Interview with forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman about the Bannister case

Jill Jones-Soderman, executive director of The Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts was interviewed yesterday by Dr. Carole Lieberman, the highly-respected forensic psychiatrist who conducted forensic interviews with all four of the Bannister children. (FCVFC wrote about the Bannister case here.)

The interview is here, on Dr. Carole’s VoiceAmerica channel called “Dr. Carole’s Couch.”

The transcript of Dr. Carole’s interview with Jill Jones-Soderman is below (slightly edited for clarity).

***

DR. CAROLE LIEBERMAN: Today I have a very serious topic, a real story, not just a topic, to talk to you about. I’m calling the show Mom and Kids Flee for their Lives from Sex Traffickers. In fact, as you listen to this show live, there are now one mother, Melody Bannister, and her four children, whose names I’m not going to mention, who are currently in hiding, fleeing literally for their lives, from sex traffickers, from a father, a grandfather, and the grandfather’s friends, who have been torturing, sexually and physically and emotionally of course, abusing, the children.

Now to the extent that you have heard Melody Bannister’s story in the media, you have been fed misinformation. This is not your average everyday custody story. In fact, it’s not a custody story at all. It is the story of a family who is running from sex traffickers. The story of a mother who is trying to save her children’s lives. So it’s not about custody. It’s about sex trafficking.

Now my guests today are going to be, first, Jill Jones-Soderman, who is the director for the Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts. And in the next half hour you’re going to be hearing from attorney Sam McLure. He’s a leading Alabama attorney, and he has been representing Melody Bannister and her children against all odds. He has been working very hard, as has Jill in her capacity as well.

So I’d love to be able to say, and of course I’ve invited Melody to be on the show, but we figured out it was not possible because there was too much danger in whatever telecommunications we used for her interview for her to join us live to be able to be chased. And she is in grave danger because of the people who are trying to bring her and her children back into this situation of abuse and particularly trying to not let this get out—her story and their story, because of the people that this will implicate.

So since I will not be able to have her on the show herself life, I’m going to read you some of her story that she has posted on the internet.

And I should say up front also that as a forensic psychiatrist myself with over 20 years of experience as a forensic psychiatrist and expert witness, I have examined, I have evaluated, done a psychiatric evaluation, a forensic evaluation, on Melody and her four children. I have written a report, and the report has gone to the courts, and so on.

It is based on that—my in-person knowledge and subsequent follow-up—my direct knowledge speaking with Melody and each of the four children, that I bring you this show, this narrative, this information, so that you can yourself know the truth of this story and not be misled by the information that has been coming from the sheriff’s office.

Indeed, Melody did try to go the legal route, and this is what happened. So this is from Melody’s blog, what she wrote. [Dr. Carole then read from Melody’s blog, which you can read here.]

Well, let me introduce my first guest, who also has spent much time with Melody and her children. Her name is Jill Jones-Soderman, and she is the director of The Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts. So welcome to the show, Jill.

JILL JONES-SODERMAN: Thank you so much, Dr. Lieberman. You were such a phenomenal presence in this case. And without your really skilled, adept intervention and your cooperation with the Foundation and working in lockstep with us, we could not have protected Melody and the children and brought them to the quasi-safety that they have.

And the most important role, the disclosure and the discussion of the failure of the system to protect children who were physically, sexually, and emotionally abused in the context of a marriage, in the context of a parent basically trafficking their children.

Let me also say that I am a psychoanalyst by training, many many years of practice, and a forensic clinician.

As the director of the Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts, Melody contacted me very shortly after she made the first in-roads into her journey of leaving—she was at a juncture where she had left but didn’t know what the next steps were. She came to the Foundation because of our role with protective parents who are finding that their children are being subject to heinous abuse, which Melody describes very fully in her blog.

