Should Men’s Advocates Work as Access Supervisors?
Over recent weeks there has been heated (and often abusive) debate about Union of Fathers’ president Alan Harvey working as an access supervisor. He is not the first men’s advocate to have done so – Craig Davis from Shore Fathers has also been employed in this position, and likewise faced a torrent of abuse and accusations from an angry male client.
It will be obvious that I have not been doing much moderation in recent weeks – many of the comenters repeatedly break the MENZ rules – my only excuse is that the sun was shining, and the trail inviting.
I’m leaving the discussion unaltered because I think much of it is valuable. There is very little mention of the NZ Supervised Access regime in the mainstream media, and many important issues are raised.
At Men’s Centre North Shore in the mid-90s, we heard regular reports by a member who had been sentenced to supervised access on the basis of an uncoroberated accusation by his ex-wife.
The treatment he received was downright abusive, and seemed calculated to destroy any possibility of meaningful relationship with his daughter. The false belief that daddy was bad and dangerous was repeatedly re-inforced by the supervisor. She constantly interrupted conversations to abuse the father, and most normal father-daughter subjects were forbidden.
The visits were consistently so stressful and unpleasant that the child eventually refused to attend, and complete parental alienation was achieved. I am thinking Skeptik may have also met this particular father.
I would particularly like to invite comments from other men who have personally attended a NZ supervised access centre.
The Domestic Violence Act stipulation that children automatically get added to a Domestic Protection Order is the root of the problem in my view. There is no evidence that partner violence in the context of a relationship breakdown automatically places the children in increased danger.
No child should undergo forced separation from a parent at the hands of the State unless there is actual evidence that the child is unsafe. There must be proper judicial due process for establishing this, not just a rubber stamp. The process should take days, not months and years.
Until we reform this aspect of the law, the supply of new victims (both fathers and children) continue to provide unnecessary jobs for supervisors. I’m with the hardliners on this point – the current system is plain wrong and it needs fixing.
But, in the meantime, we are stuck with the fundamentally flawed and gender biased Family Court and the ideologically-based laws which support it. Even if the revolution were to succeed tomorrow, we can hardly solve the problem by lining up every Family Court collaborator against the wall and executing them!
Separating parents will continue to argue and manipulate and hit each other. Conflicts will still need to be resolved by outsiders in many situations. There will still be children who want to see their parents even though they actually are potentially dangerous, in which case supervision might be entirely appropriate.
So while we are waiting (and advocating for) major reform, isn’t it useful to work with the system and attempt to influence cultural change from within?
In addition to the two mentioned above, I have met a number of men working for the Family Court or its agencies who are in a position to make the environment around them marginally more male-friendly. I sure know who I would want to supervise my access if the choice was between Alan or a hairy man-hating lesbian!
Martin, I have given you much more leeway than I normally would, because I am aware there is no effective due process for making complaints or resolving disputes about supervised access.
But your efforts to circumvent moderation only succeeded because I wasn’t paying attention – be warned that I can and will ban you completely if you continue to suck up my time and energy by breaking the rules. I’m particularly annoyed with you for hi-jacking the excellent airline seating discussion. If the oppositional behaviour you are demonstrating on this site is the way you habitually deal with the world, I am not surprised that you have failed to achieve a satisfactory outcome with regard to your boys.
I think much of the abuse directed at Alan is over-the-top, and unfair, and I believe he genuinely has got men’s interest’s at heart. However, when any of us accept payments for professional services, we have to accept the possibility of dissatisfied clients. Ideally there is a professional mechanism for resolving complaints; where there is not then we become fair game i the public arena.
I think it is great that men like Alan engage in discussions on MENZ. I worry that many of the responses this site generates make it a hostile environment at times, but then I reflect that this is the nature of most un-moderated forums. But others are more likely to consider your point-of-view if you treat them with respect. Carrots work better than sticks, blah blah. Why can’t we all just, you know, get along?
Is there anything basically wrong with financially benefiting from working within an institution that is corrupted? I suggest not – if every male-friendly Family Court worker was to resign tomorrow the system would not collapse – it would just become a whole lot tougher for fathers. I say the more non-feminist workers the better!
In the interests of full disclosure I should note that my wife Felicity gets paid for expert witness work in sex abuses prosecutions, many of which would not occur if NZ laws were less influenced by feminist principles.
I don’t agree that organisations like UOF should always put men’s interests first, in the way that feminist organisations do for women. This “us against them” mentality which has been driving the gender wars is part of the problem, not the solution.
I strongly support the idea that laws and social services should operate “in the best interest of the child”, and I think that when they eventually do this, there will be little need for a Father’s Rights Movement.
I like to thing we are heading towards a Truth & Reconciliation commission rather than a firing squad!