A DAVID SUTHERLAND FILM
KIND HEARTED WOMAN
ANNOUNCER: Tonight a special presentation from FRONTLINE and Independent Lens, a new film from David Sutherland, the critically acclaimed director of The Farmer’s Wife and Country Boys.
ROBIN: I am a Dakota from the Spirit Lake Nation. My Indian name is Cante Waste Win, and that means “kind hearted woman.”
ANNOUNCER: From a forgotten corner of the American landscape comes the story of a courageous woman fighting for a better life for her family.
ROBIN: I am divorced and I have two kids. No matter how much pressure I’m under, I’m going to keep this family together.
ANNOUNCER: Robin Charboneau grew up on a reservation, suffering at the hands of her foster family.
ROBIN: I was torn and ripped into pieces by people by people I called dad, uncles.
ANNOUNCER: Now her worst fear has been realized.
ROBIN: She just started crying, and then I knew that her dad was messing around with her. I told Darian, “Mom’s going to do whatever she had to do to protect you.”
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, filmed over three years, an intimate story of love and loss.
ROBIN: I know that you want your dad and I know that you miss him.
ANTHONY: I can’t live without him!
ANNOUNCER: Hope and hard work—
ROBIN: Helping other women on the reservation has always been my dream.
ANNOUNCER: —and new beginnings.
DARREN: I love you, baby.
ROBIN: You are everything to me. You’re everything to my kids. I’m going to come home, which is Spirit Lake, and I’m going to help my people.
As messed up as it may sound, I wouldn’t change any of the abuse, except for the abuse as a child, because it made me the woman I am.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Kind Hearted Woman, a special FRONTLINE Independent Lens presentation.
RADIO HOST: Hey, top of the afternoon, this is Hoksina. You’re tuned into KABU Radio, 90.7 FM in Fort Totten, North Dakota, heartbeat of the Spirit Lake Nation. Current temperature is 8 below and wind chill’s sitting at 27 below. Hey, folks, drive safely as you head to the casino.
ROBIN: [voice-over] I am a Dakota from the Spirit Lake Nation. My Indian name is Cante Waste Win, and that means “kind hearted woman.”
[on the phone] Eugene, this is Robin. Would you be able to bring some sage? I want to smudge my house, and— because we were drinking in here. Uh-huh. Yeah, with the feathers and stuff. Oh! My phone went dead! Damn. Eugene? I’m sorry. But yeah, I need to smudge my house.
[voice-over] I was drinking a lot. I went to treatment. I asked for help.
So whenever you can come.
Now I’m sober, and really, really scared that I’m going to start drinking again—
But my house is a mess, so— [laughs]
—because the temptations are so strong here.
No, I didn’t pick it up.
I could get a ride faster to the bar than I could to the grocery store.
OK. Thank you. Bye.
[on camera] I was in treatment for 20 days, and there’s getting out and coming back home to this, and not knowing where to start with everything. It just seems so overwhelming. [knock on door] He’s here.
[voice-over] Eugene Hale. I look to him like he’s my spiritual leader.
EUGENE: Thank you for it.
ROBIN: You can— that’s tobacco. Just, if you could go through the house, and you know, smudge it for me—
ROBIN: —because we were drinking and stuff in here, before I left from treatment.
EUGENE: All right. All right. OK. You got a match?
EUGENE: I brought some sage, you know, to purify your home.
ROBIN: [voice-over] The road man, we call him in the ceremonies, he tries to help people stay on the path, the road.
EUGENE: Clean your home, or whatever is in your home.
ROBIN: Native Americans call it the red road, the sacred road. And that’s somebody who’s trying to live their life straight and sober. And that’s what he’s done for me.
EUGENE: —things that go through our mind. So I’ll purify. You want to me to purify it, so I’m going to do that. I’m going to ask you to bear along with me just a little bit. I’m going to say a short prayer. Then I’ll— I’ll go through all the rooms here.
EUGENE: So I’ll say— [says a native prayer]
ROBIN: [voice-over] I know I’d have to leave the reservation. I just don’t feel safe here because of the battering I went through here.
EUGENE: [continues prayer] Smudge yourself. And I’m going to start, go this way— and you said you were using alcohol in here?
EUGENE: —and wipe away whatever that you want away from your home. And that— it’ll protect your home and watch you, watch over you, like that, you know. And the creator will watch over your children, too, wherever they may be at, and that things will be OK, and that way you can start over brand new.
And I am glad that I can come over here and do that. And I’ve been told my grandmother, that, you know, always, when they ask you do something like this, and said humble yourself and try your best to do it. So this is why you asked me to come back and help you out that way. And this is about the best way I can do it, so—
ROBIN: Thank you.
ROBIN: Let me just—
EUGENE: All right.
ROBIN: Thank you.
EUGENE: See you again.
ROBIN: Thank you!
EUGENE: Thank you. Thank you. I’ll see you.
ROBIN: Come on, you guys. We need to talk.
ROBIN: I’m so happy to see you guys. I missed you guys so much.
ANTHONY: Are we just staying with you until Sunday?
ROBIN: I need to talk to your dad.
ANTHONY: Mom, I don’t want to leave you.
ROBIN: Anthony, what do you think Christmas is about?
ANTHONY: Is God— is that when God was born?
DARIAN: When was God born? He was— he was—
ANTHONY: No, was he born on Thanksgiving?
ROBIN: I’m really not sure. No, Thanksgiving’s something else.
DARIAN: Thanksgiving was—
ANTHONY: Thanksgiving is for, like, where they— because the Indians had Thanksgiving. They’re the one that invented Thanksgiving.
ROBIN: We did invent it. We went—
ROBIN: [voice-over] I’m divorced, and I have two kids, beautiful, beautiful kids.
ROBIN: My son is Anthony. He’s 9. He got his great-grandfather’s Indian name, Mato Unsika.
ANTHONY: One of these days, I want to go— I mean, I want to go take my last day of boxing.
ROBIN: My daughter, Darian, she is Mato Waun Sida Win. She got her Indian name from her great-grandma.
I was really, really proud of you guys.
Darian, she closes up because when I was drinking, we lost that communication.
I’m sorry. I know what I did.
She told me this morning, “Mom, Mom, I thought you were going to drink last night.”
We’re going to get past drinking.
I am proud that I didn’t.
I love you very much. You know that we’re going to be moving?
DARIAN AND ANTHONY: Yeah.
ROBIN: How do you feel about that?
ANTHONY: I don’t know. Well, kind of bad.
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
ROBIN: Because it’s scary.
DARIAN: Sad, and because I don’t want to leave my friends.
ROBIN: Leaving the reservation is scary because this is all my kids have known their whole lives.
ANTHONY: Mom, is this going to be our last meeting tomorrow?
ROBIN: No. No.
Everybody here is all the support that we have.
I don’t know how often we’re going to come back to them.
It’s such a big change. I just hope I’m strong enough to get them through that.
ANTHONY: Mom, do you know what day we’re going to be moving on?
ROBIN: No, not yet. I haven’t figured everything out yet.
ANTHONY: Hopefully, you can find— hopefully, there’s an apartment up there where they have dogs.
ANTHONY: Where they-
ROBIN: You know what? When you go up there, I don’t want you guys talking to anybody that you don’t know. I don’t want you telling anybody that— you don’t know things about us. Not like— just don’t talk to strangers.
ANTHONY: I know.
ROBIN: OK? There’s a lot that you guys have to watch out for up there, OK?
ROBIN: But we’re going to— we have grandpa and grandma and everybody else there.
ANTHONY: Why are we going to move if we only know grandpa and grandma up there?
ROBIN: Because Mom has some— I want to go back to school.
ANTHONY: Go back to school down here.
ROBIN: It’s not— they don’t have what I want. I already finished at Little Hoop. I have to—
ANTHONY: How long?
ROBIN: —go away to school.
ANTHONY: How long do you— are we going to stay up there?
ROBIN: I don’t know.
ANTHONY: You said three or two years?
ANTHONY: Well, if you get done early, that would be very happy. We could move back down here.
ROBIN: Oh, yeah. You know what, before we move?
ANTHONY: Oh, Mom, is this going to be our last Indian ceremony tomorrow?
ROBIN: No, we’re going to come back to the ceremonies.
RADIO HOST: And good afternoon. You’re sitting here with DJ Joey, and you’re tuned into KABU, 90.7 FM, the heartbeat of the Spirit Lake Nation. Coming up at 12:00 o’clock, you’re invited to come and eat with your elders and learn your Dakota language. That will be at the Spirit Lake Casino and Resort.
SECRETARY: Victim assistance. Well, first of all you have to make a police report, and—
LINDA THOMPSON, Spirit Lake Victims of Abuse Center: Hi.
LINDA THOMPSON: Hi. How’d things go for you in there?
ROBIN: I quit drinking.
LINDA THOMPSON: Beautiful.
LINDA THOMPSON: I’m really glad you got this time to really straighten that stuff out and to just keep moving forward.
ROBIN: It just feels good.
LINDA THOMPSON: How are your kids?
LINDA THOMPSON: Yeah, kids are pretty unconditional in their love for us.
ROBIN: Darian, my daughter, before I went into treatment, she didn’t want nothing to do with me.
LINDA THOMPSON: Wow. Uh-huh.
ROBIN: You know what she said? We were sitting on the couch and we were talking and I told her, “You know what, Dar? Mom’s got to go for a while. I got to go and get help. I can’t drink— stop drinking on my own.” And she said, “Mom,” she said, “even though I’m not with you, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.” My baby said that to me and she’s only 12.
LINDA THOMPSON: Wow.
ROBIN: You know?
LINDA THOMPSON: Oh, my gosh.
ROBIN: And that’s when she wasn’t thinking of— or she was thinking she was just going to not come with me and stay with her dad.
LINDA THOMPSON: Oh, boy. For kids to move at that age is really full of tension.
ROBIN: I want to go to Fargo with them on the 25th, so if we can have something set up in Fargo for us to stay at the Y?
LINDA THOMPSON: Uh-huh. Yeah. It’ll—
ROBIN: I’m just— I’m excited but scared.
LINDA THOMPSON: But your kids’ dad, he’s OK with you going to Fargo? He’s fine with that?
LINDA THOMPSON: Good.
ROBIN: He wasn’t, but there’s nothing he can do about it. Nope.
LINDA THOMPSON: He’s going to voluntarily give the kids back?
ROBIN: It’s— yeah. I have physical— we both have joint custody. I have physical custody of them until March— or until May, unless he tries to put something in emergency again. But I don’t think he’ll get it.
LINDA THOMPSON: Well, that’s good.
LINDA THOMPSON: You know what? You could make a PSA reading your poetry.
LINDA THOMPSON: Things that have happened and you’re surviving it.
ROBIN: My “Standing Tall and Standing Proud” poem.
LINDA THOMPSON: Your poetry is very moving.
LINDA THOMPSON: So if you could be on the radio doing, like, a public service announcement?
LINDA THOMPSON: Wow. We can record with you. Maybe this week sometime.
LINDA THOMPSON: And even if you want some, like, background flute music or something—
LINDA THOMPSON: —something like that, we can make it sound really cool.
ROBIN: The background music, I want my kids to sing.
LINDA THOMPSON: You do? Do they sing?
LINDA THOMPSON: What do they sing?
ROBIN: [sings a native song]
RADIO HOST: Hey, this is Hoksina. You’re tuned into 90.7 FM, heartbeat of the Spirit Lake Nation. And here’s a little piece on domestic violence. Here’s Robin Charboneau.
ROBIN: [reading poem] At a very young age, I was told this man is your father. But what kind of dad could rape and beat his own daughter? My innocence was stolen throughout my childhood. Dirty, disgusting men putting their hands where they could. I grew up and I waited for that one day to come where I would remind them of what they had done.
One by one, I told them off. I could see fear in their eyes. They too denied it as they covered it with lies. I faced every one of them. I felt my spirit grow stronger. They could not control my life or my fears no longer. Now like you, they seem smaller, not like big scary men at all, while I’m walking away proud and tall.
RADIO HOST: OK.
ROBIN: [voice-over] I don’t remember the first time I got raped, but I remember the emergency room after the rape. Everything that happened to me growing up as a kid, the abuse, the molestations I went through, all of that happened when I was put in foster homes.
My adopted dad and two of my adopted brothers raped and molested me throughout my childhood. And since I’ve been on my own, I’ve always looked for that great big guy that would protect me. I never, ever in my life thought that they would hurt me, that they would try to destroy me, try to kill me. But that’s what happened.
Three Months Later
ROBIN: [voice-over] I Well, a lot of things have changed in my life. I was able to finally move off the reservation. But my kids aren’t going to be here with me at the Y. They’re going to be staying with their dad on the reservation. So I’m staying at the Y by myself.
The YWCA is a shelter for battered women. I still am planning on going to the University of Minnesota, which is right across the river from Fargo. But it seems like the harder I try to move forward, there’s something that keeps holding me back.
What happened in my life is that when I got out of treatment, my daughter Darian, she said, “I’m really proud that you’re going to AA meetings, and that you’re trying to stay sober.” So then I thought everything’s going good, until I got a boyfriend who beat the hell out of me.
Well, Darian, she wanted me alone and to promise her I’m not going to have a boyfriend. Then I told her, “Darian, I just can’t do that.” Three or four days later, she came to me and she had little cuts, little scrapes on her wrist. And I ended up putting her in the hospital. She told them that, “If I have to live with my mom, I’m going to be here again.” That just crushed me.
So I decided that she could go live with her dad. The social worker said Darian and Anthony have been together since the divorce. They get their support from each other. And I told them that my son could go live with their dad, too. And I wasn’t ready for that.
And they’re all telling me, “Good job, Robin. I’m glad you’re thinking about the kids. And I know how hard this is for you, but I’m really proud that you’re thinking about the kids.”
My son, he’s not like Darian. He’s more fragile than Darian. He’s used to Mom hugging and kissing and telling him, you know, “I love you,” and building up his self-confidence because he really, really struggles with that. And he doesn’t get that with his dad.
VOICE ON THE PA SYSTEM: Robin C., can you please come to the office? You have an appointment. Robin C., to the office for an appointment.
KAREN CARLSON, Director, YWCA Fargo: Hi, Robin.
KAREN CARLSON: Come on in. I’ve been wanting to talk with you for just quite some time.
KAREN CARLSON: And for myself, I guess I’m just kind of curious. I know that you wanted to start looking for employment.
ROBIN: The education and employment worker helped me do up my resume and stuff, which was great.
KAREN CARLSON: OK.
ROBIN: So I was able to forward that to a couple of places. Well, I see in the paper that they have welding and I had two years of welding in high school.
KAREN CARLSON: Oh, you did?
KAREN CARLSON: OK.
ROBIN: So I could— I could do that.
KAREN CARLSON: What type of employment have you— do you have experience?
ROBIN: Contracting, inventory, purchasing—
KAREN CARLSON: Very good.
ROBIN: —worked for the federal government for quite some time.
KAREN CARLSON: And what did you do when you were an employee of the federal government?
ROBIN: I worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a purchasing agent.
KAREN CARLSON: OK.
ROBIN: I worked in contracting. I was the travel liaison, which meant I just drew down the monies for the tribe, for the contracts that they had.
KAREN CARLSON: That’s very good.
ROBIN: And I assisted with writing the grants.
KAREN CARLSON: You have a lot of great work experience. Your two-year degree is—
ROBIN: Liberal arts.
KAREN CARLSON: In liberal arts.
ROBIN: With emphasis in social work and psychology.
KAREN CARLSON: Good. So if there’s anything that I can do to help, let me know, Robin.
ROBIN: OK. I think the only thing would be just finding the resources that are available, that are— would assist with rent.
KAREN CARLSON: OK. And I just wanted to mention to you, as well, that we have a hairdresser that’s coming in tomorrow afternoon, if you’d be interested in getting your hair cut?
KAREN CARLSON: And I’ll write you down for 3:00 o’clock.
ROBIN: All right.
KAREN CARLSON: Very good. And we’ll see you then tomorrow in the afternoon.
ROBIN: OK. Thank you. Getting my hair done!
[voice-over] You know, when people help me, it’s always a great surprise. But my confidence is low, you know? It’s like I can’t even get my own family to help me. Why would these strangers help me?
Today I’m visiting the University of Minnesota in Moorhead, and I believe I’ll be able to get in. But it’s just a matter of finding scholarships to help pay for it. I like everything about it. The size of it, smaller, it’s cheaper. I just love it.
LAURIE McKEEVER, Admissions Counselor: Hi, Robin.
LAURIE McKEEVER: Come on in. Nice to see you again. How are you doing?
LAURIE McKEEVER: Come on back.
ROBIN: I’m glad to be up here.
LAURIE McKEEVER: It’s been a while since I’ve seen you.
ROBIN: Yeah. So today I just want to make sure everything’s in place.
LAURIE McKEEVER: OK.
ROBIN: And make sure that my bases are covered before—
LAURIE McKEEVER: We do have everything we need to consider you for admission. It looks really good because we do have automatic admission for transfer students who have 24 credits of college-level work and a 2.0 GPA or higher. And it looks like you should meet those qualifications.
So now it’s kind of just a matter of us processing everything that we need to do, and then just kind of figuring out what you want to do. We’ll have to change you to starting in the fall, which is fine, but—
LAURIE McKEEVER: Just thinking about what else. We also set an appointment with you for social work. Is that still what you’re thinking about?
ROBIN: Yeah. Social work and psychology.
LAURIE McKEEVER: Oh, OK. And what are you thinking you want to do with social work? Are you going to go on to grad school?
ROBIN: I want to go back home and help other women and help out— you know, and work for, like, the victims of abuse program—
LAURIE McKEEVER: Oh, OK. OK.
ROBIN: —to be an advocate for that. Or you know, working with kids, you know?
LAURIE McKEEVER: On the reservation?
ROBIN: It’s got to be— it’s going to be at home, on the reservation—
LAURIE McKEEVER: OK.
ROBIN: —because we need that there.
LAURIE McKEEVER: Yeah. Sounds like it, you know? It’s— and it’s certainly admirable that that’s what you want to do, bring back your education and your knowledge. I think that’s very impressive, and I’m impressed.
LAURIE McKEEVER: Well, you’re really taking on the right steps and you’re doing what you need to do. And really now, after today, we’ll get you a little more information, but you’ll just kind of be hearing from us as far as what you need to do next.
LAURIE McKEEVER: And you’ll give you your acceptance letter in probably 10 days.
ROBIN: Oh, my God! So I’m going to be going back to college. [laughter] I can’t believe it!
RADIO HOST: Hey, to all of you ina and kunsi on the Spirit Lake Nation, this is Hoksina, you’re tuned into KABU radio, 90.7 FM in Fort Totten, North Dakota. Oh, it’s sunny and 66 degrees, and it’s going to be Mother’s Day. And there’s a Kahomni dance over at the Candeska Cikana Community College—
ROBIN: Hey, it’s Robin.
ROBIN: I need to borrow a car. I’m going to be back home for a couple days and—
ROBIN: —I need to borrow a car so I can go visit my kids.
WOMAN: Yeah? OK.
ROBIN: All righty. Thanks.
WOMAN: You’re welcome.
ROBIN: Oh, my gosh.
DARIAN: Mom, I almost forgot. Happy Mother’s Day.
ROBIN: I was so lonesome with you guys gone!
ROBIN: Read your letter to me.
DARIAN: “I love you so, so much. I hope you could understand that you mean the world to me and— and I wish that I could see you more often. I really miss you. I wish that I could see your apartment. I hope Dad lets me”—
DARIAN: —”go to Fargo and”—
ANTHONY: I don’t have a letter for you.
DARIAN: “I wish Dad would let me and Anthony stay for a week, at least a week. I hope you don’t forget me when you have a job or go to school. You are so beautiful to me, can’t you see? You are so beautiful to me. Mom, I was just wondering when you were coming back home. I hope you know that you are a very strong, kind hearted woman. You are the bestest and only mother I could have.”
ROBIN: Uh-huh! [weeps]
DARIAN: “God wanted you to be my mother. There is nothing in this world that could make me hate you.”
DARIAN: “I may be mad or angry, but”—
ANTHONY: Oh, mom. Mom—
DARIAN: —”every night, I think of you.”
DARIAN: “Sometimes I even dream of you. Like in the hospital, I kept dreaming of you and I couldn’t forget about you, even if I tried.”
DARIAN: And that’s where I stopped.
ANTHONY: Mom, I don’t have a letter for you cause Darian erased it yesterday.
DARIAN: You have a letter!
ROBIN: Thank you.
ANTHONY: No, I don’t!
ROBIN: Thank you, baby.
ANTHONY: You erased it yesterday.
ROBIN: You know what?
ANTHONY: I don’t have a letter.
DARIAN: Anthony, I’m sorry.
ANTHONY: I’m not going to talk until she doesn’t— until she treats me good.
ROBIN: Anthony, come over here.
ANTHONY: Oh, dang! Mom, come here!
ROBIN: Oh! He caught one!
ANTHONY: Oh! Come on! Come on!
ROBIN: Oh, it broke! That sucker was huge!
ANTHONY: Oh, Darian, I caught a fish! Oh, holy cow! Oh, a good bobber on there, too. That one there must’ve been good.
ROBIN: I want one now.
ANTHONY: Yeah, Darian, you didn’t catch nothing.
ROBIN: All right, guys.
ROBIN: We’re ready to go.
ANTHONY AND DARIAN: No, no, no, no, no!
ROBIN: Let’s go. If we’re going, we better get.
ANTHONY: OK, good.
DARIAN: Mom! I love you Mom.
ROBIN: I love you.
Did you guys have fun today?
ANTHONY: I had lots of fun.
DARIAN: I had fun this weekend. Mom?
DARIAN: Promise you’ll talk to Dad?
ROBIN: I promise.
DARIAN: About letting us go? Huh?
ROBIN: I promise. Not today, but when it gets closer to the time, I will.
ANTHONY: What time are you waiting for?
ROBIN: All right? I don’t know. Until you’re out of school, at least.
ROBIN: Son? Anthony?
ROBIN: When Dad’s girlfriend is treating you bad, I want you to let your dad know, OK?
ROBIN: Do it when it’s just you two alone, all right?
ROBIN: Like when you’re working on the trucks or something.
ROBIN: I want you to say, “Dad, there’s something bothering me and I want to talk to you about,” OK?
ROBIN: Darian, if you get tired of baby-sitting and taking care of those kids, then tell your dad, all right?
ROBIN: You guys need to find ways to talk to your dad about what’s going on over there, OK?
DARIAN: All right.
ROBIN: Because I can’t do nothing about what goes on over there.
ROBIN: It’s going to get better.
ROBIN: And if you have a hard time talking to him and telling him something that’s really, really hard, just close your eyes and spit it out.
ROBIN: All right?
ROBIN: Because he’s not going to know unless you guys tell him. I’m proud of both of you guys. Sing “Apayo.”
ROBIN: Sing “Apayo.”
ROBIN, DARIAN & ANTHONY: [singing]
ROBIN: Dar, you sing. Son? Anthony? You guys OK?
ROBIN: Anthony, son, come here. I know what you need. Come here. I know what you need. Come here. Shh. Shh. It’s OK. Come here, Dar. Over here, please. Give me a kiss. Thank you. I am so proud of you guys.
ANTHONY: Mom, I don’t want to leave you.
ROBIN: Anthony, I know that you got hollered at a lot over there at your dad’s. It’s OK to cry.
Mom, I love you.
ROBIN: I love you. Bye.
DARIAN: I love you, Mom.
ROBIN: Talk to you later, guys.
DARIAN: Oh! Anthony, you farted again!
ANTHONY: Time to go.
DARIAN: Hi, Dad.
ROBIN: Hey, Mom, brought you some flowers for Mother’s Day. Just need your help right now, Ma. I’m going through, you know, a lot right now, being away from home, moved to Fargo — Moorhead, I guess — you know, being away from the kids. They’re living with their dad. And it’s just hard right now.
[voice-over] My mom was an alcoholic. When we were taken from her, I was 5. My brother Barney was just a baby.
Sometimes I just don’t know if I’m doing the right thing or not. It gets so hard and lonely. Just keep going, and hopefully, it’ll all turn out all right and—
I remember living at the neighbor’s house and my mom pounding on the door.
I wish you were here.
She wanted to come and see us. And it was so cold. They’d tell her, “Go on, you’re drunk. Come back later, when you’re sober.” And I was standing by the bedroom door just crying. I wanted to let her in. I wanted to see her. But I never got the chance. She was 30 when she froze to death.
So Mom, I just really need your help right now, Ma. Well, I’d stay longer, but it’s getting cold out here. I’ll come back next time I’m down. And I love you. I miss you.
[voice-over] I’m meeting my brother Barney in Grand Forks. All I know from several phone calls is he’s left his girlfriend and four kids again. He’s been hanging out with other Indians that are alcoholics and drug addicts. I don’t know where Barney sleeps at night. It’s scary to have your brother out like that.
BARNEY: Woman of the hour!
ROBIN: Oh, my God, I missed you! How are you?
BARNEY: Pretty good. You want a coffee?
ROBIN: Yeah. So?
BARNEY: Trying to find a job still. You know, I’m still calling up on my applications.
ROBIN: A job? Oh, my God, I need one so fucking bad!
ROBIN: I have, like, to the 1st to get my rent in, which is, like, $550.
ROBIN: And my employment—
ROBIN: —is like, nil, right now, so—
BARNEY: Yeah. Uh-huh.
ROBIN: You dyed your hair? [laughs]
BARNEY: I got bored. I was helping her dye her hair. There was, like, that much left over. You know, I got a lot of odds and ends against me right now.
ROBIN: Like what?
BARNEY: I tried to apply for help. They shot me down because I quit my job.
ROBIN: Well, you know what?
ROBIN: You want to get away—
ROBIN: You can get away, you just won’t.
BARNEY: My kids are hard ones to give up.
ROBIN: You’re not giving them up!
BARNEY: I ain’t going to see them every day, though.
ROBIN: If you end up back in jail, are you going to see them again every day?
BARNEY: Uh-uh. I don’t know.
BARNEY: Hopefully, she’s nice enough to let me visit, bring them to visit like she has been couple last times.
ROBIN: Well, have them come and stay with you every other weekend.
ROBIN: She’s going after you for child support.
BARNEY: My kids, they’re the only thing that’s holding me to the state.
ROBIN: Well, you need to go to Fargo.
BARNEY: Yeah, I know I need to.
ROBIN: Before you up and go anywhere, Barney, you need to— my God, figure shit out.
BARNEY: I’m trying.
ROBIN: I know.
ROBIN: I’m scared and I’m worried about you.
ROBIN: Because I am.
BARNEY: I’m still doing what I do.
ROBIN: I have been.
BARNEY: I get in a little bit of trouble here and there, but I’m trying to— I’m trying to get a job. I’m trying to— I’m trying to stand up, but I got so much pulling me down.
BARNEY: My last— I got paid today. They garnished my checks to $53. What can you do with $53, sis?
ROBIN: Get your ass to Fargo.
BARNEY: I don’t want nobody to feel sorry for me. People in general just kind of feel, like, sorry for the Indian.
ROBIN: There is so many ways I could help you, but I can’t with that much space between us. I can’t.
ROBIN: Minnesota has a lot more programs to offer than North Dakota. I don’t know what they are yet, but—
BARNEY: Robin? Taking handouts? It’s acting like I got a broken ankle or busted fingers. I got— all my fingers work. My back works just fine. I can lift up to a 150 pounds.
BARNEY: I can work need be 12 hours. I’ve wanted a job.
ROBIN: Well, then why are you bouncing from job to job? Why are you having such a hard time holding a job?
BARNEY: I don’t know. I get sidetracked. Actually, I just need— I would like to get on some kind of medication to keep my mind focused.
ROBIN: Well, exactly! You think it was easy for me admitting, “Yeah, my name is Robin Charboneau, and I’m an alcoholic”? You think that was easy?
ROBIN: I used to make fun of that shit.
ROBIN: All you can do is worry about yourself. You’re an awesome dad. You know that.
ROBIN: You know? And Brenda knows that. That’s why she keeps having all these babies with you.
BARNEY: I know that.
ROBIN: But get yourself a place in Fargo. I’ll help you.
ROBIN: Show Brenda that, “You know what? I can take care of myself.”
BARNEY: I’ve been trying to get rid of this girl for about two years now. Every time I try to get rid of her, she gets pregnant.
ROBIN: [laughs] Well, cover that thing up and get it cut or something. Get neutered and you don’t have that problem. [laughs]
BARNEY: There’s too many bad influences.
BARNEY: You know, I can’t get a job, child support—
ROBIN: Uh-huh. And—
BARNEY: But I can take a bus to come to Fargo.
BARNEY: We can motivate each other and—
BARNEY: You shove me and I shove you forward, so that’s all we can do.
BARNEY: That’s my whole plan of getting Fargo is, to get us— get me motivated to get a job, to get you motivated to get a job. I finally got you off the reservation, like I’ve been asking you for how long.
INTOXICATED MAN: Come here, Barney.
BARNEY: And finally. Thank you—
MAN: Come on, Barney!
BARNEY: —for making that step. Sure, man. Party on, bud. I’ll catch up with you in a little bit.
BARNEY: It’s depressing on the reservation. Time stopped over there.
MAN: Here I am, Sioux Indian!
BARNEY: I’ll get with you in a minute.
MAN: Disrespect! Grand Forks, already had—
ROBIN: He’s had too much to drink.
BARNEY: You’re disrespecting me now.
MAN: Come on, Barney! Why not? Stand up for me!
BARNEY: You can leave.
ROBIN: Just let him go.
MAN: And here I am.
ROBIN: [voice-over] My brother Barney hangs around with the Indians that are lost in the cities.
MAN: Where’s my tribe?
ROBIN: Drinking and drugging—
MAN: I see disrespect every day.
ROBIN: —hanging out with other skins from the rez.
MAN: I face it every day amongst my people.
ROBIN: They think that once they’ve left the reservation, it’s going to be easier in the city. But the addiction follows you wherever you go.
BARNEY: You done?
MAN: Make my people stand up for me!
ROBIN: Oh, my God.
BARNEY: I’ll catch you in a little bit then. Go.
MAN: Barney, I’m just a Sioux Indian that has nowhere to go. I face housing and everything every day.
BARNEY: Oh, he’s gotten close to it. After this—
ROBIN: You’re close to it. Close to that.
BARNEY: I won’t get as bad as him, though.
ROBIN: That’s a sad representation of us, you know?
ROBIN: You’re close to that. And I don’t want to see that. I can’t handle that.
ROBIN: I fucking worry about that all the time. I’m no better. I’m just as close to you—
BARNEY: But I want to get going.
ROBIN: Yeah. Yeah.
BARNEY: Let’s go get some more coffee. Yeah, those two cappuccinos has got me jittery.
ROBIN: Barney, are you really going to catch the bus to Fargo?
BARNEY: Yeah. I’m going to be there, sis.
ROBIN: Hey. How are you?
ARLEN: I’m good to go. So what you been up to?
ROBIN: I found a great apartment.
ARLEN: Oh, yeah?
ROBIN: And I just love it.
ARLEN: Good, good, good.
ROBIN: So I visited Barney.
ARLEN: Oh. How’s Barney doing then?
ROBIN: Oh, he’s doing— I don’t know. He needs to get into treatment. You know, he’s drinking and drugging again.
ARLEN: Does he want it?
ROBIN: He does.
ARLEN: Did he ask for it or did you just suggest it?
ROBIN: He— he needs help. He’s going to have to come down here.
ROBIN: [voice-over] Growing up, I never had a dad. I always wanted to know who my real dad was.
ROBIN: —he was in jail and stuff and—
ARLEN: Yeah, jail’s no fun.
ROBIN: I was in my early 20s when I was told that my dad was Arlen French. So I called and he answered the phone.
It’s just— he’s scared, you know?
ROBIN: I had asked him, “Do you know Emma PoorBear?” He said, “Yeah.”
ARLEN: Well that’s, that’s one of the problems that I had, too, was—
ROBIN: I said, “I was told that you’re my dad. Is there any truth to that?” And he said, “No, I’m not.”
ARLEN: I had to face— I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. I just—
[voice-over] I knew Robin was my daughter. I just, was scared, you know? My wife Donna and I have three children. When Robin called, boy, Donna was mad. She says, “Well, how many more have we got? How many more kids do you have?” She asked [unintelligible] I couldn’t answer it because I didn’t know. And Donna didn’t talk to me for about three days. It was that bad. But after I had called and talked to Robin and told her I was her dad, and she could come down and visit.
ARLEN: I’ve been sober now for six years.
ARLEN: You know, I’m an alcoholic. I mean. It’s been, like, 23 years.
ROBIN: [voice-over] Since we met, we’ve had an up and down relationship. When things get intense between myself and my dad’s family, he tends to— whatever Donna says, goes, which is understandable. That’s his wife, and she’s known him a lot longer than I have. But he won’t say nothing to me, you know, which is— makes it even that much more difficult.
ARLEN: I’ll tell you, God’s not going to give me any more than he doesn’t think I can handle.
ARLEN: I mean, I can multi-task a lot of things.
ARLEN: I want to say it’ll get better.
ARLEN: You’ve probably heard that a million times.
ARLEN: Without working, how you surviving? Want some money, you know, financial? How are you doing on that?
ROBIN: Right now, it’s nil. There’s nothing. I think I got, like, 20 bucks.
ARLEN: So how’s your rent getting paid?
ROBIN: I got to call everywhere and try to find out. I want to call, like, the Salvation Army.
ROBIN: But we’ll get by somehow.
ARLEN: Yeah. Don’t tell Donna. [laughs]
ROBIN: Uh-huh. Oh, my God, I need this so bad, Dad. Oh, thank you!
ARLEN: Been a good day.
ARLEN: I’m trying to be a father.
ARLEN: Trying to be a grandfather. Unbelievable, some of the things that have happened over the last few years.
DARIAN: Oh, awesome! Look at this, Mom!
ROBIN: I’m just so happy to see you.
ROBIN: I love you both so much.
DARIAN AND ANTHONY: Love you too, Mom.
Three Months Later
ROBIN: [voice-over] The kids came up for a couple weeks.
What do you guys think of Fargo?
And I’ve been waiting and waiting for that day.
DARIAN: It’s OK.
ROBIN: What do you think of Fargo?
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
ROBIN: And the first thing that I noticed was my son.
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
ROBIN: You don’t know?
It was so cute to see him smiling and happy.
DARIAN: That’s cool.
ROBIN: I don’t understand why Darian has to call her dad every day—
DARIAN: We’ll be with Dad.
ROBIN: —and check in and tell him—
DARIAN: We’ll be with Dad.
ROBIN: —how her day was. But not once did Anthony get a phone call from Dad, saying, “I miss you, son. How’s your day going?” So I really am totally confused.
What do you think of college?
DARIAN: What’s that? Dorms?
ANTHONY: What kind of classes are you in?
ROBIN: That’s the dorms, yeah.
ANTHONY: What kind of classes are you in?
ROBIN: I’m in social work and psychology.
ROBIN: I have science and—
ANTHONY: Just like normal school? Like, math and everything?
[www.pbs.org: Watch online]
ANTHONY: Do you have any social studies or whatever?
ROBIN: I got to learn— this semester, I’ll be taking up Indian education.
DARIAN: Indian edu— Indian education.
ROBIN: Drug and alcohol abuse.
ANTHONY: Mom, I bet you if you—
DARIAN: Well, that’s good, since you stay sober now.
ROBIN: Yeah. They have, like, a theater here that we can come to.
DARIAN: A theater?
ROBIN: And watch plays and stuff.
DARIAN: Do we have to pay?
ROBIN: It’s like a dollar.
DARIAN: You chose a good school.
ANTHONY: Mom, can we go swimming?
ROBIN: First me and Darian have to talk for a little bit.
ROBIN: Darian, Mom’s been sober for six months. Pretty proud of it. Were you scared I was going to be drinking?
ROBIN: And do you see a difference at all?
ROBIN: Good one or a bad one?
DARIAN: Good one.
DARIAN: Now we have to set another goal.
ROBIN: What’s another one?
DARIAN: OK, we have to ride— go for a nice, long horse ride.
ROBIN: [voice-over] Darian and I have always talked about everything that I’ve gone through as a kid.
DARIAN: That’s what makes it a challenge.
ROBIN: I wanted her to always feel comfortable and safe telling me if anybody ever hurt her in any way.
DARIAN: You— you said that you, talking on the phone, have to get used to being a mom again.
I’d never had that talk with my kids of the “good touch, bad touch” type thing. Mom wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t think about her response. I didn’t think about how I was going to deal with that. I just thought about how I was going to talk to her about it.
So when she said— when Darian told me, “Mom, what if it did happen, or does happen, what are you going to do?” I looked at her and I told her, “Darian,” I said, “Mom’s going to do whatever she has to, to protect you.” She just started crying.
And she said, “I don’t want Dad to go to jail.”
What’s the matter?
And then I knew that her dad was messing around with her.
Darian, what’s wrong? What’s going on? I can’t read your mind, honey. Are you—
DARIAN: It’s just— mad at him.
ROBIN: I know that you want to be daddy’s little girl again, but you can’t right now, Darian. It’s going to be all right. All right?
DARIAN: Just as long as my dad gets help.
ROBIN: As long as what?
DARIAN: My dad gets help.
ROBIN: Your dad gets help? I know that it’s hard, honey. But you didn’t— you’re not being punished. You know that, right? None of this, my girl, is your fault. You did nothing wrong. And this is not a punishment for you. And your dad’s not being punished. You understand that?
I’m so proud of you Darian, for everything, all right? And it’s OK, honey. I understand. And we’re going to just keep praying for Daddy. OK? We’re going to just keep praying for Daddy because, listen to me. God hears you. He sees you. And he’s going to answer your prayers all the time. And you didn’t do nothing wrong. None of this is your fault, my girl. OK?
You are so brave. And you’re giving your daddy the best gift any little girl could give their daddy, and that is to get Daddy some help. So you and Daddy can have a good, healthy relationship and you can have Daddy back again.
KIM CARLSON, Spirit Lake Victims of Abuse Center: Robin told me what Darian had said about her father touching her in places that he shouldn’t be. So I talked to her and told her just to stay calm around Darian, not to drill her, ask her a lot of questions, and that I would get a hold of law enforcement. So we got in touch with the victim witness specialist in Grand Forks and made an appointment in Fargo to interview Darian.
ROBIN: What’s going on in your head?
KIM CARLSON: And then I talked to the caseworker at Tribal Social Services. She told me she wondered if Robin had coached Darian into saying things about her father so that she could get custody. But the interview cleared it up. Whatever Darian had said must have been powerful enough for Social Services to take Darian and Anthony from their father. So now they’re going to be looking at whether or not to take Robin’s ex-husband to court.
ROBIN: Darian, it’s OK to get angry. You know, like they say, like you have that good angel and that bad angel on you all the time?
DARIAN: Right here and here?
DARIAN: This is the good angel, this is the devil.
ROBIN: Uh-huh. And you know, like, the good one, she’s like— tells you, like, “That’s wrong. Don’t do that, that’s right— or don’t do that, that’s wrong.”
DARIAN: “Don’t do that, that’s right.” [laughs] That’s what this one says.
ROBIN: Oh, OK. And this one’s, like, telling you all the good stuff to do.
DARIAN: Yeah, and this one is telling you, “No, it’s OK, you can do that. No, no it’s OK, you can do that.”
ROBIN: And you know— like, how you— like, you felt, like, when you told Mom about what was going on? It felt like it was the right thing, but then now it feels like it’s the wrong thing? You know, this one’s telling you it’s the right thing to do. And this one over here is saying, “No, you’re getting punished now because of it.” This one’s wrong. This is the right one over here.
DARIAN: I’ve been listening to the bad one?
ROBIN: That’s the one that tells you, “It’s your fault, you did something wrong.” He’s wrong. This is the one you need to listen to. This one knows. This is the one that’s close to God.
DARIAN: No, this one is. Which side is that one on?
ROBIN: This one. You know, like, how you started crying because you knew it was wrong. It didn’t feel right to you.
ROBIN: And it’s OK. It’s OK to say, “I’m angry. I’m hurt.” You know why you get angry? Because somebody hurt you. That’s your body saying— that’s your body telling you, “Somebody hurt me so I’m going to get angry because nobody should hurt me. I’m good.” And you are. You’re the best thing in the world. You’re Darian Patricia Charboneau. Nobody can beat that.
DARIAN: Except for me.
ROBIN: Except for you. You’re the only one that can beat it.
DARIAN: Are we going swimming?
DARIAN: Can we go to the park?
ROBIN: Yeah. Any other questions?
DARIAN: Do I have to clean my room after?
ROBIN: Yes, you do.
DARIAN: OK. [laughter]
SHERRY WITHERS, Robin’s AA Sponsor: How you been?
ROBIN: Oh, I’ve been so busy. I feel lost.
SHERRY WITHERS: You’re going to have to do your program.
SHERRY WITHERS: Uh-huh.
ROBIN: I really am happy you are my sponsor.
SHERRY WITHERS: Good.
ROBIN: So school started.
SHERRY WITHERS: Uh-huh.
ROBIN: There just needs to be two of me to get all this stuff done.
SHERRY WITHERS: So what you’re going to have to do, honey, is you’re going to have to— little steps, OK, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
ROBIN: It’s been so hectic, you know, trying to get, like, the homework together and the books together, and then just figuring out, you know, what I have to do for each— both of the kids so they’d be ready for school. And I’m, like, completely unprepared.
SHERRY WITHERS: No, you’re not.
ROBIN: They have, like, no— they have some school supplies, but they have, like, no shoes, just clothes, you know, other than what we got from the Y. But Darian’s just, like, “Mom, what am I going to wear?” So we—
SHERRY WITHERS: I know there’s some programs that’ll help with that.
SHERRY WITHERS: But I’ll have to dig on it tomorrow. [Robin weeps] Listen to me. Listen! I’m not leaving you alone. And you know that we can do this, right?
SHERRY WITHERS: I know the kids are going through stuff and I know you’re going through stuff, right?
SHERRY WITHERS: All right. So you’re going to have to go to the meetings.
ROBIN: I know. I so need them!
SHERRY WITHERS: Well, you don’t want to start drinking again. And the kids don’t want that. With all the stuff everybody’s going through, you got to remember all the goodness. And part of the problem before was seeing Mom drunk, OK?
SHERRY WITHERS: And now since you’re being sober— and you know something? Kids are kind of strange.
SHERRY WITHERS: When we throw a wrench into their life and we go, “Hey wait a minute, I’m not drinking anymore,” you don’t see that crazy behavior anymore. They’re going—
SHERRY WITHERS: They don’t like it.
SHERRY WITHERS: Because they’re not used to it. That’s not what they’ve lived.
SHERRY WITHERS: And you have to remember you didn’t just put the cork on the bottle.
SHERRY WITHERS: What you did is you’re changing your lifestyle.
SHERRY WITHERS: And Robin, you’re an empowered woman. And this is how you get to be more empowered. True?
ANTHONY: Oh, dang it! I don’t like this because I don’t get the stupid thing.
DARIAN: Ho, ho! Lookit, Anthony. Look at how far I got.
ANTHONY: Can you help me?
DARIAN: Let me fix mine up first, all right?
ANTHONY: Yours is much easier, man. Mine’s stupid.
DARIAN: Oh, I see—
ANTHONY: Yours is way easier than mine, man.
DARIAN: I’m not a man!
ANTHONY: Geez, woman, then.
DARIAN: Much better.
KIM CARLSON, Spirit Lake Victims of Abuse Center: [on the telephone] Robin, to get a decision with sexual abuse cases here, I— I couldn’t even tell you. I don’t know how long it’s going to take.
ROBIN: I’m in court soon on the reservation.
KIM CARLSON: Yeah.
ROBIN: Are you going to be there with me?
KIM CARLSON: Yeah.
ROBIN: We’re going for custody.
KIM CARLSON: Oh, OK. Your ex-husband, does he know about the allegations?
ROBIN: I’m sure he does. And the restraining order.
KIM CARLSON: OK.
ROBIN: Hopefully, I can keep my cool.
KIM CARLSON: Yeah. There’s a lot of pressure.
ROBIN: I’ve been holding, like, everything in so I’m just, like, “Please God, don’t let me flip out on him!”
KIM CARLSON: Oh, you need to maintain your composure.
ROBIN: I know. That is—
KIM CARLSON: —the hardest thing to do when one of your kids has been hurt.
ROBIN: I’m just really scared.
KIM CARLSON: Yeah?
ROBIN: I don’t have legal custody of both my kids.
KIM CARLSON: Yeah.
ROBIN: I just— I don’t know what’s going to happen to them.
KIM CARLSON: Oh, I think you have a pretty good chance of bringing your kids back.
ROBIN: Hopefully, but it’s going to be dirty. It’s going to be rough.
KIM CARLSON: Yeah. Is Darian doing good?
ROBIN: Everything right now is just anger of not being able to see her dad.
KIM CARLSON: Yeah.
ROBIN: She’s saying it’s my fault I can’t see Dad.
KIM CARLSON: Uh-huh.
ROBIN: You know how they had me explain, you know, that your dad’s sick right now.
KIM CARLSON: Yeah?
ROBIN: He needs help. That’s really, really helped. I mean, from the simplest words, from saying, “Your dad’s sick.”
KIM CARLSON: OK.
ROBIN: You know, other than from, “No, you can’t see your dad right now, you’re not going back to your dad.” You know?
KIM CARLSON: Yeah.
ROBIN: And just changing your words around to where she’ll understand.
KIM CARLSON: Makes all the difference.
ROBIN: Makes a big difference. Uh-huh. And I’ve been so watching my tongue and not— trying not to say what I think of him.
KIM CARLSON: It will be easier when she gets older.
KIM CARLSON: OK, make sure anything you have, that you can use in court, bring that with you.
ROBIN: OK. Thank you for everything.
KIM CARLSON: You’re welcome.
ROBIN: We’ll, I’ll see you soon.
KIM CARLSON: OK.
ANTHONY: Oh, I’m dumb!
DARIAN: You’re not dumb. Don’t say that.
DARIAN: You’re not dumb. Don’t say it.
ROBIN: What you making?
ANTHONY: I can’t get nothing.
DARIAN: Anthony, stop being a baby.
ROBIN: You guys are going to have to clean up.
ROBIN: This house needs to be clean. And I have class tomorrow.
DARIAN: Why are you crabby?
ROBIN: I’m really crabby when I don’t go to AA.
ANTHONY: I don’t care about AA.
ROBIN: AA is, like, time to myself.
DARIAN: I don’t want to clean the house!
ROBIN: Darian, your turn to cook, so his turn to clean.
DARIAN: No, I don’t want to.
ANTHONY: Me, neither.
ROBIN: Yeah. My Dragon ID.
BUS DRIVER: Which Dragon ID?
BUS DRIVER: Just so I know.
ROBIN: Yeah. Thank you.
ROBIN: [voice-over] I thought my first year here in college would be just me and I could focus just on my classes. But I wonder, with everything else going on in my life, with Darian and Anthony, am I going to be able to focus on college? Or am I going to fall back into drinking? Is it going to be too much for me? I can’t think about all of that. I just got to get through one class at a time.
Dr. A. DERICK DALHOUSE, Professor of Psychology: OK, OK. Welcome to Psych 317, Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The first topic we’ll deal with is the physical effect of drugs. That includes the drug dosage, how much of a drug you take, the route of administration, how the drug gets inside of you, orally, by injection, inhalation. The second is characteristics of a drug user. That includes the genetic make-up of the individual and ethnicity.
ROBIN: The whole class is intimidating to me. It’s bigger, and all of these other students here are coming from high school. It makes me feel old. I know I’m doing everything so backwards. I was married for eight years, I’m divorced. I’ve got two kids at home. I’ve owned two houses. And I was a drunk.
Prof. A. DERICK DALHOUSE: It should not be surprising, then, that alcohol is the drug that has the highest correlation with anti-social behavior, and in particular, violence, spousal abuse and even murders.
And when we get to the chapter on alcohol, we’ll see a little more why alcohol does the things it does. Because remember, alcohol is what, a stimulant or a depressant? Oh?
Prof. A. DERICK DALHOUSE: A depressant. Since alcohol is a depressant, it shuts down your motor system. And you can have?
Prof. A. DERICK DALHOUSE: Cirrhosis of the liver. Now, we’ll see you on Friday. No, not Friday, next Tuesday. I forget this is not Monday-Wednesday.
DARIAN: Mom, what happened in school?
ROBIN: It was good until I went to one of my classes and the class was canceled. So now I have to drop the class and figure out how I’m going to get the money for that book and the study guide, which will probably be about 150 bucks.
DARIAN: That’s a lot. So you grabbed the book?
ROBIN: No, I don’t have the book. I’m going to be starting the class without the book. I have to wait until I get the rest of my financial aid.
ANTHONY: I’m going to take that piece of hamburger and put it on here for now. Wow, this is starting to smell bad.
ROBIN: [voice-over] I worry about tribal court. My ex-husband has a lot of connections on the reservation.
DARIAN: We have to put that seasoning in now.
ROBIN: So I’m afraid that my kids will have to go back to their dad.
Anthony what do you think about starting counseling?
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
ROBIN: Because you know how you’re having, like, a hard time dealing with everything?
DARIAN: Want me to do that?
ANTHONY: No, I’ve already got one hamburger down.
ROBIN: So what do you think about having your own counselor?
ROBIN: You need to.
ANTHONY: I need help.
ROBIN: You’re going to have to keep going to counseling.
ANTHONY: But I don’t want to.
ROBIN: Well, I’m not arguing anymore.
ANTHONY: I don’t care.
ROBIN: Because you’re starting to piss me off. Do what you’re told.
ANTHONY: Yes, ma’am!
ROBIN: Mommy dearest. I’m your mom, I know everything.
ANTHONY: You don’t know everything! You don’t even know what 2 plus 2 is.
ROBIN: Two 2s.
ANTHONY: It ain’t, it’s 4. You’re wrong.
ROBIN: No, I just think differently. [laughter]
ANTHONY: Stop it. I’m sick of you both teasing me. [laughter] Get out of here! Get out of here! I don’t want you in my life. You tease me too much!
ROBIN: I’m sorry.
ANTHONY: I just want my dad!
ROBIN: Look at me.
ANTHONY: What do you want?
ROBIN: I know that you want your dad and I know that you miss him.
ANTHONY: I can’t live without him! [crying]
ROBIN: You’re not going to.
ANTHONY: Sorry I yelled at you!
ROBIN: You didn’t do nothing wrong, OK?
ANTHONY: I hate my life!
ANTHONY: Don’t— do not go to court. I don’t want you to go to court.
ROBIN: That’s OK.
ANTHONY: I want to live with you, but I have to have Dad!
ROBIN: I know. I know, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that, son. OK? Look at me. Look at me. Daddy misses you, too. OK? Dad loves you too, OK? You know what? It’s going to get better because remember when we went and talked with that counselor guy—
ROBIN: —today? And remember how he was telling you, you know, those things—
ANTHONY: I don’t want to go there!
ROBIN: No, no, listen to me. Remember how he was telling you that—
ANTHONY: He just— he just made me worse!
ANTHONY: He told me all that stuff, and then I can’t get it out of my head!
ROBIN: Like what?
ANTHONY: All that stuff where— like, when you get your temper up, and I can’t get it out of my head!
ROBIN: Do you think that’s because he made you feel like, “Hey, this guy is talking about me. How does he know all of this stuff about me?” Huh? Is that how it made you feel?
ROBIN: You know what?
ROBIN: The more we see the counselor, the better it’s going to get.
ANTHONY: It’s not going to get any better!
ROBIN: It’s just going to take time. You know what? There’s a whole bunch of other kids in the world that are like that, that do that, not just you. It’s not you.
ANTHONY: I get teased and I don’t even have no friends, that’s why I like the smaller schools. I hate huge schools!
ROBIN: Are you scared Darian is not going to be there?
ANTHONY: No, I’m not scared because of that! I don’t want to get a detention.
ROBIN: I know.
ANTHONY: I don’t want to go to see the principal.
ROBIN: You’re not going to, OK? Time for bed.
ROBIN: Dar? It’s time for bed, babe.
DARIAN: Coming. Mom, I need to get a school assignment book.
ROBIN: Yeah. Do you have all your clothes ready?
ROBIN: Good night. I love you.
DARIAN: I love you, Mom.
WOMAN: You know Leann?
ROBIN: I just started here.
WOMAN: Oh. Oh, you just started working?
ROBIN: [voice-over] I’m cleaning rooms part-time, three days a week. I’m missing so much school because I wasn’t planning on having my kids with me right now.
Housekeeping! Housekeeping! [knocks on door] Oh, it’s too damn early.
As grateful as I am to be with my kids, I only budgeted for myself. So we’re living off of my student loans, and right now, I just don’t have any money.
I asked the tribe for financial assistance with the kids. They both see the psychologist and the doctor, so I’m running up medical bills. I got to figure out how to get them the things they need for school. So I’m going to have to find another job to support us all. But no matter how much pressure I’m under, I’m not going to drink. I’m going to keep this family together.
Today’s going to be a good day. I can feel it.
DARIAN: Mommy! Mom, I’m home.
ROBIN: How was school?
ROBIN: Was it as bad as you thought it was going to be?
DARIAN: I don’t know.
ROBIN: Do you like it?
DARIAN: Yeah. Scary.
ROBIN: Yeah. Did you make any friends?
DARIAN: I don’t know.
ROBIN: Did you talk to people?
ROBIN: So you—
ROBIN: —got any cute boys there?
DARIAN: No. I don’t know, Mom! Why do you ask me that?
ANTHONY: Mom, I’m home!
ROBIN: Hi. How was your day?
ROBIN: Do you like your school?
ROBIN: Do you?
DARIAN: Except for lunch.
ANTHONY: I know.
DARIAN: We just had pizza.
ANTHONY: The only weird thing about it is that you can only get hot dogs and subs for the whole year.
ROBIN: You get more than hot dogs.
ANTHONY: That’s what they said, I think. Mom, guess what? I need a pencil pouch and I need a coloring box.
DARIAN: He said he doesn’t—
ROBIN: You don’t have a pencil pouch?
ANTHONY: I have a pencil pouch, I just need a coloring box.
DARIAN: Maybe at Loopy’s they have some.
ROBIN: Well, can we wait a couple more days? When we get more money, we can get calculators and the rest of the stuff you need.
DARIAN: It’s, like, $8— $8 or $10.
ANTHONY: I have five bucks, I could get it for you.
ROBIN: All right, if you guys want to, you can sit down and make a list of the things that they said that you need, which would be great.
DARIAN: I have $8.
ANTHONY: All I need is just two folders and a calculator and some pencils, and a padlock.
DARIAN: We just need a calculator to check—
ROBIN: Put it down on the list so I can go get it for you.
ANTHONY: Mom, are you OK?
DARIAN: We don’t have to get it if you don’t want to.
ROBIN: I want to get it for you. Guess what?
ROBIN: You got to get up at (6:00 o’clock.
DARIAN: I know.
ANTHONY: Not me, I don’t have to wake up early. Ha, ha!
ROBIN: Oh, really?
ANTHONY: School starts at 8:00 o’clock.
ROBIN: That’s fine. Guess what else?
ROBIN: I have AA tonight.
ROBIN: You have to put yourselves to bed.
ANTHONY: It’s OK. Oh, Mom, here’s your necklace I made you.
ANTHONY: Boing, boing, boing! I love you.
ROBIN: I love you both so much.
DARIAN: Thanks, Mom. I’m so happy to be back with you.
Two Months Later
ROBIN: [on the telephone] Hi. This message is for Aaron. I’m calling in regards to the status of the investigation— this is Robin Charboneau— on my ex-husband, Anthony. I went to court yesterday for my kids, and the judge needs a report or something from the FBI as to where the status of the investigation is on my ex-husband. And I’d like to know because the tribe took my kids, and I just wanted to know if there was anything else I can do to help the investigation. Please give me a call at 351-3751. Thanks.
[voice-over] The tribe came and took my kids. They said I was an unfit mother because my kids missed two days of school for their counseling appointments and doctors’ appointments. But what the caseworker presented to the court was completely different from what she had told me.
Without providing any evidence, she said that I was sexually abusing my daughter. She has made the same allegations of sexual abuse against me that were made by the FBI against my ex-husband. My kids were crying. They didn’t know what was going on. Nobody ever explained to them what was going on. All that social services told them was, “You can’t go live with your mom right now.”
With everything my kids have gone through with their dad, since they had been here with me, they were starting to make progress. They were starting to adjust to school. Darian started to make friends. I was going to AA three times a week. I went to therapy. I have a home. But tribal social services come and they take my kids. So I’m going to my lawyer’s today to ask him again, “What do I need to do to get my kids back?”
RECEPTIONIST: Good afternoon, Ackre Law Firm. Yes, Robert Ackre is in, but he’s with somebody.
ROBERT ACKRE, Robin’s Lawyer: As far as I can tell, Robin—
ROBERT ACKRE: You and your ex-husband are fighting for custody.
ROBIN: He molested our daughter!
ROBERT ACKRE: So since he has those federal charges pending against him, you are fighting against the Spirit Lake tribe—
ROBERT ACKRE: —and the Social Services Child Welfare Department.
ROBERT ACKRE: OK, the tribal court is asserting jurisdiction in this case because your children are enrolled members, OK?
ROBERT ACKRE: You are an enrolled member, OK? Now, just to make it clear, we did submit some paperwork to the tribal court indicating that I would represent you pro bono.
ROBERT ACKRE: OK?
ROBERT ACKRE: So the last time you spoke with Darian and Anthony, your children, was when?
ROBIN: September 13th, about, on the phone.
ROBERT ACKRE: And the reason why you spoke to them on the phone was because of the No Contact order.
ROBIN: Social Services. Man, it’s— it’s really, really messed up because the conflict of the director of Tribal Social Services and my ex-husband’s personal relationship. Also because the caseworker and my adopted sister are, like, childhood friends. That’s the family that raped and molested me growing up, my adopted family.
KIM CARLSON, Director, YWCA Fargo: Monique, the caseworker, is best friends with Robin’s adopted sister, and the adopted sister is mad at Robin for doing this film. They don’t want people to know about what had gone on in the family while they were growing up. You know, there’s going to be— or they feel like there’s going to be a lot of information given out to the public about the sexual abuse that had gone on while they were growing up. And you know, it’s embarrassing for them. But I think that may be contributing to the problems that Robin is having with social services.
ROBERT ACKRE: And the allegations that they used to take the children away from you were what?
ROBIN: What she said was my mental instability and the kids were missing a lot of school. But what she submitted to the court, to tribal court, was that— was based on the forensic interview done on July 30th.
ROBERT ACKRE: Yes.
ROBIN: So she’s using the same allegations against— that she’s— against me that she’s using against Anthony.
ROBERT ACKRE: Which is your ex-husband. So there was a forensic examination done on your—
ROBIN: On my daughter.
ROBERT ACKRE: On your daughter. OK, Darian.
ROBIN: From the FBI.
ROBERT ACKRE: OK, and now they claim that you’re sexually abusing your children.
ROBIN: That’s what she— that’s what she states in her claim.
ROBERT ACKRE: That’s one month ago.
ROBERT ACKRE: On Friday, they will be informing the court — and this is Tribal Social Services — why visitation should not occur between you and your children.
ROBERT ACKRE: And they have to most likely show to the court how you allegedly maltreated these children—
ROBERT ACKRE: —how you are allegedly are a risk of being a sexual offender to the children. If they don’t show it, the judge is probably going to send the children back.
ROBIN: To where?
ROBERT ACKRE: To— to where they were before.
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, the thing is—
ROBIN: Their dad?
ROBERT ACKRE: Their dad. Because right now, his federal charges are not resolved—
ROBERT ACKRE: —and could be dismissed. What raises a concern for me is they speak in their petition that you stipulated that your ex-husband could have custody.
ROBERT ACKRE: And that was last year.
ROBERT ACKRE: You remember that?
ROBIN: Uh-huh. It was because my daughter ended up in Grand Forks Hospital because she was trying to commit suicide. But one of the things was I didn’t show up at court. I had already agreed to give Anthony custody, and I had— when Darian tried to do that, it was the day after she had came home from a visit to her dad’s. And it was with her dad’s picture that she was trying to cut her wrists with. And at that time, I didn’t realize it. Now that she came out with saying what her dad did to her, I’m able to see— well, I should have listened, or seen it.
ROBERT ACKRE: You gave him custody because she never told you anything was happening between her and him?
ROBIN: Uh-huh. [weeps]
ROBERT ACKRE: You assumed it was something you did.
ROBERT ACKRE: OK, we got court coming up here.
ROBERT ACKRE: It looks like everybody’s going in there in the dark because we’ve not been provided any type of report.
ROBERT ACKRE: Also, I want you to tell the court how you’ve survived since the children were taken.
ROBIN: My retirement funds. I withdrew my retirement from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and that’s how I got myself a vehicle and how I’ve been coming back and forth here and—
ROBERT ACKRE: How much money do you have left?
ROBIN: It’s down to the last cents.
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, we’ll have to point out to the court is you took your retirement out and your life’s been turned upside-down since the children have been removed from you.
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, let’s show up in court—
ROBERT ACKRE: —on Friday and see what happens.
ROBIN: All right. Well, I’ll see you the day before Thanksgiving.
ROBERT ACKRE: Yes. Well, let’s cross our fingers.
ROBERT ACKRE: Just hope for the best.
ROBIN: All right. Thanks.
Spirit Lake Reservation Tribal Court
ROBERT ACKRE: I don’t know what to tell you, considering the petitioners did not show up.
ROBIN: Yeah. So what are we— what are we waiting for? I mean, is it a long wait? Is it what’s going on? What?
ROBERT ACKRE: The judge should issue her opinion in probably within the next week and half, I’m guessing.
ROBERT ACKRE: She wants to take it under advisement. She has to take into consideration that the petitioners did not show up, OK?
ROBERT ACKRE: Tribal Social Services did not show up.
ROBIN: Yeah. You know, what I was scared of was not going home with my kids, but I know that I’m going to see them and stuff. Eventually. So you know, that’s all I can keep telling myself, that it’s not going to be forever.
ROBERT ACKRE: I think the court’s going to let the children come back with you—
ROBERT ACKRE: —hopefully, within a couple weeks. The court’s going to have some conditions.
ROBERT ACKRE: For instance, they’re going to put in place some counseling—
ROBERT ACKRE: —you and Darian.
ROBIN: I’m for that.
ROBERT ACKRE: Probably going to put in some conditions regarding who you can and cannot hang around with in your home.
ROBIN: Uh-huh. Yeah. So, OK.
ROBERT ACKRE: We should know something within a week and a half.
ROBIN: Thank you. I could not have— that would have— it would have been really bad if I didn’t have you here. I’m just not that out to where I could put everything against, you know, calling Anthony out on his stuff. There’s no way I could have done that. Me, it’s, like, I’m openly admitting, you know, what I— what I do wrong. But to point the finger at somebody else, it’s— I can’t do that.
Most of the time at the other court hearings, that’s exactly what I did, was just not say nothing, which— I don’t know why, but I get so scared and nervous when he’s there.
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, you did very well testifying, and you made it clear to the court how your household will be if the children are with you.
ROBERT ACKRE: OK?
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, hopefully, we’ll know something in a couple weeks.
ROBIN: All right. Well, thanks.
ROBERT ACKRE: Yes. I’ll see you.
[voice-over] I always knew the tribal court system was bad, but I didn’t think it was this bad. We came into the court in the dark and we’re leaving in the dark, not knowing nothing other than the judge needs more time to think about everything.
Tribal Social Services didn’t even show up to court to submit any evidence to the claims that they were making against me to take my children. So I’m going home without my kids. And I don’t even know what to think anymore. I just feel like I’m starting to lose hope.
[www.pbs.org: More on tribal justice]
[on camera] Oh, damn. Heavenly father, please take care of my kids. Just take care of them.
RADIO HOST: Happy Thanksgiving Day to everybody out there on the Spirit Lake Nation. This is Hoksina. You’ve tuned into KABU radio, 90.7 FM, in Fort Totten, North Dakota. It’s 32 degrees out there and it’s a beautiful, sunny day. There’s a Thanksgiving Day powwow scheduled for 1:00 o’clock at the Saint Michael rec center. This is Hoksina wishing you happy Thanksgiving Day.
JOEY: [knocking on door] Hello?
ROBIN: Coming. Hey!
JOEY: Hi. How are you?
ROBIN: Good. How are you?
JOEY: I’m all right.
ROBIN: Sit down over there.
[voice-over] Joey is my old boyfriend from high school.
JOEY: How is stuff?
And I treated him really bad.
You look the same as you did in high school.
JOEY: Thanks. [laughter] You always have that comment.
ROBIN: It’s been 14 years.
JOEY: Yeah. So what exactly are we going to do tonight?
ROBIN: Well, just catch up a little bit and go out.
ROBIN: I want to go dancing.
JOEY: Good luck with that.
ROBIN: [laughs] Well, you can sit there and watch, I guess.
I just ran all over Joey and threw him aside for my ex-husband.
JOEY: OK, so—
ROBIN: So who do you live with?
JOEY: I stay with a couple friends here and there, kind of waiting for child support to go through and stuff.
ROBIN: When we were talking on the phone, New Year’s Eve came up. Neither one of us had any plans, so Joey got me a room.
Oh, Monique— you remember her? She was living with us in the trailer.
JOEY: Well, I don’t remember her, but OK.
ROBIN: She’s the one that I’m fighting against for my kids.
JOEY: Oh, really?
JOEY: Wow. Wow.
ROBIN: She’s my— she’s a caseworker. She’s a so-called child protection worker. Protection’s so good, Anthony can see my daughter whenever he wants.
ROBIN: I’m on supervised visit.
JOEY: Oh. Lovely!
JOEY: Isn’t that usually—
ROBIN: That’s how we work over there.
JOEY: That’s kind of fucked up.
ROBIN: Yeah. Yeah. What made you want to get hold of me after all these years?
JOEY: I don’t know. There must be something wrong with me.
ROBIN: There has to be! [laughter] That’s exactly what I said. Who the heck holds onto that shit for 14 years? You like the arguments?
JOEY: I guess I did. [laughter]
ROBIN: I’m always right.
JOEY: Yes, ma’am.
ROBIN: Yes, ma’am.
JOEY: OK, yes, ma’am. [laughter] OK.
ROBIN: We need to go.
JOEY: Yes, ma’am. [laughter]
ROBIN: I can’t wait to dance.
JOEY: So where are we going?
ROBIN: Well, Buck’s is a lot more hopping than any other one. Can’t wait to get in there.
RADIO HOST: Hey, this is Hoksina. You’re tuned into KABU radio station. Current temperature is 2 above and it’s New Year’s Eve. You never know where a New Year’s Eve kiss could lead you. So enjoy and have a happy and safe new year.
ROBIN: Good! Good, good, good. You’re really in for it now.
ROBIN: What time is it?
JOEY: It’s 11:41.
JOEY: Like, 19, minutes.
ROBIN: I quit drinking.
ROBIN: I’m just going to stick to 7-Up and cranberry juice.
ROBIN: Take this.
JOEY: All right. It’s kind of nice right now.
ROBIN: OK, let’s dance.
JOEY: Yeah? I forgot about that!
ROBIN: Come on!
JOEY: It’s been a long time since I danced.
ROBIN: Hurry up!
JOEY: All right.
ROBIN: Oh, my God, you’re really dancing!
It’s pretty close to midnight, and I hope he’s not expecting a kiss.
JOEY: Oh, yeah.
That’s just not happening tonight.
ROBIN: I just love dancing!
JOEY: Yeah, it’s always fun, right?
JOEY: That’s nice, huh?
JOEY: Oh, yeah.
ROBIN: Wow. Uh-huh.
DJ: Twenty seconds!
JOEY: Sure that’s good. All right. [laughter]
ROBIN: Please hold my keys.
DJ: All right, we’re going to have a New Year’s Eve countdown. Are you ready to help me? Ready? Here we go.
BAR CROWD: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Happy New Year!
JOEY: Happy New Year.
ROBIN: Happy New Year.
DJ: All right! I like to play for people who like to have fun!
ROBIN: Did I give you my keys?
ROBIN: So I’m going to— getting on Demers?
ROBIN: OK. Take you back to the hotel, if you want.
JOEY: I don’t know. Nah.
ROBIN: We can stay up all night and chat.
JOEY: I know. You’re going to do all the talking, and I’ll do all the nodding.
ROBIN: No, he doesn’t expect anything out of tonight.
JOEY: OK, now. Slow down there, huh?
ROBIN: Joey is not even trying, thank God.
Just say, “You’re right, Robin.”
JOEY: Happy New Year.
ROBIN: All right.
JOEY: All right.
ROBIN: Yeah, well—
JOEY: It was nice seeing you.
ROBIN: It was good talking to you.
ROBIN: I’ll see you.
ROBIN: Give me a call some time.
JOEY: OK. Well, thanks for dinner.
ROBIN: Yeah, it was good.
JOEY: It was nice.
JOEY: You have a good night and—
ROBIN: You, too.
JOEY: See you later.
ROBIN: Yeah, well, give me a call or something sometime.
JOEY: All right, I’ll do that. Thank you. And good night.
[voice-over] A couple days after New Year’s Eve, I called Joey up to see how he was doing, and I found out he moved back home with his mom.
Although I am down right now, I have determined to continue my education at MSUM. School isn’t hard for me. It’s just life gets in the way.
I don’t know, it looks like everyone’s gone.
Today I am meeting with my financial aid advisor. I’m on financial aid probation. I hope that I can register.
SUMI LEHMAN, Financial Aid Advisor: [on the phone] So because you owe a bill, is that it? Then why are you not registered for your spring classes? OK, unless you have a hold for registration for some reason. OK, great. Bye-bye.
SUMI LEHMAN: Hi, Robin.
SUMI LEHMAN: How are you?
SUMI LEHMAN: Good.
ROBIN: Say— since I withdrew from my classes last semester, what does this financial aid probation mean?
SUMI LEHMAN: When you’re on financial probation, it’s saying that for fall semester, you had attempted 12 credits, but you didn’t complete any of the 12. So you’re at zero percent. Satisfactory academic progress standards stipulate that a student has to complete at least 67 percent. You have zero percent because you attempted 12, but you didn’t complete any of them. OK? So spring semester, are you only taking the 6 credits, or are you planning to register for more than six 6?
ROBIN: The full 12.
SUMI LEHMAN: OK, so while you are on probation, you have to complete all the credits that you’re enrolled in with a 2.0 GPA.
SUMI LEHMAN: Does that make sense?
SUMI LEHMAN: OK. However, if you fail—
SUMI LEHMAN: —and don’t meet those requirements, then you will go on suspension and not be eligible to receive federal financial aid, OK?
SUMI LEHMAN: You cannot register. You can’t go to school at all.
SUMI LEHMAN: So the best thing to do is just get 100 percent completion and a 2.0 GPA each semester.
SUMI LEHMAN: You’ll be off of the probation.
ROBIN: All right.
SUMI LEHMAN: OK?
SUMI LEHMAN: OK.
SUMI LEHMAN: Good luck.
JANELLE MIEDEMA, Professor of Social Work: All right, welcome to Social Work 250. I hope you’re here because you want to find out about this profession. It has been a challenging but very rewarding profession for me. I think if you bring with you compassion, also a curiosity. You know, scientists like to study their bugs or their germs or whatever. I happen to like to study people, and then what happens when you bring groups of people together. So that’s always been very interesting to me, and if you approach your work with sort of that professional inquiry, I think that takes you a long way.
So this survey course introduces students to the broad arena of social welfare and to the profession of social work. We’re going to understand the nature and dynamics of populations at risk. When you hear that term, “populations at risk,” what kind of groups of people do you think about?
STUDENT: People losing their homes.
Prof. JANELLE MIEDEMA: Low-income. Good. Where do people go if you lose your home?
STUDENT: You go to a shelter.
Prof. JANELLE MIEDEMA: There are many people who are homeless who have jobs in this community. That blew me away. I spent some of my volunteering time in the, the homeless shelter before I went to graduate school because I really didn’t feel like I had good understanding about that issue. And I felt— you know, gosh, in my gut, it was like everybody in this country should have a roof over their head.
You know, we make choices maybe about which movie we’re going to go see or which restaurant we might get to go out to that week. They sometimes have to make choices about whether they’ll eat or pay their rent. Can you imagine the stress of deciding whether or not you eat or pay your rent? That’s pretty tough.
All right, as a student in this course, you will have the opportunity to gain some experience as a volunteer in a human service agency. Human service agency representatives are going to be coming to class here and they’re going to talk about their agencies and what you specifically as students can do. Now, you will get from me a list of these agencies with phone numbers. Yes?
ROBIN: Just something for you to consider, Tribal Social Services, maybe White Earth?
Prof. JANELLE MIEDEMA: Absolutely. Tribal Social Services is— is a very basic social welfare program on the reservation. That would absolutely be a good idea.
Prof. JANELLE MIEDEMA: So— and then what I will have you do, you will write up a paragraph of what that particular agency does, and then I need a name of a— who will supervise you and a phone number just in case there’s any concerns or problems, like, you’re not getting your hours in or you go there and nobody even knows why you’re there. You know, I want you to have a really good experience with this.
OK, our last exam will be April 28th. There’s no final exam in this class and no final paper. So the gist of it is your three exams and your 15 hours service learning, with the journal that goes along with that, OK? Then we’ll call it a day. Any questions?
JODIE: Robin, you crack me up.
ROBIN: Glad that you came to visit.
JODIE: I know.
ROBIN: So how was your trip?
JODIE: OK. It’s cold out. I’m cold.
ROBIN: [voice-over] My cousin Jodie, who used to be my foster child, came today to visit.
JODIE: Disability services?
JODIE: Even handicapped people can come to school here?
Jodie’s been having it rough. She’s been drinking, drugging, so I’m going to show her college.
This is the hair salon.
ROBIN: Tanning salon.
Give her a little bit of hope, possibilities.
JODIE: Oh. Oh, my God. Are you serious?
JODIE: Tans here? Oh!
JODIE: This isn’t school.
ROBIN: Yes, it is. You need to go to school.
JODIE: I know.
ROBIN: You have a lot to be proud of.
JODIE: I’ve been doing all right, then everything just falls out of track, you know. I can’t stop myself drinking, you know?
ROBIN: Yeah. Well, we can talk about it, Jodie.
JODIE: Oh. They have their own radio—
ROBIN: Radio station here.
JODIE: I’ve never seen the inside of a studio before.
ROBIN: Jodie, when you were living with me, I want you to know that you did nothing wrong.
ROBIN: And that I wasn’t mad at you. I was mad at Anthony, my ex-husband.
ROBIN: Jodie, you were 12, 13 years old when my ex-husband molested you.
JODIE: That stuff haunts me. It scares me to death!
JODIE: I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore. I didn’t want to be seen anywhere. Like, it even hurt to hear your name, like, when somebody talked about you. It hurt me a lot because you’re my relative, and I didn’t mean to do that to you and—
JODIE: I blamed myself for it.
ROBIN: [voice-over] When Jodie lived with Anthony and I, I got suspicious about the time Anthony was spending with Jodie.
And it took me a really, really long time and a lot of counseling.
I questioned him about it time and time again.
JODIE: I know.
ROBIN: Anthony would tell me that it was all in my head.
JODIE: And I let it happen!
ROBIN: All of that stuff that he was putting into your head, Jodie, he was putting in mine, too. He was telling me it was all me. I was just imagining everything. I was just jealous.
Then one day, I went upstairs to Jodie’s room.
ROBIN: He came up with every excuse and every lie to—
I found a letter to Anthony.
—and to make it look like it was everyone—
Jodie was talking about their love affair.
And he’s still doing that.
I slapped that letter down on the table, called social services and told them, “I’m going to drop Jodie off at the group home. She needs to go.”
Because you were a kid, Jodie.
And I have been carrying that guilt with me.
You did not break up my marriage. My marriage was— wasn’t worth being married to. It wasn’t worth the 30 bucks I paid for it. It was worth the $700-and-something I paid to get out of it! [laughter] But you know, you did not break up my marriage.
ROBIN: Anthony did.
JODIE: How is Darian?
ROBIN: She’s a strong girl.
JODIE: It hurts that it happened to her, too! Darian’s— she’s such a pretty little girl. It hurt a lot when I found out it happened to her.
JODIE: Then and there, when I heard about it through the family and stuff, I wanted to come to you then, you know? But I was scared.
I can remember sitting on that table. Anthony, he’d come around the corner with you, and always in my face, like, “Why are you lying about me? Why are you saying that to my wife?” It haunted me for a long time.
ROBIN: No way to tell you that those feelings go away. But you know what? The more you talk about it, you’ll learn to deal with those feelings.
JODIE: I don’t know. I’m not well. Like, I’m a sick person inside, I think.
ROBIN: What do you mean, you’re a sick person inside?
JODIE: I think I’m depressed. I know what depressed feels like, but I’ve been through so many stages of it, I’ve lost myself in depression.
[voice-over] Oh! What do I do to get my kids back? I have to keep going. I miss them so much. Heavenly father, give me the strength, the courage, the wisdom, the guidance to take care of my kids. It’s just hard. [weeps]
[singing along to radio] Mama, I remember all the pain I brought you and the tears you cried over me. Thank you, Mama, for praying for me. If it wasn’t for those prayers, Mama, where would I be? They all gave up on me, but not you Mama. Thank you, Mama, for praying for me—
RADIO HOST: Anpetu waste. Good afternoon, Mni Wakan Oyate! You’re listening to the Montana Man right here on KABU, heartbeat of the Spirit Lake Nation. It is 12 degrees outside, the sun is shining, it is a good day! And it’s going to get even hotter tonight because tonight it’s round dance time!
ROBIN: It’s been five months since my kids were taken from me, and I miss them terribly.
RECEPTIONIST: [on the phone] Good afternoon, Ackre Law Firm. Yes. Could I take a message for him? OK. Thank you. Good-bye.
ROBERT ACKRE, Robin’s Lawyer: Hey, Robin. How are you doing?
ROBIN: Frustrated. Have you heard anything about my kids?
ROBERT ACKRE: I called the court today. Judge Gipp planned to get an order out today on this case, but they couldn’t guarantee anything. Tribal Social Services, Monique— she had her opportunity to present to the court any evidence she had—
ROBIN: She doesn’t have it.
ROBERT ACKRE: —to show the court that—
ROBERT ACKRE: —reunifying the children now with you is not in the children’s best interests. She didn’t present anything.
ROBERT ACKRE: The bottom line is, is you don’t have your kids, and I don’t understand why you don’t have them. It seems like Tribal Social Services is working against you.
ROBERT ACKRE: Judge Gipp, at page five, ordered that— specifically ordered that Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services immediately schedule weekly supervised visits between you and your children as part of the reunification efforts.
ROBIN: It’s not been done.
ROBERT ACKRE: What type of reunification plan does Spirit Lake Tribal Services have?
ROBERT ACKRE: So finally, you visit the children for a couple hours?
ROBERT ACKRE: And your children told you, “We stayed at Dad’s house last night.”
ROBERT ACKRE: OK? And I asked Monique why she arranged contact between Anthony and Darian after directives from the FBI saying keep those two apart, and she had no excuse, did she.
ROBIN: Other than it was her supervisor.
ROBERT ACKRE: The children— the children wanted it.
ROBERT ACKRE: Right?
ROBERT ACKRE: Of course, we didn’t know the children had stayed with Anthony the night before, too.
ROBERT ACKRE: So then you did call the U.S. attorney and—
ROBERT ACKRE: —and inform the U.S. attorney that we just had a custody hearing. It’s about— it’s about possible sexual abuse of your daughter by the father—
ROBERT ACKRE: —and that Tribal Social Services actually placed your children with your ex-husband recently. And it sure seems like the federal investigators’ hands must be tied. They said nothing. So I don’t feel comfortable how this thing’s unfolding.
ROBERT ACKRE: OK? And now we have been told your ex-husband might have to register as a sex offender?
ROBIN: About what he did to Jodie, who used to be my foster child.
ROBERT ACKRE: Did you know anything was going on?
ROBIN: I had my suspicions.
ROBERT ACKRE: Did you report it?
ROBIN: Yes, I did.
ROBERT ACKRE: Who’d you report it to?
ROBIN: Social Services.
ROBERT ACKRE: Did they do an investigation?
ROBERT ACKRE: So now they’re prosecuting the Jodie case, they’re ignoring Darian’s case, as far as you know.
ROBIN: I haven’t heard nothing on Darian.
ROBERT ACKRE: Maybe that’s why no one from the FBI will talk to you.
ROBIN: Uh-huh. Yeah.
ROBERT ACKRE: Obviously, they aren’t responding to me.
ROBIN: Uh-uh. All right. Well, thanks for seeing me today, and we’ll—
ROBERT ACKRE: There’s an emotional hole. You don’t know how to respond—
ROBIN: I have—
ROBERT ACKRE: —do you?
ROBIN: I have no idea because it’s— just getting frustrated. I sit at home and I cry and cry and cry, but it doesn’t do any good. So I’m getting just worn out. And not getting anywhere.
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, let’s cross our fingers today something’s going to happen.
KIM CARLSON, Spirit Lake Victims of Abuse Center: I seen Jodie at the federal courthouse, and the people that had been selected for the grand jury were just starting to walk out. They must have been deciding whether or not they were going to take Robin’s ex-husband to court or not.
So this woman come walking up to us, and she must have thought the woman I was with was Robin’s foster daughter, Jodie. And she said, “She did such a good job and she is so strong. The grand jury believed her.” Whatever Jodie had told them was convincing enough for them to agree that Robin’s ex-husband, Anthony, should go to trial in federal court for what he did to both girls.
GARY DELORME, Federal Prosecutor: Realizing, after she testified, how well Robin’s foster daughter did, I knew that this was the additional piece that we needed to make this case. The case wasn’t strong enough, based upon all of Robin’s issues with alcohol.
So I decided to link the cases between Robin’s daughter and the foster daughter together in one charging document and proceed to trial on both cases. I felt that that would be the most logical way to advance and to give the jury enough to look at to see the true side of Anthony Charboneau.
ROBIN: After Anthony was indicted, everything started to fall into place. I got the kids back. Tribal Social Services couldn’t prove that I was an unfit mother. When I went to pick them up, the kids were crying, “No, Mom, we don’t want to go with you.” I felt terrible, but I was going to bring them home no matter what.
ROBIN: So how was school today?
ROBIN: What’d you do today?
DARIAN: Had school.
ROBIN: Still crabby?
ROBIN: Oh. OK.
DARIAN: I finished all my homework.
ROBIN: I did my homework last night.
ROBIN: Yeah. I was up all night. Watched that movie, 13.
DARIAN: Yeah, I know.
ROBIN: Oh, my God, that mom in that movie!
ROBIN: You are so going to be saying, “Mom, that’s you.”
ROBIN: My teacher wanted me to watch it with you.
ROBIN: Probably have to do a report. Have you watched it?
DARIAN: Yeah, it’s on Lifetime.
DARIAN: It’s on Lifetime.
ROBIN: Oh. Huh. Wonder if your brother’s home.
ROBIN: [voice-over] I can’t imagine how my kids were treated when they were in foster homes. They are confused. They are scared. They’re everything. My son, he cries out “Mom” two or three times a night, like he was looking for me.
ANTHONY: Too hard. It’s OK. I’m tired.
ROBIN: It’s really hard to hear your kids suffer. So I didn’t ask the kids about how their foster homes were. That stuff will come out when they’re ready to talk about it.
ANTHONY: Hi, Mom.
ROBIN: How was school?
ROBIN: Take your jacket off. There’s a burrito there for you. So what did you do today?
ANTHONY: Learned how to subtract and add.
ANTHONY: Oh. Add fractions.
ANTHONY: And in social studies, we made a poster of the pioneers and the plains and everything.
ROBIN: Uh-huh. Is it nice outside?
ANTHONY: Not really.
ROBIN: Do you have any homework?
ANTHONY: We’re supposed to finish the booklet.
ROBIN: Did you?
ANTHONY: Kind of. I figured out the topic.
ANTHONY: And I figured out what I wanted about it and everything.
ROBIN: Did you ask your friends for any of their numbers so you can—
ANTHONY: They’re busy.
ROBIN: They’re busy?
ROBIN: Did you make any friends?
ROBIN: Did you talk to people?
ANTHONY: No. Not really.
ROBIN: So you didn’t make any friends.
ANTHONY: No. I don’t know.
ROBIN: You have dishes tonight.
ROBIN: Yes, you do. Garbage.
ANTHONY: Oh. I’m bad at that.
ROBIN: I want you to go to bed early because I have to study.
ANTHONY: All right. I love you.
ROBIN: Good night. I love you.
ANTHONY: Good night, Mom.
ROBIN: Oh, God! I’m so busy. I feel lost.
1st PROFESSOR: [to class] All right, so let’s start with one 1 through 11— all B. And 12 is A.
ROBIN: Gosh. I’m sorry.
1st PROFESSOR: Have you taken the test yet?
ROBIN: Have I? No.
1st PROFESSOR: You’re going to have to wait outside until we’re finished going over it.
1st PROFESSOR: Come back quarter to 4:00?
1st PROFESSOR: OK.
1st PROFESSOR: So 12 is A because the wife is the whore. She sees herself sexualized. Sexually, this guy wants her—
ROBIN: The clock is ticking on school and I’ve dug myself into a really big hole again. I’m having a hard time managing all of my responsibilities with my kids and school. The only time I have to study is when my kids are sleeping. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I have to.
2nd PROFESSOR: Well, thank you for letting me know.
FEMALE STUDENT: Yeah.
2nd PROFESSOR: In the future, let me know what’s going on.
FEMALE STUDENT: Oh, OK.
2nd PROFESSOR: And I feel for you. But at the same time, you’re going to need to keep up.
FEMALE STUDENT: Yeah.
2nd PROFESSOR: You know what I mean? And if you have stuff, come talk to me.
FEMALE STUDENT: Uh-huh.
2nd PROFESSOR: OK?
FEMALE STUDENT: OK.
2nd PROFESSOR: All right.
FEMALE STUDENT: Thanks.
2nd PROFESSOR: Hey, Robin.
ROBIN: Hello. I haven’t been here because I’ve been fighting a really bad custody battle, and I got my kids all of a sudden.
2nd PROFESSOR: OK.
ROBIN: I had to get them registered for classes.
2nd PROFESSOR: Yeah.
ROBIN: So I need to figure out how to get caught up.
2nd PROFESSOR: I want to work with you, just like any other student, you know? And I’m glad you’re talking to me today.
2nd PROFESSOR: Bottom line is, from an academic standpoint, I got to be fair, too. You know what I mean?
2nd PROFESSOR: So what I’m going to ask you to do is probably schedule some time in my office—
2nd PROFESSOR: —so we can go over things that you’ve missed. Have you been able to get the notes from anybody?
ROBIN: I can get them.
2nd PROFESSOR: Because there’s some important stuff on the horizon here we’re working with. And I have some handouts I’m going to need to get you, too.
2nd PROFESSOR: OK.
ROBIN: All right.
2nd PROFESSOR: All right.
2nd PROFESSOR: Thank you. [to class] Those of you that were gone on Monday—.
ROBIN: Oh! It’s so hectic. It’s so hard.
DARIAN: What are you doing?
ROBIN: I’m studying. I have a test coming up.
DARIAN: For what?
ROBIN: Social work.
ROBIN: I’m going to make the system work, make the families work. Try to, anyway.
DARIAN: What if they don’t want to?
ROBIN: Then that’s a choice they make, but I’m going to help them.
DARIAN: Well, what if the parents absolutely can’t get along, you know, like you and Dad? They can’t even look at each other?
ROBIN: Oh. You know, Dar, there’s parents who want to try to get along, they just don’t know how. And you know when Social Services took you guys from me, if I wasn’t as strong in my sobriety as I was at the time, and as determined as I was to get you back home here—
ROBIN: —I would have given up and started drinking. I would have. And not once did Social Services offer anything, Darian, that could help us.
ROBIN: [weeps] And not once did I get a call saying, “Robin, what can we do to help bring your kids home?”
ROBIN: On Christmas, I was shopping for you, not knowing when you were going to get to see it and when I was going to get to give it to you. And not once did I get to hold you and tell you, “Darian, I love you. Darian, it’s going to be OK.” [Darian weeps] I prayed for you every single night.
So what if Mom would have got to do that to you, huh? Look at me, my girl. Come here. If I would have just been able to do this and tell you, “Baby girl, it’s OK to cry. It’s OK. It’s OK to be all snotty.” [both laugh] It’s OK, Darian!
DARIAN: So what happens if you don’t pass the test?
ROBIN: I don’t know, but I got to figure out a way to cheat on this sucker. [laughs]
DARIAN: Oh, my gosh, Mom. I cheat.
ROBIN: Cheating’s never good. Don’t you ever cheat!
DARIAN: Sure. Never, ever, Mom.
WOMAN ON PHONE: Hello?
ROBIN: Hey, where the hell have you been?
WOMAN ON PHONE: Oh, I was really busy.
ROBIN: Oh. Auntie tell you who I hooked up with?
WOMAN ON PHONE: No.
ROBIN: Darren Spoon.
WOMAN ON PHONE: Oh.
ROBIN: Yeah. He’s tiny. And I met him through his mom.
WOMAN ON PHONE: Oh. Really?
ROBIN: It was just supposed to be, you know, a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, but—
WOMAN ON PHONE: [laughs] Oh, OK.
ROBIN: —pretty soon on his Facebook page, it said “in a relationship.”
WOMAN ON PHONE: Technology, huh?
ROBIN: Yeah. Soon my face was pasted on Darren’s Facebook. So then I guess I’m in a relationship. [laughter] He drives from Canada to Fargo.
WOMAN ON PHONE: Really?
ROBIN: He’s my little Canadian man!
WOMAN ON PHONE: Oh. OK.
ROBIN: I don’t know if you’ve seen him. He’s got glasses. And he’s tiny. [laughter] Darren’s not coming until 9:00, 10:00 o’clock. I’m going to be getting ready soon.
WOMAN ON PHONE: You nervous?
ROBIN: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. He’s here!
WOMAN ON PHONE: OK. Talk to you later.
DARREN: Good morning, Robin.
ROBIN: You got here early!
DARREN: Check it out.
ROBIN: Oh, my God!
DARREN: Take one.
ROBIN: Take one?
DARREN: Or you could take all of them, if you want.
ROBIN: This is nice.
DARREN: Yeah. You might need to shine them up a little bit.
DARREN: That ring might fit you. But I wanted you to have the other one because of the, you know—
ROBIN: The D?
ROBIN: The D for Darren?
DARREN: It’s one of those things with—
ROBIN: Whoa. So claiming me pretty quick here, huh? [laughter]
[voice-over] Darren is 38, short, romantic, not the type I’ve dated in the past.
I’ll just get it sized down.
DARREN: Yeah. Whatever. Try the other one on.
ROBIN: Uh-huh. This one?
DARREN: Yeah. Beautiful.
ROBIN: It’s going to look like a wedding ring. I’m really going to have explaining to do.
DARREN: Not if you wear it on that finger.
DARREN: I really love you.
ROBIN: Oh, it’s too damn early!
ROBIN: He’s so nice.
Lord of the Rings?
He’s a child protection worker and studied a little bit of law.
DARREN: Did you want this one then?
DARREN: Yeah. You know, wear the ring around your neck.
ROBIN: It fits, though.
DARREN: You know, I want you to wear my ring. I really like you.
ROBIN: I’ll have to get it sized down.
ROBIN: There you go.
DARREN: Actually, I love you. And you know—
DARREN: Huh? But you like them?
ROBIN: Uh-huh. Yeah. There you go.
DARREN: I’m glad.
DARREN: What’s this?
ROBIN: Great. Oh, you can wear that one.
DARREN: I can wear this one?
ROBIN: I want you to have that one.
DARREN: I feel a little overdressed now. [laughter] I love you, honey.
ROBIN: I’m so happy that you’re here.
ROBIN: But I have so much studying to do.
DARREN: Oh yeah, you have that sociology test, right?
ROBIN: Tomorrow. And I am in trouble in school.
DARREN: You look so beautiful.
One Month Later
ANNOUNCER: From NPR News, this is All Things Considered.
NEWS READER: In Fargo, North Dakota, rising flood waters broke a record that has stood for more than a century. The Red River is now a few inches above the 40-foot crest of 1897. FEMA’s acting administrator, Nancy Warden, was touring the area today and promised federal support to flood relief efforts. Authorities laid out dry areas of the city where people would be allowed to return.
ROBIN: We had to evacuate Fargo-Moorhead for five days. I didn’t have school because of the flooding and took my kids back to the reservation immediately.
A lot’s been going on in the past month. Darian has court coming up for the federal charges against her dad. I’m really, really scared about that for her. I don’t want her to regress from all of the progress she’s made since she came home.
My son Anthony, it hurts to see him suffer and to not be able to comfort him. Anthony has a hard time not being able to see his dad. He is sad and has a lot of anger built up inside of him.
ANTHONY: This stupid thing!
ROBIN: Last night, my son was angry again. He was looking for somebody to blame for that anger he carries with him, missing his dad. I told him, “Your dad touched your sister in a bad way.” She’d never lie about your dad like that. He looked at Darian, he told her, “So it’s your fault I can’t see my dad.”
Darian started crying. I said, “None of this is your sister’s fault. Your dad’s sick right now.” And he said, “Mom if I— what if I get sick like my dad? Are you going to lock me up and forget about me, too?” And I told him, “Anthony,” I said. “I’ve— I never forget about you.” He also said, “Well, you did when we weren’t here.” I told him that everything I did when they were gone was to get them back, to bring them home, and that every moment of every day they weren’t with me, I thought about them.
And he was still walking and he was still hollering at me, and he told me, “OK, Mom, well, if you want hear that it’s— it’s my dad’s fault, I’ll tell you that.”
ROBIN: Anthony, look at me.
ANTHONY: No. Shut up, Mom.
ROBIN: And we kept on walking—
ANTHONY: Leave me alone.
ROBIN: —without looking back.
That way. Anthony—
ROBIN: Look at me.
ANTHONY: Wet and soggy.
ANTHONY: Ha! Saved my life.
ROBIN: Ho-ah. You know what, son?
ROBIN: All of that anger that you feel, all of that confusion—
ROBIN: Come here, I’ll show you something. OK?
ROBIN: I want you to say, “It’s OK to be mad.”
ANTHONY: It’s OK to be mad.
ROBIN: [handing him a stone] I want you to grab it, I want you to throw it out there as far and as hard as you can!
ANTHONY: Hold these, please.
ROBIN: I want you to say, “I miss my dad.”
ANTHONY: I miss my dad. Sweet!
ROBIN: Now throw one way over there.
ANTHONY: Oh. OK.
ROBIN: “I love my dad.”
ANTHONY: I love my dad. This is cool!
ROBIN: Here. “I forgive my dad.”
ANTHONY: I forgive my dad. Oh! I love my mom.
ROBIN: OK. Ho-ah! That’s a big splash.
ANTHONY: I love my sister. Whoa!
ROBIN: How about you?
ANTHONY: I love myself.
ROBIN: Well, we better go.
ROBIN: OK. Let’s go.
ANTHONY: Uh-huh. Mom, when we get home, can you help me?
ANTHONY: With math and everything?
ROBIN: Of course.
JEREMY CARNEY, Robin’s Academic Advisor: Hello?
JEREMY CARNEY: Hey, Robin. How you doing?
ROBIN: Good. Good, good.
JEREMY CARNEY: Been a little bit.
ROBIN: Yeah. It’s been— yeah, I decided that I have to put school on hold—
JEREMY CARNEY: OK.
ROBIN: —and everything. Karen— I spoke with Karen and she said I could possibly salvage that class, which is amazing news.
JEREMY CARNEY: Uh-huh.
ROBIN: And I’m so grateful that she’s willing to do that for me.
JEREMY CARNEY: Yeah, I— you know, when I hadn’t seen you for awhile, I figured something might have happened.
JEREMY CARNEY: Well, I mean, there’s— are you OK? I mean, are you doing all right, or—
ROBIN: I’m— I’m good. I’m tired this morning.
JEREMY CARNEY: OK.
ROBIN: I had a hard night.
JEREMY CARNEY: Yeah.
ROBIN: With my son.
JEREMY CARNEY: OK. Like, you’re going to put school on hold for a little bit. How long are you thinking?
ROBIN: Two years, at the least. I can’t— I can’t do school because my kids need me too much.
JEREMY CARNEY: Uh-huh.
ROBIN: At home.
ROBIN: To help them through all of this, so—
JEREMY CARNEY: Well, let me— let me just say— and I know, you know, you obviously have a plan you’re putting in place here. And you have a vision of what you want to achieve, and from what I understand and from what I remember, Robin, part of that vision is finishing school—
JEREMY CARNEY: —so that you could take on a position and have the skills and knowledge to be able to really make some systemic changes—
JEREMY CARNEY: —on the reservation. And there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re going to continue to help people because that’s the kind of person you are.
[www.pbs.org: Watch on line]
ROBIN: Uh-huh. OK.
JEREMY CARNEY: And so don’t lose sight of that.
JEREMY CARNEY: OK?
JEREMY CARNEY: Well, I mean, I’m still your academic advisor—
JEREMY CARNEY: —so when anything comes up, you know, regarding academics, or you want to look at taking a course or getting back in full-time—
JEREMY CARNEY: —please, please, please stop in. Give me a call, shoot me an email, all right?
ROBIN: All right. That sounds good.
JEREMY CARNEY: OK.
JEREMY CARNEY: OK.
JEREMY CARNEY: Yeah.
My kids need me. With court coming up, I hope Darian gets through it OK. It’s a really, really hard time. She doesn’t— she has a good idea of what’s going to happen and— but there’s a big difference between what’s going to happen and the way we think about what’s going to happen and what really happens in that courtroom, you know?
How she’s going to react to seeing her dad after not seeing him for four months and tell a bunch of strangers, “You know what? My dad molested me”? You know, how’s she going to handle that, you know? It’s going to be hard. And all we can do is pray. Everything that’s going on with court and stuff is just— when we went and we visited the courtroom, Darian said about her dad, “This is what he has to go through, the consequences for decisions he made. And hopefully, he’ll learn not to mess with little girls.”
The FBI told me Darian and Jodie will testify on Monday. Wednesday, the trial will be over. And what really gets to me is Anthony’s at the reservation telling people, “Oh, that’s another Anthony Charboneau” because there is a lot of Anthony Charboneaus. My son is, like, the fourth. He’s the fourth, the fourth Anthony Charboneau.
KIM CARLSON, Spirit Lake Victims of Abuse Center: When there’s a federal trial for a sexual assault that happened on the reservation, there’s a stigma about it. In this case, Robin’s ex-husband Anthony’s family don’t want everyone to know what he did to both these girls. They’re saying that it— the trial is a custody battle and not about the sexual abuse of a minor. And they’re letting Robin take the blame for everything. They’re saying that Robin’s putting Darian up to it.
GARY DELORME, Federal Prosecutor: I knew that the defense was going to make the primary issue of the case about custody. It was going to be a custody issue from start to finish for them. And if they could convince a jury that Robin had put her child and the foster child up to disclosing the sexual abuse, they were going to be able to convince a jury that this was just one big custody battle hoax.
The primary counter to that was going to be Robin’s daughter explaining to the jury that she did not want to live with Robin. How could they believe that a child, the defendant’s own daughter, who takes the stand and says, “I would rather go live with dad— even today, I’d rather live with my dad, as long as he would stop touching me” — how could they believe that that child could be manipulated to lie? So this would show the custody issue was a non-issue.
ROBIN: Darian was scared to testify. She said, “Mom, I don’t think I can do this. Dad’s going to be there.”
How are you doing?
So I had Darian make us lunch—
DARIAN: Are you all right, Mom?
—while waiting for the FBI to bring us to court.
When we were waiting to testify that day, they had us in a little room—
How are you doing?
—just me and Darian by ourselves.
DARIAN: All right.
ROBIN: And Anthony’s family would put their head up to the glass door, which was frosted, and try to peek at us in there, try to intimidate us. I told the FBI because when I had to go testify, I didn’t want my daughter in that room by herself.
DARIAN: Oh, my God!
ROBIN: So they brought Darian to another room downstairs with the FBI agent.
GARY DELORME: When Robin’s daughter took the stand, we cleared out the courtroom. And the first few moments she was on the stand, she actually looked over at her father and smiled. And what went through my head at that moment was that I sure hope the jury doesn’t take that the wrong way.
You know, you’ve got a girl taking the stand, she’s talking about what her father did to her, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t still have feelings of care for her father. She gave that look, that smile of, “Hello, Dad.”
When it came to the portion of her testimony when she would actually talk about the abuse, she again got really quiet, extremely quiet, started crying. And it wasn’t a hysterical cry, it was a— just a steady cry. Her eyes got red, the tears were flowing, she had a hard time clearing her throat to talk.
And when she actually talked about what her father was doing, she looked over. And there was a pause in the trial, when she looked over at Anthony, and I took notice of that only because while I was looking at her, I could see the jury looking over at Anthony Charboneau. I, too, then looked, and Anthony was looking straight ahead. He wasn’t looking at his daughter.
She had these tears flowing from her eyes, she was saying what happened to her, she looks over at her father at that point, and he’s looking straight ahead. No emotion on his face, stone cold, just staring straight ahead.
I turned it over to the defense, and of course, the first thing they did was go back to two girls, delayed disclosures in each, no physical evidence, no injury to speak of, just a very difficult case to win. All of this just compounds on top of one another when you consider all of Robin’s issues in the background.
ROBIN: That’s my dad, Arlen. There is no way in hell I am going to face that man again. If I do, it’s not going to be good for him. I’m pissed off that he’s on the defense side.
GARY DELORME: When Arlen French testified, he indicated that eight months prior to trial, Robin’s daughter had told him that she made up these allegations against her father. On cross-examination, I brought out that Arlen never told anybody this, and suddenly, on the day of trial, he says, “She told me she lied.”
Later on, Arlen’s wife, Donna French, testified that Robin’s daughter had told her that she wished her mother hadn’t told her to make these allegations against her father. When Donna was questioned the week before, she didn’t know what Robin’s daughter meant by that statement, whether she was told to tell a lie or she was just concerned that Mom made her tell the law enforcement authorities the truth about what happened.
And when I pointed that out on cross-examination of Donna, it was clear on the stand that she was absolutely biased against Robin. She did not want Robin to have the children, and she believed that Anthony Charboneau was the best parent.
ROBIN: My ex-husband has a lot of support here. He’s got a big family. And Darian and Jodie have me. Darian, she broke down. She started crying. But you know what? She did testify that her dad molested her. And as far as I know, Darian did very well. But I am prepared for a not guilty verdict. I am prepared for another dirty custody battle, and I am prepared for my kids to go back to their dad.
The second day of the trial, I had no idea what was going to happen. The defense attorney, Anthony’s lawyer, he asked me if I was in treatment before for drug and alcohol abuse. And I told him, “Yes, I’m a recovering alcoholic, in and out of the psych wards dealing with my own skeletons of sexual abuse.”
Then he asked me, “When Jodie started talking about her abuse, weren’t you involved in a disputed custody battle?” I said yes. “Didn’t the custody battle, it start before the— Darian came out and told you about what her dad was doing?” I was, like, “No it didn’t.” I said, “The custody happened after my daughter came out and disclosed to me what happened.” And then the prosecuting attorney said there was no motive for Jodie to come out and say Anthony was molesting her five, six years ago.
GARY DELORME: When Robin’s foster daughter took the stand, my thoughts were she could make or break this case. My concerns were her not wanting to testify against the person she once loved. And she did really well. She stayed pretty consistent with everything that she had indicated to the FBI.
I was worried when the defense took over the cross-examination, maybe she buckles, says nothing really happened. But the more they tried to get her to buckle, she became that much stronger. She actually spoke up a little bit more. A little bit of the child-like features kind of fell away. Not completely, but it fell away enough to where the jury was seeing that this girl wasn’t going to be bullied by a strong-arm approach. So the defense ended their cross-examination.
When we began the closing arguments, I turned it over to the defense, and of course, the first thing they did was go back to the lies, the manipulations all centering around Robin. And they lost credibility with the jury. Once they finished, I did my rebuttal. I pointed out all the similarities between Robin’s daughter and the foster child.
There were many. The age— they were both around 13 years of age when the assaults took place, the manner in which he touched them, with the exception that the foster child testified that she had been penetrated by Anthony. The manner in which he worked up to it was similar, his approach to them in telling them not to tell anyone. With the foster child, he tells her “Don’t tell anyone” after the incident is ended.
With his own daughter, who at the time when he commits this crime— and she’s in tears and she’s crying— he tells her, “Wipe your tears away and calm down before you leave the room so that your stepmother doesn’t start wondering what we’re doing in here, doesn’t see what happened, doesn’t start asking any questions.”
I wanted to paint all of that for the jury, which I did. And when I was finished, the jury appeared to be very receptive. And I took my seat as the jury was allowed to leave, and then we silently walked out of the room.
[Anthony Charboneau's attorney declined an interview with the producer]
ROBIN: When we left the courthouse, there was no verdict. I don’t even know what to hope for. Whatever the verdict is, I think of my kids and how they’re going to be affected by it. My ex-husband is a sweet-talking, manipulative man. I’m pissed off at him for putting my daughter up on stand in front of all these people, letting Jodie believe that he was in love with her. He put that on those two little girls.
GARY DELORME: The jury deliberated for four hours. After that, the clerk read their verdict. It was a conviction on both counts. Anthony Charboneau and his family were in a shocked-like state when that verdict is read. And suddenly, somebody, inevitably, starts crying. Later on, the final act in this whole production was to have somebody go over and tell Robin and her daughter their verdict.
ROBIN: They told us we have two counts of guilty for sexual abuse of a minor. Anthony could get up to 13 months for one count and three years for another, three years for Jodie because it was worse than the touching he did to Darian.
JODIE BLACKBOY, Robin’s Foster Daughter: Oh, my gosh! Do you have that?
JODIE BLACKBOY: That’s, like, years.
ROBIN: This is the first time Darian and Jodie have been together since Jodie was a foster kid.
JODIE BLACKBOY: Oh, my gosh! I remember these!
JODIE BLACKBOY: These got some years on them.
DARIAN: Yeah, that, I don’t know what got on them.
JODIE BLACKBOY: Where’d you get them? Or where— how long— why’d you keep them?
DARIAN: I don’t know. Because they were yours.
JODIE BLACKBOY: Oh, and these ones!
DARIAN: And your moon ones.
JODIE BLACKBOY: And the moon ones. Oh, I remember these! They look fabulous.
JODIE BLACKBOY: Let me see. Oh! [laughter]
DARIAN: Are you leaving soon?
JODIE BLACKBOY: Yeah. Are we going to your concert?
ROBIN: I’m so glad Anthony was found guilty. But you know what? Custody of my kids is another issue. Anthony and I still have joint legal custody, so I have to go back to the judge on the reservation and tell her I want sole custody.
JODIE BLACKBOY: I want to hear you play your trumpet.
JODIE BLACKBOY: I want to hear you play Kumbaya.
DARIAN: Kumbaya. [laughter]
DARREN: [singing] I don’t even know her name.
ROBIN: Too close!
ROBIN: That was too close! You can’t pitch!
DARREN: Whoa! That’s the furthest one yet. OK. Are you ready?
ROBIN: I’m going to hit you right in the head.
ROBIN: Catch one. If you can.
DARREN: Oh! Oh! That went straight out of here.
ROBIN: Jump, baby, jump! You were supposed to catch that one. Take whatever you got. [laughter]
When I first told the kids that Darren and I were getting married, Darian was so upset, she cried.
DARREN: You sure you can handle that?
ROBIN: The kids, they’re still transitioning from their dad. They’re still worried about, “Is Mom going to take off and drink with this guy? Is she going to go off and party with him?”
DARREN: Whoa! Let’s take a break.
ROBIN: Maybe she’s going to come home and I’m going to see black and blue eyes on her face, because that’s what my kids seen before.
DARREN: Feisty all the time!
ROBIN: But I think the kids will be fine with Darren—
DARREN: You’re going to be all right.
ROBIN: —because he’s an affectionate man. He’s an amazing man.
DARREN: You’re going to be fine. I’ll take care of you.
ROBIN: You can’t even take care of yourself!
DARREN: I can!
ROBIN: You cannot. [laughter] I’m teaching you how.
DARREN: Oh, yeah.
ROBIN: You’ll be OK when you grow up.
DARREN: Catch this ball.
ROBIN: Turning you into the man you always wanted to be!
I love him very, very much. And I plan on getting married.
Let’s go! I’m thirsty.
We just got to make sure we know each other before we say “I do.”
Let’s go before I hurt you.
DARREN: You want me to crack your back?
ROBIN: Want me to crack your ass?
DARREN: Oh! [laughter] Do you want me to crack your back?
ROBIN: Knock it off!
ROBIN: I’m scared until my ex-husband Anthony is sentenced. I know what he is capable of. I’ve had his hands around my neck, choking me, telling me how everyone’s life would be better off if I was dead. I’m not going to stick around here. Anthony knows where I live, so we’re going to move five hours away to International Falls, closer to Darren’s reservation in Canada.
Well, we made it to International Falls with all of our stuff. Moving to the Falls, I’ve gotten away from money that I owe for a vehicle loan and medical bills for the kids. I’ve kept a low profile here, so nobody got my number. And the other thing is that I got a job here in the Falls. I’m a supervised visit coordinator for the Friends Against Abuse.
CASEWORKER: [on the phone] Good afternoon, Friends Against Abuse.
ROBIN: Everything I’ve gone through—
CASEWORKER: Where’s your husband right now?
ROBIN: —I’ve brought with me to this job.
CASEWORKER: Do you have any family here? Can you go there?
ROBIN: One of the things that I like about my position is helping dysfunctional families when visiting their children.
CASEWORKER: Good. And everything seems to be fine?
ROBIN: And that’s what my kids want right now is to visit and see their dad. So my job here is listening in on the phone calls and supervising the visits.
It’s nice to be in here. Hey, LeeAnn.
LEEANN MEER, Director, Friends Against Abuse: Hi, Robin. How are you today?
LEEANN MEER: Good. See you got your new schedule.
LEEANN MEER: We are filling up with the visits and I wanted to check with you on a couple times. Are you available on a Saturday?
LEEANN MEER: 3:00 to 5:00. It won’t be every weekend, but that is the time when the family needs the help.
LEEANN MEER: OK? We’re going to plug you in then on the 11th.
LEEANN MEER: And then I might have you help with Mary picking up a couple more because the hours are being used up.
LEEANN MEER: So I wanted to do an evening on Saturday or—
ROBIN: My job here is part-time.
That’ll work fine.
Ten hours a week. Not enough money to cover the rent, but I like the job.
LEEANN MEER: —finalize those.
LEEANN MEER: And I wanted to comment to you also, the documentation—
LEEANN MEER: Great job on that. I got that over to the county, and things— that’s working really well.
ROBIN: All right!
LEEANN MEER: And the forms— how are you working— are those—
ROBIN: Those I’m still working on. I did the— the corrections on the typos, but I was going to do up the— the child refusal form—
LEEANN MEER: Good.
ROBIN: When I applied for this job, my boss LeeAnn asked me, “Do you have professional training?” I said, “I lived in a foster home. I was battered. I struggled with the judicial system. I’m a professional at this.”
LEEANN MEER: So let’s go ahead and get those. And I know Mary’s looking at them, as well. We’ll finalize those—
LEEANN MEER: —get those in the forms, and then we’re— we’re good to go, OK?
ROBIN: All right.
LEEANN MEER: Great.
ROBIN: Sounds good.
LEEANN MEER: OK. Thanks, Robin.
ANTHONY: Darian! Hurry up! Darian!
ROBIN: Darian, she hasn’t made any girlfriends here. She’s out hanging with the boys that are older. So that gets me worried. Is there something going on here? It’s like, “Stay away from my daughter! And my son. What are you guys going to try to teach him?”
Fireworks at 10:00 tonight.
ANTHONY: Mom, we can stay there a couple hours, right?
ANTHONY: Like two or three hours?
ROBIN: Yeah. Anthony, I need to talk to your sister for a few minutes, so you need to leave.
ROBIN: She’s in trouble.
ANTHONY: She is?
DARIAN: Just go!
ANTHONY: OK. Good.
DARIAN: Hurry up, or I’m going to smash you down the stairs.
ROBIN: Go hang with your friends.
ANTHONY: What if they’re gone?
ROBIN: Go. We need to talk about your personal boundaries.
DARIAN: Mom, it can wait.
ROBIN: It can’t wait. Well, let’s just—
DARIAN: No, I don’t want to!
ROBIN: Get it out of the way. Well, you’re 13, and you’re starting to become a woman.
ROBIN: And you know what?
ROBIN: All those things— all those things that you think about, all those little interests that you have, those are all OK. But your personal space is yours. Nobody should be touching you in them, your private parts. Nobody should be— be kissing you on the lips, OK? You can kiss them on the cheek, a quick peck, hugging. A nice quick hug is OK.
Holding onto them, that just puts you at risk again, OK, because you’re getting boobs now and your body’s starting to change, my girl. So we don’t want— you just got to watch where you put your stuff, OK? I don’t even know how to— this is really hard to talk to you about.
You know, everybody wants to be loved and hugged and kissed and held and stuff, and that’s OK. Everybody does. But there are certain ways that we can show our affection for people, and there are certain ways that we can’t. It’s hard growing up. You OK?
DARIAN: [crying] Uh-huh.
ROBIN: And I just don’t want you to get hurt no more, that’s all, Darian. Because you know what, Darian? That happens so much with kids that have had that happen to them. You know what? Because once those boundaries are broken, it confuses us up in here. We don’t know what’s— where to stop, OK?
[reading] “My ex-husband, Anthony Charboneau, often discussed with our daughter Darian things about my sexual relations with other men. I realize now, your honor, the grooming he was doing to her. Darian has been in counseling as a result of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her dad. In the past year since she told me of the abuse, she had to transfer schools four times, move four times. This has caused her and my son a lot of emotional pain.”
I realized in writing the victim impact statement, nobody has ever been a father figure to my kids other than their dad. I think what he did with Jodie triggered in me the insecurity of what if it happens again? What if Darian is molested again? So when Darian said to me, “Mom, I’m building a relationship with Darren,” that triggered in me, “What if Darian is molested by Darren?”
DARIAN: Oh, the water’s cold! Darren?
DARREN: Oh. It’s cold!
DARIAN: Are you OK?
DARREN: This is cold, eh?
DARIAN: Hi, Darren.
DARREN: It’s not bad.
DARIAN: Did you fall in again trying to catch minnows?
DARREN: Uh-huh. I don’t know what kind. Woo-hoo! Hey, honey! Look it! Darian, look at me!
DARIAN: Oh, my God! [laughter]
ROBIN: Darren is just ridiculous, swinging his hair around and flexing his pecs. He too sexy for himself.
DARIAN: Knock it off!
ROBIN: Darren has not done anything at all to make me think that he would do anything to Darian.
DARREN: Darian, you bring the shampoo?
ROBIN: It’s just the aftermath of having your child abused. But at the same time, I have to recognize anything’s possible.
DARREN: We should hit the road now.
DARREN: If Immigration gives you any trouble about the kids not having any passports, just tell them they’re going to camp in Canada.
DARREN: I just want you guys to be happy being up there.
ROBIN: My kids’ll like it.
DARREN: Uh-huh. I know it’ll be a bit of a ride, but you know, having you closer to me, it’s just—
ROBIN: We can make the other room into a bedroom.
ROBIN: Take the—
DARREN: And it’s only an hour away, so—
DARREN: That’s a big plus for us. You know, I want you guys to be happy there.
DARREN: Might be selfish of me, but I need you there.
DARREN: You know, I— I love you.
ROBIN: I love you.
DARREN: Everything’s going to be fine once we cross the border and get to Canada.
ROBIN: Oh, God, I hope so!
DARREN: We just need to fix up my dad’s old house.
DARREN: I got to go to work.
ROBIN: I’ll tell the kids that we’re going to Canada now.
You two are going to have to stay alone.
ROBIN: Darren’s going to meet me at the border to give me money to pay the bills.
ANTHONY: Mom, I’m going to stay here, play with my friends.
ROBIN: All right. We’re going to be moving to Seine River in a couple weeks.
ROBIN: And when we move to Canada, we have to work on Darren’s house.
ROBIN: And we’re going to have more responsibilities. Chores. I have to teach you guys new boundaries. And we need a code word as to when somebody’s around you and you feel uncomfortable—
ROBIN: —and you don’t want them around you or if you don’t like the way they’re looking at you. When you guys get that uncomfortable feeling, we need to come up with a code word that’s going to tell me, “Hey, get over here, I don’t feel safe.” OK? And that word is not to be used as a joke.
ANTHONY: Can it be a sentence or just a word?
ROBIN: Just a word.
DARIAN: Red hand!
ROBIN: Red hand?
ANTHONY: Yeah, red hand.
ROBIN: Red hand?
ANTHONY: Mom, I don’t want to go to Canada.
DARIAN: There’s nothing to do there.
ROBIN: You’ll hurt Darren’s feelings—
ROBIN: —saying things like that.
DARIAN: Look, there’s Canada!
ANTHONY: I’d rather die right here.
DARIAN: Why would you want to die right here?
ANTHONY: Because then I wouldn’t be living in Canada.
DARIAN: So if you got to choose, Fort Francis or Seine River, which one?
DARIAN: Fort Francis.
ANTHONY: Yeah. Closer to International Falls.
DARIAN: Yeah. Closer to Canada. Or the United States. Closer to get out of Canada.
DARIAN: I don’t like their school in Seine River.
ANTHONY: Yeah, I want to go to school here. That way, you could go all the way down to North Dakota and you could watch a baseball game.
DARIAN: Minnesota Twins. Canada has hockey.
DARIAN: And it’s football in North Dakota, too.
DARIAN: Want to pick some flowers for Mom?
ANTHONY: Yeah, sure.
ROBIN: Darren’s reservation is the Seine River First Nation. It’s so isolated. There’s only one road in and one road out. It’s a really, really small reservation, with about 600 enrolled members. Darren’s house is in pretty rough shape. The floor is rotted out, the pipes busted. And the water heater is no good. It just needs a lot of work.
ANTHONY: I hate Canada.
DARIAN: It’s boring.
ANTHONY: Like you, I know.
DARIAN: I’m not boring!
ANTHONY: You are, too! You sit in your bed all the time!
ROBIN: Darian! Get off of him now!
ANTHONY: Darian can’t find me! Oh, gosh, you got a bony butt!
DARIAN: Shut up.
DARREN: You know there’s a board sticking out there. I took a break. I was going to clean this up, but you have that board sticking out there. Pissed off at myself for not getting the angle right.
ROBIN: Darian, don’t go over there.
ROBIN: Because I don’t want you falling through.
DARREN: Darian, this is how you do this. I need to finish what we knocked down so I can nail the rest against the wall.
DARREN: So there’s no big gaps.
ROBIN: You need a new door, a new toilet.
DARREN: I can do it!
ROBIN: Darren is not a handyman, at all.
I go to work on Monday.
He didn’t even know if the water heater was working or not.
I don’t know what we’re going to do.
I know about fixing houses. I’ve helped my ex-husband do it a lot.
That water’s coming from there.
ROBIN: From the window.
ROBIN: I don’t know.
ROBIN: It was coming from there.
DARREN: You know there’s a board sticking out there.
ROBIN: It’s going to take some time to get through it.
DARREN: Yeah. Yeah.
ROBIN: Darian, it’s going to be two bedrooms.
DARIAN: I know, but—
ROBIN: One for you and one for Anthony.
DARIAN: I hate this!
ROBIN: Darren can help you hang that drywall up.
DARIAN: Oh, this is hard! I don’t—
ROBIN: I don’t know if we can get that drywall up.
DARIAN: We can put— I can put—
ROBIN: Does it have to be done right now?
DARIAN: No, but—
ROBIN: We can wait until Darren comes.
DARIAN: I’m sick of Canada!
ROBIN: So wave your magic wand and make this all just nice and clean.
DARIAN: Ugh! Whatever!
ROBIN: So you like the blankets?
ROBIN: Is that the colors you want on your room? Huh?
ANTHONY: Yeah. Red, white and blue.
ROBIN: Yeah. Black?
ANTHONY: Uh-uh. I want red, white and blue.
ROBIN: Red, white and blue?
ANTHONY: To remind me of America.
ROBIN: It reminds you of what?
ANTHONY: Since I’m not going to go back there, pretty much.
ANTHONY: Are we going to go to that meeting?
ROBIN: No. Would be nice, but we can’t afford it. Just costs too much money.
ANTHONY: We should’ve just saved that 30 bucks.
ANTHONY: We should’ve just bought a little bit of groceries and came back.
ROBIN: I need to save money on gas.
ANTHONY: How are you guys going to buy stuff if you guys don’t have any money?
ROBIN: We have enough to get what we need.
We left International Falls because the hours I was getting at work wasn’t enough to cover rent.
ANTHONY: You see that?
ROBIN: Darren was pressuring me, “You should move to Canada now. We have my dad’s house. We won’t have to worry about rent.”
ANTHONY: Mom, I think I should let Darren do this.
ROBIN: So I just went ahead and did it, despite insecurities that I seen with Darren because, I love him and I really want us to work.
ROBIN: Darren? You catch, fish honey, I’m going to eat it.
DARREN: Yay! OK. Woo-hoo! Hey, honey?
DARREN: I caught a baby bass!
ROBIN: You caught a baby?
DARREN: I caught a baby bass!
ROBIN: Bring it! I want to see what it looks like.
DARREN: He’s on there pretty good, too.
ROBIN: I want to see it!
DARREN: Want me to bring him?
ROBIN: Yeah! I want to see it!
DARREN: [laughs] You want him?
DARREN: I’m bringing him to you!
ROBIN: Darren goes to work every day on his reservation.
ANTHONY: Darren caught the biggest fish!
ROBIN: Darren is a child protection worker.
DARREN: Here, honey. It’s for you.
ROBIN: He has a four-year degree and doesn’t get paid what he feels he’s worth. He doesn’t get that, “Darren, you’re doing such a good job!” Here I am with a two-year degree, a woman, barely three months at Friends Against Abuse, making as much money as Darren. And they’re telling me, “Robin, we’re so glad you’re here.”
Everything was going good, and then I got offered more money at work because they were going to increase my hours. Darren said, “I thought you were going to get a work permit so you could work here in child protection as a secretary or— we have that secretary position open,” which pays, I don’t— which pays what, $8 an hour? You know what? We need my job. I have a stable, good job that I’m happy at, and you want me to give that up?
DARREN: I don’t know. It just didn’t go the way I had wanted. I wanted it one way, but Robin is going to do what she’s going to do. You know, I’ve gone through, you know, a few relationships where it didn’t end all that well, and you know, I’m kind of haunted by stuff. And you know, it’s just— it’s just hard. Hard. I didn’t— you know, I ask myself sometimes, like, you know, what I’m doing.
You know, like, holy— you know, last year, I was a single guy and I’d get up and do whatever I want, whenever I want, you know? And to be in such a complex thing as this, where you got to— you got to be there, you got to provide, and you know— it’s just a tough thing, you know? And you know, I try to— try to angle stuff in my— my own way, and you know, it’s not always agreeable with Robin. I know that, you know?
ROBIN: That wasn’t the response I was expecting. You know what? We need this money. If I go full-time, I could get medical for me and my kids. Right now, we don’t have anything. And he’s, like, “Well, if you think you can commute back and forth every day, that’s fine. I couldn’t do it.” And I just blew up at him. “Well, you know what? You’re not me.”
Helping other women, helping other children, helping anybody in any way that I can has always been my dream. Right now, I have to cross the border every day to go to work. I have to leave Darian and her brother behind because the border patrol is just getting too suspicious as to the kids. “Do you have custody of the kids? Is their dad approving the kids going across?” I just let them know that, “Hey, the kids are at camp all summer. Their dad is incarcerated right now.”
I’m waiting on the tribal court to grant me sole custody so I can get passports. So I’m scared that I’m going to get busted for kidnapping.
CASEWORKER: [on the phone] Friends Against Abuse, how can I help you? Hi. Get off the phone right now. I want you to call your mom and make sure that everything’s OK. Then call me right back, OK?
CASEWORKER: Hey, Robin.
ROBIN: How are you?
DARIAN: I’m sick of Canada.
ELIZABETH, Darian’s Friend: Yeah.
DARIAN: It’s so, so boring. Have you ever played on a sports team?
DARIAN: Are you good at it?
ELIZABETH: Kind of.
DARIAN: So is 8th and 7th grade together, or is it just 8th grade and then 7th grade?
ELIZABETH: Yeah. It’s both.
DARIAN: They’re both together?
DARIAN: So then I’ll join in with you.
DARIAN: Do you have, like, A, B and C teams? Well, actually, it’s mostly A, B teams.
DARIAN: You don’t?
DARIAN: Is there girls’ softball?
ELIZABETH: I don’t know.
ELIZABETH: It’s just all together.
DARIAN: Is it?
ELIZABETH: Yeah, so you’ll be getting on the bus over here.
DARIAN: Yeah, if our house is actually ready by then.
ANTHONY & FRIENDS: One, two, three, Geronimo!
ANTHONY: Don’t tear my arm off!
WILLIAM, Anthony’s Friend: I’ll hold you like a baby.
ANTHONY: What grade are you going to be in?
WILLIAM: I’m going to be in grade 9. I just finished grade 8 this year. So what school are you going to next year?
ANTHONY: Mine Centre.
WILLIAM: You’ll be in the same class with Brandon.
ANTHONY: Where’s high school at?
WILLIAM: Yeah, it’s in Fort Francis.
WILLIAM: High school. There’s a lot of kids there. That’s where I’m going.
ANTHONY: So they got to come all the way over here, the bus?
WILLIAM: Yeah. I know your teacher for next year, too, Ms. McLain.
WILLIAM: Ms. McLain is bossy, though. Do you think schools are going to be the same in Canada as in the U.S.?
ANTHONY: No. In Canada, you don’t have to learn miles. You have to learn kilometers.
WILLIAM: That’s true, kilometers and miles.
ANTHONY: I’m done. I got to go home now.
WILLIAM: OK. I’ll just go home. I’ll meet you at your house.
ANTHONY: OK. Come on. Hey, I’ll race you guys!
ROBIN: The thing with Darren is that he’s very jealous. All of those questions— “Who’s over there?” “Who’d you meet?” I know it’s not anything I’ve done. It’s just his insecurity issues from his past relationship. Our relationship will be good for, like, two weeks. We’re just all in love, and then, all of a sudden, something will trigger his jealousy.
DARREN: You know, I got my kicked-out bag all ready, just waiting for her to come home and say, you know, “I’m with someone else now. You got to go.”
ROBIN: This time he came at me with, “Did you meet somebody else?” And I’m just, like, “I’m not doing anything wrong.” I don’t talk to anybody else but who I work with. And with me going to International Falls, that was his biggest fear, you know, of— was losing me to another man, you know, and it still is. It’s still his biggest fear.
And I just keep trying to tell him, you know, “There is no other man, Darren. You are everything to me. You’re everything to my kids, you know? I love you.” But he gets so defensive sometimes that it’s, “Well, I don’t know what you’re doing, I don’t know who’s around that corner.” You know? And I’m, like— I get put on my defenses right away, you know, when he starts questioning me about who’s this and who’s that. And you know, I’m, like, “There is no who’s this or who’s that. It’s you.”
DARREN: Well, I try. It’s just a hard thing to deal with when you’re outright rejected. I’m hurt and I’m mad, you know? I’m trying to bring it out a little more because holding it in, it makes me sick.
ROBIN: I want to feed that eagle.
DARIAN: Anthony, that’s mine!
ANTHONY: Mom said I could cast!
DARIAN: No, he broke his!
ANTHONY: I did not break it!
DARIAN: No, he broke his!
ROBIN: Anthony, let her fish first.
DARIAN: Use that one.
ANTHONY: That one I don’t even know how to set up!
ROBIN: Anthony’s rod is broken. You need to share.
DARIAN: I don’t want to fish.
ROBIN: Well, then why don’t you let him use yours?
DARIAN: Because he breaks his. Stupid, ugly, no good, rotten Indian! That’s the kind you don’t want to be social with. Go ahead, let him fish. But if he breaks it, he’s buying me a new one.
ROBIN: Anthony, here! She said you can!
ANTHONY: Why don’t you make up your mind, Mom?
ROBIN: You can use it for five minutes, then she can.
ANTHONY: Shut up and leave me alone! Five minutes, Mom, that’s only enough for one cast!
ROBIN: Darian, Darren’s catching fish over there! You better hurry up!
ANTHONY: Mom, you don’t ever care!
ROBIN: OK, 10 minutes each. Anthony, it’s either that or nothing.
ANTHONY: Big, fat bitch!
ROBIN: Darren caught a fish in not even five minutes.
ROBIN: So you could catch two in 10 minutes.
ANTHONY: Shut up!
DARIAN: That little nerd. Mom!
ROBIN: She caught a fish! Woo-hoo!
DARREN: I think it’s a little baby!
DARIAN: Take it off. I want it. I want to feed it to the eagles.
ROBIN: How do you get it off?
DARIAN: It looks like a perch.
ANTHONY: Now it’s my turn?
DARIAN: Or a baby walleye.
ANTHONY: I said, Darian, now it’s my turn?
ANTHONY: You don’t know how to fish. Let the master teach you how.
ROBIN: When we moved to Canada, one of the things we didn’t deal with right away was school for the kids.
You can propose to me again, if you want.
ROBIN: For Darian and Anthony to go to school in Canada, they needed a school permit, and we didn’t have that.
Ten minutes each!
Darren found out that his tribe would not pay for my two kids to go to school because they’re not from his reservation.
ANTHONY: My ten minutes is up, Dar.
ROBIN: School here would’ve cost $25,000) while an hour away in the U.S., they can get school for free.
DARREN: You know I— I was willing to do what I could, you know, so they can stay here until February at least, until we can renew the visitor record and whatnot. But just didn’t sound— you know, just didn’t sound like they wanted to be here anymore, on— on the reserve or anywhere in Canada. So we just kind of had to— I just kind of had to let it go.
I stopped pursuing it after, you know, it was just kind of made clear to me that, you know, Robin’s going to do what she’s going to do. So Robin’s moving back to the Falls. You know, I will miss her a lot. And as far as the kids go, it’s going to be hard to be there without a TV going and all their movement inside the house.
LEEANN MEER, Director, Friends Against Abuse: Hi, Robin. How are you doing?
ROBIN: It’s just— it’s not good.
LEEANN MEER: Oh.
ROBIN: When I left Moorhead, I had an outstanding debt that I have to take care of over there first before I can get an apartment. So I have to deal with that first.
LEEANN MEER: OK. Is that a large debt, Robin?
ROBIN: I don’t even know.
LEEANN MEER: Yeah. Well, we can help you work through that.
LEEANN MEER: And you know, we do have the resources in town to at least get you in touch with the people that could help with that.
LEEANN MEER: Because we— we are very happy with you here. We do want to keep you.
ROBIN: Well, yeah, one of the things was that we were— you had mentioned, you know, that you could possibly do— it went up from the 10 hours to 30, up to full-time, 40 hours a week.
LEEANN MEER: I can see that increasing.
LEEANN MEER: In fact, in the grant I put in, I did put you up more hours, and you know, to where there would even be a little benefit package that kicks in.
ROBIN: I’m really happy with it.
LEEANN MEER: Yes.
ROBIN: I went home that night and I told Darren, “You know what? I— these— these people are happy with— with me.”
LEEANN MEER: Oh, yes.
ROBIN: And my hours have increased. And that— that set off— well, he just came out, “Well, maybe you should move to the Falls if you want to make your life over there.” And I ended up blowing up.
LEEANN MEER: Has it settled down? Are you able to—
ROBIN: It has settled down.
LEEANN MEER: OK, OK.
ROBIN: Whatever happens between us, it’s going to happen.
LEEANN MEER: I’m concerned for you and your kids. And you need to just— what can we do here? We will support you.
ROBIN: I just told him, “Well, you know what? If I go full-time, I could get medical for my kids.” I said, “We need the money.” There’s not very much places in Seine River, a population of 600, to work.
LEEANN MEER: Yeah.
ROBIN: And I don’t know what it is for here, but I know back home, if you’re not a tribal— enrolled tribal member, you don’t get nothing.
LEEANN MEER: Yeah. You know, we’ll support you as best we can. We’re glad you’re here.
LEEANN MEER: We want to keep you here.
ROBIN: And that would be nice to just have in case, you know—
LEEANN MEER: Yeah.
ROBIN: —Darren and I do fall.
LEEANN MEER: Uh-huh.
ROBIN: I need to move back—
LEEANN MEER: Good.
ROBIN: —before Darian and Anthony start school.
LEEANN MEER: Well, good. We can look into that. We’ll do what we can.
ROBIN: Great. Thank you for everything.
[voice-over] In August, we moved back to the Falls. I finally registered the kids to start school. Darian’s playing the trumpet in the homecoming parade. I am so proud of her. She’s got black under her eyes for the football game tonight. She looks like she’s about 15. She should stay looking 12.
Anthony, two blocks that way.
ROBIN: Two blocks that way!
ANTHONY: Oh, yeah.
ROBIN: Let’s get it home.
ANTHONY: Get that way, so I can get my hands under here.
ROBIN: Open that door!
DARIAN: I got it. I got it! This is heavy!
ROBIN: My apartment is an old, old duplex. It’s close to their schools, so the kids can walk.
ANTHONY: Darian, I need your help!
ROBIN: It’s got plenty of room, a basement. It’s really going to take fixing up.
DARIAN: Mom, let’s go.
ROBIN: My boss helped me get on housing, which will cover most of my rent.
ANTHONY: Mom can’t do nothing.
DARIAN: Do it this way, Anthony.
ROBIN: I’m only working 20 hours a week because LeeAnn’s grant got denied.
ANTHONY: I’m a black-footed Indian.
ROBIN: So, I’m not getting a raise in pay.
I don’t know how we’re going to get our stuff back from Canada.
ANTHONY: I’m strong enough to do it.
ROBIN: Well, thanks, guys, for helping.
ANTHONY: That was fun. I think I’m allergic to Darian. [laughter]
ROBIN: I don’t know if Darren’s going to come tomorrow or not.
ANTHONY: He better bring my bike.
ROBIN: I don’t think he will.
ROBIN: And I don’t think he’ll bring your bike.
DARIAN: Are you fighting?
ANTHONY: Did Darren leave for good this time?
ROBIN: Anthony, that’s enough.
ROBIN: Lay down now, go to sleep.
ANTHONY: Mom, I love you.
DARIAN: Mom, good night.
ROBIN: I have to keep going. I need to do what I have to do. What I do with the kids is chores. I see they got the chore list done— dishes, sweep floor, garbage, laundry, cook supper, vacuum, living room, rooms, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, basement. Rooms our own. So we put that on the calendar and mark off if we’ve done it.
And my son works really, really good with structure. I don’t know if it’s just kids with ADHD, but once I tell him, “Anthony, brush your hair, grab your backpack, and go off to school,” he’ll do that. But he’ll have to see a visual list.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Good morning. Can I have your attention, please? Today, Wednesday, October 7th lunch menu— Italian dunkers, peas, coleslaw and milk. Thank you.
ANTHONY’S TEACHER: Dylan, get your math out. Come on, get your math out, Derrick. You really shouldn’t be in here if you can’t get your work done. Hey, Anthony? You’re going to get your math out and work on math, right?
TEACHER: What did you say?
BOY: Do we have to, like, 90 into 81?
TEACHER: Well, 90 does not divide into 81. It’s too high. All right. All right, Jordan?
JORDAN: Like, 43 plus 7 , it’ll be 4, then they add 1 for 5.
TEACHER: That’s good. What are you looking for, Anthony?
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
TEACHER: So do you need some help with this, too? Or do you understand what’s going on?
ANTHONY: I need help.
TEACHER: Why don’t we take 75 times 9 and see what you get.
ANTHONY: That’s 45, 7, 63.
TEACHER: Plus 4.
ANTHONY: Ah, 67.
TEACHER: Yeah. Is that going to work? Can you subtract 675 from 743?
ANTHONY: Nope. Yeah.
TEACHER: Yes, you can. So put a 9 up here first where the X is.
ROBIN: Anthony is up and down in school.
TEACHER: Now, underneath that, you’re going to write—
ROBIN: Sometimes he’ll struggle. Sometimes he won’t.
TEACHER: You can’t take 5 from 3, so you have to borrow here.
ROBIN: And sometimes I’ll get disciplinary notices.
ANTHONY: It’s 13.
TEACHER: There, you got that one done now. How many— how many did he assign for you?
ANTHONY: Just do 15.
TEACHER: To 14?
ROBIN: With everything else going on, I’m having a hard time concentrating on Anthony.
TEACHER: So again, write them down here. Don’t put them on the side so that you can keep them right next to each other. Good. OK, all right. Everybody that’s in Tier 2 reading needs to go.
DARIAN: Anthony, knock it off! You’re embarrassing. You’re an embarrassment. Anthony! I mean it! I’m going to punch you in the face.
ANTHONY: If you do, give me my sweater back. Go!
DARIAN: You know what, kid? You want your sweater back?
ANTHONY: No, I don’t!
DARIAN: You want your sweater back?
ANTHONY: No, I don’t.
DARIAN: Sweater back. There’s your sweater. Now, let’s go.
ANTHONY: Yay, Mr. Sweater! Mr. Sweater!
DARIAN: Mom, I’m home!
ANTHONY: Mom, I’m home!
ROBIN: How was school?
ANTHONY: Me and Darian got in an argument.
ANTHONY: Because I was trying to be funny, and then she says, “Knock it off! I hate you.”
DARIAN: Go sit down!
ANTHONY: Dang it! For how long?
DARIAN: God, I hate kids!
ROBIN: Oh my, God.
DARIAN: I think I’m allergic to dummies. That’s what he was doing. That’s how we got into a fight.
ROBIN: I have a headache. Do you have homework, Anthony?
ANTHONY: Nope. I got the first 5 done in a half an hour, 25 minutes.
ROBIN: Well, how about the rest of the assignment, because apparently—
ANTHONY: I only got one more question to go because I couldn’t finish it. I don’t know, actually. I don’t know. I forgot. Mom, I’m sorry I forgot it.
ROBIN: Well, I’m calling the teacher tomorrow then to find out if you got it done.
ROBIN: And I’m going to start talking to that teacher every day, if I have to, in order to make sure you’re finishing these assignments.
ANTHONY: Yeah. I try to get them done right away, but I can’t really. It’s getting harder and harder and harder imagining 7th grade.
ANTHONY: I might be— I might even flunk 6th grade.
ROBIN: You need to stay on top of it, son. You need to work really, really hard.
ANTHONY: And this is just the beginning of the year. Imagine how it’s going to be at the end.
ROBIN: Well, if you keep on—
ANTHONY: Are these done?
ROBIN: Yeah. If you keep on doing it and you keep on working it, it will be fine.
DARIAN: My progress report from civics and math. Math I have a B. Civics I have a C. I failed my test. So I’m going to get extra credit.
DARIAN: Tomorrow in the morning, I’m going to get there early. I’ll get 6 to 8 points for being there.
ROBIN: Then you can get on the honor roll.
DARIAN: Yeah. I could bring extra work there. So yeah.
ROBIN: Do you know what these are for?
ANTHONY: Yeah, for the walk.
ROBIN: You know what— you know what this walk is about?
DARIAN: Domestic violence.
ANTHONY: Yeah, domestic violence.
ROBIN: What’s domestic violence?
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
DARIAN: It’s verbal, physical—
ANTHONY: It’s really bad. No, I know, it goes— fist fights.
ROBIN: Yeah. Go get ready. Darren is going to be here.
ANTHONY: Yeah, for the walk.
ROBIN: To put up flyers.
ROBIN: Darren is going to wear orange high heels for this walk.
DARREN: Just punch it.
ANTHONY: I just want to try this.
DARREN: OK, watch my fingers or you’re going to go flying.
ANTHONY: I’d rather have your finger cut than mine because I still need my fingers for school! [laughter]
DARREN: OK, try it. OK, good. OK, good. Good, good.
ANTHONY: Oh! This is kind of difficult.
DARREN: It is.
DARREN: All right. Well, now just punch it. Yeah, just punch it. Good. That was good work, my boy.
DARREN: “Walk a mile in my shoes.”
MAN: Yeah, whose, whose idea was that?
ROBIN: That’s the Friends Against Abuse.
MAN: Good idea.
ROBIN: Yeah! You know, and it’s not just, you know— you know, like, tell the guys, you know, if your mom, your sister, whoever, you know.
ROBIN: Encourage them to come and come and walk.
MAN: You bet.
ROBIN: Walk and honor them. Honor the women!
ROBIN: Thank you.
MAN: Keep up the good work.
DARREN: All right. Take care, buddy.
MAN: Good to see you, man.
DARREN: Yeah. Where else do you want to go?
ROBIN: I have no idea.
DARREN: Where else is there?
ROBIN: That’s as much as I know of this town.
KIMBERLY DAWN, Radio Host: It’s the top of the hour. I’m Kimberly Dawn. You’re listening to Psalm 99.5, KBHW, International Falls. Let’s take a look at our forecast for today. It’s rainy conditions in Hibbing and in International Falls. It’s time for a look at our community calendar. You can participate with local police and firemen in the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” walk. It’s an opportunity to stand up against sexual abuse towards women.
ROBIN: Look at him!
KIMBERLY DAWN: Here’s your Scripture for today. It’s from Micah 8 and Psalm 82, verses 2 through 4. “Enough, you’ve corrupted justice long enough”—
DARREN: Cool little shoes?
KIMBERLY DAWN: “You’ve let the wicked get away with murder. You’re here today to defend the defenseless.”
DARIAN: I like your shoes, Darren.
KIMBERLY DAWN: “Your job is to stand up for the powerless and prosecute all those who exploit them.”
MAN ON MEGAPHONE: There’s a lot of things to talk about and yell about as we’re marching down the street. And what I really want you to do is to have conversations with each other about this fact. One in three women will be sexually assaulted or beaten by their husband or boyfriend. How would that change your life, if you had to live with those odds?
We’re walking a mile in her shoes, and they’re not comfortable. So it’s important that we start talking to each other about what we can do as men. So let’s have a great march. And you all look really amazing!
ANTHONY: Darren! Just hope you don’t break the heels!
DARREN: It feels funny.
DARIAN: Look at him! Darren!
ROBIN: Darian, want me to carry one?
DARIAN: I got it! There you go. No! I want it.
DARREN: I would’ve been better in those little, what do you call it, those floppies? Yeah, those floppies, yeah.
DARIAN: Flip-flops, Darren.
DARREN: Should have bought a pair of those instead.
ROBIN: A march like this could never happen on the Spirit Lake reservation because there, we just don’t talk about abuse. And you have men who are abusers themselves, perpetrators themselves, running programs. Because of the march here in the Falls, if you see somebody getting beat up and you tell one of the other community members, there’s going to be somebody there to help you.
They see it at home, the chances are five times greater that they’re going to do that themselves.
DARREN: Yeah, those statistics are startling, eh?
ROBIN: Yeah. And my son— the chances of Anthony abusing women are 500 percent greater.
DARREN: Yeah, you need to think.
ANTHONY: Stop the domestic violence.
DARREN: You need to think about that.
ROBIN: You have a really hard job.
DARIAN: Ow! That hurt!
DARREN: You got to— you got to think about that when you— when you think I’m too strict in my ways.
ROBIN: I know.
DARREN: You know? I sat in a classroom full of women, you know? It was hard to hear.
DARREN: I guess the only time men would experience it—
DARIAN: Anthony, you’re getting in the way!
DARREN: —is when they go to prison, that fear that women feel.
[www.pbs.org: Resources for survivors of abuse]
DARREN: Is it done, or are they going to rally some more or—
ROBIN: It’s done.
ANTHONY: My thing broke!
ROBIN: Give me that stick.
DARIAN: Anthony, quit acting stupid.
ANTHONY: Shut up!
DARIAN: I can hit you with this! I can! Better yet, I’ll use my fists.
ANTHONY: Can’t hit me. I can hit you, though, because I’m a boy and I can hit girls.
DARIAN: But we’re against abuse, remember?
DARREN: I think that’s it, man.
PAT PORTER, Singer: Here’s a song I wrote for my son. He was having a hard time, and so I sat down and wrote him this song. [singing] Let’s go back to love and roses—
ROBIN: You were really good today. Proud of you.
DARREN: Good. Good.
PAT PORTER: [singing] —two hearts would always beat so free, if we could see what we’ve been doing to each other—
ROBIN: Listen to the words to the song.
DARREN: Whose song is this?
ROBIN: I don’t know.
DARREN: Yeah. I love you.
ROBIN: I don’t know of another man who would wear a pair of high heels for me and my kids.
ROBIN: Darren and I haven’t had enough time to get used to being together and knowing each other. Since May, we’ve moved three times. And I tell Darren, “I’m glad we are going through all of this stuff now because we need a strong, strong foundation for when this stuff really does hit the fan.” And if we can get that together, we’re going to have some pretty solid ground to be on.
PAT PORTER: Swing the tempo around. We’re going to pick it up a little bit for you!
Ten Weeks Later
ROBIN: I’ve been depressed my entire life. I was molested and raped by people you call dad, grandpa, uncle. The doctor told me I’d be depressed for the rest of my life. This past month, the depression hit pretty hard. I broke up with Darren again. His jealousy, his insecurity completely turned me upside down.
Everything in my life, I struggled with. Christmas is coming up. I can’t even make rent. And I missed Darren a lot. I looked on his Facebook profile and what he wrote about me was, “Everyone told me she was a whore. Everyone told me she was a slut.” All of that completely tore me up.
And I can’t even explain to you all of the things that were running through my head and trying to make sense of it all because it was all there and it was all going a 100 miles a minute. And I found myself not sleeping, hallucinating again, and in the psych ward again.
DARREN: She called me from the hospital. And initially, I didn’t know who it was, but I could hear someone crying and saying “Darren,” you know? And then I knew who it was.
I had to keep my cool because I was still driving and I was shocked hearing her say that she was in a psych ward. She said she was scared and she needed to talk to me. I never knew she could get so depressed that she could land in a hospital. You know, she had mentioned it before, but I never— from what I’ve seen of her in the past year, she’s been pretty solid. She’s been pretty strong, confident, just a beautiful woman.
And you know, it’s just— the next day, I was pretty lost. I decided I needed to go back and try to help her. So I went to see her in that psych ward.
I walked in there, and I was pretty shaken up to see that she was hurting, she was suffering. I couldn’t talk for a while. And it was overwhelming, the way she looked. She was having a hard time coping. I never knew it could ever be that bad for— for anybody. You know, my heart went out to her, you know? And I came to the realization that I— I was guilty and responsible for it.
I decided if she wants something, I’m going to try. I’m going to try to do something to help her, to try to do it for her, to, you know, just make her realize that, you know, she is loved, you know? If she ever feels like there’s nobody out there in the world for her, you know, I just want her to realize that, you know, I’m there.
ANTHONY: Sweet! That was fun!
DARIAN: Mom, what are you doing?
ROBIN: It says, “Respect that I was doing what I needed to do in order to survive, whether physically or emotionally. Do not ask why I made the decisions or choices. When I’m not feeling affectionate, it is not about you, it is about how I feel. When I’m triggered by something, please don’t take it personally. It is not necessarily about what is happening so much that— as that I am reminded of something harmful from the past. What’s the trigger? What is a panic attack?”
DARIAN: Oh. Sorry.
ROBIN: Do you think that you’re a survivor?
ROBIN: Or a victim? Huh?
DARIAN: I don’t know.
ROBIN: You know what? You are a survivor! Because you are woman!
ANTHONY: Mom, I’m home. Hi.
ROBIN: Can I hear you roar?
DARIAN: Raar! [laughter]
ANTHONY: Mom, I can’t plug in the plug-in.
ROBIN: I can’t remember too much about the hospital.
There’s a plug-in over there.
ROBIN: I was there for five days. And then the doctors told me, “Here’s the medication, Robin. I think we’re going to let you go.”
ANTHONY: It’s kind of hard getting up here.
ROBIN: When I got back home, I seen the terrified, scared look on my kids’ faces, thinking Mom has lost it and dad is locked up in prison.
ANTHONY: That stuff melted and—
ROBIN: And I’ve been trying to repair the damage.
Hey, I smell cookies!
ANTHONY: Darian, you made the worst cookies in history!
DARIAN: They taste better when they’re dough. They’re for Santa Claus! Here’s your cookie.
ROBIN: Oh, thanks. Like, I’m so glad to be home. What are we having for supper? Did you guys say?
ROBIN: Anthony said he wanted spaghetti.
ROBIN: Go to the store and grab some spaghetti.
ANTHONY: I’m not riding my bike! It’s freezing cold.
ROBIN: Go get some noodles.
ANTHONY: Fine, I’m riding my bike then. That’s the reason why I don’t like you anymore.
ROBIN: Too bad. I love you.
ANTHONY: I’m joking. I love you. I love you!
LEEANN MEER, Director, Friends Against Abuse: Hi, Robin.
LEEANN MEER: Come in. How you doing?
LEEANN MEER: I’m a little concerned about you.
LEEANN MEER: How you feeling?
LEEANN MEER: You look good.
LEEANN MEER: You look real good.
LEEANN MEER: What’s going on?
ROBIN: Had a nervous breakdown.
LEEANN MEER: Oh!
ROBIN: Ended up in the hospital for a couple days.
LEEANN MEER: Ah!
LEEANN MEER: Yeah.
ROBIN: But I’m doing better.
LEEANN MEER: Good. Good. Is Darian OK?
ROBIN: Darian is fine. They are both fine. They seen Mom talking completely out of her head from lack of sleep., hallucinating from lack of sleep. They seen— they heard Mom just rambling. They heard my racing thoughts running through my head, everything. They heard and seen that. And you know, granted, that was traumatic enough for them. But they’re both in counseling and the counselor both know— knows completely everything.
LEEANN MEER: Good. Good.
ROBIN: I don’t hide.
LEEANN MEER: Robin, tell me, do you think— I mean, there’s been a lot going on at work lately. Has that—-was that piling on, adding stress to what you were already dealing with? I’m concerned about you doing this training tomorrow.
ROBIN: As far as it being too much, no.
LEEANN MEER: Because your— it was your idea. It was your passion. It was your initiative that really set this whole thing up. So thank you for that. But I just am very, very pleased with how it’s turned out. I’m just, at this point, most concerned about you.
LEEANN MEER: And I don’t want anything to pile onto you that could—
LEEANN MEER: Do you know how many people we have signed up for this?
LEEANN MEER: We’re up to 66 people have signed up for this. And we have them coming from Baudette. They’re coming from across the river in Canada. They’re coming from all different parts of town.
LEEANN MEER: We’ve got nursing staff. We’ve got educators. We’ve got therapists. Really an awesome group coming in, and you’re planning to tell your story.
LEEANN MEER: Is that right?
LEEANN MEER: Are you OK with that?
ROBIN: I am completely OK with it because the more I tell it, the stronger it’s going to make me.
ANNOUNCER: Our last speaker today is a phenomenal woman who has had some very hard things that happened in her life, and she has an amazing strength and sense of self. And so right now, I would like to introduce my new friend, Robin Charboneau.
ROBIN: OK. If it gets to be too much for me to talk today, I’m going to say I’m done and they will close for me. My name is Robin Charboneau and— I’m getting nervous now— my mother was an alcoholic and she was not able to care for me properly. And I had to— all of— I had lots of cousins, and we all slept in one room because that’s the way we tried to protect each other when my mom was drinking for days on out and having these week-long binges.
And one night, I had— the light came on, everyone ran, and I didn’t get away. And I don’t remember the rape itself. I remember the emergency room. I remember screaming, kicking and fighting doctors and nurses off, telling them, “Don’t let that chichi get me.” I was three 3. And I realized that was going to be my first time!
What happened next was that I was taken away from my mom and I was placed in a foster home. That was before they did background checks, in a home where I was torn and ripped into pieces time and time again by people I called dad, uncles, friends of the family.
By the time I was 10, I could remember, counting on my fingers, 10 guys. I reported it. Only one made it to trial. And that was when I was 10, and I was brutally raped and beaten by my dad. I didn’t realize how all of the rapes, all of the molestations, were going to affect me and every part of me. Every decision I made, every choice I made came from that.
I have to ask you for a second to close your eyes and imagine a little girl. Pieces. As a little girl, I was ripped and torn into pieces. As he tears off my clothes, I begin to pray to Jesus, “Don’t Daddy, don’t.” I screamed and I begged. He pulls off my pants and holds my kicking legs. He let go of me for a second. I almost got away. He grabbed me again, threw me down, and hollered at me to stay.
My younger cousin was there, he— crying and begging him not to do it. “Run and get someone,” I screamed. Then I was hit right across my face. My nose began to bleed. “Daddy, I’m bleeding!” I hoped for sympathy. “Shut up or I’ll make the other side bleed, too.”
I was terrified, trembling, a kid. What could I do? “Please God, please, I prayed to myself, “make him stop. When will it end?” Then he stopped, and I started to pretend like nothing happened. “No Daddy, I won’t tell.”
I see my chance to escape and began to yell, “Run! he raped me! Run!” As I ran to their car, my cousin was walking on the road. He didn’t get far. Torn and shattered, I picked up the pieces. Now tell me what to do. Please tell me, sweet Jesus.
I found myself reaching for attention from all the wrong people. Then again, maybe they were the right people who were taught the wrong way of love, or maybe I just got used to being treated that way. I was married to a man who was very abusive verbally, calling me names— bitch, whore, slut. Nobody would want me, he said. Why? Because I wasn’t good enough for him. And I believed what he said because he said it to me time and time again.
I would fight back, too. This man wasn’t going to get the best of me. I’d leave him one day. At the same time, I also told myself I would show him the woman I am, then he will love me. We drank and we partied the whole way. I threatened to leave him. Our fights got worse.
I endured more. We destroyed each other, hitting, fighting, hollering. But the most damage was done at night, when we lay down beside each other and say, “I love you.” He was United States Marine Corps. He’d protect me.
Finally, it came down to kill or be killed. Before he choked me to death, I would fight back. And I wrote this for my— my ex-husband. “If you could only see the woman inside of me. I held on for eight long, hard years as we drank beer after beer. I only wanted love and protection, never thinking to mention that I needed protection from you. You were a kid once, Anthony. You were a kid once, too, never taught wrong from right, only taught how to fight. Anthony, I forgive you for the pain I felt. I also forgive myself for the pain I dealt. Our kids need to hear an apology from you. It takes courage and it’s your duty, too. Honor will be the greatest gift to yourself, and that is the only way to save you from hell.”
And the last thing that I need to say that I still struggle with is not just how to build a family and to be a mom, but it— it also— the boundaries, the boundaries within a relationship. Nobody never taught me how to be a wife or a mother because it was married men who were molesting me.
So I still have a long ways to go. I still have a lot of things to learn. But it’s just one step at a time. Oh, I’m glad I got through that. [applause]
Thank you, guys. Thank you all for listening.
DARREN: I love you, baby!
ROBIN: I love you, too.
RADIO HOST: Officially, you ready for this? Two days, 14 hours, 43 minutes, 37, 36, yeah, Santa leaves the North Pole. Stick around, I’ve got some life-saving stocking stuffer ideas—
ANTHONY: Gosh. Whoa.
SANTA: Hey, how are you doing?
SANTA: Are you going to come and see me, Anthony?
SANTA: Going to come and see me?
ANTHONY: Yeah. Oh, hi.
SANTA: How are you doing?
SANTA: Want to sit on my lap?
SANTA: OK. So how’s the year going for you?
SANTA: How’s the school year going?
ANTHONY: Kind of failing.
SANTA: You’re failing?
ANTHONY: I got an A in reading, though.
SANTA: Oh, that’s good. So what do you think of International Falls? Quite a difference from North Dakota?
SANTA: Well, good. Having a good time here?
ANTHONY: Uh-huh. Yeah.
SANTA: And how’s Darian doing?
SANTA: Is she? Good. Still doing good in basketball?
SANTA: Good. So what do you want for Christmas this year?
ANTHONY: A nerf gun that turns into, like, a sniper.
SANTA: A nerf gun.
ANTHONY: It’s like a sniper— it starts out like a sniper, then it turns into a machine gun sort of thing.
SANTA: Nerf gun. That’s for, like, a Wii?
SANTA: Well, I’ll go and check with the elves on that. I’m sure we got them for you.
SANTA: Well, Anthony, don’t have any toys in here yet, but would you like some candy?
SANTA: Hold you over for a while.
SANTA: There you go.
ANTHONY: Thank you.
SANTA: OK. Well, Merry Christmas!
ANTHONY: Yeah, Merry Christmas to you, too. [singing] Candy, candy cane, my candy cane—
ANTHONY: Hurry up, you guys! Yeah! So which is whose?
DARIAN: I don’t know.
ANTHONY: Darian. I don’t know.
DARIAN: Can we open them up, Mom?
ANTHONY: Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up! Get down here. It’s Christmas time!
ROBIN: Merry Christmas.
ANTHONY: Can we open them?
ROBIN: Go ahead. Hold on!
ANTHONY: This is yours. You open it now. Sorry, Darren. I forgot to get you one.
ROBIN: Honey, want to hand them out?
ROBIN: Get out, Dar, and let him hand them out.
DARREN: OK. I forgot one in the car, too.
ROBIN: OK. Anthony!
DARIAN: Look at what I got!
DARREN: For you because you’re the basketball great.
DARREN: That’s for when you get all sweaty. You put it on and it helps all your sweat.
ROBIN: Honey, want to hand them out?
DARREN: Oh, OK.
DARIAN: This is awesome!
DARREN: Anthony, this one’s for you.
ANTHONY: Thank you. Sweet!
ROBIN: Thank you, son. I was going to get one of those.
[voice-over] This Christmas is just more than what I ever imagined it could be. This is my first Christmas sober with my kids.
ROBIN: I’m happy for the kids to have Darren here.
DARIAN: This one’s yours.
DARREN: That one’s mine?
ANTHONY: I did the wrapping.
ROBIN: Anthony got a remote control car from Darren.
ANTHONY: You did get me what I thought it was!
ROBIN: And Darian got some makeup from Darren. The kids’ eyes just lit up because they were not expecting that.
DARIAN: It’s pretty, though.
ANTHONY: This is cool! Darren, thanks.
ROBIN: Merry Christmas, you Indians! Are you guys done?
ROBIN: Hold on. Ready, set—
ANTHONY: Wait! Let me get mine!
ROBIN: Ready, set, go!
ANTHONY: Mom! You gave me the hardest one to open. What? Sweet! What the heck is this? Inner tube!
DARIAN: It’s an inner tube!
ROBIN: To go sledding on.
DARIAN: I got an inner tube. It’s an inner tube! Sorry. We can go sledding. Thanks, Mom. Thank you.
ANTHONY: Hey, Darren, it reminds me of me and my dad when we went sledding over cars.
ROBIN: You know. My ex-husband’s family, we had a farm. Right at the end of my marriage, we’d ride the sled. My ex-husband put me on the sled.
DARREN: On one of those little things?
ROBIN: We were riding right through all the deer.
ROBIN: There were deer in the sides of us, deer in front of us, and deer behind us. I was scared. I was waiting to flip! That’s what the kids miss.
ANTHONY: Mom, this good enough?
ROBIN: Is it hard? Just remember, if it’s not hard, you’re not going nowhere.
Darren, you are the closest thing he’s got to his dad.
ROBIN: The kids missed you very, very, very much when you were gone.
ROBIN: Anthony was hollering and throwing his fits and telling me how mad he was. So it’s going to take time.
ROBIN: But I’m happier than I ever could imagine.
DARIAN: Mom! I got it!
DARREN: Holy man! Look at that!
ROBIN: [voice-over] This Christmas just feels complete.
DARREN: Go try it out now.
ROBIN: But I don’t know what the new year’s going to bring. I received an email from my boss, LeeAnn. She wants me to work less hours. LeeAnn doesn’t feel that I’m fit to run a group for battered women because of my mental breakdown. She wants me to continue doing supervised visits. That means less money for me and my family.
So I emailed her back. And I let her know that she cannot use my mental illness against me in the performance of my job. She hired me to co-facilitate a women’s group, which meets every Tuesday. And I told her I’d be reporting to perform that duty, whether she wants me to or not. So I don’t know what’s going to happen this new year.
After Christmas, LeeAnn answered my email, and she said, “Robin, things have changed.” She didn’t know what it was, but something changed in me. LeeAnn said, “I can no longer keep you employed here. Do you want to resign?” So I did. I resigned.
And now I’m the educational coordinator at the Sunrise Center. I go into the elementary schools and I teach the “good touch, bad touch.” I teach high schoolers about violent relationships and sexual abuse. I haven’t yet gone into the community, but I really need to.
Oh, it’s too early!
I like doing this, and I like my boss, Jess. She’s younger than me and she’s amazing.
JESS KOKESH, Director, The Sunrise Center: You know, I did have a call from Northome.
JESS KOKESH: You visited their school, I believe, two weeks ago.
JESS KOKESH: And their school is the pre-K through 12th grade. And a teacher who had said that they think that one of the presentations that you did at Northome was moving enough for a student that she suspected that was being sexually abused to finally mention something to the principal.
JESS KOKESH: And you know, it went through their social services. But at this point, you know, all it takes is just the difference of one person.
JESS KOKESH: And that’s truly what you’re doing right now.
ROBIN: Oh, that’s great!
JESS KOKESH: And kind of makes the whole reason—
ROBIN: Uh-huh. Yeah.
JESS KOKESH: —the whole purpose of our agency—
JESS KOKESH: —exactly every single thing that you are doing and—
ROBIN: Yeah, definitely. Sunday, Darian has a— set up another meeting for her charity basketball game she wants to do.
JESS KOKESH: Oh, great.
ROBIN: She got— there’s two more people that got involved. One’s her coach.
JESS KOKESH: OK.
ROBIN: So— and so if— we’re going to probably have them—
JESS KOKESH: Come in and meet here?
ROBIN: —come in here on Sunday around three 3:00 is when we have it scheduled.
JESS KOKESH: OK.
LIBRARIAN: [reading] “Maybe it was just some freak accident with the hinges, but I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I got in the Camaro and told my mom to step on it. Our rental cabin on the south shore, way out on the tip of Long Island, was great. We’d been going there since I was a baby. My mom had been going even longer. She never exactly said, but I knew why the beach was special to her. It was the place where she met my dad.”
Anthony, please stop. Anthony—
LIBRARIAN: [reading] “As we got closer, she seemed to grow younger, years of worry and work disappearing from her face. Her eyes turned the color of the sea.”
I’m going to stop right there. We have about 10 minutes left. If you want to work on your Minnesota booklet, that’s fine. If not, please find something to read quietly.
ANTHONY: Can I have it? Can I have it? Can I have it?
GIRL: It’s sticky.
GIRL: Oh, you caught it.
LIBRARIAN: OK, now, Anthony—
LIBRARIAN: I’ll take that.
LIBRARIAN: What’s in your hand?
ANTHONY: There’s nothing in my hand.
LIBRARIAN: I’m going to put it in the garbage.
ANTHONY: No! I want it! I’ll put it away.
LIBRARIAN: No, I want it.
ANTHONY: It’s my bouncy ball thing.
LIBRARIAN: I want to see it.
ANTHONY: That’s it.
LIBRARIAN: Just show it to me. Where’d it come from?
ANTHONY: I found it.
LIBRARIAN: OK. I’m going to throw it in the garbage.
ANTHONY: No, no!
LIBRARIAN: No, no, you shouldn’t have that.
ANTHONY: That’s my bouncy ball, sticky and slimy.
LIBRARIAN: I’m going to throw it out.
LIBRARIAN: Anthony— what’s going on in here today, huh? All right, OK, you guys need to get ready to go. Push in that chair next to you, please.
ANTHONY: Should I? Should I?
LIBRARIAN: Line up at the door, please!
ROBIN: [voice-over] Anthony is starting to act out a lot more.
ANTHONY: She’s a robot.
ROBIN: But he likes his therapist, and he’s got—
BRAD: You got a jacket?
ROBIN: —Brad, Jess’s husband.
BRAD: You bet. So what’s new?
ANTHONY: Nothing, really.
ROBIN: Brad is his big brother, his mentor.
BRAD: Did you have a basketball tournament at all last weekend?
ANTHONY: No, but I got one coming up. Pace Setters.
BRAD: Is that the Virginia one?
BRAD: When is that?
ANTHONY: This weekend.
BRAD: This weekend?
BRAD: Is it a one-day deal, or do you still—
ROBIN: Brad is making a really, really big impact on my son.
BRAD: Is that Saturday or Sunday?
ANTHONY: I don’t know. Would you want to go play basketball?
BRAD: I don’t know if I’m really dressed for it, but maybe. [laughs] I don’t got tennis shoes on, but I suppose you don’t need them.
ANTHONY: You could wear my mom’s! I’m joking.
BRAD: Yeah. I don’t think they’d fit.
ROBIN: It’s nice to see him interacting with a male that he looks up to.
BRAD: Kids still bugging you?
ANTHONY: Pretty much, yeah.
BRAD: Yeah? What are they doing?
ANTHONY: I don’t know.
BRAD: Are they still calling you names or what?
ANTHONY: Kind of. Not really, though.
BRAD: Yeah. Getting in any trouble, or you staying out of trouble?
ANTHONY: Staying out of trouble.
BRAD: Oh, that’s good. Getting all your homework done?
ANTHONY: Uh-huh. I got detention twice because I got late work because I take too long.
BRAD: How much time do they give you to get it done? Like, a week or a day or—
ANTHONY: Thirty minutes.
BRAD: You have to get all that done in 30 minutes?
ANTHONY: I get thirty 30 minutes to work on it.
DARIAN: Here’s the flyers.
DARIAN: I made that.
MARK: Where are you going to put these up around town?
DARIAN: High school.
DARIAN’S FRIEND: Cool.
MARK: How many teams do you want to have?
DARIAN: I don’t know.
ROBIN: There should be a limit.
MARK: You got to figure out how long a game’s going to be and—
CARRIE: Fifteen minutes.
MARK: Yeah. I mean—
MARK: You can go— you can go twos and threes, though.
ROBIN: Today, Darian’s running a meeting for the charity basketball tournament.
MARK: So,what made you think about doing this?
DARIAN: We were getting bored, so then I asked my mom to see if— what we could do besides cleaning the house. [laughter] She gave us— or she told us to think of an idea of how to raise money for the Sunrise Center. And I thought— we were just throwing ideas out and stuff, and then I was thinking because I like basketball, and—
ALISHA: Just a little bit!
DARIAN: Yeah, just a little. And I said, “What about a charity basketball tournament?” And we were just going on and on about it, so then—
DARIAN: She was getting meetings all set up and everything. And I’m, like, “Oh, we’re going!” [laughter] I’m ready!
ROBIN: OK, here’s another one.
ROBIN: I need a registration form so I can do the—
ROBIN: —it like this. Child’s name, parent’s signature. Will that work?
ROBIN: This is Darian’s event.
DARIAN: Then you got to have, like, the team name.
ROBIN: So I’m just making changes they want to the flyers.
MARK: Player name, signature, parent’s signature.
DARIAN: Uh-huh. Yes.
MARK: You know what I’m talking about, like—
ALISHA: Parent’s signature. Make sure you got it.
ROBIN: Darian has friends here. They know what Darian’s dad did to her.
MARK: I feel like I’d get a mailing address, too.
CARRIE: OK. So, do you want to have it at the high school?
DARIAN: Don’t know. I don’t know.
CARRIE: We’ll look at it. How about that?
DARIAN: Yes. We shall look at it.
MARK: Is the money being donated? Or is it—
ROBIN: Proceeds go to the center.
ROBIN: To keep the costs down, we wanted to put on the flyer “no trophies.”
ROBIN: This is just for fun.
MARK: Yeah. It’s really awesome that you’ve done this.
ROBIN: For those that have been abused and those parents that are sitting— that are in the thick of it, that’s why what you’re doing, Darian— it’s— you know, maybe one day they can call it Dar’s tournament.
DARIAN: Dar’s tournament.
MARK: Yeah, yeah.
ROBIN: You can say a high school student came up with the idea of a one-day tournament for Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.
JESS KOKESH, Director, The Sunrise Center: Hi, everyone. Your participation means that much more awareness against sexual abuse. This is an epidemic in our area, so thank you so much for coming out today.
The tournament ended up being an international event.
So is she OK running the scoreboard?
JESS KOKESH: It became more of a U.S. versus Canadian tournament, and that helped a lot with the dramatics of the competition.
JESS KOKESH: First injury of the game.
ROBIN: Oh, my God.
DARIAN: Come on, let’s go.
ROBIN: I don’t think Darian realizes how huge this event is.
CARRIE: Hurry up, switch.
ROBIN: Go Darian!
For a child who has been sexually assaulted, to take everything she’s gone through and turn it around into something positive.
CARRIE: Keep going, D!
ROBIN: Stay on him, Dar!
CARRIE: Watch Ben! Shoot!
ROBIN: Take your shot Dar.
CARRIE: Nice shot, D!
ANTHONY: This is easy.
ROBIN: Good job, Dar.
ANTHONY: OK, all done.
CARRIE: Come on, D!
ROBIN: Head in the game.
ROBIN: Oh. Grab it!
CARRIE: Rebound it. Ooh. Take it, D! On him! On him, on him, on him!
ROBIN: Get at him.
CARRIE: Don’t let him shoot.
ROBIN: If we could have all the teams line up—
JESS KOKESH: We just want to take a minute and say thank you again for coming. We just had our winners, our first place winners, which is team Bujold. If they want to come forward? So thank you so much for participating. And an all-around thank you to the committee members. And thank you very much, Darian Charboneau. [applause]
ROBIN: My name is starting to get known in Minnesota in the abuse field. I’m getting invitations, doing speeches that aren’t for the Sunrise Center.
OK. Yes. Everything’s going to be OK, I can feel it.
Tomorrow, I’m going to be speaking about child abuse prevention, ways to teach our kids to watch out for the predators that are within our families. My PowerPoint presentation is going to keep me on track. I want to get their full attention right away. So I’m going to start off about being raped and then pull on their emotional ties enough to get them to how do we protect our kids from this.
I’m going to be talking today about how do we prevent sexual abuse from happening to our kids? How do we protect our kids? And I’m not a doctor, I’m not a therapist, so anything I say, you know, are merely suggestions.
This first speech at Fond du Lac has more people than I expected.
I’m going to be sharing with you how I recovered from this.
I hope that I can keep them interested.
My hope for today is that you’ll be able to take whatever I suggest and be able to maybe implement it in your family and in your homes. The first thing is to educate everybody in your family about abuse. Be comfortable talking about this with your kids—
I like being able to share myself and to give my ideas.
—because if you’re uncomfortable talking about it, the kids—
I want to keep on doing this.
Let people that take care of your kids know that at any time, I can walk in through that door. It’ll lessen that chance of them hurting our kids. And as the kids grow older, you know, talk to them about puberty. If they don’t hear about this stuff from us as parents, who else is going to teach them?
My son, he came home asking, “Mom, what’s blow job?” And I was, like, “Well, what did they say in school?” And it was just, you have to be straight with them. It’s something that adults do. It’s nothing that kids do. It’s an adult thing that happens.
And you know, just letting— you know, if my son can come to me with that question— you know it gets tough and it puts you in a spot, and sometimes you don’t always feel like have the right answer. But if you try to answer it the best way you can, at least you’re giving them something solid, so when the bigger questions come later on, then they’ll be able to come to you with those.
We do have family meetings every Sunday. We have a speaking rock. Whoever has the rock can talk. And I gave my kids a journal and I told them, “Here, I want you to write in these every day. I do.” When I first gave my daughter her journal, she goes, “Mom, I don’t know what to write about.” Then I wrote on paper, love, hate, peace, anxiety, scared, all these different emotions. I just wrote them all on a paper, threw them in a bag and told her, “Here, you don’t know what to write about? Pick something out and just write about it.”
And to hear, you know, a 14-year-old talk about love— it’s like, every time I read what she writes, she’ll come down and she’ll be, like, “Mom, how does this sound?” And I’m just— by the time she’s done, I’m crying because I just— her words are just— wow, you feel that at— you’re 14, you know?
But they’ve gone through a lot, so they’re finding ways to express that, you know, finding what works for them, finding— letting them explore themselves. And you know, the only way you can do that is if you do it yourself. And if they see you doing it, then they’re going to— they’re going to want to do it.
I just want to leave you with this thought. You have to find that voice inside of you and teach it to your kids. And that’s all. [applause]
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Wow! Good job!
ROBIN: How I know I’ve done a good job is afterwards, when somebody in the audience comes up to me and shakes my hand or gives me a hug.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: You have a copy of your PowerPoint?
ROBIN: I do.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: You had some good points you brought up during the presentation that the ladies that I work with could relate to.
ROBIN: You know, all of those negative things that you take away from them—
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Uh-huh.
ROBIN: —it has to be substituted for something healthy, something positive.
ROBIN: You know?
ROBIN: There you go.
WOMAN: Great. Thank you Robin. It’s beautiful.
ROBIN: You’re welcome. Thank you. Thank you.
WOMAN: God bless you.
ROBIN: Thank you.
ROBIN: Very much.
I just want to leave you with the thought that every one of us has a voice. We have it. And as we are abused, we are told what to do. We’re told how to feel. And it takes a lot of healing to find that voice, and it’s up to us to help our kids find that voice and to listen to that voice within them.
And if you guys have any questions, we can give you the mic, I can answer them. Or any suggestions as to how you think I can improve, I am open and really, really would like to hear that.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I wanted to know what justice means to you and what kind of ways you found justice in your own life.
ROBIN: I’ve been really disappointed in our system and how— how it affected my kids and my family and how it deals with perpetrators. But I know that there is one judge that everybody faces, and I believe in that judge. I don’t believe that in any sentence that is given out on earth. But I believe in the one that they have to face when they get to those doors. And that— that justice system scares me, so that keeps me in check and it lets me know that it’ll be dealt with. Thanks. Any— any others?
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I have young children, 8 and 10 years old, and it’s extremely important for me to make sure that I keep them safe in their lives because that’s, you know, something that I don’t ever want them to experience in their lives. So I really appreciate a lot of the tips on how to talk to your children, tips on how to make your children feel special. So thank you for that because I have a long road to go with my kids, as well.
ROBIN: Yeah. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Kids are just so full of ideas. Any other questions?
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Can you explain why you waited so many years to report what happened to you, some of your emotions, what finally made you do it, and how that’s affected your relationships, both maybe intimate and just friendships, family relationships?
ROBIN: It didn’t stop until I was 13. My adopted mom knew about two of them. One of them was an older— older gentleman. She said he was too old to go to jail, so I felt like I had to protect him from going to jail. Then my adopted mom disappeared, and I felt like I tore the family apart. So I quit. I didn’t talk about it anymore. A lot of it I blocked out, and the only time it comes to me is when I write.
And how the abuse affected my relationships is, after my divorce, I started to run around. I went with a guy who held a knife up to my neck. Those are the kind of relationships that the abuse led me to. And since I’ve been on this journey, you know, the relationships are getting better. I’m getting more— more confidence. Those red flags, I’m able to see.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Thank you, Robin.
ROBIN: Thank you. As messed up as it may sound, I wouldn’t change any of the abuse I suffered as a child because it made me the woman I am. And the further down this journey I go, it feels good to be able to reach out to those people that come my way. I love and I enjoy my work.
Anybody else? No? Thank you, guys. Thank you all for listening.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Thank you for coming down. [applause]
ANTHONY: Mom, how did you do? Did people like it? Did they applaud?
ROBIN: Everyone liked my speech.
DARIAN: Oh that’s exciting, Mom.
ROBIN: I was able to be more open with them.
ROBIN: Some of the women that may still be drinking—
ROBIN: —may still be in an abusive relationship.
ROBIN: Most of them are mothers, are aunts, you know, trying to raise their kids. And I shared your picture frames—
ROBIN: —because that just gave them something more personal.
ROBIN: And if you’ll allow me to read parts of your journal?
ROBIN: Anthony, they love your bike story. And I made this week as much as I did for two weeks at the Sunrise Center. But my job is going to be done in June when the Sunrise Center and Friends Against Abuse merge.
ROBIN: There’s only enough at the Sunrise Center to justify one person. And LeeAnn, she’s going to be the education coordinator, which is what I am. So I’m going to be out of a job.
ROBIN: So money’s going to be a little bit tight.
ROBIN: But I’m confident in my speaking, which is what I want to do. When I’m standing up there, I tell them about, you know, when I was drinking. You know, I wasn’t a good mom when I was drinking, right?
ROBIN: Or was I just the best mom in the world?
ROBIN: OK. And I tell them that.
ROBIN: I made some really bad choices when I was drinking, and it affected my kids. So when I sobered up, I had to rebuild my family.
ROBIN: I had to help my kids understand that they can talk to me. And I’m trying to listen, right?
DARIAN: Yeah. Thanks, Mom.
DARREN: [singing] Bounce baby out the door. [laughs] Hello?
ROBIN: Hey, hon.
DARREN: What’s up?
ROBIN: Supper’s done.
DARREN: How’s it going?
ROBIN: Just us tonight.
DARREN: Oh. Where are the kids?
ROBIN: Dar’s at practice. Anthony’s with his friend.
ROBIN: How was work?
DARREN: The same, the same, different day. Yeah, tracking people, that type of thing. And you?
ROBIN: All right.
DARREN: So any mail?
DARREN: Mmm! Lots of cartilage. Left the cartilage in there. I wanted to go to Thunder Bay and get the car cleaned.
DARREN: Friday, Friday afternoon.
ROBIN: You want to go all the way to Thunder Bay to clean your car?
DARREN: Yeah. And washed and waxed and shampooed and vacuumed and—
ROBIN: So what does that cost you?
DARREN: Probably 60 bucks.
ROBIN: Plus the gas to go there.
DARREN: Yeah. Probably 40 bucks for the gas.
ROBIN: So $100?
ROBIN: You give me that and I’ll wash and wax your car, clean it out, pay the— use it for the bills.
ROBIN: Then you don’t have to travel.
DARREN: Yeah. Yeah, but that’s half the fun. Yeah, I was in Atikokan again.
ROBIN: You’re going out of town, then, this weekend?
DARREN: Yeah. I’m thinking about it. The thought crossed my mind. I would certainly try to clean the car myself. I don’t know. I suppose I could. I just have to make some time.
ROBIN: Like I said, give me 100 bucks, I’ll clean that car. Just give me that money to pay the bills.
DARREN: Yeah, we’d need one of those small shampooers.
She might be a bit insecure because I take trips to Thunder Bay.
ROBIN: Yeah, I have nothing planned.
DARREN: I try to tell her that I’m not doing what I did before, hanging around with other girls. And sometimes I just want to be alone, especially when she gets distant.
ROBIN: Go ahead. Eat.
DARREN: No, I’m good. I’m good. I’m still full from lunchtime.
ROBIN: The money situation is terrible. I told him, you know, my job is going to end. I might have to rely on you to take care of us. He’s never had any real responsibilities, other than the clothes on his back, what he drives, his image.
ROBIN: Where’s the other bill? The insurance.
DARREN: Your insurance?
ROBIN: Yeah. That’s due.
DARREN: Are they still hiring at Ronnings?
ROBIN: I don’t know.
DARREN: How come you don’t try there? Be a cashier, sell some sweatshirts. An interesting job. Imagine all the tourism, lots of tourists coming and going. It’s like the edge of the country. Imagine people all over the world come through this town. Yeah, tons of people. Yeah, got to try something. Yeah.
ROBIN: The electric bill’s due. That’s $184.
DARREN: Oh. Well, I think I’m going to go smoke, smoke, smoke. It’s a Canadian smoke, too. Switch back to American after.
ROBIN: Yeah, those cigarettes are what, $13 a pack?
DARREN: On the rez, it’s, like, $7. That’s, like— 13 bucks a pack, you’re talking about, like, mainstream.
ROBIN: Seven times seven days a week, $49— that’s $150.
ROBIN: Dollars a month.
DARREN: No, that’s $150 every two weeks. Isn’t it? I don’t know, but it costs lots. And the way things are going, I’ll probably have to stop smoking. OK, I’m going to go. See you later, honey.
DARREN: We need to go to dance, honey!
ROBIN: He’s always saying “Of course, I’ll help you. I’ll support us, babe. I’ll do what I can.” And now that it’s down to the wire, we’ll see if he does or not.
PAT PORTER: [singing] In the summer when the grass is green around you, you’re as pretty as the light of the morning sky, and you know that I could never live without you
ROBIN: Just as I thought, Darren blew up. What happened was, I was taking the census, and Darren seen me with this guy who was asking me questions. And then after the guy left, Darren said, “Who the heck is that?” I said, “It’s only the census guy. It doesn’t matter who it is because every man is a threat to you.”
DARREN: We— we had a big blowout. There were some small, insignificant things being said. I told her I just need someone who’s going to care about what I want, not just brush it off. You know, all I’ve ever wanted was to get married. I’m not so sure it can happen anymore.
ROBIN: So that night, we drove back to the house. Darren started packing up. Anthony asked, “Mom, is Darren moving out?” I told him, “It looks like he is.” Darren said, “I don’t know. You’re the one deciding this. I’m just here to pay the bills.” I said, “That’s it. I’m done.” He got in his car and went back to Canada.
VOICEMAIL: Record your message at the tone. When you are finished, hang up or stay on the line for further options.
DARREN: I just called to tell you that I love you. Yeah. Sorry for being such a butt-face last evening. I just, yeah, love you.
VOICEMAIL: End of message. Delete, press seven 7. Save, press nine 9. More options, press zero.
ROBIN: I feel really, really bad when he’s crying on the phone. You know, this is the third time he’s left. But it doesn’t mean it gets any easier.
In about two weeks, he’ll say, “Everything’s great, let’s go get married, honey.” But he’s so insecure. We need to communicate instead of hurting each other and ripping each other to shreds. My kids are used to him leaving. The only thing is, my kids don’t understand why.
Six Months Later
ROBIN: So you want it to be different, then make it different.
DARREN: It just hurts. It just hurts to be with you.
ROBIN: I’m not the type of woman who just is going to let you talk like that to me anymore. You know? You say something to me, I’m going to say something back.
DARREN: I know. I have my— my triggers where everything just flips over sometimes, just goes back to everything that’s happened. Sometimes I just feel real unsafe when I’m not with you, even moreso now, knowing there’s a guy here in the Falls that was here when I wasn’t here. Like I said, it’s just— it’s just hard knowing that being here, walking down the street, bumping into some guy, wondering if that’s him. You know, I just feel like— I just feel like a chump. I really do.
ROBIN: One minute, you love me and I’m your world and mean everything to you. And then the next, it’s the whole, “Who you sleeping with down the street?” It’s—
DARREN: Yeah, if you’re—
ROBIN: Day and night with you. Except it’s all in one day, extreme highs and extreme lows.
DARREN: I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you. I know exactly what I’m like. Like, I question my own shadow. And then I just want to run away.
ROBIN: I told you that I have a job offer on the rez.
ROBIN: You could be free.
DARREN: Yeah, I know.
ROBIN: I don’t want to stay in the Falls.
ROBIN: It’s too far. And if I get that job, that job’s $20 an hour, full medical. Darian can get her braces.
ROBIN: You know, and it would be working with all of the tribes in North Dakota. So I’d be doing what I do now, except I’d be getting paid.
DARREN: I want you. But you know, there’s so much to be afraid of, you know, moving to North Dakota and dropping my job and dropping my car, and you know, just letting go of my whole life. It’s just— it’s all pretty overwhelming.
ROBIN: Uh-huh. So what are we going to do about us?
DARREN: You’re the boss. It’s going to be however you want.
DARREN: I’m pretty determined to be here. I’ll let you kiss me. I’ll let you touch me.
DARREN: That night, she asked me if I was going to stay. You know, this time, I told her I wanted to stay with her. All those nights by myself, I didn’t want that life anymore. So I asked her, “Robin, will you marry me?”
ROBIN: We were driving and he had said, “Marry me. I want you to marry me.” And I had turned the radio down, and I told him that “I’d marry you.” And he just— just sat there, looking straight ahead like he didn’t understand what I had said. And then he started crying. Yeah. So then I said, “I’d marry you.”
KIMBERLY DAWN, Radio Host: It’s 8:00 o’clock. I’m Kimberly Dawn. Paul reminds us that love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have, doesn’t have a swelled head. Love doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always me first.
DARREN: Is that what happened? [laughter]
KIMBERLY DAWN: So live it out daily, loving one another as Christ perfectly exhibited his love toward you. For all of us at Psalm 99.5, merry Christmas!
ROBIN: Oh, my gosh. Scoot over.
DARIAN: Oh my gosh!
CARRIE: Do you have everything?
ROBIN: Well, let’s go get married.
CARRIE: Yeah, that’s a good idea.
ROBIN: My little Canadian man!
ANTHONY: Yeah. [singing to himself] My mommy’s getting married. I got a stepdaddy. I can’t believe my mom’s getting married today!
MINISTER: Would you like to give your mother away, honey?
ANTHONY: What do you mean?
MINISTER: When I say, “Who gives this woman to this man?” you can say “I, Anthony.”
MINISTER: Who gives this woman to this man?
ANTHONY: I, Anthony.
MINISTER: Thank you, Anthony. Kiss Mama. Very good. And you can come right over here, and I’ll have you both join right in front of me, right there, perfectly. We are here today to celebrate the marriage of Robin Allison Chaboreau—
MINISTER: —Charboneau— thank you, dear— and Darren Spoon. It is a day to rejoice, have fun, and to make memories. Are you ready?
MINISTER: This is a really good question. Have you come here today at your own free will?
ROBIN: No. [laughter] Just kidding!
MINISTER: These are going to be some of the most important moments of your lives, when you affectionately pledge your intentions to become husband and wife. Your promises made here today must be renewed tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows that will come. Join hands, please.
MINISTER: Thank you very much. Do you Robin take Darren to be your husband from this day forward?
ROBIN: I do.
MINISTER: Do you Darren take Robin to be your wife from this day forward?
DARREN: I do.
MINISTER: Very nice. Repeat after me together, saying it to each other, please. I will be faithful to you—
DARREN & ROBIN: I will be faithful to you.
MINISTER: —and honest with you—
ROBIN: —and honest with you.
DARREN: —and honest with you.
MINISTER: I will respect—
ROBIN: I will respect—
DARREN: I will respect—
DARREN & ROBIN: —trust—
DARREN & ROBIN: —help—
MINISTER: —and care for you.
DARREN & ROBIN: —and care for you.
MINISTER: I will share my life with you.
ROBIN: I will share my life with you.
DARREN: I will share my life with you.
MINISTER: I will forgive you—
DARREN & ROBIN: I will forgive you—
MINISTER: —as we have been forgiven.
DARREN & ROBIN: —as we have been forgiven.
MINISTER: And I will try with you—
DARREN & ROBIN: And I will try with you—
MINISTER: —to better understand—
DARREN & ROBIN: —to better understand—
DARREN & ROBIN: —ourselves—
MINISTER: —the world—
DARREN & ROBIN: —the world—
MINISTER: —and God—
DARREN & ROBIN: —and God—
MINISTER: —through the best—
DARREN & ROBIN: —through the best—
MINISTER: —and the worst—
ROBIN: —and the worst—
DARREN: —and the worst—
MINISTER: —of what is yet to come—
ROBIN: —of what is yet to come—
DARREN: —of what is yet to come—
MINISTER: —as long as we both shall live.
DARREN & ROBIN: —as long as we both shall live.
MINISTER: Perfect. Robin and Darren, would you like to seal your vows with a kiss? [laughter] You can do it!
DARIAN: [taking photograph] Darn it! Do it again!
MINISTER: And now by the power vested in me, I pronounce you husband and wife.
Two Months Later
RADIO HOST: Ah ha hey, ha hey ya! All right, Dakota people. It is warm. It’s 12 degrees outside. And if you see somebody standing on the side of the road, be careful! Watch out for the chichis and the wanagis. If you can see through them, don’t pick them up! You’re listening to 90.7 FM, KABU, in Fort Totten, North Dakota, heartbeat of the Spirit Lake Nation.
RECEPTIONIST: [on the phone] Good afternoon, Ackre law firm. Yes, Robert Ackre is in.
ROBERT ACKRE: Hey there, Robin. How have you been?
ROBIN: Good. Good. Kids are doing really good, considering everything. They’ve been— Darian’s on A honor roll. We did move back to Spirit Lake. I got— I’m working with the First Nation Women’s Alliance, Linda Thompson. I’m working with her program as their sexual assault advocate.
I’ve gone throughout Minnesota, talking about abuse, helping whoever I could. But it’s always been in, you know, my heart that I’m going to come home. I’m going to come home, which is Spirit Lake, and I’m going to help my people.
ROBERT ACKRE: Really? Well, that’s wonderful.
ROBIN: This job became available, so I applied for it. I got it. And it’s the perfect opportunity for me to do that and get paid because there were times in the Falls when I was doing the job without even getting paid.
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, aside from moving back to see family and to be around family, I just can’t imagine why anybody would want to come back and subject themselves to everything that you’ve gone through. Aren’t you afraid of your ex-husband’s family?
ROBIN: They’ve always been coming at me. Always. So it’s— they’re going to come at me anyway. They’re going to keep coming no matter what, so—
ROBERT ACKRE: So you’re here today because of what?
ROBIN: I want sole custody of my kids, legal and physical.
ROBERT ACKRE: It— it’s kind of nebulous right now, the current court order, because the Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services initiated it—
ROBERT ACKRE: —and then they dropped it in January of 2009. They actually asked that the case be closed. So the court did close it. They basically said that you have primary— primary custody of your children but legal, joint legal custody with Anthony, as well.
ROBIN: Uh-huh. And I just can’t believe that after a year and a half of him being in prison for molesting my daughter and a foster child that we still have joint legal custody.
ROBERT ACKRE: Well, we asked that he not have any legal custody in court. I drafted multiple proposed orders. We submitted them to the court, and the orders that we got back from the court basically indicated that, one, we’re going to hold your petition that you filed for emergency custody in abeyance until the Social Services investigation or federal investigation was completed.
Well, it’s been completed, and now they moved to dismiss the case. And ironically, they lost your petition for custody. So that’s— that’s a green light for you to move forward, or an alternative, to do nothing and just bank on what you already have at the tribal court, which is an order that does say joint legal and primary physical. But you want more.
ROBIN: I want sole custody. I want sole legal and sole physical custody of the kids.
ROBERT ACKRE: I can’t guarantee you anything in tribal court because judges on the Spirit Lake Nation are appointed by the tribe, and they are not elected and they’re not law-trained, OK? So yes, it’s amazing that you’ve got do to this over. It’s frustrating. But this is kind of how things work there.
ROBERT ACKRE: It’s really sad to think that they claim they lost it now, but if you look at a previous order, it says, “We have your custody request and we’ll hold it in abeyance.”
ROBERT ACKRE: So it— it really is hard to believe.
ROBERT ACKRE: The best thing about the whole scenario is, you know, when you serve him for custody, it’ll be easy because he’s in prison.
ROBERT ACKRE: Why don’t you check your mail in a couple days, and I’ll try to get something to you, and we’ll get started on it.
ROBERT ACKRE: Nice seeing you. And I— I’ll try and get right on this.
ROBIN: All right. Sounds good. Thanks.
ROBERT ACKRE: Bye-bye. I’ll see you.
ROBIN: When I began this journey, I was scared because all I wanted to do was stay sober and be a good mom, but I didn’t know if I could do that. I’ve learned I’m capable of doing that and taking care of my kids. The healing process has been hard for me and the kids, but we’ve learned a lot about our spirits.
My ex-husband, Anthony, is going to be getting out later this year. I don’t know how I’ll deal with that, but I’ve learned that I’m not afraid to deal with anything that comes my way. And if I can help that one person on their journey by telling my story, I’ll be Standing Proud and Standing Tall.
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