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MENZ Issues September 1998: Volume 3 Issue 9

That ‘F’ word again – Feminazis versus Feminists "I generally use the term feminazi when I refer to men and women who use Goebbels’ technique of repeating a lie until it is believed, particularly in the areas of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The term feminazis for those responsible for the grossly misleading Rape Crisis incest campaign is rather mild."

Men’s Centre Submission to Select Committee on Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill 1998 and The De facto Property Amendment Bill 1998. "When a couple take their marriage vows, they make a commitment, a contract, with each other and their community. The contractual situation is not the same with de facto couples, who have by definition chosen to avoid making an explicit contract. The amended bill would cause a contract to come into effect by default simply because of the passage of time. The parties to this contract never formed an intent to make one, and many will consider themselves to be contracted under duress."

Letter to Minister of Social Welfare about Rape Crisis Incest Awareness Week. "Rape Crisis uses excessively broad criteria for ‘incest’ which not only grossly inflates the perception of how big the problem is, but renders the concept of incest virtually meaningless. These views are entirely unacceptable and misleading to many in the community, because they are drawn from ideological and advocacy motives, based on junk-science."

Reply from Minister The Government contribution to the Rape Crisis campaign, made from the Social Welfare contingency fund was $30,000. Roger Sowry, Min. of Social Welfare.

Australian Dad bounces back into Family Court for 100th hearing! Nigel is not prepared to walk away from his children. He has even spent time in prison for contacts with his children which breached court orders. For example, just after Fiona was appointed sole guardian of the children, Nigel went to their home when they were out and left three packets of ‘pebbles’ sweets and 3 fifty cent coins on the front verandah with some sea shells arranged to spell the words ‘Daddy was here’. This was considered a breach of the Summary Protection Order issued by his ex-wife which specifies that he should be restrained from approaching her in any way.

wpe28.jpg (3147 bytes) Your Men’s Centre Needs You!

That ‘F’ word again

Back in July, Chuck Bird sent a message out on e-mail encouraging men to make submissions on Matrimonial Property Bill. At the end he said "If the feminazis get their way, it won’t be worth living in New Zealand.

Kieron Horide-Hobley, editor of Welling.Men newsletter replied "Please note that I did not foward your message to the Wellington Men’s Network, due to the tone of its content. There are many within the network who do not support the use of battle language and generalising of feminists as extremists."

In August we printed a response from Walter Schneider (here). This month, Chuck puts foward his point of view.

J.P.

Feminazis versus Feminists

It is unfortunate that Kieron Horide-Hobley assumed that I was referring to all feminists as feminazis and that the term itself is battle language. I certainly do not use the term in that context.

After receiving Keiron’s reply, I checked with a chat group for their definition of feminazi. One sadly equated feminists with feminazis. On the other hand, one woman in the group stated "In any case I agree with Chuck – it’s the lying and suppression of rational debate that are the hallmarks of the feminazis."

I generally use the term feminazi when I refer to men and women who use Goebbels’ technique of repeating a lie until it is believed, particularly in the areas of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The term feminazis for those responsible for the grossly misleading Rape Crisis incest campaign is rather mild. The harm done to the vast majority of children who are not sexually abused by their fathers is incalculable. I could use the term evil to describe some at Rape Crisis but feminazi is more descriptive.

Researchers at the Auckland Medical School who deliberately misled the public about women perpetrators of domestic violence also deserve the label. The offence that some people feel at hearing the word feminazi, is trivial compared to the offence fathers feel at supervised access for minor violence against one’s spouse. The feminazi propaganda is responsible for denying many fathers contact with their children.

Walter Schneider is certainly correct when he states that "most feminists are moderate and pro-family people, whereas the feminazis that Chuck refers to are generally representative of only a minute fraction of the heterophobic, family-hostile, mysandrist, radical extremists of the 1.5% of the female population that is lesbian." However I do not agree that the term heterophobe is more descriptive. The meaning, I assume would be similar to the new term homophobe, except that it refers to men instead of homosexuals.

The current use of the word homophobe to denigrate anyone who opposes the more outrageous demands of the homosexuals, such the right to adopt children, is offensive. I would not want to use a derogatory term to describe feminist for their viewpoint, unless that view is expressed in such a way as to denigrate men as a group by the use of lies.

