Investigating Backpage and Exploitation

Exploitation is one of the worst diseases of all time in our society.

Exploitation isn’t a new disease; acts of abuse in taking advantage of those who are vulnerable, who can be beaten down, held hostage in some manner, used for work, sex, entertainment, experiments, etc., and to increase the perpetrators’ profits have occurred since the beginning of our existence.

It is almost impossible to avoid as it occurs in many forms, so when an investigation such as this one into the website Backpage and the people running it leads to a shutdown, seizure and federal charges, it’s a big win.

Exploitation of others, especially of children, isn’t going to slow down until profit centers collapse and perpetrators are exposed. In my work and throughout this website I explore and report on various forms of exploitation and abuse. I believe it’s important to identify the pressure points in society where vulnerabilities are created or worsened, where families are broken down, parent-child relationships disintegrated and children destabilized to a point that puts them at much greater risk for harm. Families in conflict, especially when children are involved, are ripe for exploitation. It is profitable to take advantage and to use children to increase profits.

Common sense, even without all of the available data, tells us that when you destabilize children, increase uncertainty, take away needed medical and psychological healthcare, traumatize them by denying access to nurturing and safe parents, enable perpetrators of physical and psychological abuse, you are setting our young ones up to fail. You are also creating inventory for those who profit from exploitation of children.

What is Backpage and what is the impact of this investigation?

As seen in Reuters online news:

Groups and political leaders working to end forced prostitution and child exploitation celebrated the shutdown of Backpage, a massive ad marketplace that is primarily used to sell sex. This effort involved multiple states and federal authorities including the FBI, IRS and also the US Postal Service. The website posting said U.S. attorneys in Arizona and California, as well as the Justice Department’s section on child exploitation and obscenity and the California and Texas attorneys general had helped shut down the website.

“Today, Backpage was shutdown. It’s a huge step. Now no child will be sold for sex through this website,” tweeted US Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Heitkamp helped draft legislation passed by the Senate last month that makes it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep sex trafficking and exploitative materials off their platforms. The bill passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 97-2.

President Donald Trump will sign the bill into law next week, said Heitkamp. The legislation, featured prominently in the popular Netflix documentary “I am Jane Doe,” amends the Communications Decency Act, which has shielded website operators from state criminal charges or civil liability if they facilitate sex ads or prostitution.

“Shutting down the largest online U.S. marketplace for sex trafficking will dramatically reduce the profitability of forcing people into the commercial sex trade, at least in the short term,” said Bradley Myles, chief executive of Polaris, an international anti-slavery group that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

There would be “a dramatic shift in the marketplace starting tonight,” Myles added.

This article by Medium explains more about the steps and effort involved to achieve the passage of SESTA and the shutdown of Backpage.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FEDERAL LEGISLATION HERE.

The legislation followed a two-year investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, on which Heitkamp serves, into ads placed on Backpage.com of victims of sex trafficking, including in North Dakota.

The new federal law will empower states to do more to protect those vulnerable to trafficking. The name of the legislation is the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA).

Specifically, SESTA would:

  • Allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly or recklessly facilitated the crimes against them.
  • Eliminate federal liability protections for websites that assist, support, or facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
  • Enable state law enforcement officials, not just the federal Department of Justice, to take action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.

Senator Heitkamp emphasized that this legislation is necessary to immediately provide victims an avenue to seek justice for their exploitation – and make sure that companies will be held liable to the fullest extent of the law for profiting from this form of modern-day slavery.

Note: until there is greater liability and consequences for those profiting from all forms of exploitation of children, both online and offline, our children will not be safe. This work at the state and federal level to take down this website and charge the people responsible for facilitating child sex trafficking is a great step; it is already having a powerful impact on the exploitation of minors.

In local Georgia news:

Atlanta news station WSB-TV’s reporter Lauren Pozen interviewed advocate Kasey McClure of 4Sarah.net along with attorney Esther Panitch who is waging battles for victims childhood sexual abuse.

“Lots of companies who host other people, who communicate through them, are really going to be watchful for to see how far this goes because it’s not just an unpopular website like backpage, but will it affect other websites that maybe are kind of on the line,” said Channel 2 legal analyst Esther Panitch.

