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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Help Holly to Come Home

Fourteen years ago, in a desperate and courageous act to protect her children from abuse, Holly Collins "went underground" and fled the country with her three young children after the Minneapolis Family Court ruled that they must live with their father, who had fractured Zachary's skull. Now Holly and her adult children want to come home - but the Minneapolis District Attorney refuses to drop the charges, and has threatened to try to put Holly in jail and deny her all contact with her children the minute she sets foot on U.S. soil.



Letter from Jennifer:


To Whom It May Concern:

My mother is a formerly battered woman who is the first American to receive asylum in Europe. My brother and I were abused children who were failed by the American Justice System, but fortunately we received asylum in the Netherlands.

We are from Minneapolis Minnesota. In 1992 custody of my brother (9) and I (7) was reversed to my abusive father because my mother denied visitation. In 1994 she ‘kidnapped’ us back and went underground. We fled the United States and were apprehended in The Netherlands for having inadequate traveling documentation. After living in refugee camps for 3 years, we were finally granted asylum in 1997. We have been living (in secrecy) in Europe for 13 years. In May 2007 we were discovered by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. We are trying to get the charges dismissed so we can return home safely to the United States of America.

Our mother lived a horrible life as a victim of terrible violence: from severe beatings as a child, sexual abuse as a teenage girl and the systematic physical and emotional abuse of being a young, battered wife. After two decades of being beaten, raped, tortured, demoralized, criticized and even blamed for accepting the violence, she finally got up the courage to leave her abusive life when my father fractured my brother's skull. (He was only 4 years old!) Child Protection threatened my mother that we would be removed from her care and she could face charges of “failure to protect” if she didn’t leave my father. Yet once she left, the case was remanded to the Family Court and our young mother (22) was thrown into an outrageous legal battle of ’he said / she said.’

The family court case dragged on for years and during this time, my father continued to beat my mother (in front of us) when he picked us up for court ordered visitation. During the visitation… he beat, punched, kicked, tortured and tormented me (7) and my brother (9.) We would cry and beg our mother not to send us. My father would call the police to enforce visitation and we would be physically dragged out from underneath our beds and given to this man who was hurting us. Rather than accept that our mother was advocating on behalf of her abused children, she was accused of “Parental Alienation” and interfering with our father’s "Rights of Access.”

There was an abundance of evidence regarding the abuse: visible injuries, medical records, psychological evaluations, police reports, child abuse investigations, witness statements, etc… My father testified on several occasions that he hurt my mother (admittedly in the presence of us children) which required emergency medical care, but that every single incident and injury was an “accident.” The judge even found that domestic violence occurred, but personally decided that our mother was too traumatized from the abuse to care for her own children. On the record the judge admitted that he personally couldn’t understand my mother’s fear of my father: “I’ve seen them and I’ve seen her in Court. I thought they had just separated and that he had just beat her with a belt and put her in the hospital because she was shaking like a little bird, and then I find out that they had been separated for a number of years, and it wasn’t the behavior of a person that had been separated from a man for a number of years.” He concluded that she must be suffering from a mental illness, although he wasn’t sure what ‘psychiatric affliction’ she had. Every single medical and psychological professional involved in our case denied this! The judge decided that it was easier to monitor my father’s physical abuse than the potential physiological harm from having a “broken” mother and he awarded the known abuser custody of two young children!

The court officers literally ripped me out of my mother’s arms as I was kicking and screaming “MOMMY HELP ME! HE HURTS ME AND HE HURTS MY BROTHER! MOMMY…. I WANT MY MOMMY!” The memories of that dreadful day still bring tears to my eyes. I will be haunted by that moment for the rest of my life!

My mother kept fighting for our return and stressed that children should have rights too! The right to be safe! However the judge tried to silence her and a “Gag Order” was issued. My mother was warned that she would not be allowed to see her children as long as she continued to speak out against the court. A family court worker told us kids that we would not be able to see our mom until we stopped saying that our father was still beating us (which he was.) When we were finally allowed to have (supervised) visitation with our mother, I showed the visitation supervisors the bruises on my back and bottom. I told them “He’s still hurting us!” The county supervisor scolded me saying: “You know you are not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore!” I was told to cover up immediately or we would be taken out of the room and we would not be allowed to see our mom anymore. The judge issued a subpoena for our pediatrician to be held in contempt until he apologized to the court for accusing the judge of not protecting us. Even though the Judge claimed that my mother was a ‘danger’ to my big brother and me, he awarded sole custody of our baby brother, Christopher, to my mother in 1994! It is all too strange for words!

After trying every legal possibility to secure our safety, on June 30th 1994 this brave woman “kidnapped” us children right out from underneath her abuser. Please note that we voluntarily went with our mother! It was one of the happiest days of our lives! We went “underground” and eventually fled the United States in 1994. (Apparently the Judge reversed custody of Christopher as well, after we left.) After spending 3 years in various refugee camps our shy, petite, young mom won her case under the High Commission for Refugees and was the first American Citizen granted Asylum in the European Union! (My brothers and I also received our own asylum.)

