Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Is his behavior understandable?

A beautiful and terrible article in the Telegraph (UK. Update: vast amounts of supportive feedback here):
"I see my daughter regularly, but unofficially. I would stand outside the nursery school playground. Gradually, after many appearances, we made eye contact. After two years of this we would wave to each other. I do the same at her new primary school. Am I right to do this? I am aware of the risks and penalties, but I intend no harm and if I saw fright I would desist. My daughter has absolutely no idea who I am, just a silly man."

A silly man? An obsessed man? A desperate man? Part of me is horrified by the risk this man takes and by the confusion he could be creating in his daughter. Another part of me sees this reckless behaviour through the severe eyes of judge, school and mother.

And another part of me finds this picture unbearably sad: the longing, silent father on one side of the fence, the innocent, fatherless child on the other. Is he wrong? Probably. Is his behaviour understandable? According to the letters I get, yes.

"A silly man?" Silly? To love one's child and want to be part of her life is "silly"?

"An obsessed man?" Would we use the word obsessed to describe a mother in that position?

Creating confusion in his daughter? It is not him that is doing that, it is the mother, the judge, the school, by barring his access, by showing the child that her father is redundant, a problem, an embarrassment. It is the system that is confused, and passing that confusion on to the child. Do not condemn the father for trying to love his child, condemn the system for allowing it.

"Is he wrong?" Absolutely and unequivocally no! What he is doing may be illegal, but we are in a sorry state if we take legality as the moral standard.

"Is his behaviour understandable?" Try it. Try having your children extracted from your life by an uncaring system, by a vicious, vindictive ex spouse, then ask that question.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Killer fathers, again.

Two more major British newspapers report on the horrors of fathers killing their own children. It's obviously a fashionable topic. The Independent gives us "What makes a father kill his children?" and the Guardian "Fathers who kill their children". Both articles mention Angela Schumann in passing, the mother who tried to kill herself and her two year old child by jumping off a bridge (it wasn't just an attention-getter either, that bridge is a notorious spot for successful suicide), but otherwise discuss only fathers who kill, and usually kill themselves too.

Fortunately, neither paper makes the dishonest claim that parents who kill are nearly all fathers as did India Knight the other day in the Times and Olga Craig in the Telegraph, but there is a common thread that mothers who kill are depressed and ill, the poor dears, and the nearly equal number of fathers who kill are out for revenge and just bad, the murdering bastards.

Both articles cite the Heatley case, now a dozen years old, in which the surviving mother describes her control-freak husband and how the court system failed her and her children by granting him unsupervised visitation against her wishes, with tragic consequences. It is a common thread in much of the discussion that the murdering fathers are control freaks - walking cauldrons of "rage, jealousy, revenge and hatred. 'They are people who lack strategies for giving vent to that turmoil in the way that many women can,' says Dr Black - cutting the sleeves from their unfaithful husband's suits, destroying his favourite CDs, giving away his fine wine - 'attacking whatever he values'" (The Independent).

Question: how would we view a man who took out his revenge by cutting up his wife's dresses, giving away her jewelry, pouring her perfume down the toilet?

This may be true, for those rare, highly unrepresentative cases, such as the Heatley case, where the mother is said to have "found the courage to leave her husband and did not want him to have unsupervised contact with their children. However, the family courts, who believe contact with both parents is always in the best interests of the child, granted it. It was on their first unsupervised weekend with their father that [he] strangled them." (The Guardian).

Undoubtedly, "the system" failed in this case. Something went badly and forever wrong.

More than one of these articles frowns on the sense of ownership of their children that these murdering fathers are said to have, which is interesting given that no-one questions a mother's sense of ownership of those same children and her right to take them with her when she leaves.

These control-freak fathers are said put a great deal of store in their families, that the loss of that family is devastating to them, that they often appear normal until the moment when it is all too late. Heatley himself was a well-respected doctor, which too easily becomes a perverse point against him. Thus we pathologize normalcy.

These articles never seem to report on the vastly greater number of men who also set great store by their families, to whom the loss of that family is likewise devastating and who face a world in which 40% of them will lose contact with their children within two years, but still do not go over the edge and kill. There is no interest in the double standard that a wife has the courage to leave, but a deserting husband is philandering scum or, worse, the deserted husband is there to be enslaved financially and left for dead emotionally.

There seems to be no concern that the custodial parent can wield absolute power over the non-custodial parent's relationship with the children (let's be fair, custodial fathers are just as capable of malicious behavior as custodial mothers), that all they have to do is complain that they're afraid of what the other may do (look at the Heatley case!) and the doors can be made to slam shut.

