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At Colorado Children First:

We advocate for children. We are dedicated to ensuring that laws, policies, and programs work to their benefit. 

Help make the lives of Colorado children safer.

Emily's Story

From the time she decided to leave Phillip, Ana fought for the safety of her child.  Her abusive husband Phillip threatened to kill her daughter Emily if Ana ever left.  He made this threat via text message, which one would think is compelling evidence against him.  However, Ana would sadly discover how unfair the judicial system is against victims, even with compelling evidence.

Ana, like so many other women found herself stuck in an abusive relationship because of her husband’s threats to kill their daughter if she ever left.  That same threat made her realize that she needed to get out for the safety of her daughter. Having no experience with the legal system she trusted it to keep herself and her daughter safe.  Instead, she found herself caught in the catch 22 that so many other women find themselves in, which is this:  When a victim of domestic abuse tries to leave the abuser and keep her child from the abuser the court often labels the protective parent has an “alienator.”  But when a victim of domestic abuse stays in the abusive relationship, courts will often forcibly remove the child from the home citing a “failure to protect” on the part of the abused parent.

Compounding the challenge is the fact that abusers are master manipulators. How else could they entice and entrap victims if they did not know masterfully how to turn on the charm and present themselves as calm and levelheaded, while portraying their victim as “crazy” and “erratic.”

Ana began her case by filing for divorce and asking for a protection order on behalf of herself and her daughter based on Phillip’s threats.  The court denied to make Ana‘s protection order permanent because 1) Ana had a history of going back to Phillip after an abuse incident, and 2) Phillip accused Ana of falsifying the text message threats, which the Court found could be possible.  The court’s findings are evidence of a lack of training on the part of the judge, because proper training would have taught the judge about battered partner syndrome (which explains why victims go back abusers several times before leaving permanently) and about abuser manipulation and victim shaming.

Ty Tesoriero

This is perhaps the most tragic case that we know of involving the judicial system’s failure to protect a child based on prioritization of nonexistent perceived rights of the abuser over the best interest of the child, and how the classification of the protective parent as an alienator can ultimately harm the child. Colorado Children First was started in response to the murder of 10-year old Ty Tesoriero by his Father.  Ty was murdered by his father after a judge granted the mother’s motion to restrict dad’s parenting time on the basis of endangerment, but then inexplicably sent Ty to his dad’s for one last night of unsupervised parenting time.  It would be Ty’s last night alive.

Ty’s father was horrifically abusive to Ty behind closed doors.  He used to punish him by forcing him to do excessive exercise such as hours-long planks, pushups, sit-ups, and running miles as early as the age of four years or holding a squat position for a long time. Despite reporting these things to his mother and Department of Human Services (“DHS”), the courts kept putting him back in the care of his abusive father, finding the father rehabilitated simply because he had completed classes the court would order him to attend.  His father was not learning anything or rehabilitating but was mainly just checking the boxes he knew he had to check to get Ty back in his care.

The system’s failure to protect Ty caused him to start lying about the abuse because he learned that no matter what he reported he would be put back in the care of his abuser who would then abuse him worse to punish him for reporting the abuse.  When his mother Jing reported the abuse, Ty would deny it occurred in an effort of self-preservation. Ty’s abuser even turned Ty against his mother because when Ty supported his mother’s efforts to protect him the abuse was worse. This caused Ty to stop wanting to see his mother at all because if he indicated any favorability toward his mom he was abused at his dad’s. Ty’s mother never gave up and continued filing motions with the court in an effort to see her son and protect him. The motions were repeatedly denied and the more she fought, the more she got labeled b the court as an alienator

Carrie’s story

Most nightmares occur while you are fast asleep and vanish as soon as your eyes get their first glance of sunshine.  I have been asked to share my nightmare with you and while writing this has been the most difficult thing I have done, I do hope it can bring some change so that others do not live the same nightmare. The last 4.5 years, my children and I have had to live through the unspeakable and at every turn, the systems designed to protect us only failed us in the most righteous way.  We have experienced significant trauma that no amount of therapy could ever minimize and our existence is anything but peaceful.  The three of us will pretend that everything is fine but there is an unspoken understanding that not one of us is safe. 

March of 2017 is when our nightmare began.  I had met my ex, who we will refer to as Katie, at a local coffee shop for our first date.  I had met her on Match and had spoken with her for a few weeks before I was willing to meet in person.  At our first date, she had brought her child and we will refer to her as Madison.  Madison was 11 months old at the time.  The relationship progressed normally and without any real concerning red flags. After a few months of dating, her roommates had let her know that they would be moving out and it made sense for us to cohabitate but this is when everything shifted in a negative way.  Shortly after moving in, I learned that she had been fired from her job a month prior and she began refusing to get another one. I found myself financially taking care of her and her child. 

At this same time, she began self-harming and I had learned that she had been self-harming since she was a young child. There were countless times that I would be at work and she would call me and tell me I would need to come home because she wasn’t able to care for Madison or get out of bed.  I would come home and Madison would be soiled, unfed, and would have been left to crawl around the house by herself.  Sometimes my son would be there to help with Madison but he was also 10 at the time.  He also would call begging me to come home.  I called Social Services- no one cared because Madison had a safe caregiver in me.  I called Katie’s therapist who said there wasn’t she could do to help because Katie was in denial about her struggles. Katie was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

 I tried to leave the relationship and with every attempt to leave, the self-harming became more serious or she would use her daughter as a means to illicit my sympathy and stay.  In the first 6 months of dating, Katie had been hospitalized twice for suicidal ideation and her daughter witnessed both of those attempts.  In addition to the self-harming came many episodes of Domestic Violence that left me bloodied and bruised- again with Madison watching it all unfold. Every day I was yelled at, told horrific things, and further isolated from my friends and family. 

Help make the lives of Colorado children safer.