by Dr. Bandy X Lee
originally published on Medium, republished by permission
The Dark Reality Resulting from Family Court Enabling of Dangerous Predators
Family Court is a shocking experience for victims seeking relief from oppression, and for those who enter with the assumption that it is a “court of law.” The United Nations astonished governments and the public when it established that the most dangerous and deadliest place for women is their own home. Terrorism, war, and human rights violations are daily affairs for victims of domestic violence, as they are trapped in close proximity with the most dangerous individuals society produces, in ways that no soldier or stranger will ever experience. The United Nations Human Rights Council has recently issued a report that, for victims of family violence who enter Family Court, where domestic violence is discounted as nonexistent, that danger increases multifold. In Family Court, not only do the few protections society affords against these offenders become unavailable, the Courts themselves protect and enable violent perpetrators for their own, profitable business. Just as entering Family Court is befuddling for victims, it can be an unexpected “bonanza” for abusers, who are incentivized to use children for further tormenting their partners (“tangential spouse abuse”); for maintaining the mothers under their strict control (by “court order”); for extorting child support (as they deprive their victims of their children); and for using the carceral system as a tool to extend their abuse. Unsurprisingly, children die at multifold the rates they might have in the absence of Family Court, as do mothers.
Like the Catholic Church, which became a perfect place for the most perverse pedophiles to hide, and the greatest atrocities in history to be committed in the name of “God”, “Family Court” has become the perfect euphemism under which abusers can carry out their crimes. Indeed, who could ever imagine, underneath the benignly-named “Family Courts,” that there would lie a deadly abuse industry? It is therefore of little wonder that the most violent criminals congregate not in criminal court but in Family Court, not for prosecution but for a reversal of fortune in an “alternative court.” Therefore, the Family Court “playbook” has two underlying enticements for the violent predator: the promise to “reverse victim and offender”; and the practice of “eradicating the weak.”
1. ‘Accuse the Other of That You are Guilty.’
The phrase, “Accuse the other of that you are guilty,” is attributed to Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda for the Nazi regime, but it is a well-known perpetrator’s playbook — or as a psychiatrist I would say, a perpetrator’s pathology. What is most impressive upon entering any maximum-security prison is that there are never any offenders — only victims. “She looked at me the wrong way, and I don’t do disrespect,” or “He kept crying, just to annoy me,” is said of the most helpless strangers or babies, before they are murdered and mutilated. No amount of heinous vengeance can assuage a violent offender’s sense of “victimhood”. This is what I have learned in my twenty-five years of treating violent offenders in jail and prison settings, and these are the very individuals Family Courts are enabling when they allow themselves to be hired for “DARVO”. “DARVO” is the acronym for a phenomenon Dr. Jennifer Freyd describes as:
a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim—or the whistle blower—into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.
This is what the buzz phrase, “parental alienation,” is really about. It is a means of turning the tables on the victim, so that the “false” messenger of abuse becomes a far greater criminal than the perpetrator of any actual child abuse, rape, battery, or even murder. Even though abuse is vastly underreported, and very rarely falsely reported, Family Court treats virtually all allegations as false—unless, of course, it is of “parental alienation” by the abuser.