Advocates for victims of sex trafficking say the takedown  is a step in the right direction.

“More victims started coming forward and saying this is happening to me and I think people started recognizing they had a problem. The issue that is going on with backpage is them being held accountable for basically allowing men to exploit and rape minors,” said advocate Kasey McClure, who founded 4sarah.net.

How does this affect my community, my children?

Backpage.com let users create posts to sell items but it is mostly known for prostitution among adults but also trafficking children.

Channel 2 Action News reported child trafficking as recently as last month in Cobb County where police found prostitutes as young as 14 years old inside a Marietta motel. Teens told police they were forced to create ads on backpage.com.

Children should not be treated as commodities, should not be sold or exploited, ever. They deserve our focus, and need our time and resources to protect them. Do you agree? Contact me here to learn more about what you can do.

Noteworthy Research by My Advocate Center

Studies show that it is routine practice for professionals involved in family conflict to break down relationships between protective parents and children. It is routine practice to engage in psychological abuse of the children and to put them in harm’s way, escalating stress and worsening coping mechanisms.

These children become more vulnerable to addiction and exploitation.

Why is this happening? The answer is multi-faceted but simple:

  • It’s profitable to do so.
  • Family conflict cases create ripe opportunities to increase profits at the expense of victims of abuse and/or fraud.
  • Perpetrators of abuse are motivated to spend more to avoid consequences; they are also often led to break other laws to avoid exposure.
  • Parents who are desperate for protection, including for their children, are easy to destabilize and take advantage of during litigation; trauma is intentionally caused and used to wear them down, using up time and financial resources as well as removing community support from them in the process.
  • Children can be easily isolated or cut off from the protective parent and worn down or brainwashed into not resisting against abuse; during the course of such abuse the children are also often denied the kind of medical and psychological treatment needed to survive and cope with what has happened to them.
  • There is no oversight, let alone accountability, for those exploiting and profiting from this form of child trafficking.
    • Even in cases where child sexual abuse has been confirmed by DFCS or other forensic experts, the result is the withholding of protection and a coverup of the abuse.
    • Even when professionals obtained proof the abuser created and/or possessed child pornography, this evidence did not serve to protect the children.
  • Anyone trying to stand up for their right to protect their children faces attacks to discredit and destabilize them; and may even be denied due process, including being prevented from presenting evidence and testimony in their defense.
  • Children who have asked to be heard are silenced, with some sent out of state and isolated by appointed court professionals such as psychologists acting as “evaluators” of the family conflict concerning the children.
    • Children who are not sent away are still restricted and controlled through the use of certain therapists and/or guardians who serve to control the thought process of abused children, and filter or control the flow of information to and from the children.
    • The professionals in these roles will often also submit false reports to courts, give false testimony to protect the abuser and/or to blame the protective parent.
  • Putting profit over protection is the norm that parents are not warned of before submitting their lives and giving up their rights in our courts

Use this form to report a situation involving any of the above issues. For reports involving child abuse, click here.

Fortunately there are also legislators at the national level who understand this is a major problem;

The mishandling of family conflict by professionals who control and profit from undoing and withholding what children need, including safety and the nurturing care of a safe parent, is a problem that feeds the sexual predation industry and also benefits from it. The two areas of exploitation serve the other and conflict with the key policies and statements set forth in this concurrent resolution in our U.S. Congress.

  • Child Safety must be the first priority in matters of custody litigation, and states should improve how custody cases are adjudicated
  • 15 million children per year are exposed to domestic violence or child abuse, which are often linked
  • Child sexual abuse is significantly under-documented and under-addressed in the legal system
  • Child abuse is a major public health problem with an estimated total cost of $124 billion related to child maltreatment, including physical, sexual, psychological abuse and neglect, and that is just for one year’s worth of confirmed cases.
  • The CDC’s work on Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACE”) further explains the harmful impact in this resolution
  • Allegations of family violence, child abuse and child sexual abuse are discounted often in litigation
  • Perpetrators of abuse are often given custody of the children. There’s more, but you get the idea.

