Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mom tries to keep son safe after dad's sexual abuse (South Bend, Indiana)

So sad, and yet to typical of the coddling that abuser dad get from the system. Mom was relatively lucky in that UNNAMED DAD seemed to tire of fighting for custody/visitation, and finally wandered off--at least for now. Too many moms are not so lucky.

Mother tries to keep son safe after father’s abuse

Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2013 7:00 am | Updated: 7:41 am, Sun Aug 4, 2013.
VIRGINIA BLACK South Bend Tribune
Posted on August 4, 2013

From the time Amy's son could speak, the worried boy would tell her, "Mom, the bogeyman's gonna get me!"

No, the Plymouth mother would reassure him, there's no bogeyman.

But the boy held on to his fears, which seemed to grow as he did.

When anyone pulled the toddler's pants down to change a diaper, he would quickly pull them back up. Bedtime featured terrible nightmares and, too often, a wet bed.

Other signs of trouble later emerged, Amy says now.

The boy’s father called Amy several times because his son had hit him in the gut, in the nose, in the genitals. The angry man would put the boy on the phone.

'I'd say, ‘Don't hit your dad,' and he'd be mad, but he'd say, ‘OK, Mom,’ " Amy says. "They fought like kids."

The boy began to refuse to spend time with his father, which Amy and her attorney attributed to his father's frequent bouts with drinking, which the boy openly discussed. That was despite the fact the father routinely bought his son expensive toys and treated him to Chuck E Cheese every weekend.

Court records describe how the boy would punch his Winnie the Pooh and say, "I'm killing my dad!"

Everything changed when the child turned 5. Amy re-members that moment in the kitchen, her son’s head slowly swiveling as he studied every corner.

'"Mom, there's no cameras in here. My dad can't see me,"' he told his mother. "It was like everything was becoming clear to him. You could just see it happening. The longer I kept him away, the more he was figuring stuff out,” his mother said.

They were standing near the sink when the dam that had been restraining the boy's emotions finally broke.

"He goes, 'Remember when you said that nobody could touch my privates?' I said, ‘Yeah.’

“And he goes, 'Well, my dad does it all the time. And when I punch him like you told me, you yell at me.' And then I knew," Amy says, describing how the two hugged each other, crying, as they sunk to the floor.

"I just apologized to him over and over again, 'I'm so sorry, I'm just so sorry.'. ... And he said, 'Mom, you didn't know. My dad lies a lot."

His father boasted that he could see his son at all times, the boy said, and he threatened to hurt him and the rest of the family if he ever told what happened when the two were alone.

Amy sobs at the memory, even now. "I just didn't know. I knew something was bad, but I didn't know."

‘He wanted me to be scared’

Amy and her son's father had not married, but he had immediately offered to support the boy and be a part of his life since he was born 11 years ago.

He was a hard worker, read the Bible, "was like an old Southern guy," Amy says of her son’s father. He would often come for dinner and spend time with her two other children from her earlier marriage.

Amy developed a condition much like Parkinson's, related to her job as a welder, and eventually went on dis-ability. When she was first having bouts of ill health, he was generous in providing for his son.

But after Amy reported the boy's revelations and a counselor confirmed the abuse, the Department of Child Services opened a case.

Because the abuse allegedly happened at the father's apartment in St. Joseph County, that was where the case was handled. A detective interviewed the father and reported to Amy the man “loves his son."

A letter from a deputy prosecutor on Jan. 9, 2009, broke the news that no charges would be filed. 

"My decision not to charge does not necessarily mean that I do not believe the events described ... did not happen," she wrote. "Rather, I am concerned with initiating a lengthy, at times, distressing process that is unlikely to result in a conviction."

Meanwhile, the boy was opening up more to his DCS-assigned therapist.

The boy "disclosed that his father 'pulls my private parts' (while pointing to his penis) while they are 'in bed,' " she wrote in a July 24, 2007, letter to DCS.

In October 2008, the therapist reported the boy described his father tying him to a chair and forcing him to repeatedly watch scary movies, especially the "Chuckie" and "Friday the 13th" movies. Jason, the hockey mask-wearing villain of the "Friday the 13th" films, was the "bogeyman" the boy was most afraid of.

"Daddy made me watch it," the therapist quoted the boy. "He wanted me to be scared."

Who was lying?

A judge approved the DCS plan to continue treatment for the boy and his mother and to deny visitation with his father until he admitted what he'd done, apologized to his son and underwent parenting classes and treatment.

In a six-month review on June 20, 2008, a DCS case manager wrote, the man "does very little participation and he is still in denial about his drinking and that he inappropriately touched his son."

Amy says her son was beginning to work through his fear and anger when suddenly the boy's father hired another attorney who took a more aggressive approach. Then DCS, whose employees seemed as if they were in the boy's corner, did an about-face. 

All of a sudden, possibly because of a state-mandated time frame for open cases, authorities wanted to close the case and reunite the boy and his father, first with supervised visits. 

The DCS-contracted therapist, who the boy had learned to trust, objected to the move, saying the boy wasn't ready. She was pulled from the case, documents show.

The boy “reacted with extreme emotionality upon hearing he would have to visit his father," the new therapist wrote in a December 2009 report. He "has made disclosures to this therapist and his previous therapist as well. ... He qualifies for a (diagnosis) of PTSD."

Meanwhile, the court battle intensified. Both parents were ordered to take polygraphs. Despite the shaking of her hands because of her disability, a report confirms Amy passed hers. Her child’s father never turned one in, she says.

A CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocate — was ultimately appointed to try to sort out whether Amy was putting her son up to the allegations against his father.

The CASA described his impressions about the boy and his family in a subsequent 2009 report to the judge.

"This CASA was left with the impression that (the boy) was truthful and very intimidated by his father," he wrote.

He wrote of also meeting with the boy's father, who seemed to love his son but was full of anger and denial.

"This CASA understands the reason ... (for) visitation," he wrote, adding his opinion was "visitation should not begin at this time."

‘They had a job to do’

Yet Amy says she was told by a DCS case manager and her attorney that if she did not agree to the supervised visitation, her son would be taken from her and placed in foster care.

She says they told her son, "You just need to get over it. You need to see your dad. You're just going to make your dad feel bad."

During visitations supervised by a third party, according to a therapist's report, the man gave the boy money and toys, asked him to change into new pants he had brought for him, and winked at him.

But abruptly, after one visitation, the boy's father left town, Amy says.

The man sends letters and checks occasionally, and Amy and her son both worry about what will happen if he shows up again to claim his parenting rights.

"All I can figure is he was trying to get the heck out of there," Amy says. "Something else must have been going on."

But she and her children have picked up the pieces. The now-11-year-old boy, tan with summertime and the sports he loves, is charming and calm when talking about the ordeal.

"We were one wounded family," Amy says. "My kids learned subject matter they should not have even known existed yet."

The boy’s sister, nearly 15, recalls that her brother often took his anger out on her, and as recently as a year ago still refused to so much as spend the night at a friend’s house.

“You can see he’s a happy boy again,” she says, “and he’s not as scared. I know he’ll be OK.”

Amy had been fighting her disease, sometimes in a wheelchair, during the years of fighting for her son. She’s spent her life's savings on attorneys and other costs, she says.

She's disillusioned about a system that meant she couldn't speak out for her son for fear of being accused of filling him full of lies. “They have to listen to the children more,” she says.

And she's appalled that the costs involved with the lingering case might have spurred authorities to move so abruptly to close it. "They could have stood up for my son," Amy says.

"They had a job to do. That's all it boils down to.”