Damon Moelter made the above video back in 2010, when he was 13. Last Friday, at age 16, Damon stood at the lectern and stated that he escaped abuse not because he was protected by the family court system, nor because he beat the system. He escaped because he found a way around it.
How? Two weeks ago, Damon got married. Once he was married, he was emancipated, and his father could no longer demand custody.
As I listened to this young man speak at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference, which took place last Friday and Saturday at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., I was on the verge of tears — as were the 100 or so women (and a few men) in the audience. This young man began describing incidents at age 6 that sounded like he was being sexually abused by his father. His mother reported the abuse. A multitude of professionals in the court system — from judges to therapists — did not believe Damon, and failed to protect him.
The case was a 10-year nightmare, and I invite you to visit a website that tells the whole story. The first thing you’ll see is a TV news video about Damon’s wedding. Also, take a look at the supporting documents — the story is an outrage, and the fact that the family court made it worse is even more of an outrage.
The story was covered by Fox11 in Los Angeles. Watch videos from MyFoxLA.com.
Now Damon is free. He living with his mom and looking forward to going back to high school. (The marriage is only on paper.) What struck me about Damon was how incredibly poised he was — the kid is a natural public speaker. He talked eloquently about how his mother worked so hard to protect him, and how her love and efforts saved his life.
And he wasn’t the only one to express those sentiments.
More mothers and grown children
At one of the conference events, two mothers who struggled mightily to protect their children demonstrated that children who were once abused can recover to grow up whole and healthy. Dr. Keyaunoosh Kassauei appeared with her son, Zach, who will soon graduate from high school. He cheerfully and enthusiastically talked about his life. Zach played varsity tennis and founded an organization to promote wellness. He plans to pursue a career in medicine.
April Meyer also lost custody of her daughter, Mandy, to her abusive ex-husband. She fled with her daughter and went into hiding to keep her child safe. Then April was caught and went to jail. Mandy was returned to her father, but ran away. Here’s her story:
Mandy is now in her 20s. She graduated high school and college, and works for a Child Protective Services organization. Because of her own experience dealing with CPS and testifying in court, she knows exactly what her young clients are going through.
Mandy appeared at the conference via Skype, because she and her husband just had their first child. (April, the new grandmother, was ecstatic.) With tears of gratitude, Mandy praised her mother’s efforts to protect her. Even when April wasn’t totally successful, Mandy knew that her mother loved her and was trying as hard as she could.
Power of love
All of these mothers and their now-grown children talked about their unbreakable love for each other. Even with the abuse they suffered, and despite the callous treatment by American family courts, they endured. Their love kept them going, until one way or another, the abuser no longer had influence over them.
Mothers at the conference who were still in the throes of battle took heart. They saw that maybe if they could hang in, eventually the difficult battle would end.