We chose to compile significant events that could be useful for her to lay out her case before court from the detailed records she kept of her experiences directly from her planner.
My friend gave birth to a baby boy in March of 2009. My friend’s mother, her abuser boyfriend and his ex-wife were present to welcome the child into the world. Four months later she was asking him to sign over custody and he refused.
She expressed to me that she did not feel it was right to keep a father from his child’s life. I believe she tried to honor that. So despite her own misgivings, she made an effort to “keep the peace” but the interactions between them continued to escalate. For her, there was no peace to be found.
In Jan 2010, she is calling 311 to ask them to educate her on how to file a report on someone who was “communicating threats.” She explained that he was enraged and played out a drama of him holding a gun to his head, while he is blaming her for his insanity. She told him it was a shame he felt that way. He responded by telling her “not to worry, that if he decided to take himself out, then he would make sure to take her with him,” as he turned and walked out the door with their son. 311 told her that the person who communicated the threat had to specifically state they were going to kill her, in order for a report to be filed in their system. What she was trying to report was too vague.
May of 2010 a peculiar incident occurred involving her 1 yr -2mo. old son. On her way to work she dropped him off with his father at 8:00 a.m. When she comes home around 5:00 p.m. to pick up their son she immediately notices something wrong when she goes to pick him up. The boy jerks, then cringes and curls up to guard one side of his body. She feels the area and “knows” something is not right. When she questions the father asking him what happened, his response is “I don’t know, he hasn’t been acting right since lunch.”
“Now here I’m thinking, “Really???” It’s 5 o’clock in the evening. Five hours have passed since “lunch” and he doesn’t know? Is he not paying attention? or does he already know what is wrong with his son??? It seemed he was aware of ‘something’ just by looking at his statement. He knew his son “hadn’t been acting right since lunch,” but he doesn’t check the boy out?”
So mom immediately calls the nurse line at the child’s pediatrician’s office. After waiting a short time for a response, she chooses not to wait any longer and takes their son to the Children’s Emergency Room. The diagnosis: a broken collar bone.
In the Emergency Room, the father admits the child was in his care, and now states to the physician that, “he either fell off the couch or on the kitchen floor.”
The doctor, as a mandated reporter, calls a social worker in. All she wants to know is how it happened. The father acts differently now toward the social worker. He tells her its all his fault because his son was in his care, but that he is totally clueless as to his son’s condition. The Social worker appeared to do nothing. There was no follow up and no further contact had taken place as far as my friend knew.
My friend was truly shaken by this. He was evasive in answering until they got to the hospital. It was one thing for her to try and fight back, but her child? Her child would not have the ability to defend himself. Now it wasn’t just her being abused. His neglect may have caused her son’s injury, or he may have been the cause of the injury himself. The seed of fear for the safety of her child had been planted.
Three months later, the boy sustained a fall from a swing, hitting his head, while in the care of his father. A month later, during an argument, he picks up my friend carries her out the door, down the stairs and drops her in the gravel. Three weeks after that, her son comes home from his father’s with a huge “knot” right in the middle of his forehead. That is the 3rd head injury I have noticed now. Weeks after that he is threatening to turn her phone service off…and more. Much of what she has endured, in the current years that have passed, has yet to be chronicled on the timeline.
In some brief online research I learned a few things about the effects of abuse on a child; and please keep in mind that the mother was physically abused while the child was still in the womb.
“The physical effects of domestic violence on children, different than the effects of direct abuse. Those effects can start when they are a fetus in their mother’s womb.” – Ref: Horner, G. (2005). Domestic violence and children: effects of domestic violence on children. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4):206-212.
“Many independent prospective studies have now shown that if a mother is stressed, anxious or depressed while pregnant, her child is at increased risk for having a range of problems, including emotional problems, ADHD, conduct disorder and impaired cognitive development.” Talge NM, Neal C, Glover V. Antenatal maternal stress and long-term effects on child neurodevelopment: how and why? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2007;48(3-4):245-61.
“Both altered brain structure and function have been shown to be associated with prenatal stress.” (7) Buss C, Davis EP, Muftuler LT, Head K, Sandman CA. High pregnancy anxiety during mid-gestation is associated with decreased gray matter density in 6-9-year-old children. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2010;35(1):141-153.(8) Mennes M, Van den Bergh B, Lagae L, Stiers P. Developmental brain alterations in 17 year old boys are related to antenatal maternal anxiety. Clinical Neurophysiology 2009;120(6):1116-22.
For more information on how it affects a child’s brain function, check this out: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/inbrief-the-impact-of-early-adversity-on-childrens-development/
Basically, when a mother is physically, mentally, emotionally or psychologically abused, the effects of the stress on her, inflicted by the abuser while pregnant, can affect the brain of a child “in utero” because the brain has not fully developed yet. Any biochemical changes in the mother’s body can affect the growth and development of the fetal brain.
My friends son has been diagnosed with ADHD, and has also been diagnosed with symptoms of autism. He sees a Behavioral specialist, is enrolled in speech therapy for speech delay and occupational therapy for sensory integration since 2011. According to Social Services over the years, they are still saying that abuse allegations have not been proven.
Any further abuse inflicted on either the mother or the child “after” the birth of a child, only compounds as the years progress.
More to follow in Part IV –