MENZ Issues April 2000: Volume 5 Issue3
Shared Parenting Bill Before Parliament In February, fathers around the country learned that a private member’s Bill on Shared Parenting put forward by ACT MP Muriel Newman had been selected from the ballot. New legislation addressing the problem of fatherlessness is being introduced throughout the western world. In the USA last November for example, the Fathers Count Bill passed the House of Representatives with strong bi-partisan support.
Putting Children’s Needs First Dr Muriel Newman MP says: "My ‘Shared Parenting’ Bill is based on the notion that, when and if divorce or separation is inevitable, both parents should be able to continue to share in the parenting of their children. The Bill would set in place protocols that would provide children with frequent and continuing access to both parents.
Children’s Rights Upheld at Last "The right of children to receive love and care from both of their parents, as guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, will become a reality if the Shared Parenting Bill is passed into law", Families Apart Require Equality (FARE) spokesperson, Darryl Ward, said today. "For too long now, children have been the innocent victims of New Zealand’s legal system that sets divorced parents up against each other instead of empowering each other and fostering co-operation".
Letter to Members of ParliamentThere is compelling evidence that a presumption of joint custody and shared parenting after separation or divorce significantly reduces the ongoing conflicts between parents and has better outcomes for the children.The legal rights of either parent should only be terminated by the state when there is substantive evidence of serious harm to the child, and this should apply equally in both ‘intact’ and separated families. Although of course joint custody is likely to work best when both parents are co-operative, some research indicates that children do better even with shared parenting even when there is ongoing conflict between the parents.
Fathers Petition to Police Minister In February, Warren Heap and Chuck Bird of the Separated Fathers’ Support Trust travelled to Wellington to present their Family Court reform petition.
Disappointment with Limited Ministerial Enquiry into Peter Ellis Case Mr Ellis’ lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr, said she was unhappy the inquiry would be narrower than the royal commission she asked for. Important evidence would be excluded, such as police reports, original reports relating to police, and later information concerning a detective.
What Price Justice? This inquiry should be condemned loudly and clearly for being totally inadequate, prior to it proceeding. The results are almost predictable, and will leave justice delayed, and the culprits exonerated.
Sandra Coney Contradicted On 12th March, the topic of feminist Sandra Coney’s column was her reasons why there should not be any form of inquiry in the Peter Ellis conviction. There were two responses the next week:
Ellis arguments Our judicial process is the heart of our community and we have an inherent right to examine it when it goes badly awry. Peter Ellis was convicted on the incomplete, imaginative and uncorroborated testimony of small children, and the opinions of so-called "experts".
Unease over Ellis Ms Coney is misleading when she asserts that no defence request was denied by the trial judge. Several important defence requests were declined. For example, the judge stopped defence lawyers introducing evidence which contradicted one child’s testimony that Ellis had taken him away from the creche and done "bad things" to him.
Daubert Ruling and the ‘True Believers’ Daubert has not yet been adopted in Australia [or NZ] where simple plausibility of expertise has held sway. High Courts here have failed to distinguish the difference between evidence that is expert to the relevant body of scientific knowledge, and the unsupported opinions of persons who hold expert status. In recent years barristers have noticed an increasing tendency for the child protection services to allow sexual cases to proceed, regardless of the quality of the evidence. At the same time both magistrates and judges are reluctant to use their powers to dismiss unsound prosecutions or to halt trials that are an abuse of justice.
Accountability of Court QuestionedIf the law as applied differs from the law as intended, who gave the Family Court the mandate to act in these ways, and to whom, if anyone, is it accountable?
Lower Standard of Proof for Violence California judges have just ruled that you can be convicted of domestic violence and sex crimes based on the ‘preponderance of the evidence’, rather than the traditional ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’.
Canadian Lawyers Who Fuel False Allegations of Abuse to be Held Responsible Senator Anne Cools says: " I have studied a terrible and pernicious heart of darkness that has developed in our court system, being the use of false accusations in civil justice. This is the mischief of litigating parties, usually mothers, suddenly within the context of divorce and within child custody proceedings falsely accusing the other party, usually fathers, of the sexual abuse of their own children. These false allegations are often made with the overt or covert complicity of their lawyers. They are a lethal weapon in the business of parental alienation. They are a tool for achieving sole custody of children and creating fatherlessness."
TheCaring Fathersnewsletter arrived from Christchurch a few weeks ago. Their March meeting, titled ‘Promoting Fathering Issues and Concerns’, was planned to have MP’s discussing effective lobbying.
E.M. Summer Camp The Essentially Men Network Summer Gathering, held over four days in late February, was an inspiring and educational experience.
The Christchurch MensTrustweekly radio show recently won a Golden Disc Award from the station, Plains FM.
Project K Mentoring Programme now on North Shore together with the development of a Mentoring Programme at AUT- training people to be Project K mentors.
From Chairman Jim I am ashamed to be part of a system that has allowed a warped interpretation that puts fathers on the back foot and drives them away from their parental duties. Without the support of some real people around me I would have walked long ago. Stick with it, dads, you are most valuable.
Shared Parenting Bill Before Parliament
In February, fathers around the country learned that a private member’s Bill on Shared Parenting put forward by ACT MP Muriel Newman had been selected from the ballot. It was due to be debated by Parliament for the first time on 2nd March, but repeated delays mean that it will now be sometime in April. New legislation addressing the problem of fatherlessness is being introduced throughout the western world. In the USA last November for example, the Fathers Count Bill passed the House of Representatives with strong bi-partisan support. (more).
Members of Men’s Centre North Shore strongly believe that children have a right to meaningful on-going contact with both parents. For several years now, we have been pointing out that the dramatic rise in fatherless children, and the social fallout that results, has become one of our society’s most urgent problems. (see here).
Worse, the growing perception among many men that the Courts do not uphold the principal of equality before the law when it comes to gender, is leading to some taking matters into their own hands with tragic results.
As this is not an issue that is naturally ‘owned’ by any particular party, we hope that a conscience vote will be considered appropriate in this instance.
Last August, in the buildup to the 99 elections, Dr Newman promised to follow the lead of the Australian Parliament and in the next term of our Parliament to push for a Select Committee Inquiry into the family. This stance led to ACT gaining considerable support from father’s organisations around the country, many who felt that the other parties were just not paying attention to the issue of growing fatherlessness.
In November, just weeks before the election, the National Party said it had identified the role of fathers as the next big social issue.However their proposed campaign "telling bad dads to get off the couch and look after their children" only demonstrated their failure to get to get to grips with causes of the problem. Social Services Minister Roger Sowry certainly didn’t gain National any extra support by blaming:
"too many fathers who didn’t live with their children [and who] used that as an excuse to ‘disengage’ from them."
Bruce Tichbon of FARE (Families Apart Require Equality) congratulated National for recognising fathering as a key issue, but commented:
"Tragically, Mr Sowry still thinks ‘father bashing’ is a good way to win votes. He does not appreciate that thinking is moving forward to fathers being treated as equal partners parenting." Tichbon pointed out that:
"During their term in office National has passed the Child Support Act 1991, was planning to introduce unequal splitting of matrimonial property, and passed the Domestic Violence Act 1995, none of which can be regarded as father or family friendly." (more).
With the election only days away, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley attempted to convince voters that National had recognised the link between young people going off the rails, and the lack of an active father. She said:
"We’ve all got to work on this together and fathering is probably the key issue of the next decade. Unless we allow children, particularly our boys, to feel that they included and their lives are relevant, we are going to see more trouble, not less trouble" she warned.(here).
Labour did not offer much hope for fathers before the election. Searching for the word ‘father’ on the Labour Party website got just two hits, one irrelevant and the other pointing to Helen Clark herself criticising the inconsistencies in National’s proposed Home Invasion Bill by saying:
"A father who repeatedly rapes his daughter will face a lesser sentence than an intruder who attacks the child."