It's a positive feedback thing, folks - the bleaker the outlook for the throw-away parent, the more likely the tragic over-reaction. The more tragedy, the stronger the malicious custodial parent's argument for the exclusion. We should never even begin to condone this tragedy, but we should also take great care to avoid cultivating it.

Four major national newspapers hold forth on murdering fathers within one month, and none discuss the greater context of the ongoing destruction of fatherhood. Could it have been that some of the perpetrators are driven over the edge by their wives' insistent claims that they were dangerous? That sufficient maltreatment brutalized them, made them want to deserve it? That living in the looking-glass world of a family court, their own world views are turned inside out?

Would some of these hellish murders not have happened if the fathers had felt sure they would not have lost their children, if their environments had been more protective of their roles? That they do actually have some right to control over their own lives and influence in their children's? Could it have something to do with the criminalization to which innocent fathers are so easily subjected?

Could some of these rare and highly unrepresentative murders actually be caused by spotlighting them and extending the suspicion to all separated fathers, locking them into a vicious circle by which the harder they fight to stay fathers, the more suspect they are?

We'll never know, because these are questions we never see asked.



Having written the above, I discovered a much more sensible article on the phenomenon of "family annihilators" by Zoe Williams in the Guardian, in which they are identified as horrific, but very, very unusual and a number of excellent points are made. Aside from repeating the erroneous 20:1 ratio of killer fathers to mothers, which is corrected in the on-line version, Ms. Williams says:

"Studies aren't undertaken to establish how men respond to the stimulus of jealousy, or what the specific factors might be that add up to the overweening emotional breakdown necessary to kill a child. But the argument that filicide could stem simply from jealousy has no currency among the police officers investigating these cases. They say, quite fairly, time and again: 'Well, married people have affairs all the time.' Husbands do it, wives do it, nobody likes it, and yet very few people take this as a reason to kill their children. It simply will not stand up as a motivation, when this response is so aberrant. Yet newspapers will report the alleged sexual behaviour of the mother as if it were of the utmost relevance."

"The second misconception is that the paternal instinct isn't as strong as the maternal one, that the urge to protect is not as great."

"Fathers are not afforded the same lenience [as mothers]; they are not assumed to be insane. Although there are, of course, murderous fathers of whom it may be said he was very "mild", " wouldn't hurt a fly", of whom no one had the slightest inkling of any psychological or emotional problem, these are actually the minority. In fact, fathers who kill their children often have a history of mental illness. ... Surely the fact of their having carried out such a crime and attempting suicide proves their instability?"

She ends with:

"The truth is that people go mad. The aggressively mad, more likely to be men, may kill others. The unaggressively mad, more likely to be women, may kill themselves or perhaps not kill at all. Infidelity doesn't create madness any more than money problems do, it is just that none of it helps. And the more facile the explanation of why a parent has killed their child, the less likely it is to bring comfort to the people who most need it."

At least someone around here seems to have some sense, although I wish she'd identified the family court stressor along with jealousy and finance.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

More on murderous mothers and fathers.

Today, in the Sunday Telegraph we read:
"Crime statistics show that in the decade from 1992 to 2002, an average of 78 children under 16 were murdered each year in England and Wales. In roughly 70 per cent of cases, the killing was carried out by a parent, almost always the father."
And last weekend, there was a letter to the Sunday Times:
"We rely on Home Office figures for the number of homicides of children aged under 16 recorded by the police in England and Wales. These show that killings of children by a natural parent are committed in almost equal proportions by mothers (47%) and fathers (53%)"
How are we to reconcile the two? They're pretty clearly contradictory. The latter was written by Diana Sutton, the NSPCC Head of Policy and Public Affairs in London, the former by Olga Craig, Journalist. Somebody's telling porkie-workies, aren't they? (Translation: porkie-workies = pork pies = lies). It doesn't seem likely it would be Diana Sutton, a big-wig in the NSPCC, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, but Craig seems to have done at least some legwork (but does not cite her source).

Curiously, Craig also writes: "Psychologists agree that the majority of women who kill their children are seriously mentally ill, but fathers who do so rarely are." Why is it that so many absurd claims are begun with the claim "Psychologists agree..."? Absurd? Well, I would have thought that murdering your own children, whether you were the mother or the father, more or less by definition means that the murderer is mentally ill. How does the Telegraph justify the distinction? The mothers do it because they're ill, we don't need to know any more.

But, we hear, the fathers do it out of some need to revenge themselves on the mother. There's plenty of discussion about "troubled childhoods", "histories of violent and abusive behaviour", all the usual things to tell us that these murdering fathers are very screwed up, as if we didn't know that already. However "almost all are the sort of men who place enormous value on their role, or perceived role, within a family" which is a bit of a Catch 22 given that the responsible father used to be a good thing. Of course, too much of anything good can become something bad, even pathological, which is a word often used to describe mental illness, and is presumably the relevant case here. If that is the writer's point, then they should say as much, but they don't and another brick gets added to the wall against which we shoot fathers.

The imminent or ongoing failure of a marriage is cited as a primary trigger, but there is no analysis as to why it should have such radically different consequences between the genders. There is no discussion of the very different worlds that men and women face when their marriages fail. That mothers can find exceptional support in all walks of life from the courtroom to the garden fence and no-one will even think to take their children away from them. But fathers? 40% of them will lose all contact with their children within a couple of years, sooner, much sooner, if the mother gets uppity, and no-one will care, no-one will come to their aid. Indeed, they will be expected to "man-up", "take it on the chin", or just roll over and let it happen. Is it any wonder that once in a while a father is driven off the rails?

On the other hand, what if the NSPCC are to be believed and there really is not much difference in the numbers of murdering mothers versus fathers, then I can't exactly have my cake and eat it, can I? I'd have to admit that society's bias is not a relevant factor and these people are just crazy or evil regardless of their gender. And Craig and her interviewees would also have to retract that comment about the murdering fathers as over-valuing their roles, would they not? Or at least extend the observation to the murderous mothers. (Although I think I could still give them a run for their money over society's undervaluing of fatherhood and overvaluing of motherhood - because that's the question, really, whether society is to have the last word in the value of one parent or the other, or the parents themselves.)

If, instead of giving the patriphobes more excuses to kick a normal man out of his kids' lives and pathologize his attempts to fight back, we took an intelligent approach to the whole problem, we'd probably find that these incidents are so rare that general conclusions are just about impossible anyway, or at least we'd be careful to make that point. By the Telegraph's numbers, in the UK, there is roughly one murder of a child by a parent per year per million population and, in the USA, one "annihilated family" per year per 2.5 million. It seems unlikely that the people concerned make a representative sample of the population at large. That while the murdering father might have strongly valued in his role as a father as do, one hopes, the great majority of the rest of the country's fathers, it is not a relevant point in these sad, tragic, fortunately very rare and highly unrepresentative cases.

Before I sign off, a final note about the UK national newspapers' inability to get the story straight. The letter from the NSPCC was an attempt to set the record straight with another journalist who had published a piece about murderous fathers the week before. Both the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Times published misleading pieces on killer fathers just two weeks apart. Do we smell a rat?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Replies to India Knight, patriphobe.

There were three letters in the last Sunday Times (UK) responding to India Knight's patriphobic column of the previous week, and which I complained about here. All three come out in defense of fathers - one from a father forced to give up on the courts and join Fathers 4 Justice, another from a friend of a father driven to kill himself and the third from Diana Sutton, NSPCC Head of Policy and Public Affairs, who says "killings of children by a natural parent are committed in almost equal proportions by mothers (47%) and fathers (53%)".

Time for a retraction, Ms. Knight?

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A parental alienation surivior speaks.

The text below was submitted anonymously as a comment to my last post. I put it here as an object lesson (my emphases):

I faced [parental alienation] too. My mother tried to convince me I was molested in order to take my dad to court. I almost bought into it because I was very young and believed my mother, but I never had any memory of anything happening so in the end I could not go through with it. Still it took years to repair the damage between my father and I.

She also referred to him as Hitler and literally danced a jig years later when we heard he had a heart attack, while I was on the floor sobbing. She did and said many other horrible things over the years; this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I took care of her when she was dieing from cancer, and did a damned good job, but after she passed I suddenly felt nothing but searing hatred for her. I refused to get her body from the morgue and was ready to see her put in potters field. Her family took care of it eventually.

I've struggled with the hatred and it's ruined my life. I haven't had a relationship with a woman in years and don't plan on it. I'll probably die alone with no offspring and that's probably for the best, considering I could never trust a woman.

Mothers who do this do not care AT ALL about the wellbeing of their children, whatever justifications they make, and should be prosecuted as child abusers.

Thank you for trusting us with your story, sir. I wish you everything great in life that might possibly compensate you for what you have gone through. There are women out there who can be trusted and know how to behave honorably. Do not let the past sins of others cost you what happiness you might stumble across one day.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Patriphobes and misandrists everywhere

Sorry, I've been quiet for a while.

The truth is that at times I just get tired. I get tired of how difficult it is to get people's attention, to knock them out of their complacency and realize that there is criminal injustice of an unfathomable degree right in front of their noses. Most of all, I get tired of the patriphobes who get so much air time and publicity for their misandrist howlings. Like bullies in the playground, they're dominant and obnoxious and you just want to get away from them.

For example, the National Organization for Women has come out against Parental Alienation Syndrome with a resolution which reads like they're the final authority.

"WHEREAS", they write, with all the trappings of an authoritarian patriarchy they claim to despise, "the term Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was created by the psychiatrist, Richard Gardner." OK, so far, so true, but "created"? "Coined" would be better, created implies he made it up, but that's what they want you to think...

"It is used as a tactic in courts by litigating attorneys as a defense strategy for batterers and sexual predators that purports to explain a child's estrangement from one parent, or explains away allegations against the estranged parent of abuse/sex abuse of child, by blaming the protective parent;"

Yes? Then prove it. I mean it. I've been in this game a couple of years now and don't know of a single bona fide case where an abuser has gotten custody on this basis, but I have encountered many where the abuser uses their custody to turn the kids against the other parent.

"WHEREAS, there are no data to support PAS" If you don't look for it, you won't find it. It's there, girls, just spend some time in a family courtroom.

"WHEREAS, mothers are primarily pathologized and blamed for interfering with their children's attachment to their fathers" Note the full-on sexism. Note the over-generalization. Note that failure to acknowledge that this can and does happen.

"WHEREAS, abuse is continued via the court system thru [sic] a series of ruthless assaults from all angles strategically planned over time by an abuser, his criminal-divorce-personal injury attorneys and PAS therapists to fully discredit, blame and control a protective parent with the sole purpose of hiding abuse, infidelity, finances and to "win" possession of the child(ren), while proponents of PAS profit" Note the full-on sexism. Note the assumption of guilt. Note the failure to acknowledge the very real power of the "protective" parent to use the courts to control the other parent.

"WHEREAS, as documented in the PBS film, Breaking The Silence, The Children's Stories there are epidemic levels of abuse and dysfunction in our courts system where espoused judges repeat Richard Gardner's unsubstantiated doctrine and make binding recommendations in conjunction with PAS therapists and PAS attorneys;" Note the failure to acknowledge PBS's documented misreporting and considerable bias on this program, explicitly pointed out by their own ombudsman and forcing them to make a more balanced program to compensate.

"WHEREAS, the newly revised, 2006 edition of "Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge's Guide," published by The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, includes a strong statement condemning the use of PAS which it calls a "discredited" syndrome that favors child abusers in custody determinations" Now this is a good one. That guide is distinctly schizophrenic on the issue. It does say that PAS is "discredited", but it bases that statement on the APA's line that there is as yet insufficient formal scientific study to permit acceptance of the issue. This is not the same as saying it does not exist, nor that it is discredited.

Also, a little investigation will show that the Judge's guide is most likely strongly influenced by a recent paper of appallingly bad scholarship which sets out to undermine PAS mostly through personal attacks on Gardner as opposed to a direct investigation of the phenomenon itself. It was written by someone who is a strong proponent of the much more controversial recovered memory syndrome. (This author won a case against her own father, putting him in jail for molesting her, the evidence being her own recovered memories. As such, if the recovered memories were in fact bogus, and we can never know for sure, they would make this author a prime candidate for the most extreme form of PAS there is. Objective? You decide.)

Finally, it is interesting that the Judge's guide, while it does indeed claim PAS is discredited, also explicitly acknowledges that vengeful parents can and do turn their own children against the other in order to gain an advantage in court. 'Seems they want their cake and to eat it.

"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women (NOW) denounces Parental Alienation Syndrome and recommends that any professional whose mission involves the protection of the rights of women and children denounce its use as unethical, unconstitutional, and dangerous."

So there you have it, the NOW dictates divorce-court professional ethics. Aren't they sweet?

Another sweetie, recently, is India Knight who, just as British Airways thinks that all men a pedophiles, thinks that all separated fathers are murderer-suicides and if they're not, then they haven't any balls. Her entire article is a transparent case of blaming the victim. I wonder how she'd feel if she were raped and we all claimed she was asking for it.

Why don't these women see how they put men in inescapable positions and then condemn them for whatever they do to try and escape?

Actually, I think they do see it, I think they get their giggles out of tormenting men like this. It gives them some pathetic sense of power, just like the bullies in the schoolyard.

Well, Ms. Bully & cronies, you may have some crude power, for now, but I know that I and my fellow disenfranchised fathers (here's another) are better than you and no matter how much it angers you nor how much you wear us down, we will always know that.

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