My brother-in-law initially intended to leave his wife and children quietly, to rent a single’s room and lead a single’s lifestyle with his new, younger group of friends and younger set of lovers. Indeed, he was so impatiently eager, he even announced his departure date to the entire family. Family Court, however, convinced him that having the children would be his ticket to a “winner take all” arrangement, and he was not one to pass up an opportunity for more money — his measure of success in life. Yet, as a previously absentee father, he quickly learned that children are not so easy to control: they recognized right away that he had no interest in them and immediately rejected him, not only crying and screaming but ceasing to call him “dad” and referring to him as “that maniac!” His wife, reputed to be a “world-class parent,” would have gladly helped him—it was once her greatest wish that he be involved in their lives!—but he needed always to be “right” and thus responded with increasing coercion and domination that turned into an all-out war against his family. His wife had subsumed twelve years of domestic violence and coercive control from him for the family, but now her children were being daily injured with cuts, bruises, bloody shirts, and a broken bone under his watch. Almost every encounter resulted in harm, some alarming in size: for example, a thigh-length bruise for his seven-year-old son. He was jealous of adults who had a better relationship with the children: when his daughter enjoyed going to the basement to paint with me, he strewed pieces of broken glass at the bottom of the steps, so that his barefoot daughter would suddenly scream in pain, and the bleeding would interrupt the painting session for need of urgent medical attention. At other times, he left out dangerous objects, such as knives hanging off of counters, so that the children could “accidentally” knock them down on themselves, or bag straps on floors, so that the children would regularly trip and fall. He yelled and screamed at them for being normal children, which he considered “spoiled”. He could not tolerate their enjoying anything; for example, one winter day, when the children were especially delighting in looking at icicles outside the windows, calling them “nurseries” and “colonies”, he smashed them down with a shovel as they were watching. If they had a favorite toy, he hid it. If they had plans to go out, he diverted them with “better” promises—only to deprive them of either experience. Now, he chased the mother out of the house, stating that he needed his “parenting time” with them, only to abandon the children and to starve them, even as he himself ate with his girlfriends outdoors. If he paid any attention to them, he forced them to do hard labor “for their own good,” such as scrubbing the floor of his music room or washing his car. It echoed the way he forced his wife to do hard labor, catering his constant dinner parties over the strenuous years of raising two toddlers with little help—no doubt because he believed she grew up “spoiled” and “overprivileged”.
All this is without going into his exposure of his children to his substance abuse, his preference for violent films that gave them nightmares, and his pornography addiction and sexual perversions that led to suicidal thoughts in his daughter. Eventually, he would cause his seven-year-old son a head injury that, angled slightly differently, could have crushed his skull and killed him—which resulted in a temporary restraining order against him. Previously, when his daughter was an infant, he “accidentally” threw her in the air to land head first on a concrete floor and almost killed her, as well. However, Family Court promptly negated the restraining order without a trial and ordered the children to visit him anyway—by police escort if they resisted, which indeed became their first of many contacts with the police. When he had his first full weekend with the children, he snuck away their passports and secretly took them to a resort hours away in another state, against court directives that prohibited taking the children across state lines without permission. He was caught when the children called their maternal grandfather, appearing so terrified that the grandfather rushed back from Canada, leaving behind a sick friend, afraid for his grandchildren’s safety, but for two-and-a-half years, he would not see them again. This is because, the following week, when the mother had her own first full weekend with the children, the father would not be able to tolerate leaving them together even for a few hours. Police raided their hotel room, just twenty minutes away from home, even though it was within court directives, because the father was “convinced” that his wife was “absconding”—there is no more possible projection if one tried to invent one, but the Family Court “guardian ad litem,” who acted as the father’s hitwoman from the beginning, buttressed his lies to the police, pretending that it was not the weekend she had assigned the mother to have the children. The Family Court judge, who had been looking for an excuse for a total “custody switch,” seized the opportunity to make the police capture a permanent transfer, henceforth sealing their fate for years to come. Her absolute refusal to hear any evidence or details surrounding the father’s and the guardian ad litem’s malicious prosecution and premeditated plan make clear that the judge is also in on the plot to “DARVO”.
2. ‘Exterminate All the Weaklings!’
By the time the perpetrator has been “exonerated” of wrongful behavior by assuming the role of “victim”, and the true victim persecuted and punished by being turned into an alleged offender, the true perpetrator’s expectations have ballooned beyond measure. This is because individuals with dangerous personality disorders, when granted illegitimate power, do not remain the same but morph into being infinitely more brazen and more dangerous. Seated at the top of power they never thought they would have — and never would have been allowed to have in legitimate society — they become a grotesque version of themselves, like the tragic character of Joseph Conrad’s novella, The Heart of Darkness, who states:
we … “must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might of a deity”…. “By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded”…. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: “Exterminate all the brutes!”
It is the illustration of a colonialist who, stumbling upon total power over others in a secret land, without oversight or accountability, reaches the logical conclusion of this power: the need to eliminate every reminder of his undeserved status. As an observer of Family Court, I have often wondered how many atrocities have been committed for the sake of “good practically unbounded.” The greed and cruelty of Family Court, as it legalizes abuse for profit, resembles the hidden jungles of the Congo — except in Family Court, the motto is: “Exterminate all the weaklings!” With contempt for the self projected onto the more vulnerable members of the family—usually women and children—the mission does not end with defeating that externalized weakness. Mr. Kurtz, who makes the above statement, is a character obsessed with power, driven to madness by his own quest for wealth and status. He actually has a brilliant mind and a profound soul, but having allowed the darkness of raw ambition into his heart, he consumes himself to the point of his demise. His life ends with the last words: “The horror! The horror!”
My gifted brother-in-law is a similarly tragic figure. His Harvard Law School degree—which he used to ingratiate himself with our family, since I was teaching at Yale Law School at the time — and humble, compassionate exterior hid an extensive background of psychopathic abuse and neglect. His only sister is functionally debilitated from trauma and requires lifelong financial support; yet, she is the only one in the family without psychopathy and hence the healthiest. Four forensic experts would come to diagnose him with psychopathy, and six mental health experts declared him a danger to his children—yet, true to form, the Family Court judge and the guardian ad litem gave the abusive father full custody and not even a minute of phone call or visit for the primary caregiving mother in two-and-a-half years and ongoing. The diagnosis of serial rapists and mass murderers, psychopathy wreaks greater havoc on families, communities, and societies than all the other psychiatric conditions combined—and thus it is important to judge them by their actions, not their impressions. Family Courts, however, rely almost exclusively on impressions and hearsay, as they notoriously deny petitioners due process or evidentiary hearings—hence becoming a perpetrators’ playground. In criminal court, psychopaths are two-and-a-half times more likely to get more lenient sentences and to get out of prison early than those without the diagnosis, for the same crimes, even though they are more dangerous and more likely to repeat their crimes. In Family Court, the same psychopath may be granted full custody of the children, the house, child support, all his legal fees, and no alimony for his wife—as the father in this case is demanding, claiming that he should be granted “child support” in the six figures, even though he makes a million dollars a year. As it turns out, the father’s financial intrigues are legendary: not only did he convince the family he married into to support him financially before and after marriage, as he stashed away 97 percent of his million-dollar salary, he pulled off a financial fraud scheme where his former boss was fined 38 million dollars but he got off scot-free.
The combination of a lack of conscience and a drive to harm have allowed the father to attempt to murder his wife six times, twice with the assistance of Family Court. He would also almost kill both his children on different occasions, just months before he was permitted to kidnap them. The irony is, when he entered Family Court, he was still capable of making an equitable settlement with his wife, however begrudgingly. If authorities had told him that he needed to give his children space and time with their mother for their proper growth, he would have complied. This is because developmentally wounded individuals with a proneness for violence are surprisingly obedient to authority. In their immature world view, “might makes right.” Besides, he never wanted those children; he wanted his freedom, and now he is less free than when his wife took care of the children and he could simply enjoy them at his pleasure. A responsible Court would have required him to do what is healthy and just, but actual Family Courts exploit perpetrator pathology: “projective identification” is a form of denial that is driven to accuse one’s victims of one’s own guilt and own crimes, and to label healthy persons “mentally ill,” instead of themselves. Family Courts offer a “reversal of reality,” through obstructing investigations, intimidating witnesses, tampering with evidence, and fabricating false narratives against victims for a price. Now, Family Court has goaded the father into committing felony crimes, under the false lure that he could have everything. However, whereas it told him that falsely alleging “parental alienation” would deflect all investigations into his violent abuse, it did not tell him that the price of Family Court “protection” was all his personal assets. Thus, he ended up outsmarting himself, trapping himself in the snares of an organized criminal enterprise, having to expend inordinate amounts to keep up his false façade—and his wife inordinate amounts to defend herself—and already half the equity of the house is gone, while they are not even a fifth way through. This is a common outcome of engaging with the Family Courts; others have lost much more—millions—and decades of their life, not years….