A search on ‘fathers’ hit the following, more positive comments:
"Recent years have seen a growing acceptance of the importance of parenting and positive fatherhood. Labour will implement a nation-wide strategy designed to strengthen and support relationships and parenting… In Government Labour will look again at the Trapski Review and implement those recommendations which will assist parents and children arrive at the best possible arrangements following the breakdown of a family." (more here).
At an election meeting organised by Separated Father’s Support Trust, Alliance’s Evana Belich told the audience:
"I am a feminist that believes in fairness. It seems [if] the Courts act in the best interest of the child, both parents must have access to that child. Equal joint custody should be a starting point, unless there are circumstances where a parent cannot share custody." (more here).
However, some of her colleagues clearly do not agree with her. In December, newly appointed Associate Women’s Affairs Minister Phillida Bunkle asserted that single mothers are doing a better job than single fathers. In her media release regarding the $2 million Time Use Survey, Bunkle went so far as to claim that:
"Of course the most extreme example is where a single parent is female the parent will do ten hours more simultaneous activity per day than a single male father." (more on the Time Use Survey)
Although the Green Party has not yet developed a detailed policy on family issues, they did offer some hope for fathers who could not bring themselves to support a ‘right wing’ party such as ACT. The Green’s website promised they would:
"Comprehensively review Family Law and Family Court structures and systems. We support reviewing and amending Family Court procedures and regulations to ensure that the interests of the child and both the parents are better served." (more here).
Recently, Nandor Tanzcos has indicated he intends to take action to address the concerns of fathers who have contacted him regarding unfair treatment in the Family Court. (more here). Jeanette Fitzsimons has said that the Greens will support good legislation no matter which party introduces it.
Peter Dunne of United has always been supportive of fathers, so if NZ First also vote yes it may be possible to at least get the Shared Parenting Bill before a Select Committee, where it can be examined in detail.
Muriel Newman realises shared parenting is an idea whose time has come. She says:
"It’s a tragedy that the current law pits one parent against the other when a marriage breaks down. Inevitably, at present, one parent is the winner and gains custody of the children, while the other parent is the loser becoming nothing more than a visitor in their child’s life. Under the current law children also stand to lose grandparents and extended families.
Shared Parenting will stop the tragedy of children walking into the Family Court with two parents and coming out with only one."
Putting Children’s Needs First
Within the last two decades, family configurations throughout the western world have changed profoundly. Fewer couples are marrying, those that are marrying are doing so later and having fewer children, and the divorce rate is climbing. As a result of these changes, the number of intact families is reducing while the numbers of re-configured and sole parent families is increasing.
One of the serious consequences of these changes is the growth in parental alienation, as parents, for a variety of reasons lose effective contact with their children. More often than not it is fathers who lose contact.
A growing number of researchers believe ‘fatherlessness’ will be one of the most serious social pathologies of this century. Many children do not appear to do well without their father’s guidance through to adulthood. Certainly, early indications from those who work with young people, particularly in the area of youth justice, show that there is a serious and growing problem amongst young boys growing up without a father’s influence.
For many parents, alienation is a consequence of the law. New Zealand’s divorce laws, crafted in the late sixties, are predicated on the notion that children are better off if they live with one parent. The other parent, the non-custodial parent, must negotiate ‘visiting’ rights, but their entitlement to see their children is, more often than not, limited.
By vesting custodial rights with one parent, the rights of children to retain full contact with both parents in a separating family, are compromised. Even though conventional wisdom would indicate that children need both a mum and a dad, legislation has ensured that, all too often, one parent becomes isolated by a system that gives the other substantial legal rights. All too often, couples separate in an environment of open warfare, with the children being used as ammunition. Confused by a situation where the parents they love and who, at one time loved each other, are now embroiled in conflict, the children become the victims. In most cases, all they want is for their mum and dad to like each other and get back together.
