This is Really Hard to Believe - Discuss

 BatteredBarry Nolan reports on the Battered Mothers Custody Conference recently held in Albany. From Barry's article:

Many of the women around me are sobbing now, as a child tells her story. "My father beat me" she begins. Well, she is not a child now actually, but she is a child to me. She is a poised, attractive young woman named Jennifer Collins who is a survivor of child abuse and of a Child and Family Court System that betrayed her and her brother, just as it betrays children across this country every day when it orders children to live full time with an abusive parent.

If you want to find out more about the conference, visit the the oifficial site of the Battered Mothers Custody Conference. Here is a little about the conference from their website:

The Conference includes presentations, round-table discussions, and question & answer sessions with nationally distinguished professionals whose work is focused on resolving the complex issues facing battered women as they strive to protect themselves and their children in and out of court during custody and visitation disputes.  It is open to lay persons and of special interest toadvocates, social workers, psychologists, attorneys, judges, legal personnel, and others involved in the issue of battered women's and abused children's legal and civil rights being routinely violated by family courts, DSS, and other government systems.

More About the Conference

Read Barry's article on the ePluribus Media Journal and come back here to discuss.


No votes yet


Thank you so much for this timely and horrifying article.  I am a Parent Coordinator for a judicial district and sadly, these facts are all too well known to me.  Here in Charlotte we are trying to work with the family court judges to prevent this from happening here.  In addition, we have just begun an initiative to build a Battered Women's Shelter for women and their children because the need far exceeds our current capacity and we are woefully lacking in facilities given our large population.  Mecklenburg County recently commissioned a study to address this need and got solid proof that the need is urgent and huge.  This is a joint venture between Crandall Bowles (of Springs Industries and Erskine Bowles spouse) and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Chairman Jennifer Roberts to begin an aggressive fundraising campaign to build this facility sooner rather than later. I have forwarded this article to both of them.  It is eloquent and horrible and explains the need better than anything else I've seen. Thank you so much for the ammunition.

What I mean is the notion that paternal authority is a Biblical prescription. I say this because over the last few years I was witness to the situation of a friend of mine. This was a  case where a young divorced mother here in northern VA, was treated quite differently by the family court here. The father (who was remarried and had another daughter) was demanding custody of his first daughter because the mother had refused to allow her to make unsupervised visits to his home. (The daughter reported that drugs were being used and she had been  left with an out-of-control, abusive step mother.) After psychologists interviewed everyone involved and several court hearings were held,  the decision was in favor of the mother.

I think in many ways the situation of women in the US (and therefore their children) has regressed.  Another aspect of this is the lack of adequate, affordable child care for the children of working mothers and constructive after-school activities for older ones.


 At the Battered Mothers Conference, I heard one story after another about children at risk because of the pressure for shared custody. This happens even in the presence of compelling evidence that being with a troubled parent will likely put the child in jeopardy. Children are often still treated like things you can own - like chattel. And yes, it is getting worse.

There is a large and very active group of "Father's Rights" Organizations that pressure legislatures to pass laws that create the presumption that the automatic best choice in custody disputes, the default position, is to have the child spend half their time with each parent. Surely true in some cases. But an often dangerous presumption in cases where domestic violence or child abuse is persuasively alleged.  There is often an old boys network in place in for the appointment of Guardian Ad Litems - or their equivalents - people cozy with a lawyer who is cozy with a judge - who is cozy with an expert. I am glad people have friends - but what the courts should be doing is looking honestly at evidence and testimony and listening to real experts to try to sort out these terribly difficult decisions. Not just taking care of their friends. 

It's never fun, it's never easy, and when there's clear-cut abuse it's very scary for those who stand a chance of actually finding themselves forced to spend time with an unrepentent (or even vengeful) abuser who hadn't been punished.

This was a really powerful piece, Barry.  Thank you for sharing it.  And it's great to see you on-site. :)

our courts are not always used to protect those who are not able to protect themselves.  I don't have a solution but believe we have a problem.  There are too many stories of abused children being overlooked or put in greater risk to the other end of the spectrum where they are coerced and used as pawns against others.  

Good points to think on Barry.  Thanks for writing up a piece on the conference.  