In the email I used feminazi in relation to the undemocratic way women’s groups received special notice of the calling for submissions on Matrimonial Property Bills before parliament. Perhaps I overreacted. However, women’s groups had a similar advantage with the Child Support Act. The result is a law that doesn’t work and encourages the breakdown of marriage.

To be fair, most of the women MPs probably went along with the idea to notify women’s groups without really thinking. On the other hand, Marion Hobbs’ justification that "We were only looking after our people." is disturbing. That sounds like battle language to me. Is she not in parliament to represent everyone regardless of race or sex? Does she not realise that family law also affects men, children, grandparents, second wives and society as a whole?

I wish to make it clear that I agree with the definition of feminism. That is "the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes." I also advocate men’s rights on the same grounds.

I would be interested in feedback from any readers if they are offended by the term feminazi in the context I have used. I would also be interested in their view on the highly offensive ads, paid for by government departments, which men have to put up with.

Chuck Bird chuckb@quicksilver.net.nz

Men’s Centre Submission to Select Committee on Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill 1998 and The De facto Property Amendment Bill 1998.

1.0 – Introducing Men’s Centre North Shore Inc

We are a volunteer organisation of men and women working to support men. Although we are based in North Shore City, almost half of our members live elsewhere, and they include almost a dozen men’s groups throughout New Zealand. Our core function is our telephone advice / support / referral service; we also run a monthly show on Access Radio, publish the newsletter MENZ Issues (July circulation: 700 copies), and take an active part in networking with other organisations that work towards improving the welfare of men and their families. We do not support any particular political or religious philosophy.

2.0 Areas of Concern

2 .1 Undermining of Marriage

We believe that married couples should enjoy special status in law. The effect of these amendments would be to remove the last few remnants of the legal privilege and protection traditionally associated with the marriage contract. The rapid rise of fatherless families over the last three decades, and the resulting social breakdown and increase in crime and dysfunction, has become a problem too big to ignore. We agree with the radical feminists in that they believe that the nuclear family is the foundation of our patriarchal society. We believe that their efforts to destroy the family as a strategy for overthrowing the prevailing power structure have already been devastatingly effective, and that to a large extent these amendments are just tidying up a few loose ends. If these bills are passed, there will be little legal reason left to marry, and what has traditionally been one of the central, sacred rituals of almost all human cultures will in New Zealand be relegated to the status of a quaint (and no doubt commercialised) folk custom.

2.2 Contractual Injustice

When a couple take their marriage vows, they make a commitment, a contract, with each other and their community. The tradition that a marriage must be open to the public and usually involves parades and public displays reinforces this participation by the wider society beyond immediate friends and family. Society has a legitimate interest in promoting marriage because it socialises young adult males and leads to the best outcomes when bringing up children.

The contractual situation is not the same with de facto couples, who have by definition chosen to avoid making an explicit contract. The amended bill would cause a contract to come into effect by default simply because of the passage of time. The parties to this contract never formed an intent to make one, and many will consider themselves to be contracted under duress.

2.3 Gender Equality Issues

We strongly endorse the stated principle ‘Equal Status For Women in Society’ and submit that this is not consistent with the vastly unequal treatment women and men currently receive at the hands of the Family Court in regard to final custody orders. The current system produces a ‘custodial parent’, with a guaranteed income for a decade or more, and a ‘liable parent’ who will loose a large proportion of whatever they earn for the same period. We submit that this anomaly be corrected by the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill being extended to remove gender-bias regarding the custody of children. Joint or shared custody is now the norm in many Western jurisdictions, and results in:

  • Improved welfare of children,
  • Dramatic lowering of the number of absent fathers,
  • Greater compliance in payments of child support,
  • Less workload for Family Courts because less incentive to argue,
  • Fewer sole parent families that need government support.

2.4 Pressure on De-facto families

If the De facto Property Amendment Bill is passed, some people who wish to avoid long-term commitment and financial liabilities will decide to leave their partner before the three year time limit expires. In many cases these will be re-constituted families with children which might otherwise have remained stable. The implications for children’s safety if the legislation encourages a series of stepfathers or boyfriends who regularly need to be replaced should be considered carefully.