A recent issue of Butterworths Family Law Journal, looked into the issue of separation from the perspective of the children. They concluded that, "continuing relationships with both parents seemed to be an important aspect of helping children to adjust to parental separation". Their findings have driven the legislative focus in a number of western countries to ways of preventing children from becoming damaged by being isolated from a parent.
Most New Zealanders would accept that children do better if they are able to maintain an on-going relationship with both their mother and their father – unless of course, violence and abuse are involved. In recognising importance of putting children’s needs first, a growing number of countries are looking towards ‘shared parenting’ as a legal objective, so that the children caught up in a change of family circumstances are not deprived of either their mum or their dad.
Knowing that this is a serious issue in this country, I have drafted a Private Members’ Bill, which has just been drawn in the ballot. My ‘Shared Parenting’ Bill is based on the notion that, when and if divorce or separation is inevitable, both parents should be able to continue to share in the parenting of their children. The Bill would set in place protocols that would provide children with frequent and continuing access to both parents. I am hoping that each and every Member of Parliament will support the passage of the bill through to a select committee, so that this whole difficult and sensitive issue can be properly be addressed by Parliament.
Dr Muriel Newman MP
The Shared Parenting Bill and other articles by Dr Newman.
Children’s Rights Upheld at Last
"The right of children to receive love and care from both of their parents, as guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, will become a reality if the Shared Parenting Bill is passed into law", Families Apart Require Equality (FARE) spokesperson, Darryl Ward, said today.
"For too long now, children have been the innocent victims of New Zealand’s legal system that sets divorced parents up against each other instead of empowering each other and fostering co-operation".
"It will become much harder under shared parenting for separating parents to use their children as weapons against other. It will become much harder for a parent to deny their children natural love and affection from their other parent. And it will be harder for such child abuse to remain state sanctioned".
"It is now finally acknowledged that fatherlessness has disastrous consequences for children. This bill, if passed, will be the first ever piece of legislation that will effectively combat this frightening phenomenon".
"There will of course be a backlash against the Shared Parenting Bill. However this will largely originate from those individuals who profit from the current adversarial regime, such as lawyers, government departments and counselors. But such an inevitable backlash must not stand in the way of the rights and the welfare of our children."
"Be wary of those who live off the suffering of others", he concluded.
29 February 1999
FAMILIES APART REQUIRE EQUALITY (FARE)
Letter to Members of Parliament
I am writing in strong support of the Private Member’s Bill Shared Parenting proposed by Dr Muriel Newman.
Over the past two decades I have had experience of hundreds of cases involving acrimonious battles between parents over custody of, and access to, their children. Many of these have included one parent falsely accusing the other of abuse or violence to impede access to the child. In general, custody goes to the mother and the father fights for access.
Research shows that in general, children want to maintain contact with both parents.(1.) Children often wish to see more of their fathers after divorce, (2.) and many fathers and children find access visits unsatisfactory. The visiting father cannot actively parent his children, and contact may be predominantly through weekend outings. His absence from ordinary daily activities (such as domestic tasks, helping with homework) can make their relationship artificial and lead him to feel he is not functioning as a genuine parent.(3.) Sometimes a custodial mother may prevent children having access visits with their father. This appears to be fairly common and not just in isolated cases.(4.)
In the US there has been rapid development in provision for joint custody and since 1991 nearly every state has some form of this. (5,6.)
There is compelling evidence that a presumption of joint custody and shared parenting after separation or divorce significantly reduces the ongoing conflicts between parents and has better outcomes for the children.(7,8.) The legal rights of either parent should only be terminated by the state when there is substantive evidence of serious harm to the child, and this should apply equally in both ‘intact’ and separated families.
Although of course joint custody is likely to work best when both parents are co-operative, some research indicates that children do better even with shared parenting even when there is ongoing conflict between the parents.(9,10,11.) Joint legal custody has not been shown to lead to greater conflict between parents, psychological distress in the mothers, or mothers’ diminished capacity to parent. (11.)Joint custody significantly increases fathers’ financial support of their children.
It can be argued that joint custody should not be awarded if one of the parents objects.(12.) However this usually means that mothers can effectively veto joint custody without fear of losing custody. Just because joint custody might not be her first preference, it is still possible that she will endeavour to make it work in the interests of her children, especially if the family are supported with mediation to help them develop a suitable plan. If joint custody is established as the accepted norm, both parents negotiate from this position and there can be a reduction in the development of bitter custody disputes. It has also been argued that when one parent will not co-operate with shared parenting, that custody go to the non-objecting parent, all other things being equal.
A presumption of joint custody after divorce might also encourage shared parenting in intact families. The current practice of predominantly awarding custody to mothers emphasises the social message that mothers but not fathers are supposed to be the primary nurturers of children.
Supporting children and their families is an issue common to all political parties. I therefore hope that this will be considered a conscience vote and that the Bill will be approved at its first reading later this month.
Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith
Fathers Petition to Police Minister
In February, Warren Heap and Chuck Bird of the Separated Fathers’ Support Trust travelled to Wellington to present their Family Court reform petition. The petition, which had over 2,000 signatures by the time it was handed to Minister George Hawkins at Parliament, was included with the Feb 99 MENZ Issues.
The attached information sheet requested the government to address a number of issues:
- Ex-parte orders
- False accusations and perjury
- Equal joint custody
- Enforcement of access orders
- Evidence from counsel for child & psychologists
- Child Support Act
- Professional accountability
Separated Fathers Support Trust:
PO Box 991, Manurewa
Disappointment with Limited Ministerial Enquiry into Peter Ellis Case
Justice Minister Phil Goff says a Commission of Inquiry, which would have had the power to summons evidence, was not favoured because it could have led to the questioning of the children. He announced on 11th March that former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum will be required to evaluate opinions from at least two internationally recognised experts on sexual abuse, and other relevant parties. An article on page 8 (here) discusses the USA Daubert ruling on what constitutes expert evidence. The choice of ‘experts’ for this enquiry will be the test of whether acceptance of pseudoscience by New Zealand courts is to continue.
Photo: Judith Ablett-Kerr, NZ Listener.
Mr Ellis’ lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr, said she was unhappy the inquiry would be narrower than the royal commission she asked for. Important evidence would be excluded, such as police reports, original reports relating to police, and later information concerning a detective.
Again, the wholesale suppression of evidence by the court has been another key feature of this case. The prosecution was not required to "tell the whole truth", and the defence was not allowed to. The jury only heard a fraction of the evidence collected by the police, and over the years since the trial much other evidence has come to light. There is a lot more of the Christchurch Creche story yet to be told.
Since Ellis was freed on parole on 2nd February, Goff has been waiting for advice from Justice Dept officials before deciding whether an inquiry into the child abuse case should be held.
"There are some clear problems," he acknowledged. "I am talking about contamination of evidence and the way in which evidence is acquired from child witnesses."
A Herald editorial went further, stating:
"It is no longer enough to say that ‘little ones do not lie’ about a subject so unpleasant. They may not lie but nor do they easily distinguish truth from imagination."
Ellis’ mother Lesley says she wants parents of the creche children to join the campaign to clear her son’s name. "I would like to see them become part of the commission of inquiry. What a difference that would make to their children’s lives if we can get this case cleared up."
However Commissioner for Children Roger McClay disagreed.
"He was convicted, he’s been before many judges, he’s appealed, he’s paedophile, he’s sinned, he’s paid his price. I want to continue to think now about the children. I have no regard for him," McClay said.
He claimed that while Ellis’ victims had the right to be heard, the Government should appoint someone to speak on their behalf if an inquiry was launched. McClay hit the nail right on its head when he asked:
"Is our justice system really so woefully hopeless, or worse still corrupt, as to allow such a miscarriage of justice? Or do we just have trouble believing the word of children?"
Justice Eichelbaum will make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s judicial history when he reveals the answer to the Commissioner for Children’s question.
Phil Goff responded that McClay’s call for child-advocates was "premature". He also noted the justice system was not infallible.
"From time to time it gets things wrong," he said. "That’s why we have appeal procedures within the law and from time to time issues arise that cannot properly be dealt with by a court of law."
Waikato University senior law lecturer and child advocate Wendy Ball made her views clear after she spoke to tired parents and emotional children involved in the Ellis case. "This is the sixth or seventh bite he’s had of the cherry" she said.
What Price Justice?
This is a Ministerial inquiry, justified on the need for being discreet, speedy, and not to be a drain on the taxpayer. What price justice? It falls far short of a Royal Commission of Inquiry that is really required.
It uses a retired Court of Appeal judge who, along with many other senior judges in New Zealand, have already had their "finger in the pie" with regard to the Ellis case. He (Eichelbaum) in particular leaves me, for one, stone cold, and in despair.
His brief is to use "two" experts from overseas, a brief that will inevitably give equal weight to someone like Dalenberg, as it would to other expertise such as Ceci, Bruck, and even our own Jane Rawls in New Zealand. (This scenario played out in the most recent Ellis appeal). Dalenberg has not published or done anything sufficiently much to have qualified as an expert witness.
This inquiry should be condemned loudly and clearly for being totally inadequate, prior to it proceeding. As Ellis’ mother says on the news today, it is "better than nothing" … but even that is debateable. The results are almost predictable, and will leave justice delayed, and the culprits exonerated.
Not a day for celebration.
Sandra Coney Contradicted
On Sunday 12th March, the Sunday Star-Times published a regular column by feminist Sandra Coney. Her topic was her reasons why there should not be any form of inquiry in the Peter Ellis conviction. The following Sunday, two Letters to the Editor were published in response:
For someone with so little genuine knowledge of the Peter Ellis case, Sandra Coney has a lot to say about it. Her commentary is ill-informed, emotive and misleading. It ignores the main issues.
Our judicial process is the heart of our community and we have an inherent right to examine it when it goes badly awry. Peter Ellis was convicted on the incomplete, imaginative and uncorroborated testimony of small children, and the opinions of so-called "experts".
Widespread public and professional concern resulted from suggestions of satanic ritual abuse, the dropping of charges against his co-workers, suggestions of process abuse, and the withholding of masses of critical evidence from jury scrutiny. A key child witness recanted her stories.
Where was the physical, medical and forensic evidence of injury, surgery, murder, mutilated carcasses, cages, tunnels, trapdoors, guns, needles, exploding children or sexual abuse ?
The case was based on hysteria and fantasy. Methods used by those who excavated "evidence" from child witnesses were unscientific, unethical and unsafe, and so was the conviction. Years later, our concerns remain, heavily underscored by similar cases overseas. An inquiry, albeit a very limited one, will be held. We have a right to know.
Unease over Ellis
Sandra Coney’s column about the Peter Ellis case is a misleading piece of polemic. She gives the incorrect impression that his guilt has been determined by four courts. He has been found guilty once – at his trial.
The deposition hearing merely decided whether there was sufficient reason for him to stand trial and the appeal hearings that followed were largely concerned with trial procedure.
The Appeal Court did not reconsider his guilt or innocence, this can only be done at a retrial or in a more general inquiry such as a Royal Commission. Therefore, concerns about the public atmosphere surrounding his trial and the verdict reached are still valid.
Ms Coney is also misleading when she asserts that no defence request was denied by the trial judge. Several important defence requests were declined. For example, the judge stopped defence lawyers introducing evidence which contradicted one child’s testimony that Ellis had taken him away from the creche and done "bad things" to him. The reason given was that this was not one of the charges against Ellis, even though the key issue was the credibility of the children.
Public unease about this case is justified.
Daubert Ruling and the ‘True Believers’
This is a summary of a presentation by Dr Yolande Lucire PhD, a specialist in Forensic & Medico-Legal Psychiatry, at the plenary session of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences in Sydney on 9th February, 2000. A paper is scheduled for publication in the Journal of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences later in 2000. Comments in italics have been added by MENZ Issues.
