Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Day at the UN

On Tuesday, I pulled my car into the last space in a large parking garage in Poughkeepsie and let myself be swallowed by the crowd of commuters pouring onto platform 1 to New York City. It was quiet in the packed train car, but I was too excited to sleep against the greasy window, looking out of it instead at the ice-littered Hudson river. I was on my way to the United Nations for the day, having been invited to a conference on the Status of Women just the night before.
Every time I go to New York City, my heart rate doubles and my eyes get sore from the constant stream of interesting things to watch. It is not a long walk from Grand Central Station to the UN buildings, but I felt like it was a grand adventure as I traversed the teaming cross-walks and chose a fruit juice from a wildly gesticulating man wearing a Little Mermaid apron.
I was fortunate to have recently visited the UN as a tourist not long ago, and so I knew where the visitor's entrance was and was prepared to hand over all my belongings for x-ray searching. I was early, so once inside, I had the chance to collect myself and take a look around. On the main floor, there is a pendulum near the door that swings to the movement of the earth, and the people who work in the coffee shop speak at minimum three languages. Right now, there is a moving and terribly sad Holocaust exhibit that speaks to the all the scientific atrocities that took place during Hitler's rule, and hordes of school groups pouring through every couple of minutes.
I met Dana Rafael and her small group near the information desk around 12:30pm. Dana is a family friend from our days in Connecticut, and it was she who invited me to this conference, and to lunch with the speakers of her workshop before-hand. I must add that I was incredibly flattered to be invited by her, as she is the woman who came up with the term "doula" (meaning a support person for women during pregnancy and birth), and is in general a very inspiring and awesome woman. She escorted the group through all sorts of security and up elevators operated by special elevator operators in smart hats, to the diplomat's dining room. This was to be, to date, my most expensive and interesting lunch.
Dana's workshop was entitled, How Men Can Act Against Violence Toward Women, and the blurb beneath the title read, "Five male panelists who actively work to stop violence against women will describe the nature of their professional jobs and their motivation for working on behalf of women." Lunch was with four of these five men and their accompanying aids, friends, and spouses. I'll give you short biographies so that you may understand the diversity and intensity of the conversation:
-James Randall "Randy" Noblitt is a clinical psychologist, author, and professor, who specializes in the treatment of ritual abuse survivors. (If you are interested in this topic, check out his book, Ritual Abuse in the 21st Century)
-Neil Brick is an activist and founder of S.M.A.R.T. (an organization assisting survivors of ritual abuse, torture, and mind control, if you are interested, their website is:
-Zeresenary "Zee" Mehari is an Ethiopian filmmaker working on a new film documenting the story of a young woman who was abducted into marriage. (If you are interested in learning more or supporting the film, check out
-Warren Eginton is the U.S. District Court judge in Bridgeport, CT, who handed down a landmark decision on behalf of children used in pornography.
The fifth speaker was not able to attend at the last minute, but his name is Randy Burton, and he is the founder of Justice for Children (an organization that believes every child is entitled to an advocate (legal) for their safety. To learn more, check out

I learned a lot a lunch, and more at the following workshop at 4pm. I was left with big questions to ponder, I'll share a couple:
1. The patterns in the lives of those who actively work to end violence against women and children suggest that it is experience or witness of violence that leads to action. How can (or should) those who have not directly been affected become motivated to act as well?
2. There are many root problems that lead to violence. If it is a cycle, where is the best place to intervene? (For example, at a young age, having received no schooling, a woman's father marries her to a man, and she has many children and many of them die. Her daughters receive little or no schooling, and are married off at a young age by her husband, their father...)

I caught the 6:45pm train home just as it began to rain. Dancing lights reflected on the dark water of the river along side. I reflected on my day, noting with interest how despite the depressing nature of the general conversation, I felt hopeful just because there was a dialog happening at all. I felt hopeful because there are people like Dana who are asking questions with kind eyes. I desperately want to pass that hope along.


  1. Its a darn good thing that Randy Burton was not able to attend because his organization does not function ethically. This group rejects parental alienation syndrome and systematic parental alienation. His group tends to believe that whatever a woman says is true about her man she is correct. If she says he sexually abused the children she is correct. Should you find this a bit disconcerting just go to the Houston Chronicle archives and type a search for Alene Ross Levy and for May 2, 20007. Its all there. Burton took my precious daughter from me and gave her back to her mother which ruined my daughter and even at 23 years of age she still cannot reconnect with me. Her mother was out committing three major felonies while she was getting Justice for Children's free help. Just contact me if you want more info on how confused and demented is Burton and his group.

  2. Natalie, I began to reply to your interesting description of your day at the UN, but got sidetracked by the above comment. I tried to find the referenced Houston Chronicle information, but when I searched as directed above, I could not find anything.

    As a psychologist, I have experience with highly contested custody/divorce proceedings and can confirm that, all too often, parents put their children in the middle of their battles. This behavior on the part of parents is usually detrimental to the children. However, what I understand about parental alienation (PA)and the related "syndrome" (PAS) is that it targets women's behavior, but does not look at the same behaviors in men. I also know that neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize PAS as a diagnostic entity because it has not been adequately researched or validated.

    Anyway, I appreciate the questions you posed at the end of your blog and would enjoy speaking with you about your experience sometime.

    I do so enjoy "hearing" of your adventures in this blog and it feels funny that I communicate with you more here than in person!!!

  3. I had to post again as I just read the American Bar Association Spring '06 journal article coming out against PAS that is posted on the Justice for Children site. Reading the article is very compelling, but reading the actual footnotes where the author quotes Richard Gardner, MD the originator of the PAS diagnosis is truly alarming: "Gardner, Judiciary’s Role, supra note 31, at 57 (stating that PAS therapists “must be comfortable with waiving traditional confidentiality,” and must use “authoritarian techniques[,] which are clearly at variance with traditional approaches”)." AND:
    "151Id.; Gardner, Family Therapy, supra note 142, at 202 (instructing therapists to tell clients who report sex abuse, “That didn’t happen!”)."

    OMG! In my professional opinion the guy's a psycho! And I have read and used a number of his books and child therapy games! Gardner is very well published in the child therapy field and, until he started publishing and promulgating PAS was well respected.

  4. To "Dee" above. Thanks for your research.

    Indeed the article has apparently been pulled from the Houston Chronicle archives... Imagine that!... I wonder why!....(Is it perhaps a validation of what I had thought about the story by Kristen, that it was one of the most revealing pieces about Justice for Children I had ever read in the nineteen plus years I have followed their movements?

    I am now contacting Kristen Hays, author of it and it is actually dated May 1, 2007, to see where it is and/or how I may continue to use it in my communications.

    I find this very interesting to say the least as when I had commented on another article by Randy Burton, founder of JFC, my online comments were pulled by the Chronicle, and they were not inaccurate or nonfactual, in any way. Oh Well!

    The article had been available online until just about three months ago when I thought to search for it myself, found it, and started making references to it in my correspondences to it.

    I am led to think I am having an effect on some of the most materially powerful elements in Houston, Texas where JFC, Haynes and Boone, Llp who loaned Alene Ross Levy to JFC, and Fulbright and Jaworski, Llp (who gave JFC two lawyers to do what they did to me and my daughter), are all based.

    I found my copy of the article and when I get approval or find a way for these readers to link to it I will pass along this information.

    Robert Gartner

  5. Here is the link to the JFC article mentioned above as it had been placed into some archive category: