Authors: Jeanne D'Olivier
Members of my own family had offered little understanding or support and my siblings - my other brother and sister, were angry at the stress our situation had placed on my mother - particularly my older sister. I think they felt our situation had caused her to have the stroke that had killed her only six months earlier and from which we were still grieving. But Mum, despite problems of her own, one of them drink, had always loved all of her family. It would have hurt her deeply to know that they had turned against me when I needed them most and we all turned to her with our problems. My brother and sister included. Their judgement of me was very severe and painful, but not unusual in these circumstances as I was to go on to learn. It is a testament to the power of the juggernaut that many families are ripped apart who go through this process. It is very hard for those who have not experienced the machinations of this evil force to fully understand. The majority of people live under the illusion that the establishment is there to serve not destroy what is good. I wondered what they would have done put in the same situation. To be kind, they were both far removed from anything even remotely akin to what we were experiencing. My brother had no children and my sister’s children had been predominantly raised by nannies. As is often the case, I found more love and support amongst strangers, than relatives.
Dad arrived looking tired and equally bereft. Whilst my anger was still present, it was replaced by the fact that we shared in our loss. I did shout at him in moments of pure anguish, but he was as beaten as I was and I think he felt guilty himself, although he may never admit it. He had to live with what he had done which was punishment enough. We had to get past the betrayal and work together to bring M home. We only had each other.
Neither of us slept. We paced the house at night. I watched endless night time television – rubbish – just blobs on a screen to try to distract myself from my pain, but nothing helped. I drank wine to try and numb my feelings and to try and sleep – but again I remained sober and in agony. I longed for M with every fibre of my being. I fretted constantly about how he was. I was soon to find out.
On the Wednesday morning before Court, the CAS offered to let me have one hour of supervised contact at the CAS building. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would then witness.
My father and I hired a car and he drove me there. M, I was told, was already waiting in one of the rooms. I was taken by the same Social Worker who had been involved in his removal and another worker into a side room. I handed her a copy of the transcript of my son’s evidence that he had given by interview to the police two years earlier - an ABE interview as it is termed - achieving best evidence - all of it ignored. It was the only thing I had asked Dad to bring with him from my Court papers.
I was barely thinking straight but I felt that if anyone read the words “Daddy put his winky in my bum and it hurt” they would realise why we had run. I was wrong. They accepted the information, but dismissed it. They had already been influenced by Social Services back home into believing I had coached M to say these things. It was a wicked lie, but the police and social services had protected the abuser and their lies had now crossed the ocean. Once more I was powerless because one institution refused to believe a mother over the word of another institution. There were so many more lies being told to them too, but as yet I was unaware of them. I would find out soon enough.
They cautioned me not to get upset when I saw M. How could I not? They said they would stop the contact if I showed emotion. I was supposed to see my son under these horrendous conditions and with these huge restrictions, but I knew I had to see him and that I must do as they wished. I had to muster whatever strength I had left to reassure him in any way I could.
They took me to a small room with a settee and a table in it. There was a mirror on the wall. I understood they would be sitting behind the two-way glass and watching and listening to our every word and move. It was like being observed by the Gestapo. I could only comply and I both dreaded and longed to see M. I did not know then that there would come a time when I would give anything for those precious hours behind the glass. At that moment all I could think about was what I would face in that room - the devastation of my beautiful little boy.
He was brought in crying. His little face red from sobbing and his eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep and tears. He was shaking uncontrollably. I wrapped him in my arms and rocked him. I held his little frame tight against my chest. He felt so thin. He told me he had not slept or eaten since he had been taken. He said they were going to move him to another family that day, just when he had got used to where he was. It was intolerable to see him in so much agony, but somehow I found the courage to bear it. I told him to be brave. To see it like summer camp. It was the best I could do.
I gave him a friendship band for his wrist with
on it and put one on myself. I told him I would get him back and to just be brave a little bit longer. I promised I would do all in my power to bring him back to me. He handed me a piece of paper with a heart on it and the words
I love you Mummy please get me back.
Tears threatened to pour in an avalanche down my burning cheeks. I knew that the two workers behind the glass would stop the contact should I become emotional. I willed myself not to cry, but seeing my son’s anguish was torture. I wanted to wrap him in my arms and carry him out to safety – but we were in a locked room – locked from the outside – prisoners of a system that seemed no less cruel than the one from which he had fled.
All I could do was keep telling him I would get him back and to be brave. I had nothing else to offer him. I held his little face between my hands and stared hard into his eyes – “ I will get you back. Trust Mummy she will do everything she can. I promise I will get you back. I won’t give up.” He nodded still crying and shaking.
The Social Worker walked into the room. “Time to go now.” She said. M could barely stand up as he was led howling from the room and I was left with the torrent of his tears on my face from holding him close now mingling with the salt tears of the depths of my soul – the ocean of my love for him that gushed from me. I could barely breathe. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
My father was waiting in the car park and I climbed into the car sobbing hard. “Get me out of here quickly.” I wept. He drove to a nearby bar and took me in and bought me a brandy to steady my nerves. I poured out to him the horror of the situation, between sobs and the state M was in. We were both mortified but we were powerless.
