Mothers March on Mother’s Day 2014 to Protect Children
Mother’s Day is traditionally filled with flowers, cards, and sometimes breakfast in bed. Most fathers are honored to honor the mother of their mutual children by helping pick the daffodils and burn the toast, carefully covering the black part with a thick layer of marmalade.
But mothers are also included in a stark statistic: one in every four women is a victim of violence, by the very person who promised to love and cherish her. [i] And a child of a batterer is not only more likely to be hit, but is 6.5 to 19 times more likely to be sexually abused.[ii] Batterers feel entitled to treat women and children as punching bags and sexual objects due to a well-honed sense of ownership.
This attitude is not new, of course. Throughout history, men who thought they owned women and children[iii] have dominated them physically and fiscally. They are larger, stronger, and more economically powerful. It wasn’t until 1920 that a woman could vote in the United States. And soon women started getting better paid jobs and becoming equal. In the 1970s, domestic violence shelters began providing a safety net for women with young children. Some of the children even felt safe enough to talk about the abuse they suffered. This tended to rock the status quo for men who thought they owned women and children, and led to all sorts of unwanted problems with the law.
In 1996, a new federal law appeared, promoting fatherhood and providing funding for programs and media campaigns to improve the image and behavior of “deadbeat dads”, as they were called. Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood [v] programs began pouring $150 million per year (yes, even during the Great Recession) to rehabilitate fathers, even felons in prison, to train them to become good providers. This would take the fiscal burden off of taxpayers.
At first it seemed a great idea. Everyone wants responsible fathers to nurture children and help mothers and children financially. In fact, responsible fathers were quietly doing just that, all across the country, without any training or promotion whatsoever.
But good intentions sometimes have unintended consequences. Men who thought they owned women and children found a loophole. Instead of getting jobs and paying child support as the law intended, they figured if they got custody, they could get out of paying child support. As an added bonus, they could actually get child support from the very women who dared to leave them. This was a highly satisfying thought.
Men who thought they owned women and children began using their superior economic power to hire attorneys and go to family (divorce) courts to get custody. The mothers, having no money for attorneys, were unable to compete on an uneven playing field. Huge amounts of money began to change hands as a cottage industry of unregulated court-appointed professionals sprang up to provide opinions. Usually the opinions leaned toward the parent with the money.
Even documented batterers and molesters began getting custody and shutting mothers out of their children’s lives. The problem got steadily worse.
Mothers began to find each other across the country and formed a coalition called Mothers of Lost Children. This movement was patterned on the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, also known as the Mothers of the Disappeared, whose children had been “disappeared” by the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships. The Mothers of Lost Children also honored the suffragists who initiated the radical idea that women should vote. And be equal. And not be beaten up. And mother the children they bore.
On Mother’s Day 2010, Mothers of Lost Children and their supporters gathered for the first demonstration in front of the White House in Washington D.C. The Mothers decided to continue demonstrating until these egregious human rights violations against their children cease.
Mother’s Day 2014 will add other events in addition to the Mothers March.
Training: On Friday May 9, Barry Goldstein, Rita Smith, and Elizabeth Liu will train domestic violence advocates on how to best assist mothers and children fleeing domestic violence, to reduce the risk that children will be placed with batterers. This training will be held at George Washington University from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Conference: On Saturday May 10, Joy Silberg, Ph.D., Toby Kleinman, Esq., Mo Hannah, Ph.D. and a panel of mothers will discuss mothering under duress when their children are living with an abuser. This conference will be held at George Washington University from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Demonstration: On Sunday May 11, Mothers of Lost Children will meet at 11:00 am in front of the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC for a vigil and speak out, then the Mothers will march until approximately 4:00 pm.
Lobbying: On Monday May 12, Mothers of Lost Children will meet with Congressional staff to educate them on the social justice issue of children being taken from safe mothers and placed with dangerous fathers. Lobbying will begin at 9:00 am in front of the Rayburn Office Building on Independence Ave and First Street, SW.
There are no fees for these events. Participants will need to make their own hotel reservations. Lunch can be ordered in advance. Please visit the Battered Mothers Custody Conference site listed below for further information.
Please join us in making a difference for abused children of divorce and separation.
How can you help children trapped in the custody of their abusers? The most important thing you can do today is sign the petition to ask for Congressional Oversight Hearings, and get your friends to sign it too.
For more information please visit our partners:
Mothers of Lost Children [Website]
Mothers of Lost Children [Facebook]
[ii] Paveza, G., Risk factors in father-daughter child sexual abuse, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 3(3), pp. 290-306, 1988; McCloskey, L.A., Figueredo, A.J. & Koss, M, The effect of systemic family violence on children’s mental health, ChildDevelopment, 66, 1239-1261, 1995. (365 respondents)
[iii] Men who think they own women attempt to dominate and control their partners’ lives. http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-causes-domestic-violence/000344. Although some women can become violent (usually in self defense) they are not able to overpower and control men in this same manner.