Since it's difficult to imagine that a system knowing about a kid's fractured skull could put kids back into those circumstances for more injury or even worse.

It's mostly in passing, from sensational (or horrible) stories that I've come to the sense that child welfare systems don't work well.  

I usually have to allow, however, that I really don't know the stories which don't  break across the ever-rising threshold of what constitutes news to a jaded consumer.  About the time I gave up on commercial media as a routine part of life, I think "extreme" was the standard.

Your story is potent and the children made real through it.  Depending upon the process for arriving to custody decisions that you have described goes to reinforce my existing sense. 

Whatever is the actual state of family welfare systems (I realize I shouldn't generalize too far). I'm glad that you've told this family's story because it certainly should not be repeated.

Thanks, I appreciate the work and welcome you to ePluribus Media.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson

It is most gratifying to see the article by Barry Nolan, sharing his response to the Battered Mothers Custody Conference and the story of Jennifer Collins.

As little-old-lady-type person and a retired school teacher who has been investigating, researching and writing for over a year now about the question of gender bias in the courts and the struggle of mothers to protect their children from abusive and/'or molesting and/or exploitive fathers, I find in Jennifer Collins, with her willingness to speak out and her determination to bring change to this abominable situation one of my heroes. Another is her mother, Holly Collins.

These two women are not alone. There are thousands--literally thousands--of women in the United States who have similar experiences.

And so I have another hero--one you may not have heard of--one whose case did not turn out so well as did the Collins case. Elsa Newman is unjustly imprisoned--some have actually called her a political prisoner--at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women at Jessup. She was convicted of a crime to which someone else confessed, a crime of which she had no foreknowledge and in which she had no involvement.

The only crime of which Newman is guilty is a certain naivete in believing that the American justice system would protect her two sons when they disclosed sexual molestation and other abuses at the hands of their father. That system failed both her and her children. Newman was given a life sentence, although all but 20 years were suspended. Her children were sentenced to a childhood in the hands of their abuser.

I applaud all who work to bring life experiences  like this to the attention of authorities. God help us all--until something is done to rememdy the situation.

Have you got a link to further information about Newman's case?

When you don't do your homework, Barry, you look like a jerk. You obviously are unaware that this group was the one involved with the PBS program, "BREAKING THE SILENCE, Children's Stories".  That propaganda film had the preposterous thesis that judges award custody to abusive fathers more often than mothers. The same thesis as this conference.  All the legitimate research shows that mothers are given custody in 90(+)% of cases. So it's LUDICROUS to suggest that preference is given to abusive fathers. That's just feminazi lunacy.  The truth is, not even the BEST of fathers can gain custody in our family courts. Furthermore, several of the children making derogatory statements about their fathers in the film, later admitted that the father had never been violent.  They had been coached by the mother in classic cases of parental alienation. To make matters worse, the main protagonist of the film, all of whose players came from this same "battered" woman's group, had HERSELF been CONVICTED of child abuse on THREE occasions. The patent falseness of this propaganda film, and the lies and misrepresentations it presented, were so egregious that even the PBS ombudsman was forced to disavow the film, and PBS withdrew it from their broadcast schedule.

But gullible Barry Nolan sits with the group, listens to the lies with a tear in his eye, and writes a supportive article without ever checking on a single fact. That makes him a PR man, not a journalist. A REAL journalist checks facts, questions all sides of the issues, and writes a BALANCED story. Already fired from one job, he's now destroying his credibility even further. Who could ever believe a word he writes or utters after this?


You then go on to attack Mr. Nolan for a film that you start off claiming he is probably unaware of -- and then you say he's using "feminazi logic."

Is the significance of this illogic lost on you?  Perhaps it is.

You appear more interested in abusing the comment system to attempt to smear Mr. Nolan.

For the record, oh-void-of-fact one, ePluribus Media interviewed Mr. Nolan in the wake of his dismissal from CN8; you can find the story on our Community site here: Newsman Fights Clown As Thieves and Pimps Look On. Understandably, as you're obviously such a stickler for standing on "character" wherever you can find it, you were unimpressed with the fact that Mr. Nolan's dismissal was due to standing up on principle against the presentation of an award for journalism to Bill O'Reilly, that bastion of faux journalism and fount of fungible propaganda who's a hero to all those who maintain their right to avoid critical thinking at every opportunity.

