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MENZ Issues July 1998: Volume 3 Issue 6

North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project Meetings Secret – Men’s Centre banned from attending!

Radical Feminists, Gender Feminists, Male Feminists, Equity Feminists, Anti Feminists, Pro Feminists, Dissident Feminists – which label to wear?

‘Has Feminism Gone Too Far?’ Extract from USA radio interview. Camille Paglia & Christina Hoff Sommers

Six women get $320,000 to help ‘Reduce Women’s Reliance on Hetero-Sexual Relationships’ Report on study: ‘From Abuse to Family Strength’

Rape Crisis Incest Awareness Campaign Should men join the recovered memory craze? Two different points of view.

Domestic Violence Gravy Train Details from the Community Funding Agency.

Family Abuse Calls Flood Police In Christchurch, almost two thirds of domestic violence callouts are false alarms

Second Code of Social Responsibility Targets Men

Zero Tolerance Campaign The Domestic Violence industry believes it’s a black and white world.

Case History: Peter Brennen.

Dear Ms Morris, MP Letter to the Minister of Youth Affairs & Associate Minister of Women’s Affairs.

Men Banned

North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project Meetings Secret

– Men’s Centre Banned From Attending!

In the January 1998 edition of MENZ Issues (here), I reported on attending a meeting of the NHFVPP, a pro-feminist group set up to network with and inform various agencies dealing with domestic violence. In the few months that I’ve been answering the Men’s Centre phone I’ve spoken to dozens of men who are having problems with a violent wife, or have been treated badly by the services that are supposedly dealing with the problem; in fact relationship breakdowns and their consequences are our biggest category of calls by far.

My naive assumption was that any genuine community-based (and funded) network set up to deal with a serious social problem like this would welcome the participation of any group willing to work towards the goal of creating a safer community. My wife Felicity, a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science at the Auckland Medical School (more), is currently designing an intervention that the Men’s Centre plans to run. Together we attended two more meetings, but at the Feb 5th event it was announced that henceforth the meetings would be open to Project members only.

We both collected a form from the desk headed ‘1998 Membership Application’, which asked for the normal details a new member would have to supply, and within a few days Felicity had sent hers back. The Men’s Centre application took a little longer to organise – for a start we had to have a committee meeting to approve the expenditure of the $10.00 fee. At that point in time our account balance was under $20.00, so it can be appreciated how high a priority the Men’s Centre executive placed on our involvement.

I was just about to mail it off when Felicity received a letter from Reese Helmondollar, the Project co-ordinator, informing her that the application form she had used was actually only for existing members and that she would have to fill out a re-designed one. There were several new hoops to jump through, the most time-consuming being a requirement that two of the existing members had to sponsor us before our application could be considered. Felicity phoned a number of the names on the supplied list and received an uncannily similar response, along the lines of "But we don’t know you Felicity – and we don’t know what you stand for." Strangely, no-one seemed interested to find out. We did learn that at least one women’s group had threatened to boycott the Project meetings if our presence continued, so it began to seem that our quest was in vain. Finally however, Janferie Bryce-Chapman from Age Concern and Rob Lindsay, the New Zealand Police representative, agreed to sign the sponsorship form.

Another more difficult problem with the new form was that new applicants are now required to sign a statement saying that they agree with the pro-feminist objectives of the Project. Felicity resubmitted her application and attached a covering letter stating:

"I agree to the majority of the points addressed by these documents (the NHFVPP rules and the statement of philosophy). In particular, I support the statements that: ‘All family violence is unacceptable. No circumstances can excuse or justify family violence. The victims of violence are not responsible for the violent behaviour of the perpetrator; The community has an obligation to ensure that there are clear and consistent negative consequences for perpetrators of violence and that victims are protected from further violence.’

However I feel unable to endorse all aspects of the philosophy and principles, as I believe some of these are incorrect. I am unhappy about some of the statements in the documents which demonstrate a gender bias. In particular, I cannot endorse the statement that: ‘In most violent situations males are the aggressors with females and children being the predominant target for this aggression’. This statement is contrary to both NZ and international epidemiological research which indicates that men and women are both perpetrators and victims of violence within the family at roughly equal frequencies."