My parting thought for you is this question:

Is it possible to strengthen families and to better protect children so that we eliminate the vulnerability of children to predators?

Deb Beacham

 

McCool’s Significant Pushback with Tony Robbins

If you could hit the re-wind button and give him a chance to give a fresh response to Nanine McCool, the woman who calmly dared to challenge him on his stage, what would you have Tony Robbins say to her?  Think about this before you answer. What would you have someone with such a large presence, his 6’7″ stature aside, in the corporate coaching arena impress upon his followers? You’ll want to see the Today Show clip at the bottom of this page to see just who McCool is, what she represents and how Robbins later responded!

It’s possible that his challenger taught us more than Robbins possibly could have given his limited experience on this subject. That’s my main take-away, that McCool gave us something, a valuable method for responding, to use in a situation such as this. We should all focus on her strategy and how she undid even his PR team that couldn’t get this video off the web fast enough.

Initially, most people responded in disgust over Robbins’ callous and lame statements. What an opportunity he had, right here, to empower both women and men, but he blew it!  Is this the end of it, the noise being made about his deplorable remarks, or will someone – or a group of significant someones – run with the opportunity to make a positive impact on our culture?

Personally, I’m so glad – grateful – that The Good Men Project picked this up and ran with it in doing this interview with Nanine McCool. Excellent article!

Can we unite around McCool and other voices of reason?

It wasn’t just what she said to Robbins, but how she said it, calmly but firmly and with a smile on her face. That’s what I’ll remember.

How we respond to victims of abuse and whether or not we take a stand to stop harassment, exploitation and the destruction of lives matters in a big way. It matters so much more than how many books you sell or how big the stadium is that you pack out. But how do we get people to open their minds and change behavior when someone who is so influential speaks and behaves this way?

Robbins is facing backlash over this exchange, which was shown in a video clip than ran through Twitter like wild-fire over the weekend. The short clip managed to make it out to the public after his team had the longer version pulled from the web. The full version became available today, and can be viewed below.

“I’m not mocking the #MeToo movement, I’m mocking victimhood,” he told McCool and the audience, according the longer video from the event. “If you use the #MeToo movement to try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else…all you’ve done is basically use a drug called significance to make yourself feel good.”

McCool stood her ground: “I hear you mischaracterizing the #MeToo movement. Certainly there are people who are using it for their own personal devices, but there’s also a significant number of people who are using it not to relive whatever may have happened to them, but to make it safe for the young women…And I think you do the whole movement a disservice by characterizing it the way you have.”

Robbins said he didn’t want to be misinterpreted, and invited McCool to join him at the center of the room. He then asked her to hold out her fist. When she did, he put his hand on her fist and pushed her backwards.

“So you’re telling me the the harder I push, the more you’re gonna comply, and I’m going to be safe,” Robbins said as he pushed McCool backwards. After a little back and forth banter between Robbins and the woman, he stopped and said, “When you push someone else, it doesn’t make you more safe. It just makes them angry.”

My first reaction to this is that he can’t possibly comprehend what he’s done, not fully, because he doesn’t know what it’s like to be mistreated because of being more vulnerable than someone else. The above exchange isn’t what fired me up enough to write about this.  Hang on…

The founder of the Me Too Movement gave a great response as seen in this Mashable article.

When I first saw the short version of this exchange that took place before this enormous audience, I was just in shock. How could he not recognize what he was doing and why it was so wrong, so offensive and backwards? When he used the story about male friends who have told him they are afraid of hiring that woman because she’s attractive, conveying the message that the voice of survivors of sexual assault is causing problems for women in hiring decisions, it set us way back. Way, way back. Many of us believed him to be enlightened, someone we wanted our corporate leaders to consult with and take advice from. No longer is that my opinion.

No more is my answer. That was my answer when I heard an executive I believed in 15 years ago say he couldn’t hire the attractive woman to be his direct report; he didn’t trust himself, so her career would suffer when he wasn’t honest about why he didn’t hire her. And this is my answer now: we must and can do better in helping our young men learn how to respect and treat women. Respecting others in general, learning empathy and finding better ways to communicate…lots to work on!

