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April 13, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The ink on the judge’s ruling in the Jian Ghomeshi case was barely dry when we were told by various fevered feminists that, all appearances to the contrary, we should “believe the women.” They did so despite the fact that the three complainants had repeatedly lied to the police, prosecutors and the judge. That was a fact specifically cited by the judge in his ruling that went on to all but issue prosecutors an engraved invitation to charge one of the women with perjury.

But, while some stand on street corners shouting that, regardless of everything, women who claim men abuse them should be believed, others “put their money where their mouth is.”

The case of David and Sandra Rucki has resurfaced in the news with this quite good series of articles and television segments about it (ABC News, 4/7/16). As things stand now, it looks like Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was a classic parental alienator. But, to her dismay, a mental health professional, appointed by the judge in her divorce from David saw through her claims that David was an abuser. Fearing she’d lose their kids, she turned the two oldest daughters over to an underground group whose specialty seems to be – you guessed it – believing women who cry “abuse!”

For two years, the girls remained in hiding, until they were located last November. That’s when the police started making arrests, prosecutors started charging and members of the group started running for cover. To say the least, it’s a strange case.

David and Sandra have five children, Nico now 19, Samantha 17, Gianna 16, Nia 15 and Gina 12. David operates a successful long-haul trucking business in Lakeville, Minnesota. For whatever reason, in 2011, Sandra filed for divorce. But events in court didn’t go the way she seems to have wanted.

Two years later, a court-appointed psychologist determined that Sandra had been engaging in parental alienation, manipulating her children into fearing their father. Custody of the five children was temporarily transferred from Sandra to a relative.

That’s when Samantha and Gianna disappeared. Sandra had lost custody entirely and they’d gone to spend time with David’s sister, Tammy Love.  They went up to their room and Love heard one of their cell phones ring. Thinking nothing of that, Love stayed put downstairs. Later, when she went to check on the girls, they were gone.

They’d abandoned their belongings and, in the middle of the Minnesota winter, trekked several blocks through the snow to a waiting car. In that car were their mother and a private investigator she’d hired, Dale Nathan. They took them to one of Sandra’s supporters, Dede Evavold, who, along with Sandra, placed them with a couple in Herman, Minnesota, Doug and Gina Dahlen who own a horse farm.

They use their horses as a kind of therapy for abused children. Kids can go there for a few hours or days, help with the animals, get to know them and, in the process, heal somewhat from their abuse. It’s a good idea and probably helpful for many children, but the two Rucki girls didn’t stay for a day or so; they stayed for two years.

Amazingly, during all that time, the Dahlens never said a word to anyone. They didn’t call the police, child protective services, mental health professional or the court. Today they’re under indictment for their role in the abduction of Samantha and Gianna and interfering in David’s parental rights. Remarkably, neither seems to think their behavior particularly odd. But picture yourself in that situation. A person brings two teenage girls you’ve never met to your door, tells you they’ve been abused by their father, turns them over to you and leaves. What do you do? Do you just keep them for two years?

My guess is that most people would call either the police or the local child welfare authority. After all, caring for children at risk of abuse is their job. And it’s not your job. But that’s not what the Dahlens did. They kept the girls until, almost by accident, sheriff’s deputies appeared at their door one day in 2015.

The deputies had no idea the missing Rucki girls were inside, but Doug Dahlen admitted it readily enough. And so the kids were found after a two-year search.

While all that was going on, the judge in the divorce and custody case had given exclusive custody of all five kids to David. The three who were with him were doing fine, attended by a suspicious absence of abuse by him. Sandra spent about four months in jail, charged with three felonies because the police didn’t buy her claim that she had no idea where Samantha and Gianna were. Eventually, those two joined their siblings in David’s care. The ABC report says they’re doing well in school and, like their siblings, show no sign of abuse by their dad.

And what of Sandra’s claims of abuse? It seems no one is buying what she’s selling. That may be because she’s doing an astonishingly bad job of salesmanship. It’s amazing to watch her (and her attorney!) tell the ABC 20/20 interviewer that she had time and again reported the abuse to the police and medical authorities. The two say in so many words that there are police reports backing up Sandra’s claims. They add that the lawyer has copies of those reports in her office and that 20/20 employees are free to view them.

There were none. No reports to police of abuse appeared in the lawyer’s files. No reports to doctors or hospitals, no reports to child welfare authorities. Nothing. Zip. What does it say about Sandra and her lawyer that they could – on camera – make a claim they knew to be false and then offer the reporter access to the files that would prove it to be false?

On Sept. 5, Dr. Paul Reitman, a court-appointed psychologist and expert in the field of parental alienation, stated that Sandra seemed to be suffering from a personality disorder as well as a mood disorder.

That may explain Sandra, but not her lawyer. Do these people even want to be believed?

Nico, like Samantha and Gianna originally claimed to have been abused, but now he says he was browbeaten by his mother to make the claims. Like the judge, the Guardian ad Litem and Dr. Reitman, Nico says his mother alienated him and his sisters from their father.

Remarkable too is the fact that, during the two years Samantha and Gianna were living at the Dahlen’s horse farm, their mother made no effort to contact them. Not a call, not a letter, not a text, not an email, not a smoke signal. Again, nothing.

Did Sandra think that simply leaving her daughters with strangers might itself be a tad abusive? What about the fact that they couldn’t attend school, see their friends, go on dates, hang out with their crowd at the mall? If Sandra thought anything amiss about that set-up, she doesn’t let on.

For now though, all seems well. David has his four children (Nico, at 19, is out of the nest), all of whom seem to be healthy, happy and prospering. Gone are the allegations of abuse originally levelled by the Samantha and Gianna, and of course Nico has long since retracted his claims. Sandra is out of jail awaiting trial as are the Dahlens and Evavold. Sandra can have only one strictly supervised visit with her children per month.

Was this an underground network of adults who choose to believe claims of abuse by mothers against fathers? It’s hard to say. From what we can gather, Sandra, Evavold, the Dahlens and Dale Nathan acted in concert. They at best skirted the law and their explanations for what they did don’t hold water. Whether they’ll be convicted and go to prison remains to be seen. But whatever happens, none seems to have questioned Sandra’s utterly fabricated claims of abuse. No one seems to have done even moderate investigation into them. No one thought it odd that those claims originated during a custody case. No one took into consideration the judge’s ruling, the Guardian ad Litem’s opinion on parental alienation or Dr. Reitman’s diagnosis of Sandra. And no one took the obvious step of turning the girls over to child welfare authorities.

In short, everyone on Sandra’s side looks to have blindly believed her. Apparently her attorney does to this day.

Like the shouters on the sidewalk after the Ghomeshi trial, these people seem completely capable of ignoring facts and common sense for the purpose of believing a woman’s claims of abuse. So firm was their belief that they may well go to prison for it.

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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parental alienation, child abduction, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki

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