When Felicity received a second letter from Reese informing her that the NHFVPP committee had decided not to let her become a member, she immediately contacted the Safer Community Council (which funds the Project) to see how they felt about public money being spent to support a closed-shop organisation that systematically excludes sections of the wider community because they have different points of view. We were invited to attend a meeting of the Council, where both she and the Project management could put forward their case.

With remarkable frankness, Reese explained to the Council how silencing and excluding opposing voices is crucial to the successful advancement of the pro-feminist agenda. He also claimed repeatedly that the Project is simply "implementing official government policy", providing an interesting insight into his organisation’s perception of how extensively radical-feminist hegemony has been achieved. It is also instructive to note a pro-feminist organisation displaying such absolute confidence in the ability of ‘the Government’ to always get it right. Perhaps it is a sign of just how far things have ‘progressed’.

To their credit, many Council members seemed quite taken aback to hear how their funds were being spent. One member even said she found Reese’s attitude "reprehensible". Other councillors expressed doubt about whether all the members of the Project really were 100% supportive of all the objectives. When Reese said they had fears of the Men’s Centre and allied groups "taking over the Project", we were able to assure him that we weren’t even really interested in becoming members – we would be quite happy to attend the meetings as guests, as allowed for in their constitution. At that point Norris Peel, a member of the Project executive couldn’t help blurting out: "But we’d have to want to invite you!" A second, smaller meeting with representation from the Safer Community Council was set up to try to resolve the situation.

On 26th May we met again at the Richardson Centre in Takapuna, where the NHFVPP is based. Reese began the meeting by asking that it be kept confidential, but I told him that I intended writing this article to inform our members of the situation, and that at least in our case we didn’t plan to say anything that we would not be happy to have publicised. North Shore City Councillor Peter Loud informed us that the Safer Community Council were satisfied that the Project had not mis-represented its position when applying for funding and that they saw no need for further action.

Reese then explained why his group are so opposed to our involvement. He believes we are "extremely dangerous", and pointed to Felicity’s campaign against recovered memory therapy, which lead to her expulsion from DSAC – Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (more), the group responsible for most of the promotion of the phenomenon in New Zealand. He also objected to much of the material in MENZ Issues, singling out Robert Mann’s January article about corporal punishment (here) for special condemnation because it advocated the occasional judicious smack as the most effective method of socialising young children.

Although members of the project inevitably respond to references to the scientific literature by saying something along the lines of "but statistics can prove whatever you want them to prove", Reese in particular has repeatedly claimed that there is extensive research that supports his position. Unfortunately he has never been able to provide references to this research, so we were pleased when he produced a very large book that he told us contains the studies he is referring to. The title ‘Male Violence’ gives an initial clue as to how objective it is likely to be. We’ll get hold of a copy and report on this book in a future MENZ Issues. (here).

It seems as though we have reached an impasse regarding our involvement with this network. Reese suggested that we need to learn to "work alongside" organisations with an existing track record of dealing with family violence, such as Women’s Refuge, before we could be considered suitable for membership of the Project. Because of our politically incorrect attitudes and values, he is concerned that we might attempt to "gain legitimacy" by claiming to belong to what he is quite convinced is the mainstream community response to the family violence problem. On page 5 (here) we report on a piece of research we learned about at their December meeting; judge for yourself how accurately it reflects NZ values.

John Potter

Radical Feminists, Gender Feminists, Male Feminists, Equity Feminists, Anti Feminists, Pro Feminists, Dissident Feminists – which Label to Wear?

During recent weeks I have been involved in several discussions about the meaning of the term feminist. Since most of it was by E-mail I found the basis of this article written.

I am often warned of the dangers of appearing ‘anti-feminist’. One gentleman asserted that he and his colleagues considered themselves ‘male feminists’. I have also been warned of the potential dangers of ‘male feminists’ who may be working against the interests of men.

In my experience, most men (and many women) who call themselves ‘feminist’ are using the term in the 1970’s sense of equal opportunity, equal rights, women are strong, woman can do anything etc. I myself subscribe to this point of view, although I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself ‘feminist’.

