Recently, in Swedish news, a lot has been written about the poor 8-year-old boy in Luleå who was murdered by his father. The district court ruled in several judgments that the father must have contact with the son, even though the child demonstrated that he did not want contact with his father.
Elisabeth Dahlin from the Children's Ombudsman wants to see a change in the law, and that children should have their own representatives in custody disputes.
Since I was nine years old, I have argued for the same thing in a project I called "Childschoice". It was a project where I wanted to help children make their case in court because we have the right to be heard.
My mother was my sole guardian of me until my father sued her for custody, and during the ongoing dispute, he got the IRS to change to joint custody while we were away abroad. After that, it was easy to report her for kidnapping me and strategically lie to the police, social workers, and others whose testimony in the district court weighed more heavily than my mother's. I was not allowed to speak at all, even though I was a witness to everything that happened, and it was about my life. She lost custody.
For seven years I fought to come home to my mother again. I told BRIS, who could do nothing as they have no powers. I alerted all my teachers, who patted me on the head and said "but now it's decided that you will live with dad", I asked for help from psychologists, doctors, and even the police on several occasions. I wrote letters to the King, believing that he could help!
When I was only ten years old, I took a five-hundred note and bought a train ticket, and traveled the Malmö-Stockholm route all alone to go home to my mother, and was arrested by four plainclothes policemen at Stockholm's central station, as if I were a wanted dangerous criminal.
The police took me to social services and even though I heard that my mother was in another room there, they refused even to let me hug her, no matter how much I screamed. Every time I was with my mother, I didn't want to go back to my father again, and no matter how much she begged and asked the social services for help and advice, they instructed my mother should ignore what I wanted and take me to the man who turned the entire state apparatus against my mother as revenge for leaving him. The abuse of me was just to abuse her.
I wrote letters to the district court about what I wanted, and my best friends did the same. I recorded videos that I sent to the district court and asked for help to get home. I posted desperate videos on Instagram asking the whole world for help - but no one listened. The district court rejected my letters and video footage because they had already decided that "the child should not be heard." Social workers who saw that I didn't want to leave my mother after our supervised visitations because I screamed and cried didn't help, because they have to follow the district court's decision to the letter. Police officers called to our apartment when I screamed for help as my dad abused me could only say "but he is your guardian" and would not help me.
Shouldn't policemen help people, I wondered, then help me! I don't want to live here, I want to go home to my mother!
No one could help me. No one would testify on my behalf. I was not allowed to be heard in court. All the adults I came in contact with and asked for help either had no authority or didn't care to help "because now the court has decided", and in their eyes the district court can never be wrong.
It was only when my father moved to Denmark that a Danish court took my own words into account, and I finally got to say what I wanted. I was thirteen years old then. Danish courts did a complete reversal and gave my mother full custody, just as I requested, without forced contact with my father.
How is it that Danish courts can do what Swedish courts cannot? Why are the children themselves not regularly heard in custody disputes?
So now the district court in Luleå has interpreted the law that a child has the right to both parents, and ignored the fact that the boy himself so clearly showed that he only wanted to be with his mother and was afraid of his father. It's time to realize that the district court can be wrong, and it's not so strange when they don't hear the person that it is all about. They rule in custody disputes without hearing the one witness who knows everything. In what other cases are key witnesses omitted?
I still dream of making "Childschoice" a reality and am now applying to study to become a lawyer after high school. I want to save other people's childhoods from being destroyed by all the agencies that only shrug off their responsibility and refer to other government entities and the district court that refers back to them in a single dizzying circle. If a child shouts "I want to go home to mom", it shouldn't be that difficult to get their wish through. Whether they are five years old or seventeen years old like I am now.
It is the child who should be allowed to decide on his or her future.