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To escape domestic violence, American mother sought asylum in the Netherlands

An extraordinary documentary by Garland Waller, called No Way Out But One, told the story of Holly Collins, an American woman who fled the United States due to domestic violence and sought asylum in the Netherlands. The video above is a shortened version  13 minutes. The full film was screened at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference which took place last weekend in Washington, D.C.

Holly and her two oldest children were beaten by Collins’ ex-husband. A court in Minnesota acknowledged that they were abused. But the judge said that Holly Collins was crazy because of the abuse and the children were safer with their father. Holly was granted only supervised visitation. The children were afraid of their father, so eventually they ran away. They met up with Holly, and the family went on the run—pursued by the FBI.

Those two children, Zachary and Jennifer, are now young adults, also poised and well spoken. Jennifer Collins is executive director of Courageous Kids, a network designed to help children come forward to talk about family court abuse. She graciously expressed the family’s gratitude during an awards ceremony, in which the conference honored Els Lucas, the Collins’ Dutch attorney, and the people of the Netherlands for doing what American courts wouldn’t do protect them.

Some of the mothers at the conference had their children with them. One girl, who looked to be 12 or 13, spent most of the weekend looking down, with her hoodie pulled low to cover as much as possible of her face. I saw Jennifer Collins, the survivor, talking to this child for a long, long time. I’m sure she was offering words of encouragement.


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What an extraordinary story. The fact that Holly had to take such extreme steps because of the Family Courts is outrageous. But her courage, and the fact that her children are now doing well, is inspirational.


A very extraordinary story.
I can again relate. I was told point blank by the courts that I had kidnapped my children by taking them to a domestic violence shelter. A court that granted my ex temporary custody even before hearing my side of the story, during that time he filed an Amber Alert on me and the kids and I had to leave the shelter for several days to go into hiding even deeper.

The police did not take pictures of the bruises. The pictures that were taken at the shelter 5 days later were thrown out as evidence when my lawyer forgot to bring the focal picture that included my face to the hearing. My ex represented himself at the protective order hearing and thus was the one who cross examined me about the abuse he himself committed. When I played an audio recording to the police of a phone conversation where my ex threatened to kill me I was told it was a “figure of speech.” When I made an audio recording of my daughter talking about her dad hitting her and locking her out of the house for 3-4 hours at a time with her brother (ages 7 and 9 at the time)I was told I was abusing her. They told me they hung out on a bridge at a near by park, because it was shaded. And they peed in the bushes there. When my daughter told her court appointed counselor of her dad hitting her, the counselor told her she did not believe her. When I sent an email protesting this, the counselor talked to my ex and he admitted spanking her. So at the next session the counselor told my daughter she believed her dad spanked her, but she did not want to hear the word hit again.

The guardian ad litem appointed for the kids told me at our first meeting that I “Must like living at the shelter, because I was not trying hard enough to get out.” I was starting a full time job later that day and managed to find an apartment less than a month after that. (My ex cleaned our bank account out immediately after I left him. Even beating me to a direct deposit from my part time job that i hadn’t been able to stop a few days later. He got $5,200 and I got about $150 from our joint account before it was closed out. So I had no money of my own to start house keeping with. When the divorce was final the ruling was that my lawyer did not present enough evidence as to where the money went after my ex took it. Even there were records showing the amounts withdrawn and that the 2nd amount was obviously my pay check. And my ex admitted he was the one that made the withdraws).

The guardian ad litem did not allow me to even see the children for day visits at the shelter, much less weekend ones. He stated that “A shelter was no place for children.” It was hard for me after I had to hand the children over, because the whole time I was there, there were more children than women at the shelter. Every time I saw the kids I had to eat out or pack picnics and hang out at parks, shopping centers, the library, etc. I had a wonderful group of friends and we stayed at their houses on the weekends, because the courts did not take away visitation rights, just that I could not take them to the shelter. The guardian ad litem even told my legal advocate at the shelter when she offered to give him a tour of the place that “He would never set foot in a place like that.” My ex all of a sudden started attending a radically different denomination for worship. Then the kids started telling me about repeatedly seeing the guardian ad litem, at church and that he and dad had long talks! I tried to have the guardian ad litem recused, and was unsuccessful.

