Media Advisory: Placing Children with Batterers

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma
12th Assembly District
For Immediate Release: May 27, 2009
Contact: Catalina Hayes-Bautista
Phone: (916) 319-2012
Cell: (510) 499-9637 


Media Advisory
Assemblywoman Ma Holds Select Committee on Domestic Violence hearing to look at whether the interest of the child is taken into account


WHEN:         Thursday, May 28th at 1:30 pm
WHERE:       California State Capitol, Sacramento – Room 126


WHO:            Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Chair
                        Members of the Select Committee on Domestic Violence


WHAT:         Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Select Committee on Domestic Violence will convene an informational hearing into allegations that family courts are placing children with batterers.  The Committee will hear from victims, experts, judges and advocates on a child’s best interest in the family court system. The hearing seeks to shed light on stories shared with Assemblywoman Fiona Ma by mothers who are victims of domestic violence and have been in the court system for years, fighting for their children’s best interest.





The man, a former boxer, punches his 4 month old daughter twice and kills her. The attorney says he didn’t show “reckless indifference” to human life because there was a reason for her anger…the baby was crying.

“He was frustrated with a child; the child was crying,” Gale told Judge David Mortensen while Gardea stood at his side with his head bowed. “In very few cases will parents take an action as extreme as Victor’s case. But it does not show reckless indifference to human life because … there was a reason for his anger.”

Read Father’s Fate in Murder Case  in Limbo Until June here.

Whose fault is it, anyway?

Repeat after me….it’s the woman’s fault.

Until when, that is? When will it end?

In Jail for Baby Shaker, the grandmother is quoted as saying:

She said young women with children needed to be extra vigilant when choosing partners.

“To those young women out there, be careful who you pick, protect your children from people like Matthew Riseley,” she said.

No doubt we all need to be careful about who we choose as a partner, but really, when are we going to start holding perpetrators accountable for their violence? Instead of giving advice about picking a mate, why don’t we deal with people’s actions and their choice to use violence?  


Warning: Bias can lead to death

Everyone always asks, why doesn’t she just leave? when you bring up domestic violence. In Teen died after red flags went unheeded in Santa Clara County custody decision, the domestic violence advocate sums up the situation perfectly:

Many victims don’t leave because they have been told by their batterers that they will lose custody of their children, and in Allen’s case, her worst fear came true. Then, earlier this spring she received the dreaded call from law enforcement. “We think we found your daughter,” the officer said, “and she is not alive.”

There are many reasons why a woman doesn’t leave her abuser, but fear of losing custody is certainly one of the major ones. The public would be surprised to learn, but batterers OFTEN receive custody. In many cases, it’s because a battered woman presents poorly in court: nervous, anxious, depressed, fearful or hostile. Meanwhile, the batterer will appear in control and perhaps even charming.  

Mark Mesiti was awarded unsupervised custody in 2005, even though he had a lengthy criminal history including a domestic violence conviction. He violated his probation and was sent to prison. For the seven years previous to gaining custody of his daughter, he amassed a variety of charges. All were red flags. Welfare professionals and Alycia’s mother raised them during the custody battle.

The father was given custody after it was found that the mother was depressed — often the effect of battering — and therefore unfit to care for her daughter. As an alternative to this deadly decision, couldn’t we have wrapped the mom and her kids in supportive services and allowed them to heal together? Depression is treatable. Homicide is not.

This case is NOT an exception to the rule. It’s a common occurence. Battered women are often not believed. The court often thinks she’s being manipulative:

Victims of domestic violence in family court often present their case without representation, while perpetrators often bring attorneys. The imbalance of power the perpetrators use at home to control the victims follows them into family court. When this imbalance exists, victims may not be able to effectively voice their concerns and articulate their needs. Often we don’t believe them. The myth that they are lying about their abuse to gain the upper hand continues to haunt the system.

For more information, visit:

He should be IN custody, not WITH custody

We learn that this man punched his ex-girlfriend and threatens to kill her and her children and threatens suicide (a suicidal abuser is extremely dangerous).

A Gastonia man is accused of punching his ex-girlfriend in the back of the head and threatening to kill her and her two young children before committing suicide.

We learn that this man has joint custody:

Gilmore and the accuser have a joint custody arrangement.

We read his words, as if they were straight from a domestic violence textbook:

“…(I)f I can’t have you, nobody can,” Gilmore allegedly told her. “I’ll kill you, the kids, then myself.”

And then we read in print, right before our very eyes, a dirty little “secret” in family courts nationwide:

A Gaston County magistrate released him on a $5,000 unsecured bond and ordered him to have no contact with the accuser outside of their child custody agreement.

He continues to have child custody.

I sincerely hope this doesn’t have a textbook ending.

Read the full article here: Gastonia man accused of punching ex-girlfriend, threatening to kill her, kids, self

Nice perps

For sure, this is a template that is used by reporters for cases involving child abuse or domestic violence. The “nice guy” (as reported by neighbors) are stunned by the person’s actions. Not only that, we have to hear just how nice he was:

“He spoiled her. He treated her like his own. You never heard him yell at her, you never heard him say a bad word about her,” Worden says.

We learned Chris and Meghan were dating for a year and while Chris wasn’t the girl’s biological father, neighbors at his last known address say he played the role perfectly.

“He used to play with his daughter, right here, you can still see the rope. We never saw it coming,” former neighbor Cody Campbell says.

We have no idea what his girlfriend or her child were like. The reporter didn’t have a single nice word to say about them.

His crime?

To her horror, police believe, that blood was from her 2 year old daughter. Police say Mundell raped and slashed her thigh with a steak knife, then set her blanket ablaze.

A tw0-year old child was raped, cut and set on fire.

And there are only nice words in this article about the perp and not the victims.

Read the full article here: Athol Man Charged With Raping and Slashing Toddler

Scientific bias

It really should come as no surprise that journals would have bias, but whenever I happen upon it, it’s still unnerving. In Parents Who Kill, the title is really a misnomer. If I counted correctly, there are 22 mentions of mother and only 11 references to fathers. It’s very apparent just a few paragraphs in that these researchers only want to talk about women that commit child abuse. However, men do, too. According to Health & Human Services data, they commit 40% of child abuse, which is high considering women provide more child care. Moreover, the rates of child abuse don’t factor whether the homes are single parents or married couples. When you compare males to females directly, males commit more child abuse. On top of this, 95% of child sexual abuse is committed by men. My point? This article should include both genders and provide recommendations for both parents – as the title would suggest – both parents kill. You can’t treat half of a problem – it will only fester and grow.

Father’s false allegations

This father poisons soup that he feeds to his children so that he can make a false allegation to Campbell’s that the product was harmful and collect from the lawsuit. Both children were hospitalized:

The girl and boy, then 18 months old and 3 years old, were hospitalized after Cunningham fed them soup tainted with prescription drugs and lighter fluid.

The children may suffer from respiratory problems for the rest of their lives.  

According to prosecutors, the former dump truck driver called Campbell in January 2006 and threatened to sue the company because its soup was contaminated. He pleaded guilty in 2007 to a federal charge of making false claims against the company.

There are certain stereotypes that women suffer from:  having low credibility, being vindictive, lying, being malicious, being manipulative, being controlling…(those of us involved in family court issues, deal with these myths all the time)…I just wonder if the people that believe in these stereotypes ever read articles like these?  Because these characteristics are shared by BOTH sexes. And I’m sure we can find plenty of cases to support this allegation.

Judges’ math skills

In this case, a father abuses TWO daughters for TWENTY years, which results in NINETEEN pregnancies.

The father was sentenced to NINETEEN AND A HALF years in prison. The judges thought that was too much and reduced it to FOURTEEN AND A HALF YEARS, and with good behavior that would amount to how many years?!

The judge described how the man ruined the lives of his two daughters, abusing them from the age of around 8 or 10 and continuing until their thirties.

Lord Justice Hughes said victim impact statements made by the two girls made for harrowing reading.

But the minimum jail term was in line with those imposed for “serious” murders and should be reduced to fourteen and a half years.

For the complete article, go here:  Rapist Father Receives Reduction in His Sentence After Latest Ruling.