The problem is that most people wrongly believe that the radical gender feminists (who insist that all women are the victims of male oppression and should have special rights, laws, and privileges to compensate) are an insignificant fringe group with little influence.

The big difficulty this creates for groups like ours is that by attacking and criticising radical genderfem programmes that discriminate against men, it can be made to appear as though we are a just a ‘backlash against (equity) feminism’, and ‘anti woman’, wanting to drag society back to the bad old days of patriarchal dominance. From there it’s only a small conceptual jump to categorise us as misogynist and probably violent as well, which just goes to prove that the gender feminists were right all along.

Noticed how every mention of Promise Keepers in the media seems to contain references to extreme right wing armed militia? Philida Bunkle MP did it on TV. No doubt the two groups have a few members in common, but this doesn’t justify this sort of ‘spin’, which is so often put on the reporting of male groups.

On a smaller scale, past articles about Men’s Centre North Shore in the local papers have been headlined: ‘Martin cops female fury – main man Martin Lewis in the firing line….’ and ‘Violence debate sparks local battle between the sexes’.

The gap between male equity feminists on one hand and Promise Keepers on the other is fairly wide. They, together with community groups such as Men’s Centre North Shore do however share some significant values around justice, equality before the law and the right to fair legal process. There are also many shared values about childrearing, and the desirability of father involvement in the process. Gender feminist theorists on the other hand, see the law as a tool to use in overthrowing the patriarchy, and advocate setting up programmes to ‘save’ children from the depredations of their father-rapists.

The men’s groups currently springing up throughout the English-speaking world face the challenge of successfully networking and co-operating towards creating truly just societies. There will be disagreements and arguments, personality differences and clashes of belief system. I also find it personally very useful to go by the philosophy: ‘Never ascribe malicious intent to that which can be explained by incompetence’.

I don’t ever see a mass ‘Men’s Movement’ developing in the way feminist organisations did in the 70’s. I see lots of small, local men’s movements with quite different focuses, beliefs and capabilities. The more effectively that we can work with each other, and present a relatively united front on key issues, the better we will be able to influence government policy. To achieve this, we will have to deliberately overlook the many differences we have, and focus our attention on causes that we have in common. There will be individual men in organisations who are good at this, and those that are not, and we always need to be aware that one individual’s actions and attitudes do not necessarily represent the intentions of the other members.

The neo-Marxist, lesbian driven takeover of feminist organisations in the late 1970’s, and the subsequent enforcement of ideological purity, has been a spectacularly successful tactic in the short term. It has certainly provided many lucrative ‘jobs for the girls’, and elevated many of these extremists to positions of considerable power within the government bureaucracies of the west.

I believe however that in the long term, this strategy will be its own undoing, and future advocates for women’s causes will be considerably handicapped by the resulting lack of credibility and general support.

I also think the most potent influence on public opinion in the area of gender in the next few years will be the young, educated ‘dissident feminists’, who are asking the hard questions that their mothers were too intimidated to voice. In the USA last November, host Ben Wattenberg interviewed two of the most prominent dissidents on ‘Think Tank’, a series is devoted to sharing ideas about public policy, aired on the Public Broadcasting System. His guests Camille Paglia & Christina Hoff Sommers gave their views on the question: Has Feminism Gone Too Far? The next article contains a few excerpts.

J.P.

Has Feminism Gone Too Far?

Camille Paglia is professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and best-selling author most recently of Vamps and Tramps. Her criticisms of modern feminism caused one author to refer to her as the spokeswoman for the anti-feminist backlash. She said:

"When this phase of feminism kicked back in the late ’60s, it was very positive at first. Women drew the line against men and demanded equal rights. I am an equal opportunity feminist. But very soon it degenerated into a kind of totalitarian ‘group think’ that we are only now rectifying 20 years later……..

I think that the current feminist movement has taken credit for a lot of the enormous changes in women’s lives that my generation of the ’60s wrought. There were women in the mid ’60s when I was in college who did not go onto become feminists, they were bawdy and feisty and robust. Now, I think that again what we need to do now is to get rid of the totalitarians, get rid of the Kremlin mentality….. We’ve got to get back to a pro-art, all right, pro-beauty, pro-men kind of feminism.

