tagged w/ dv shelter
April 10, 2011
I've reported over the years on the problems facing our nations' abuse shelters, including funding woes, over-worked staff, loosey-goosey procedures, and even illegal conduct. But nowhere have I seen what I'm going to reveal about the Next Step, a shelter located near Bar Harbor in lobster-addled Maine...
On March 15, 2007, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence unveiled three ambitious bills. One bill would create a new class of crimes for "domestic violence assaults." A second bill would establish a so-called "predominant aggressor" policy that would help police sort out cases of mutual abuse. And the third bill would restore $1.9 million from previous budget cuts: http://www.nextstepdvproject.org/2008-dv-legislation/
But to get political traction, the issue would need to garner loads of media coverage. And enticing media interest would require...you guessed it...flesh and blood victims.
As revealed by blog entries on its website, the Next Step staff is a politically active bunch, making frequent lobbying forays to the state capitol in Augusta. The shelter workers knew they desperately needed to find a poster child who could be paraded around so legislators could be persuaded to sign on to the proposed laws.
Problem is, victims of battering are in short supply these days. So when no victim is known to exist, the solution is obvious: fabricate one!
Following is the account of Ligia Filler, 41, a native of Guatemala and ersatz domestic violence victim. A web of police reports, judge's orders, sworn testimony, and a recent Maine Supreme Court decision forms the basis for the improbable tale I'm about to share...
Abandoned as a child, Ligia first traveled to the United States at age 17 to meet her parents for the first time. By then Ligia had developed severe psychological problems, attempting suicide several times.
In 1991 she met Vladek Filler. They married and eventually had two children. But the marital union didn't resolve the emotional torment; in fact, she repeatedly abused the children, both physically and emotionally. Once she punched Vladek in the face in front of the children.
A judge would later award custody of the children to the father, finding that "The children were victims of violence from their mother," including hitting one child "with spatulas and spoons, leaving bruises."
The children began to speak openly about wanting to avoid their mother for their own safety. In the Spring of 2007, Vladek decided he had to take necessary steps to protect the kids from the escalating abuse.
When he announced that he and the children would soon be leaving the marital residence, Ligia went into a funk that turned rageful, her abuse quickly spinning out of control.
The following day, Vladek contacted the Next Step shelter, begging for help. Not only did Next Step refuse his request, the staff mocked him. Little did he realize that the Next Step had already taken Ligia under its wing, coaching her to make allegations of domestic violence against the very victim of her long-standing abuse, Vladek Filler.
April 24 witnessed a complete break-down, with a partially dressed Ligia running in the streets, vowing to kill police officers on the scene, and accusing Vladek of child molestation and marital rape. One officer can be heard remarking the woman was "certifiable" for involuntary commitment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsKIcQhjaJg&feature=player_embedded#at=20
Regarding the child molestation claim, the Ellsworth District Court later ruled, "That allegation was false and known to be false. She has shown a capacity to manufacture claims."
But inexplicably, a marital rape accusation by an unhinged woman was viewed as credible. Vladek was arrested and charged.
Ligia was carted off to the hospital for a shrink-check. And as soon as she was released, Ligia became a god-send for the Next Step and its stalled legislative agenda.
Knowing that the Next Step was footing the legal bill, Ligia allowed herself to be persuaded to make lurid allegations of sexual violations, shamelessly amplified by the local prosecutor. "It was sexual punishment," prosecutor Mary Kellett recounted with a straight face to the Bangor Daily News. "It was punitive and angry."
Maine newspapers would eventually run 11 separate stories on the case, replete with riveting details of the alleged attack.
The facts that Ligia was a known child abuser, that there was no confirmatory medical or forensic evidence, that she refused a rape kit evaluation, that she was likely motivated by an impending custody dispute, and that Ligia was known to locals as "that crazy woman" gave little pause to the media bloodhounds.
During the trial, DA Kellett improperly withheld key exculpatory evidence, leading the Maine Supreme Court to later chastise her for prosecutorial misconduct and to remand the case for a retrial: http://www.courts.state.me.us/court_info/opinions/2010%20documents/10me90fi.pdf
The Next Step's devious ploy was successful, the political payoff incalculable. All three domestic violence bills introduced in March were enacted into law. At the ceremonial signing on July 25, 2007, Gov. John Baldacci marveled at the achievement, warning, "Too many women and children are being victimized, and each story is tragic and compelling."
Vladek Filler and his two children, victims of an abusive woman, were not in attendance. And Ligia, now divorced and estranged from her children, has yet to receive the mental health treatment she so desperately needs.
By Carey RobertsApril 10, 2011
I've reported over the years on the problems facing our... more