A religious institution had stated they were willing to help pay the deposit and first months rent so that i could get out of the shelter and into my own place. But that I had to have possession of the children 51% of the time. I was point blank told following a status hearing,by my lawyer and the guardian ad litem, that this had been agreed to. My lawyer sent a letter to this religious body stating as much, and I have a copy of the letter. Then he never filed anything about in court. Somehow I ended up stating this when I was being questioned at another hearing and the magistrate was very angry that I stated something that was not true and that he had never agreed to any such thing.

My ex never presented a single witness to support him in the hearings, but every single one of my witnesses had their testimony dismissed. I had 4 witnesses come to demonstrate my capability as a mother. Two were dismissed because they only saw me interact with them for hours at a time. Two who I had spent the night with were dismissed because of course my children behaved at their house, since all children behave at other peoples homes. I was left to surmize the only testimony that would have been accepted was if I had someone living in my home with me. But then I would have been berated for having a third party living with us. Three of my witnesess collaborated my story about him claiming to smoke pot as a minister and that is why he was fired. One of them was even the middle judicatory of our denomination, who chaired the church’s investigation against him. But the final divorce documents still claims that I sought to get him fired and that I had made very poor decisions in leaving my ex and had jeapordized both of our economic futures in the process. I even had the pastoral counselor I was seeing come as a witness, to prove I was not crazy. I was told that since it had already been proven that i was not abused he was not allowed to make any comments about that. His testimony could only be about my current emotional state. When he made some comment about my my emotional state improving after I broke free from the abuse, that line of talk was immediately shut down. He left the process saying he had never felt so demeaned as a person and had never had his credentials put down like they were that day.

Through the whole ordeal I was told in the courts that I was crazy, I was an unfit mother and that I exagerated things. I was told that “since I had kidnapped my kids I would never have custody or more than visitation.” However, my ex eventually ended up homeless and miracle of miracles I got custody of all three kids. Even after becoming homeless the final report of the guardian ad litem was that if he found housing in the town we had been living in that in his opinion my ex should have custody returned. He has tried three times in the 13 months to regain custody, but has lost every time. The first two times he tried he was still homeless, living in a RV at a camp where you could rent trailers for $350 a month! The address he gave the court sounded impressive though with a water front sound to it.

His line of reasoning is that he earns three times what i do and that is the main reason he should get them back. But he has trained our oldest to call him every time one of the kids is upset about something, so I know he is keeping some kind of log to present at some point. One of the things he kept pounding away at in the past hearings was that children misbehaved more with me. And again court documents state that I do not know how to manage the two girls. My youngest has told me many times that she doesn’t misbehave at her dad’s, because she is afraid of being hit. That all he has to do to make her toe the line is to snap his fingers. While I want my kids to respect me I do not want them afraid. And most of their misbehaviors happen the day they return from weekend visits or the day after. Personally i think it is a way for them to release after a stressful weekend. Otherwise the arguments they have are about doing dishes, cleaning there rooms, who has to take their shower first, typical parent child disagreements.

During the time he was homeless he never took the kids to see this trailer, not even once. He had the children staying with him in motel rooms with only one bed. Of course he never gave up the bed taking turns sleeping with one of the kids: Even our 16 year old daughter. The other kids were told to sleep in a chair or on the floor, without pillows or blankets, because my ex would not give up the ones on the bed. And my guess, is that the hotel was led to believe there were only two people in the room. My son ended up with a planter’s wart by the time my ex found a house to live in again and thank God that was the only thing that was picked up.