2.5 Unjust Outcomes

There are many cases where one partner is relatively wealthy but the other has no assets at all. Many such couples live together for limited periods with no intention whatsoever of making a permanent commitment. Over a lifetime, some people these days may have a dozen or more live-in partners. Why should they give up half their assets every time a relationship lasts more than 3 years? For a person who owns a $250,000 house, it would probably be cheaper to hire a series of prostitutes for the 1095 nights this legislation specifies, than to pay over half their assets for the privilege of sleeping with someone. It should be noted that this potential financial inequality will not only affect men. There are increasing numbers of relatively wealthy single women who could be adversely affected by this proposal. The trend towards shorter and less committed relationships is likely to accelerate if this 3 year time limit is imposed.

2.6 Impracticality of Definitions

When exactly does a de-facto relationship start – when the couple first meet? The first time they sleep together? The moment they spend more than a certain number of nights together in any one week? What if the relationship remained unconsummated? This would be vitally important to establish with precision with so much potentially riding on whether the elapsed period was more or less than 1095 days. Is it workable?

How would the Court establish that a de-facto relationship has continued – are a couple who spend 2-3 nights a week together living in a "relationship in the nature of marriage"? What about four or five nights a week? What if a person spends 3-4 nights with one partner and 3-4 nights with another? Who would keep the records, which may well be required as evidence in court?

What if a couple live together for a while, separate for two years, then get back together again – would the clock keep ticking? What if they part regularly every few days because of employment conditions and spend much of their time apart? We can only conclude that these difficulties have not been fully appreciated.

2.7 Insufficient Public Notice

We are deeply concerned that detailed notifications about these amendments, and invitations for submissions to your committee, were sent only to selected lobby groups representing a minority viewpoint within our society. This seems to us unlikely to result in balanced, fair legislation. We believe that all sectors of New Zealand society should discuss the social policy issues that arise out of changing laws applying to families. The general public should be given the opportunity to participate fully in debating changes that have such wide-reaching implications.

3.0 Recommendations

3.1 Marriage

Urgent consideration should be given to the establishment of a Ministry of Family Affairs, which should have as its primary goal the scrutiny of all legislation which might impact adversely on family stability. The Ministry should also facilitate full public discussion about the directions of future social policy.

3.2 Contracts

A contract involving the disposal of 50% of a person’s assets should be enforceable only if it was made explicitly and in the absence of duress, in line with normal contract law. Contracts should not in principle evolve by default, and their enforcement is likely further to undermine public confidence in the ability of the New Zealand justice system to deliver fair outcomes.

3.3 Custody

  • separating parents should automatically have equal custody (by time) of their children. The primary goal of the Family Court should be to facilitate children having ongoing contact with both parents.
  • parents should have the right to decide about the care of their children if they both agree to alternative arrangements.
  • separated parents should be required to live within a reasonable distance to retain their custody entitlement.
  • a parent should be denied access only if proven in a Criminal Court to be a danger to their child.

3.4 Defacto Property

This amendment should be rejected in its entirety.

3.5 Consultation

All work with these Bills should be suspended until proper and informed public debate on the social policy issues has taken place. This discussion should involve all differing viewpoints and perspectives.

John Potter.

The Select Committee heard an Oral Submission from our Chairman Mark Rowley when it met in Auckland. Several items about our participation appeared in the media.

Letter to Minister of Social Welfare about Rape Crisis Incest Awareness Week

To: Hon Roger Sowry

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your reply, dated 31 July, to my enquiries regarding the CYPS involvement with the Rape Crisis incest campaign. I note the obvious pride you have in your concern, and your responsibility, to protect children and young people from abusive adults.

I share those concerns with you, as does the vast majority of our community. We all want abuse to stop. The starting point must be to accurately measure or assess the frequency of abuse on a credible scientific basis, and determine its causes. It is an imperative that clear, sensible, and acceptable definitions be applied. Only then can resources be properly focused on treating real causes.

One of the main problems encountered in dealing with the emotive, sensitive and complex topic of sexual abuse is that of definitions, and of course, the associated risk of wasting resources on undefined problems. Definitions provide clear standards for measurement. The Crimes Act provides such a definition of incest, set down by Parliament, and acceptable to professionals, and to the public. Simply put, we know where we stand. I acknowledge that Rape Crisis publicly explained why its definition of incest differed from the legal definition. But that does not mean its explanation is acceptable, or even reasonable.

