Juvenile/CPS/Child Services for BDSM Parents
The concerns that result from contact with local and state child welfare authorities are occasionally troublesome for members of the SM/leather/fetish/poly communities. It is often difficult to accept the necessity of interacting with child/protective services and child/family services workers. Such persons are often empowered to make independent judgments that have a direct impact on family relations and personal freedom. This presentation provides a structure for acting in accordance with the best interests of your children and with due regard for your civil rights and the rights of others.
NCSF's Incident Reporting & Response was created to provide assistance to individuals and groups within the alternative sexual expression communities. If you engage in SM, fetish, swing or polyamory practices, and are being persecuted or discriminated against because of it, please contact NCSF. If your group or business is being harassed by religious political extremists or if you need help doing outreach to your local law enforcement, please contact NCSF.
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF)’s Incident Reporting & Response (IRR) Program uses three primary criteria for taking a case:
Here are a couple of examples of how we can and do help individuals who contact us for help.
NCSF was contacted in February 2009 by a mother in the South Central US. The woman’s parents became aware of her involvement in the BDSM and swing communities and initiated an action with the court to challenge the mother’s fitness as a parent and the custody of her children. An allegation of abuse/neglect was made by the parents with child protective services and an investigation was opened by the state concurrent with the family court awarding temporary custody to the grandparents. The sole basis for the custody challenge was the mother’s consensual adult BDSM and swing interests.
NCSF referred the mother to an attorney in her area who was experienced in working with child protective services (CPS) and those in the alternative communities. We educated the attorney about consensual adult swing and BDSM activities. We provided a referral to a kink-friendly family therapist certified by the court as an expert to do an independent parent/child evaluation. We spoke with the CPS investigator who was initially hostile and successfully convinced her to look at this family’s particulars instead of prejudging the mother as negligent or abusive solely because of her consensual adult interests. As expected, the therapist found that the mother was an excellent parent, that she had not exposed her children inappropriately to adult activities and the best interests of the children would be served by returning full custody back to her. The woman’s attorney advocated for her at the hearing in March 2009, a final determination of custody given by the court was in agreement with the mother, and she got custody back. The child protective services complaint was closed with no finding of abuse or neglect.
In another example, NCSF was contacted by a woman in January 2009 from the Southwest who was attempting to pursue an assault/domestic violence case against her abuser. She was having great difficulty getting her local police department and prosecutors to take her case seriously. She had been involved in consensual BDSM practices in the past with her alleged abuser and as such, the police were dismissive of her complaint. By the time she contacted NCSF, the prosecutor was stalling on moving forward with criminal charges because he didn’t think the case was winnable based on the victim’s prior conduct. The woman contacted NCSF for help, asking us to educate the investigator assigned to her case and the prosecutor’s office. NCSF initiated contact with the victim’s advocacy office assigned to the prosecutor’s office. We provided education and information to the police and prosecutor about consensual adult BDSM activities. Because of NCSF’s involvement, the prosecution moved forward and the abuser ended up accepting a guilty plea.
Unfortunately, due to limited resources the NCSF is only able to take a fraction of the cases that come to us. Many of the complaints we receive do not meet one, or several, of the above criteria. Even under the best circumstances, NCSF can only help a small percentage of those who merit it. All of our work is done by volunteers and we accept no payment for our services.
We are however happy to receive donations earmarked specifically for use in the IRR Program. Click here to donate, Make sure you note "Incident Reporting & Response" or "IRR" in the comment box if you want to restrict your donation. We do provide basic information as resources dictate and referrals to professionals as part of our Kink Aware Professionals database.
The criteria for acceptance listed were developed to meet the primary concerns of our voting constituencies, our Coalition Partners. When the NCSF agrees to take a case the impact can be realized by all of our constituents as a whole and therefore it is up to the policies set in motion by NCSF Coalition Partners to decide whether existing resources allow for a case to be handled effectively.
If you practice BDSM in fully consensual ways, you may still be criminally prosecuted for assault under many laws throughout the U.S. The BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities have focused heavily for years on defining “safe, sane and consensual BDSM practices” for practitioners as well as to help the broader public better understand what it is that we do. It was, after all, only in 1994 that the DSM criteria of the American Psychiatric Association changed their categorization of sadomasochism, paving the path for us to do more effective social, legal and political change. Until 1994, BDSM was defined automatically as a mental illness. Prior to 1994, it was difficult to organize effectively to protect and advance our rights as BDSM practitioners. This categorization and long-term societal view of BDSM as a mental illness resulted in severe consequences for many practitioners over the years—loss of child custody and jobs as well as criminal prosecutions. Fortunately for all of us, NCSF was formed in 1997 to work on these issues and to protect and advance our rights.
Although things have certainly improved for us over the years, we still have significant legal, political and societal issues facing us. The majority of us are not “out of the closet”, still fearing the very real threat of being prosecuted or losing our jobs or families. BDSM is still prosecuted criminally as assault, and the legal precedents related to consensual BDSM assault prosecutions are not in our favor. Many of the laws intended to protect victims of domestic violence and rape need to be modified in their application to consensual BDSM activities. The DSM criterion still needs further reform—it is still used against us, and we can still be defined as mentally ill for what it is that we do. And, members of our communities still routinely face ongoing issues of divorce, child custody, job discrimination and even criminal charges.
NCSF has two major national projects aimed at protecting and advancing the rights of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. First, NCSF has taken charge of the “Consent Counts” initiative that was launched in 2006 at a Leather Leadership Roundtable as the single most important national priority of the BDSM-Leather-Fetish communities. Our goal: to decriminalize consensual BDSM throughout the United States by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. The Consent Counts project is a nationwide education and activism program that includes a comprehensive analysis of current laws and court decisions, the development of legal arguments for changing the laws, participating in court cases, and ultimately, through lobbying, education and grass-roots activism, changing state laws and the way the public and the courts view BDSM.
The other important advocacy project is NCSF’s work to change the DSM criterion so that consensual BDSM will be categorized, not as a mental pathology, but rather as a normal variant. In this effort, we are coordinating research and advocacy and working with recognized experts in the field.
We need your help and support to be successful. You can make a difference. Get involved. Visit www.ncsfreedom.org.
Because your sexual expression...
NCSF Publishes Important Information for Your Mental Health; NCSF and the Foundation are proud to announce two new and valuable publications: A Guide to Choosing a Kink-Aware Therapist, and the Therapists Guide to Polyamory.
The BDSM Survey is up. Take a look!
If you are seeking a Kink Aware Professional (KAP).
Our KAP program allows professionals who are friendly to BDSM, swing, and poly individuals to list themselves as "kink friendly." It serves as a resource for people to self-refer for help from theraputic, legal and other professionals who will not prejudge based on the consensual adult activities of our constituents. We've recently added documents for "How to Choose a Kink Aware Therapist" in long and short form as well as a booklet geared for those in the theraputic community that focuses on poly issues.
If you are seeking assistance or our Incident Response Program
Criteria for acceptance include consideration of whether a significant issue relevant to NCSF's primary constituencies is at stake, what impact can be realized for our constituents as a whole if NCSF gets involved, and whether existing resources allow for a case to be handled effectively.
In 2003, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) once again took the lead in defending the rights of individuals and groups in the SM-leather-fetish, swing and polyamory communities. NCSF's coalition of 38 educational and social groups is committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression.
Leigha Fleming directs NCSF's Incident Response team. In total during 2003, NCSF responded to more than 500 cases, with more than 1,300 contacts between NCSF and individuals, groups, attorneys, prosecutors, and businesses that requested assistance. Some incidents required only one or two phone calls, but many evolved into much larger projects such as the attacks by religious political groups against SM conferences.
In 42% of the incidents, NCSF assisted individuals. The largest category of incidents involved parents who were engaged in child custody and divorce cases. Parents continue to experience difficulties gaining child custody due to their interest in SM, swing or poly activities. NCSF worked with a number of attorneys representing parents accused of being unfit because of their alternative lifestyle interests. In many cases, because of information we were able to provide, the courts decided that alternative sexual expression alone was not cause to impugn a parent's ability to be a good parent.
We also helped families dealing with child protective services because of their alternative lifestyle interests.
NCSF saw a sharp rise in the number of requests for help from individuals experiencing employment discrimination because of their involvement in alternative lifestyles in 2003. Individuals also consulted with NCSF on a variety of other issues, including: the legality of obscene materials, guidelines for posting sexually frank information on websites, the law regarding private parties, criminal cases, dealing with law enforcement and dealing with personal media exposure.
In 2003, NCSF also opposed zoning and other local regulatory measures against those who practice some form of alternative sexual expression. NCSF assisted the swing communities in Illinois and North Carolina by working with them to fight back against punitive zoning restrictions. In addition, we extended our outreach to the polyamory community in 2003 by working with individuals impacted by discrimination against their relationship style.