Christina Hoff Sommers is an associate professor of philosophy at Clark University. She wrote her recent book, Who Stole Feminism, How Women Have Betrayed Women, she says, because she is a feminist who does not like what feminism has become. She told Wattenberg:

"I think she’s right to call it a kind of totalitarianism. Many young women on campuses combine two very dangerous things: moral fervour and misinformation. On the campuses they’re fed a kind catechism of oppression. They’re taught ‘one in four of you have been victims of rape or attempted rape; you’re earning 59 cents on the dollar; you’re suffering a massive loss of self-esteem; that you’re battered especially on Super Bowl Sunday’. All of these things are myths, grotesque exaggerations.

The orthodox feminists are so carried away with victimology, with a rhetoric of male-bashing that it’s full of female chauvinists, if you will. Also, women are quite eager to censor, to silence. And what concerns me most as a philosopher is it’s become very anti-intellectual, and I think it poses a serious risk to young women in the universities. Women’s Studies classes are increasingly a kind of initiation into the most radical wing, the most intolerant wing, of the feminist movement. And I consider myself a whistle-blower. I’m from inside the campus. I teach philosophy. I’ve seen what’s been going on.

An equity feminist — and Camille and I both are equity feminists –is when you want for women what you want for everyone: fair treatment, no discrimination. A gender feminist, on the other hand, is someone like the current leaders in the feminist movement: Patricia Ireland and Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi and Eleanor Smeal. They believe that women are trapped in what they call a sex-gender system, a patriarchal hegemony; that contemporary American women are in the thrall to men, to male culture. And it’s so silly. It has no basis in American reality. No women have ever had more opportunities, more freedom, and more equality than contemporary American women. And at that moment the movement becomes more bitter and more angry. Why are they so angry?

I’m horrified at the puritanism and the sex phobia of feminism. How did that happen? I mean, feminism – it used to be fun to be a feminist, and it used to have a lot of – it attracted all sorts of lively women. Now you ask a group of young women on the college campus, "How many of you are feminists?" Very few will raise their hands because young women don’t want to be associated with it anymore because they know it means male-bashing, it means being a victim, and it means being bitter and angry. And young women are not naturally bitter and angry.

We now have a gender-bias bill that went through Congress that’s going to provide millions of dollars for ‘gender-bias workshops’. What the politicians don’t realize is that feminism is a multi-million dollar industry. The gender-bias industry is thriving. They’re the work-shoppers and the networkers, consultants and bureaucrats out there."

J.P.

$320,000 to help ‘Reduce Women’s Reliance on Hetero-Sexual Relationships’

Report on Research Project: ‘From Abuse To Family Strength.’

Presentation made at North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project meeting 4th Dec 1997.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand is spending $320,000 over three years to pay 6 part time female researchers (equivalent to 3.1 full time) to follow the progress of 40 women, all who have recently left their relationships, for two years. There were no details on how sample would be selected. The third year will be spent writing up the report. The subjects will be referred to support groups.

The study is being run by staff of the Health Promotion Service, Auckland Healthcare, and the Department of Community Health, University of Auckland.

Purpose is to produce information contributing to:

  • Theoretical development.
  • The growth of community generated strategies supporting early intervention and recovery of women and their children.

Design:

  • Map the paths taken by women through interviewing at set points over two years.
  • Review existing resources and services, gather and review recommendations for service improvement, policy development and for new initiatives.
  • Advocate and collaborate in implementing these reforms.
  • Disseminate results widely and to a variety of audiences.

Four of the researchers talked about the study. One woman’s main qualification seemed to be that she was in the process of leaving her own dysfunctional relationship. Emotionally, she appeared to be exceptionally fragile, and obviously under a great deal of stress at being exposed in front of dozens of people. She broke down completely several times during her segment of the presentation, and had to be cuddled and hugged by one of the other researchers before she could continue.

They explained that the intention of the study is to find out how leaving relationships can be made easier for women. The project was initiated by Brenda Pilott from Woman’s Refuge when she worked in Social Welfare. She has now lost this job and moved elsewhere.