The Foundation, we were retained by Melody, and then we immediately began to assess the situation and then created a legal psychiatric action plan in terms of their protection. I contacted the attorneys, arranged for financial support, and mapped out the legal strategy. Our legal consultants, and our forensic psychiatric consultants, together as a team we planned out the next steps, each segment of what needed to be done.

There was an assessment by Dr. Michael Stone, of Melody. I contacted you, I had found your CV and the write-ups about you and your background and training and understanding. I felt very comfortable having you take the steps that we needed to plan out, protecting Melody and the children’s confidentiality and safety.

It was an amazing exchange of services. You had to fly in to the location where she was—she wasn’t hiding from the law at that point. There was nothing illegal or out of bounds in terms of what we were doing. But they were homeless, they were penniless, they basically left with the clothes on their backs and some very minimal personal possessions. They had their dog and cat with them.

One of the functions of the Foundation is also rescuing pets, dogs, cats, birds, horses—you name it, we rescue them—from situations where there’s domestic violence. Because the abuser will use the animals to control the subjects. And that was part of the situation with these children as well.

There was no question that we would need to go to the courts and the local authorities. The Foundation on a global basis deals with children who are being abused and their protective parents. Everybody thinks when there’s a problem you go to the police, you go to a lawyer, and you expect to be heard and believed. That is not the case anymore. What we are finding—and Melody’s case dramatically exposes this—is that there is a false narrative put out by the predator’s attorney. And I am talking about a predator. I am talking about vicious, cruel, sadistic people.

DR. LIEBERMAN: I want people to know that when the children first started disclosing their abuse to Melody, the first thing that she did was find a safe time when she could bring the children to the police. And she did that. She didn’t just take the children and run. She went to the local police. And the police called in someone from Child Protective Services.

In fact, the detective was J.G. Wright, and the CPS woman was Jennifer Dudley. Now these two people exam—I won’t even say examined—chatted with Melody and the children for a very very—

JILL: Fifteen minutes.

DR. LIEBERMAN: Yes. Some of them even less. And they’re basing this whole thing that they’re putting out to the media and the sheriff’s press release that Melody is now accused of a felony and other charges—and they believe the charges. They didn’t—they said they were going to investigate the father and the grandfather, but clearly they didn’t do much of an investigation. And then police detective stopped taking Melody’s call.

When they first went away—they were supposed to go away on vacation, so they told the police and then they went on vacation, Melody and the children. Father didn’t want to go, decided not to go.

And she kept calling the police. Her plan wasn’t to run away from the get-go. But the police and CPS weren’t helping her. Now that’s a very important thing to bring out, because there has been this press release gone all over from the sheriff’s office asking people, showing the photos of Melody and the children, and asking people to call this number to report if you have seen them.

Now all this would do—calling and saying that you see them—would be to bring Melody and her children back to their abusers. I know it’s hard to believe that the police and CPS wouldn’t help the children, but the father and grandfather have influenced them to such a degree that this is what they are saying.

Now Jill, could you please tell people, because I didn’t know the extent of this—and obviously you and I have put ourselves in danger with our work with them, but it is for a good cause—tell people some of the things that have happened to people who have gone against this cult that are the sex traffickers.

JILL: Let me just back up and say something about them. I did speak to Detective Wright. And you are absolutely correct in terms of what you said. He in fact said that he felt that the children had “vivid imaginations” and that this was just ridiculous, and then he contacted their father and had a good laugh about Melody bringing the children to them.

We—from my experience and my knowledge and my having spoken to Detective Wright—believe that Detective Wright and some of his officers may be involved in the trafficking circumstances and may be participants. We find in many of these circumstances where the police are not taking constructive action that they are part of the problem. We have had cases that I am intimately and fully aware of, where the police have been involved in not only the local trafficking, but have been involved in shipping children from overseas. They will fly out to Greece or France or South America over a two-day period and be passed around in hotels. And the police are their escorts and are part of the trafficking.

