Friday, June 20, 2008

The murderer-suicide in our midst

Are you a middle-aged man? Do you provide a good home for your family? Are you dedicated to your wife? Devoted to your kids? Do you work hard to maintain their lives? Do you like to think your life is pretty much under control? But is it still sometimes a bit of a struggle? That promotion not so easy to get? So you sometimes wonder if you can keep up? Have the stress and working so hard crimped your social life a bit?

If so, then you fit the profile for someone who could kill his family and then himself.

Yes, you.

You might be just like Brian Philcox.

At least, according to the Mirror and Professor Jack Levin, an expert on "family annihilators".

It's a bit of a double-bind, isn't it? And you can kind of see their point.

If you took such a basically ordinary man and subjected him to sustained, ongoing torment through the disruption of his life in every respect. If you took his family away, turned him out of his home, prevented him from seeing his children, spent his money; if you rendered him completely powerless to do anything about it. If you made him try to defend himself against society's disapprobation for failing as a father, or a husband, or a man while giving him no tools to do anything about it. If, in short, you tried to break him, he just might do something terminal.

You can see how that might happen. So can the vindictive ex's, the courts and their apologists, even if they won't admit it, which is partly why they pile on the blame as they strip a father of his rights, to make sure it is his fault, as opposed to the other way around. Slightly scared of the consequences of their own actions, they seek to divert attention to the most convenient target. The guilty are always the quickest to apportion blame. Fighting it makes it worse.

Most likely he'll be made to give up and become one of the 40% of separated fathers who lose all contact with his children within two years, and it'll be his fault for not fighting hard enough.

Somewhat less likely, but still alarmingly common, he might kill himself, which means he was weak anyway. It's tragic, but we can forget about him now.

Very, very rarely, he might kill his family and himself, then he is unspeakably evil, it's no-one's fault but his own and everyone falls over themselves to condemn him.

Through this unspoken, but obvious chain of connections, uncountably many good fathers are unjustly tarred with one horribly failed father's grotesque act. The very vagueness of the "profile" causes a tiny bit to stick to every father under the family court spotlight. Is it any less grotesque to connect these good fathers with that despicable act? No-one says it, but you can practically see them thinking it.

The first places the journalists go when such a thing happens are the fathers' rights organizations. If he was acting with nothing in common with other, unfairly rejected fathers, why would they do that?

Of course, there is no defending such a destructive act as murder-suicide. It is quite the most distressing and appalling thing I can imagine. And not least because it does so much harm to other fathers. One simply does not want to think about it.

But there must be more to it than that. In order to prevent it happening again, we have to ask some difficult questions.

Why?

Or, perhaps more usefully: what kind of man would do such a thing?

The fact that a supposed expert in the field can only describe an ordinary sort of chap in straitened circumstances tells us something important.

The vast majority of such ordinary chaps don't do any such thing. Hence, in truth, Prof. Levin is really saying: "I don't know" even while he apparently claims to. He's also saying "anyone could do it". In which case, unless we're to be completely paranoid, context is absolutely crucial. It is therefore not that the behavior necessarily has a specific root in the individual concerned, rather that environmental factors play a very strong role.

If you look at Prof. Levin's web site, you will find that he is actually an expert in violent hate crime. This would seem to suggest that he views murder-suicide as a hate crime. Now, that sounds reasonable, I suppose, but it leads to the assumption that the murderer's motives are simply hateful. In which case, I would have thought that the perpetrator's profile would include being known as a hateful, vengeful sort. But apparently not.

Of course, that doesn't stop the peanut gallery from running with it. Carol Sarler in The Daily Mail is positively horrified that anyone would DARE to suggest that someone besides the perpetrator himself might have had anything at all to do with it. He must necessarily have been acting in a complete vacuum, driven only by his own diabolical need for revenge. It is possible, of course, but Ms. Sarler demands that you not DARE have any other ideas.

She also thinks it's only fathers that do it. Oh, she knows mothers kill their kids, but they're just ill. They have undiagnosed problems, like post partum depression, or schizophrenia. Fathers who do so have no such excuses and are, well, inexcusable, and "just trying to prove a point". Somehow, a father who kills is in full possession of his faculties and acting out of sane, but evil, logic. Mothers, on the other hand, are understandably out of control, the poor things, and it wasn't their fault. Come again?

She cites John Hogan as an example - a man who survived his unpremeditated suicide but killed his son. This is a man whose two brothers had previously killed themselves and has himself been treated for clinical depression for most of his life. His wife shacked up with another man almost faster than you could snap your fingers and, since the attempted murder-suicide, he has tried to kill himself at least 4 times. I insist that I am not excusing him, but even so it would be a spectacularly blinkered observer who claimed there were no factors involved besides some evil need to revenge himself on his wife.

If you follow the link to read about John Hogan, you'll also find discussion of Linda Parmeter who killed her son Ryan. Not only was it carefully premeditated, she left some truly horrifying souvenirs for her husband to find. It would be another act of spectacularly willful blindness to say that she was not spiteful nor motivated by revenge. (Nevertheless, there are those who inexplicably leap to her defense.)

And yet, bizarrely, Carol Sarler claims: "Women, in short, love their children differently".

Trying to think like that gives me a headache.

Different forms of love generate different motives for child murder, and some are permissible, but some are not? Truly she confuses sickness and evil.

When things like this happen, I want people to think about it, to talk about it, to explore all of the possible factors. These include, whether you like it or not, the spouse, the courts, and all the people around them. It also includes how these people normally behave in the far more common cases where there is no catastrophic failure. Is there anything they do which encourages a borderline character to go over the edge? Or are they all saints? These people often behave according to false premises, their arrogant prejudices dictate some of the outcomes and they should have the humility to explore that and make some corrections.

