MILWAUKEE (CN) – A mentally troubled woman claims her state social worker forced her to have sex under threat of taking her children away, made her pregnant, and did take her children away when she refused to have an abortion.
TN sued the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and her former social worker, Peter Nelsen, in Federal Court.
TN says she suffers from “anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, with schizoid, paranoid, and narcissistic features.” She says Nelsen was assigned to investigate allegations she had abused her two older children.
Instead, she says, while working for the Milwaukee Child Welfare bureau, Nelsen “sexually battered the plaintiff on at least three occasions … under color of law as the plaintiff’s assigned social worker in the child protection matters,” and fathered her child.
Nelsen, a 12-year veteran of the department who was not initially assigned to the case, took over the investigation, saying “he would handle it,” according to the complaint.
TN says that despite finding no evidence of abuse, Nelson continued to drop by her home without notice.
At first he stopped over weekly, then daily. TN says she was scared that Nelsen would take her children away or have her arrested because he said he “knew a lot of police officers,” so she felt obligated to let him in.
To assert his power, TN says, Nelsen always “displayed his BMCW credentials prominently, on a lanyard around his neck,” told her “that he had arrest powers over parents suspected of child abuse or neglect,” said “he could ‘learn anything about her’ by entering her Social Security Number into a database managed by the State of
Wisconsin,” and said that “even if (she) moved to get away from him, he could
find her and her children.”
According to the complaint: “Between approximately September and early November 2007, Nelsen had sexual intercourse with the plaintiff at least three times. (TN) was coerced into having sex with Nelsen, due to the control he had over her children’s custody and placement.
“Through that sexual contact, (TN) became pregnant.
“By the time she became pregnant, Nelsen was spending at least five hours per work week at the plaintiff’s home.
“When the plaintiff first learned she was pregnant, in approximately November 2007. [Sic.]
“When the Plaintiff told Nelsen about the pregnancy, he yelled at her, ‘You’re going to have to get an abortion.’ Nelsen further told plaintiff, in essence, ‘If you have that baby, I’m going to lose everything.’ Plaintiff replied, ‘I’m not going to kill my baby.’
“Within weeks of TN refusing to abort her child, on December 21, 2007, Milwaukee police officers and BMCW social workers with seized [sic] her two children.
“On or about August 28, 2009, Nelsen stated to media, regarding his sexual relationship with the plaintiff, ‘Well, certainly my relationship (with [TN]) was inappropriate. I admit that. I’m sure.” In that same discussion, when asked’ if he thought what he did with the plaintiff was a crime, Nelsen stated, ‘Some statutes I suppose would say so.'”
TN says that when she was in the hospital giving birth, Nelsen used his position to visit her. Shortly after the birth, he took the baby for extended periods of time and then permanently. She says he has had her in his custody for almost 3 years, and that her older children have not been returned to her either.
TN says that when the media reported on her attempts to regain custody of her children in 2009, other welfare workers tried to pressure her into dropping the case. “After the plaintiff came forward about Nelsen’s repeated sexual batteries of her, other social workers employed by the BMCW, to be determined via discovery in this matter, attempted to intimidate the plaintiff from complaining about Nelsen’s conduct, by threatening to terminate her parental rights,” the complaint states.
(The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families told it in an email: “the Department immediately took action to terminate [Larsen’s] employment when his inappropriate behavior was discovered.”
The Journal Sentinel reported, however, that Larsen actually resigned 8 months after the baby was born. The newspaper also reported that Larsen’s behavior was not timely reported to the state licensing board, and that Larsen’s license was not revoked until several months after the newspaper report.)
TN seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, failure to supervise, and other costs. She is represented by Joy Bertrand of Scottsdale, Ariz.