Sham in Shawnee County (Topeka, Kansas)
Sham in Shawnee County (Topeka, Kansas) The last time I did court watch for protective mother CLAUDINE DOMBROWSKI, I called my subsequent posting on the experience "Showdown in Shawnee County." See the post here:
I can't even call the hearing held on October 19, 2010 a showdown. It was just a sham.
Let's do a little review. Claudine is a battered mother who lost custody of her only daughter in an ex parte hearing in 2004. (Ex parte means the mother wasn't even represented at the hearing.) Since then, she has had very little visitation. The hearing in January 2010 (see post above) was supposed to fix that. And finally, Claudine was awarded two hours of unsupervised visitation on Sunday and telephone contact twice a week. We figured it was a start.
Well, this was not to be. And not because of anything Claudine did.
As Claudine testified, visitation went well. She taught her now teenage daughter to drive. They shopped. They went to Barnes and Noble. They talked about girl stuff. Boy stuff. Just like any other mother and daughter. In fact, Claudine was able to enjoy her first mother's day with her daughter in ten years. There were no negative interactions. In fact, it looked like some serious healing was going on.
And in that lays the problem. You see, abusers and their enablers don't like healing. They find that supremely threatening to their power and control. So of course, the process must be stopped lest their domination of the child and the overall "situation" be compromised.
So in May 2010, all visitation stopped at Dad HAL RICHARDSON's personal discretion--which he admitted during his own testimony. He made the unilateral decision that he would no longer take his daughter to the law enforcement center for visitation (presumably at her "request"--but more on that later.) He made sure that during the times of designated phone contact, the phone was never answered as it was set on fax. (Dad admitted under oath that the phone does go to fax mode when not answered--though he denied "inhibiting" phone access, which is not surprising. But then, how did Mom know to testify that the phone was set on fax when she called? Oh those little details....) But of course, Dad didn't exactly encourage or welcome contact either--that much was evident. In fact, it was pretty clear to me that he was extremely negative about Claudine, and doing his best to crush any contact between her and her daughter.
But like many abusers, he projected his own motives onto the child, now a teenager. SHE was the one who was "uncomfortable." She was the one who was "afraid." Afraid of what? Physical abuse, sexual violence? No, there was no evidence of that beyond vague innuendos about "fighting" that allegedly occurred in the distant past (These innuendos weren't even brought up in January. Must be a new game plan.)
Apparently we are supposed to believe that this teenage girl is "afraid" because Mom allegedly doesn't "follow the rules." What rules? Apparently the court's rules regarding discussion of this case.
All this was echoed by Guardian ad Litem JILL DYKES. And once again, just as in January, Ms. Dykes didn't even feign professional neutrality in this case, as she literally sat at Daddy's elbow the whole time.
Are you kidding me? The typical teenager would blow off a parent's attempt to discuss court matters--ASSUMING any such discussion took place, which Claudine denies. They certainly wouldn't be "afraid" of such a discussion. Annoyed perhaps. But not "afraid" or traumatized. This is just classic projection. That this teenager is such a hothouse flower that she is somehow irreparably injured by any possible or potential references to her parents' legal issues, which I'm sure she already knows all about anyway. Nonsense.
I would humbly suggest that it is Hall Richardson and his enablers who are "afraid" of any possible open or frank discussion of this case. Or any contact between this mother and daughter. And their little "feelings" shouldn't play any part of this.
Under Kansas law, visitation isn't shut off because somebody is "uncomfortable" for vague and specious reasons. If that were the case, then controlling and manipulative parents would be cutting off access for whatever reason they dreamed up that day.
Unfortunately, given the dynamics of domestic violence, children who are in the control of abusers often find it necessary to parrot what the abusers want for their own survival. Which makes if very difficult for this child to speak up and articulate what she wants--except in private to her own mother.
And frankly, this ordeal shows a complete double standard. Were this a custodial mother blocking visitation for such vague and specious reasons, she would no doubt be labeled as an "alienator" with "parental alienation syndrome" (PAS). And the situation would be addressed immediately--either visitation would be enforced by the courts or the mother would lose custody all together. But I digress.
So no visitation from May to the present. But this actually was a minor issue as far as the court was concerned.
No, once again our major concern was Claudine's political activity. The players in Shawnee County are very upset with how well known this case has become (my last blog posting on this case had readers as far away as Australia.) And they are blaming Claudine for all of it, even though when pushed, Judge DAVID DEBENHEIM fiercely denied that he was trying to "stomp" on Claudine's first amendment rights. (Huh. Could have fooled me.)
But even in cases where OTHER bloggers like Nancy Carroll at Rights for Mothers had discussed this case (http://rightsformothers.com/), Claudine was blamed. In fact, the opposing attorney submitted into evidence printouts from NANCY's blog to show that Claudine was out of compliance with their gag order. Message to the Hoffmans: Nancy is not Claudine. I'm not Claudine either, for that matter. And you can't shut us up.
And honestly, did the Hoffmans really have to embarass their employee like that? They trotted out a young and painfully ignorant employee of theirs to "testify" about Claudine's "alleged" facebook and twitter activities. This fresh-faced young woman--no more than a high school graduate with a few "computer" classes--earnestly told us that every posting and link on somebody's facebook page had to personally "approved" and/or "posted" by that person. Yes, dear friends. She did say that. And meant it too, so far as I can tell. I won't give her name, though it's in my notes. I refuse to further humilate her. But honestly, your great aunt Rose probably knows more about facebook than this girl.
So the significance of this was what? There are supposedly "references" to her case on Claudine's facebook page! Oh the horror! And you know what? This blog may very well end up with a link on Claudine's facebook page, too--through an automatic feed mechanism. It will go straight to facebook--even when Claudine is sleeping or brushing her teeth. Or sitting in court. Because you know what? Claudine is a well networked activist with probably hundreds of facebook friends working on issues related to child abuse, domestic violence, human rights, and family court reform. Many of us have discussed this case before. Just as we have discussed many other cases like this one, where the courts have backed up the abuser and shut out or ignored the protective mother. And for your information, you'll find articles and links about those cases as well.
And all this policing of Claudine's personal and political activities on the internet is particularly hypocritical when you consider the following: Attorney JASON B. HOFFMAN and GAL JILL DYKES had no qualms about violating professional ethical boundaries and becoming facebook "friends" with this child! (I saw the screen shots.) Mom can't even post a photo of her daughter per court order, but these folks feel free to do as they like. Not that the judge was interested in this matter at all. Big surprise there.
And this is the crux of the matter. What the court in Shawnee County REALLY doesn't like is that--as they put it--this lady "has a cause." Or she has "become a cause." They don't like the "venom" (i.e. the truth) that has come out about this case, and the attention it has received nationally and even internationally. They don't even like Claudine's facial expressions! (Yes, the judge made a point of addressing this. "You are your own worst enemy!" he thundered at Claudine--apparently over some grimace or frown that I didn't see.)
So make sure you never show anything but a happy face in front of Judge Debenham, even when you are possibly losing all contact with your only child!
Claudine is supposed to hear later this afternoon what the court's decision is--after her daughter will presumably be allowed to speak her mind with the judge. But of course, she can't really speak her mind--not as long as she's a minor and dependent on her father.
We are not optimistic as to the outcome.
But you know what? In a little over two years, this girl ages out of the system's control over her life. Perhaps then, real change will come about. Abusers and their enablers often win the battles. But they seldom win the war. That puts off any real healing in this case for another two years.
But at least it's something to hope for.