My ex continues to send me what I consider threatening emails. But I have been told that they are merely “snitty” by the guardian ad litem and the magistrate won’t look at them. I have been told by a legal advocate at a domestic violence shelter that he is good, because his threats are veiled and therefore there is no legal recourse. She told me the only way at this point to get a protective order would be to provoke him to the point he physically attacks me again. Since the only contact we have at this point is when we exchange the kids I know I cannot do that because I could not do that to the kids. Not to mention the fact that I am also not a masochist and I do not WANT to be hurt again. That is why I finally left.

It’s really sad when the people who are supposed to be protecting domestic violence victims are instead harassing them!What a story to read,about Holly Collins and her children having to be protected by the Netherlands!

Your story makes me shake my head too!Especially that your ex would be allowed to cross examine you when he was the one who abused you!And that the pictures of the bruises were thrown out as evidence,as well as some of the witness testimony…it’s like it’s set up for you to lose!


The county I lived in is notorious. The shelter I lived in served 5 counties and as I said there were more kids there than women. But no children from my county were there more than a few days, because then the mothers lost custody.
A state rep was charged with domestic violence and went to police station and had it taken off his record. Ended getting caught and lost seat, but still got off for abuse charge! Police officer fired from another county for drunk driving was immediately hired in this county. Magistrate that originally had our case ended up fired 1 1/2 years into the case, and I do not know why. But it was obvious he had no clue about domestic violence issues.
So my only comfort is that I had many sisters nearby who know my pain. But at another level it makes me hurt worse to know so much injustice is happening.
I had a friend that was called to jury duty. He told me he had been sceptical of my story, but after serving on trials he had no doubt what I said was true and that he was half tempted to go to law school in order to clean up the system in the county. I personally am still weighing my options on training I could get and eventually move back there and help folks. Given my profession, I have already had to deal with people on both sides of the domestic violence issue. Have to admit it is not easy, but have been able to offer meaningful supportive counsel to both. I am feeling more and more called to do more about this issue, but am waiting for more healing and clarity about just how to use my gifts and skills.

My kids were with there dad’s this weekend. Monday morning I woke up to find a strange pair of women’s underwear in the door way to my room. I have thrown them away without comment, because I do not want to give him the priveledge of knowing he has rattled me. My guess is my ex told my oldest that he had just found them and they were mine. When the truth is he has a new girlfriend and he just wanted me to know they are intimate. Gross and disgusting! So my ex is still very scary! The bars I had been using on my doors as extra protection that I had recently put away are now back out.

Right now I feel like I am taking 10 steps forward, 12 back, 3 forward….Babysteps. And yes a huge part of the trauma for me has been the court system and how abusive it was after I was finally after 18 years brave enough to leave an abusive situation. I thank God daily that my ex finally messed up enough to be homeless for awhile.
This whole mess has been very hard on my children. Even yesterday the mother of one of my son’s friends came up to me and said she had heard my son was moving. My husband keeps my kids convinced they are moving back in with him, so they are having a very hard time settling in. Our last court hearing with my ex again filing a motion for custody was two weeks ago and the ruling only came down last week, in my favor. My ex also has the kids calling the town we live in “a hell hole” and a “dink ass village.” I know these are his words because they are phrases straight out of emails he has sent me. His court documents keep stating the kids are not settling in down here. What I see is that they are, but slower than it should be happening. They all have friends they have done activities with outside of school related events, and they all have been involved in extracurricular activities. But they all miss their old friends too and I appreciate that. But my ex and his efforts and modern technology that allows daily contact with the old friends have made it more difficult.
To add to my “trauma” when my ex finally found employment it was with the congregation my membership was at, and the senior minister now believes my ex was the one who was mistreated by the system and he was hired knowing that he had lost his standing as a minister.
I could write a book about the many strange twists in my case and no one would believe all the details could happen to one person.


Rev: Hope you hang in there. You have people here, too, who care as you step back and forth. That panties thing is strange. From my experience, they could be HIS. Spaths have a never ending addiction to the things they need to do to feel alive.

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