DATE TITLE CONTACT DETAILS === PRESS RELEASE for immediate release Kidnapped by her Mother?

On September 16, Helen Gavaghan and her daughter Pearl were rounded up by Canadian police near Montreal. Ms. Gavaghan and Pearl spent the night in a detention centre in Laval; the following day, child protection officers forcibly removed the girl, who was clinging to her mother. They brought her to a group home and led Ms. Gavaghan to believe she would be able to see her daughter soon and that she would have some chance legally to argue against her removal back to the UK. But the seven year old was instead handed over to a father she hadn't seen in three years and flown out of the country, without any opportunity to speak with her mother. The pair fled England in 2008 after the family court system failed to take seriously very grave accusations of child sexual abuse and, as a result, ordered that overnight contact with Mr. Da Massa should be resumed. 'Pearl Gavaghan da Massa reunited with father in Canada' was the headline the BBC chose for its online site on 27 September 2011, following the Manchester Evening News story, together with a heart-string pulling picture of her holding a soft toy. The 'reuniting of a child with her father' aspect was the one chosen by all the UK papers. Yet the reality was that this was equally a little girl, taken by force away from her Mother in a police raid, and put on a plane across the Atlantic. Stage two in the 'happy story' was for her to be then placed in care, while her mother was put in detention. However delighted Dad might have been to be 'reunited', the true story is much more of a tragedy than those foolish first headlines ever indicated. This case is emblematic of the rights asserted by government agencies to intervene in family disputes and impose its monolithic perspective and its 'black and white' rules. What follows is Helen's story, as dictated to a friend whilst in legal detention in Canada, of Mr. Da Massa's emotional and sexual abuse. It has been abridged for brevity's sake here and on the website to which it was originally published in full. The full version can be made available to a journalist or media organization wishing to do a more thorough investigative report. === BEGIN QUOTE In late spring 2003, I began a relationship with Hollywood Henry Da Massa. It was a superficial relationship; in the few months before I became pregnant I came to know very little about him. During my pregnancy he did all he could to alienate me from my friends and family. When I developed extreme morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum, and was staying at his place, he treated me like it was my fault that I was sick and that it meant that I was a pathetic and weak person. He begrudged helping me and held off getting me water and other aid when I needed it. I asked to have friends visit while I was so sick, and he said he didn’t allow visitors in his apartment. He also wouldn’t allow me to call my friends, acting like I was asking too much and didn’t care about his phone bill. He prided himself on his ability to manipulate other people. He would boast about it, particularly his ability to cry at will. He accused me of not being wily enough. One acquaintance of his told me that he habitually disappears for months at a time and no one sees him. He was extremely private about where he went, what job he did exactly, who he would talk to on the phone, how much money he made. After the morning sickness lessened, I became well enough to look for a place to live. We had agreed not to move together. I had little money and needed a guarantor to be able to rent an apartment. He would only do it if he could choose the apartment. There were nice places that I found, close to my friends; he chose a miserable area far away from anyone I knew.