Note that this is a discussion thread occuring on our Community site, so you are allowed to post your own commentary or comments -- within reason -- on your own, so feel free to post a fun, fact-filled and reference-inclusive rebuttal that includes links to viable, trustworthy and verifiable sources.

You can also choose to attempt to submit to the Journal a counter-commentary, but I strongly suspect that your own dismissal of fact and attempts to use strawman logic and red herrings would result in a piece unable to stand up to our fact-checking team.

Thanks for commenting, as it provided us with an opportunity to link back to our story / interview -- our original point-of-contact with Mr. Nolan that has resulted in an opportunity to work with him and present his work to the growing choir of awake, alert and functional Americans -- a chorus of voices that you may, some day, awaken and join if fortune should smile upon you. Heavily.

Side note: here's two more of Barry's contributions to the Journal:

With such a refined of wit and strong logical bent, I'm sure you'll have loads to spew contribute regarding those items, as well.

Thanks, too, for the opportunity to list those pieces. You're batting a thousand so far.

Have a nice day, and thanks for playing.

From the PBS website:


ALEXANDRIA, VA -- December 21, 2005 - BREAKING THE SILENCE: CHILDREN'S STORIES chronicles the impact of domestic violence on children and the recurring failings of family courts across the country to protect them from their abusers. In stark and often poignant interviews, children and battered mothers tell their stories of abuse at home and continued trauma within the courts. The producers approached the topic with the open mindedness and commitment to fairness that we require of our journalists. Their research was extensive and supports the conclusions drawn in the program. Funding from the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation met PBS's underwriting guidelines; the Foundation had no editorial influence on program content.

However, the program would have benefited from more in-depth treatment of the complex issues surrounding child custody and the role of family courts and most specifically the provocative topic of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Additionally, the documentary's "first-person story telling approach" did not allow the depth of the producers' research to be as evident to the viewer as it could have been.

PBS has received a substantial body of analysis and documentation from both supporters of the documentary and its critics.

It is clear to us that this complex and important issue would benefit from further examination. To that end, PBS will commission an hour-long documentary for that purpose. Plans call for the documentary to be produced and broadcast in Spring 2006. We expect that the hour-long treatment of the subject will allow ample opportunity for doctors, psychologists, judges, parent advocates and victims of abuse to have their perspectives shared, challenged and debated.

Funny, it appears that "The producers approached the topic with the open mindedness and commitment to fairness that we require of our journalists. Their research was extensive and supports the conclusions drawn in the program."

Additionally, "the program would have benefited from more in-depth treatment of the complex issues surrounding child custody and the role of family courts and most specifically the provocative topic of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)" so ultimately "It is clear to us that this complex and important issue would benefit from further examination. To that end, PBS will commission an hour-long documentary for that purpose."

Gee, that doesn't sound at all like disavowal to me. Perhaps you went to a different school and learned a different kind of English...?

and other pieces you might cite, here's a response by the producers of the documentary you railed against, which appears to have been a source of controversy particularly among conservative groups:

Response to the Fathers & Families "Critique of the Scientific Basis for Key Assertions in Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories"

Thanks again for your commentary; it was enlightening.

No, really.

Just a little advice:

Rather than starting out accusing someone else of not doing their homework, show that you have done yours.  Show there is substance to your point of view--then your position vis-a-vis the other can be taken seriously.  And remember that the essence of style is presentation: don't make yourself look bad by starting off by insulting someone else or by calling someone names.

Be careful when you throw about words and phrases: calling something a "propoganda film" does not make it so.  Rather than making such an unsupported statement, show (if you can) that there is a bias--and not by further demonstration of your own bias without support.  If you claim that the film has "the preposterous thesis that judges award custody to abusive fathers more often than mothers," don't state it, prove it.  Instead, you turn to another topic, not whether the film has the thesis, but the value of a thesis that you don't establish that anyone holds.  That's merely a straw dog.

If you want real discussion, stay away from meaningless cant like "feminazi lunacy."  All you are doing when using such phrases is making sure that the divide between you and whomever you are debating cannot be bridged.

