A blog raising awareness about a woman who lost custody of her child because of her performance art.

Friday, February 24, 2006

FAQ





QUICK SUMMARY: During the 2005/2006 Christmas season, Rachel lost all right to contact her son, Kohl, after her ex, Jeff, filed to change a custody agreement that had been settled for five years.

Q: What were the custody arrangements before Christmas Break 2005/2006?


A: Rachel had residential custody of Kohl. They lived in Columbus, Georgia, with Rachel's husband, Steve Bevilacqua. Jeff had regular visitation with Kohl consisting of 6-8 weeks at Summer Break, 1 week at Spring Break, and 2 weeks at Christmas Break. This plan was followed without incident for five years, since May 2000.



Q: Why didn't Kohl go back to Georgia, as planned, after his 2005/2006 Christmas Break?

A: On December 22, 2005, Jeff filed a petition for modification of custody and a petition alleging violation of a court order. The basis of these petitions was Jeff's claim that Rachel had moved from Columbus, GA to the state of Alabama with Kohl without informing him of her new address. He also claimed he had no way to contact Rachel, and that he felt she was a kidnapping risk.



Q: Did Rachel present any evidence to deny these allegations?

A: Rachel was not informed of the allegations until January 9, 2006, two weeks after her son was removed from her custody. The judge ordered Temporary Sole Custody for Jeff on December 23, 2005 on the basis of Jeff's allegations alone, without contacting Rachel to give her a chance to reply to them. After receiving her copies of the allegations, Rachel submitted affidavits from herself, her husband, and a close family friend denying that she had changed addresses. She also submitted phone records proving that Jeff not only had a way to contact her, he was using it frequently.



Q: What about allegations that Rachel and Steve are not providing a good home for Kohl?

A: Rachel submitted medical records proving Kohl has insurance and has a family doctor. Kohl is an unusually small boy, but not abnormally so. Rachel took Kohl to a pediatric endocrinologist to check Kohl's growth, and the specialist's diagnosis was that Kohl is simply genetically small, like his mother. Rachel and Steve are vegetarians, but it shouldn't even be necessary to justify that in this day and age.

Rachel and Steve homeschool Kohl, but after being placed with his father, Kohl tested into the fifth grade at the local public school, demonstrating that he has been adequately educated in the homeschool environment. Kohl participated in numerous socialization activities, such as chess lessons, art lessons, Tae Kwon Do, boxing, and general neighborhood kid activities with the many kids living on his street.

Rachel and Steve do occasionally leave Kohl (age 10) unattended in their home for short periods of time, as Georgia law allows children over 9 to be left home alone for up to two hours, as long as the home is not an unsafe environment. Letting children spend some time alone is not considered a dangerous practice in the quiet Southern neighborhood where the Bevilacquas live. Kohl has his own cellphone and is a green belt in Tae Kwon Do, as well as knowing the neighbors on both sides of the house, and Rachel and Steve were never more than three blocks away from him during these times.



Q: So did the court have some reason to disbelieve the Bevilacqua affidavits and phone records?

A:
New evidence was entered at the February 3, 2006 hearing, consisting of 16 exhibits, mostly photographs of the annual SubGenius X-Day Festival in Upstate New York. After the exhibits were entered, Judge James P. Punch announced that the images were "so disturbing" that he had to take a recess to compose himself. When he returned, he heard testimony from Jeff Jary and Rachel Bevilacqua. His Honor interrupted Jeff's lawyer to pose his own questions for Ms. Bevilacqua about the pictures, repeatedly asking "Why a goat?" and demanding that Rachel explain what was humorous in each of the photographs. Judge Punch became visibly angry and ended the hearing with a verbal outburst calling Ms. Bevilacqua a "pervert" and accusing the X-Day festival of being a venue for "sex orgies". He then ordered that Rachel Bevilacqua was to have no contact with her son from that moment on, not even in writing. The last time Rachel saw Kohl was January 20, 2006.





Q: Okay, so what was in these pictures???

A: Obviously, these pictures are considered by some people to be highly offensive. Please do not let minors look at them or look at them yourself if you find you are easily offended.

Official copies of the pictures have not yet been received by Rachel from the court. However, all the pictures were from the internet. Examples of the types of pictures shown can be found at:

http://www.subgenius.com/bigfist/fun/devivals/devivals.html

Also entered as an exhibit was this Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_SubGenius

Rachel was asked to state whether, in her opinion, the entry was an accurate description of the Church of the SubGenius. Rachel stated that the only part she could say with any confidence was accurate was the line under "Sense of Humor" about members playing practical jokes on each other.

Also entered was a drawing titled "Map of X-Day".

Another memorable picture was of two people, one of whom is wearing a shirt that says "Christianity is Stupid".

There was at least one photo of the Passion of the Christ parody, in which a woman with a "dildo" is standing in the background.

There were two photographs in which Rachel appeared nude(one of Rachel having a heart drawn on her buttocks to illustrate a point about Roman times, and one of Rachel being body painted), two of her in a Santa Elf outfit, one of her in a yellow superhero outfit, one of her wearing a pirate outfit, and of course the two infamous Goat Head pics.

There was one photo of Steve sitting in a chair with a wreath on his head.

There was one photo of Steve and Rachel embracing, which has coincidentally been chosen by some bloggers as emblematic of the story.

There was one photo of the annual Bobtism in which dozens of SubGeniuses are naked in a pool together, and one of them is holding a baby. Rachel was later told that this picture was included because someone thought the man holding the baby in the picture was Steve. The man in the picture is not Steve, but is probably a SubGenius who shall remain nameless and who looks somewhat like Steve, and who did sometimes take his own baby swimming in the pool with him.

Feel free to trawl through the internet and submit links to pictures you think fit this description, perhaps we can collect them all before the court manages to send out official copies.

Additionally, here is a picture from X-Day of a man wearing a suit made entirely of Cheetos. This photo was not entered into evidence, but people should know such a photo exists before considering what is and is not "normal behavior" for an attendee at X-Day.





Q: Was Kohl ever at X-Day? Did he ever see these pictures?

A: No. Kohl has never attended any SubGenius event. He does have his own computer, but his internet access is filtered and he cannot see the SubGenius website or any websites rated mature.



Q: When will we be able to see a transcript of Judge Punch's outburst?

A: A partial transcript containing the judge's outburst should be available by March 3, while the official transcript may not be available until early April.



Q: What is the ACLU/Americans United/NYCLU/Etc. doing about this?

A: If they were doing something about it, they probably would not want to comment until they finish investigating it.



Q: Is this for real?

A: Yes. Read the documents and google away, it's all for real, and it's really as expensive as you might imagine, with lawyer fees in the hundreds of dollars per hour. And yes, they charge for every minute you're on the phone with them.



Q: Why is the disclaimer on the SubGenius MagHelp page so odd?

A: It was copied from that advocated by Dr. Gene Scott, a very odd man who nevertheless was loved by many and who is widely considered to be the best disclaimer-writer in recent memory.



18 Comments:

Blogger Txfeminist said...

Crap, crap, crap!

I am so sorry this happened to you.

There is such a double standard when it comes to women's behavior and men's in family court.

I am sure it is small to no comfort, Rachel, but you are not alone with this injustice. Women lose custody for the stupidest reasons.

You will be in my thoughts.

Can I write a post about your situation on my blog?

9:26 AM

 
Blogger Txfeminist said...

BTW - where did your ex get the pictures of you?

9:40 AM

 
Blogger Txfeminist said...

Sorry. one more thing.

have you filed for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law?

10:36 AM

 
Blogger Rachel Bevilacqua said...

Sami,

Please feel free to write about my situation, I'm trying to raise awareness about the corruption that goes on in these rural counties. I've received a lot of mail from other women who are going through similar situations, so if you write about this it may help all of us going through things like this.

The pictures of me were available on the internet, as they are the photo records of performance art events I participate in. Anyone can view them, they're art. Not even racy art like "Piss Christ", just plain old surrealist performance art.

I have not filed for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, but I will ask my lawyer about it today and see what he says. Thanks for the idea!

9:07 AM

 
Blogger Trish said...

OHMYGOD, I cannot believe this. I am furious! I am so sorry this happened to you, but not surprised. I also live in a small county in the bible belt of southeast texas and lost custody of my son after writing several blog entries that my son never read or even knew existed. These rural judges are scary! Good luck to you, hang in there. I'll keep you and your son in my thoughts.

1:11 PM

 
Blogger Txfeminist said...

Sami here. (usually I post as Txfeminist.)

Rachel, actually I write about this all the time-- how women lose custody for the most unfair, ridiculous reasons. How women are treated to huge double standards regarding their behavior, in court. It's really unfair.

Usually what I write about, though, is within the context of a divorce springing from an abusive marriage.

Another question: If you have lived in Georgia for over a year, why does New York even still have jurisdiction?

I'm not an attorney, but it's a thought.

Take care. I will be trying to help spread the word for you.

9:47 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On an aside, how can you expect anyone to respect your way of life and be gracious when you are disrespecting other religions in the manner that you do in your surrealist exhibitions? I'm an artist and an anarchist but that doesn't mean I have to go out and slaughter other belief systems--even in private. A woman standing next to a crucifix of Jesus while wearing a dildo? That lacks sensitivity, grace and kindness. It's not the religion or faith but the people practising it that make a thing good or bad. Some of these things like images of Christ are totems that inspire people. There is a real lack of sensitivity and respect here all around--the judge for you and your situation and you for others. And this holy grail of free speech seems to exclude any elan. Free speech these days seems like doublespeak for steamrolling instead. It's easy to be a sabateur and provocative, it's much more difficult to be graceful and compassionate. Even though the party was a private affair, it still represented an alarming lack of cultural and religious respect--show those pictures to your loving grandmother and see what she thinks. Or how about the dalai lama. From what I've read in your blog and some other blogs, anybody would be rightfully nervous about what messages you are sending your kid. This is a sticky issue with no clearly defined parameters of right and wrong. On one hand, you've got a good mother who happened to make a poor choice of behavior at a party and subsequent internet exhibitionism and on the other hand you've got a Judge whose religion was offended and who found the goathead and insensitive behavior threatening and not "funny"; subsequently, lost his temper and over-reacted. There are no clear winners or losers here. I hope you will keep this post up for others to consider.

11:12 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever you deserved to lose your son. it sad that a father has to wait that long and do that much to get custody over a crazy bitch.

10:03 AM

 
Anonymous Alex, who is not a yeti, said...

There may be "no clear winners or losers here," but there are a few clear players: Rachel Bevilacqua, her son, and her ex-partner, for example. Most of the rest of us aren't in the running.

"It's not the religion or faith but the people practising it that make a thing good or bad. Some of these things like images of Christ are totems that inspire people."

I would tend to agree that the practitioners are what makes "a thing" good -- as opposed to attempts at doctrine or belief. So
aren't those people truly inspired by the actions of, say, Jesus of Nazareth -- a person, though maybe also a god -- and not by images? Shouldn't they be, if they aren't?

Likewise, satire/disrespect/sacrilege, etc., of an ostensibly holy icon aren't necessarily criticism of any person; they definitely are an insult to the iconography, but that might be it!

I don't know about Rachel, but I for one don't expect total respect for myself from others. These events have had consequences other than disrespect, however: She has been disallowed from seeing her son for a time.

Good luck with bureaucracy, Rachel.

9:21 AM

 
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11:20 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A brief response to the anonymous comment above. If you consider it acceptable for a judge in a court of law in a country where church and state are separate to make his decisions based on whether his religion is offended, you have--if I may be sincere--a very poor concept of justice. I apologize for expressing my opinion in such an undisguised manner, but I'm not Cicero. I can understand how some could certainly be offended, and I have no objections to that, but to allow this to seep into the legal system and affect people in this way is a violation of some of the cornerstones of the modern civilization that I personally value highly: Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the separation of church and state.

Personally I don't think Dalai Lama would be particularly horrified by the X-Day: based on what I know of him, he is a man with plenty of the tolerance and respect that you claim to stand for, and therefore he would tolerate and respect the Church of SubGenius far beyond the kind of respect that Christian churches have displayed towards other peoples and beliefs over the last millennia.

I'm not a fan of making anonymous comments, but I'm also not a fan of creating accounts everywhere just to write a single comment, so in lieu of either: For the record, my name is Erik Igelström, and you can contact me at eldkatt (at) gmail.com. Have a nice day.

8:36 AM

 
Anonymous Cole said...

Dear Anonymous,

If you think it's consistent with basic justice for judges to deny a parent child custody just because the parent openly disrespects some culture or some religion in a graceless or provocative or insensitive way, then fuck you.

It does not matter whether she showed "a real lack of sensitivity and respect" or "an alarming lack of cultural and religious respect" or "sensitivity, grace and kindness" or if she "slaughter[ed] other belief systems". When it comes to child custody, none of that matters at all. Judges aren't supposed to enforce the norms of gracefulness or cultural respect, they're supposed to enforce justice.

So again, if you think any of the points you mentioned give the judge ANY excuse for his decision, then fuck you.

(Also, if you think religions and cultures are above criticism, even provocative and disrespectful criticism, then get your head out of your ass)

6:21 PM

 
Blogger Azraelite1 said...

/\ So just because someone is parodying other religions, it's a valid reason for her to be refused custody of her child? How does this make her unsafe for her son? As her son wasn't there, why shouldn't she act however she wants at parties? It wasn't as if it's illegal. I'm sorry, but whether or not her parodying other religions was 'insenstive, unkind and graceless', it's comletely beside the point: and that point is, she wasn't representing any sort of threat whatsoever to her child. If the judge is offended by thing slike this and uses it to make stupid, unfair actions - then she shouldn't have become a judge in the first place

Because this isn't justice

Rachel, you're in my thoughts and I have been spreading the word about this. This is pure injustice and that judge is a disgrace to the judical system

10:48 AM

 
Anonymous drbob said...

Anonymous - I must say that I feel your attempt to justify a woman being denied contact with her child due to her "insensitivity" to other religions is far more shocking to me than any of the activities of the church of subgenius.

Just as chrisitans can (and do) say I will rot in hell forever for not believing in their religion, others should be free to insult them back as much as they please.

Free speech is just that, free - others don't have to like it, nor do they have to listen to it. It's a corner stone of western society that has done much to keep society free from repression in general.

This is not a "sticky issue" with no clear right or wrong. It's a clearly a case of an incompetent, bigoted judge who should have recused himself long before giving any kind of ruling.

All the photos I've seen online depict an innocent, though adult oriented and clearly satirical fun day out for the participants. The child wasn't there and frankly I'm baffled as to how it has any bearing on the case.

A judge choosing to separate a child from his mother simply because he's offended by her religious views is inexcusable. I'm nervous about bible belt fundamentalists teaching their kids the earth was really made in 7 days - does that mean we should take away their children? Get real.

6:26 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm for you. I hope you will succeed. BTW You're beautiful :-)

--
Eugene

12:51 PM

 
Blogger Spider63 said...

Rachel looks pretty hot, I imagine the Judge wants to hear all the details of the parties?

1:49 AM

 

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