The challenge for Robbins posed by Destin Gerek of The Good Men Project is that he make amends. To do that in a genuine and meaningful way, he needs to be educated, not just coached by the TR team. Therein lies the opportunity for Robbins and others in his place of influence. If they take the time and use their resources to understand what victimization is and how survivors manage through injury and trauma to overcome it, if they invest personally and in public speech to reduce assault and exploitation in various forms, they can create a win for themselves and for the rest of us. It’s possible, and I hope many will watch to see how they respond, and talk about what happens next.

Only a few days later, this interview aired on national television. Take a look!

Nanine McCool was comfortable standing up and speaking against what she felt was wrong. It’s no surprise to learn that she was a fierce advocate for the truth in child custody matters. Also not surprising is the fact that she was invited to accept discipline in her state for her advocacy; declining to agree with a condemnation of her work which she knew would suppress the truth of the situation – the need to stand up to wrongdoing and further harm of a victim of abuse and the children involved – McCool surrendered her law license. This is the kind of oppression, the kind of false narrative, many are up against as they seek to protect themselves and their children.

Watch how Robbins responds after re-thinking his position:

 

What kind of opportunity do we have before us?

This is so much more than a news story or a social media trend about a major personality getting it wrong. Big foot in big mouth wrong. It’s a significant chance to influence how we treat others and especially how we respond to someone who has been harmed or is still in harm’s way. And, it’s a really exciting chance to change minds about the issues raised in this video and by the #MeTooMovement.  Thank you, Nanine McCool and Tarana Burke!

Take a chance and stand up for someone like Nanine McCool did here when she stood up for many.

I dare you!

Deb Beacham

Pushback Maven at My Advocate Center, Inc.

 

Catch Them Doing Right in Three Steps

Do you want better service & greater value?

In our busy lives and with so many challenges confronting us we’re often too distracted to notice when someone is doing right by us or by our children. Do you find yourself only watching out for the next hurdle or bump in the road? It’s very easy to fall into this trap, especially if you’ve been hurt or taken advantage of along the way.

Managing our own responses to others can be exhausting, but it can also be what sets us free!

If your biggest job is parenting your children, you may be so caught up in redirecting behavior that is not what you desire that you forget to catch them doing right. It’s easy to be so focused to miss that window to give them that timely smile, pat on the back or other type of reward or encouragement. We all need that acknowledgment, but it may not come as often as we need or want. If it’s something you want or need, try giving it away more often than you seek it for yourself.

Can you say to yourself or to your children that you want to enjoy their company, that you want to appreciate them? Or, are you too caught up in monitoring performance and guiding them, being somewhere on time, managing appearances whether it’s your own or theirs?

Make more room for enjoying their company, the fact that you have each other, and take a chance that the other things will follow. Let your response be positive expectation of something that is natural and easy to give.

Keep trying. I’ll admit that this is a process, not something that’s mastered or overcome, but each success builds on another.

The same thing applies to professionals who serve others in our legal system, the ones we need or learn about only because we’re snagged by a legal problem.

It is natural for people who are anxiously and uncomfortably dealing with a legal matter to focus on everything that is wrong, everything that brings uncertainty and expense. It is less than natural to recognize when a lawyer, a paralegal, court clerk, staff attorney, judge, bailiff, court reporter, social worker or other court professional is not only doing right by you, but going out of their way to add value or simply make something unpleasant more bearable for you.

The people who serve in ways that show that you matter, these are the people I’m asking you to acknowledge and encourage. You may need to take a moment to learn more about their roles to understand what good service or value looks like or sounds like, so just ask if you want that insight. But you should be able to recognize patience, kindness and time well spent on your own, right? So, all you need to do is make a point to look for it and acknowledge it. Doing this and doing it more often will not only encourage more positive service, but it will make what you are facing less burdensome.

Over many years of spending time with families and professionals during high-conflict times, observing or filming in courtrooms, researching in clerk’s offices, presenting to a jurist or making a case before some other authority figure, I’ve gathered a lot of data to illustrate these three key points for you.

