A Powerful Letter to Family Court Judges
When family court perpetuates abuse.
Kimberly Bowers wrote this open letter to Oakland County, Michigan Family Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca. The judge jailed three children for not having a “healthy relationship” with their estranged father. The mother is now under a gag order and has been banned from seeing her children. Details here.
This letter seems to represent the experience that far too many parents have had with our family court system’s response to allegations of abuse.
Dear Judge Gorcyca,
You don’t know me. Not personally. But I know you. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Mother.
I know the profile of an abuser, and you fit that profile.
In June of 2009, U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, posed this question to the National Summit on the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment, “Do children need a relationship with their fathers even when their fathers have been abusive to them in the past? If so, what does that relationship look like?”
I’ll tell you what it looks like, Your Honor. An abuser threatens his victim. He tells her that he’ll take his children away if she doesn’t submit. In order to break her mentally and physically, an abuser will drag out conflict oftentimes after his victim has already worked hard all day, denying her rest, knowing she’ll need to wake early to care for her children, this being the eleventh hour. Abusers thrive on conflict, violence, and abuse. It sustains them. They tell their victim to remain silent about the abuse or suffer the consequences. They isolate their victim from a supportive network of friends and family. The abuser demands love and respect, and if those demands go unmet, then the abuser will take drastic measures to ensure obedience, using their position of privilege and power to manipulate, subdue, and control.
You said you wanted something drastic to happen to fix Maya Tsimhoni’s family. You knew full well that a family torn apart by abuse could never be whole again. You knew, but you didn’t care. You saw a fat checking account, and like an abuser in the eleventh hour, you dragged out the conflict for years because litigation incurring fees of a half a million dollars or more is of greater value than justice. You thrive on that conflict. It sustains you.
You forced Maya Tsimhoni’s children to have lunch with and to maintain a loving relationship with a father whose abuse has been documented. You slammed that gavel down, and when the Tsimhoni children refused to obey, you handcuffed and imprisoned them. And like the abuser who threatens his victim with the loss of her children, you threatened Maya Tsimhoni saying that if she violated your orders, you would imprison her children again.
Abusers isolate their victims, cutting them off from supportive and loving connections like friends and family. You tore children from a loving, primary caretaker and isolated them from each other, imprisoning them all and severing their supportive network in order to break them down and ensure submission.
Silence allows abuse to thrive, and so you put a gag order in place. You also sealed Maya Tsimhoni’s response to her abuser’s motion for custody. You said you were concerned about the Tsimhoni children’s privacy, but one does not place children in handcuffs to ensure their protection. No, you needed to conceal the overreach of the family court and your abuse of power; to hide from the world the human rights violations and child abuse being carried out by those working in family courts who profit financially from abused women and children. Silence hides abuse and this allows for its continuation. I, Mother, am not fooled by your actions.
So while you don’t know me Judge Gorcyca, I know you very well. I lived with you for many years. I documented your abuse. I spoke out against your abuse. I protected my children. I fought you for custody. I know your strategy.
I am Mother. I am the 58,000 women a year who have faced your courtroom bias. I am the protective parent fighting for my children. I am the activist effecting legislative change and educating others. And though you steal my voice with your gag order, know that where I am silenced thousands more speak in my place.
We are many. We are united.
And justice will prevail.