Vanished Part 2: When a parent takes a child

COURTNEY BRUMMER, Staff Writer
02/06/2005

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series about parental
abductions.

In a report to the U.S. Department of Justice concerning parental
abductions, Ernest Allen, president and chief operating officer of the
National Center for Missing Exploited Children, addressed the question:
“The kid is with a parent, how bad can it be?”

The report detailed just how dangerous a parental abduction can be, but
it also analyzed the typical response to those types of abductions.

It’s also an emotional question for a local resident. Jamie, who’s real
name is being withheld to protect her identity, was abducted by her
mother when she was 11 years old.

Thirty years after the abduction, Jamie has fought hard to find peace
with the events that occurred after she was pulled away from her father.

“You are not safer with someone just because they are blood relative,”
she said. “No one has the right to abduct someone else. Not even a
parent.”

Her parents divorced in 1972, when she was 8 years old. She lived with
her mother and three brothers in Louisiana until October 1974.

“She called my father because she couldn’t care for us,” Jamie said. “The
man she was with had been arrested for selling a ‘green, vegetable-like
substance.’ My mother was working as a go-go dancer, and the speculation
was that she was prostituting herself on the side to try and feed us.”

Once her father, who lived in Omaha, had been called, Jamie’s stepmother
and maternal aunt drove to Louisiana to pick the children up. For more
than a year, the children lived with their father and stepmother in rural
Omaha where they attended a country school.

It was on Dec. 15, 1975, that Jamie’s life would take a drastic,
involuntary turn.

With a clarinet in one hand and a math book in the other, she and her
younger brothers were waiting for the school bus at the end of the
cul-de-sac where they lived when a white car pulled up.

“I didn’t recognize my mother,” Jamie said. “My eldest brother got out of
the car. She had already picked him up, and he forced me into the car. I
remember immediately telling my mother, ‘I don’t want to go. I want to
stay with dad. I want to stay with dad. I want to stay with dad.’ She
promised she would send me back on a bus as soon as she got over the
state line, and that didn’t happen.”

Jamie would later learn that her classmates from the bus stop informed
their teacher of the incident when they got to school. The school
notified her stepmother and father but, by then, it was too late.

“There was no Amber Alert back then,” she said. “(Her father) didn’t know
which way she was going. My (father and stepmother) ended up filing
bankruptcy a year and a half later because of all the money they spent
trying to find us. But my mother kept moving us.”

Jamie and her brothers would be moved from city to city and a total of
five different schools over the course of the next year. At some point,
her mother married again, to her half-brother, and they finally took the
children to Woodland, Calif.

During that entire time, Jamie said she had no way to contact her father.

“We were not allowed to go near the phone,” she said. “My mother knew
that one of us would call Dad. The one time one of us did go near the
phone – my middle brother – he was severely punished. He was beaten raw
skin with a belt. We just knew that you did not (go near the phone).”

It was during that time that the situation became more terrifying as
Jamie and one of her brothers became subjected to sexual assaults from
her mother and stepfather.

“He used to tell us he was the son of the devil and my mother would
laugh,” she said. “We were abused spiritually. I was made to believe I
was just a sexual toy for him. My mother would tell me my father didn’t
want me.”

On her 12th birthday in November 1976, Jamie was allowed to have some
school friends over for a slumber party.

“At that slumber party, my mother and this man showed a ‘xxx’ rated
film,” she said.

As horrible as the incident was, it opened up a dialogue that had not
existed between Jamie and her friends about her life. One of her friends
encouraged her to tell their teacher.

On Jan. 3, 1977, Jamie’s mother took the boys to school and instructed
Jamie that her stepfather would take her to school. Instead, Jamie was
kept at home and raped repeatedly over the course of the day. To this
day, Jamie said Jan. 3 serves as a reminder of what happened to her.

“The next day, I made an entry in my diary,” she said. “My journal was
kept in school. My friend came up to me and said she had talked to her
… I don’t remember if it was her aunt or her grandmother … but she
advised me to talk to my teacher.”

It was a prospect that scared Jamie.

“My teacher was a man,” she said. “I remember starting to shake and cry.
(My stepfather) had threatened to kill my father if I had ever told
anyone, and this was a man I had watched beat my brother badly – that had
beaten me badly. I can remember not doing the dishes and him taking a
leather strap up and down my legs with shorts. I knew that he was an evil
man.”

Her friend would tell their teacher that day, who quickly approached
Jamie about it.

