Our Founder and Executive Director
By the age of twelve, Jill Jones Soderman was working as a nurse’s aide at Memorial Hospital of Queens (NY), emptying bed pans, changing beds, and comforting young children who suffered from terrible diseases or were undergoing terrible treatments.
At that time in the 1950s, Jill put in a plea for children to be treated differently from adults and to be allowed to have their parents with them. This advocacy work not only laid the groundwork for the development of children’s services at Memorial Hospital of Queens, but also provided foundational awareness for Jill as to the special needs of children.
When she worked as a case aide at Cancer Care, Inc. in Manhattan, Jill assisted in validating the need for funding for medical support services for families of children with terminal metastatic cancer, to help the children be able to stay in their homes with their families.
During graduate school in the 1970s, Jill was assigned a social work internship in the French Hospital in the “Hell’s Kitchen” community in Manhattan, NY. Through this experience, seeing the ways that the “least of these” were treated, she was motivated to help mobilize and energize this community—in spite of the collective of institutions, school, hospital, and local government—to help them begin operating a Head Start Program. In the same hospital, she helped establish the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous programs in medical wards.
After obtaining a master’s degree in social work from Hunter College, Jill was accepted at New York State Psychiatric Institute, a division of Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. There she studied and worked full time in social work for five years, eventually becoming the general supervisor for general clinical services, working under Dr. Otto Kernberg and being given access to treatment of a number of primary patients, with the psychoanalytic training that was cutting edge at the time.
Involved in New Jersey Institute for Psychoanalysis and the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis, Jill continued to develop her career as a psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, family therapist, and mediator. Through the 1990s she consulted as an expert with attorneys and judges, testifying in courts as an expert witness in the areas of family dynamics, family treatment, psychopathology, and personality disorders.
In 2001, Jill helped found and support the development of the Sussex Country (NJ) branch of Families in Transition (FIT), a nonprofit designed to help families who are engaged in high conflict custody conflict
- stay out of court
- avoid conflict
- accomplish successful mediation and settlement
The program was so successful that in 2006 the Sussex County Family Court adopted it as an official court program, to which families could elect conflict resolution over court supervision.
When interacting with the tragic case described in this article, Jill’s awareness of the desperate needs present in high-conflict custody cases with one Protective Parent led to her creation of the Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts.
Well-skilled in speaking truth to power, Jill continues to consult with lawyers and other professionals dealing with high-conflict custody litigation for Protective Parents accused of “alienating” their children.
As the Executive Director of the Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts, a cornerstone of Jill’s profession has always been an alertness to
- institutional bias
- racial and economic discrimination
- citizen disenfranchisement
- the need to listen to the voices of those challenged as to their ability to speak for themselves
- the need to speak out against seats of power and authority for disenfranchised, demoralized citizens
As she did through her childhood and teen years, Jill seeks to give a voice to the voiceless and defend the rights of the oppressed and needy.
HISTORY OF THE FOUNDATION FOR THE CHILD VICTIMS OF THE FAMILY COURTS
A NOT FOR PROFIT ORGANIZATION
IN MEMORIAM FOR THE CHILD VICTIMS OF THE FAMILY COURTS
WE ARE BORN OF BLOOD AND TEARS – WE LIVE WITH ANGST AND HOPE
SUSTAINED BY LOVE AND PRAYERS
REMEMBERING VICTIMS CELEBRATING SUCCESS
YEARS OF SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER
Jill Jones Soderman
PART 1 – INTRODUCTION
The Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts (FCVFC) is now in its tenth year of identifying alleged crimes committed by Dependency, Juvenile and Family Court judges, lawyers, evaluators across the US. The FCVFC is interested in identifying clusters of those courts, court actors, experts who have consolidated their tactics, techniques, organized their cohorts, government agencies, social advocacy groups to promote what we at the FCVFC describe as a public health crisis engulfing vulnerable women and children.
The FCVFC was born out of a random act of engagement with a family we now understand to have been part of a history of generations of uninterrupted domestic violence. The mother of three young children, a native of Kansas married an Egyptian MD/Pediatrician/businessman in the US. This mother’s own experience of Domestic Violence was related to her own process of observing her mother’s humiliating, degrading abuse at the hands of her father. She thought she moved heaven and earth from the life she knew only to find herself directly enmeshed in the heart of darkness on the liberal east coast of the US courts. Her initial engagement with the Family Court in the NY vicinity allowed her to become separated from her well-documented abuser, to divorce him. However, those same courts forced her to consent to joint custody with a man who brutally beat and abused her and the children and forced her to agree to unsupervised visitation with a documented violent abuser. Following separation and movement toward divorce, the process of addressing violence toward the children began.
As soon as the issue of violent child abuse was addressed, an initial Court Order for a Protective Order for the children was approved, as was resettlement for the mother and children to join her family in Kansas. Days before the family was to leave for Kansas
They were stopped from leaving by a Court Order, mandating a Family Forensic Evaluation by a Court Appointed Forensic Evaluator by the name of Paul Dasher. (PhD)
The father was represented by three Family Court Attorneys who openly threatened witnesses in the hallways of the Court. Witnesses to the acts of violence against the children by the father with their sworn Affidavits were discouraged from giving evidence at the trial. Testimony scheduled, was repeatedly adjourned. Each time a date and time for the presentation was scheduled, witnesses appeared, waited through the day and were never called.
Judge Margaret Mary McVeig presided over initial hearings, subpoenaed perjury, committed perjury herself. Complaints against her resulted in her departure from Family Court to richer killing fields in the area of Probate Court.* The judges who followed Margaret Mary McVeig were no less catastrophic in their rulings. Custody of three children was transferred from the mother, not given to the father, but given to DCF with the proviso that the children would adhere to a visitation schedule with the father. Visitation with the father was never interfered with by the mother. The children ages, 5, 7, 8 refused visitation and ran from their father.
The Family Court issued Orders written by attorney Richard Gruber directed police to use “All Necessary Force” to secure the compliance of little children with visitation with the father they hated and feared because they witnessed their mother’s abuse and experienced their own savage abuse.* (Orders to use All Necessary Force, to enforce visitation exist today in Kansas to secure compliance against DV victims/abused children running from violent abusers). Witnesses to the enforcement described “Sumo Wrestler” Police dispatched to run after little boys running through the streets in all directions to evade police, first on foot, then in police cars, stating to witnesses, “You should be videotaping this scene and calling the press”.
Richard Gruber, the attorney whose penthouse office overlooked skyline and waterfront was known for wearing diamond cufflinks the size of very large ice cubes. He was also well known for viciously, verbally abusing his secretarial pool staff in the midst of his office. A visitor to the office confronted him about his behavior, was asked to leave the office and barred from meeting staff attorneys in his office, following the confrontation. Richard Gruber assisted in developing the story that the mother was “Alienating the children against the father”, the children were brainwashed, the mother was coaching, and they were lying. He shepherded the paternal demand that the children be placed in “treatment”, and cleared orders for the use of psychotropic /black box warning medication.
The oldest son, age seven when we first met, offered the most violent and voluble resistance to any contact with his father. His resistance met with greater resistance in the form of hospitalization and time passed in the ‘quiet room’ where his screams and laments could be clearly heard through the halls and even through phone lines as staff were on calls. As psychiatric Directors, clinicians, experts, placed in writing their statements that this child should not be forced to see his father, the Court Appointed Forensic pressed for his directed diagnosis of “Parental Alienation” demanding complete separation from his mother, the only source of comfort for him.
On Oct. 25th, 2005, this twelve-year-old committed suicide. His last act of deliberate defiance against the father he hated and feared, was muted by the judges presiding over the case. The judges allowed the father to share time at the boy’s funeral, by allowing services of equal time to both parents. The court then retaliated against the mother by removing her two younger, surviving sons to foster care. Her youngest son, a toddler, a baby born of a second marriage, was placed for adoption by DCF. The child was not even allowed to be given to his father, an artist, an individual of impeccable character and decency.
As of Feb. 2008 the FCVFC was recognized as a Non Profit Organization, a 501 3(c), dedicated to advancing the cause of child protection through research, education, publishing, speaking about material learned as the result of our work throughout the US. The areas of intervention developed by the FCVFC have grown over the years from analysis and evaluation to – Forensic Analysis, Analytic Evaluation, Strategic Intervention, Litigation Support, and Financial Forensics for Families in Financial Transition. The area of work dealing with families seeking assistance with Pre-Divorce Planning, with the intention of avoiding high conflict divorce is an area of work we seek to expand, along with financial planning via preparation of Case Information Statements. Financial Planning, Strategy and Intervention in all forms of divorce are of concern to us as an attempt to avoid wherever possible, or prepare for High-Conflict Custody Litigation.
PART 2 – BREAKING THE SILENCE RELATED TO APATHY OR INTIMIDATION
Too often in our work we hear the words “we do not want to get involved….” out of fear for the time commitment that may ensue, fear of government retaliation, fear of lawsuits lodged by predators and their lawyers, fear of personal harm, fear of personal harm where complaints of abuse, a member of one’s community, fear of humiliation when the complaint is denied and the accuser is blamed as the abuser, or lodges some other projected attempt to discredit a credible claim. We know from extensive experience that many of the most severely abused victims, those who have suffered over time are known to members of the community in which they live, whether it be schools, therapists, medical providers or neighbors.
If one seeks explanation of personal interest, one must remember that the Predators among us who abuse their own children often do not limit their activity to their own children, but use their own children to attract the children of others. Further, an issue not adequately addressed is the issue that some of the child victims of abuse will themselves act out on others by impulse, or, the drive to recapitulate a traumatic experience, not identifying that impulse as a crime at the moment of opportunity that the act is perpetrated.* Of greatest concern is the knowledge that some crime victims will themselves become criminals and enact the same heinous crimes to which they were once victims. Self-interest must include the concept that if others are not well cared for, if vulnerable children remain unprotected because the community ignores what is present in plain sight, then no one is safe.
PART 3 – RICHARD GARDNER PARENTAL ALIENATION – JUNK
Though slow to be organized, codified, and weaponized by the coalition of groups with power to label and then take action to reorganize populations according to centralization of wealth and power, the process was fully recognizable as of the year 2000. A select group of the “like-minded”, was nurtured in development by the rise of the AFCC as a variety of professionals came together to share research and skills, interest peaked by the Parental Alienation theories of Richard Gardner MD. Gardner’s writings were based on the small sample of cases presented in his personal caseload dating from 1996 to his death by suicide in 2003. Gardner presided over a known 400 custody cases and is documented as having consulted in additional notable cases, notable in the literature for the harm caused to the subject children.
Gardner’s Parental Alienation theory presented the process and structure by which high conflict custody issues could be decided via a rocket docket assembly line method, which afforded the secondary benefit of growing a cottage industry of professionals. Gardner’s True, False and Hysterical theories of childhood sexual abuse created a McCarthy-like association of like minded professionals, attorneys, psychologists, therapists all geared to rooting out the” parent alienator,” separating them from their children and then potentially subjecting them to “reunification therapy.”
The industry developed a process of identification and diagnosis of the disorder, treatment and intervention followed by a process of “reunification treatment” which included the child and the offending parent. The entire theory as posed by Gardner is completely rejected by the authentic, scientific professional community*, yet courts across the country embrace legal and psychological practitioners who advance separation of Protective Parents from vulnerable and demonstrably abused children. It is questionable as to whether the embrace of an illegitimate theory is because of ignorance, or because of a lack of familiarity with Gardner’s theories that facilitated his rise as an expert witness in the courts.
Gardner’s theory was created to respond to what he considered to be an excess of allegations of child sexual abuse that arose in the context of child custody litigation. That which is most chilling about Gardner’s musings are that at their core, there is a base hostility toward children, a total disregard for the anguish caused by the traumatic, forced, spontaneous separations from Protective parents.
Gardner’s views embrace a historical perspective lodged in the practices of ancient civilizations. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered, children to be expendable and had no rights under law. The doctrine of patria potestas, paternal absolutism granted the father unlimited authority over wives and unmarried children. Children could be killed or sold as property. Whenever a family experienced adverse financial circumstances, children’s needs were subordinated to the larger adult population.
Harsh attitudes toward children can be seen in early English law where infanticide was condoned. English ‘Poor Laws” directed that children of poor families be put to work in workhouses and factories, chained to machines and forced to work long hours under inhumane conditions The Factory Acts generated in the age of the Industrial Revolution allowed parents to contract their children to forced labor and inhumane conditions and collect their wages. English laws and cultural attitudes were exported to the colonies during American colonial development. In 1628 the Massachusetts colony enacted the “Stubborn Child Act” in which a rebellious son could be put to death. It was not until 1851 that we see the first glimmerings of any attempt to protect children in the courts, through the Society For The Protection of Animals. There were no agencies of law to protect children’s rights until…
The works of Charles Dickens depicts the lives of child laborers, The glorification of child sexual labor was depicted in “Pretty Baby”, a film where fantasy duplicates reality in the life and child labor contracts of child star Brook Shields in….year)* Literature and film capture cruelty and create emotional empathy, while laying out the basic platform of the Predator Parent. That which is not addressed is the proclivity of the human psyche to use children as commodities for personal gain when situations present, but also the “unconscious”/not so unconscious hostility of adults toward children, we suggest, because of the extended period of dependency innate in the developmental needs of human children. Such dependency and demand is well studied in psychological research and psychoanalytic as to the human reaction to responding to dependency needs*.
Modern Society’s avoidance of the acknowledgement of the depth and breadth of child abuse and its’ consequences for children and society at large are suspected to stem from factors related to denial that heinous crimes toward children could exist in post modern society. Further, we suggest that because of the self serving nature of predatory crimes that satisfy illegal appetites, not dissimilar to the use of drugs and alcohol, sexual, predatory behavior involving children is a “protected” category of crime and that “privacy laws” are a “two edged sword when it comes to protecting children*. While addictive drugs and alcohol may have been addressed with an attempt at regulation, how does one square the depraved, perverse issues related to child sexual abuse…….The answer lies in attempting to “normalize” the unconscionable, bending norms and exerting the force of religion through charismatic preachers and religious leaders. Permission is advanced and forgiveness is no longer required in the new order where crime has no punishment and sins are the new hierarchy built in to a misogynistic, male-centered social structure.
PART 4 – VOICES
A PREDATOR SPEAKS
The evolution of the concept of “Parental Alienation” is now best represented by the most depraved among us, Richard Larson a 37 year old accountant from Charlottesville, Virginia, currently a candidate for Congress. In a published article * Larson describes himself as a pedophile who raped his ex wife repeatedly during their marriage, before her suicide. Larson describes his longing to have sex with his three year old daughter but is constrained from doing so because he “relinquished” his parental rights during a custody battle”. Mr. Larson is a somewhat extreme member on the continuum of examples of the predator population, represented in the real time, real life videotapes of adult men detached from the agony of screaming babies as their adult genitals are pushed into baby parts. Each time a court/ court actors act in a state of denial that child abuse is being committed because of wrangling over verbiage created to cover acts of depravity, instead of looking at the clinical behavior and statements of children they risk condemning the subjects to extraordinary damage. Psychobabble that pretends to accurately portray a family dynamic should not be allowed to take the place of real behavior and the real communications of children.
A VICTIM SPEAKS
She advises others as an Advocate and recommends:
“Do not seek to rebel or you will experience further punishment.
I’m sorry that you are going through a custody battle with your ex husband.
Let me introduce myself: In 2013 my ex husband claimed in an ex parte motion
that there was an Amber Alert being processed on my son, when there was no
Amber Alert, and he knew where I was on my parenting time. After his attorneys achieved a number of continuances of the return date, they amended their motion to use my emotional response against me. Of course I went through the usual shock, outrage, take down the system feelings and screams, which delayed restoration of my custodial rights for 11 months.”
“To regain custody, I learned to accept that Domestic Violence and Lies are tolerated by Fathers against Mothers and often used as a custody strategy to destabilize a mom. Moms are not respected in American culture. Dads can be marginal parents but a Mom has to be perfect. Discrimination against women in America is real. I studied Black Culture to learn how they survived discrimination to come out on top in the long haul…..They smile and tolerate and never behave like “that angry n” just like we cannot be that ‘crazy mom.'”
That which she does not articulate is the toll taken to her personality, to her relationship with her child, personal relationships, the bitterness engendered by a distorted worldview. Further, as she came to learn, this position of compliance with lies and larceny has short term “gains” and long-term consequences. Any sign of weakness/failure to address judicial/legal malfeasance is rapidly exploited. Vigilance and assertive demand for creating a record, compliance with Due Process is critical. Not asserting rights in the service of ‘showing good faith” is a mockery of what the term” good faith means.
“I never react in public and always smile. I never ask for anything. I do not receive child-support or alimony. I give and do not get back.”
The demand to act as if a heinous crime has not been committed when a child is wrongfully/abruptly separated from a Protective Parent is to deny the horrific impact of that trauma to a parent and child. It belies the long-term consequences of ever evolving trauma that all parties to the trauma experience over a lifetime of developmental stages. The everlasting reiteration of the experience as suffered by each party is an internal recapitulation consciously or unconsciously acted out in multiple sequences through a lifetime. The demand to inhibit the normal reaction of grief, as if “self control” in the face of such assault is a sign of “mental health” is an expression of something between the cruel, sadistic impulses that compelled actions that are antithetical to children’s well being and an acknowledgement that to express grief before the abusing party is an act of gratification for the abuser. Self control, the withholding of the wished for display of agony may in fact be the punishment served to the affect display hungry abuser. The emotional/psychoanalytic context of the courtroom is a component of the legal process rarely, if ever addressed. The failure of lawyers and advocates to confront cruelty and malevolence in the court has allowed the practice of cruelty to grow exponentially and in fact be taken as a fact of life in the court setting to be accepted, seeking parenting with a predator, child abuser, pervert, as a norm. At least, in the words of one very well known and respected attorney, //Michael Lescher, you have your child part of the time, can repair the damages and work toward increased custody, as if that will ever happen under these alternate reality mind set, which tolerates torture and dissembling of children’s psyches.
VOICES OF CHILDREN
(FCVFC ENGAGEMENT OCT. 2017 – LEGAL FREEDOM APRIL 8, 2018)
THE THREE SISTERS
“I am 19 years old and permanently left the harmful and unsafe household of my father on or about May 29, 2013. Through this process of earning my Degree in Behavioral Science, I have gained further education and understanding regarding circumstances that have been surrounding my siblings and I from the time we were born.
Through my University classes I have been taught that I have the obligation to report abuse, regardless of any persons who would seek to hide and cover up the truth, or even fight against it. The following experiences are examples of what I have personally experienced and what my siblings have reported to me:
-As small children he would violently shake, shove, slap, throw, wrench our skin, pull our hair, jamb his elbow into our abdomen, and knock our heads with knuckles or thumb and forefinger, etc.
-He is often emotionally violent, constantly exercises angry and obsessive amounts of control over us, throughout our whole lives we have often been afraid of what he is doing or is capable of doing and from the time he moved out of state we have been feeling that he has become a huge time bomb about to explode.
-We don’t think, we clearly know that he pretends and puts on a false show to everyone else about how he cares about us. If he does have some slight kind of love for us, it is an abnormal kind of love.
-We’ve had fears from the time our step-sister was a baby that she would innocently die.
-She is three now, and over the years he has very frequently taken her screaming into another room while locking the door to prevent her mother or others from going into the room with him.
-We have constantly watched her being very harshly punished by him. She is almost always punished if she starts crying or punished if she does anything he does not think is right, such as accidentally spilling something and her punishments have become more frequent.
-He often picks her up in a very unusual way by gripping his hands around her upper thighs, and carrying her by her upper thighs into her room.
-We have seen him physically hurt and have seen many bruises on her upper thighs. We have been too afraid to take pictures because he always checks our phone and obsessively controls us in order to find out about every single thing we do or say.
-When he takes her screaming into the room, locks the door and prevents her mother and everyone else from entering, we have overheard a pattern of her going from 5 to 10 minutes of intense screaming again, to about 15 seconds or more of abrupt silence, screaming again then silence, which is followed by a long period of crying.
-We have often wondered if it is possible for her to be dead during her sudden total silence after screaming, only because we can’t think of anything that would cause her sudden silence.
-This has happened approximately 2 to 3 times a week beginning from around the time she was 1½ years old, which would make it over 200 times.
-During the times this happens we always start shaking, our hearts begin to race and we feel frozen and very scared for her. We wonder if we might also be shaking because it brings up some feelings that we do not remember from when we were little and afraid.
-We are uncomfortable that nearly every single time he punishes her that he remains in the rooms with her, as most adults do not remain in the room with the child crying the whole time, and will more often than not leave the child in the room.
-This prolonged situation has been harmful to the point that we have all experienced physical damage through various illnesses and symptoms of prolonged enormous distress through: varying degrees of shock, nausea, severe headaches, bed-wetting, nightmares, Celiac Disease symptoms, flashbacks, overwhelming desire for our lives to end at times with an imminent threat of complete emotional breakdown and failure to effectively cope with life again among other symptoms.
-Where have my siblings and I been given any kind of support or motivation to mention any of my father’s actions under the constant threat of being punished by angry adults if we ever do so?
-Adults who have and will continue to punish us for seeking the right to leave our extremely harmful situation and seek protection from imminent threat to serious physical or emotional harm against us and/or others in our presence?
-Now that we have said more, and because he is getting worse, we know that we will not survive what he will do to us after talking about this. We will not be safe living with him, and might not even be safe visiting him.
-Please, please, if there is anyone at all listening, please hear our final pleadings for safety and protection and do everything in your power to prevent us from experiencing permanent, irretrievable harm.”