April 6, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
The Australian government is currently conducting a review of family law. The last time it did so was three years ago. Why such a quick repudiation of the previous review? Because it was astonishingly badly done, relied on mythologies about family court at the expense of facts, misrepresented the science on shared parenting, etc. In short, it needed to go. Time will tell if the review now under way will be any better.
But the domestic violence establishment in Australia generally liked the previous review because it did away with the need for judges to even consider shared parenting as an arrangement for kids when their parents divorce. The DV industry has long been, along with divorce lawyers, a reliable opponent of kids retaining meaningful relationships with both parents when the adults split up. The excuse they offer is that, when a mother claims a father is abusive, he is. That is, mothers never lie to gain an advantage in custody proceedings. As a corollary to that, mothers never engage in parental alienation, which, in any case doesn’t exist.
Such are the D.O.A. notions of DV industry stalwarts.
And of course they have their lapdogs in the press, so it’s no surprise to see The Guardian once again giving space to lawyer Jess Hill to entirely misrepresent not only domestic violence, but its role in family law (The Guardian, 3/14/20). But I don’t want to be too hard on The Guardian; after all, the article at least admits this:
“Investigative journalist Jess Hill interviewed dozens of abused women, domestic abuse-sector workers, male perpetrators, children’s advocates and system experts over five years in order to write her award-winning book See What You Made Me Do.”
Yes, in her “investigation” of domestic violence and family law, Hill scrupulously avoided speaking to any man who’d been victimized or any female perpetrator. Stated another way, she was careful to speak with only those who could be counted on to agree with her opinions on matters under discussion.
And sure enough, it worked! In her Guardian interview, Hill never admits of the possibility of male victims or female perpetrators. None of the abusers she cites are women and none of the victims are men.
Adding emphasis to the effect, The Guardian helpfully leads the article with a photo of the three Clarke children whose father murdered them not long ago. Of course it does. That horrible tragedy has been a staple of Australian news for many weeks and all of the coverage has been in the same vein: “see what men do.” And when one investigating officer and commentators like Betina Arndt speculated that the Clarke children’s father may have been at his wit’s end due to a variety of pressures in his life, publications like The Guardian excoriated them for being soft on DV and excusing a man’s violent behavior.
But their indignation about Arndt, et al compares poorly with their coverage, just three years ago of Raina Thaiday’s slaughter of her seven children and a niece. There the press coverage was careful not to blame Thaiday at all and to emphasize her long-term drug use that, some mental health professionals said, triggered schizophrenia. The fact that Thaiday in no way acted on the spur of the moment, had been threatening for three years to kill the children, but never sought help, escaped her apologists entirely.
The point being that the likes of Jess Hill have a way of picking and choosing the domestic violence they condemn and the domestic violence they forgive. DV committed by men invariably gets their opprobrium. That committed by women? Not so much.
And of course the point of the entire exercise is to maintain mothers’ power over fathers and children in family courts. That’s why they loathe and fear the ongoing review of family law. After all, this time, the government might get the matter right.
The uncomfortable fact is that mothers commit more abuse of children than do fathers and are equally violent toward their intimate partners. So if that’s the sine qua non of losing custody, then Australian dads should be the majority of custodial parents. But they’re far from it and Jess Hill and her ilk are dead set on anything changing. That strongly suggests that it’s not violence that concerns them, but the dread prospect of fathers getting some sort of power in family courts.