January 23, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The battle against children having relationships with their fathers just got a huge boost in Great Britain (The Guardian, 1/20/17). Now, this being The Guardian, it’s a bit difficult to know exactly what senior family judges actually decided and what’s just sloppy reporting. Still, this bodes ill.
In a nutshell, it appears that any allegation of domestic violence by a mother against a father will be used to prevent him from having contact with his children.
Senior judges are taking steps to end the presumption that a father must have contact with a child where there is evidence of domestic abuse that would put the child or mother at risk.
So, based on some quantum of evidence, fathers, but not mothers against whom there is a claim of DV will no longer have the right to contact with their children. Now, I’m reasonably certain that the new rules will be written in scrupulously gender-neutral language. But, even assuming that to be the case, the article makes it clear that the impact of the rules is meant for fathers because fathers are understood to be the sole perpetrators of domestic violence.
The changes include a demand from one of the most senior family court judges for all the judiciary to have further training on domestic violence and to act to ensure women and children are protected…
[Mr. Justice] Cobb called for judges to be more alert to how violent men could use the access within the courts to assault their former partners, putting forward a proposal for courts to consider more carefully the waiting arrangements before a hearing, and arrangements for entering and exiting the court building.
Notice that there is not a single word, either in the article or in the various judges’ comments, that would suggest that mothers commit domestic violence against either their husbands or children. Not. One. Word. So, however the new rules may be worded, the message is clear: the targeted parent is Dad and pretty much any “evidence” will be sufficient to deprive his child of any contact with him. And of course, whatever the message, the rule change comes against a backdrop of a culture that has yet to admit that 50% of domestic violence is committed by women.
What does the article have to say about who commits violence against children? Not. One. Word. Of course by far the most common perpetrator of abuse against children is the child’s mother. Add an unmarried boyfriend and the tendency becomes even more pronounced. So, in the United States, the Administration for Children and Families routinely reports that about 40% of the abuse of children is committed by mothers acting alone and about 60% is by mothers acting alone or with “another,” usually a boyfriend.
My guess is that similar statistics hold for the U.K. So the fact that the new rule is aimed squarely at fathers is significant. It’s targeting the wrong parent and it’s doing so for the purpose of further marginalizing fathers in the lives of their children. Those are the only conclusions I can draw given that the new rule is so dramatically at odds with everything we know about the abuse of children and their need for fathers.
And of course the rule was motivated by one of the most virulently anti-male/anti-father organizations in the U.K., Women’s Aid. Much like domestic violence organizations in the United States, Women’s Aid routinely campaigns against fathers having contact with their kids. (Keep in mind that fewer than one-third of the children of divorce in the U.K. have any form of meaningful contact with their fathers. So we might think that British dads are too marginalized to begin with, but for Women’s Aid, any father-child contact is too much. So what, you may ask, was their evidence that demanded the further marginalization of fathers in the lives of children?
The reforms are to be introduced in the family courts after campaigning by the charity Women’s Aid, which identified that 19 children have been killed in the last 10 years by their violent fathers after being given contact with them by judges.
Yes, an average of two children per year for the past 10 years have been killed by their fathers. Needless to say, that’s a terrible tragedy for those kids and their families. We all mourn their untimely deaths.
But we also must question whether their deaths constitute a crisis that demands that the relationship of all divorced fathers with their children depends entirely on allegations of abuse by aggrieved mothers. To give a bit of perspective, there are about 120,000 divorces in Great Britain every year, involving about 100,000 children. Over a 10-year period, that would be about one million kids of divorce. Women’s Aid managed to identify 19 kids out of one million who met a tragic end at the hands of their fathers.
And how many died at the hands of their mothers during that same time? No one will be surprised to learn that neither Women’s Aid nor The Guardian is saying. But this website tells us about the answer to that question in the United States. Based on ACF figures for 2008, 70.8% of children killed by a parent acting alone or with another non-parent were killed by mothers. Again, I doubt that the data in the U.K. are much different.
So the new rule aims at fathers who are far less likely to abuse or kill their children than are mothers. Make sense?
I’ll write more about this scandalous development and the utterly unprincipled behavior of Women’s Aid and The Guardian next time.
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