or how the investigation stopped once the father had set it in train. No one has ever explained to the father what happened during the investigation or what decisions, if any, were made by those originally in charge of it. The fact that police records, which would, presumably, explain these things, have disappeared raises a suspicion that police officers have been involved in covering up their own negligence or the negligence of colleagues. Beyond this, we can merely speculate.
I feel considerable sympathy for the father... it is appalling that it has taken him almost 20 years to get the Police Service to take action on evidence [that] it has had for most of that time.
A reasonable and right-minded person might have his or her confidence in the justice system undermined because the father has been treated so badly.
Yet is it now just...to continue the proceedings because the father was unjustly or unreasonably treated... for many years? This is... one of those rare or exceptional cases where the delay in proceedings has been so excessive that the proceedings constitute an abuse of process.
These proceedings are permanently stayed.”
1978: “Frank” and his wife marry in Syria, arrive in Australia.
1979: Wife is pregnant, admitted to psychiatric hospital.
1980: “James” is born underweight. Eight weeks later, Frank makes his first calls to welfare officers and police.
1980-82 : Frank alleges neglect and abuse by his wife, including hitting, burning and throwing the child against a wall. Makes hundreds of phone calls and visits to authorities.
1982: Wife moves to Marrickville Women's Refuge. Residents also allege abuse, including the boy being tied to a cot. Alleged sexual abuse begins.
1983: Child is living with his mother and another alleged female perpetrator. Frank makes repeated applications to what was then the Department of Youth and Community Services, the Family Court, churches and other organizations for the child to be removed.
1984: Child protection workers and psychologists confirm sexual abuse and neglect. The child provides detailed statements of alleged oral sex. The department, Sydney child psychiatrist Dr. Brent Waters and the child's Legal Aid solicitor recommend the child remain with his mother. In May, Frank refuses to return the child. Police on instruction from Family Court return the child to his mother. Frank does not see the child for two years.
1985: Frank constantly makes requests to authorities to remove the child to safety; he approaches the home of then federal attorney-general Lionel Bowen after 68 trips to Canberra seeking help from politicians.
1986: The child is badly bashed with cricket bat and becomes a ward of the state.
July: Frank gains full custody.
1991-1992: The Weekend Australian breaks the story of the child abuse bungle. John Howard calls for inquiry.
1993: 5,000 people sign a petition to parliament demanding an inquiry. The Independent Commission Against Corruption decides not to investigate. Frank begins proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court.
1997: The trial for damages begins in NSW Supreme Court. After three weeks, Frank attempts to sack Alec Shand QC from the case. Instead, Frank is removed as 'tutor.'
1999: Judgment absolves a string of officers from what is now the Department of Community Services and Waters of wrongdoing, but finds the department in breach of duty of care. The NSW Department of Public Prosecutions charges the mother with physical abuse of the child.
2000: The NSW Supreme Court finds that, though DOCS was negligent, the link between negligence and damage to the child cannot be established, therefore compensation is not paid.
May 30: Local court magistrate Hugh Dillon finds the NSW Police Service performance in the case was “appalling,” but grants permanent stay of the case against the mother because of the passage of time.
Although there has been little Australian research, international studies indicate that children are most at risk of abuse from their mothers.
The US Government's 1997 report Child Maltreatment found 62.3% of perpetrators were women.
The Heritage Foundation study, The Child Abuse Crisis, found that of the approximately 2,000 children killed each year, 55% were killed by mothers, 25.7% by live-in boyfriends, 12.5% by stepfathers and 6.8% by biological fathers.
The 1995 report US National Incidence of Child Abuse and Neglect found that where maltreatment led to death, 78% of perpetrators were female. Boys were four times more likely to be fatally abused and 24% more likely to be seriously abused than girls.
The book Broken Homes and Battered Children reports that the child of a biological mother cohabiting with a man other than the natural father is 33 times more likely to suffer serious abuse than a child with married, natural parents.
Although there is contention over what constitutes a substantiation, the latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, based on an amalgam of data from some states, suggest 31% of child abuse cases occur in natural families, 20% in step or blended families, 40 percent in single-mother households, and 5% in single-father households.
© 2000 Erin Pizzey
In thirty years of working with violent and dysfunctional families, the most difficult cases ever presented to me are when the primary care giver of the child is an abusive woman. There is almost no information on women as abusers and virtually none on women as pedophiles.
What Anna Climbie's parents did not know when they allowed Marie Therese Kouao to take their daughter to a new and better life, was that they were putting their child into the hands of a sadistic perverted pedophile.
In African families and in Afro-Caribbean families, children are often shared amongst friends and relations. So when Kouao, who met Anna's parents twice at funerals, impressed them with her talk of an affluent life they were happy to see their child offered what they believed to be an excellent education and a future away from the poverty they were now experiencing.
Anna was not the first child that came into Kouao's hands and only time will tell if she was as violent and abusive to other children in her care.