The study aims to find out why woman don’t just leave dysfunctional relationships. The presenter put forward her view that: "It may be that leaving is no guarantee that violence will stop. Why should the burden of responsibility be on her? We say that woman shouldn’t have to leave – it’s better to remove the man. Physically leaving may not be option for women – he might insist on her staying."

What do women require so that leaving is effective?

  • Protection from men after leaving.
  • Substitute financial, emotional, and social resources.

What are the ties that bind women into relationships?

  • Financial / Material
  • Social / erroneous belief that good mothering means facilitating presence of father.
  • Stigmatisation of single parent families.
  • Emotional and psychological.

The problem is that woman’s need to support her husband / father conflicts with protecting the child. There is tension caused by this conflict. What if she returns to husband? What role do agencies have in this decision?

At first I wasn’t sure if I had heard correctly, but after being asked, (not by me) one presenter repeated the study objective: "Leaving needs to be made easier, to reduce reliance on heterosexual partnerships. Change is needed in society to reduce need of relationships. Power is exercised through need. The availability of the DPB is hugely significant, but there are still problems with stigmatisation. There should be equal pay for women and free child care."

Questions and Comments from audience:

Deb Greenstreet (HIPPY) said "We need to also support fathers and stop bashing solo dads."

Q: How do you control for the influence of the researchers on the subject’s commitment to staying away?

A: Influence will be positive if the woman remains out of relationship.

Q: Won’t there be criticism that you contaminated your subjects?

A: If so we will smile proudly and say yes!

Question (from male AIT Violence and Trauma studies student): are researchers being monitored?

A: No.

The final comment was from Ginette Forbes (Woman’s Refuge): "To do this study properly, you need another $320,000 for a control group."

J.P.

In March 1999 we published a letter from Brenda Pilott correcting misinformation inadvertently passed on in this article (here).

Rape Crisis Incest Awareness Campaign

In a quarter page advertisement for the Rape Crisis Incest Awareness Campaign published in the Manawatu Evening Standard May 6th, Auckland sexual abuse counsellor Brian Connell explained how he recovered memories of incest committed by his father:

"I have blocked everything out, totally blocked it out. I have very few memories from childhood but I know I was physically and mentally abused by my father……I grew up isolated and got to the stage where I worked by myself and lived by myself. The pressure was building and I needed help. It was then I started getting visions of Father in the background and knew sexual abuse was coming up……Apart from the memories, the other thing I lost in childhood was trust. I’m gradually learning, but I haven’t been able to get close to people, to trust anyone. I feel the time is running out for me to have a really close, fulfilling relationship withsomeone I can trust……Then last year I was involved in the Doctors for Sexual Abuse conference which focused on male survivors for the first time. I ended up standing up to tell my story……. As things have gone on, I’ve found myself saying things and thinking ‘who is this person?’ It’s the real Brian coming through. Now all the pain and suffering has been worth it. It’s brought out the real me. I have passion, joy and I’m doing something that is really rewarding. I counsel men like me." The advertisement went on to claim that "Thousands of people have stories like Brian Connell’s."

On April 1st 1998, a report on recovered memories by a working party of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in England was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. They wrote: " Numerous studies in children and adults have found that psychologically traumatic events often result in an inability to forget, rather than a complete expulsion from awareness. Amnesia for prolonged abuse is rare………We concluded that when memories are ‘recovered’ after long periods of amnesia, particularly when extraordinary means were used to secure the recovery of that memory, there is a high probability that the memories are false, that is: of incidents that had not occurred…….. A recovered memory, in the context of this paper, is the emergence of an apparent recollection of childhood abuse of which the individual has no previous knowledge.

Domestic Violence Gravy Train

Wendy Reid, General Manager of the New Zealand Community funding agency detailed some of the 1996 funding for domestic violence interventions:

  • $4.6 million Women’s Refuge
  • $2.3 million Counselling and Therapy programmes for sexual abuse, rape and family violence victims
  • $230,000 Manual to promote family violence prevention
  • $1.5 million – Six pilot programmes for child victims and witnesses of family violence
  • $1.5 million – Counselling for victims of domestic violence (extra funding)
  • $6.4 million – Department of Courts funding for domestic violence programmes
  • $600,000 – Family violence services for women in rural communities

Family Abuse Calls Flood Police

Canterbury Police were called out 427 times in March to suspected domestic abuse. However almost 300 of these calls turned out to false alarms, caused by activities such as chopping wood, shifting furniture, or shouting instructions. Inspector Frank Lynch said that it showed police were taking family violence seriously. "There’s a lot of misreporting, but we encourage that. We want to ensure we know if anyone is in danger."

The 133 serious calls included an average of one person a day, usually a woman, being hit by a partner, and 16 involved breaches of Protection Orders. An average of 33 applications for protection orders are made each month (four of these by men).

Meanwhile, Wellington Police are being warned of the dangers of attending domestic incidents after a spate of serious assaults on officers. Inspector Greg Gilpin said officers were most at risk when complying with the mandatory arrest policy, which allowed them to arrest offenders regardless of whether the victim wants to lay a complaint. Police Association president Greg O’Connor said police were often targeted by the partner of the people they were trying to arrest.

Second Code of Social Responsibility Targets Men

A report in the Herald in April said that two feminist community groups have drawn up guidelines on men’s behaviour to cover ‘huge gaps’ in the Government Code of Social and Family Responsibility. The Zero Tolerance to Family Violence Project in Hamilton and the Network of Woman’s Support Agencies in Takapuna said the Government code failed to acknowledge that men’s violence to women was a major problem. The Hamilton Project co-ordinator Graham Barnes said that "we also need to specifically focus on what men can do." A spokesman for the National Network of Stopping Violence Services, Paul Prestige, said the Government document focussed on the rights of the privileged and the responsibilities of the underprivileged.

The Men’s Centre Submission on the Social & Family Responsibility Code is here

Zero Tolerance Campaign

At the end of May, the North Shore Times Advertiser reported that an Auckland regional coalition of family violence networks and safer community councils have started a Zero Tolerance to Family Violence campaign. North Harbour Family Violence co-ordinator Reese Helmondollar said "Some people are afraid that if they call the police it might make it worse for the victim. Often people are reluctant to get involved because they fear repercussions themselves." He went on to say that the regional group believes family violence is a community issue in which everyone has a responsibility to intervene. The group met initially to promote the Crime Prevention Unit’s education kit ‘Community Action to Prevent Family Violence’.

Case History: Peter Brennen

wpe28.jpg (3930 bytes) All identifying details changed.

Just before Christmas 1997 I had a phone call from an out of town member Peter Brennen. He was very depressed because he hadn’t seen his children for several weeks, and had just learned that the two boys, now aged 5 and 11 would be ‘on holiday’ until February at least. He had already spent one Christmas without seeing his boys, and he was distressed to realise it was going to be the same this year.

Peter was born in Holland, and migrated to New Zealand at the age of 8. He stayed married to Nola for 15 years, but the couple finally separated at the end of 1995. Since then Peter had seen Luke, the older son "on and off", but Nola only allowed him to spend four hours on his own with the younger boy, at a time when Luke was away at a school camp.

The problem is that Nola believes he has a Dutch passport (which is not true, even though he and the boys are entitled to one) and will take the kids overseas if she lets him have them both unsupervised. Peter feels totally dominated by Nola, both psychologically and physically. He is depressed, and has considered suicide.

Back when he was working, "things were going pretty good". He knew his wife had a fiery temper, but he could handle himself in those days. Then he got sick, lost his job and ended up hospitalised for several months. From the time he arrived home on a sickness benefit "she took advantage of me." Nola’s violent outbursts grew more frequent and more serious as his self-esteem plummeted. The further Peter sunk into depression the less able he was to function normally. The less Nola respected him, the more injuries he received.

On one occasion she punched him in the face while he was in the bath – his teeth went through his cheek and the bath was filled with blood. Nola eventually acknowledged this incident in court. The worst time was the last beating when she attacked him while he was sleeping in bed, and managed to knee him in the kidneys. The pain was so bad he blacked out briefly, and came to hearing Luke crying "don’t die daddy, don’t die". He was so badly injured that Nola eventually became concerned and rang the police.

