Appellate court affirms that Hudson County couple ignored daughter’s sexual abuse claims

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The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed a lower court’s ruling that a Hudson County couple ignored their seven-year-old daughter’s claims of being sexually abused by the 13-year-old son of the husband’s mistress.

The Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex. Photo via Ballotpedia.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The court’s findings Tara and Joe did not support Jane following her disclosures are supported by evidence they did what they could not to cooperate in the Division [of Child Protection and Permanency]’s investigation and, more significantly, dissuaded Jane from
making any further disclosures and threatened punishment and repercussions if
she did,” Appellate Judges Carmen Messano and Francis J. Vernoia ruled yesterday.

“We agree their respective failures to believe Jane’s allegations would not support an abuse or neglect finding, but the court aptly determined their failure to provide Jane with support, coupled with their threats of punishment if she made further disclosures, established they abused or neglected the child.”

Using pseudonyms to protect the victim’s identity, Tara and Joe’s daughter Jane told a therapist during a February 25th, 2015 session that Kevin – the son of Joe’s mistress – had “touched her, kissed her, and stuck his tongue in her mouth,” as well as touching her “down there” and laying on top of her.

Her mother insisted that she was making the situation up, a sentiment later echoed by her father, but the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency still ended up getting involved after being contacted by the therapist.

Case worker Hikeema Raeford ended up speaking to Joe, who again indicated that he thought his daughter was lying and also stated that he did not want the division involved.

The same case worker told Tara that the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office wanted to interview Jane, and while she initially agreed, the mother reversed course when she was told she could not be in the room during the interview.

The division then reached out to Joe, who again reiterated that he did not want them involved, that he “shutdown” their investigation and would be looking into the matter on his own.

Finally, after getting the police involved, Raeford was finally able to interview Jane, claiming she would get beaten if she shared any details about what happened with Kevin, claiming that he touched her vagina and buttocks.

She also claimed that Tara smoked weed while with her lover, Ben, and that they would sometimes get into physical fights.

From that point forward, Tara and Joe stated they would not voluntarily submit for drug or psychological tests unless ordered to do so by the court, though still agreed to a safety protection plan preventing any contact between Kevin and Jane.

They also prevented Jane from having any further sessions scheduled with her therapist.

On March 17th, 2015, the state filed a complaint against Tara, Joe, and Ben and they received custody of Jane and her younger sister Judy on April 22nd.

During an interview with Jennifer Wisely, a division intake worker, Jane indicated that Tara told her not to talk about Ben or she would be beaten and not be able to move to North Carolina with the rest of the family.

“Her statement revealed an adult exercise of a diabolical leverage over a child: do not make any reports concerning Kevin or our family or you will be responsible for disrupting our family’s plan to move to North Carolina,” the appellate division ruled.

“In our view, it is reasonable to infer that, at her age, Jane could not have conjured up such a threat unless, of course, it was true.”

The court continued that the parents’ behavior went beyond gross negligence since they acted to make sure their daughter, who had psychological issues, did not talk about her sexual abuse.

“Tara’s and Joe’s actions were intentional and undertaken in abject disregard of Jane’s ongoing psychological needs and issues,” the legal opinion said.

“The totality of the circumstances establish they failed to exercise the minimum degree of care required to assist Jane in addressing and resolving her behavioral and psychological issues by interrupting her counseling, and they created a risk of further emotional and psychological harm by not only failing to support Jane but also by threatening her with punishment if she made honest disclosures about being a victim of sexual abuse and a witness to her mother’s substance abuse.”

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