NPO in the media

Holstein in Lawyers Weekly: ‘Restraining orders are used to keep innocent men from their kids’

May 18, 2009

David Yas, the publisher of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and other legal publications, quoted Fathers & Families’ Ned Holstein MD, MS on restraining orders in his recent column “Domestic violence: out of the frying pan” (5/4/09).

In the article, which is only available to subscribers, Yas revealed that he is unfamiliar with domestic violence research and was skeptical about what researchers have overwhelmingly concluded–women are at least as likely to attack their male significant others as vice versa, and women’s (and men’s) domestic violence is generally not in self-defense.

Yas also seemed to confuse Holstein’s correct assertion that women commit at least as much DV as men with the impression that men suffer from DV as much as women. This is not true–about a third of domestic violence injuries are suffered by men. Women balance the scales through use of weapons and the element of surprise, but as a whole they still sustain more injuries.

Yas quoted Lydia Watts, executive director of the Victim Rights Law Center, as saying there is no epidemic of women fabricating tales of domestic violence–“I have heard thousands of victims’ stories and barely ever doubted one.” Of course, the fact that an ardent domestic violence advocate “barely ever doubted one” is very much a symptom of the problem–women are believed, no matter how weak the evidence and how much advantage they may stand to gain from lying.

Holstein’s response to Yas was published in the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly–“Chairman of fathers” group seeks to set record straight” (5/18/09). Holstein wrote:

In his May 4 column, “Domestic violence: out of the frying pan …,” David Yas deserves credit for opening up the topic of domestic violence, but he misses some key points.

First, Fathers & Families is not a “fatherhood rights group.” We do not support any special rights for fathers. We explicitly endorse gender equality in all aspects of public life and have also supported the parenting rights of non-biological lesbian moms. Thus, it is hard to figure out how Yas gets to “Ureneck and Holstein … may even be downright sexist.”

Yas repeatedly associates me with statements by Joseph Ureneck and Mark Charalambous, with which I disagree.

Yas does not seem to understand why Fathers & Families cares about domestic violence law. The reason is that we are fit and loving fathers, and we simply want to be allowed to continue our loving relationships with our children after separation or divorce. Restraining orders are being used to keep more and more innocent men away from their children.

Yas does not seem to understand why civil libertarians should be alarmed by domestic violence law. A criminal act – domestic violence – is relabeled a civil offense, thereby stripping the defendant of all the protections available to criminal defendants. The “defendant” is summarily “convicted” and then pays a fearsome price: instant eviction, loss of access to and control of his assets, and enforced separation from his children.

Every judge or attorney I have ever asked confidentially estimates the rate of false allegations of domestic violence at 20 to 80 percent where a home, child support or custody of children is at stake, yet almost all allegations are endorsed by the courts. It was in this context that I told Yas that “we will look back on this as an embarrassing era,” reminiscent of the McCarthy years.

I am not alone in my concern. Many prominent family law professionals have expressed similar concerns, including Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Family Law Section of the California bar and the Illinois Bar Journal.

Yas mistakenly implies that Fathers & Families opposed the appointments of judges Laurie MacLeod and Sydney Hanlon. We did not. We lacked reliable information about how Hanlon conducted her domestic violence special court. But, in general, such courts have not shown excessive regard for civil liberties and due process. If this has been true of Hanlon, then civil libertarians have much to fear from her appointment to the Appeals Court, where she will rule on many kinds of civil liberties, not just those involved in domestic violence cases.

Lastly, as a specialist in public health and a former academic researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, I am well versed in domestic violence research. It shows that perpetration by men and women is about equal, and that one-third of the significant injuries are sustained by men. Readers can look for themselves at 247 scholarly investigations at After looking at this bibliography, readers will disagree that my views “simply defy reason.”

To write a Letter to the Editor of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, write to Henriette Campagne at Please keep the letters short and to the point.

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