I trusted him. I didn't know him, or him us, but I still trusted him. He had a kind face, like my grandfather. Warm and sincere, he gave me a sense of real security, like I could tell him anything I wanted to and he would listen and provide the right counsel.
My sister and I sat in his chambers listening to him ask us questions. I felt awfully small sitting in there, sinking deeply into a large leather-bound chair, but again I trusted him. I was about 12 at the time, my sister 10.
The judge began to ask us questions about our abusive birth father, what we did with him when it was his turn to do stuff with us, how we felt about it, and why we no longer wanted to do stuff with him.
I remember the judge asking me directly, "Do you want to spend time with your father anymore?"
"No," I answered.
"Are you scared when you're with him?"
"Does he drink when you're with him?"
"Do you think he'll hurt you when he's drinking?"
Pause. "I don't know."
Similar answers from my sister. The entire time the judge enveloped us with a sobering warmth, one that gave me the confidence and comfort to be completely honest.
"Again, I ask you -- do you want to spend time with your father anymore?"
After that visit, we were no longer forced into visitations with our birth father. A year later was the last time I saw him.
I'm sure that because my mother worked for the police department and our soon-to-be stepfather was a cop, that helped get us face time with the judge, probably circumventing the family court system somewhat.
But it could've failed for us, the entire global family system that included our parents, other family members, friends, the police department, the court system, the social workers -- everybody.
It failed for Charlie and Braden Powell and their mother Susan and the millions of other victims of abuse.
No matter how "evil" we claim the Josh Powell's of the world are after the devastating facts come to light, we all failed in the end because we didn't protect our children and all the victims of intimate partner violence.
We didn't give them a voice. We didn't give them safe harbor. And then we have to bury the victims and mourn the loss that could've been prevented.
It was a global family failure that could've failed us all those years ago. Thank God it didn't.
And thank God the B-hive will always have a voice. The Mama and Daddy promise you that.