Rape Crisis uses excessively broad criteria for ‘incest’ which not only grossly inflates the perception of how big the problem is, but renders the concept of incest virtually meaningless. Moreover, in producing its results, Rape Crisis failed to verify or corroborate self-reported events, and ignored the known errors from which self-reported events and retrospective studies suffer. For example, Rape Crisis say that sexual assaults occurring between any Mäori people is blood relative incest. "Bi-cultural commitment also contributed to the definition of incest", they said. And "We go by our clients’ definitions which are applicable to our niche." In other words, anything a client says, or believes is incest, is incest. These views are entirely unacceptable and misleading to many in the community, because they are drawn from ideological and advocacy motives, based on junk-science.

Their explanation drew scorn, derision and contempt from public and professional sources. Your implication is that CYPS accepts the Rape Crisis explanation and definition. It could therefore be assumed that if any other organisation presented yet another definition, that too, would be acceptable to CYPS. The line must be drawn at a definition which is fair, reasonable and clear. We in the community reject the Rape Crisis opinion, and insist upon definitions established by lawful, scientific, and public processes. We expect your support in these fundamental issues. The recent Rape Crisis campaign about incest claimed they averaged over 400 incest calls per year, and that the most common offenders are fathers. Sensational newspaper headlines included "Kiwi homes are plagued by incest" and "Dads defile homes."

Ministry of Justice figures for the 1997 calendar year show that there were a total of 1328 prosecutions for sexual offences, and 720 of these (54%) resulted in convictions. Of these, there were five cases of alleged incest, four of which resulted in convictions. It is not specified whether those convicted were fathers or other relatives of the victim. Rape allegations accounted for 318 of those charged, and 137 of these (43%) resulted in convictions. The most common charge was of indecent assault (548), of which 334 (61%) were convicted.

Credible research from local and international sources indicates that incest by biological fathers lies around the 1 per 100,000 range. An example of this research is the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a longitudinal study which has followed a birth cohort of over 1,260 from 1977. Incest by biological fathers was placed at two cases in a sample of over 1,000 participants. The Otago Women’s Health Study put a similar figure on incest.

Rape Crisis, and by association CYPS, uses a figure in the 30%+ range. Their figures exceed official statistics by a magnitude of one hundred, and exceed those from credible research by a similar margin. Very clearly, the claims made by Rape Crisis, and by association CYPS, are advocacy claims without substance. For the reason that CYPS methods of "investigation and assessment" are based on ideological concepts similar to those of Rape Crisis, the statistics you provided in no way confirm the frequency of sexual abuse in our community. If CYPS does not know the actual number of incest cases it claims to have dealt with, it is wrong and misleading to infer that incest is a "significant problem".

We in the community deplore that fact that incest does occur, but will not accept the distortions of Rape Crisis or CYPS. No-one wants to under-estimate the seriousness of the crime of incest, and I acknowledge that not all cases of incest will be reported to the police. However, a huge over-statement does even more damage than under-estimation. The discrepancy between the figures from the Ministry of Justice, and those from Rape Crisis, suggests that the latter grossly exaggerates the extent of the problem. I therefore most strongly disagree with your view that it is "entirely appropriate for Government agencies to help spread messages" based on Rape Crisis misinformation. In any sense, it is wrong for agencies to mislead the public, and thereby cause undue and unwarranted concern over the prevalence of incest or any form of abuse. It is well known in the community that in matters related to allegations of sexual abuse, CYPS has a deserved reputation of finding abuse where there is none. I do not say that lightly.

As many men who have become entangled with CYPS in marriage separation procedures will attest, the "investigation and assessment" processes used by CYPS appear to be aimed at ensuring that any allegation or suspicion of sexual abuse is converted into a fact, often without a shred of credible evidence. While I agree that any case of sexual abuse is too many, purposely finding abuse where there is no evidence of abuse, is a misuse of their very extensive powers. Especially in cases where child custody is in dispute, it is often the case that children need protection from CYPS. There is a considerable body of evidence to show that by using misinformation, and inappropriate, misguided investigation and assessment methods, CYPS indulges in a process of institutionalised abuse which permanently damages the children they are supposed to protect. Some children are so traumatised by their experience with CYPS, that even though no abuse occurred, they come to believe their fathers are sexual deviants. That destroys the most fundamental values in their lives. Principal government responsibilities include representing the interests of constituents, while also protecting the community from the excesses, deficiencies, and limitations of Government agencies. Although your letter gave a sterling defence of CYPS and Rape Crisis, it ignored the serious nature of my enquiry, and the underlying concerns regarding the performance of CYPS.

