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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.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Best Documentary: No Way Out But One
Filmmaker Garland Waller deals in unpleasant facts. Take this one: according to the American Psychological Association, fathers who abuse their families are more likely to win custody of their kids than those who don’t. In her latest documentary,No Way Out But One, Waller, a College of Communication assistant professor of film and television, brings one desperate mother’s custody struggle to the screen—and, she hopes, to living rooms nationwide.
In 1994, Holly Collins ran. Despite her broken nose, her son’s fractured skull, and other terrifying reports of alleged abuse, a judge had awarded her husband full custody of their children. When her three kids—then all under 12 years of age—pleaded with her to protect them, Collins took them and ran. The four unlikely fugitives swerved across the continent and away from the clutches of the FBI before making a dash for the Netherlands. There, Collins blurted out a plea for asylum; after years in refugee camps, she would become the first American woman to be granted sanctuary in the northern European country because of domestic violence.
No Way Out But One is a $40,000 documentary with all the ingredients of a taut big-budget flick. Waller kept the price tag for her documentary about Collins below Hollywood averages by adding her filmmaking students to the production team.
“I picked the students who were politically committed to this kind of issue and really wanted to go the extra mile,” she says. “As a producer, not as a professor, I love working with those people who say, ‘Teach me, show me, and I’ll give you my time and energy.’”
Not everyone—the original family court judge included—has always been as convinced about the veracity of Collins’ abuse allegations as have Waller and her students. Even 18 years later, Waller has faced down doubters at screenings. “I am confident, 100 percent, that we have told the truth,” she says. “We’ve got FBI documents, legal documents, documents from the hearings, and letters from the doctors who saw the children.”
The film’s editor, Erika Street (COM’11), who also put together a 14-minute short of the documentary, shares that confidence. She sifted through a wealth of background information, and when she got lost in the details, appreciated being dragged up for a look at the bigger story. “The project was a good reminder of how important it is to have people watch your edits at various stages,” Street says.
Boston University BU, College of Communication COM assistant professor Garland Waller, Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival, No Way Out but One documentary winner
Garland Waller on the red carpet at the Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival, in Muskogee, Okla., where No Way Out But One won Best Documentary. Waller’s film has garnered several awards. Photos courtesy of Garland Waller
No Way Out But One first aired in late October on the Documentary Channel and has had several subsequent showings. The film will be available for purchase in March, and Waller is optimistic that it will find a wider audience. Her previous documentary on custody battles, the award-winning Small Justice: Little Justice in America’s Family Courts, was largely restricted to film festivals; Waller suspects that was because it was such tough viewing. “I wasn’t able to find one story that had a happy ending,” she says.
Collins’ story is different (we won’t completely spoil the surprise). But there’s a wider tale that needs a happily-ever-after, too. Waller says abused women who want to win custody battles are often advised to keep quiet about the cruelty; it improves their chances in court. It’s a wrong that Waller—and the students who worked with her—are determined to right.

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).

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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: