Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
David Goldman and his Brazilian wife, Bruna, led what appeared to be a happy life in New Jersey. Then, in June 2004, Bruna took their young son Sean to Brazil for what she said would be a two-week vacation. Once there, she told her husband she was staying in South America – and keeping Sean. Her actions set in motion an international firestorm that reached the highest levels of the U. S. and Brazilian governments. Both Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama would intervene before the standoff came to an end. It would be nearly five years before David Goldman saw Sean again. He talks with Diane about his battle to bring his son home.
- Congressman Christopher Smith U. S. House of Representatives (R-New Jersey)
- David Goldman advocate to prevent international child abduction
Author Extra: David Goldman Answers Your Questions
Mr. Goldman stayed after the show to answer a few more questions.####
Q: I have the opposite problem. I am originally from Cameroun and I’m planning to take my 6 year old daughter visit my parents in Africa this summer. My ex-wife is concerned and is against this trip. How do I reassure my ex-wife that I have no intention whatsoever to keep her daughter away from her? Should I contact the State Department in advance to calm her fears?
– From Omar via Email
A: I would advise you to seek legal counseling. If you can, try to get mirror orders from courts in both countries that have a limited or specific duration of travel. Speak to an international attorney or someone who has expertise in legal issues focused on children. Speak to the State Department to see if they can recommend anyone within Cameroon who can help you if you need it. Thank you and good luck.
Q: My understanding was that she was from a rich and prominent family in brazil…does David think that she missed the old lifestyle she had enjoyed and in the end didn’t care to live the comparatively modest life in new jersey? I really admire david for his tireless efforts on behalf of his child.
– From Anne via Email
A: That’s an absolute possibility. She did say that in Brazil, she is “known.” We were just a typical family raising a child and perhaps she did want that sort of socialite lifestyle that she had in Brazil. But I’ll never truly know if that was the reason. Thank you for your question and thank you for your support.
Q: I have yet to hear an explanation as to exactly what had been motivating the mother’s family to keep Mr. Goldman away from his son and to retain custody of his son in violation of court orders. Please explain why the mother’s family had so strenuously ensured that Mr. Goldman could not take his son home for so long. – From Andrew via Facebook
A: It’s all been answered and it’s all in the courts. If you take a look at our Website, you can research court documents there and look at other opinions. We’re also helping other families there. Because of my wife and her family’s social status in Brazil, which they were open to the media about, they considered me some poor gringo. How could a wealthy, powerful family lose and not get what they want, and allow some gringo to win? For them, it was never about Sean – as evidenced when they paraded him through two blocks in Rio right before I brought him home. That’s something that still haunts him.
Q: Several listeners asked if there is a way to donate to other families who are in the midst of similar custody battles.
A: For anyone who wants to know more about the actions and efforts we’re putting forward to help other families who live and breathe this tragedy of having child abducted, please visit our Website. Thank you very much for your support and attention.
Read an Excerpt
From A Father’s Love. Copyright 2011 by David Goldman. Excerpted by kind permission of Viking.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. On Father's Day, seven years ago, David Goldman was looking forward to meeting his wife and 4-year-old son in Brazil. He thought they had gone on a short visit to be with her parents. But the phone call he received that day left him reeling.
MS. DIANE REHMDavid's wife, Bruna, said she was staying in Rio and keeping Sean. David Goldman has written a new book about his five-year battle to bring his son back to the U.S. The book is titled "A Father's Love." And David Goldman joins me in the studio. I know that this kind of thing does happen to an awful lot of people.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you, David.
MR. DAVID GOLDMANGood morning Diane. Thank you so much for having me on.
REHMMy pleasure. What a blow that telephone call must've been to you.
GOLDMANIt was crushing and actually the phone call came on Father's Day. The first one when they first arrived was, we're here. Everything's good. And the second one was on Father's Day and it came out of left field. I was shocked in disbelief and I basically just put my hands, you know, my face in my hands and just dropped to the floor after we hung up.
GOLDMANIt was a voice that I'd never had heard from my then wife, Bruna, before. And she called up and said, we need to talk. Our love affair is over. You're a great guy, a wonderful father, the best father I could ever imagine for my son. She was calling him now her son. But I've decided to remain in Brazil and I will keep Sean with me.
GOLDMANAnd then she demanded that I needed to fly down to Brazil immediately to meet with her and her attorney and sign 10 pages of a legal document that they had drawn up, which would have me giving her full custody, essentially relinquishing my rights as Sean's parent and his rights to me, as his parent, as well as never going to the police to press kidnapping charges or even going to the courts to file for separation, which would interfere with her request for the U.S. citizenship, which she was trying to still get at that time.
REHMBut you've got to back up because how long had you and Bruna actually been married?
GOLDMANAlmost five years.
REHMAbout five years. And during that time, you had purchased a small house then a second house.
REHMShe seemed quite happy?
GOLDMANAs far as I knew, she was quite happy. And, yes, when we were dating, I owned a small condo, a three bedroom townhouse down near the beaches of New Jersey and she came to visit. I invited her mom and dad and even her brother and they came and stayed the whole summer.
GOLDMANThis is when we were dating and we all just got along so well right away and, yes, we fell in love deeper and deeper. And we got married and we had a beautiful boy and as far as I knew, it really was -- I felt so blessed.
REHMAnd then her parents purchased a home nearby?
GOLDMANCorrect, yes, in Sea Bright, New Jersey. They really loved the area of Monmouth County. It was close to New York so they can go and see the shows and it was close to Atlantic City and her father would like to go down there and it was safe.
GOLDMANYou know, Rio has so many beautiful places, the landscape and the sea and the mountains and many, many wonderful people who ended up really supporting us towards the end when they realized what the truth of everything was. But there's still a big element of danger. It was safer where we lived.
REHMOf course. And that day that -- and you begin the book by Bruna packing up suitcases and getting ready to depart for what you assumed was going to be a two-week vacation. You were a little sort of distrustful or at least questioning as to why there were so many suitcases involved.
GOLDMANWell, it was interesting because we had just assembled a swing set for Sean for his birthday. And he had to run up and used the bathroom. So we ran upstairs, when he was finished, to say hello and there were four suitcases her and her mom were packing.
GOLDMANAnd obviously she would be packing Sean's suitcase, but she said that they had a couple of weddings to go to while they were in Brazil, one in the mountains and one where it'd be warmer so she needed to take winter clothes and then warm clothes. And, you know, I didn't think of anything of it because I had no reason to.
GOLDMANAnd maybe if you had -- if I was suspicious, if there was something going on, maybe that would've signaled something. But, you know, it sounded -- but in retrospect, the look on their faces, it was almost like they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and they offered up this explanation.
GOLDMANI don't want to even feel like I was so naive. She was my loving wife and why would I have any reason to distrust her or her mom or anything that they would do or say?
REHMAnd her father, how well did you get along with him?
GOLDMANWe all got along really, really well. We would have barbeques in our yard on our big deck overlooking the river and both of our families would come and friends and really it was wonderful. I loved them as they were my family, my own blood and that's -- it was just such a betrayal and a deceit and cruel that I could never fathom.
REHMYou had to have been so utterly shocked that this had happened. Did you go back in your mind, after that phone call came, and think, did I do something? Maybe that little argument we got into a few weeks ago, maybe all of a sudden she's decided she hates this place. What went through your mind?
GOLDMANWell, it was first twofold. Well, yes, I'm thinking back. What happened? What was this? What's going on? And honestly, I couldn't think of anything so I started to call all of our mutual friends and even friends that I know she has from -- she was a schoolteacher. And I'm thinking, okay, she works with these teachers, you know, five days a week.
REHMDid she tell them anything?
GOLDMANNo one knew anything except the contrary to what you would think. No, we have a great life. Look at, you know, we're so happy. She would show family pictures of our vacations, of what we did this past weekend. Everyone was completely shocked, not only me.
REHMI'm sure. So did you immediately get a lawyer?
GOLDMANActually, I had to kind of peel myself back off the floor and try to get some sanity back to what really was happening. A few of my friends and even her friends said, well, you know, maybe she's just going through some crisis or something. It was just impulse, you know, give it a couple of days. Let's see and this couple of days didn't get any better. So eventually, yes, I did start to seek legal counseling.
GOLDMANAnd I finally was directed to Patricia Apy, who specializes in international child abduction cases. In fact, it's such a great issue that we have lawyers now that specialize in that. But prior to her, the lawyers that I'd spoken to and including her, everyone of them said, do not step foot in that country.
GOLDMANAs much as I wanted to just fly down there and see what was going on and talk to her face-to-face and what's happening, that could've put me in all sorts of precarious situations as far as the danger element. Even acquiescing to her remaining there with our son, I could've been dragged into some custody case and it was clear that this is an abduction case.
REHMIt's interesting because there is another side of the story, another view of how your marriage, at least offered by the man that Bruna ultimately married. What did he have to say?
GOLDMANWell, you know, the interesting thing about that is we were never divorced in this country or I never did file any separation papers or anything. And all of a sudden, she can marry someone else in another country who will also try to get a Brazilian birth certificate issued for my son and erase our paternal lineage, erase my name and put his name on to completely erase me from Sean's life as well as his grandparents from here.
GOLDMANSo the things that he would say is she was unhappy, she had to work too much, she didn't like New Jersey, she didn't like me and we didn't like each other, to put it nicely.
REHMAnd to whom did he say those things?
GOLDMANTo the media and also to a superior court. When I went down there, probably the 11th time or so to be reunited with my son -- and as this guy -- he was sitting about as close as a couple feet away across the table from me. He was looking up, kind of sneering at me a little bit and then just sang the same speech that his father had written about they didn't like each other, there was, you know, no love and Sean's lived here for 60 percent of his life and just saying all kinds.
GOLDMANAnd I looked at the judge and I said, your Honor, I'm not here to have a back and forth with this man who is illegally holding my son. I'm just here for your help as an officer of the court, for the rule of law, for the rule of God, for the rule of humanity to be followed and to let my son and I be together. Why is this so difficult? I'm pleading for your help, your Honor.
REHMDavid Goldman, his new book about the long journey to retrieve his son is titled "A Father's Love."
REHMAnd welcome back. David Goldman is here with me. He was married for five years to a Brazilian woman Bruna who unexpectedly and totally, without any forewarning, after she had said she was taking their son Sean to Brazil for a two-week vacation, called him, David, on Father's Day and said, I'm staying here in Brazil and I am keeping Sean. Quite a shock. And he has written a book about what happened as a result of that telephone call.
REHMThe book is titled "A Father's Love: One Man's Unrelenting Battle to Bring His Abducted Son Home." Bruna became pregnant before you were married. She and her husband say that she only married you because she was pregnant. What if she hadn't been pregnant? Do you believe the two of you would've been married?
GOLDMANAbsolutely. In fact, I didn't ever hear Bruna say that even when we were fighting back and forth to get Sean home. In fact, we were trying to get married in Italy. We were just head-over-heels in love with each other. I guess that she just didn't believe in what marriage is or was or didn't know what the purity of marriage should be, that you can marry and then divorce which happens all the time.
GOLDMANAlthough in this case we had a child. So if she decided not to love me any longer after five years, well, that happens. I would have to accept that. But we do have a child to think about. And for someone to fall out of love with their partner, it happens, but to be so cruel to your own child.
REHMBut what do you suppose transformed this woman who had been so dear and loving with you to this cold impersonal voice that you heard on the phone and subsequently saw?
GOLDMANOkay. I tried to not really delve into that at the time because it would've been a wasted energy. My focus was to try to be reunited with my son. And since -- now that he's home, I find myself really -- now really trying to wonder and figure things out. Throughout the course of this case, in the five-and-a-half years, little pieces of information have leaked out. One being from the man that she married in Brazil, claiming that they had some sort of relationship before we had met and then they reconnected while we were still together. Sort of -- he alluded that they were possibly having an affair before she had taken our son. When he was in New York or something they may have met, so maybe that rekindled.
GOLDMANWe know her grandmother -- her mom was sort of obsessed with her and our son and maybe she was the driving force. But honestly, I don't know. I know she was a great actor and -- because she fooled me and everyone else. But I'll never know the answers. And when she was alive, she never really made them clear except that, I don't want to live in New Jersey and I want to live in Brazil where I am known.
REHMHere is an email from Matt Allen (sp?) who is editor of DadsDivorce.com. He says, "I interviewed David's Brazilian attorney Ricardo Zemoriola (sp?) from my DadsDivorce.com website and he indicted the battle is far from over, as Sean's Brazilian family has filed motions in the U.S. to have Sean returned to Brazil, to receive visitation, to be compensated financially for court costs and defamation." What is the current status of the case?
GOLDMANThey have actually filed, not only in New Jersey, but also in Brazil, to return Sean. They want to get the decision that sent Sean back overturned and have him brought back to Brazil. And they have, as that email stated, that they've also filed in the courts in New Jersey. And while the first round in the superior court of freehold wasn't favorable to them, the court decided that they weren't going to control my parental rights and order access to the grandparents on the terms that they wanted. The terms that we've offered were eminently reasonable, again quoting the opinion of Judge Guardano (sp?) in the courts of New Jersey.
GOLDMANBut they appealed it so we're waiting for an appellate decision to come out. As well as in Brazil, they filed an appeal. And they do always ask for monetary damages. In fact, the man she married in Brazil and his husband (sic) just opened up a separate lawsuit against me suing me for financial compensation. It's not over. It's far from over and it is very, very, very arduous for -- the part while he was abducted, I almost was living in two parallel worlds, so to speak. One, just trying to simply live, breath, survive...
REHMDo your work.
GOLDMAN...work. And the other was doing whatever I could to be reunited with my abducted child. So now he's home and thank God he's doing so well. At the same time, I still have their constant claw just right over my shoulder ready to snatch him and claw me in the process.
REHMTell me about Sean and what kind of a child he is.
GOLDMANSean is a wonderful, sweet, happy, smart boy. He's full of energy. He’s playful. He's very articulate and he's very clever. He loves sports. He's playing baseball this year, which, to me, was really amazing because that was my first sport.
REHMDoes he miss his mother?
GOLDMANHe does miss his mom, as any person would miss their mom or dad. And that's very sad.
REHMAnd joining us now from his office here in Washington, D.C., Congressman Christopher Smith of New Jersey. He was instrumental in helping David Goldman bring his son Sean home from Brazil. Good morning to you, sir. Thanks for joining us.
CONGRESSMAN CHRISTOPHER SMITHOh, thank you very much and thanks for having David on, because his story continually needs to be told, primarily -- not because it's a great success story of a father's love for his son, but for all the remaining families and all the American children and other children throughout the world who have been abducted and are being hurt. So thank you.
REHMTell me what brought David and Sean's case to your attention.
SMITHWell, actually my wife and I were watching a show, Dateline, and at the end of the show, David made an appeal for someone to help him. He doesn't live in my district so I had known about it -- I had read about it in the Asbury Park Press. But usually, you know, when it comes to casework, you pretty much stay within your congressional boundaries, although there's no absolute on that.
SMITHAnd he made such a strong appeal, my wife said, you're gonna call him, right? And I said, absolutely. You know, I listen to my wife. I called him the next -- that night, frankly. And by two days later, we were in my office in Whiting, N.J. for a very detailed assessment about what had been done or not done on a congressional level and on the federal government's level.
SMITHAnd then, by the end of the week, I was with David Goldman at a hearing and at numerous meetings that we set up, both including the Supreme Court of Brazil. We met with one top justice and many others in the court in a very, very aggressive series of meetings. And nobody was a better advocate for reclaiming his son who had been kidnapped than David Goldman himself.
SMITHSo when they saw him, met him and took the measure of this loving father, there was this overwhelming sense of an egregious harm had been done that needs to be fixed. But again, the other side, the abducting side was very aggressive using every trick. And they were tricks. They were not legitimate legal maneuverings on my part -- you know, in my assessment, to just appeal, appeal until David was bankrupt and Sean was 21.
REHMTell me, I gather you were concerned for David's safety in Brazil.