Acceptance of a junk-science definition of incest, created for ideological reasons, neither represents community interests, nor protects children; rather, it is counterproductive to your concerns over the protection of children. There are many in the community who are aghast that our taxpayer funds have been used to support Rape Crisis in any sense. There are many who deplore the way in which CYPS handles cases of alleged sexual abuse.

I know you do not want to hear such messages, and I take no particular pleasure in writing them, but I am firmly persuaded that these concerns must be dealt with openly and honestly. What has been done thus far by CYPS and Rape Crisis has not met the essential criteria of measurement, definition, or treatment of causes. Certainly, feeding Rape Crisis with taxpayer funds, and encouraging CYPS to support and use its propaganda, is a waste of scarce resources.

Finally, I have two requests to make. Firstly, that in order to avoid further confusion and misleading of the public, you commission a study to produce a definition of incest, and other forms of sexual abuse, which meet acceptable scientific and community criteria and perceptions, and make those definitions mandatory and binding on CYPS and other Government agencies. Secondly, in my letter of 11 June, I had asked for information on the amount of taxpayer funds expended in support of the Rape Crisis campaign. Although you commented that funds from your Contingency Fund had been applied, I would appreciate information on the actual amount involved.

Sincerely, Gordon Waugh.

Reply from Minister

Thank you for your further letter of 6 August 1998 regarding the recent Rape Crisis Incest campaign, the definition of incest and sexual abuse, and the amount of taxpayers’ money expended on the campaign.

You ask that I commission a study to produce a definition of incest and other forms of sexual abuse which meet acceptable scientific and community criteria and perception. I do not believe that this is necessary. Incest is defined, as you know, as a criminal offence, by the Crimes Act.

An adult may be charged as a result of the findings of a Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service investigation but it is for the Police, not CYPFS, to determine criminal liability and to lay charges according to the definition. CYPFS does not have its own definition of incest.

CYPFS practice is guided by the provisions of the CYPFS Act, specifically the care and protection provisions described in s14. The Service’s definition of sexual abuse, as outlined in Breaking the Cycle – An Inter-Agency Guide to Child Abuse was arrived at after extensive consideration and consultation with professionals working in the child health and welfare arenas, and representatives of different cultural groups, and after legal scrutiny to ensure that the definition met the objects and principles of the Act.

CYPFS social workers can find themselves unwittingly embroiled in adult affairs where malicious and vengeful dynamics prevail, especially, as you point out, in situations where there are custody rights at issue. I can only reiterate that the focus of the social worker is that of the welfare of the children, and I believe that the July 1997 implementation of the risk Assessment tool provides social workers with a scientific framework in which to pursue their investigations.

The Government contribution to the Rape Crisis campaign, made from the Social Welfare contingency fund was $30,000.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Sowry, Min. of Social Welfare.

Australian Dad bounces back into Family Court for 100th hearing!

Kangaroo

MCNS member’s Case History. Identifying details changed

Nigel and Fiona were both in their early 20s in 1979 when they married in Australia, Fiona’s homeland. Nigel was raised in NZ where most of his family still live. Nigel is a highly educated professional man who had a high-paying job. The couple had three children: Jeremy born in 1982; Helen born in 1985 and Sasha born in 1987.

The marriage lasted 10 years, but in 1989 Fiona left Nigel, taking the children with her. Nigel was distressed by the marriage breakdown and the loss of his children. From the outset, he tried to maintain contact with his son and daughters. Within a few months Fiona had applied for and been granted an ex-parte (‘one side only’) order for interim custody and a non-molestation injunction. There had been no suggestion that Nigel had ever been violent towards his family, and in 1994 a judge noted that there was no reason for this to have been made ex parte and that Nigel had good reason to feel aggrieved. Nigel was granted daytime access during the weekends, and managed to spend time with his children regularly, although from the beginning, Fiona was not happy about him seeing them. She kept a dairy relating to the access and comments made by the children and by Nigel, and admitted that she only wrote negative comments in the book. During 1991 Nigel kept up all access visits despite Fiona’s opposition.

In November 1991 Fiona spoke to an ‘expert’ on child sexual abuse. That evening she asked her two girls a series of leading questions, which started with "Has daddy ever touched you in a way that you don’t like?". The girls were in the bath at the time. Helen indicated that he had touched her bottom with his hand but denied that he had touched her vagina. Sasha pointed to the area of her vagina, and when her mother asked "does he put his wee-wee down there?" the girl supposedly said yes. Fiona immediately contacted the police. A medical examination was arranged by the Child Protection Services Unit and the children were examined by a paediatrician.

On examination of 4 year old Amy, he found no scarring or other abnormality except on the hymen which he said was irregular and thinned with a horizontal opening of 5 mm. He concluded that this was physical evidence of interference.

On examination of 6 year old Helen, he recorded some redness and a slight amount of discharge. Her hymen measured 7-8 mm horizontally and appeared thin along its bottom edge. He concluded that this was also medical evidence of interference. He suspected that the discharge was caused by the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia, and gave both girls antibiotic treatment for this infection. However the results of swabs he took showed no evidence of any disease, including Chlamydia.

Sasha underwent 4 interviews by a Child Protection Service social worker, only one of which as observed and recorded by a police officer. Details of how the allegations had arisen and a transcript of the videotaped interview was examined some years later by a well-respected psychiatrist. He expressed grave concerns about the flawed nature of the initial disclosures and the strong possibility that the mother’s questioning and subsequent conduct had contaminated the girl’s testimony. He was also gravely concerned about the suggestive nature of the interview. In 1994 a judge agreed that the social worker who interviewed Sasha ‘repeatedly focused her attention on her father and what he might have done to her. The repetitive nature of the questioning was excessive to the extent of being badgering’. Although Fiona claimed that Sasha had said yes to her question "does he put his wee-wee down there?" Sasha never made that allegation in any of her interviews, and the vague claims she did make involved genital touching were in response to leading and suggestive interrogation.

Jeremy was interviewed twice by this social worker. Helen was interviewed twice by a senior clinical psychologist, with her second interview recorded by a police officer. Neither Jeremy nor Helen at any point made any allegations that they had been sexually abused. When told that the examination showed that she had been sexually interfered with, Helen said "the doctors are lying". Her denial was attributed to Roland Summit’s ‘child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome’ and she was not believed by the health care professionals involved in the case.

On the basis of the medical findings, it was decided that the girls must have been raped. In March 1992 Nigel was arrested and charged with unlawful sexual intercourse and indecent assault of both his daughters. He denied and has always continued to deny any sexual offending.

All access was stopped. He had no contact with his children either supervised or unsupervised during 1992, despite his applications to the courts. After a year on bail awaiting trial, in early 1993 the Crown entered a Nole Proseque (‘refuse to pursue’) to each of the counts which he had been charged. They did not give any reasons for dropping all the charges, but the denial by both girls that their father had raped them is likely to be a factor.

Nigel immediately set about trying to re-establish contact with his children. The Family Court issued an interim order allowing an hour of access once a month supervised by a church pastor. Each member of the family was then interviewed by a court-appointed clinical psychologist. She found that although Helen and Sasha were now convinced that Nigel had sexually abused him, they still wanted access with him. She recommended that the supervised access with all three children present at the same time be continued.

A year later she interviewed the family again. Helen repeated her belief that her father had sexually abused her, but she loved him and wanted to see him very much. Sasha was now doubtful that he had ever abused her and said "I have been telling Mum that I lied". She said she could not remember any incidents in the past but she was sure that her father had not hurt her. Again the psychologist recommended that access be limited to regular but brief (1 to 2 hours only) access of the 3 children together in a room under supervision of a pastor.

A year after all criminal charges against him had been dropped, Nigel sought to have unsupervised access to his children on alternate weekends. His application was considered in a 5 day hearing. Nigel had by now exhausted both his funds and his confidence in lawyers and so represented himself. He challenged the methodology used by the Child Protection Services Unit and the doctors’ evidence that he had sexually abused his children. A psychiatrist testified that the children’s stories were potentially contaminated by the actions of their mother and through the leading interviewing by the authorities.

The judge agreed that the psychiatrist’s criticisms were valid. However he concluded that the medical evidence indicated that the children must have been sexually abused. He found that on the balance of probabilities Nigel had not committed this abuse, although he noted that there was no evidence that anyone else had had the opportunity to do this. Despite this, in a rather contradictory fashion he decided that ‘there is an unacceptable risk of sexual abuse of the children if unsupervised access is granted at the present time’.

