Some of you who know me well will know that one of the women I have met and come to love in the last two years has a large part of my heart. CYFS have uplifted her children twice now, and you will have to believe me when I say that she was not with him at either time, that both times he enacted violence she was not in a relationship with him. And yet. He walks free because the very act of taking away her children has rendered her incapable of action. It has broken her down, emptied her of love, filled her with sadness and endless tears.
“I should have just taken the bash, kept my mouth shut like my uncles told us to”.
She distrusts the police – every time she has called the police on him, her children have been uplifted.
She was raised in a family of violence, where suicide was the only way out. Her father, her brother, her cousins. Life was too hard. Death was peace.
“Every morning, I wish I wouldn’t wake up”.
I want you to put my friend’s pain, and what is happening to her right now, in the larger context of domestic violence in this country.
Under law, if it is feared that children are at risk of harm from domestic violence, they can be uplifted. What a great law! Protect the children! But it’s not used to do that, in some cases. And I would warrant that in many other cases, it’s not doing that at all.
You have women, and this is not uncommon, who do not call the police when violence is enacted on them, because they know what can happen when CYFS get involved. And they stay in violent and abusive relationships because they have been taught to keep their mouths shut.
On the other hand, you have men – violent and abusive people – who get away with this for years and years. Who manipulate the system, who call CYFS and complain about their partners, who use their power and their privilege, to control other peoples’ lives. Who’s protecting the women from them? And the children who are removed – how is that protecting them?
We can think of so many tragic cases – Delcelia Witika comes to mind. Neglectful abusive parents. Parents who deliberately harm their children.
The women I am talking about here are not those parents. Their only mistake has been to fall in love with, or have children with, men who are violent, in any or all of the forms that takes, or have their own issues and act out on their families.
What happens then to their partners, and/or the fathers of the children? Where are they in this picture?
They are going on about their lives, with no repercussions. They don’t lose their children. In many cases, they get to see their children, even when their ex partners are in refuge.
It’s not fair. It’s not right.
The system is broken.
And the only way we can fix it, that I can see, is to love these woman when we have the opportunity. To show them a way out. To give them a glimpse of hope, show them that it doesn’t have to be like that. To get out, to get their children out, before they lose that ability.