SMITHYes. Well, there had been threats made, credible threats investigated by the FBI. So David, you know, was concerned and legitimately so, that, you know, without adequate diplomatic security protections, for example, this -- someone could be -- could take actions into their own hands. You know, his love for his son superseded all of that. He was going no matter what. And, you know, when I went down there, I hopefully added some additional security sides to it, and that is to say that the diplomatic security personnel ensured -- you know, whenever Congressmen travel, there's at least some assessment made on protection.
SMITHSo he benefited from it. But, you know, there were times, particularly in the hotel, particularly when he would go out of the hotel on his own that there would be concerns about some incident perhaps happening. Because you can't -- 'cause I saw it in the eyes, I saw it in the use of foul language that was directed towards me, and David dealt with it for five years from some particularly on the legal side. And, you know, you can't -- you can mitigate risk. You can't eliminate it. And my thought was whatever we could do to ensure that he is absolutely, and Sean, protected from any incident, that's what we had to do.
REHMI wonder about exerting the pressure of a member of the U.S. Congress on Brazil.
SMITHYeah, well, Brazil is a signer of the Hague Convention, as you know. And unfortunately they have been derelict in their implementation of both spirit and letter of that very important treaty. And there are obligations that accrue to a country that signs. I think there are obligations that accrue to any country, like Japan and others who are non-signers as a matter of international human rights norms and other laws. But with regards to Brazil, they are signatory, have been for many years.
SMITHThey also have an agreement with the United States for, you know, the prompt return to the place of habitual residence, you know, the language of the treaty and really of international law, to ensure that any custody dispute is done at that place of habitual residence. And that would be Monmouth County, N.J. not Rio de Janeiro, where hostile courts, especially at the lower level, just didn't get it.
SMITHOne of the big breakthroughs, as you know, for David was when the federal judiciary finally took a long look. And one judge in particular, Judge Pinto, wrote a brilliant opinion that really set up legally the final reunification of a father and a son in terms of David Goldman. But Brazil needs to realize that you don't sign treaties and then say, you know, these are paper promises to which we have no intent of following up. And there are several remaining cases with Brazil. There's at least six long-standing cases involving eight children that have encountered repeated delays in the judiciary. You know, it's like déjà vu of the David Goldman case.
SMITHAnd one thing that I give David Goldman such high marks for is that he always -- you know, it was all about initially him and Sean. But he has said I am in this for the duration for all the other left-behind parents and abducted American children. And so he's doing a great service to humanity (unintelligible)
REHMAnd I gather -- I gather you're going to hold a hearing...
REHM...on this subject on the 25th of May.
SMITHYes, May 24th, 2:00...
SMITH...here in the Rayburn building. We'll have another, and this is a series of hearings, we're introducing very shortly a bill that unfortunately did not get passed last year but it will get passed this year called the International Child Abduction Prevention Act. And what it will do, you know, at its very core is make this a country-to-country fight rather than the David versus Goliath fight, where you have an individual American citizen who gets some assistance from their government, particularly in terms of counselor affairs work.
SMITHAnd the Counselor Department in Brazil were outstanding, empathetic, very caring. But they don't have the tools in the toolbox to hold a country that is an egregious defender, especially like Brazil or Japan to account to say, okay, there are penalties if you do not return our children and have the proper custody battles adjudicated at the place of habitual residence.
SMITHI patterned this bill after a law that I wrote in 2000 called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. And also another bill that I worked very hard on called the International Religious Freedom Act. And in both of those instances we have penalties that would accrue to a country that is -- shows a pattern of noncooperation when it comes to child abduction cases. In the case of trafficking we put countries on a tier 3 list, you know, three tiers and a watch list. And if they are offenders when it comes to sex or labor trafficking we hold them to account with penalties.
SMITHIf there's no penalty the country will, in many cases, just say okay, we'll -- you know, it'll be a diplomatic chatter that goes back and forth but no meaningful resolution of the issue. And we have 2800 American kids who have been abducted and the numbers are growing, not diminishing. So we need real tools so that whoever the president is and state department -- the secretary of state, they say, look country X, Y or Z, look Brazil, look Japan, we're going to hold you to account and there's an economic and other types of penalties that we will impose. We're not kidding. We care about our children.
REHMCongressman Christopher Smith of New Jersey. He was instrumental in helping David Goldman bring his son Sean home from Brazil. I wish you all success, sir, and thank you for joining us this morning.
SMITHOh, thank you so much. And again, thanks for having David on.
REHMMy pleasure. And turning back to you, David, you actually found out that Bruna had been planning this for a while.
GOLDMANAgain, little indications. For example, how would she have an attorney within a couple days, calling me on a Father's Day, which would be a Sunday, with ten pages of papers drawn up? A key that we always had hanging on our key rack in our home to look after her parents' condo in Sea Bright was missing.
GOLDMANWas gone. Then the suitcases and then one day her -- you know, I went in to look into her closet and it was virtually bare. She -- and then I ran into Sean's room and all of his clothes remained exactly as they were untouched, while hers were gone.
REHMDavid Goldman. His new book is titled "A Father's Love: One Man's Unrelenting Battle to Bring His Abducted Son Home." When we come back, we'll open the phones.
REHMAnd welcome back. It's time to open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Lanham, Md. and to Tee, you're on the air.
TEEGood morning, Diane. How are you today?
REHMI'm fine, thank you, sir. Go right ahead.
TEEYes, ma'am. I just have a little advice for David. It know it's hard for any father or mother go through strategy like that. But at the same time my advice to David that it's a hard thing, but I just want him to keep on praying, to believe in God. God give this son to him. Now, when stuff happen sometime, things happen for a reason.
GOLDMANYou're absolutely right. And thank you very much -- thank you very much for your support.
REHMNow, we should point out that Bruna died.
REHMWhen did she die and how?
GOLDMANShe died in August of 2008 and she passed away giving birth to the man that she married in Brazil to their baby.
REHMIs their baby alive and well?
GOLDMANAs far as I know the baby -- well, the baby lived and as far as I know today, yes, she's well.
REHMAll right. And how did she die?
GOLDMANApparently she had complications giving birth and there was a rupture and she bled to death.
REHMOh. In a hospital?
GOLDMANIn a hospital with the doctors whom they chose to deliver the baby.
REHMWow. All right. To Wallowa, Wash. Good morning, Greg, you're on the air.
GREGGood morning, Diane.
GREGA similar situation in 2008 my 9-year-old son was abducted across state line from Washington to Oregon. And I guess I would address the impact that it has on the children. My son now is 13 years old. He lives with me. The Guardian ad Litem was involved in the investigation. Found that the child would be better served living here with me and going to school here with me. And Logan even chose to be here. But even after all of these investigative techniques, the mother still pressed her motherhood which, you know, you would expect that. But the fathers have an uphill battle and I like David felt like I was naive to the fact of what was happening and hit out of the blue. So good for you, David, and keep it up.
GOLDMANThank you. Thank you very much. And, you know, it is difficult within our own country and you put an international aspect and you can only imagine how thick it gets. Not only do they have us at some cases a gender a bias, but also they invoke their nationalism.
REHMWell, I must say I do remember the case of the former British ambassador's wife to Washington whose former husband took their child home to Germany and did the same thing, only the German government stood behind the father no matter what the British mother tried to do. So it happens to both genders. It happens again and again. And I do agree with the member of Congress that something's got to be done about this country to country relationship and how countries regard kidnapping. That's all there is to it.
GOLDMANOh, absolutely, absolutely. And the world is getting smaller as we have global, you know, communications and traveling and corporations opening up in various countries. Well, you're gonna have relationships and marriages and children. And that's why this treaty was in place -- put in place in 1980. And there are 80 or more countries that are signatories of this treaty 'cause they saw the potential and the enormity.
REHMAs is Brazil.
REHMDavid, how did you keep going? How did you pay for what was happening?
GOLDMANWell, I'm still paying. I am still deeply in debt, but I just try to focus on doing all I could, how I could do it. And I drew strength from the love I had for my son. You know, people say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and things build character. But in a situation like this, you don't have time to build character. And somewhere within us we have it. It reveals our strength. It reveals the character that we all have to keep going.
REHMI wonder how you're son felt when you put him on a plane and brought him back with you. That must've been tough.
GOLDMANWell, after they chose to drag him through two blocks in the Brazilian Rio streets to put their mark, wrapping him up in a Brazilian flag colored shirt, yeah, he was pretty shaken when we first saw each other. But fortunately --and this is a testament to a lot of psychologists that say those four years of life are so formative and the bond that you can have with our child is so important. Well, fortunately we had such a strong bond during those four formative years of his life that when we did have a few brief visits before we returned that connection was there.
GOLDMANThe first day was wonderful. He was hugging me, calling me Dad. And then of course they saw that. They had their people viewing from high apartment windows. And he was told he cannot hug me, be affectionate, call me Dad, love me and they ratcheted up their abuse to him. So essentially when we were on the tarmac walking up the stairs to get onto the plane -- it wasn't a jet way where you just walk. You had to go outside and walk up these steps. Well, I stopped for a second and realized if he went up those steps before me, someone somewhere would have a snapshot of saying the boy didn't wanna go, he was forced up those steps.
GOLDMANSo I just looked up and said a quick prayer, I'm gonna walk up first and when I turn around, please, Sean be there with me. 'Cause he could throw a tantrum, he could run, he could say I don't wanna go. But it needed to be his own choice to walk up those steps. And sure enough when I reached that top step, I couldn't hear if he was following me 'cause the engines were running, but I turned around and he stopped. He was holding onto both sides of the handrails and he looked up, what are you doing? Let's get going. And that just said it all. I just got all welled up. I saw Congressman Smith and the embassy officials on the tarmac gave him a big thumbs up and we got on that plane. And as soon as he walked through that door, you could just see the weight come off his shoulders. The pressure, the stress was fading away.
REHMHow did Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama get involved?
GOLDMANWell, I learned that the media is essentially a fourth branch of government. And once the media really came and started covering this case, it drew the attention of higher ups in our government. And Secretary of State was really a tremendous help. She had always been an advocate for children...
GOLDMAN...and believes in children's rights and what she can do. And this case was black and white. If there were -- from my attorney, to quote her, this is as a pristine abduction case as one lawyer can ever be handed on her desk. So there really isn't another side. The only answer is to return him. And she just saw this egregious miscarriage of justice from a country that's a friendly ally. You know, how can they continue to do this? So just even by her voicing publicly, answering a question on TV from Miss Mitchell...
GOLDMANYes, Andrea Mitchell. Brought it to a whole other level.
REHMWhat did she say?
GOLDMANWhat about the Goldman case? You know, this is essentially her first meeting with the foreign minister from Brazil and she's -- you know, they're saying their little meet and greet and waving to people and Andrea Mitchell, what about the Goldman case? And then she spoke about it and she knew what was right and said that we are working and we are hopeful that this will be resolved and, you know, the father and son should be together.
REHMAnd did the president himself speak out?
GOLDMANI saw him with an interview -- on an interview with Meredith Vieira and he also was hoping that Brazil would do the right thing and they're going to continue to watch and monitor and hopefully this will get resolved expeditiously. Five and a half years is far from expeditious, but he's home.
REHMLet's go to Miami, Fla. Good morning, Michelle.
MICHELLEHi, good morning.
MICHELLESo my comment is this, I am actually one of those abducted children. And I'm hearing a lot from the parents' side, but it's really important to also find out what's going on with your son. I was two years old when my father took me from the states and I grew up with him in Europe. And I had believed that my mom had passed away from child birth and I had no pictures or anything of my mother. And then when I was 19 my father passed away and I found out that my mother was actually alive.
MICHELLEDuring that time though growing up, you know, I thought that it was my fault that she was dead, that I was a murderer, that I wasn't worthy of love and it was really, really difficult. And to find out that she was actually alive and all those feelings weren't true. My life was a lie in effect. And now I found my mother. I actually found them on the internet. I Googled their name. I had the last name. And I found my brother and sister here in Miami. It's been very hard to have a relationship with them. We have extremely big cultural differences. And it's just really important that you look into the effects it's having on your son. I'm 28 now and I'm still trying to get through this.
MICHELLEA multitude of unanswered questions.
REHMYeah. I certainly can understand that, Michelle. I wonder, David, whether Sean is still asking you questions about his mother and his family in Brazil and why you brought him back here.
GOLDMANWell, you know, the interesting thing as the caller stated is when Sean was abducted, essentially he wasn't told that his father had died. He was told his father didn't love him and had abandoned him. And even in -- he was evaluated by three court appointed psychologists and the term parental alienation came up over and over. They tried to erase his real memories and create false memories by telling him I never loved him, we live in a shack, all kinds of horrible things to have him convinced and to believe that I am the enemy.
GOLDMANAnd that was his big conflict when we first came home, that he saw none of it was true, that he was surrounded by love, by patience, understanding, by his other grandparents. Not only was he ripped away from me, but he was ripped away from his whole paternal family, his grandparents, his cousins. He has first cousins less than a year in age apart from him. His aunts, his uncles and the home that he knew and loved for over four years. And of course we are in therapy to help him, to let him know he can speak.
GOLDMANThey didn't have one picture of me in his house. I was to be erased as the guy that married him tried to bring a Brazilian birth certificate to the court to legally in Brazil erase me altogether from his life.
REHMDavid Goldman, his new book is titled "A Father's Love." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an e-mail from Tim saying, "Do you think you will ever be able to trust another woman fully, especially since you never had a hint of what was to come? This kind of wound is nearly impossible to heal."
GOLDMANTo never allow myself to love again would cheat myself on one of the most precious things we have in life, and that is to love one another. Yeah, it will be difficult, but it is far from impossible. And I will not let this have a scar -- long lasting scar. I will heal. I have healed. And I'll be with my son and we'll be okay. So, no, I will -- I am open to the opportunity of love and I am with someone right now that I am in love with and I'm very happy and very fortunate.
GOLDMANAnd trusting, yes. Although she does -- she is from the same area that I'm from, so -- and I doubt she would, you know, who does -- it's very -- yeah, I'm feeling okay with her, with Wendy.
REHMYou're feeling okay with her.
GOLDMANYeah, I trust her very much.
REHMAnd how does Sean like her?
GOLDMANSean likes her very much and she's got two boys and they play and they're good buddies and they play baseball together, so it's good. It's good for him and it's good for all of us.
REHMDoes Sean know that his mother has died?
GOLDMANOh, yes. He was in Brazil when she passed away. And one of the first things that the abductors did was go to a family court in Rio and file a claim for this -- the guy that she married there with this birth certificate, a Brazilian birth certificate, to put his name on it saying that the boy's mother had passed away and we have no idea anything about his father, he's been abandoned, so Sean is essentially an orphan. At the same time they went to the Supreme Court -- mind you these are lawyers that specialize in international child abduction cases. So at the same time they go to the Supreme Court in Brazil to try to get a final resolution to the pending case that we had against Bruna. And they filed without ever disclosing to the courts of her death.
GOLDMANAt the same time, a week later -- well, not at the same time. A week or 10 days later did I find out that she passed away. I had no idea that she passed away or they filed this. I only knew from -- through Wendy who was helping me. She's great on the internet and she has some friends from Brazil.
REHMThis is your friend?
GOLDMANMy -- yes, the love of my life now, who found an article that said that Bruna had passed away. So right away I need to comfort my son. He's been ripped away from me. Now his mom died. We need to go down there and now we can be together.
REHMDavid Goldman, he's an advocate against international child abduction. He spent five years in an effort to retrieve his son, Sean, from Brazil. His book is titled "A Father's Love: One Man's Unrelenting Battle to Bring His Abducted Son Home." I certainly hope things continue to go well, David...
REHM...and that you and Sean remain healthy and together.
GOLDMANWell, thank you so much. I would like to say that we do have a bringseanhome.org foundation. There is also a chapter dedicated in the book to these other cases to help these other families because they need help. There are so many of them still living and breathing this every day.
REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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