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|2/20 New York, NY: Please endorse the following letter to support Ester Young and her immigrant struggles
Released 20 February 2007  By Ester Yang
2/20 New York, NY: Please endorse the following letter to support Ester Young and her immigrant struggles
Please send your endorsements to: firstname.lastname@example.org
February 20, 2007
Hon. Justice Joan Lobis
NYS Supreme Court
60 Centre Street
NewYork, NY 10004
646 386 3312 (phone)
212 374 1220 (fax)
Re: Esther Yang's child support proceedings
Dear Justice Lobis:
Enclosed, please find the faxed confirmation to Mr. Adam Edelstein.
National Organization for Women and the organizations and names listed below
understand that this Friday 2/23/07, there will be a hearing for Esther Yang
to be incarcerated for 30 days in Rikers Island.
We are concerned that there is a crisis in the custody court system which has resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with abusers while safe, protective mothers are systematically excluded from their children's lives. These are referred to as Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases. Thankfully you have not created such a case, despite the attempts by the father, but the same kinds of mistakes that cause these Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases appear to be in play in Ms. Yang's case.
We are pleased that society has made important advances towards the goal of ending domestic violence. Battered women now have more access to orders of protection, criminal prosecution, easier divorce, shelters and support from various parts of the community. Unfortunately, male supremacists who believe they are entitled to maintain control over their partners, as they had always been permitted to do, have developed strategies to take back control over women. These male supremacists control the "fathers' rights movement and often use misleading language to disguise their true intentions. Their common tactic is for abusers to seek custody to punish mothers for leaving them or force them to return. This is the most unspeakably cruel tactic because of the awful harm imposed on children. Unfortunately, judges and the professionals they often rely upon have not had the training or experience to recognize these tactics. This is why there have been so many tragic cases in the courts particularly when domestic violence and child abuse are the real issues. Abusers use standard abuser legal tactics to distract attention from their abuse. This seems to be what happened to Ms. Yang and so many other mothers.
There is a wonderful article "Evaluating the Evaluators" by Lynn Schafran that appeared in the Judges' Journal. It discusses a new evaluator who was assigned to evaluate a young family. The father's apartment was a complete mess and he had no food in the refrigerator. The evaluator wrote that the father lives in a typical bachelor apartment. The mother's apartment was a little messy, but nothing like the father's and she had food in the refrigerator but not as much as preferred. The evaluator wrote the mother lives in a messy apartment with inadequate food. The evaluator had a supervisor because she was new and the supervisor asked if she saw what she had done. The evaluator couldn't believe her gender bias and quickly corrected the report.
Many court systems including New York have had gender bias studies. The most recent one in New York was the Committee on Women in the Courts. They found that despite some improvements, battered mothers still face a higher standard of proof then abusers, are given less credibility, are blamed for their abuser's behavior and often face stereotypes.
The point here is that it is extremely easy to engage in gender bias without realizing it. As we saw with the evaluator, women also engage in gender bias because society so often sends sexist messages. It is also important that people acting in total good faith can engage in gender bias without even realizing that they are doing so.
We know that cases like Ms. Yang's are often mishandled. As you know most cases are resolved through compromise and stipulation. It is only the worst 5% that require endless hearings. The vast majority of these cases involve domestic violence. It is the fathers' domestic violence and use of the male supremacist tactics that prevent settlement. Despite the overwhelming majority of these cases involving the father's abuse of the mother, according to numerous studies including one from the Judges' Journal, 70% of the fathers in these cases receive custody or joint custody. The failure of the present custody system has been exposed in the PBS documentary BREAKING THE SILENCE: CHILDREN'S STORIES and an article in the September 25, 2006 issue of Newsweek.
One of the most authoritative books about the effects of domestic violence on children is THE BATTERER AS PARENT by Dr. Jay Silverman and Lundy Bancroft. It contains the kind of up-to-date research about domestic violence that is so often missing when the courts decide domestic violence cases. Lundy Bancroft has spoken about a really serious problem in that once a court makes a mistake in a domestic violence case it often fails to correct the error despite new information. It appears that the court system is afraid to admit its mistakes for fear of looking bad. In one example, a mother complained that the father allowed their teen-age son to drink alcohol. The judge assumed that the mother was making false claims to gain an advantage in the litigation and gave custody to the father. Shortly thereafter the son was found by the police, unconscious, face down in the sand and totally inebriated. When they went back to court the judge sent the boy back to the father, not wanting to admit his mistake.
Interestingly, the medical community faced a similar problem. Research repeatedly established that 100,000 patients were dying in hospitals each year because of common mistakes that were easily correctable. Afraid of lawsuits, disciplinary action and bad publicity, the medical profession for years sought to hide and cover-up their mistakes. Recently the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and other medical professionals came together to acknowledge six common mistakes which cause most of these tragedies and to work together to prevent these mistakes. The result has been to save many lives. We hope the legal profession will soon respond honestly to the present custody tragedy and work on the common mistakes which place women and children in danger.
We are particularly concerned that there is a discrepancy in the manner in which child support is enforced against fathers and mothers. We have noticed in hundreds of cases that women are given a disproportionate higher burden then men for child support. Father's tend to be given far more consideration when they fail to pay child support while child support against mothers seems to be enthusiastically enforced. When you look at thousands of these cases the pattern becomes much clearer. This (we hope unintended) gender bias permeates Ms. Yang's case. The child support in question is not based on actual income, but rather presumptive income. When the situation was reversed, the father was permitted to avoid his obligation despite actual income. Clearly if the mother had the money available it would have been paid already. We believe you should take the time to consider the role of gender bias in the rush to use punitive measures against the mother.
The fact that the father in this case wants to hurt his daughter by putting her mother in jail says a lot about his motivation for seeking custody. The one thing we know for sure is that he does not have the best interests of his daughter as his motivation. We would ask that before you consider the kind of extreme remedies that the father is seeking, that you first examine whether gender bias, lack of adequate training and a failure to use up-to-date research is really the problem. It appears that as the court committee stated, Ms. Yang is being threatened with punishment for her abuser's behavior. We hope you would want to avoid this. Please hold a hearing on the real issues and give an opportunity for genuine experts to be heard before going forward with the extreme and unnecessary actions you are considering.
Marcia A. Pappas, President
National Organization for Women-NYS
1500 Central Avenue
Albany, New York 12205
email: NewYorkStateNOW@aol.com or
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