Welcome to the “Mothers of Valor” Web-Site. We are now in construction, and will be adding many features to this web-site over time. Right now, we feel it is a good idea to put the web-page up in its infancy so that it can develop in the public view. Eventually we will be including blogs, links, and uploaded videos, etc.
For now, our introduction is very simple. Mothers have always been given lip service in our culture, and we commonly make much of “Mother’s Day” cards and gifts. But we lack a real understanding of what it takes to function as a mother when social circumstances (and/or economic, legal, or health problems) intervene to make mothering into an obstacle course. In extreme circumstances, such problems can make mothering into an activity that only the strongest, most persistent, and most valorous women could ever endure.
In 1970, little was known, and less broadcast, about the country’s family courts, by anyone who had not been directly involved. This began to change as feminists took up the issue of child support, and as fathers’ rights organizations took up the issue of custody. Of course, there seemed to be a link, in that fathers who had previously not been required to pay support for children had rarely sought custody. Be that as it may, what broke upon the scene was a series of packaged attitudes that were being “marketed” in movies, TV specials, news reports, and the chit-chat in bars.
Books were published, starting in the 1980s, about the family courts, the custody battles, and the conflicting allegations. Some studies were conducted but most research was hampered by the fact that family court proceedings were confidential, allegedly to protect the children. Some claimed that the confidentiality protected only a corrupt court system in which a judge had wide discretion to do things that would never be tolerated if they took place in a public forum, like the trial of O.J. Simpson. Of course there were some well known cases that did not escape public notice.
From these “celebrated” cases, we have defined some terms that will help us identify the Mothers of Valor, and show why we choose them for this honor.
Term: Battered Non-Custodial Mothers
Definition: Mothers who have divorced their husbands for abusing them and, sometimes, the children as well, but who have lost custody in court.
Term: Court-Abused Non-Custodial Mothers
Definition: Mothers who have been prevented from exercising their legal rights in family court, so that they are either unable to present the facts to the judge, or are considered “crazy” or “non-credible” so that even when they do present the facts in court, those facts are automatically disbelieved.
Term: Protective Court-Abused Mothers
Definition: These are mothers who have lost custody of their children because they had some basis to believe that their children were being abused by their fathers, and when they revealed that belief to social services agencies or in court, the court deprived them of custody specifically because it officially “disbelieved” the allegations and then blamed the mothers for having made “false allegations.” This happens, at times, even when the courts do not actually “disbelieve” the allegations, but claim that the mothers are making too much of a disturbance about them. (In one Oklahoma case, the court actually gave custody to a father because it believed the allegations but said the father was ready to forget about the issue and move on, and the mother still “focused” on the abuse, so the mother would obviously not be helping the child forget about it and move on with her life!)
Term: Court Vilification
Definition: Once a judge has deprived a Protective Court-Abused Mother of her custodial rights, should that mother protest vigorously, she is often targeted both by the court itself and by the “wronged” ex-husband, various lawyers, court personnel, and even appellate courts, as a person deserving of no consideration, no rights, no respect, and, most significantly, no right to try to defend herself or complain of her mistreatment. For purposes of this web-site, this is the most significant piece of the whole court-abuse process. The process may start out as simple denial, inasmuch as nobody wants to believe that parents abuse their children (although it seems that courts find it easier to believe that mothers abuse children than that fathers do so), but it develops into something far more sinister.
Any criminal defendant is entitled to a defense, an appeal, a habeas corpus petition, and publicity for his plight, should he believe he is falsely accused. His supporters and defenders are entitled to complain of the proceedings, protest his innocence, and use publicity and public outrage to support their continuing efforts at exoneration or defense, regardless of how far the court process has gone. On death row, nobody questions the right of organizations and various individuals and attorneys to try to intervene, right up to the minute of the execution. But when a court-abused mother tries to marshall a vigorous defense, influence public opinion, gather support, protest her innocence, or mitigate her punishment, she is absolutely vilified. Her mistreatment is justified by her response to that very mistreatment, as if her failure to passively accept the judge’s abusive ruling is proof that she deserved the court-abuse to begin with.
THIS is the piece that has not yet been defined, even in the movement that has grown up to protest the court-abuse itself. A mother who continues to defend herself, and who continues to try to protect her child, is vilified more and more, and anybody who wants to victimize her finds a system at his disposal ready to pummel her and further abridge her rights without normal boundaries to their conduct. She may begin to see this concerted effort as a conspiracy, because it often appears to be one, as more and more agencies and state actors pile on to deny her attempts to regain her legal footing. Should she believe that there is some conspiracy involved (even when there is clear evidence of improper official conduct in her case), she is then labeled a “crazy conspiracy theorist” and thoroughly disrespected throughout the governmental system and beyond. Since government employees are naturally prone to protect each other in circumstances like this (and since everybody has SOMETHING on everybody else), we see the phenomenon of the court-protecting agents “circling the wagons” and making the victimized mother into “public enemy number one.” Rare is the mother who can withstand this kind of treatment and continue to try to protect her child.
Term: Vilified Protective Court-Abused Mothers
Definition: These are mothers who, as a result of the above phenomenon, have neither custody nor free visitation with their children, not because they were ever credibly accused of and/or adjudicated to have abused their children, but because they were very persistent in trying to access protection for children they felt sure were being abused by their fathers. Some of these vilified protective court-abused mothers have become “Mothers of Valor” by virtue of their heroic attempts to protect their children, to help other protective parents and children, and/or change the system so that court abuse and mother vilification are not so prevalent, or virulent, in our society.
Among the VILIFIED PROTECTIVE COURT-ABUSED MOTHERS,
We assign the first “Mothers of Valor” award to a mother who has been withstanding organized outrageous court-abuse and vilification since 1986:
Dr. Amy Neustein of Brooklyn, New York