During late pregnancy, I had my first indication of his being highly aroused by sickness and vulnerability. I developed preeclampsia, a condition that was life-threatening for myself and my baby. A headache and swollen, puffy face and limbs are the main initial symptoms. When my strange headache wouldn’t go away, I called the National Health Service. They asked me if in the opinion of those around me I was swollen and puffy. He said no. After the call, I looked in the mirror and saw that I was extremely swollen-looking in my face. He insisted that he couldn’t see it. He also encouraged me to drink alcohol when I was pregnant on a regular basis. Each time I refused. In a short time, I was admitted to the hospital with severe pre-eclampsia. This was the beginning of a trauma that still haunts me. I was terrified and vulnerable and dependent on someone who was not only incapable of supporting me practically and emotionally but someone who acted disgusted with me that it was happening. Whilst I was immobile and attached to three I.V. drips and several monitors, whilst my daughter was being monitored and both our lives were in danger, there was a point where we were alone. Henry revealed to me that this situation was highly sexually arousing to him. He acted in a way I had never seen him behave before – that is, taking the risk of exposing himself in public by revealing to me his erect penis. He tried to get on the bed next to me, to open my gown, and to rub himself against me. A nurse could have walked in at any moment. He could not help himself. I found it shocking at the time but I didn’t think about what it could mean for the future that he was so aroused by vulnerability and danger. I was completely uninterested and told him to get down. This was at a crucial moment when my blood pressure and the baby’s heartbeat were being monitored continuously and I was glued to those monitors because our lives were in danger. My daughter was born early, but healthy. I was very weak and found myself looking after a premature baby alone. Henry would appear as and when he felt like it, particularly for visits from our midwife. He would never stay long and would disappear despite having taken paternity leave. In the aftermath of the birth trauma, I was feeling exhausted all the time but suffered from severe insomnia. I would try to make him stay and help me look after the baby as I was alone and greatly in need of support. Often, he would say he would come and then not turn up. Sleep became a serious issue for me: I would literally sleep one hour in 24 hours. At the earliest opportunity, he drove us to register the birth and get his name on the birth certificate . That was a big priority for him. The first time I saw my friends was two months after the birth and he called me one hour after I left saying he couldn’t handle it and needed me to come back. When I returned, there was no problem at all. For some time, I continued to struggle to have him see her, even though I made it clear about seven months after her birth that we were no longer in a relationship. He would say that what she needed was both of us together but his motivation was actually to spend time with me. He was in denial that our relationship was over for quite some time. Later on, he would visit the U.S. for a month at a time and then call to say he wanted to swing around and see her for half an hour. He said it was my job to look after his daughter. He refused to pay maintenance. Up until we left the UK when my daughter was 4 years old, he had made a handful of payments of a negligible amount. When he did see her, he was preoccupied with documenting the occasion – taking lots of photos so that he could look like super-daddy. At one point, he put a double-paged spread in the Manchester News about kids living in the city. The article was full of grand claims about his relationship with his daughter and the amount of contact he was having with his daughter. It was so far from the truth that it was a massive blow to me. Unfortunately, my daughter’s guardian ad litem later took this as evidence of regular contact, which influenced the outcome of the court proceedings. Eventually, I said that he had to commit to a regular schedule of contact or nothing. He chose nothing. So for about 18 months of my daughter’s life, he had very little contact with her and took almost no part in her care. This first part of my daughter’s life, he spent harassing me with phone calls, text messages and hand-delivered letters, still in denial that our relationship was over. I saw a solicitor about harassment at this time. Once I no longer needed him, he made use of the only tool he had left: the legal system. After a long custody ordeal, I took what I felt was my only option. I left the UK because I could not prove to the justice system that my daughter’s father was abusing her sexually, physically and psychologically. It was ordered that he have regular overnight contact with her. I couldn’t accept what that would mean for my daughter. One of the earliest examples of abuse occurred when she was two, she said, with my father as a witness, “Daddy put his finger in my bot-bot.” A variety of incidents and dangerous games my daughter described for me now

recalled for me his earlier arousal in situations involving danger and vulnerability. On several occasions after overnight visits, she recalled him un-doing her pajamas in the nighttime. She remembers him also not having any clothes on and knows things about adult male anatomy that she should not know. Her bed was right next to his in the apartment. There were two occasions, one more severe than the other, where she returned from overnight contact like a completely different child. On both of these occasions, my daughter displayed what might be called a nervous tic, that is a persistent blinking of both eyes together. This was coupled with a non-responsiveness in my child that I had never witnessed before. She couldn’t make eye contact with me and was unresponsive to my conversation or to any other stimuli. My usual, vibrant, happy girl had completely disappeared. It was frightening. It was like she was drugged. Over time, she came back to her normal self but still – she was never the same girl after she’d been with him. END QUOTE

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful