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2002 news from MENZ.org.nz
Poorer outcomes for fatherless kids The destructive features of single parenthood are beyond challenge, writes Bettina Arndt.
James Q. Wilson's latest book, The Marriage Problem: How our Culture has Weakened Families, makes the case that the institution of marriage, once a reliable thread that held American society together, is falling apart and the resulting growth in fatherlessness is devastating. Wilson's view is that the destructive features of a world without fathers are by now so well documented that they are beyond challenge.
In Australia, meanwhile, the M word is still too hot to handle. While the evidence of poorer outcomes for children in lone-parent families is readily available, very little attention is paid to the fact that almost one in three Australian children are now born to unmarried mothers - women on their own or in cohabiting relationships which, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, are largely unstable. Unlike America, these issues never even make it onto the agenda of social science conferences. Sydney Morning Herald (link). 6th December 2002.
The Politics of Fatherhood by Stephen Baskerville: Recalling Dickens' observation that "the one great principle of the law is to make business for itself," it may not be overly cynical to suggest that family courts and their entourage have developed a vested interest in separating children from their parents. Though mothers and parents in intact families can also find their children confiscated (a trend that seems to be increasing), the process most often begins with the removal of the father, the weakest link in the family chain. (link) 4th December 2002.
"BUSTED" There is a movie just released called "Busted," and it captures the disturbing reality of the abusive, violent behavior of a woman after being rejected by the man she was living with. But she has no idea that her violence is being documented on video. So imagine her surprise when she gets busted by the evidence and the law. For people who don't realize men can be victims of domestic abuse, "Busted" is a shocking, rare glimpse behind the scenes of the domestic battlefront. As one reviewer put it... "A remarkable story of one man's battle in the legal system... to demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, that he was the victim." Download sample video from www.bustedfilms.com December 2002.
$70,000 paternity ruling sets precedent A man who successfully sued his former wife for damages because she told him he was the father of her lover's children had set an Australian legal precedent, the man's lawyer said yesterday. DNA tests in 2000 showed that Mr Magill was the biological father of only the first of their three children born between April, 1989, and November, 1991. After the couple separated late in 1992, Mr Magill made child support payments for all three children until 1999. At one time his take-home pay was reduced to about $130 a week. The Age (link) (earlier story) (story starts) 23rd November 2002.
A media vibe based on motherhood myth When discussing women and work, the media frequently rely on the vibe rather than the facts. The vibe on women and work goes like this: all women today work; gone are the days when mum could stay at home and bake Anzac bickies, while hubby brought home the bacon; kids now spend a large proportion of their early childhood years in care so that mum and dad can both work to make ends meet. The statistical reality looks more like this: lots of mothers work, lots of mothers don't, and many mothers are in effect in between. The Age (link) 17th November 2002.
Another Nut with a Gun? A sniper terrorizes Washington, killing eleven people. A Texas lawyer opens fire in a courtroom, killing two. A Denver doctor dies in a gun battle with police. An Arkansas boy shoots his classmates and teachers. A man blows his brains out at a San Diego courthouse. What do these seemingly senseless acts of violence have in common? Access to guns or disadvantaged backgrounds? No, the perpetrators all had either their children or their fathers taken away in divorce court. Free Congress Foundation (link) 15th November 2002.
PC Rape Trials Bad for Victims Moves to muzzle rape accused conducting their own defence could harm genuine rape victims ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today. "If people suspect that rape trials don't treat those accused with the same fairness as other trials, and people facing false complaints have eroded rights to face their accusers, there could be less sympathy and concern for the real victims. "The principle that an accused can challenge the accusations he faces is an ancient and fundamental right. All the alternatives should be explored before deciding to limit this right. Courts have powers to control abuses of process. ACT (link) 15th November 2002.
Getting it Right Some of the Time The statistical evidence showing that boys have lower literacy levels and lower average performance than girls in almost all school subjects is now overwhelming. Boys are also less likely than girls to finish school and enrol in higher education, with serious consequences for the students themselves and society in general. The problem of boys' educational underachievement made it onto the political agenda with the establishment of [an Australian] parliamentary inquiry into the education of boys in June 2000. Last month the inquiry's report titled 'Boys: Getting It Right' was tabled in parliament.
What is most surprising, however, is that the report fails to acknowledge a link between family structure and stability - that is, two-parent families versus single-parent families' and boys' educational problems, despite research and anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Yet it acknowledges that father absence is thought to be particularly detrimental to boys. Given that the majority of single-parent families are headed by mothers, it is hard to see how single parenthood and father absence can be considered two entirely different things. (link to appraisal of the report by Jennifer Buckingham) 14th November 2002.
Feminist Urban Legends Advocacy research refers to studies and reports produced by people with a vested interest in reaching a foregone conclusion. PC feminism is notorious for its advocacy research and for the shoddy methodology that so often accompanies political bias. Theory is paraded as fact, anecdotal accounts as hard data. Those who raise contradicting evidence are slandered in ad hominem attacks. ifeminists.com (link) 12th November 2002.
Psychiatrist highlights the risks of emotional abuse Parents who use children "as footballs" in acrimonious separations are guilty of a form of emotional abuse, according to a distinguished child psychiatrist. These parents failed to recognise their child's individuality or psychological boundaries, visiting expert Dr Danya Glaser told an international family law conference in Melbourne yesterday. The Age (link) 29th October 2002.
Fathers' perspectives on the Family Court - presented by Rex McCann to a one-day seminar for the Family Court community attended by 900 Family Court workers from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch August 5 - 9 2002. "My fulltime work and study over the past 12 years has been with men's personal development groups and support services, which means I have been listening to men and paying attention to an emerging men's narrative. I have learned from this that there are significant changes taking place in the hearts of men and a renaissance happening in fatherhood. Over the last 30 years as women have moved more into the public sphere and the workplace, space has been created for men to consider other choices. Men are increasingly choosing to have more time inside the home and more involvement with their children. The nature of masculinity and how we express ourselves as men is embracing more of the gentler and hands-on aspects of raising children that wasn't available to the previous generation of men." (link to speech notes).
Separated fathers: men in crisis The pain of separation and divorce is having an alarming effect on the mental health of Australian males and may be contributing to our high rates of male suicide according to UWS academics. Dr David Crawford and Professor John Macdonald from the University's Men's Health Information and Resource Centre say relationship breakdown and divorce are leaving many men emotionally broken and unable to cope. "Recently separated fathers are an extremely high-risk group for suicide and self-harm," says Professor Macdonald. University of Western Sydney News (link) 9th October 2002.
PAS And The DSM-V: A Call For Action Parental Alienation Syndrome is not listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Critics of PAS are quick to point this out and consider its absence to support arguments that PAS doesn't exist. The facts are that DSM-IV was published in 1994. When committees were meeting in the early 1990s, there were too few articles in peer-review journals, and too few legal rulings in courts of law that had recognized PAS, to warrant a submission. DSM-V committees are scheduled to start meeting in 2006 and the projected date of publication of DSM-V is 2010. At this point, there are at least 143 articles in peer-review journals on the PAS. In addition, there are at least 72 rulings in courts of law that have recognized the PAS. Richard A. Gardner, M.D. Men's News Daily (link) 4th October 2002.
No lawyer? Just follow Web site's court tips The [Australian] Family Court is set to embark on a radical scheme to address the rising number of people going to court without a lawyer, which could change the face of the legal system. Family Court Justice John Faulks will launch a Web site later this month which will set out a step-by-step guide to procedures in the court, where half of all cases are believed to involve people without lawyers. There is also a growing appreciation by males of their role as fathers, meaning more are contesting custody cases. Justice Faulks is also arguing for lawyers to "unbundle their services" - meaning people could hire them for just selected parts of a case, rather than paying for a lawyer to act for them throughout the whole litigation. Sydney Morning Herald (link) 4th October 2002.
Marriage makes both sexes happy In 1972, sociologist Jessie Bernard looked at symptoms of anxiety, depression, neurosis and passivity in married and unmarried people. She found that men were better off married than single, and concluded that they got those benefits at the expense of women. That became a central tenet of the women's liberation movement in the 1970s, and is still often cited. Psychologist David de Vaus from La Trobe University in Melbourne looked at data from 10,641 adults taken from the 1996 national survey of mental health in Australia, which includes drug abuse among its indicators of stress. In the winter issue of Family Matters, the journal of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, de Vaus writes that the percentage of married men and women suffering stress was the same, at just 13 per cent. He also found that 25 per cent of both women and men were miserable when single. Married women with children and a job had the fewest mental health problems of the female sample. New Scientist (link) 2nd October 2002.
Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family It's official: the experiment has failed. For the best part of thirty years we have been conducting a vast experiment with the family, and now the results are in: the decline of the two-parent, married-couple family has resulted in poverty, ill-health, educational failure, unhappiness, anti-social behaviour, isolation and social exclusion for thousands of women, men and children. Civitas (link) September 2002.
The family could cause Labour, United Future grief Differences in position could be a cause of "fundamental conflict" between Labour and United Future says Stuart Birks, a Massey University economist and family policy expert. "Labour has shown that it has a strong feminist agenda when it comes to family policy. They stalled on introducing shared parenting legislation, saying a broader review of the family law system was necessary. This review on laws relating to guardianship, custody and access is yet to be completed. It is revealing that the review is listed on the Labour Party website under policies for women, but not for families." Massey News (link) 12th August 2002.
Secret misery of being a new father New fathers suffering from depression are likely to go unnoticed because of a lack of services for men, Plunket says. Work by Canterbury Plunket and the Father and Child Trust, a support network for fathers, reveals many men struggle to cope with their new role as parents. NZ Herald (link) 24th July 2002.
Discriminatory laws disadvantage parents and children A public policy analyst from Massey University, Stuart Birks, says the non-custodial parent in separated families is disallowed fair and equal access to their child under current family law. Mr Birks has just issued research showing that a broad ranging Government review into guardianship, custody and access in separated families has failed to acknowledge the in-depth and reasoned concerns of the public. The government may think this problem can be "brushed under the carpet" but there is growing public realisation that current policies are hostile to families and family relationships. Fairer access laws need to be drawn up, Mr Birks says. "If male role models are important then they need to be supported by the law." Massey News (link) 23rd July 2002.
New Government should fix legal mess Couples disputing the Inland Revenue Commissioner's child support decisions are being disadvantaged, and judicial discretion is too wide to justly settle matrimonial property disputes thanks to poor lawmaking by the last Parliament. Victoria University Reader in Law, Bill Atkin says in this month's Butterworths Family Law Journal editorial, that the incoming Government should give priority to fixing badly drafted laws that mean a headache for parents, separating couples, lawyers and the judiciary. Issued by Victoria University of Wellington Public Affairs (link) 2nd July 2002.
Panel breaches Bill of Rights over the dumping of male antiviolence group An antiviolence counselling service has won a court battle against a government-funded quango that tried to run it out of business. The High Court at Auckland ruled that the Northern Region Domestic Violence Approval Panel breached the Inner City Group for Men's right to natural justice. The National Business Review, 28th June 2002 p 10. Reproduced here with permission.
Family Court legal aid bill $33m More than $33 million in legal aid was paid to lawyers working behind the closed doors of the Family Court in the past year. Act MP Muriel Newman said the figures showed the Family Court was in urgent need of an overhaul. Dr Newman said New Zealand should look at copying the Australian model for Family Court hearings, where the media could attend and report proceedings, but not name those involved. "In Australia, the removal of restrictions and access to the Family Court brought a dramatic drop in the amount of legal aid paid for appeals," she said. Herald (link)15th May 2002.
Laypeople preferred over lawyers as child advocates Office of the Commissioner for Children advocate Sue Dodds, writing in the latest issue of its magazine Children, said lawyers did not necessarily provide children with the help they needed during family disputes in the court. New Zealand needed to move away from an approach that pitted parent against parent for the "ownership" of the child, she said. But the Law Society has dismissed the idea as unworkable. The society's family section chairman, David Burns, said lawyers had been operating well for children since 1981. "Why fix what's not broken? There's no evidence that the system is not working." Herald (link) 13th May 2002.
Greg Hallett's book 'Are You My Father? The Family Court and Other
Experiments' launched Originally scheduled for Father's day 2001,
Hallett's long-awaited book was finally ready on Mother's Day this year. Photos
of the launch at Parnell's Cuba Bar here,
more about the book and online
order form at the www.FatheringNZ.org website.
12th May 2002.
Abused wife cleared on murder charge A Whangarei woman has been found not guilty of murdering her husband by stabbing him in the heart with a kitchen knife. The defence maintained Stephens was acting in self defence and was suffering from battered woman's syndrome, following continued abuse by Mr Stephens. During the eight days of evidence, the jury heard from psychologist Gail Ratcliffe who said, in her view, Stephens had been living in a battering relationship with her husband. Stephens suffered from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of that relationship, Dr Ratcliffe said. INL (link), Herald (link) 24th April 2002.
Women's Refuge is in disarray and urgently needs a new chief executive, refuges warn. Several refuges spoken to by The Evening Post, on condition of anonymity, believe its national office in Wellington has been rudderless since the resignation of former head Merepeka Raukawa-Tait last month. A replacement has yet to be found. Last week two of its senior core group members, Tauiwi caucus chairwoman Annette Gillespie and Maori caucus chairwoman Waiora Hare Pene, resigned. INL (link) 24th April 2002.
Talk about dumb broads Women have been sold a bill of goods, which they bought hook, line and sinker. Ever since the '60s, when the brunt of feminism hit the media, the message was clear: Go for it! You can have (be, do, experience) everything! Of course they could do it. Women are smart and able to work hard and succeed. But by doing it, they walked right into the trap that men had been in all along. Now they find themselves in careers that are time-consuming, require travel away from home and envelop their lives. In that sense, women turned into what they originally disliked about their men and in the process, made the ugly discovery that a major tradeoff was the signature of their femininity. They gave up or lost the opportunity to be a wife and a mother. Why weren't they smart enough to see that? Barbara Simpson, WorldNetDaily.com (link) 22nd April 2002.
Custody ruling deals a blow to house husbands The principle that children should be raised by their mothers won the overt backing of the [U.K.] Court of Appeal yesterday after it rejected a house husband's attempt to win custody of his two children. Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Buxton, said that despite the "unusual" role reversals in this case, they could not ignore the "realities" of the "very different" traditional functions of men and women. The Telegraph (link) 19th April 2002.
Entrenching The DPB This week our Social Services Select Committee has begun hearing submissions on the Social Security (Working Towards Employment) Amendment Bill 2001. With 27 per cent of New Zealand families already headed by a sole parent, working on this Bill is a very depressing experience, since it will be responsible for locking more and more mothers and children into the cycle of benefit dependency and poverty. Essentially, the Bill removes the work testing of sole parents on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. In fact the Bill is explicit in that it does not require sole parents receiving the DPB to accept any offer of employment at all. Most of those making submissions on the Bill are beneficiary advocates. This government has actively sought their support, spending well over $30,000 on travel, hospitality and accommodation for beneficiary union groups during the past two years. These unions, which have established an influential working partnership with the government, have produced a list of over 100 demands. Muriel Newman, ACT (link) 18th April 2002.
Restoring Testosterone...in the process I came to realize we've been in a covert war with men - so secret we often don't even recognize it ourselves - for at least the last 25 years. We don't like men. And they know it. We don't like them for being men. And we like them even less for becoming what we insisted they became. It seems men have traded their masculinity or at least a big portion of it in return for what? Woman's approval. You'd think we would be grateful for this but we're not. Now we just disrespect them for not being real men. Obviously there was excess's in male culture that was in need of trimming. And it's not that I don't understand the freedoms, flexibility and options I enjoy have been handed down by the pioneer feminists of the previous generation. But like over-indulgent welfare systems that have become the problem they set up to solve, in the struggle for independence we have made men our enemy. It's as if we've lost some essential insight in what it means to be a man or how to be women in light of maleness and instead replaced it by a set of precepts, a manifesto and a movement. And in doing so we have robbed ourselves of real men. So I've decided to call a truce and get over it. Barbara Sumner Burstyn, Scoop (link) 18th April 2002.
DNA Shakes Up Child Support Law Advances in DNA testing have liberated convicts from death row and helped clear up scores of unsolved mysteries, but they have been slower to release men from obligations to pay child support in cases where the tests show they are not the biological father. A 1999 study by the American Assn. of Blood Banks showed that of 280,000 blood tests performed to determine the paternity of children, 30% excluded the subject tested as being the father. "This is a clash between jurisprudence concepts rooted in English common law of a judgment being inviolate, versus 21st century science that has shown, well, sometimes we were wrong," said Steven Eldred, a deputy district attorney in Fresno County's child-support office. "This is a hot issue. Every state is going to have to deal with this." Los Angeles Times (link) 16th April 2002.
The Denial of the Parental Alienation Syndrome Also Harms Women Denying reality is obviously a maladaptive way of dealing with a situation. In fact, denial is generally considered to be one of the defense mechanisms, mechanisms that are inappropriate, maladaptive, and pathological. In the field of medicine, to deny the existence of a disease seriously compromises the physician's ability to help patients. If a physician does not believe that a particular disease exists, then it will not be given consideration when making a differential diagnosis, and the patient may then go untreated. This is in line with the ancient medical principle that proper diagnosis must precede proper treatment. Or, if for some external reason the physician recognizes the disorder, but feels obligated to use another name, other problems arise, e.g., impaired communication with others regarding exactly what is going on with the patient, and hence improper treatment. This is what is occurring at this point with the parental alienation syndrome, a disorder whose existence has compelling verification. In this article I discuss the reasons for denial of the PAS and the ways in which such denial harms families. Particular emphasis will be given to the ways in which this denial harms women, although I will certainly comment on the ways in which the denial harms their husbands and children. Published in the American Journal of Family Therapy by Richard Gardner (link) April 2002.
ACC claims soar after sex-abuse leaflet At least 3000 new sexual-abuse claims have been laid since a Christchurch law firm began touting for business from victims, forcing ACC to take on eight new staff. The firm offered to help sexual-abuse victims claim up to $175,000 in compensation in return for a commission from any payout. The ACC has complained to the Law Society over the content of the pamphlet, which it says is "appalling". Herald (link) 23rd March 2002.
Return of the Guy In the furnaces of September 11, there was suddenly forged a new social trend: the return of the guy. No one, even NOW, was heard to gripe that there were no women reported among the U.S. Special Forces troops fighting hand to hand with militant supporters of Osama bin Laden during the days after the Taliban fled Kabul. "For the first time in a long time, American heroes are not movie actors or sports figures or celebrity scandal-survivors," political commentator Andrew Sullivan wrote in the Sunday Times of London. "They are cops and firemen and special forces soldiers." Their sex is male, and they do the kind of work that calls on specifically male attributes and virtues: physical strength, tough fatherly leadership (think of Rudolph Giuliani), brotherly bonding into fighting units, courage, and blunt compassion. Welcome back, guys. Independent Women's Forum - The Women's Quarterly (link) Winter 2002.
Inside the new Property Act Secret mistresses, bitter flatmates and bored wives stand to benefit from the new Property (Relationships) Act. Fred's grieving widow Wilma had no idea Betty and her child existed. Now she was confronted with a woman demanding part of Fred's estate. It's a fictional scenario, but it's one that could well be played out in New Zealand's Family Court under the updated Act, which came into effect this month, Auckland family lawyer Kristina Andersen says. Lawyers are reporting floods of calls from people concerned about the implications of the act for their relationship, or wanting to know their rights. Many people now have clear legal rights to property after their partner leaves or dies, when previously they had few or none. And some people, like Wilma, are likely to get a rude shock, Ms Andersen says. Timaru Herald (link) 14th March 2002.
Without dad, little girls grow up too fast by Bettina Arndt. The large numbers of children growing up with stepfathers may be contributing to the worldwide trend towards girls reaching early puberty. According to research from a landmark American study on divorce and children, life in divorced or remarried families promotes early maturation and increases the likelihood of early pregnancy. Sydney Morning Herald (link) 9th March 2002.
Dr Muriel Newman MP: "Here, without open scrutiny, Family Court outcomes continue to be an indictment of fairness and justice. Decisions, made on a daily basis, rip families apart. Children are denied their right to the close contact of their mother and their father, their grandparents and extended family.....Yet my call last year to open up the Family Court was opposed by the government. As a result, the 'walking wounded', the victims of outrageously unfair and unjust rulings, remain prisoners of silence unable to share their experiences or their hurt. I believe that if their views and their judgements — not their identities, as in Australia — were in the public arena, there would be such an outcry against injustice that a public momentum for change and openness would develop." (link) 8th March 2002.
Poverty hits sole female parents. Female sole parents and their children are more often in poverty than other people and are the highest users of foodbanks, research shows. (link) Herald 8th March 2002.
US report gives grim view of violence in NZ. The report - which came under fire from Women's Affairs Minister Laila Harre last night - said assaults by men against women rose by more than 5 per cent between the year ending June 2000 and last year - from 6956 to 7324. The number of breaches of the Domestic Protection Act rose from 4200 in 2000 to 4429 last year. Of the 6000 men prosecuted in 1998 for family violence, Maori made up 41 per cent of those convicted of assaulting a woman and 43 per cent of those convicted of assaulting a child. Child abuse gained significant attention in the report, with reference to 2370 cases of physical abuse, 1412 cases of sexual abuse, and 2424 cases of severe emotional abuse of children notified to Child, Youth and Family. Herald (link) 7th March 2002.
Photos of protest at secret radical feminist networking meeting. The North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project runs 'Stopping Violence' programmes on the North Shore. 7th March 2002.
Kinder, gentler divorce alternative sweeping Canada. Divorce courts in one Canadian city have already gone out of business as lawyers and their clients flock to the hottest trend in family law -- "collaborative" divorce. It is easier on the kids, your wallet and your relationship with your ex, proponents say, and governments like it, too. Unlike the traditional adversarial, court-connected approach to divorce, collaborative divorce eliminates litigation as an option. The goal is for the separated spouses to settle their differences in a way that works best for them, not necessarily according to their strict legal "rights," although each spouse has a lawyer to advise them of their entitlements. National Post (link expired) 4th March 2002.
Mean girls Girls have always had cliques and hierarchies; they have always gossiped, bitched and ostracised, but according to psychologists there is a new form of non-physical cruelty spreading through schools so extreme it has been given a new name: relational aggression. "Quite simply, girls have a superior social intelligence," explained Tim Fields, co-author of Bullycide . "Both genders bully, but girls are better at it; they are more switched on to the nuances of social interaction and use psychological forms that are harder to detect and easier to deny, and they can do it with a smile." The Observer (link) 3rd March 2002.
Ben Easton Trial In the Waitakere District Court today Ben Easton was convicted and discharged for failing to attend a 'Stopping Violence' course. As the District Court is not secret like the Family Court in New Zealand, a group of supporters was in Court to see justice done. Photos and story here. 22nd Feb 2002.
Law journal attacks Ellis process The legal system's handling of the Peter Ellis case was flawed, says the New Zealand Law Journal. In an editorial to be published today, (download here 95KB PDF) the independent publication says former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum's judgment, when leading a ministerial inquiry into the Christchurch Civic Creche child-abuse case, was either wrongly directed or at fault. The article's author, journal editor Bernard Robertson, calls for the repeal of part of the Evidence Act and questions whether the appeals process can deliver justice. He alleges courts have been "conned" by psychologists. Herald (link) 18th Feb 2002.
Photos of Protest at Ponsonby Psychologists' Office This week protestors paid a visit to Suzanne, Gail and Eileen - another group of Auckland psychologists who are perceived to have an anti-male bias. 14th Feb 2002.
Stay-home dads could hijack leave Paid parental leave legislation paved the way for mothers to be pushed back to work by men who wanted to stay home "watching rugby", MPs were told yesterday. Women's Electoral Lobby spokeswoman Barbara Mabbett made the claim as submissions on the Parental Leave and Employment Protections (Paid Parental Leave) Amendment Bill opened. Herald (link) 14th Feb 2002.
New look at 'deadbeat dads' by Cathy Young. One clause in the budget President Bush submitted to Congress last week has unexpectedly brought attention to the plight of "dead-broke dads.'' Under the president's proposal, child support payments by noncustodial fathers whose children are on welfare will go directly to the family rather than to a government bureaucracy. This initiative, which has bipartisan support, has also given rise to a much-needed discussion of the problems faced by poor fathers, who often struggle with onerous child support payments that make it virtually impossible for them to stay afloat. Boston Globe (link) 11th Feb 2002.
'Alarming' lack of information on Family Court An "alarming paucity of information" about the Family Court has stifled a Law Commission investigation into how it is operating and whether it is fair, a discussion paper says. ACT MP Muriel Newman, whose bill to open the Family Court to media scrutiny failed last year, said data collection had stopped in 1990 because "it would look so bad". Dominion (link) 9th Feb 2002.
Photos of Protest at Psychologist's office Auckland Dr "No" is psychologist Prue Vincent (more), who despite being fined $5,000 by the Psychologists Board after pleading guilty to blatantly manipulating a small child to support a mother wishing to alienate the father, is still practicing! Protestors are visiting some of Vincent's Auckland colleagues who routinely follow her example. 7th Feb 2002.
California Mother's Triple Murders Show Cost of Ignoring Female Abusers Had Dr. Caro, a male victim of domestic violence, felt that the legal system would give his claims the same credence that an abused woman's claims receive, his three children would probably still be alive today. Are female child abuse and domestic violence rare? Unfortunately not. According to the US Department of Justice, 70% of confirmed cases of child abuse and 65% of parental murders of children are committed by mothers.....Why didn't Dr. Caro seek help? Besides shame and denial, many men hesitate to report their wives' violence because they fear that once the police are involved, the wife will accuse her husband of being the perpetrator and it is she, not he, who will be believed.....Draconian mandatory arrest laws often direct police to make an arrest, even when the abuse is mutual (as research shows is generally the case), or when it is unclear who the perpetrator is. While arrests of women account for a third or more of domestic violence arrests in some states, police generally are pressured to arrest the man, even when the evidence is scant......Thus Xavier Caro was trapped - not just by his violent wife, but by a society that refuses to acknowledge what voluminous research and simple common sense shows - domestic violence is not a male affliction but a human one. By Glenn J. Sacks (link) 7th Feb 2002.
Puzzling drop in child sex cases Reported child sex abuse cases have plunged dramatically in the past decade. [ See COSA Graphs] The Starship hospital, the Accident Compensation Corporation and Child, Youth and Family Services tell of major drops in the number brought to their attention. There have also been fewer convictions for sex crimes against victims aged under 17. The figures follow a spectacular rise in the number of cases a decade ago and are in line with a drop of more than a third in America. Dr Patrick Kelly, clinical director of the Starship child abuse team, told the Weekend Herald: "Whether there has been a change in awareness or a shift in emphasis is hard to know. "Perhaps the pendulum went right up there to people being very aware of it and reporting perhaps sometimes when it was not really necessary, and now perhaps it's equalising out a little bit." Dr Kelly said the rise in sex abuse cases in the period to 1994 was clearly a change in people's willingness to report incidents rather than a real increase in the amount of abuse. But in New Zealand, workers at the grassroots see no signs of real change. Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care said the prevalence of reported sexual abuse "remains pretty stable". The Safe Network, which treats sex offenders in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, said referrals were "at least constant if not slightly rising". Herald (link) 2nd Feb 2002.
Unravelling secrets of sexual abuse Gordon Waugh is concerned that the ideology of "recovered memory" still flourishes - especially in the clinical psychology doctoral programme at Auckland University, the country's largest source of trained psychologists. A friend and former lecturer at the university, Dr Robert Mann, says students have been refused admission to the doctoral programme if they did not affirm belief in recovered memory. The senior professor in the psychology department, Professor Mike Corballis, says that when he was department head a few years ago he was worried about the way students were chosen for the programme on the basis of their "suitability" to be psychologists, rather than their academic records. "There were rumours that you had to cry," he says. Corballis set up a committee including outside psychologists to make the selections. But Waugh and Mann continue to be suspicious, partly because the course's co-director, Dr John Read, is an outspoken survivor of sexual abuse and has devoted much of his career to researching the effects of abuse on people's later mental history. As Corballis puts it: "He is often very emotional in giving talks about sexual abuse. He certainly has an emotional impact on the students." Herald (link) 2nd Feb 2002.
Maybe it's time to put primitive parenting in past
Perhaps the Government should remove the clause in the Crimes Act that allows parents to assault their children.
It has been quietly thinking of doing that for the past year or two but appears to have lost the nerve, at least this side of the election.
Its reason for raising the question was never the most compelling. It wanted to improve New Zealand's compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The guardians of the convention have long criticised Section 59 of the Crimes Act that provides a defence against a charge of assault for parents, or anyone acting in the place of a parent, provided the force used is "reasonable in the circumstances".
Though the law does not define what is "reasonable", public opinion has no difficulty doing so. A survey of 1000 adults, conducted for the Ministry of Justice last year, found 80 per cent believed a smack with an open hand was fine.
Only 15 per cent thought it okay to use an instrument such as a belt or wooden spoon. Almost nobody (0.4 per cent) approved of a heavier weapon, such as a piece of wood and, most gratifying, very few (1.3 per cent) thought it all right to smack a child around the head or neck.
Given that sample of common sense, the Government decided to leave well enough alone. But there is a reason, I think, to be a little more courageous.
2nd Feb 2002.
More information on smacking of children.
Children in Changing Families - Life After Parental Separation by Jan Pryor and Bryan Rodgers, Blackwell (2001). This book reviews recent demographic changes throughout the Western world, and outlines research into outcomes for children affected by parental separation and step family formation. While it will be of much use to researchers and students, the academic writing style will make it a hard slog for the general reader. The usefulness of this book is also greatly reduced by its reliance on a 1990s view of the world in which opposing positions are categorised as liberal (ie: feminist) vs conservative. This paradigm effectively excludes the emerging perspective held by many in the fathers' / men's movement, who will discover that they do not fit easily into either of these camps, as characterised by the authors. More about this book here (including some brief excerpts).
Breaking up is so expensive to do From today many unmarried couples could find that breaking up has become expensive. Lawyers and politicians say the Property (Relationships) Act, which replaces the Matrimonial Property Act from today, has already brought some couples to grief, unable to sort out how they will divide their property if they separate. The National Party has described the legislation as "social engineering gone mad", saying it will force couples to separate or pay costly legal fees. Family law specialist Simon Jefferson expects "frequent departures" from the 50:50 divide and some unusual cases. "It is not inconceivable a man may have a wife and mistress, both [of whom] have qualifying rights under this new legislation." Herald (link)1st Feb 2002.
De facto? Watch for the 50:50 split If flaws in the new Property Relationships Act are not remedied, a whole raft of problems will be created, writes Patricia Schnauer. Many will be caught. A young person buying his or her first home decides to get a flatmate to help to pay the mortgage. Initially, their relationship is platonic. It then develops into a sexual relationship and they start living together. If they satisfy the criteria under the act three years later, the owner could lose half the property to the flatmate. That is something the property owner is unlikely to be expecting. Having a sexual relationship is not essential to be living as a couple under the act. Opening a bank account together to pay general living expenses or appearing to commit to a shared life are other factors the court can take into account. This widens the net. A widow and widower decide to live together for security and friendship. They could live into their 80s or beyond until one of them dies. After three years the property they occupy is presumed to be owned by them equally. This couple might not realise that their wish for companionship in their golden years could result in their children being disinherited by up to half of their original inheritance. Chances are they have made wills leaving their property to their children. But under the new law those wills can be rewritten by the courts. Herald (link) 1st Feb 2002.
Relatives Fight for Custody Yamel Merino's son is one of more than a dozen children who lost a mother Sept. 11 and now are caught in custody battles, most of which pit their mother's relatives against their biological fathers. For children already grieving a sudden loss, the disputes extend the trauma, promising months or years of uncertainty. Complicating matters in these cases are the potentially large financial awards coming to children of World Trade Center victims, a factor that has raised concerns among some advocates about the motives of those seeking custody - especially if they played little role in the children's lives before Sept. 11. Newsday (link) 28th Jan 2002.
Starship's appeal hardly the way to make it better. When the collection comes around at Sky City's Starlight Symphony tonight I will drop something in the bucket. It will be a token of gratitude for the event, not of confidence in the cause......The Starship is a creature of paediatric promotion. Its very construction was a triumph of political pressure over public health priorities. It has sustained itself with the help of a dedicated fundraising foundation and an eye for the emotional appeal. Since it deals with children, it is practically immune to criticism. Sometimes it seems to have more fundraising energy than it knows what to do with.......The Starship's child abuse unit, as yet unnamed (open to bids?), has been pushed along by "ground-level, grassroots staff" without financial help from the other agencies supposedly involved. Even the Ministry of Health has baulked. Dr Patrick Kelly, clinical director of the Starship child abuse team, said: "We repeatedly got a clear message from the ministry that there was no money for this kind of service." I wonder why. Herald (link) 26th Jan 2002.
Legal aid gravy train. If legal aid were a barometer of the health or otherwise of New Zealand society, families would seem to be in greater turmoil than law and order generally, The Dominion writes in an editorial. In the year to June 2000 Family Court lawyers dipping in the twin buckets of the Department of Courts and the Legal Services Board lined their pockets with $56 million of taxpayers' money.....In the same year, legal aid for people charged with criminal offences totalled $33 million. The contrast shows graphically how an innovation intended primarily to ensure that no one should find themselves at a disadvantage in court has become distorted in a way which was not envisaged by those who devised it in the late 1960s. Largely to blame for that are the lawyers who grow sleek by feeding from the legal aid honeypot, especially in the Family Court. Since that court is closed to outsiders, there is no way the public can know just how well or unwisely its money is being spent. Dominion (link) 24th Jan 2002.
Brutality in the home to blame for brutal society. Violence by parents, no matter how benevolent the motive, must inevitably lead to violent communities, writes Jeffrey Masson (www.jeffreymasson.com) .....The children who were beaten and remembered it, and thought about it consciously, were the ones who vowed never to do this to their children. The ones who repeated the violence in their own families when they became adults were the ones who could not remember the pain, or could not talk about what had happened to them. Repression might be a useful - who wants to remember awful things? But forgetting exacts a high price....Andrew Davies, in a Dialogue response to Emma Davies, provided wonderful examples of the human capacity for denial and distortion of reality when stating that his daughter asked to be hit rather than continue with non-violent disciplining. Herald (link) 24th Jan 2002.
Child case cost agency $170,000 Child, Youth and Family spent nearly $170,000 on a legal battle to remove two children from a Wellington family in a case that highlights sharply rising legal bills. The parents, who said they lived for their monthly visits with the children and would never give up hope of getting them back, had almost been bankrupted. "We are still trying to pay the $13,000 we owe for the case," they said. "That money could have been better spent directly on the children in a number of different ways. How are we meant to compete with that sort of money? CYF principal adviser Brenda Pilott said the costs of keeping the children in care included board, clothing payments, supervised access and specialist assessments for the two children. Herald (link) 22nd Jan 2002.
$56m in state pay for family lawyers Lawyers who work in the Family Court are the big beneficiaries of legal aid, getting a greater slice of the cake than lawyers who specialise in criminal and civil cases. Fathers' rights group Families Apart Require Equality says the average Family Court lawyer gets $80,000 a year in legal aid and other state income. Group spokesman Bruce Tichbon, of Wellington, said yesterday that most money went to lawyers acting for mothers. Legal aid was used in drawn-out cases where fathers had to pay their own legal bills and often ended up losing access to their children in a system "biased against fathers". Mr Tichbon's group is one of several campaigning for the closed hearings of the Family Court to be opened to public scrutiny. It supported ACT NZ MP Muriel Newman's unsuccessful attempt to have Parliament pass bills to let the media report on the court and to promote joint custody of children. "We believe litigation is far too much encouraged in the Family Court, especially over the custody of children," Mr Tichbon said. "Almost invariably, the mother can get legal aid and the father can't, and ,invariably, the mother gets custody of the children." Professionals such as the court-appointed counsel for the child and court-funded psychologists were hand-picked by court staff to "favour the mother", Mr Tichbon said. Dominion (link) 22nd Jan 2002.
Great care needed on sex abuse. There's a strong suggestion that criminal law and accident compensation law have lost touch with each other, potentially to the detriment of the community. The return of lump sum accident compensation, and the inclusion of sexual abuse as a qualifying 'injury', at first sight appear socially beneficial. But the problem is in the process of being sure the abuse happened, and the potential for the proposed `easy' system to actually obstruct the second essential need: Identifying, proving, punishing and rehabilitating abusers. This week Parliament has heard figures showing about half of sexual abuse charges before the courts fail, and in some types of charge as few as one in 10 reach a conviction. To introduce a system which provides money and services for alleged victims without abusers being brought to account is to perpetuate abuse, invite fraud. Manawatu Evening Standard (link) 12th Jan 2002.
The Price of Fatherhood--a Father's Reply to Ann Crittenden's 'Mothers Manifesto' By Glenn J. Sacks. Ann Crittenden's popular The Price of Motherhood: Why Motherhood is the Most Important--And Least Valued--Job in America, released in paperback this week, has become the first feminist classic of the new millennium. Crittenden's "mothers' manifesto" is an expose of the so-called "mommy tax," which can include reduced job opportunities and salary for mothers, as well as a lack of appreciation, often from working women themselves. However, if there is a woman paying the "mommy tax" by sacrificing her earning power to be at home full-time or part-time, there has to be a man in the household supporting the family and, by so doing, paying the "daddy tax." Crittenden, by defining "privilege" and "sacrifice" only in terms of pay and career status, sees disadvantages only for mothers and not for fathers. But what about the price of fatherhood? (link) 10th Jan 2002.
Parents know best how to discipline their children. Those who wish to ban the smacking of children ignore the need for social law to reflect real life, says Andrew Davies (a farmer and Act candidate for Karapiro in this year's general election. He is also a South African-trained lawyer.) This mundane world of ordinary chores, joys and problems is where imposed social theories are played out. We might have the perfect theory in theory, but if it does not meet daily needs and expectations, it is a failure. In a Dialogue article, Dr Emma Davies, of the Auckland University of Technology's institute of public policy, would have us believe that giving a disobedient child a smack is brutal, harmful, ineffective and causes violence. That is the perfect theory from the rarefied atmosphere of academia. My experiences, as both child and parent at the runny nose end of the scale, tell an entirely different story. Herald (link) 10th Jan 2002.
Sexual abuse victim hits out at mailout. Sexual abuse victim Aimee Uren says a Christchurch law firm's controversial mailout is feeding off others' misery and hurting those it is supposed to help. Wakefield Associates, a law firm specialising in ACC claims, has mailed out one million leaflets nationwide urging victims of sexual abuse to use its services. The leaflet points to possible one-off payments of up to $25,000 and ongoing sums in excess of $150,000 available from ACC. The law firm charges 25 per cent of any lump-sum payment plus all of the first quarterly payment. Press (link) 10th Jan 2002.
Law firm in bid for sex abuse cases. A Christchurch law firm has sent out one million leaflets touting for business from sexual abuse victims entitled to new ACC payments. Critics say the initiative highlights ACC's vulnerability to fraudulent claims, especially since claimants neither have to complain to the police nor name their abuser. When lump sum payments for sexual assaults were last available the number of claims rose from 221 in 1988 to 13,000 in 1993, when the payments were abolished. Dunedin author Lynley Hood, whose book on the Christchurch Civic Creche case, A City Possessed, casts doubt on claims made under the previous lump sum scheme, said the reintroduction of the scheme left the door open for widespread abuse. The reliance on counsellors who were poorly trained to diagnose genuine sexual abuse meant there were few checks to prevent people making fraudulent claims: "It really creates a gravy-train effect." Victoria University criminologist Willem de Lint said that judging by the past, the new legislation would cause a budget blowout. "The problem is that people will follow the money. People followed the money then, and there's no reason to suggest they won't follow the money again," he said. Press (link) 9th Jan 2002.
Feminists Hit Ground Zero With WTC Funds Grab By Wendy McElroy. At a speech Dec. 11 to the National Press Club on how women should respond to the war on terrorism, NOW President Kim Gandy excoriated "people who cynically take advantage of a tragedy to their own ends." Gandy then explained the proper political response to the war on terrorism: Demand justice for the women of Afghanistan, advocate the right of women soldiers to have abortions abroad, speak out for gay and transgender soldiers. It is intellectually stunning for Gandy to suggest that her proposals are not part of a political agenda. Especially when NOW's cash-starved hand is reaching out to snatch at the federal relief money intended to aid people in the recovery from terrorism. Fox News (link) Jan 8th 2002.
Why We Don't Marry by James Q. Wilson. Everyone knows that the rising proportion of women who bear and raise children out of wedlock has greatly weakened the American family system. This phenomenon, once thought limited to African Americans, now affects whites as well, so much so that the rate at which white children are born to an unmarried mother is now as high as the rate for black children in the mid-1960s, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued his famous report on the Negro family. For whites the rate is one-fifth; for blacks it is over one-half. Almost everyone - a few retrograde scholars excepted - agrees that children in mother-only homes suffer harmful consequences: the best studies show that these youngsters are more likely than those in two-parent families to be suspended from school, have emotional problems, become delinquent, suffer from abuse, and take drugs. Some of these problems may arise from the economic circumstances of these one-parent families, but the best studies, such as those by Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, show that low income can explain, at most, about half of the differences between single-parent and two-parent families. The rest of the difference is explained by a mother living without a husband...... Why has this happened? There are two possible explanations to consider: money and culture. Money readily comes to mind. If a welfare system pays unmarried mothers enough to have their own apartment, some women will prefer babies to husbands. When government subsidizes something, we get more of it.....[Secondly,] to explain the staggering increase in unmarried mothers, we must turn to culture. In this context, what I mean by culture is simply that being an unmarried mother and living on welfare has lost its stigma.....Let me suggest that beneath the popular support for marriage there has slowly developed, almost unnoticed, a subversion of it, which can be summarized this way: whereas marriage was once thought to be about a social union, it is now about personal preferences. City Journal (link) Winter [USA] 2002.
Sexism of billboards clouds a strong traffic-safety message - by Tamsin George. You might have seen the billboard message, "Speak Up To Slow Him Down", and perhaps your first reaction was a kind of horror at the sexist implications and the sereotypical typecasting. Although not directly stated, it seems the billboard is addressing a female. Is there really a need to address people in our society like that? .....Rather than focusing on the issue in a sexist way, it would be more effective to address it as a non-gender-based community approach to stopping speeding (which is mentioned only slightly on the website). Herald (link) 1st Jan 2002.
Sea Change - Rob Brennan argues that male-bashing has got to stop. Excellent article in January 2002 Metro, Page 94 - go and purchase a copy!
News From Previous Years:17/11/2006
- promoting a clearer understanding of men's experience -