Amy Neustein and Michael Lesher have written an important book which exposes a scandal in our family and divorce courts. It is a scandal that is well-known to victims and advocates trying to help them. The authors studied over 1000 cases in which alleged sexual abusers of children are granted custody and the protective mothers receive supervised visitation. They chronicle the kinds of mistakes which create such outrageous outcomes. The scandal has become so widespread because of the secrecy the courts promote and the blame the victim strategy so often encouraged in the courts. If you look at individual cases the abuser has successfully denigrated the protective mother so that a casual reader or journalist can believe that there was something wrong with the particular mother that created such an extreme outcome. When you study large numbers of cases as the authors have done, however, it becomes apparent that the fault is not with the mother but with the system. The same mistakes are made repeatedly by judges, lawyers, law guardians, mental health professionals, child protective workers and other players in the system. The authors' contribution is to help us see this pattern of abuse in the courts. The media have been willing to publicize individual cases but have failed in their obligation to expose the pattern. If the custody courts reformed their practices to stop making children live with abusers it would do more to reduce crime then every crime bill passed in our lifetime. This book shows the mistakes that are made that cause outrageous results. The same mistakes are made in other child abuse and domestic violence cases. There are thousands of these Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases throughout the country. This book is an important start to making the public aware of the scandal and the harm it causes. I hope the national media will end its timidity and go after this critical story.
This is not light reading. Sociologist Neustein and attorney Lesher have written a shocking indictment of the U.S. family court system. After studying over a thousand cases, they find a clear pattern of abuse by the system itself, directed against sexually-abused children and the parents who try to protect them.
Many people are already stunned by the systemic abuse of children—and the coverups—revealed in the Catholic Church scandals. This one is a thousand times worse. It's not just a few bad eggs, it's the whole egg farm. All across the country, corrupt judges are handing sexually-assaulted children over to the very people who abused them, every day. It's a policy. They get away with it because they do it in secrecy, often calling the protective parent (usually the mother) “crazy” despite a total lack of evidence against them... and frequently in the face of strong, substantiated evidence against the abuser, which they ignore. Like the Church.
It's unbelievable. Yet it really is happening, maybe to someone you know. Neustein and Lesher document it thoroughly and calmly, in full academic form (with 30 pages of footnotes and 10 pages of references at the end). There is no “hysteria” here; the facts speak for themselves. Read it... then go out and change it. The last three chapters tell you how. Our children need us to restore integrity to the family courts.
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