Write these down and carry them with you:

  1. You matter, and you can influence how people treat you and serve your family.
  2. There are people in every role and in each jurisdiction who do their jobs well, and who care.
  3. How you respond, whether or not you acknowledge good service, ethical conduct and professionalism makes a difference.

FOR EVERY PROBLEM THERE IS A SOLUTION:

The problem I’d like to see solved by acknowledging value and good service in our court system has to do with unhealthy trends and bad practices I’ve documented over several years, actually going on a decade now. The problem is so widespread, the negative trends and damaging practices so many and pervasive, that writing and speaking about this has taken up much more time and space than is desirable. Yes, a lot of work is ongoing to manifest solutions to these problems, but a key component of the solution is recognizing when things go right, when performance by professionals is excellent, and saying so.

Ask for and expect what you need from professionals and from those you must interact with during times of conflict. Even though you aren’t at your best and may be misstepping constantly, you can ask for help to do better, to be more articulate and prepared, maybe less emotional.

When someone provides the support you request and helps you complete even the most simple task, that’s a win; and, it not only helps you ease your own stress by showing appreciation, it helps build more success in the person you are acknowledging.

I’m glad to talk through this with you if you are caught in conflict and trying to find ways to better manage what you’re going through; but I assure you that this very simple method – the tool of gratitude, appreciation and acknowledgment – will help carry you through many rough days and can significantly impact your outcome.

If you’re a parent snagged in a legal matter, for sure you want to model this behavior for your children so they can learn about confidence and courage even in the midst of strife. Let your children see you making the choice to deal with problems appropriately, whether the problem is their own misconduct or a failure by a professional. When kids see their parents balance confrontation with appreciation or positive acknowledgment, it serves them well in that moment and throughout life. Yes, it’s a tough balancing act, but showing what’s possible – and recognizing the possible in others – is highly rewarding and worth the effort.

Deb Beacham

Georgia Political Update: Victim Protection and Perpetrator Accountability

Many of our citizens believe that protection for victims is the battle cry only heard from the progressive side of the aisle, but in this past legislative session I learned about the role of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and how conservative values drove policy reform efforts to better serve victims of abuse and to improve safety and stability for our citizens.

One of the things that stood out for me is that the Georgia Baptist Mission acknowledged its members have as much to lose as other religious groups from extending statutes of limitations for suing not only sexual predators but also the entities that enabled and/or covered for the predator. In spite of this financial and public exposure risk, the Baptist leadership stated firmly its position to seek better protection for the vulnerable and real accountability for perpetrators of child exploitation.

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, nor is it a characteristic of one party or another.

It is resoundingly a matter of right versus wrong.

We need more of this form of advocacy, this type of integrity and leadership. We need more people across society to loudly and firmly, “No,” to putting profit over protection. In my work and social engagement, online and offline, I’ll continue to acknowledge and support good work by those on all sides of political, faith, protection and enforcement issues. The more we all pull together and close the divides that exist around this problem, the faster we save lives and stop abuses of all forms.

The topics of predatory behavior, the lack of transparency and accountability for perpetrators, the lack of protection for children and adult victims of abuse, and the extreme difficulty for victims and survivors to recover are ones I’ve been studying, analyzing and reporting on for years. I’ll continue this work far into the future, specifically focused on solutions that both prevent and assist in recovery.

I’m especially grateful to all participating actively and investing in creating change in this area of our society. Thank you for standing up, speaking out, and showing up repeatedly and demonstrating your commitment to improving safety and allowing for recovery.

In this section below, I’ve included an excerpt of the legislative update from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Public Affairs team:

SEXUAL ABUSE

“On a positive side was legislation like HB 732, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox, that increases fines and penalties for pandering and solicitation for sex trafficking. These are the “middle men” who are out there drumming up business for pimps and johns. This legislation is needed to crack down on all who are a part of sexual exploitation of individuals for sex trafficking in our state. See GBC resolution on this issue https://gabaptist.egnyte.com/dl/JTaByb5jS7/RESOLUTION_ON_HUMAN_TRAFFICKING.PDF_ .

