By: Whitney Reynolds
School might be out for summer, but this month’s Whitney’s Woman Maralee McLean is constantly educating year-round on an injustice she knows firsthand.
Her Story of Activism…
My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter disclosed sexual abuse by her father to her daycare provider and myself. I was stunned that she was describing sexual abuse. Believing my daughter, I took her to her pediatrician who, by law, notified Social Services who, through a Guardian ad Litem (the lawyer for the child) brought the case to family court. This is where my nightmare began. I endured days, months and a decade in our family courts trying to protect my daughter. My daughter told the police, therapists, doctor, social workers, pre-school teachers, daycare providers, family and friends who witnessed my little girl’s cries for help. After three hospital reports stating the evidence of my daughter’s sexual abuse and trauma, including police and doctor reports verifying the abuse, the G.A.L. filed new motions to give the father unsupervised visits with my daughter including overnights. The final decision was made in an ex-parte’ hearing. I was not allowed to be present when they took my daughter away from me. For eight years, I was relegated to supervised visits of two hours a week. Not only did I need to continue the fight for my daughter, I dedicated my life to bringing awareness and using my voice to keep this from happening to other protective mothers and their children.
Soon after my daughter first disclosed her abuse, I started documenting everything that happened. I kept records of all court proceedings and important legal information. This documentation and the supporting research eventually became my book “Prosecuted but Not Silenced” which serves as a case study for a hidden epidemic in our country. Lobbying in Washington DC, testifying before Congress, holding a rally at the Colorado State Capitol, working to have my story covered by CNN International News and many other media platforms are just a few of the methods I pursued. I explored every avenue to try and make a difference and educate by becoming a National Spokesperson.
Since Enlightening people about my story have the laws changed?
Despite decades of effort and attempts to ensure that judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, social workers and medical personnel are trained in the dynamics of such maltreatment, there is still much work to be done. Much of this stagnation is due to a debunked theory not approved by the APA (American Psychological Association) the courts still hold. Dr. Richard Gardner’s “Parental Alienation Syndrome” holds that a protective parent should not alienate the child from the abusive parent. Gardner believed that the relationship with an abusive parent carries more weight than the safety of the child. Our main goal is to ensure the safety of the child. Most of these cases include domestic violence, which, all too often, evolves into the abuse of the children. However, with the recent rise of the “MeToo” movement, changes in the stance of the Catholic Church towards the abusive priests and a general swing in the way society protects the vulnerable, there is hope that this cause will now gain some traction.
In the Midst of losing rights to my daughter, how did I pull through?
Through the years of supervised visits, I watched my daughter deteriorate significantly. I focused all my energy and efforts on freeing her from the hell that was her life. I never gave up! My faith, my family, my friends, and the most obvious, the love for my little girl, gave me an inner strength. I believed that one day my daughter would be home safe. Using my passion and strength to help other women and the hundreds of thousands of children who are suffering this same incomprehensible injustice kept me going. My goal is to empower women to stand for their Civil and Human rights, to continue protecting their children. A mother’s first instinct is to protect her child, when the means and power to do this are stripped unjustly there are no words to express the constant heartache that is felt as each day passes by and she must persevere. She must find the strength to continue the fight.
I have spoken at rallies, conferences, law schools, many media outlets and educational seminars. Through it all, I have stressed the need for transparency and accountability in our court system. The abuse of a child is a crime and it should be treated as such.
How can people get involved with this issue?
If the safety of the child is not ensured, all of society is impacted. Mental health issues, suicide, alcoholism, PTSD, brain development hindered, physical health problems and a repetition of the generational cycle of violence becomes all of societies burdens. Contact legislators. Resolution 72, making the safety of the child the primary consideration in Family Court, passed by the US House of Representatives in 2018. This opens the door for state legislatures to enact corresponding laws. We need to share knowledge on social media, bringing attention and awareness to this tragedy. We must support the women who are going through this horrific crime to further the cause. Resources can be found on my website: MaraleeMclean.com.
This piece is originally from The Whitney Reynolds Show. To see Maralee’s full story play out on TV or for more inspiration watch The Whitney Reynolds Show on PBS or visit whitneyreynolds.com
Emmy nominated Whitney Reynolds’ news background and passion for people have been combined to create a show that is changing the world of talk TV. She produces a program that is dedicated to tough topics, inspiring viewers and provoking positive change. The Whitney Reynolds Show educates, motivates and makes a difference, one topic at a time. You can find the Whitney Reynolds Show on PBS in select cities and nationwide through her iHeart Radio segments.