We had been ringing lawyers right through the phone book without success. Either they could not take the case or felt they did not have the relevant expertise. I was also in touch now with the British Embassy, who were helpful to start with, but once they had contacted Social Services back home, were less so. It seemed wherever we turned we hit brick walls – each road led back the Island that had crushed our lives and the corrupt system that had demolished us. It was always my word, against a so-called professional and this terrible lie of coaching. I could not disprove it, any more than they could prove it. It was intangible but it infiltrated everything from the minute the first Welfare Officer made the accusation to cover the back of the Social Worker who had failed to investigate a genuine report of sexual abuse and the educational psychologist who had been appointed despite having seen the father privately and being already biased.
One person had picked up the baton and passed it on to the next – M and I had no voice – he was disbelieved and I was accused of putting words into this mouth. For what purpose? I had asked the Social Worker who had first been on our case when I had innocently gone to them seeking help and advice – "because women who have been left by men are usually vindictive". I was incredulous. His father had had uncontested contact for five and half years from the moment he had first wanted it when M was six months old. He paid school fees and reasonable maintenance and only visited the Island a few days each month – what on earth could be threatening in that? I made all of these points, but they weren’t listening. They had already decided that I had made this up.
My biggest regret was that instead of going to them for help, I didn’t just pick up M and run then, before they placed us under a Prohibited Steps Order, before they had had a chance to force M to see his father week in and week out- whilst he and the psychologist who was now supervising everything and was in total control, arrived together in her car – blatantly showing her allegiance to this child abuser – no one assessing the reason for M’s fear – one agenda only, force contact – force and force and force contact, to the point where M was on sleeping pills from the paediatrician. Yet, despite his tears, his incontinence, the urine infections that had started when overnight contact had begun, the medical indicators of sexual abuse – bowel problems, tummy aches – and very real upset and fear – the psychologist, a hard South African woman in her late fifties – who had the physique of a very tall man and the heart of tyrant – fabricated lie after lie about the contacts – suggested M loved his father and he loved him – laughed in the face of our pain and bullied my little boy endlessly – it seemed for sport.
Why did Iago poison Othello’s mind against Desdemona? We had been asked when I was studying
. “For Sport” was the answer that most people agree upon – the Machiavellian Iago had done it because he could – what sport was this? Hurting a child, to hurt his mother – for sport – the sport of the Psychologist who was biased towards the quiet man who had abused his son. The man who played charm personified, whilst embodying an evil tendency that I had known nothing about when I dated him. For child abusers do not come with it stamped on their forehead and come in many guises – often in the guise of Prince Charming.
I could talk about how I met R. I could tell you all about our turbulent relationship – his controlling nature – his cruelty – hidden behind this veneer of charm – but none of that is important – for that is the story of the person I was then – a person I will never be again – it is not the story of who I have become and this is the story of Miss A - me, Charlotte - a woman looking through the thick glass wall of a corrupt and impenetrable system.
My son once asked me if I wished that I had never met his daddy. I told him that was not the case. I told him that if I hadn't met Daddy I would not have met M and M was the best thing that had ever happened to me. In the wisdom and simplicity of a child’s mind, he said, but if you had not met my daddy you would have met someone else and you would have had a different child, you wouldn’t have known me. I told him that I could not have borne not to know him. No other child would have been right for me. M was the child I wanted and nothing would ever make me regret that. I only regretted that M could not have had a better father. He deserved so much better and after all this terrible thing he had done to his own child – was a sickness – a sickness from which he could not get well – it could only be that, for anything else would make him a monster – but that was how M saw him.
He painted me a picture once of his perception of the situation – a child’s way of communicating. He described it as a scary monster. At the time we were in supervised contact and he could not tell me his fears. It was a picture of a large phallic black being with red eyes emerging out of the water. He had drawn two tiny figures in a boat in the sea underneath. He told me that the two figures were escaping from the big black scary monster. It was a picture that told it all and it was my son’s world – but I no longer had the boat on which we could escape. We were now both prisoners of the CAS – we had merely swapped one prison of fear for another, but it was worse because we were now in solitary confinement. He in his foster home God knew where and me in the house of our dreams. It was cruel beyond anything. The very agency set up to protect the young was the one destroying them. It was insanity in a parallel universe where nothing made sense.
As we drove back to my Florida home, the pain of seeing M so anguished still with me, I could not get his little face out of my mind – his despair, his terror, his vulnerability. I will never forget the image of my innocent child on that day, so devastated and bewildered, punished for no crime – all because he had dared to tell his mummy what his daddy was doing behind closed doors, daring to break the silence, asking for help.
M had been failed by the Police, Social Services, the Guardian Ad Litem – all who pretended to be the voice of the child – all who hid behind a mantle of "best interests of the child" and all who had helped to crush M for telling the truth. Where was God in all of this? We are led to believe that if one is honest, tells the truth, lives a good life, acts with love, that life will be good. But what happens when you do all those things, and the whole system that is supposed to be there to protect the vulnerable and innocent turns against you – closes ranks – bullies and threatens and then separates a child from his mother and threatens to give him to an abuser?
As a mother, your very core is joined by an invisible thread, fragile and pure, but unbreakable - the closest bond of love. In the animal kingdom – the mother nurtures, protects and raises the young, the father goes out to find food and provide for his family. When did the roles so clearly defined in nature suddenly become reversed? It seemed that women were suddenly considered less suitable primary carers than men, many of whom had shown little interest in them as babies, but suddenly wanted to take the mother’s role when they grew past the age of total dependency? It seemed strange that so many men now wanted to adopt the mother’s role. Thirty years ago, a man would not have considered this and yet from wanting their rightful access to their children, which one can sympathise with, especially in the case of good fathers whose relationship with the mother has broken down, this pendulum had swung to them wanting to usurp the role of mother and take her place.