We also are aware that attorneys have been murdered because of their role in attempting to protect the children. I’ve had my own first-hand experience in terms of some very dangerous situations.

So the false narrative when a protective parent, male or female, discloses and seeks assistance in protecting children, the first thing that happens is that that parent is called an “alienator,” is coaching the children to reject the parent they are filing the complaint about, and the children are considered to be liars, or to have imaginations. The children are discredited, and the protective parent is called either sick, crazy, they’re looking for money. There’s always this false narrative to throw people off the trail.

And then there’s the good old boys network that has grown up creating a fabulously lucrative role for attorneys, evaluators, psychiatrists, forensic psychiatrists, guardians ad litem, to take the side of the perpetrator, who is usually a person of considerable wealth, and those people are paid off. They are paid to write ridiculous, outrageous psychobabble nonsense that passes in the courts for evaluations. Experts in the courts have basically no standing—their reports are considered hearsay.

Because family court deals so much with discretion as opposed to law, the wiggle room for soft evaluations is given a lot of latitude, to transfer children into the hands of abusers. When the children resist, there is a process that I describe as mind-control coercion, where children are forced into the sole custody of their abuser, isolated with the abuser who has free rein over whatever they want to do, isolated from the protective parent, who is then stripped of property, rights, and any connection to the child.

And we are seeing a movement across the county of very wealthy perpetrators, we’re seeing criminals taking possession of children and destroying them. We’re seeing a very high rate of suicide in younger and younger children.

And the other industry that has picked up is something called “reunification therapy,” which is another form of heinous supposedly therapeutic mind control. It is not an accepted practice, not considered a valid psychiatric intervention, it’s not recognized by the DSM.

The public has to be very careful in terms of who they hire. People come into these situations, and they have absolutely no training or experience—or reason to. Anyone who is well socialized and hasn’t been horrendously abused—or a criminal—has no skill to deal with that kind of malevolence and criminality. This is what the Foundation does and this is why we get our experts.

DR. LIEBERMAN: That’s why you came into being, because you started seeing more and more abuse cases.

JILL: Right. The team of experts that we pulled together, that I pulled together, not only worked phenomenally well together, but everybody was fiercely committed to protecting and supporting these children.

DR. LIEBERMAN: Could you tell listeners how the Shepherding Movement figures into this?

JILL: The Shepherding Movement is one of the so-called Christian—they are not Christian, they are evil in sheep’s clothing. They cover as a Christian organization, but they are not, they are provided coverage by spouting religious tenets and behaving as if they’re a Christian organization. They use the words of Christianity to control and manipulate and make people feel guilty. People, meaning women. This is a misogynist group that feels that women should be barefoot and pregnant, remain uneducated, docile, and supportive of men. This is a movement that is basically breeding children for trafficking, a movement in which men are completely in control, women are often not educated.

DR. LIEBERMAN: We’re running out of time, but I want to say one thing, because this is a key thing. It had come out in the news that “recent developments in the investigation have led investigators to believe that the family may be in danger.” And that is in regard to the Shepherding Movement, that the sheriff has put this out there to try to convince people that the reason they are in danger is that Melody is in the cult.

JILL: It’s a false narrative. A completely false narrative.

DR. LIEBERMAN: Yes, because it is the Shepherding Movement that in fact is putting her life and the children’s lives in danger, because they are trying to get to them, to prevent them from telling their story before a more benevolent kind of protection can be arranged for them.

JILL: Right.

DR. LIEBERMAN: Thank you. Again, my guest was Jill Jones-Soderman. She’s the director of The Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts, and she has had a lot of experience with this. And it’s because of stories like Melody’s that she founded this Foundation and is trying to help protect children in similar kinds of situations. Melody owes a real debt of gratitude to you, as do the children. Thank you very much.

JILL: Thank you, Dr. Lieberman.

***

Have you also experienced abuse at the hands of the justice system? Leave a comment below to tell us your story. You can keep your identity anonymous!