There is a Crisis in Americas Family Courts; Batterers are getting Custody of Children



BREAKING THE SILENCE: CHILDREN'S STORIES chronicles the impact of domestic violence on children and the recurring failings of family courts across the country to protect them from their abusers. In stark and often poignant interviews, children and battered mothers tell their stories of abuse at home and continued trauma within the courts. The producers approached the topic with the open mindedness and commitment to fairness that we require of our journalists. Their research was extensive and supports the conclusions drawn in the program. Funding from the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation met PBS's underwriting guidelines; the Foundation had no editorial influence on program content.

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Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories

This groundbreaking PBS documentary was filmed in part at the 2005  Battered Mother's Custody Conference, and premiered nationally October 20, 2005 as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month; showings continue across the country; check National Schedule of PBS airings.

Please write to PBS stations who are showing Breaking The Silence and thank them!  Find contact info for your local PBS stations.
Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories chronicles the impact of domestic violence on children, the systemic failure of family courts across the country to protect children from their abusers, and the legal injustices encountered by protective parents.

Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories is a follow-up to the acclaimed 2001 PBS documentary, Breaking the Silence: Journeys of Hope, which focused on women and domestic abuse.  “Journeys of Hope documented how much we, as a society, made progress to combat domestic violence and serve its victims,” explains producer Dominique Lasseur (www.tatgelasseur.com).  “Children Stories reminds us that a lot needs to be done to better protect our children from the long term effects of living with violent abusers.” 

Documentary Chronicles Family Court's Failure To Protect Children,

North Country Gazette, October 15,  2005

Click on the picture below to download this PBS flyer

Press Release - September 12, 2005 back to top

Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D. , Conference Chair
Liliane Heller Miller, Conference Vice-Chair

A powerful new PBS documentary, Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories, premiers on October 20, 2005.  This long-awaited film chronicles the impact of domestic violence on children and the systemic failure of family courts across the country to protect them from their abusers.  Airing times and dates vary—please check your local PBS listings.

Growing numbers of protective, non-offending, loving, and fit mothers are losing custody of their children to their or their children’s abusers. Women who seek to exit bad or even dangerous relationships are often met with retaliatory suits for child custody. Many women who try to leave an abusive partner find that the family court system can become a place where the abuser is enabled and even facilitated in further victimizing her and her children.

The American Judges Association reports that one of the most common reasons for resuming a relationship with an abusive partner is the fear that the abuser will act on threats of taking the children. In fact, studies show that batterers have been able to convince authorities that the victim is unfit or undeserving of sole custody in approximately 70% of challenged cases.

Little known among the general public is the fact that, for almost two decades now, a controversial theory called " Parental Alienation Syndrome" (PAS) has been used as a courtroom tactic to silence abused children and their mothers. This so-called syndrome is not based on systematic research, is not recognized by mental health professionals, is not viewed as a psychiatric diagnosis, and has been rejected by valid scientists and ethical practitioners. Nevertheless, PAS continues to be routinely used in courts across the country, resulting in the removal of children from loving, safe, and fit mothers to fathers who batter the mother, abuse the child, and/or have a substance abuse or criminal history. Often, the mother is given only supervised visitation; in many cases, she loses all contact with her child.    Full Press Release


Family Court Crisis: Our Children at Risk


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CJE Family Law Documentary

Family Court Crisis: Our Children at Risk



Working with Kathleen Russell Consulting and Ludlow Media, CJE produced a 42-minute documentary addressing the serious systemic breakdown of our family courts. The film, Family Court Crisis: Our Children At Risk, features interviews with individuals whose lives have been affected by the dysfunctional family law system and expert analyses of what has gone wrong. Issues addressed in the documentary include:

  • Parental Alienation Syndrome is the reigning paradigm in family law
  • Mediators, Therapists & Evaluators are usurping judicial authority
  • The Family Law Machine is operating as Big Business

*Family Court Crisis: Our Children at Risk is being distributed through Intermedia, Inc. (www.intermedia-inc.com) for the educational market, which includes statewide domestic violence coalitions, libraries and educational institutions.



Family Court Crisis: Our Children at Risk

by Kathleen Russell Consulting


This Family Law Documentary exposes a brewing nightmare in family courts across America- children are routinely being placed in the sole custody of their abusive parents by the family court. This film details a few outrageous cases from Marin County, California. It must be seen and heard to be believed: it's an American tragedy.
The film was produced by the Center for Judicial Excellence, a grassroots nonprofit organization working to strengthen and maintain the integrity of the Marin County Courts.
Kathleen Russell co-directed and produced Family Court Crisis: Our Children At Risk. Her strategic communications firm, Kathleen Russell Consulting (KRC), co-directs and produces short films and PSAs for their nonprofit clients working for social,economic and environmental justice. This film is her first documentary for public release. Kathleen co-directed the film with Rhys Ludlow, of Ludlow Media Services.
See www.centerforjudicialexcellence.org for more on CJE's important judicial reform work, and visit www.kathleenrussell.com for more about KRC's communications work ... Telling Stories, Moving Mountains.

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