Opposition to SM events based on religious concerns continued in 2003. The host hotel for My Vicious Valentine (February 14-16) received calls from Concerned Women for America at the end of January. The CWA attack against My Vicious Valentine fizzled out, in large part due to the extensive education about SM events that NCSF did for local authorities in 2002. Only one reporter called NCSF from the hotline number posted on MVV's website.
The Tribal Fire conference (April 4-6) in Oklahoma was again targeted by religious groups who took out ads in the local papers denouncing SM practices and threatening to picket the event. Tribal Fire's organizers met with the police detective and the hotel to ensure the event would go on as planned. However four Mennonites held a prayer vigil in the hotel lobby for 72 hours. NCSF staff members attended Tribal Fire and spoke out about the importance of standing up for our rights.
When Concerned Women for America attacked International Mr. Leather (May 30-June 1) they quoted the Illinois State Health Department as saying there is a higher rate of STDs in homosexual men. CWA proclaimed that IML was therefore a danger to employees and guests at the host hotel. Susan Wright contacted the Illinois State Health Department, and the AIDS/Infectious Diseases department declared they would speak to any media outlet to debunk the CWA's absurd claims. IML was held as planned.
The Black Rose conference (November 11-14) was forced to move from Ocean City, Maryland, back to their former host hotel in New Carrollton, Maryland when two churches in Ocean City led a grass-roots movement to prevent the event from taking place in their rural resort town. There was a great deal of initial confusion regarding Black Rose's media response, and as a result, there were many misrepresentations and prejudicial and inaccurate descriptions included in the articles in the Maryland Coast Dispatch and the Daily Times of Salisbury which inflamed the situation. NCSF attempted to mediate the situation by providing accurate and unbiased information on SM/leather/fetish to the local media.
Fetish in the Fall (November 20-23) scheduled to take place in Kenner, Louisiana (part of metropolitan New Orleans) was moved after it was attacked by the Kenner police chief. Police Chief Nick Congemi urged hotel managers to decline any request to hold the event in any Kenner hotel. In his letter and press release to the media, Chief Congemi stated that "allowing the event to take place would seriously jeopardize the family atmosphere for which Kenner is noted." Congemi had already announced his run for mayor of Kenner (election held in March, 2004). For many years prior to this, Congemi had allowed his police officers to work as off-duty security for the adult swing conference in Kenner, N'awlins in November, produced by the same company that produced Fetish in the Fall. NCSF was called in immediately and was able to generate positive media coverage of this incident.
NCSF also opposed zoning and other local regulatory measures against those who practice some form of alternative sexual expression. NCSF assisted the swing communities in North Carolina and Illinois by holding open-forum discussions about how to affect zoning regulations and current litigation against lifestyle clubs. NCSF also worked with the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance (GLAA) to lobby against the Washington DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control regulation 905, which has been used to prohibit SM play in local establishments with liquor licenses even when liquor isn't being sold or consumed. In response to an Action Alert created and distributed in conjunction with D.C. Sexual Minority Advocates (DCSMA), NCSF received over 130 cc'ed letters from community members stating they were concerned that this regulation will prevent SM community spaces from existing in Washington D.C.
The Labyrinth in Denver, a community SM space, was shut down by a restraining order because of zoning violations. The undercover investigation took many months. The Denver community organized an ad hoc group called COSMA (Colorado SM Advocates) to fight for their right to have an SM club. NCSF conducted multiple interviews with the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Lakewood Sentinel, Channel 7, ABC affiliate, and KHOW 630 AM radio during this incident.
NCSF gave 67 media interviews in 2003, with Susan Wright, Spokesperson, giving 49 interviews and Sue Gould, Swing Spokesperson, giving 18 interviews. Clubs and businesses regularly contact NCSF to receive media training for incidents or prior to holding an event.
NCSF began working with John Cloud, a reporter with Time Magazine in November 2003 on an article about the SM community, its history and practices. NCSF assisted in locating appropriate people in the SM community to be interviewed. Several SM conferences considered allowing the reporter into their event, but concerns over privacy prevented that. The positive article was published in January 2004.
In Indianapolis, a female professional dominant gave an interview with the local newspaper and Channel 6 News in May. This caused serious problems for her because she was located near a church-school and ran a home-based business (a D/s and role-play salon) with no business license or permits. The media and police received an anonymous tip about her illegal business operation. NCSF encouraged her to seek proper zoning, educated her about dealing with the media, and responded to media inquiries for her.
