Laura’s Unbelieved Story*
Laura separated amicably from her husband and although she had become concerned by signs of control, she put her head down and focused on the children. Throughout the separation process her mind was focused on the freedom awaiting her and the children and she was more than happy to agree to shared parenting arrangements. Laura believed it was her who was separating from her husband and she was not going to allow it to affect the children any more than could be helped. It was agreed that Laura and the children would stay on in the family home in their community. Community is important to Laura as she had become estranged from her own family. In fact her husband had become very close to her mother and in time Laura’s own Mother would turn her back on her to support Laura’s ex husband to take care of the children. Leaving Laura alone, afraid and looking like she was the problem.
When the children disclosed being sexually abused by their father, Laura’s world would change beyond recognition forever. Utterly alone, she faced the court system looking for protection and justice for her innocent children. What she discovered was systemic prejudice towards her as a woman making such claims. Without warning the system began to take her ex-husband’s word as evidence of her mental wellbeing. Experts working within the system would turn the spotlight onto her and blame her vindictiveness for the children being coached into lying about what was happening to them. Everywhere Laura turned for help, she was met with suspicion. The procedures which would have allowed for the accurate collection of evidence and best standard in interviewing her children were repeatedly failed to be met. Time lapses between incidents of abuse and her children being seen by social workers or the sexual assault trauma unit meant that the collection of evidence was impossible. When in desperation Laura begged the courts to stop contact between the children and their father while a proper investigation was carried out, Laura would see the system supposed to provide protection and justice, lash out at her for attempting to obstruct the children’s time with their father. Laura would then learn that this is in fact the way the system is designed. The child and family agency which is supposed to provide child protection through Children First and and our specialist Garda investigation units would stand idly by while the family courts exercised seniority through experts working as limbs of the court.
Not long after asking the courts help, Laura arrived to collect her children from school only to be told that they had been removed earlier in the day without her knowledge or consent. She would later be informed that the children’s father had sought a custody transfer without her knowledge and the court and the court appointed expert had orchestrated this transfer of custody without Laura or her children knowing anything about it. It would take Laura years of fighting and silencing herself and her children to be allowed to have unsupervised contact with her children again. Laura and her children learned the hard way that in Ireland, once you have a child with an abuser you can never leave and if you try to protect yourself and your children, the system is designed to silence.
*Not her real name