The first documented Custody Crisis case that we know of was recorded by Louise Armstrong [pictured] in her book “Rocking the Cradle of Sexual Politics”. It is the story of a mother who tried desperately to protect her child from serial sexual assault by the father in 1976. Despite abundant supporting evidence, including substantiation by a psychiatrist and psychologist, the judge found her to be a liar, to have coached her child to disclose. Sole custody was given to the father and she was sentenced to jail for three months. She never saw her child again.
Here is her story as told by Louise:
From the court documents now before me, we learn that Mary Lou had been divorced from "Harry" in 1975. Custody of the infant child had been granted to Mary Lou with visitation to Harry.
In the winter of 1976, Alice, then five years old, had complained to Mary Lou that Harry had sexually molested her. At once bewildered, perplexed, and alarmed, Mary Lou turned to a local but nationally respected child psychiatrist, 'Dr. Smith,' as well as to a local clinical psychologist, "Dr. Judith Wright." Their separate opinions were that Harry had indeed sexually molested the child. And Dr. Smith advised Mary Lou not to allow Harry further visitation (Remember, we are dealing with 1976 here, two years before incest would explode on the human interest pages of newspapers nationwide. Dr. Smith was operating on child-protective common sense.)
The following month, Harry filed in the trial court, seeking to have Mary Lou held in contempt for failure to allow visitation, and seeking custody for himself. Mary Lou’s attorney filed to overrule that motion, appending the evaluations of Dr. Smith and Dr. Wright, and seeking to curtail visitation or at least forbid it to be unsupervised.
The judge, 'Judge Cain,' proceeded to trail, commanding Mary Lou to proceed with proof in support of her motion to terminate visitation.
At the trial of the case some four months later, Judge Cain began by commenting that it was up to Mary Lou to prove reason to terminate visitation, and up to Harry to prove reason for a reversal of custody. No further mention was made at that time of any charge of contempt of court.
The court’s findings and judgment, however, included a specific finding of contempt against Mary Lou: "The petitioner has an excuse for at least the denial of visitation, that being a psychiatrist and a psychologist believed the child’s statement of child molesting. The question is not what they believed, hearing only part of the version and not knowing the background or the full factual situation: the question is what the petitioner believed, and … court firmly believed the petitioner … caused the child to make statements, knowing full well the falsity thereof" (italics mine).
And so we witness here, for the first time I am aware of, the tactical shift from implicating the child (as an accomplice-witness) and thus exonerating the offender, to the focus on the mother as the source of all lies (thus exonerating the offender). With this result for Alice:
"The custody of the minor child may be and is hereby transferred from the petitioner to the respondent, effective immediately, such being in the child’s best interest … The petitioner is found and adjudged to be in contempt of court for her willful, flagrant, and various violations of the orders of the court. As punishment, the petitioner shall be confined to the County Jail for a period of 90 days.”
Could this have been taken, back then, as a premonition of the later backlash against child-protective women? Yes—if we could also have read at the time the impending change in social context, the vigorous efforts to once again silence women, to repeal their so-recently gained rights.
One burr in Judge Cain’s saddle, as it turned out, was that Mary Lou worked at that time for an outspoken feminist and writer, whom the judge referred to as a man-hater with a poor opinion of marriage, and who he said was brainwashing Mary Lou. This southern judge would seem to have been punishing Mary Lou for, in his view, having fallen among persons with seditious ideas.
At Harry’s request, Judge Cain further embellished his decision by restraining Mary Lou from all communication, direct or indirect, with the child Alice—even by use of tape recordings or through third parties.
A great deal of wrangling followed, but the upshot is that Mary Lou has never since heard from or been allowed to communicate with her child (now, of course, no longer a child).
TWC NOTE: Before 1976, women did not have the power to leave men without being impoverished and knew they would lose their children if they left anyway. It was only after women gained financial independence and supposed equality in the 70's, that they began leaving and hence Custody Crisis cases began.
Notice this case occurred before the use of court-appointed minor’s counsels and evaluators who give judges cover. It was also before “parental alienation” gave judges something easy to hang their hat on. This shows the agenda to entitle fathers while blaming, punishing and silencing mothers and children operated even without these tactics.
Cindy Dumas, M.A. has been researching, writing, and raising awareness about the Custody Crisis since 2003, when she was unable to protect her children from their abusive father. She fled into hiding when Family Court failed her and was tricked into returning home, when her children were given to their abusive father.