MEDIA ADVISORY: DV LEAP Co-Hosts Battered Mothers Custody Conference

10th Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference: Children’s Lives Shattered When Family Courts Betray Them

*** TODAY AT 10am***
Livestreaming video of the press event will be available online at this link a few minutes before it begins.

The George Washington University Law School
2000 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20052

Press Event:
Thursday, May 9 at 10am, Lerner Hall #201

The Battered Mothers Custody Conference:
Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11

White House Vigil & March:
Sunday, May 12
11am: march around the White House; 2pm: speak-out

Members of the media are invited to contact Claire Duggan, GW Law, at: or 202.994.0616.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Assaulted. Silenced. Lives shattered or ended. These are the brutal experiences mothers and children have suffered after seeking protection and justice in our family courts. At Thursday’s press event, adult and child victims of family court injustices will tell how this happens.

Law professor and U.S. Supreme Court Fellow Michelle Ghetti knows our family court’s failure to protect children all too well.

“Despite the criminal justice system telling me I should be afraid of my husband and to take all measures to keep my children and me safe, the family courts saw no reason to keep him away from my daughter! Fourteen years later, he murdered his two daughters from a subsequent marriage. This is what I call "Predictable Acts of Targeted Violence.’"

The U.S. has many state or national child abuse and domestic violence awareness campaigns. Not one such campaign warns mothers that if they seek protection for themselves or their children in family court, the abuser is likely to get unrestricted access or even sole custody of their victim. Sixteen-year-old Damon Moelter was one of those children.

"My case isn’t special because I was sexually abused, or because family court covered up evidence of abuse and forced me to live with my abuser. My case is special because I am safe and happy now, something we need to make happen for all the kids like me who are still with their abuser."

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study ( proves that child physical, sexual or emotional abuse and witnessing family violence have short and long-term effects on the developing child, their brain structure and functioning, as well as their future mental and physical health.

"We are ultimately heading for an even more violent humanity if we do not acknowledge that this massive problem exists. The message is clear: by re-victimizing the victims and not holding the abusers accountable, we are perpetuating a cycle of destruction!" says Anne Hoyer.

Producer Garland Waller will speak briefly about No Way Out But One, her award-winning documentary about Holly Collins, the first American to be granted asylum on grounds of domestic violence in Holland who found that the only way to protect her children from a life of court-ordered abuse was to leave this country.  (This film will be screened during the conference.)

Family courts have gone wildly astray and the mainstream media is just now beginning to recognize the scope of this national problem.  Mother’s Day is a time to honor – and to cover – horror stories like the ones above, and to shine a light on this hidden legally imposed nightmare of too many women and children.

Child abuse, domestic violence, and legal experts will be on hand to answer questions.

Press Event Speakers’ Backgrounds

  • Cassaundra J. Wilkins, MSW, LGSW:  Representing Ms. Wilkins, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DVLEAP) successfully appealed a D.C. Superior Court decision that granted unsupervised access to her young daughter’s father who had previously been found to have committed intrafamily offenses (domestic violence and improper touching).  Wilkins v. Ferguson is a precedent-setting case for the District of Columbia which establishes that child safety is always the priority in custody cases where an intrafamily offense has been found.
  • Anne Hamilton Hoyer: Ms. Hoyer, the youngest daughter of Steny H. Hoyer, House Minority Whip (D-MD) is an advocate and speaker on behalf of abused children caught in family court and child protection system failures.
  • Damon Moelter: At the age of 14, Damon went into hiding after being ordered into the full custody of his father who Damon had reported sexually abused him.  Damon posted a series of videos asking for protection and was featured in the Fox LA series “Children Lost in the System.” Damon is now 16 years old and the only way he could get protection from his named abuser was to gain emancipation by getting married. 
  • Michelle Ghetti: A visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a current U.S. Supreme Court Fellow, Professor Ghetti is a survivor of domestic violence. Her story is told in the book No, Daddy, Don't!: A Father's Murderous Act of Revenge. Prof Ghetti married and had a daughter with John Battaglia who brutally abused her causing her to fight the Dallas court system to preserve her family's safety. Years later, he remarried and had two daughters. In 2001, while on an unsupervised visit with him, Battaglia forced the young girls to call their mother on his speakerphone so she could listen while he shot and killed both of them.

Sponsoring organizations:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Child Justice, Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, the Domestic Violence and Empowerment Appeals Project (DVLEAP), Center for Judicial Excellence, Mothers of Lost Children, California Protective Parents Association, NOMAS, and the Battered Mothers Custody Conference

About DV LEAP:  

The Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP) was launched in response to the problems experienced in domestic violence litigation around the country. Despite significant legal and court reforms, women and children often fail to receive adequate protection from the courts. Through GW Law Professor Joan Meier and a network of law firms, DV LEAP offers appellate representation to parties or amici curiae in cases with important legal issues in order to ensure that they are fully considered. It is also DV LEAP’s intention to further the creation of a body of well-developed appellate law that will enhance the litigation of domestic violence cases at all levels. DV LEAP has an impressive record of success in the DC Court of Appeals, and with the help of students has filed amicus briefs in seven Supreme Court cases.