Although we were always afraid of being caught, we finally found sanctuary and slowly but surely began to heal from the abuse. Now my brother and I are in University and thriving! Christopher is in High school and doing very well. After 13 years of living in secrecy, we were found in the Netherlands by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation in May 2007. While the U.S. has agreed to drop all federal charges against us, the Hennepin County Attorney is determined to prosecute my mother! My mother was told that she needed to turn herself in and accept her punishment! My mother is a sweet, soft woman. She is terrified of getting ‘in trouble’ and going to jail. She has been mistreated her whole life. It is time for her to have peace!
My brother is 24 and I am 22. We are the “victims!” We want to be heard! We don’t think that our mother should be punished nor silenced any longer. We want to expose the injustice, help rectify the inadequacies of family court and find a way to insure the protection of bruised and beaten and children. First we need to help our own mother who faces criminal charges for protecting us. Surely it is an affirmative defense that she reasonably believed that she was protecting us, when the judge even found in a court order that my father was abusive!

It is quite remarkable that this shy, insecure, defeated, battered, young woman was the first American to receive asylum in Europe! It is embarrassing that our country fails to protect the most vulnerable citizens! Things need to change! We need to make a difference! We would appreciate any help you can give.

Sincerely,
Jennifer



What can you do? Go Here to get the State of Minnesota to drop these ridiculas charges.

13 comments:

Treasia said...

This post brought tears to my eyes this morning. As a woman who lived through abuse daily for several years it brought many memories flooding back. My heart aches for this family.

Camie said...

This story makes me sick. To think that that state did nothing to protect those innocent children...ugh. I sent an email, and I hope that everybody who reads this does the same thing...

Tug said...

Done.

Please keep us posted if you hear any more.

~kat said...

Very sad! I signed!

Not a Granny said...

Thanks everyone for signing and reading! I will try and keep you updated.

Fu Manchu Dad said...

This kind of injustice absolutely boils my blood. I expect this will have to go to the supreme court. This lady WILL get justice. I have no doubt. Keep us posted and thanks for passing it along.

FMD

Mrs. "Smith" said...

I hope those ridiculous charges are dropped. It takes so much strength to get out of situation like that. She should be commended, not punished. That excrescence she was married to is a miserable sack of wasted flesh.

I got out of a marriage that was getting abusive. I didn't want my older son to grow up thinking that sort of thing was ok. I was lucky to have found Smith. He is a wonderful Dad to our kids, and a great husband.

Anonymous said...

This is a very long comment but people need to have credible facts before drawing conclusions. I have posted these same comments on other blogs carrying Holly Ann’s story and as of yet have had no rebuttal of these facts, though ‘someone’ has replied angry opinions. The following link is to an organization that works closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Yes, this site does present opposing views but isn’t that what everyone needs to hear before making conclusions?

When this story first broke in the Netherlands, and up until recently, almost all the websites that have carried this have done so strictly based on quotations from Holly Ann.

One very sad and extremely dangerous fact is that tragically there are cases where the abuse accusations are false. Regardless how rare these kinds of cases are, sadly even just one only discredit those where domestic abuse truly does occur. For any women involved in combating domestic abuse, we must be very careful of this possibility, regardless how rare because they only support the negative stereotype of battered women.

In the numerous stories that have been reported, when compared side by side, there are many contradictions. These disturbing facts can only be determined after a full investigation, or at least a thorough response.

As a woman I can’t help but wonder what will happen to her subsequent 4 (biological) and 3 (“adopted”) children. Neither Holly nor her daughter has included these children in their plans to return to the US. According to other sources Holly Ann never married the father of these children. There has been no mention at all if he is joining them in the US. If not, is he just giving his 7 children up and what kind of father does that? Will she now marry him to bring him to the US with her? Who is this father and why has he not come to her defense? Does the Netherlands allow an unwed, non-citizen (the boyfriend also isn’t a citizen) with no income and who has FBI warrants for her arrest adopt 3 children?

It was determined by 12 separate agencies investigating her charges against her ex-husband that Holly Ann suffers from Munchausen by Proxy, a sometimes deadly mental illness. Some of the criteria used to determine this diagnosis are; using their children to support their claim that they are victims (and convincing the children they are also victims), an immense need for attention (i.e. all the media coverage from only her perspective), they are very convincing about their stories as they themselves truly believe their delusions, constantly insisting on medical attention for their children and the need to surround themselves with additional children, either biologically, through foster care or adoption. Note its documented Holly brought her 2 children to an emergency room in Massachusetts 32 times in a one year period. Holly denies this even with proof from the hospital.

