In “Domestic Violence: Out of the Frying Pan’ (Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, 5/4/2009), publisher David Yas deserves credit for opening up the topic of domestic violence, but 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 Ureneck and 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% 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 MBA, the publication of the Family Law Section of the California Bar, and the Illinois Bar Journal.
Yas mistakenly implies that Fathers & Families opposed the appointments of Judges MacLeod and Hanlon. We did not. We lacked reliable information about how Judge 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 Judge Hanlon, then civil libertarians have much to fear from her appointment to the Appellate 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”m well-versed in domestic violence research. It shows that perpetration by men and women is about equal, and that a third of the significant injuries are sustained by men. Readers can look for themselves at 247 scholarly investigations at http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm After looking at this bibliography, readers will disagree that my views “simply defy reason.’
Ned Holstein, MD, MS
Chair of the Board
Fathers & Families