Abuse

In Memory of a Great Man

Brian Bowers October 03, 1978-October 18, 2020

December 2019, my husband, Brian, had a widow maker. He had a 91% blockage in his main artery. According to his chart, he was without oxygen for 30 to 45 minutes. He was struggling with many issues as a result of this heart attack. Brian joked about having died and came back. I told him he respawned with a shitty lag.

Brian and I were together for 14 years. I found out Brian was gay five years into the marriage. I didn’t say anything. I waited two years for him to come out to me, and later, Ray and Layla. Brian and I maintained an open relationship but remained married. Not just for the kids but for us. Brian called our relationship a beautiful mess. He felt guilty over me. Felt he hurt us and said he ruined everything. I told him that was ridiculous, that our relationship had transcended the burdensome cishetero definition of love and marriage, that outdated, oppressive concept of ownership. Our love evolved. I told him we unlocked a new level.

We had a beautiful relationship. I wish that for everyone. That you find someone with whom you can share a pure love and pure intimacy. I’m lucky, we were all lucky, to have known him and to have had the chance to make so many amazing memories with him.

Brian suffered from depression because of domestic violence and hiding his sexuality. He hid his sexuality for many reasons. He was afraid friends and family may not accept his lifestyle (and some have proven this to be true). He was terrified that in Trump’s America someone might discover his secret and become violent. He worried Layla might be bullied by peers for having a gay father.

I spoke with Brian’s doctor on Friday. He believes Brian died from an oncoming heart attack. This was later confirmed by the ME who said Brian died peacefully in his sleep from a heart attack he didn’t even feel. Brian’s heart monitoring app showed erratic heart rates for many weeks.

Brian was all he encompassed in his characters in gaming. A healer, a fighter, cover when you needed it. Maybe he didn’t have the best dance moves but he still danced. He listened. He protected. He fought hard for women who were victims of domestic violence. He took on all the life bosses. He was always down to finish the fight.

I’ve been sitting here these last weeks trying to understand his death. His healthcare team missed so much. Why? I thought of all the ways this dream of a country let him down. He worked so hard but sacrificed healthcare because it was too expensive. Even with insurance. I keep thinking had there not been a childhood wrought with domestic violence, had US healthcare not been a fucking joke, and if Americans could stop dictating what’s right and wrong based on religion he might still be here.

Brian was a beautiful gay man. I hated watching him struggle with this, and though it may be late, with this post, he’ll be free of the chains that dictated his life choices. Had those choices been made in his best interests, it might have meant a more peaceful life for him. He wouldn’t have struggled with stress, depression, and fear.

People don’t belong in cages or boxes. No one should feel they have to sacrifice the way Brian did. These things killed Brian. For all of you wanting an update on cause of death, that’s your answer. Stress and depression took a toll on him. And it didn’t have to be that way.

His heart literally broke. He’s not going to respawn this time. Check on your loved ones. Be a little kinder. You never know what battle another fights.

Let people love. Please? Is that really so hard?

We’re supposed to take care of each other.

Brian wanted to come out. He was a great man and will be remembered for all the love he gave to us all. Like many of you, I can’t imagine playing this game without Brian, but he’d want us to finish the fight. With a dance.

It’ll be difficult but…

…we’ll make it.

Originally published on Facebook: November 1, 2020

 

Thank you to everyone who donated to The Trevor Project in Brian’s honor.

So You Think I’m Crazy

Lately, I’ve had some wonderful feedback on posts and my writing. Some words used to illustrate my recent wordslinging are: unhinged, crazy, angry, manhating, and others. Well, prepare yourself because I’m about to get crazy.

Let’s discuss crazy. Shall we? October is mental health awareness month, as many of you are aware. I kicked October off with a short story, titled The Stranger and released it to certain followers on October 10th, world mental health awareness day. Not by accident. Many will have their own interpretation as to the meaning of that short story. I dislike interpreting my writing for readers, but, and due largely to feedback on that post, I feel this is a time in which I need to clarify some things. First, this short story is about PTSD from rape. All the clues are there for anyone who missed that and thought it was about something entirely different. That said, if you didn’t catch the meaning of the short, that’s okay. Everyone has their own perceptions based on their unique experiences. Maybe it read as a possession or haunting, and that’s accurate as this is how PTSD works. It’s the haunting of an individual from trauma. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail on The Stranger. That’s not the point of this post.

I wrote excerpts from that short story years ago intending them for a novel I was writing. I ended up killing those proverbial darlings and leaving them to languish in a file where all my darlings wait until such time they find their place in another work. A close friend of mine who suffered from a mental disorder committed suicide not too long ago and so, my darlings found a voice as I struggled with his suicide.

Unknown to many, is my personal struggle with PTSD of late resulting from rapes, sexual assaults, a kidnapping attempt, a false imprisonment, my father’s death, and a separation. Those are just the highlights from the last four years. It’s enough to shake even the most solid among us. Many victims of abuse seek me out for help, and in correspondence from readers, I routinely see mention of my strength. You’re bold. Fearless. Tough. A rock. Badass.

That may be true but even the toughest among us are capable of reaching a breaking point and I finally did. A few times, in fact. I have finally reached a point where I’m exiting the circular path of PTSD hell. That’s what I want to discuss. The crazy.

People call me angry. Crazy. Nuts. Unhinged. Delusional. Insane. I rant. I rage. I go off. I do rant. I do go off. But are these terms an appropriate way to describe my character based on nothing more than a few posts in which I’ve had to publicly call out rape, assault, stalking, abuse, and other violent crimes of which I’ve been a victim?

It’s not, and that narrative, that caricature of victims of abuse, only perpetuates rape culture in our society. When you’ve been a victim and lost all sense of identity, security, trust, and hope, all you have left is your voice. Maybe.

Patriarchy wants submissive, feminine women. It establishes that men are entitled to women, entitled to whatever they desire from women, be it a smile, a conversation, their time, their bodies, their existence. So, naturally, when it comes to dealing with the abuse victim, the patriarchy insists that our anger be submissive and pretty. Cute little tears. Sadness that the patriarchy can hug, cuddle, pat on the head, and, hopefully, fuck the trauma out of.

Am I wrong? No. And I’ve had so many messages from men offering just that. You need sex to deal with rape, that’s the only thing that will get you over the rape, and I, random man, am here to heal your wounds. My dick is what will heal you from trauma. You just need my dick.

I see how some of you men operate. Circling social media like vultures, looking for the posts of the crazy woman. You descend on her, viewing her as roadside carnage where some man, who would never be you because you’re a nice guy and you don’t do that shit to women and oh, you even support feminism and make feminist posts because you’re so fucking woke, as you circle another man’s carnage ready to fuck the wounded creature back to mental stability.

You all make me sick. The only thing worse than you vulture types are the women who say dumb shit like, you’re so angry, why do you curse, why do you behave in all these unfeminine ways? Be a lady. You bitches make me sick too.

After you have lost your security, sense of well-being, hope, identity, your power, your space, your foundation, and so much more to sexual violence and/or abuse, the only thing left that wasn’t taken is your voice.

I don’t like any terms that society has pasted onto victims of patriarchal violence. We’re not survivors. We’re victims, yes, true. We’re not crazy. We’re not sick. I’ll tell you why I hate the bullshit terminology used to paint the people who have been preyed upon by those among us who are narcissistic, entitled, predatory, selfish, and demented. These terms erase the last bit of humanity we, the victims, struggle to hold onto in a dark culture that teaches us all that women are trash. Something to use and discard. Commodities. Products. Toys. Cute little adornments.

You wanna call the victims who are raging back, who are reclaiming their identity, who step up and say, this is fucked up and I won’t tolerate it any longer, crazy? Congratulations. You’re perpetuating rape culture and victim shame and blame right along with the rest of society. You’re part of the problem.

Let us rage. Let us be angry. Let us rant. Silencing this rage merely stuffs victims of inequality and violence into a closet where they’re forced to put on a smile and pretend everything’s okay in order to conform to the patriarchal notion of what women should be, pretty little playthings. And fuck you for that. Silencing victims by calling them crazy only further victimizes and prevents those in need of help from seeking that help.

Who the fuck are you to call me crazy? At what point, do I get to be human? To express all that emotion that men are allowed to express? When do I get to exist and not be discarded again and again by the actions of those in society who need me to smile and entertain and be pretty.

Fuck your pretty. Right now, I’m reclaiming all that was taken from me and no one gets to dictate my color palette while I paint myself a new life. If those colors are dark and highlighted with Fucks and Fuck Yous then so fucking be it.

Fuck how society dictates everything a woman must be and then dictates how we do or don’t express our emotions after suffering from trauma. We’re not crazy. We suffer from PTSD and many of us are tough as fuck and we know what it’s like to be haunted by the Stranger and we have fought for every single second of wretched life since that traumatic event and likely will for the remainder of our lives. And it’s not pretty. And we don’t have to make it so in order for society to swallow  the horrible violence we endured. You joke about and long for a woman who can throat your fucking dicks but then want to be a pussy when it comes to deep throating all the ways society has fucked us over and reduced us to your cute little toy. Learn how to take the dick of patriarchy you so love to stroke. I’m not here to coddle and nurture your fragile fucking egos, your bullshit patriarchal superiority, or your need for dominance. You’re gonna swallow this fucking dick and you don’t get to look the other way and spit out my seed of truth. Am I getting this across to you in a language you fucks comprehend?

If you can’t understand that rage and that need to reclaim yourself, that very real fight with the Stranger (PTSD) who seeks only to end you, then your perception comes from a place of privilege or predatory behavior or an assimilation into patriarchal culture. I don’t give a fuck where it comes from to be honest.

We’re not crazy. We’re angry. We’re grieving. We’re healing. And none of that is pretty. It’s raw, it’s bloody, and it’s cruel. I won’t shut up. I won’t coat trauma in lipstick and dress it in a cute little nighty to make you feel okay about violent crimes. Go fuck yourself. Healing isn’t cute. It’s hard work.

Many abuse victims no longer see themselves as human. That rage, that monster that comes out, all these negative terms which are applied to victims of violence (and racism), these terms are meant to assuage your privilege and reaffirm your dominance in the patriarchal society (yes, I’m talking to men, and yes, ALL FUCKING MEN).

Stop. If you’re not actively dismantling the patriarchy then you are benefitting from it and perpetuating its harmful tenets. It’s telling how we talk about victims. That language, the crazy narrative. Victims aren’t crazy. It’s those who are the predators and those among us shielding the predators and defending this bullshit who are crazy.

I’ll rant when the fuck I feel like it and if you want to call me crazy, fine. Truth is, you’re just not ready to deal with the badass bitch who simply refuses to be discarded and keeps coming back to haunt you with the ugly picture of patriarchy and trauma so many of you want to ignore. I’ll wail like a fucking banshee. I’ll keep the ugly, crazy face on your pretty little survivor label because that’s the victim’s journey you jumped over to look the other way to pretend this isn’t a fucking plague for women all around the world.

Here’s to all you crazy bitches. Rant louder ladies. The world still hasn’t heard us and until they do, RANT FUCKING LOUDER and let that crazy fly.

This is an ugly post and the writing is ugly. This is the window to my soul, my voice, and if you don’t like it, then you’re in the wrong genre. I don’t have to adhere to the way patriarchal society has painted me and I’m stripping that canvas and repainting with all the dark, ugly colors of truth you want to protect yourself from in your delusion that women and victims be pretty and nice and sweet. I’m a human being. Not trash. Not a plaything. Not some bitch here to entertain you. I’m not a pretty face and PTSD isn’t pretty. It’s terrifying and dark and unscripted and unedited. You love victims when we’re the proverbial rock and the badass but you want to look the other way when it comes to dealing with how those among us labeled thusly got to that place where you could lavish us with such bullshit terminology.

We’re humans and we experienced the ugliness of trauma and we’re trying to heal and to reclaim the person we were before the predator and the stranger latched on. So stop calling victims who wield the truth, crazy. Stop trying to redress our PTSD in these ridiculous warrior women, barely there, skimpy, pornographic costumes for your gratification so you don’t have to face the global war on women. We’re here in the full battle regalia men are allowed, complete with inconsistent and turbulent emotions, and we’re not going to be silenced. You may take our bodies and our liberties but you don’t get our voices. You don’t get to mandate our healing journey.

So, lets talk about crazy. Really. Let’s get right in that wound, and rip it open and dump in the salt of all your stigmatizing labels. You don’t get to bury your heads and look the other way. We’re done being pretty.

Fuck your survivor label. I’m a woman. And being a woman has never been fucking pretty.

 

When The Government Funds Child Abuse: Aaron’s Story

By UpstateNYer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By UpstateNYer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been writing on family court corruption for the last two years, focusing specifically on IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) and women, since statistically, women make up a larger portion of victims. IPV  is focused on because it’s present in nearly every case of family court bias and corruption. While this advocacy is important for many reasons, it does little to unite protective parents and sometimes singles out protective fathers who may or may not be victims of abuse themselves. And yet, with all this activism, advocacy, awareness, and legislative change, I still hear the same question asked by victims of family court corruption: Why is there still no change? The advocacy and activism approaches made by various groups have garnered a mainstream awareness and fought tirelessly to pass new legislation so I’m not knocking these various activist groups or organizations. They have helped countless victims and some of these groups have become family court watchdogs doing their best to set new case precedents while placing family court judges and lawyers in the media’s spotlight, important because judges are protected by immunity for their rulings.

Still, all this activism and awareness has done little to combat family court corruption, a war against families that was documented as early as the 1800s when large numbers of Native American children were removed from their homes and placed in Indian Boarding Schools. The Indian Adoption Project began in 1958 resulting in some 2300 children being adopted or placed in foster homes. [Restoring Native American Families, PBS]. Many will argue, rightfully so, that this was cultural genocide, and I agree, but I would like to point out two glaring realities of both the Indian Adoption Project and today’s family court corruption saga:

  • Stealing children from loving homes is not new in America.
  • The Government is trampling parents’ rights, telling parents that they know what’s best for our children.

There is some debate on whether family court corruption is a conspiracy and to that end, I’ll simply quote a fellow activist and point out that if judges had nothing to hide, they wouldn’t issue gag orders in these cases. In my own case, the lawyer informed me it was a common practice to pay off certain expert witnesses and others like family counselors and therapists. There are cases where judges have overturned decisions favoring one parent to then award custody to abusive parents, and in nearly all of those cases, the judges have had documented evidence of child abuse and domestic violence and issued gag orders against the protective parents involved. Why the sudden change of heart? I’ll leave you to ponder that, but if you think that family court isn’t earning monetary profits, you’re woefully naive or willfully blind. These cases have been well-documented and submitted in a petition to the UN by the Women’s Coalition. The money in these cases can be tracked on a federal level. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a fact.

But there’s a side to family court corruption that we don’t often hear about and those are the stories of the children who’ve been separated from their loving parents. Rarer still, are the stories of children taken from loving fathers and placed with abusive mothers. The following is Aaron’s story.

The Synanon program was founded in 1958 in Santa Monica, California by Charles Dederich. The program was an alternative community originally designed to be an alcohol and drug abuse rehabilitation program. Later, Synanon became the Church of Synanon, infamous for its cult-like practices. One of these practices, in particular, called The Game, was a method of therapy wherein members brutally criticized one another. The Game eventually became a 72-hour practice and effective brainwashing technique. Synanon reportedly made members shave their heads and forced divorces, abortions, and vasectomies. Members were beaten if they broke the rules or tried to escape. Matt Novak’s, “The Man Who Fought The Synanon Cult and Won,” describes these practices and others in greater detail. Eventually, The Church of Synanon was investigated for illegal activities, including murder, and lost their tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Once Synanon disbanded in 1991 (though a branch may still be in operation today, in Germany), a new program was created based on Synanon called Amity. Amity, like Synanon, is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, founded in 1969 in Tuscon, Arizona. They received federal grants and began a program for convicts arrested on various charges.

Aaron lived with his mother where he was regularly beaten by her boyfriend, Jamie. He describes his life with his mother, “I would pull needles out of her arm in the morning. I remember the blood in them. I spent most of my time away from the house. A week before she went to prison, I got up to go to the restroom and there she was partying with everyone as usual but with a shotgun. She said, ‘I thought I told you to go to bed!’ But with the gun pointed at me and everyone was laughing. Fifteen minutes later she shot out the back sliding glass door and the dog. Almost killed it.” Aaron’s mother, a heroin addict, was arrested on a weapons charge and for the destruction of government property after she drove through a military fence with a loaded .357.Following his mother’s arrest and conviction, Aaron lived with his father. “I got stabilized and started to excel in school, even got invited into a program for those that score high. I stopped fighting. It was the only time in my life that was normal.” Aaron was six-years-old when his mother was arrested.

Aaron’s mother’s weapons charge earned her a year in prison. Two former Synanon coordinators worked with Amity, and one of those, a woman whom we’ll call, Jane, went to court for Aaron, the first child at Amity. Aaron refers to Jane as his handler in the Amity program. Aaron’s mother’s release from prison was incumbent upon her entering treatment with Amity. Aaron entered Amity in late 1980, early 1981 and spent two years in the program, living in two different Amity facilities. He was seven-years-old upon entering Amity and nine when he left.

When asked if his mother’s treatment at Amity had been successful, Aaron responded, “No. The Game destroyed her. They had her on the stage for three weeks, yelling at her, calling her names. It was a very, very mean and hateful thing. I had to watch that. This was in the beginning, at the first location out in the desert before Circle Tree Ranch. Jane seemed to have it out for her the whole time. Jane taught me the Game well. She used me to destroy my mother often and all the men. I could make them cry at Jane’s request.” Aaron added, “I was taught by Jane that my mom deserved it. “Jane was comforting amidst the mental torture and games. I was lost. I had daily meetings with Jane for months to counter that effect. Watching peeps and my mom getting viciously attacked every day … Jane  counseled me at first, confused me more like, it got to where I was mean to everyone. She had to tone my reaction down. Jane was very likable. I even asked her to be my mom. How fucked is that?

“They used the Game to full effect. Complete with isolation, gas lighting, stonewalling, and every cult trick. It evolved in the 90’s to psychiatric versions, like the confrontation therapy used by Tuscon Psychiatric when I was sixteen. Sucked. All the rich kids ganged up on us poor kids with the help of staff. That is another horrible story, though. Basically, the Game is the breakdown method in use today. I was just some kind of test rat.”

The Game wasn’t the only Synanon refrain members were forced to endure. Aaron recounts bonfires that were strange, “like some cross between therapy and church.” Amity members were forced to watch the Synanon movie. He adds that men and women were kept separated in their own quarters. Of Amity, Aaron states that it was tame in comparison to Synanon. I asked if he’d noticed cult-like behavior at Amity, practices like those used at Synanon, and Aaron replied, “That is where Synanon differed. [Amity] didn’t outright do that stuff unless you ran.”

While in Amity, Aaron was watched by his two “buddies,” members assigned to keep watch over him. When he left the Tuscon facility and relocated to Circle Tree Ranch, Aaron’s experience changed. He’d met a young girl there named, Jill. “At Circle Tree, one of the Watchmen molested my friend Jill.  The Watchman did this every night next to me. He threatened to kill all of us. I turned him in at school. He went to jail, but things got weird there. That is when people started to go missing. After I found the knife, wallet, and watch … it wasn’t long then, even my mom ran.”

Aaron believed those who had gone missing had run away and says there were no investigations into their disappearances. I told him it must have been a difficult thing to be so young and have the courage to turn in the Watchman for Jill’s abuse. He replied, “It was more difficult to keep watching. Jill hated me for it cause she thought someone might kill her mom. She stopped talking to me.”

Aaron’s mother abandoned him at Amity when she fled. He called his father to pick him up. “My dad had no clue why I was so screwed up. Didn’t know what to do. I was very depressed.” He later moved to Massachusetts to live again with his mother who eventually relocated to Tuscon, and last Aaron heard, was leaving the Covenant House, a Christian half-way house.

As we were wrapping up the interview, Aaron made a couple of chilling observations, “When the program outside of Tucson [Synanon] was going on in the 70s it was far messier. Kids came up missing and others it seems were just handed over.” He later added, “Seventeen thousand children go missing out of America every year. This is an industry.”

An industry profiting off of children, fueled by Ronald Reagan’s Drug-Free America program. According to Amity’s Circle Tree website, “In 1986, Amity was recognized by the U.S. Senate as a model for its work with juvenile offenders. In 1987, Arbiter [Naya Arbiter, Director of the residential substance abuse treatment program] was appointed by the President as one of 125 national experts tapped for the White House Conference for a Drug-Free America. Later, Arizona Senior Senator Dennis DeConcini visited Amity and was particularly impressed with the success of alcohol and drug addicted mothers who were allowed to bring their children to Amity during their recovery process. DeConcini asked Amity senior faculty to work with him on the design of a federal initiative. This initiative made over $100 million in funding available for alcohol and drug treatment rehabilitation programs throughout the U.S. which used elements of Amity’s model and methodology.”

Aaron is married now with children of his own. He says the story of his time at Amity is not about him. “So many other children need help.”

Aaron’s story is hard to hear but one he describes as tame in comparison to Synanon. In addition to shedding light on the psychologically damaging practices of some rehabilitation half-way houses and how government funding is being used in such abusive practices, Aaron’s story answers that question so often asked by victims of family court corruption. Why is there no change?

“Michigan makes loads off stealing children for their privatized foster care. One town reported 50% removal of children from their homes. Very sad and angering. They target the really poor with no hope of fighting and get members of the community to testify against them like they’re in league. These families are getting destroyed so others can line their pockets,” Aaron said of family court.

He’s referring to Clare County. Author, Yvonne Mason writes:

In the majority of cases, school officials, such as teachers and counselors, never suspected child abuse or neglect in the families that were prosecuted. Moreover, in most cases the family physicians never suspected child abuse or neglect in the families prosecuted. Families are targeted because FIA [Michigan Department of Family Independence Agency] must justify its need for State and Federal grants to keep its workers employed. Currently, FIA receives, in Federal grants, $2,000 to $4,000 per month per child in foster care and $10,000 per child adopted out into permanent homes after the parent’s rights have been terminated due to neglect and abuse. The State of Michigan provides matching funds to FIA. Bill Clinton recently signed new legislation providing for an additional $2,000 to $4,000 per month per child in foster care and $10,000 for adoption. FIA is making money hand over fist through our tax dollars. FIA social workers receive bonuses for removing children from their homes and for adoption. The incentive for abuse of power is extremely high and has occurred at alarming rates. 

During 1996, Clare County removed 50% of the children in the county for neglect and abuse in the home. It is very hard to comprehend that 50% of the parents in Clare County are neglecting and abusing their children. Clare County is a “demonstration county” that is a pilot county for The Binsfield Laws supported by Federal Grants. These programs involve privatizing the foster care system. The foster care program hires private industry to service the foster care needs of the county children removed from the home. Currently, Eagle Village in Hersey, Michigan holds the foster care contract for Clare County FIA.

The Courts believe that the FIA workers are the professionals and take their word as gold. The parents cannot defend against FIA. The testimony and statements mean nothing in the Probate/Family Court. In fact, the Court can issue an emergency pick up order for the children based on only FIA’s statements in an ex-parte hearing conduct[ed] by the judge and the FIA worker. The parents are not present during these hearings. The Court will issue an ex-parte emergency order allowing the FIA work to enter the home or child’s school to remove the child from the parent’s custody. [The State of Michigan Has A Dirty Little Secret. It Is Called Child Protection Services. Yvonne Mason]

Why is there no change in family court corruption? The reasons are simple. We’re not fighting family court corruption in the political arena where we should be fighting it, and we’re not targeting the corrupt use of government funding. We’ve targeted issues that are important, but not the problem at its source. We’ve separated family court corruption into a fight on domestic violence, on alcoholism and drug abuse, on poverty, and on gender. I’m not saying these issues shouldn’t be fought for or that they’re not important causes, but in the fight against family court corruption, our efforts must also include a demand for family court reform and a focus on corruption at a government level. We must look at the profits, the grants, and the government funding that once in the hands of corrupt individuals or groups, enables abusive atmospheres like Synanon to thrive. Though issues of IPV and drug and alcohol abuse are important and have been widely documented in cases of family court bias, family court corruption is not a gender issue. It’s a human rights issue perpetuated by special interest groups and programs and the corporate government that all prey off of social issues in family courts. Keep fighting social issues, yes, but also mount a political attack on corruption because until then, we’re not tackling the issue at its core but merely fighting skirmishes on the edge of what is a much bigger issue. We must unite our efforts to focus on the politics of family court corruption if we are ever to see an end to this nightmare endured by so many American families.

Special thanks to Aaron Wagner

*Some names were changed for this article.