Is Holly Ann now making another claim of abuse? First her ex (Jennifer now claims on her website his current wife also abused them though Holly never made this claim throughout the entire custody trial), next her own mother and now the youngest boy’s father (mostly like a Dane…he’s 13, she’s been hiding for 14 years?). From all the news reports I’ve read, including her interview on Dutch TV, she’s never made this accusation either.

Holly Ann brought accusations of abuse by her mother only after her custody battle with her ex-husband began; she denies this regardless of family photos and statements. None of Holly Ann’s other siblings support this claim. Her mother supported the decision of the court. Her mother had testified that she and the grandfather (who Holly Ann ALSO claims abused her) as well as Holly Ann’s brothers and sisters, had a very close, loving relationship with the children. If my mother had abused my son or daughter my parents (or anyone in my family who didn’t believe me) wouldn’t even know who they were! It will be interesting to see who Holly Ann actually returns to in the US; is it this family? Is she now seeking their help (apparently she wants to move back to the area where they live)?

On Jennifer’s blog she states she called her dad and couldn’t believe he wasn’t happy to here from her. She called to ask him to drop the charges against her. Does this sound like something an adult who was so severely abused by her father would do? As a life-long advocate for women’s rights, this hasn’t been my experience.

Holly Ann’s claims of receiving amnesty have been repudiated by the Dutch Ministries, the US State Department (Natalie Wazir) and the Minnesota District Attorney, Liz Cutter; you can easily reach her at US country code + 612 348 6951. Holly did in fact receive a residence permit, but the local Dutch judge was under the impression she was a refugee from Bosnia.

If she really did receive amnesty, why did she stay in hiding as there was no need, she had protection; she knew there is no extradition treaty between the Netherlands and the US. She could have (and most likely would have) enlisted the support she currently is and by doing so advanced the cause of women who flee to protect their children. She has claimed her Dutch lawyer made a public statement that the ministries confirmed the abuse with the American authorities in 1994. If the American authorities confirmed the abuse, she would have solid legal standing to return and fight her case. If the same authorities agreed she was abused, why would Liz Cutter still pursue the case?

Holly Ann (or her daughter) has claimed that Congressman Steny Hoyer has taken up her cause and asked her to speak in front of Congress. This is simply not true. His telephone number is US country code + 202 225 3121. Given this, why is she lying or is this another symptom of believing her own delusions?

Apparently Holly has a plethora of court documents, but only the ones that support her claims. Some quotes in other blogs have made comments such as, “I HAVE researched the entire story to the degree that it’s possible and after having done so, I learned “going off” was entirely appropriate.” Most likely through no fault on Admin’s part, she hasn’t done the investigation necessary to be credible. Through my investigation, which is what I do, there most certainly is another side to this very disturbing story.

If what Holly Ann and her daughter so emphatically say the truth is, we can expect a response with detailed responses to all the issues above. My suspicion is I’ll only hear more opinions and be attacked myself for even asking.

Given the totality of this case, there appears to be a very tragic pattern of behavior here, and it’s not the people accused.

Not a Granny said...

Your comment would bear a lot more weight if it was Anonymous. You sound like a jealous lover.

Not a Granny said...

PS Anonymous-I didn't know Jennifer had a blog, I will have to find it to add to her support!

Thanks for sharing!

Train Wreck said...

Heart breaking! Even if "Anonymous" says it's not the whole truth? There are PLENTY of other cases out there men, women, and children that need help. If this story is true I pray for them, that the law will not be blind! I hate to hear these stories! So tragic! "Karma" what goes around comes around! The court makes mistakes! Plenty of them! I know, personaly!!

Anonymous said...

Some things just don't add up with Jennifer's story.

It's hard to believe that the level of abuse supposedly suffered by this mom and her kids was totally overlooked by all of the persons and agencies involved in this case. Especially from the state of Minnesota, which is known for it's proactive and progressive policies regarding women's issues and mental health.

Before anyone makes up their mind on case, read up on what Anonymous above referred to, Manchausen by Proxy Syndrome. Then see what you think.

Anonymous said...

If Anonymous is a women's rights advocate, remind me to never employ her should the need arise.

A very large, credible Canadian study conducted in 2003 concludes that 98% of alleged abuse cases are "fundamentally sound". And since listening to children's voices in abuse cases is relatively new, research is pointing us in the direction that cases are 100% "fundamentally sound" when children are listened to. Any discrepancies between the stories can be seen as denial and minimisation by the perpetrators and a heightened sense of (real) fear in the victims.

To the 2nd Anonymous poster. In cases of abuse and especially extreme abuse the stories often 'don't add up'. Our silent internal sub-conscious really doesn't want to believe that such atrocities can be inflicted on our children, but it does happen, and it happens much more frequently than previously believed. Once you're involved in listening to stories of abuse it's not all that 'hard to believe' that the evidence was ignored by the courts, or was misinterpreted or skewed in some way, it is not an uncommon phenomenon.