The court-appointed psychologist demonstrated clear bias against Nigel. She claimed that he put his needs before the children, and said that this was demonstrated by the videotape recordings he had made of a supervised access meeting for the court. The judge considered this was hypercritical of her. She gave as an example of him putting his own needs first his asking Jeremy to enquire of his mother as to whether he (Nigel) could come to watch Jeremy play in a forthcoming cricket match. The judge felt that ‘it is an entirely natural thing for a father to take an interest in his son’s sporting activities and for a son to want a parent to be there watching him. …What possible objection could there be to have her husband discreetly watching his son play cricket?". The psychologist thought this was a selfish request by Nigel.

Another example she gave of Nigel putting his own needs first was his entertaining his children by playing guitar to them for a short period of time (he is an accomplished player). The judge felt that it was quite acceptable for him to play his children some music. In fact the judge noted that the conditions of access (three children of different ages and interests all being confined to a room with no outings allowable) made it challenging to keep their attention, and he gave Nigel credit for the variety of ways he managed to maintain their interest, which the psychologist appeared to discount.

Despite his recognition of the difficulties and limitations imposed by such access, the judge ordered that it continue unchanged, because there was an unacceptable risk that Nigel might abuse his daughters. He did not even allow Nigel to have unsupervised access with 13-yr-old Jeremy, about whom there had never been the slightest allegation of abuse. Six months later, in December 1995 Fiona applied for and was granted sole guardianship of the children. She would not accept as suitable any of the supervisors put forward by Nigel. The last time he was able to see his children was March 1997.

The decision that there was an unacceptable risk that Nigel might abuse his daughters was based on the medical evidence said to indicate that past abuse had occurred. In 1983 the medical literature reported that a horizontal hymen size greater than 4 mm in a girl aged under 13 years was an indicator of sexual abuse. Doctors used this study as the basis for statements that children they examined with hymenal openings larger than 4 mm must have been interfered with. More recent examination of the study this claim was based on has revealed that it is seriously flawed. These days a horizontal hymenal opening of 5 mm in a 4 year old and 7-8 mm in a 6 year old is considered to be a normal finding. There is a great degree of variation with regard to the shape of hymn opening(s), and the irregularity and attenuation described is quite possibly a natural variation on normal. Similarly, redness is frequently found in this region for a number of reasons, and a finding of some inflammation is not confirmation of "previous interference". In other words, the medical findings described by the paediatrician do not indicate a past history of rape after all.

Nigel has tried many avenues to get this flawed medical evidence reconsidered. However no court will accept jurisdiction to hear new evidence. The Magistrates Court, the High Court and the Appeal Court of the Family Court all have refused to review the decision. The file was said to be officially closed. The Attorney-General, Australian Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman and the Governor-General have said they cannot help.

To date, Nigel has been involved in 99 court hearings with respect to this matter. He is not prepared to walk away from his children. He has even spent time in prison for contacts with his children which breached court orders. For example, just after Fiona was appointed sole guardian of the children, Nigel went to their home when they were out and left three packets of ‘pebbles’ sweets and 3 fifty cent coins on the front verandah with some sea shells arranged to spell the words ‘Daddy was here’. This was considered a breach of the Summary Protection Order issued by his ex-wife which specifies that he should be restrained from approaching her in any way. When contacted and interviewed by the police, Nigel admitted that he had gone to the premises to give his children some presents. He was aware of the Protection Order against his wife but he believed his family court access rights overrode this, as it was the children he was communicating with, not her. Nevertheless, he was arrested and imprisoned for this action.

By November 1997 Nigel had exhausted all possible domestic remedies. He therefore petitioned to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the grounds that Australia had violated Articles 14 and 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by their court actions regarding his children. Article 14 states that everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to be tried without due delay. Article 23 deals with the protection of the family. Nigel explained to them that he is a victim of the violation because he has suffered false allegations of rape which have resulted in his children being denied contact with him by the family court. It appears that this petition has resulted in a communication between the UN and the Australian government, because the file has been re-opened, and a date has set in late 1998 for a further hearing, presumably regarding the children having access to their father.

We wait to hear the outcome of the 100th hearing in Nigel’s continuing fight to father his children.

Felicity Goodyear-Smith.

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