I could go on, but I expect you get the picture: argue to convince.  What you have done here is nothing more than vanity, an attempt to please yourself at the imagined expense of others.

 Dear pclemsc,

If you but give the article I wrote a cursory glance, you will actually find that none of the things you attacked it for are in the article. I think you are right that doing your homework is indeed a thing of value. So are reading skills. I am glad we agree on something. In fact my homework has consisted of reading court transcripts, medical records, case histories, talking to lawyers, judges and eyewitnesses. The issue is not about some kind of "quota" system that will insure that 50% of all custody is awarded to men, but about seeing to it that children are never ordered to live with a parent who will abuse them. Male or female. If you have a problem with that, then we disagree.

As to your assertion that mothers are given custody in 90% of the cases - perhaps this is true, if the pool you are measuring is all of the run of the mill divorce cases. You may have noticed in this country, the women tend to be the primary caregivers, maybe that has something to do with it. But in cases where there have been credible allegations of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual abuse, studies have shown far different results. And your assertion that "not even the best of fathers can gain custody" is simply not credible, even using your own statistics.

You point out people who have supported the agenda of the Battered Womens Custody Conference that have had some "issues" of their own. Somehow you overlooked  mentioning cases like that of Kenneth John Freeman (please Google him yourself) who not only sexually abused his child, He videotaped it and distributed it on the Web. He recently pled guilty and received a sentence of 50 years. He was a guy who really wanted "custody."

But that does not make any other men guilty, just as your anecdotes do not make any other women out to be liars. What my article called for is, when there are credible allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse or domestic violence, for courts to look at that evidence, hear the witnesses, talk to the children. If you have a problem with that form of simple straightforward justice, then we have found something we disagree on. Profoundly.

First, thank you for comparing the torture of domestic abuse victims to Bosnia. I keep on contending that victims of DA are facing torture and genocide and human rights violations, but even the US State Dept. and Amnesty International have poo-pooed me on this. Basically, their attitude was that if in Spain it is the custom of Spanish men to kill their wives before allowing them to leave, then so be it. Let him kill me!!!

I have been a victim of domestic abuse all of my life - first from my mother, then my ex-husband. This is a cross gender problem, and if we are ever to win the war (as it is a war) then the solution has to be cross gender as well.

I am what is considered a politically incorrect victim of domestic abuse. I am from a upper-middle class background, caucasian, well-educated with a strong character and out-spoken -maybe why my abusers were never able to "break" me. My ex and the spanish judicial system have done everything to destroy and silence me.

During the past 2 years they have handed my children over to their abusive father, embezzled all of my assets ($1 million)and thrown me on the street destitute, the Spanish police continually harrassed me, my ex hired someone to kill me....all with the American Consulate complacently watching.

If you would be interested in my story you can google my name and contact me at I promised my children that what has been done to us will not happen to others and I intend on keeping that promise.

Its real. I ws the one sobbing next to you!
My family held hostage in the desert!Over two years in one place.
Two perpertrators,controlled us hourly,tortured and mentaly and verbally abused.
Only to be re-traumatized by the courts!They are giving these non human perpertrators custody!
It has to stop!
These our children!
Human beings!
They don't send dogs back to abusers!
Thanks Barry



Its real.I ws the one sobbing next to you!
My family held hostage in the desert!Over two years in one place.
Two perpertrators,controlled us hourly,tortured and mentaly and verbally abused.
Only to be re-traumatized


Holly Collins' claims about her high-profile custody case are disputed by her own mother, grandmother, sister, brother, former in-laws, her ex-husband and his wife, numerous doctors, Guardians ad Litem, social workers, mental health professionals and all seven judges who have heard this case. Journalist Glenn Sacks has examined the other side of this case and found there are many problems with Holly Collins' version of events. Sacks' analysis of the court record can be found at


the comments, above.

I already referred to, and dismissed, Sacks and those who made it a point to try and attack the voracity of the PBS documentary and the victims and stories within.  Just scroll up and read this comment.

The issues are real, yet people like Sacks appear to want to keep those issues sidelined, while commenters like you appear to want to help him do just that.  Why? What have you got against these women and their families?