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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The role of adult denial in child sex abuse

The article below by Amanda Richardson appeared originally at on June 10, 2009. To see the original, click on the title above or paste this link in your browser:

Mothers need to protect their children from sexual predators

In Michigan, the mother of missing 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan says person of interest and registered sex offender George Kennedy was like a "father-figure" to her daughter. Mother, Jennifer Buchanan, admits to looking past Kennedy's previous child sexual offense and allowing him to build a relationship with her daughter.

While my sympathies go out to this mother over the disappearance of her daughter, we can all learn a lesson from this mother's mistake. Buchanan minimized this predator's offense and put her daughter directly in harm's way. Allow me for a moment to speak from personal experience and be a voice for survivors and children everywhere.

As a child, my own biological father severely abused me both mentally and physically. I was just 10 years old when his abuse became sexual. After four years of silently dealing with my father's abuse, I finally got the courage to tell my mother. My mother's reaction was a common one: denial. She became a contributor, if not an equal contributor, to my abuse.

In my early 20's, after years of brainwashing, denial, and silent suffering, my brother was able to validate my abuse. As a child, he had suspected my abuse and placed a tape recorder in the bedroom, catching my father's abuse in the act. My brother's tape marked the beginning of a very long and difficult healing process: confronting my father, saying goodbye, forgiving, and eventually having the courage to press charges. Despite all of these revelations, my mother continued to deny and minimize my father's abuse, leaving our relationship behind in order to continue a relationship with him.

Though my situation differs from little Nevaeh Buchanan, the lesson here is the same. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a mother of a 3-year-old little girl, I find myself wanting to scream out, "Mothers - Protect your children!" Current statistics indicate that at least 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. We need to use the National Sex Offender Registry to our advantage and not be in denial about the potential of these predators. Be on the lookout for common signs of sexual abuse in your child:

1. Unusual interest in or avoidance of all things sexual in nature.

2. Aspects of sexual abuse in drawings, games, or fantasies.

3. Sleep problems or nightmares.

4. Sudden fear of a person or place where the child was previously comfortable.

5. Depression, withdrawal, eating disorders.

We have come a long way in our country in bringing awareness to childhood sexual abuse, but with an estimated 60 million survivors in our country today, we still have a long way to go. Mothers - be a voice, a protector, and an advocate for your child. If ever you need help with identifying or reporting abuse, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD.

Amanda Richardson is author of 'Saved From Silence.'

Blog Archive

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: