Jen is 45 years old, divorced, and has no children, but has a furbaby named Oliver (Ollie). She’s always been open to sharing the details of her life. The only thing she asks is for others to understand she is not a victim complaining. She just feels a sense of purpose when she can help others. Jen has been receiving federal SSDI and Medicare benefits (like a retiree) since 2009 due to her permanent disability. For 10 years she was completely financially dependent on her husband. After her divorce finalized in January 2016, he was left a millionaire and the judge awarded Jen just $56k.
By the time she paid her attorney fees and started her life over by buying an older used car, getting an apartment and furnishing it, and the burden of ongoing medical bills for her Crohn’s disease and PTSD therapy, she is out of funds and has been evicted. Disabled, no savings, no credit cards, and no family home to return to in a time of need.
URGENT HOUSING FINANCIAL NEED
Please join us in helping so she and Ollie can find a new home. This is an immediate need. She and Ollie will be couch-surfing in the meantime. She is presently not in the physical or emotional condition to cope with any more challenges than she is already dealing with.
We are hoping to get enough funds get her into to affordable housing as soon as it is available, and to continue to help with rent and living expenses for as many months as we can so she can use her SSDI funds to pay ongoing medical bills and afford the copays for the treatment she needs.
Jen is currently having severe C-PTSD symptoms and this situation isn't helping. Anxiety and stress can trigger a Crohn's episode. Since the time we originally posted this campaign, her Crohn's disease symptoms have also worsened (nausea, fatigue, and arthritis throughout her body).
WHY DOES JEN NEED OUR HELP?
Our friend is not the type to ask for free handouts. She prides herself in having worked since she was 13 years old. But Jen is one person who really needs a break…
After the four years of hell Jen has been through:
• Two severe Crohn’s episodes being bedridden for months except for hospitalizations, treatments, tests, scans, spinal injections, malnutrition, chronic pain
• A 15-month litigious divorce
• Her 16 year old “child” Riley-dog passing away
• Her dad being on life support for 7 days (thankfully he survived)
• While helping an extended family member in a custody dispute involving her stepfather being around a minor, she had to write a declaration causing her to revisit the pain of childhood sexual abuse by the 8x convicted sex offender
• The situation above is how she learned from a stranger that one year prior her estranged mother of 26 years had died
Along with the trauma of the abuse by the court, these events triggered Jen’s Complex PTSD.
She spent a few days in psych inpatient then underwent an 8-week trauma/PTSD intensive outpatient program. She continues to see a therapist, but cannot afford to see him as often as she needs. Jen has always been one to “do the work” as she calls it, and she’s doing it, but it takes time to recover from a complete emotional shut down.
BACKGROUND INFO LEADING TO CIVIL RIGHTS CASE:
Jen has always been the kind of person to use her experiences to help others. She was a teen runaway due to severe neglect, as well as mental, physical and sexual abuse by her mother and stepfather. She volunteered for years as a court appointed child advocate during custodial disputes to make sure the children’s welfare was priority.
At the University of Washington - Jen was a guest lecturer for the abnormal psychology class of 200 students each quarter to share her experiences being the 3rd generation on the paternal side of her family with manic depression, generalized anxiety, and PTSD. This is when she found her calling. She believes mental health is more about the dehumanizing challenges of random cognitive impairment than it is about the stigma of irrational behavior, and it’s one of her missions to end this stigma.
However, she is more focused on the welfare of those living with mental illness than she is about raising awareness, that there are enough other organizations focused on awareness. She wants to instead use her personal life experiences with prolonged and repeated trauma, mental illness and chronic physical illness and her past career as a paralegal to help others with mental illness not feel so alone, confused, and disenfranchised.
She has the unique experience growing up knowing her real dad and grandfather suffered from manic depression and how it affected their lives. Her grandfather committed suicide at 35, and her dad worked as long as he could until the illness finally caught up with him around the same age. Then it caught up with Jen around the same age and she was approved for SSDI at 37 years old. She spent her childhood summers (and adulthood) with her dad, and seeing how manic depression affected his daily activities and quality of life.
Despite his mental anguish, even if he needed to be somewhat isolated, Jen says he has always been loving, considerate and supportive. As a result, she knew early on mental illness wasn’t something that made her a bad person. Jen says she has always been treated with dignity and respect when others know about her mental illness - friends, employers, professors, colleagues, and strangers.
JENNIFER BATTEN v STATE OF WASHINGTON, et al
(A personal note from Jen...)
Sadly, the first time I personally experienced any form of discrimination due to my mental illness, it came from the court. More shockingly, it came from three judges. Friends and family can attest to what they witnessed by the court. An extremely shortened version of the story is that when I asked the court for assistance due to my mental illness, I assumed it would just be them doing me a favor. When they denied my request to have my deposition held telephonically instead of in-person at opposing counsel’s firm without representation for myself, again, I assumed helping me out was at their own discretion. As my mental health continued to decline during the proceedings, I continued to explicitly describe my mental health challenges in court pleadings, and each time I was issued a court order denying my request.
Here’s the rub: At the time, I had no idea the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) actually required the court accommodate me. If one has the inability to communicate clearly in a court setting, an accommodation is required. In the same way the ADA requires devices for audio and visual assistance, Braille, wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking, etc. it also requires accommodations for individuals with a mental disability (mental illness or cognitive impairment).
In short, each denial for assistance constituted discrimination, a civil rights violation under Title II of the ADA. Not knowing I had any legal rights in this regard, and since one cannot simply walk away from divorce proceedings, I was subjected to 5 months of what is referred to as "legal abuse" as a result of the court's discrimination. In my mental state I lacked the capacity to communicate my thoughts and arguments orally at hearings and the trial.
The civil rights of ALL individuals with a disability are protected by Title II of the ADA. A little known fact is that Congress has the backs of those living with a mental illness more than anyone I've discussed this with ever knew… Congress actually amended the Act to, among other things, bring attention to the fact that individuals with a mental disability are protected by the Act, as well. We had always been protected by the Act, it was overlooked far too often and Congress cracked the whip, partly in response to the increase of veterans diagnosed with PTSD. In the last 37 years since the ADA has been enacted - schools, universities, and administrative and criminal courts follow the guidelines, in general.
However, family law has effectively thumbed their nose at the ADA. Despite numerous commissions, studies and reports demonstrating low income individuals with a mental disability continue to struggle with having their voice heard in court, there have been NO action plans to remedy this known issue. Family law rightfully gives special attention to the needs of children or domestic violence victims. I know, because I used to volunteer for one of the programs. It should go without saying that special attention should be given to people engaged in family law who have a mental disability.
Source: Washington Courts (State Website)
If it wasn’t for my legal background I would have been lost in the system. When I think of how many individuals trying to simply get through a divorce could have been subjected to such discrimination, I know I have to use my experience to make sure all individuals with a mental disability are afforded their fundamental constitutional right to have their voice heard in court. As a result of not being afforded counsel as required by Title II of the ADA, I endured some pretty extraordinary claims one might instinctively want to discount. However, each violation is in print in the court record, in pleadings, transcripts and court orders:
• Publication of private facts
• HIPAA violations
• Psychiatric harm
• Attorney misconduct
• And worst of all… Judicial misconduct by three judges
PS: There was one other judge I interacted with, and she treated me with compassion and dignity. As soon as this case goes public I will be acknowledging her professionalism publicly. I will never forget how she was a beacon of light during such a dark time and will forever be grateful to her for her professionalism.
Typically, one files a complaint and the Department of Justice investigates and prosecutes. However, if the case is so egregious that the complainant is seeking numerous forms of relief, then a federal civil case is appropriate. The court’s denial of what the ADA refers to as “reasonable accommodations” is a charge in and of itself. There are federal and state level manuals advising courts precisely what to do in a situation like mine, and 95% of the protocol was ignored.
Further, each violation meets the standards for “deliberate indifference” or “reckless disregard” and therefore, each violation was an act of intentional infliction of emotional distress. I’ve overcome a lot in life, but losing faith in the legal system I respected so dearly was the last thing I ever expected. It left me hopeless. And we all know what happens when one loses hope…
HOW WILL I BE A VOICE FOR THOSE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS?
The time has come to file this case and seek justice on behalf of not only myself - but also to prevent future discrimination in our nations’ court rooms against anyone with a mental disability.
I have an attorney on the east coast who is one of the definitive legal experts on all things ADA who has verified this is a groundbreaking prima facie case. However, he does not litigate in court, so I am searching for an attorney licensed to represent the case in the Western District of the State of Washington. A federal attorney with experience in this area specifically will be challenging, but I have several names.
The case will be filed. There will be a press release. There will be an article in the Seattle Times, naming all defendants, including the judges, in order to bring as much attention on a local basis, as well. I am discussing this with an agent to handle the publicity.
My blog will go online and become ground central for me to share decades of research and personal opinions on the welfare of those living with a mental illness. There will be pages on my blog showcasing the writings and artistry created by those living with a mental illness. I want to provide a website not sponsored by a pharmaceutical company masked as a support group, but rather a portal with no agenda other than us helping each other. Since I formerly lectured at a university, I want to parlay this travesty into a speaking and consulting career. This is a career I know I CAN handle, and know it WILL make me financially independent and able to get off SSDI and start saving the world.
LEAVING A LEGACY
The conclusion of this civil rights case will require legislative change on the local, state and federal level with all court rules regarding how the mentally disabled are treated in divorce proceedings. They will finally be held accountable to implement Congress’ intentions.
Those living with mental illness have been the longest suffering minority in world history. There are ancient carvings depicting that age’s treatment of the mentally ill. For thousands of years our people have been subjected without consent to various versions of lobotomies (even in primitive times), experiments, numerous inhumane methods of confinement like being bound to a wall or stuffed in a wood box, witch hunts, exorcisms, and sometimes homicide. The CDC reports only 3-5% of violent crimes are committed by an individual with a mental illness, yet we are often paired with felons in conversations, despite no correlation other than prison overpopulation.
Ironically at the time of writing this, news just broke that the armed forces may begin allowing those with a mental illness to serve their country. We have a long way to go, and it’s finally our turn. It might be more challenging for those of us with a mental illness to assemble a million person march anywhere, but we’re here. If I have to be the one to “fall on my sword” and take the heat, so be it. I’m a survivor. I’m making it my life’s work to improve the quality of lives for those with a mental illness. Our fundamental right to access to the courts with an ability to communicate our needs and have our voices heard is the first step.
I have so many ideas for a non-profit charity that will help others living with a mental illness... If anyone has any suggestions, experience or knowledge about forming a 501c3, I would love the help!
PS: Please understand it has taken me from April-November 2017 to write this summary. I have easily 50 pages of random writings, but most days my cognition is off and it's challenging condensing my thoughts and prioritizing what is critical to include. This is an example of what I consider the worst aspect of mental illness - periods of impaired cognition. The good news is, it's done, and now I can pass it on to an attorney and set the wheels in motion...
PPS: For those of you who've noticed I've fallen off the face of the earth for the past four years, even more so the past two... now you know, and I am truly sorry I have isolated myself like this. I haven't been myself. I am so grateful for the friends I have, and the way we joke "it takes a village" to watch over Jenny Lynn...
Thank you to those who got this page together. Thank you for giving me hope that I'll get through this and become who I'm intended to be.
And thank you to all who took the time to read this.
So this is Jen's story - and we hope you can see that she is seeking this immediate help not just to help herself - but also to help others.
We believe her cause and her story alone should be heard by a larger audience, which in turn may help improve the lives of millions thanks to the awareness she wants to bring to the overlooked rights of those living with a mental illness.
★ We thank you VERY much for any help! ★
Adrea Gill & Jen's Support Group
LAWS FOR THOSE LIVING WITH A MENTAL DISABILITY
To learn more, please see the following resources:
The ADA's Title II Technical Assistance Manual
State of Washington General Rule 33 (ADA Law)
Washington Courts (State Website)
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