Shortly afterwards 5 officers arrived and following their official policy, arrested Peter. They insisted with threats and pushes on immediately removing him from his home dressed only in the shorts he had been sleeping in, even though there was a heavy frost. He was left alone in a cell with no clothes or footwear, or even a blanket to cover himself with. Eventually the police became concerned at the obvious signs of injury and called for medical assistance. Just before the doctor arrived, they gave Peter a shirt and jacket, but he was still shivering so much he couldn’t talk properly or explain anything.

Although he denies ever hitting Nola in retaliation, Peter agreed that he has sometimes "pushed past her" as her affidavits accuse. Nethertheless, she took out a protection order against him and his brother, and assumed total control over his access to the boys. Peter’s older brother, who is a gun collector, was warned just in time to surrender all his firearms to another club member to avoid their removal by police.

Peter has tried to fight for access in the family court, with little success. He has spent thousands of dollars on legal bills, but ended up firing two lawyers when they failed to achieve anything. Now he’s out of money, and about to attend the next custody and access hearing representing himself. He’s been falsely accused of hitting the children with a wooden spoon and a jandal. He’s been accused of holding his wife and younger son hostage. Nola even complained to the police that Peter’s friends were "watching the house in a threatening manner." This is all now evidence against him in the family court.

The court did pay for him to have 6 supervised access visits with Luke. The young female social worker at the access centre "treated me like a child abuser" and he was so outraged he took a hidden tape recorder and collected evidence of her abusiveness. He complained to the centre management and they responded by banning him from using the service. For a while he went to another access centre, but after experiencing Nola’s constant dramas and obstruction they too declined to continue.

Peter was sent to "a very feminist orientated" court psychologist. On his first visit he was searched for a tape recorder because of the notes on his record. The psychologist wrote an unfavourable report. The family G.P. also supported Nola. She wrote that Peter had "potential for violence" and an "incurable personality disorder." Peter paid to see a psychiatrist to get a second opinion and was told that there was nothing wrong with him, and that treatment would be a waste of time.

Female violence is often explained by labelling it as ‘self defence, or as a normal response to repeated battering by the husband. In Peter and Nola’s relationship however, her violence only started when Peter was relatively disempowered, and increased as he became less and less able to defend himself.

Both men and women are equally capable of abusing a position of power, and Nola demonstrates that some women are quite prepared to use serious levels of violence to express their anger and frustration at their partner’s inability to cope. She also shows how easy it is for women to use the family court system as a weapon, a perfect example of the indirect violence Patricia Pearson talks about in her book ‘When She was Bad.’

When we see a situation like this, it’s not hard to understand why 11 times more men than women commit suicide following relationship break-up, and why so many serious partner assaults occur. For many men, when they loose their families their world literally falls apart, and when they find the entire system seems to be geared to looking after the woman’s interests at men’s expense, they can easily begin to feel that they are backed into a corner and that the only possible response to the intolerable situation is to act violently to themselves or others.

J.P.

Dear Ms Morris, MP

I noted that as Minister of Youth Affairs, you supported the Rape Crisis campaign on incest.

New Zealand has good incest prevalence data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study, which has followed a birth cohort of over 1200 youngsters since 1977. That study showed that out of a sample 1000, there were 2 cases of incest involving a natural parent.

I wish to make it clear that any incidence of incest is too high. However, there is no proof that publicising incest figures does any more good than highlighting youth suicide. The figures quoted from a phone-in survey serve no useful purpose. They only undermine fathers and give credibility to false allegations.

The absence of fathers from many children’s lives and lack of male role models is a major social problem. Overseas studies have shown that many serial rapists lack this role model. The campaign by Rape Crisis is going to add to this problem.

I have no objection to my taxes going to pay for counselling of genuine victims of sexual abuse. I do object to my taxes going to fund an anti-male and anti-father campaign.

As a male, I have no Minister of Men’s Affairs to write to. NZ First has no spokesperson for men. I would be interested in your view on remedying this situation.

As Minister of Youth Affairs, do you see any positive benefit for youth from this campaign implying a high incidence of incest by natural fathers?

If not, will you withdraw support?

In New Zealand one only needs to look at the youth suicide rate for young males. The type of image of men portrayed by Rape Crisis is unlikely to help the self-esteem of males of any age.

Regards, Chuck Bird.

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