Collective, unacknowledged guilt is the most powerful driver of denial and injustice that there is. Righteous indignation at a challenge to your prejudices will not prevent it happening again. It will make it all the more likely. It is the double outrage of monsters like Brian Philcox and harpies like Carol Sarler who prevent us from doing what is really in our children's best interests.

11 comments:

Malcolm said...

What about the mother in Carshalton who murdered two of her children and tried to murder the third a few weeks ago? Or the women in Germany who put the bodies of their children in the freezer? Or the woman in Linz who held her three children in a cellar for 7 years, rather like Josef Fritzl? Mentally ill, all of them. The other difference is that I'm not in a position to give you any names or precise details, because they weren't reported, which, in turn, was because they weren't released by the authorities. It's difficult to demonise someone if you don't know their name.

Chris H said...

The buffoons such as Levin and Sarler clearly don't get the obvious. When you have run out of options; when you've been forced from your home, been forced from the lives of your children (including everything associated with them), and you have no redress; when you have been backed into a corner and you have no more options other than to accept the fucking reality of a life devoid of the meaning it once had which includes the very real and legitimate fear of the trauma your kids (whom you cannot help) may be going through; when your choice is to accept this harrowing injustice or to force the issue through kidnapping, murder-suicide or whatever else might seem a better option, even if it is not, it is no goddamn wonder such horrendous acts happen.

All a father really wants to be is a hero to his children. A divorced father has already proved a villain to his ex-wife. If then that father is denied his righteous role as hero to his children there is all but nothing left of him. He has again been reduced to a villain--but by his children. And, my God, how hard it is to know you're still a hero if you are the only one who knows it.

pjanus said...

Apparently, everyone is of the opinion that these men should just kill themselves and not involve innocent children. That's OK then!

Well...not quite. The new feminist mantra, taken up with gusto by women in general, is that any male who commits suicide is selfish.

Anonymous said...

Digusting to say the least. Man I wish we could reintroduce common sense into society again, but alas the chances of that are laughable.

There should be righteous indignation at this message, but there is none and I find that truly saddening seeing as I had a father who almost crossed that breakingpoint.

Still find your blog informative and important as ever JadF.
Thanks for keeping it going.

Rob said...

Maybe when people quit lashing out at their families, their ex, and themselves, and start lashing out at the government that created these unfair ridiculous laws, things will change.

MWG said...

My husband's ex-wife has finally, after 14 years, and with the overwhelming support of our family court system, succeeded in completely alienating his son from him.

My husband is an honorable, intelligent, hard-working, law-abiding man who wants nothing more than (to quote chris h) 'to fulfill his righteous role as hero to his son.' But thanks to the ex-wife's pervasive campaign of lies, PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and the support of our family court system, that is no longer possible.

My stepson called the other day asking for money. My husband currently pays his mother almost $1000 a month in child support, which she uses to fund her multiple substance addictions, so almost none of those monies go directly to the child it is court-ordered to support. And the court neither demands nor expects the receiving parent to provide an accounting of those funds, not to the court, and certainly not to anyone else.

So, despite already paying $1000 a month, my husband is still an a**hole because he won't give his son MORE money when he demands it.

There's no way for him to 'win' in this losing situation...the best we can do is hope that once my stepson becomes an adult, he will somehow be able to rise above the years of lies and look past his mother told him to see the Truth.

Anonymous said...

You have a great blog. I see it's been ongoing since 2005. Are you doing anything besides blogging to change the laws that govern child support, custody, and/or alimony?

Harlequin said...

John you've hit the nail on the head. If my father had done to me what my mother did, he'd be in jail.She got off scot free because our society refuses to believe that mother's abuse. As a woman I am disgusted by the neo-feminist movement that condones women abusing men and children. Feminism means equal rights ladies, not special rights.

Anonymous said...

Rock on dude! I could totally see my husband in a lot of the things you said. Our family court system is so freakin' primitive. It's not what's in the best interest of the child, it's whatever that stupid judge's opinion is in the 5 minutes they talk through your attorney. The whole damn thing is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Blog on!

Anonymous said...

I can,t agree more with your statement more,fathers are pushed to the edge,A man in my town shot his wife,shortly after they separated,this was very tragic,and it is never the answer..but here,s the But...she left him for another man ,took the kids ,and then went after the family farm that had been in his family for over 150 yrs,still no reason to kill,the women he shot was my co-worker,and i miss her,but can we not see that the laws have to be changed,or should I say can they not see,...the answer is no ,not until it hits close to home,its like the traffic lights that should have been put in place before people are killed,things are never done until there is enough outcry Todd

Mister-M said...

Until going through the divorce & custody machine as a father of two, I was one of the ignorant masses who condemned anyone (father or mother) who undertook such horrendous actions.

Yes, without a blink of an eye, the father was someone to be feared... No WONDER she filed for divorce and took the kids! ...I would say, just like any other mindless mutt.

Then I went through the "process" of being stripped (and faring far better than most).

Suddenly, I started researching the details behind many of these heinous crimes about which I would read. I didn't just "judge" mindlessly without knowing what I hoped were some salient facts... and when you start to discover just how many of these fathers were stripped of their cash, their home, their children... everything... enduring false accusations of child abuse (or worse - child sex abuse), domestic violence and beaten down at every turn...

...you don't condone it - but you can certainly understand how and why it would happen.

I look upon these incidents much differently now... and with an eye on finding out just what kind of things precipitated the event.