Rep. Jason Spencer addresses the topic of sexual predators at a press conference. MIKE GRIFFIN/Index

A bill that caused a sizable amount of controversy had to do with HB 605, The Hidden Predator Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, (https://christianindex.org/children-hidden-predator-act-2018/ ) passed the House by a 170-0 vote. The bill basically allowed the statute of limitations to be extended to allow victims of child sex abuse to sue entities who had covered up child sexual abuse in the past. The bill was severely amended in the Senate. (https://christianindex.org/legislative-update-georgia-hidden-predator-act/ ) It was amended so much that there was very little legal remedy left for those whose statute of limitations had run out for criminal prosecution.  This legislation was introduced in the context of the legal cases regarding the Boy Scouts, The Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics.

Georgia Baptists supported this bill because we felt that it struck a balance in allowing the victims to sue, and the rights of the entities to defend themselves. However, because of the severe amending done by the Senate, the House did not agree with their version. The Senate would not appoint a conference committee and the House would not agree to the changes and the bill, therefore, died. This is a sad outcome for these victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.”

 

Let me know about your involvement in these issues and how I can better support you by contacting me here, and by connecting and engaging on social media.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham

My Advocate Center on Twitter

Facebook Advocacy

 

Advocates for Open Government and Open Records

Today was a fascinating day in the world of justice as I watched a packed courtroom full of people wait on the sentence issued by the Dawson County judge in Nydia Tisdale’s case.

There should have been no case to begin with, but since this was taken to a jury trial it became obvious that Tisdale had the most far-reaching and compelling support you likely have ever seen in a courtroom. Her legal team did outstanding work and Tisdale herself was like a beacon of bright light in that courtroom. That’s what the truth does, it shines.

Please watch WSB-TV in Atlanta at 6pm for the story and I’ll update this post soon with links to news reports, images and documents from this case as it will mean a great deal to all of us – as Nydia and her journalistic work will – for a long time to come!

With much gratitude to the Tisdale team lawyers, the politicians and other officials who testified on her behalf today, members of the press and many more who brought transparency into this trial and the issues in play, it is my request to you as you read this that you donate here to help Nydia Tisdale continue her priceless public service.

Follow via Twitter, @MPetchenikWSB for updates on this story, along with Chris Joyner @cjoyner and @alexisnews of the AJC and Robin McDonald of the Daily Report.

Deb Beacham

 

Protected: In the Name of Justice

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Cameras Needed in Courtrooms

Do Cameras in Courtrooms Make a Difference?

There is no question that our citizens are safer when there is transparency in legal matters, but some judges are going out of their way, even issuing gag orders to media in addition to parties and sealing records in select cases, to prevent a review of what goes wrong in child custody matters when laws, facts and evidence are ignored or concealed from the court.

For several years I’ve been observing, analyzing and reporting on issues in family conflict matters that are causing avoidable stress and loss to children and to loving, safe and available parents. At the center of all of my research and reporting is the needs of children, which too often are forgotten or just set aside. The reports are not what matters, but the possibility of improving outcomes for children; the correct term for this form of journalism is Solutions-Based Journalism.

This form of news media and investigative reporting may not be popular in some circles as it challenges the dangerous status quo, but if it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t be talking about Rule 22 laws and cameras in courtrooms in this state. This is a critical topic the public needs to know is being debated and decided, so I’ll share more of my work and that of other journalists to support understanding and participation in this debate. In the meantime, please ask video journalist Nydia Tisdale about her experience filming public events and proceedings, and ask how you can support her efforts to inform citizens and increase transparency. Her unique work has been featured by news media not only in Georgia but by the Associated Press for her bold moves to support open government and greater public participation.

The more you know, the greater likelihood you’ll contact your legislators and your local news media because we do need cameras in courtrooms and we do need ongoing reporting about how family conflict and legal matters are managed.

A major issue for all, including for ethical, talented legal and healthcare professionals, is that foul play by certain other professionals is rampant and worsening with each year. In part this is due to a vulnerable and unsuspecting public but is also due to a cloudy courtroom landscape where it is easy to disguise bad faith and unethical tactics used to increase billable hours.

