Saturday, June 27, 2009

Not a place to make cuts…

I have been pretty tied up attending the child molestation trial of San Mateo County psychiatrist Dr. William Ayres, and I had every intention of writing about that here today. Check out the Trials and Tribulations blog to see what I’ve been up to most of the week.

I observed something at the courthouse yesterday and it’s been troubling me.

During the lunch break, I went to the opposite side of the second floor to wolf down my lunch. There was a young woman with her young son in a stroller, waiting for an office to open. Her little boy was adorable—sandy blonde hair, green eyes, laughing. Every so often she would take a cell phone call and while I couldn’t hear her words I could hear her frustration.

The little boy was an absolute flirt, smiling and giggling at women when they walked by. Quite the little lady killer! So as I prepared to schlep over to the other side of the second floor, I stopped and asked the young mom about her boy, whose name is Andrew, and his age is 16 months, though he looks much closer to two.

I mentioned how cute Andrew was and how happy a baby he seemed to be. She said, “He misses his daddy.” I then asked “Where is his dad?” and she said “He’s in jail—the police arrested him for domestic violence and I didn’t want them to.”

I then asked “Did he do it?” and she replied, “Well, yes, he pushed me but he didn’t mean it.” She then said “I don’t even know if I’m doing the right thing—my emergency custody papers expire at 5 o’ clock today and I don’t know what will happen if they expire.”

Our conversation went on. She proceeded to explain that her husband hadn’t hurt her, though she was a bit sore from being pushed in the chest. But she did say that he is mean to her, calls her fat and stupid and lazy, and aligns himself against her with his 8-year old daughter, who is also abusive and cruel. The 8-year old regularly calls her stepmother ugly and fat, and then makes cutting motions at her own neck, saying “Someday soon it’s just going to be me, and daddy, and Andrew. You will be gone.” The husband pulls a knife out of his pocket and points it at her and says "Bye bye."

(This woman looks like a young Elizabeth Taylor, and she doesn’t need anyone telling her she’s not a size 2, okay?)

So I asked, “What do the authorities tell you to do?” She said, “When the cops took my husband, they gave me this,” and produced a piece of paper with a list of domestic violence resources. She claims to have gone to one of the places listed on the paper, but it sounds like it’s a support group and not anyplace to get legal aid.

She then burst into tears and said “I am all alone and no one will help me and I don’t know what I am supposed to do.” Her family is in SoCal and she planned to drive down there once she had her paperwork in order—she doesn’t want her husband to snatch the boy up and disappear with him.

Her overbearing mother-in-law called her early yesterday morning to get her son’s “nice clothes” so he could meet with his attorney, and she was encouraged to drop the charges. (There is a restraining order against him, something she didn’t ask for, but an automatic thing in her county when domestic violence has happened. The husband has to pay rent and maintain the household but he can’t have any contact with her, even by phone.)

Only thing is she can’t drop the charges: she didn’t bring the charges! As I understood, the police had been summoned by a neighbor because of the yelling. As the woman gave her history, the police made the decision to arrest the husband.

Andrew is her only child; she lost a sibling to Andrew from gynecological complications, and the pregnancy with Andrew was a difficult one.

So there’s this poor woman, has no idea what to do or how to do it, with a husband who already has the advice of an attorney, trying to keep her baby under her care.

And I had no way of knowing what she needed to do. Her name was on a “list” of walk-up appointments to presumably have the custody order extended. But she was afraid they’d take Andrew because she made him wait in the stroller, because she’d forgotten to grab socks for him (it was very warm outside), that his face might be dirty because she fed him. “I don’t want them to think I am a bad mom.”

She told me her husband controls the family’s money, and when she asked him for money for baby wipes and milk for Andrew, he gave her $6. The stepdaughter said, “Oink, oink, you gonna go get yourself a Big Mac?” at the prompting of her father.

While pregnant with Andrew, her Latino husband told her he wanted her to be a stay-at-home mom. But now he wants her to get a job, but only certain hours. Why? He doesn’t want to pay for child care, so he and his 8-year old daughter (Andrew’s half-sister) will watch Andrew, but only during the hours between 4 and 10 p.m., or overnight, because the father claims that the stepdaughter doesn’t want to be around her stepmother.

The ultimate clusterfuck family. A 33-year old woman whose self-esteem is in the toilet, and when she goes back into that situation (which she no doubt will), she’s allowing the adorable Andrew to become just like his dad, to hear his mother be berated, to learn how to be cruel to women.

All I could do was listen, and then tell her I suspected she did not deserve to be verbally abused or pushed ever.

I fully agree with the police arresting her husband. What I wish would have happened is a social worker or even just a social worker’s administrative assistance be available to guide this woman through the system. What are her rights? Does she need to file official child custody papers?

I know this costs money but I’d sure prefer my tax dollars to help U.S.-born women and children out of their quagmire instead of giving that money to programs like Calworks—as long as Calworks continues to give support funds for anchor babies (who are the citizens) so their parents can learn a trade (which they can’t legally do anyway because they don’t have authorization to work in the U.S.!). Calworks was intended to be a program for people like this woman, so she cold become self-sufficient and get away from what is no doubt an abusive situation.

This is another case where the perpetrator/criminal has more rights than the victim. Makes me sick.

I hope the woman got what she needed and was able to get to SoCal to the arms of her family.


Sprocket said...

Thank you for telling us about your lunch hour experience down at the courthouse.

I suspect there are too many of these stories to count.

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