“A lot of the schools had outside buildings, so we were sitting on a
stump outside and it was a sunny day,” she said. “It was probably 70
degrees, and I can remember sitting on the stump and I was shaking like
it was freezing cold out. I remember telling him to just ask me questions
because I couldn’t talk about it. And he said to me that he was going to
help me and that I didn’t have to be afraid anymore.”

After that, her teacher notified the local authorities who quickly began
to investigate. Three days later, police officers came for her mother and
stepfather.

“They came in and they immediately went right to him,” she said. “And
threw him against the wall and handcuffed him. I remember that my little
brother was sleeping on my lap and he woke up. My mother walked down to
find out what was going on and they arrested her also. My eldest brother,
who was 15, came down and wanted to know what was going on. The officer
said that they were being charged with sexual abuse against a minor and
my brother just looked at me.”

Jamie’s mother and stepfather were each charged with 27 counts of lude
and lascivious acts against a minor.

Following months of legal battles and trials, Jamie and her brothers were
finally allowed to go back to Omaha to live with their father. Jamie’s
mother was convicted and would serve a term of five years in prison. Her
stepfather was also convicted but rather than do prison time, he was
deemed “mental sexual offender” and was placed into a psychiatric
facility.

Her mother was never charged for abducting the children.

The experience caused many things to change for Jamie, her brothers and
her family. When her father became an alcoholic, her stepmother made him
check into rehabilitation. Jamie said he has been sober for 26 years.

“My dad was a casual drinker when we were growing up,” she said. “My
stepmother said when we were taken and they couldn’t find us, it was hard
for him. And then, when he found out what happened to us, I remember him
coming to me in tears apologizing. He said, ‘I’m your father. I should
have protected you.’”

At first, Jamie said she had a hard time getting reacquainted with her
father.

“I can remember him once saying that he wanted his little girl back,” she
said. “But it felt like that innocence was gone from me. The lap of a man
was no longer a safe place. One night he came home, and he came to tuck
me into bed; and I kicked him and started screaming.”

Over the years, Jamie and her father’s bond grew stronger as did the bond
she shared with her stepmother.

She said she remembered an evening a few years after the abduction when a
date pulled his car into their driveway and honked the horn for Jamie to
come out. Rather then allow her to go, Jamie’s father told her to stay.

“He told me, if you don’t make men respect you now, they never will,’”
she said. “He taught me something. After what had happened, I felt like
damaged goods and he taught me I was worthy of respect.”

Jamie suffered permanent physical damage as well. As a result of the
sexual abuse, she would never be able to have children.

“There was a lot of tissue damage,” she said. “I was so tiny, and he was
a grown man. My husband and I tried for years, but there was too much
damage. I blame my mother for the fact that I’ll never be a mother
myself.”

After years of dealing with the demons of what happened to her, Jamie
said she was able to forgive her former stepfather.

“I had to let it go because it was eating me up,” she said.

On Jan 3, 1997, exactly 20 years to the day after the last assault, she
met with her former stepfather, who apologized – in a way.

“His demented response was that he saw me as any other woman because ‘I
had the same parts,’” she said.

Forgiving her mother was harder to do, she said, because to this day her
mother takes no responsibility for her actions.

“I have struggled to forgive her,” she said. “She gave birth to me, and
that is all she has. I’m much closer to my stepmother. When my mother
dies, she’ll be gone; and it won’t be a big deal for me. I can only
handle being around her for a short period of time. She’s just not a good
person. I rarely tell her that I love her because I don’t know if I do.”

Jamie eventually sought counseling, but the memories of her experience
are still very much with her.

“There are times when it can be really bad,” she said. “I have been in
department stores, and when I heard a child cry, I immediately think,
‘Are they supposed to be with that parent?’ I have a much stronger
reaction when I see an Amber Alert come on.”

Amber Alert is a sensitive subject for Jamie. She said she celebrated the
day it went into effect in Nebraska, and she is glad that other states
have instituted Amber Alert programs.

Emotion caused her to pause, and she discussed it.

“If Amber Alert had been around when I was taken,” she said, choking
slightly from tears. “My life would have been so different.”

So when someone says “The kid is with a parent, how bad can it be?”
Jamie’s response is quick.

“Even if my mother had some custodial rights to us, that gave her no
right to terrify my father and us children …” she said. “This has
affected my life and will affect the rest of my life. And it all started
with Mom taking us when she shouldn’t have.”

Copyright 2005 – zwire.com

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