Another factor in the worsening of predatory & harmful case management is that certain judges are willing to play along, such as in this highly unusual Augusta situation which was investigated and reported on by local news media.

In the case featured in the news report below, the judge gave custody of the mother’s daughter to her ex-boyfriend when he gave custody of her two sons to this man, their father. However, the man has no biological or legal relationship to the girl, meaning this child and her mother were tormented and torn apart unnecessarily. Note: I have no connection to these parties, no bias or preference other than for facts and laws to count for the children involved. After studying dozens of cases closely in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, collaborating with local news media & seeing news stories through to completion, I know these courtrooms and local practices well and stand by my work and these news reports. Also worth noting, this is not water under the bridge for these children and their families; the damages are ongoing, and more families are being harmed in similar ways as you read this.

The Featured Report:

If the facts and evidence of this case justified an award of custody to the father of the boys, that would be reasonable, but the court also ignored the physical, visible evidence of family violence.

In a separate conversation we’ll feature more of the instruction for judges pursuant to the Georgia Domestic Violence Bench Book, which should be required reading for court officers and court staff such as clerks, social workers and others working with judges on these cases. This Bench Book is available online and published as a 10th edition, with participation from dozens of professionals from around the state of Georgia, so it’s not a secret to our courts that family violence, including in making determinations of custody and visitation, is a matter to be taken seriously.

Please review this news report and ask yourself how this could happen, why a judge would do this, and if the judge is making this kind of ruling, what else is going wrong in his courtroom.

Another key question is whether or not this court and this family could have benefitted from the application of instructions found in the Judicial Guide to Child Custody.

Solutions to Consider:

First, learn about your local courts before you enter into a legal action. Learn about practices of professionals before you sign agreements and pay retainers. Understand why so many families are losing their homes, health and jobs during or following litigation and especially why so many children are kept in or moved to unsafe environments.

Next, learn about accountability systems that exist to provide oversight of professional conduct, including judges and other court officers and experts who help determine outcomes. Do you see any consequences being given to professionals in your area or are you familiar with any investigations into questionable conduct of those managing these types of cases?

Learn from the testimony of lawyers, doctors, teachers, parents, grandparents and others who are brave enough and articulate enough to state clearly what they experience or witness, and who are willing to call it what it is – especially if something improper has transpired, as in this Augusta news report.

Remember that all of these court professionals, including judges and child custody experts, are human, meaning they make mistakes, become fatigued and even worn out by the extreme emotions displayed in these cases; none of them, and none of us, are perfect. But the reality is that they have sworn to uphold our laws and they have a duty to do what is right by the children caught in litigation and who are often torn apart in the process.

Where you have the opportunity to encourage the use of cameras in courtrooms, with proper approval of Rule 22 Requests to Record, Videotape and/or Audiotape, to Televise or otherwise make publicly available these proceedings, please do so as it is highly likely you will help save lives.

Please contact My Advocate Center and let me know if you have questions or would like to contribute toward making these solutions available.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham, Founder

 

Where There’s a Will

The Will of a Loving Parent

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

We believe that to be true, but another way to put it, especially if you’re caught in a family conflict or in our court system, is where there’s willpower (and a fat checkbook), there’s a way to avoid accountability and even to harm an innocent party.

In every jurisdiction we’ve studied, multiple cases have surfaced in which innocent parties – especially parents – are being set up to fail.  This happens frequently in the form of false allegations of some form of abuse or fraud, targeting the innocent party to take the blame and the consequences of the party actually breaking the law and doing damage to the children and other parent.  Our mission began with sorting out why this was happening in family law or domestic cases but the same foul play occurs, of course, in other types of cases.

Our priority at My Advocate Center is the children who are caught in these battles and getting dropped through the cracks in our system, regardless of which court or which type of process is being used.

When children are suffering because someone they need is being intentionally and wrongfully targeted for failure, and when a judge, attorneys, guardians and especially DOCTORS just stand by or even participate in this foul play, we should all stop what we are doing and do not pass go until this problem is solved. And that is where we are in Georgia.

To learn more, to offer support, present a useful resource or to report a case, contact us here.