The pattern for women like Kouao is that they deliberately offer to adopt children from vulnerable, gullible parents and then proceed to use the child for their own violent and sexual needs. Women sexual abuser's satisfactions are far more diffuse than that of men. But both sexes achieve high levels of sexual satisfaction from the pain and the wounding of their victims.
Kouao, like other women I have dealt with, did not need an accomplice to fulfil her violent sexual needs, but in many cases having a willing onlooker and a participator increases the sense of perverted excitement. Kauai's narcissistic feeling of omnipotence escalated each time she escaped detection by the various agencies that refused to look at the evidence before their eyes.
There is always a ritual for women like Kouao that precipitate the beatings and the torture. In Kouao's case it was her ability to project her own demons upon the frail form of a little girl. If Kouao is properly interrogated it will be possible for her to describe the necessary steps that she took to enable her to create her private concentration camp for the child. The burnings, the beatings and the encasing of the child's body in a black bin liner will all have a significance known only to Kouao. This sort of sadistic violence is not random but can be traced back into damage that was done to Kouao herself.
It was no accident that she came upon Carl Manning and he became her partner. One of the most amazing elements in abusers like Kouao is just how many people they can suck into their perverted reality.
Manning was living at home with his mother. His perverted sexual fantasies were confined to watching pornography on his computer and frequenting prostitutes. Until he met Kouao, his sadistic fantasies were confined to his imagination. However, in so many cases, sexual abusers like Kouao have an unerring instinct when they meet a willing accomplice. At no point did Manning have any instinct to have pity or compassion for a tiny tortured child. His disgust at Anna's incontinence and his complicity in the violence must bear witness to events in his own childhood.
His subordination to Kouao's perverted lifestyle was complete. He called the child 'Satan Anna' and admired her ability to sustain painful beatings. Living with Kouao and Anna in his tiny flat, he was engulfed by Kauai's powerful reality. Her hold over both Manning and Anna was complete. Having what must have been a bankrupt reality of his own, fed only by prostitutes and pornography, Manning was ripe to fall into Kouao's clutches.
Anna, no doubt threatened with further torture should she ever ask for help, also believed in her tormentor's omnipotence.
Within the walls of the flat Kouao created a perverted world or her own. It is hard to describe to a general public just how hallucinating this perverted world is for those wrapped up in its dark folds. The inner world of the dangerously perverted becomes a reality for the victim and the anticipation of the torture becomes more terrifying than the moment when the violence begins. After a time, when the beating stops, gratitude sets in that often binds the victim to the torturer, who is now all powerful in the victim's life.
How many times must that child have believed, as she was taken to two hospitals, dragged in front of social workers, and taken to church, that at some point some caring adult might save her?
What the child could not have known is that there is a refusal on the part of our society to look at the evil perpetrated by women. Had Kouao been a man, Anna's parents would not have allowed her to leave their village. British immigration authorities would have looked twice at a man bringing a small girl into this country. They may well have run a check on the child's passport and discovered it was forged.
This is not the only case I have been involved in when female pedophiles have moved in and out of the country with children on forged passports. Hospitals, social workers, and the police are trained to look for male perpetrators of violence and sexual abuse. They are not trained to question female perpetrators like Kouao and she used their unwillingness to imagine her as an abuser to her advantage.
There is a climate of fear in this country that threatens any attempt to question women's role in dysfunctional behavior. For those of us who work in the field of domestic violence, we have been pilloried and persecuted for suggesting that women can, and are, just as capable of violence as men.
Anna Cameron, a friend who had child minded for Kouao in the past, saw that Anna had cuts on her fingers, across her cheek and eyelid and marks on her body that she suspected were cigarette burns. She took Anna to Central Middlesex hospital but she was discharged after an overnight stay because the child protection doctor, Ruby Schwartz preferred to believe that Anna suffered from 'scabies' rather than from child abuse.
I wonder if Ruby Schwartz was blinded by the fact that the abuser was a woman and black? I wonder if Ruby Schwartz, Ms. Arthurworrey, a member of Haringey's child-protection team, along with PC Karen Jones, had failed to be informed that women perpetrate the majority of child abuse cases?
According to The Guardian report: “The death of Anna Climbie” (Saturday, January 13, 2001) Arthurworrey and Jones failed to visit Anna because they fear catching scabies. I do not believe that they seriously feared scabies, what they did fear was Kouao's violence should they confront her with her abusive behavior.
Kouao's whole life style was one of threatening behavior, lying and intimidating anyone who crossed her.
Only the death of a child brought her villainous career to an end.
As Manning sits in prison penning his love letters to her, hopefully one day he is able to take the responsibility for his part in the death of an innocent child. W.H. Auden wrote:
“I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.”
September 1, 1939 (1940).
All we can do as a country is to mourn for Anna's short and tortured life and make a vow that should we be faced with what looks like an act of violence against a child, we will have the courage to go to the rescue.
Flat 5, 29 Lebanon Park
Twickenham, England TW1 3DH
Children are safest with their natural father.
It seems quite apparent that to reduce domestic and societal violence, one thing that needs to be done is to put fathers back in their homes.
Our objective is the antithesis of radical gender feminists.
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