One million dollar bond set for mother who refused to turn her children over to their father
August 19, 2005
Natalie Gibbons, 48, was arrested on two counts of felony child abduction after she refused to obey a court order to surrender her two children to their father, John Gibbons. The Gibbonses divorced in 2000. Court records show both have been in and out of court since, lodging various civil and criminal charges against each other. Natalie Gibbons lost primary custody of the children in 2003. At a court hearing in July, the Gibbonses' adult daughter, testified that she saw her younger siblings watching televised pornography with their father in his bedroom, but he was asleep. A therapist hired by Natalie Gibbons testified that the children told her their father had shown them pornography on several occasions. Court papers say the therapist also described incidents of "sexualized behavior" by the children. Mecklenburg District Judge Nathaniel Proctor found that the children, who live with John Gibbons, had been exposed to pornography. However, the judge said it wasn't intentional on their father's part. Natalie Gibbons had temporary custody of the children at the time, and Proctor ordered her to send the children back to their father, with whom they normally live. When she refused citing concerns for her children's welfare, she was arrested and bond was set at $1 million. After a public outcry, the bond was reduced. ter content here
Justice for Children Press Release
Contact: Eileen King
August 24, 2005
For Immediate Release
Natalie Gibbons sits in a Mecklenburg County, N.C. jail on a $100,00.00 bond, reduced from $1 million. Her telephone calls with her children must be strictly supervised.
It looks like the judge thinks a mother trying to protect her children from exposure to pornography is a danger to the community and her own children" says Jim Shields, Executive Director for Justice For Childrens main office in Houston, Texas. Justice For Children, a national non-profit with chapters in Arizona, Michigan and Washington, D.C., advocates and intervenes on behalf of abused and at risk children. JFC works to ensure that these children receive the protection and justice to which they are entitled.
Judges wonder why parents violate their court orders, adds Eileen King, Regional Director of JFCs Washington, D.C. office. But we wonder why judges force parents to send their children back into a situation where they must know there is immediate risk of harm.
Judge Proctor apparently believes sexual freedom should reign in the bedroom. This freedom seems to include a man's right to possess pornography and allow his children access to it while he is lying down and his eyes are closed.
What are the Gibbons' children's rights? According to Judge Proctor, they have the right to see their mother dragged off to jail and punished for protecting them. They enjoy the right to be put at risk with no one watching or caring what happens to them.
Some say that Natalie Gibbons shouldn't worry about her children's safety because Judge Proctor warned Mr. Gibbons not to let his two children watch pornography again. Mr. Gibbons adamantly denied that he ever let the children watch porn in the first place -- but an eye-witness testified otherwise. Judge Proctor believed the eyewitness but he didn't believe Mr. Gibbons. Why then should Natalie Gibbons be expected to believe and trust Mr. Gibbons?
In King's opinion, These children qualify as Abused Juveniles under the Definitions (N.C.G.S. 7B-101) in the North Carolina Division of Social Services Family Services Manual, Volume I, Chapter VIII. But neither Judge Proctor nor Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services seem concerned. In fact, Social Services testified that although the children had probably been exposed to pornography their sexual acting out wasn't troubling.
A child acting out sexually after exposure to pornography would be a concern for any normal parent. It's also a red flag for possible criminal sexual abuse. A responsible mother would want to find out what's really going on. Indeed, she has a legal and moral duty to do so, says Randy Burton, Founder of Justice For Children, a former Harris County, Texas prosecutor.
"Only in the family court system is a victim of a crime placed in the care of the perpetrator who is told by the court not to do it again", said Toby Kleinman, a New Jersey attorney who has litigated and/or consulted on child abuse cases in over 25 states and is the Founder of the Center for Protection of Children, a national educational organization which is dedicated to protecting children from risk of exposure to sexual, emotional and physical family violence.
"Ms. Gibbons is being punished for refusing to send the children back to visit. Had the identical information been presented about "the neighbor 3 doors down," or any other stranger, Ms. Gibbons would be considered negligent if she allowed the children to visit again with them.
JFC Regional Director King agrees: What mother or father would willingly send a child off to the house of a neighbor found by a judge to have allowed children to watch pornography? What parent rests easy when he or she finds out their child knows how to type in "women having sex with animals" to reach bestiality websites? What mother watches her child act out sexually after watching pornography and thinks it is normal -- just playful acting out?
The family courts apply different rules says Attorney Kleinman. At the very least, were a neighbor to have shown pornography, Ms. Gibbons would be entitled to make protective decisions about what is proper. But here, where it is the spouse who has shown pornography, she has lost her right to protect the children. Were it a stranger who showed the children pornography they would likely be prosecuted.
CPC Founder Kleinman states further that Here, as in many other cases around the country, while the judge essentially found the facts to be true about the father's behavior, he found it harmless. Were it a neighbor he would be outraged. Were it criminal court, he would be punished and kept where he could not do this to children again. This double standard needs to be changed. Ms. Gibbons rights and obligations to protect her children are being thwarted by the very system designed to protect them."
Randy Burton, Justice For Childrens Founder, agrees there is a Catch 22 at work here:
What do we learn from the Gibbons case? Protective parents will be punished with huge fines and jailed if they refuse to put their children at risk. Parents exposing their children to pornography will receive the full protection of the law as well as custody of the children. The real tragedy is that these children lose their entire childhood when judges wont protect them.
Is this what the state of North Carolina wants for its children?
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Justice For Children Washington, D.C. Chapter 1155
Connecticut Ave., N.W. 6th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036