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tranquilsea's avatar

Potentially testifying in a child abuse case but afraid for my personal safety, what to do?

Asked by tranquilsea (17754points) February 16th, 2011

My sister adopted 3 foster children and then went on to neglect and abuse them. Her son sexually abused them. The whole situation was awful from the beginning.

I called child welfare on them years ago which eventually led to the discovery of the sexual abuse (something I didn’t know was going on). The province is now at the point where they want to sever their parental rights. Because I hold a lot of information on what was going on they want me to testify. But I am terrified of my brother in law who is abundantly capable of violence and is furious child welfare got involved to begin with.

My husband doesn’t want me to testify. He’s worried about my safety and the safety of our family. I can understand that. BUT so many people have let these kids down and I can’t be one of them. Especially with what I know. Much of this knowledge came because of direct conversations I had with my sister and me seeing what was going on.

I know going and testifying is the right thing to do. How do I make myself safe? How do I convince my husband?

it seems that my life has been an endless string of drama

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29 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

Do they need you to testify? If they have independent evidence of what was going on, I wouldn’t see how your testimony would accomplish anything additional.

tranquilsea's avatar

They don’t have anyone testifying to their day to day interactions. They only have counsellors who were involved with them after the case.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Got any tough friends willing to switch off doing temporary body guard duty? I know a handful of people who’d jump at the opportunity to protect anyone fighting abuse, free of charge. I’ve done it in the past.

filmfann's avatar

Let me dispell a myth about kids in foster care: They are not all angels.
A lot of foster kids are sociopatic master manipulators. Really, this is the voice of experience you hear.
Unfortunately, a lot of foster parents aren’t in it to care for the poor needy children. They are there for the money. That’s why they don’t just adopt the kids.
CPS probably has all the evidence they need. Unless the DA comes to you, and stresses the need for your testimony, pass.

iamthemob's avatar

What is it that they need to show, though…can they make that showing without you?

Also, is it possible for you to submit evidence if they need it confidentially? Like a written, signed, sealed affidavit?

tranquilsea's avatar

@filmfann I just got off the phone with him and he did ask me to come and testify. I asked him if he could possibly go off of all the notes Child Welfare has and the notes he took and he told me that it is more meaningful and impactful if I could be there to testify.

tranquilsea's avatar

Oh, and I know that these kids weren’t angels but they certainly shouldn’t have been treated the way they were.

filmfann's avatar

Are they being charged criminally, or in family court? If it is family court, he’s lying.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Did you let the Child Welfare agent know of your concerns? If your brother-in-law is just that violent, they should know and maybe they can help you, somehow.

tranquilsea's avatar

@filmfann who’s lying? The child who was abused?

No, her son was charged in criminal court, he confessed and was sentenced.

tranquilsea's avatar

@aprilsimnel I did let him know that I was afraid of him and he asked me why. I told him but he didn’t offer any kind of solutions.

They are asking my sister to testify too and I’m sure she’ll have the same kinds of concerns.

filmfann's avatar

I was refering to the DA. If your nephew was charged, confessed, and sentenced, why do you have to testify?

tranquilsea's avatar

Because they are severing their parental rights. They don’t do that just because their son raped this child. There doing it because of what happened before this happened and what happened after.

As far as I know my sister has pledged to keep her son away from these foster kids. But she is an abusive parent to them. I’ve witnessed it and tried to get her to change her ways.

My sister still doesn’t believe that her son raped them. She is in denial. She thinks that there was “just” some fondling.

syzygy2600's avatar

I’d just like to comment that I feel the foster care system in Canada needs a complete overhaul. The amount of children being abused in foster homes in this country is staggering.

filmfann's avatar

Wow, if she still is in denial following the sons confession, she has it bad.
I am sorry for being dense, but I need to understand this to answer. Your sister and her husband are severing their own rights, or is the DA having their foster kids taken? I am pretty sure the CPS can do that without going to court. What state do you live in?

syzygy2600's avatar

I’m pretty sure she’s Canadian man. She says province in the topic…

bkcunningham's avatar

@filmfann the first words in her paragraph after her headline thingie: “My sister adopted 3 foster children…”

bkcunningham's avatar

@filmfann also, in the poster’s original remarks: “The province is now at the point where they want to sever their parental rights…”

ninjacolin's avatar

I hope you can get some safety going on but.. if it comes down to it and you or your family is at risk, be ready to kick some fucking ass to prevent undue harm. If you don’t have the braun, then just be smarter than he is. When it’s you against an animal, you’ve just gotta win.

Otherwise, I hope this resolves amicably for you. But take no chances.

Baddreamer27's avatar

I think if your testimony is that valuable, then you should testify. What if you are the person who can get these kids justice for what they have suffered. I would do it, regardless of my fears. I would also make it clearly stated that you fear reprisal from this guy, and talk to your local police about some kind of restraining order so that they know ahead of time you are in fear.

bkcunningham's avatar

Isn’t it sad that “justice” for these kids is another foster home.

ninjacolin's avatar

i was gonna say justice is such a tricky thing..

Meego's avatar

@Baddreamer27 stole my answer :/ so I agree. Tell them you will NOT testify unless a restraining order is put in place, because not only is the safety of these children important but your safety is just as important!

tranquilsea's avatar

The problem is that they reside in a different province. I will have to travel to that province to testify. My experience with restraining orders in Canada is that he would need to make a threat against me in order to have one granted. I’m not scared of him threatening me as I am sure he would just come at me without the threat.

Besides restraining orders aren’t much of a deterrent against someone who really does want to harm you.

@filmfann In Canada you have to go to court to sever parental rights. It is, rightfully, a hard thing to do.

My husband told me that if I go and testify then we have to move because they have our address.

I’m going to talk to the lawyer and see if an affidavit will do.

snowberry's avatar

I put it this way: The law is always served, but justice rarely is.

Pattijo's avatar

It is smart that you realize the man might not show anger towards you in front of others , though hidden anger can appear when no one is looking .
Alot of child molesters are whimps and they abuse children because they aren’t women/man enough to hold they’re own in a grown up world .
I would stand tall for those three children and not give the abuser your power , by deciding not to go forth for the children that do not have a voice .
Honesty must prevail

P.S. Let it be known that you do have fears to your lawyer or law enforcement in your town.

We need to get and keep child molesters off the streets !

Great luck to you , I’m sure you will do what is right

I would have so much more to offer this world , if someone would have stood up for me when I was being abused by my father .

WasCy's avatar

Perhaps you can make a deal with the prosecutor to call you as a hostile witness. Obviously, you’re not, but you don’t want to appear eager to testify against your family, either. If your sister and her family can see that you’re being “forced” to testify, it may lessen the effect of what you “have to” divulge.

I’m sure that if you talk to the prosecutor he can help you in some way. Our entire justice system depends on people testifying against those who do harm. If everyone could be threatened with relative impunity then that would obviously collapse. The fact that it hasn’t leads me to believe that most of those who threaten harm (such as you mention) don’t or can’t follow through. I don’t know why that is, but one hopes that the prosecutor can help you to see that.

Good luck. You’re on the side of the angels here.

TeachMeToFish's avatar

I don’t know. If I were in your shoes, I’d like to think I’d be willing to lay down my life for these kids and leave it in God’s hands. But I am not in your shoes. The people who are hurting these kids have been hurt themselves and/or are mentally ill and they need help too but they should not be left in a situation where they can keep abusing these kids. There are no easy answers for sure. There is a big battle between good and evil going on here and I pray that the right answers will come to you and you’ll know what your part is in doing what is best for everyone involved. Please remember that “fixing” this ugly situation is not all on your shoulders – it’s on a lot of others’ as well. All I know is that we can’t trust the legal system to provide justice and help for the victims. It’s going to take ordinary people helping in extraordinary ways. You are a kind, compassionate person just because you are questioning whether or not you should testify. I think a lot of people in your situation would just do nothing, but you are not. The justice system and the foster care system most definitely need overhauled in both Canada and the United States. I’ll be praying for your protection. I like the bodyguard idea, not only for you, but the kids too!

tranquilsea's avatar


I did call the lawyer back and left a message for him that I would testify but I never heard back from him. My sister, right around that time, updated her facebook status as having “a light at the end of the tunnel”. We got a call from the oldest child (the one who was sexually abused) just a couple of weeks ago and had a really long and pleasant talk with him. He told us that my sister and brother-in-law had three months to prove to the courts that they are fit parents and if they do the kids will be given back to them. He wants to go back.

I’m really conflicted about this. I don’t believe that my sister and BIL are good parents and I believe that there is a high possibility that my nephew will go on the abuse these kids again. I also think that any improvements they make will be largely superficial as they play it up for the courts.

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