In March, NCSF was contacted by concerned community members about the Black Party's promo image, which showed a young man with a black eye and split lip. NCSF protested to the producers of the Black Party in NYC that this image doesn't portray SM but rather shows abuse. The NYC Anti-Violence Project, the National Coalition against Violence and other groups joined in this effort, writing to the producers protesting this image.
In one media incident, a nonprofit club in Muncie, Indiana, was threatened with closure along with a nearby strip bar until the media was educated about safe, sane and consensual SM. NCSF also gave media assistance to a swing club in Connecticut which was closed because of zoning issues.
Another media incident involved Nerve.com when they published a series of articles in June entitled "Letters from Leather Camp." The Nerve reporter infiltrated a private event, Leather Retreat. Leather Retreat didn't have a clause in their release form preventing reporters from writing for a commercial media outlet. Susan Wright negotiated with Michael Martin, Editor-in-Chief at Nerve.com, and sent out Nerve's statement and apology in NCSF's Media Update covering the articles. The comments section of Nerve.com was reinstated so SM community members could respond to the articles, and the articles themselves were purged of their most reprehensible comments.
Job discrimination continues to be a problem for individuals. NCSF helped more than a twenty people draft and file formal complaints with their employers regarding employment discrimination claims. One West Virginia woman lost her job because she belonged to a leather club. One Texas woman was sexually harassed by her supervisor when he found her website on the internet. She was initially terminated from her job when she complained about the harassment. NCSF worked with her and her husband to draft a formal grievance and helped her find a sympathetic attorney. She was rehired.
A number of discrimination complaints continue to be made regarding Paypal and E-bay regarding their policies for dealing with adult oriented vendors. Paypal and E-bay are deleting accounts that sell adult oriented merchandise. NCSF has contacted the parent company, E- bay, regarding their discriminatory practices. These companies continue their "no-adult content" policy in large part out of fears of prosecution for obscenity.
NCSF was contacted by individuals, attorneys and prosecutors on a variety of criminal cases, including: several cases of false rape, three different cases involving death of a participant, and two murder investigations. NCSF also made referrals to resources and the appropriate authorities in several domestic violence incidents. In three cases, NCSF was able to help the victim obtain protective orders and find appropriate counseling.
NCSF is here to help you -- the SM, swing and polyamory communities. If you have a problem with discrimination, persecution, or harassment because of your sexual expression, please call NCSF for assistance. If you are contacted by the media, please call NCSF immediately so we can assist in educating the reporter about SM, swing or polyamory.
And please support NCSF in our effort to change the political, legal, and social environment in the United States. We are a volunteer organization committed to making a difference. Join NCSF as a member or please hold a fund-raiser and donate to NCSF!
In 2002, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) once again took the lead in defending the rights of individuals and groups in the SM-leather-fetish, swing and polyamory communities. NCSF's coalition of 29 educational and social groups is committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression.
NCSF's Incident Response team is directed by Leigha Fleming, who instituted new methods for tabulating responses in 2002. In total, nearly 600 contacts were made between NCSF and individuals, groups, attorneys, prosecutors, and businesses who requested assistance. Each incident sometimes required only one or two phone calls, but many evolved into much larger projects such as the series of attacks by religious political extremists against SM conferences in the midwest.
In 41% of the incidents, NCSF assisted individuals. The largest category of incidents involved parents who were engaged in child custody and divorce cases. Parents continue to experience difficulties gaining child custody due to their interest in SM, swing or poly activities. NCSF worked with a number of attorneys representing parents accused of being unfit because of their alternative lifestyle interests. In many cases, because of information we were able to provide, the courts decided that alternative sexual expression alone was not cause to impugn a parent's ability to be a good parent. Individuals also consulted with NCSF on a variety of other issues, including: the legality of obscene materials, guidelines for posting sexually frank information on websites, the law regarding private parties, and dealing with personal media exposure.
In 2002, NCSF also opposed zoning and other local regulatory measures against those who practice some form of alternative sexual expression. NCSF assisted the swing communities in Florida and Phoenix by holding open-forum discussions about how to affect zoning regulations and current litigation against lifestyle clubs. NCSF also worked with the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance (GLAA) to lobby against the Washington DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control regulation 905, which has been used to prohibit SM play in local establishments with liquor licenses even when liquor isn't being sold or consumed.
From February to May 2002, five SM conventions were targeted by Concerned Women for America, American Family Association, and the American Decency Association. NCSF worked with each event to counter sensationalized attacks in the media as well as resisting action by local authorities who attempted to shut down these SM conferences. The attacks took place in the midwest: My Vicious Valentine and International Mr. Leather in Chicago, Bound by Desire in Michigan, Tribal Fire in Oklahoma, and Beat Me in St. Louis in Missouri.
In April, Missouri State Senator John Loudon introduced a resolution to prohibit SM conferences from being held in that state. NCSF educated the Missouri State Attorney General about the educational benefits of SM conferences, and the state health department sent an observer who confirmed that all activities were safe, sane and consensual. Beat Me in St. Louis was held exactly as planned.
With two of these SM conferences, the host hotels canceled their contracts. However both conferences were able to re-locate to new host hotels. Cendant Corporation, the world's largest hotel franchiser with more than 6,400 hotels, bowed to pressure from religious political extremist groups and threatened its franchisees with reprisal if they booked "controversial" guests or groups that "national interest groups find offensive." NCSF conducted a successful media and write-in campaign that convinced Cendant Corporation to clarify its position, honoring the right of hotel franchisees to host the events of their choice.
In 2002, there were several police raids against alternative sexual expression clubs, including a raid that resulted in the closure of Behind the Scenes, an SM club in Philadelphia, PA. In July, a raid against Club Zinc, a swing club in Atlanta, GA, resulted in the arrest of patrons who consulted with NCSF. Another lifestyle club in Connecticut was raided and closed in June because they were improperly located in a residential neighborhood. In Phoenix, AZ, NCSF worked with several swing clubs that continue to be threatened with closure because of overly-restrictive zoning laws.
Spokesperson Susan Wright gave 81 interviews with the media in 2002 including print, radio and television interviews on national shows such as The O'Reilly Factor. Incidents such as the CWA attacks against SM conferences required extensive media contacts. In addition, the trial and conviction of serial killer John Robinson in Kansas City necessitated media work because Robinson met several of his victims in SM chat rooms. The witness who reported Robinson's theft of her toys to the police, resulting in Robinson's arrest, consulted with NCSF prior to her appearance in the trial.
The SM community rallied when Jack McGeorge's participation as a UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq was questioned by the Washington Post in a series of SM-negative articles. It was suggested that McGeorge should be dismissed from the UN weapons team because, among other things, McGeorge is a former Chairman of NCSF. Community members sent dozens of "Letters to the Editor" to the Washington Post, NY Daily News, CNN, and Fox News protesting the attacks against McGeorge, who received support from Hans Blix and remained on duty as a Weapons Inspector.
Clubs regularly contact NCSF to receive media training for incidents or events. In one media incident, a nonprofit club in Muncie, Indiana, was threatened with closure along with a nearby strip bar until the media was educated about safe, sane and consensual SM. NCSF also gave media assistance to a swing club in Connecticut which was closed because of zoning issues.
Job discrimination continues to be a problem for individuals. NCSF helped more than a dozen people draft and file formal complaints with their employers regarding employment discrimination claims. One Tennessee man lost his job because he belonged to a leather club. NCSF referred a Texas man to the EEOC because of racial discrimination. A California woman contacted NCSF when a job offer was withdrawn when her personal website was discovered. Another woman was dismissed from a private Catholic university because of her private sexual expression.
Discrimination complaints were also made about two Internet companies in 2002. In July, E-bay pulled all of its SM-related material for sale, while Match.com deleted a therapist's ad because it mentioned their poly therapy practice.
NCSF was contacted by individuals, attorneys and prosecutors on a variety of criminal cases, including: an exhibitionist arrested for public exposure, prostitution and obscenity charges against a pro-domme, and one individual cited for carrying SM toys in their car. NCSF also made referrals to resources and the appropriate authorities in several domestic violence incidents. In one case, a protective order was obtained.
In September, NCSF assisted in a behavioral forensic investigation concerning the alleged kidnapping of a Vancouver, Washington, man who was involved in master/slave relationship. NCSF worked with both prosecution and defense. The result was the dismissal of the unfounded charges of kidnapping and assault.
NCSF is here to help you -- the SM, swing and polyamory communities. If you have a problem with discrimination, persecution, or harassment because of your sexual expression, please call NCSF for assistance. You can visit our website on www.ncsfreedom.org or call our office at 410-539-4824.
And please support NCSF in our effort to change the political, legal, and social environment in the United States. We are a grassroots, volunteer organization committed to making a difference. Join NCSF as a member or please hold a fund-raiser and donate to NCSF!