Daubert and Expert Evidence in Sexual Abuse Matters
The 1993 United States Supreme Court decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals changed the criteria by which the views of experts are to be admitted as scientific testimony in court. Daubert was one of a thousand actions on behalf of infants with abnormalities against the manufacturer of Bendectin, a morning sickness remedy. The unanimous court ruling stated that the criterion of the scientific status of a proposition is that it can be tested, particularly by way of a logical process called ‘falsification’
Daubert has not yet been adopted in Australia [or NZ] where simple plausibility of expertise has held sway. High Courts here have failed to distinguish the difference between evidence that is expert to the relevant body of scientific knowledge, and the unsupported opinions of persons who hold expert status.
Scientific method includes putting up a proposition couched in the negative, a null hypothesis, and testing it to see if it can be knocked down. In junk science, the null hypothesis is replaced by a positive assertion, one which cannot be proved to be untrue even if it is untrue. The presumption of innocence is a null hypothesis, a hallmark of good law as well as good science.
Sexual Abuse Allegations
[Although some sexually abused children may have adverse psychological effects as adults, these are not specific, and it is not possible to identify past abuse from adult symptoms – Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith.]
The increase in child abuse allegations has been causally linked to a paradigmatic set of beliefs around the notion that sexual contact in childhood inevitably causes harm. This is a remnant of Freudian pseudoscience, a once-dominant paradigm which posited that neurotic conditions had sexual origins. The argument further runs to the effect that, by corollary, disturbances in adult life can, and should, be traced back to abuse in the distant past. This notion flourishes among patients whose therapists promote and share such beliefs. Like Freud, they cite their own ‘clinical experience’, what their patients told them, to justify what they believe.
During the early development of his talking therapy, Freud wrote that ‘almost all’ of his adult female patients told him of abuse by their fathers. For a while Freud believed that infantile seduction, in current terminology, being ‘sexually abused’, was the cause of their ailments, then collectively known as ‘hysteria’. His colleagues were appalled at the preposterous nature of this claim. Freud came to recognise his role in generating these fantasies and retracted his theory. A hundred years later, Jeffrey Masson, [partner of leading feminist legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon] in his book, Assault on Truth, denounced Freud, claiming that he had recanted only to protect his friend Fleiss who was, at that time, the recipient of an embarrassing sexualised transference which, in common language, is a crush from a patient.
Ideologically driven feminists now believe Masson is right and that Freud had been wrong not to accept, at face value, the reports of his women patients.
The literature linking reports of ‘sexual abuse’ to current mental disorder is underpinned by the ideologically driven belief that what a patient calls her ‘memory’ should not be questioned. It is also backed by the ‘Believe the Children’ movement which propelled Janet Reno, US Attorney General, into prominence. Ultimately, it was her knowledge that the children associated with David Koresh were being abused that caused her to send the tanks into Waco with the result that both the abusers and many of the abused were destroyed.
Many researchers and clinicians take reports of having been abused at face value. Hundreds of publications are underpinned by two naive assumptions: first, that reports of abuse are the equivalent of instances of abuse and, second, that a cause-and-effect relationship exists between these reported events and later patienthood.
True Believers – Borderline Personality Disorder
The adherents of this ‘recovery’ paradigm are called ‘true believers’. The social movement associated with ‘recovery’ is said to have created, in terms of numbers of people and resources involved, the greatest moral panic since the Salem witch-hunts.
They expect that the recall during therapy will lead to recovery from a condition which they term Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Orthodox psychiatrists call it Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The rate of reporting having been sexually abused within such clinical samples has risen from 10% in the early 1980s to 90% twenty years later.
True believers assert that borderline psychopathology is a posttraumatic state caused by being sexually abused in childhood. The sceptics observe that the making of delayed allegations of sexual and other forms of maltreatment is a manifestation of borderline states where perceptual distortions of past and present situations are demonstrable and prominent.
The clinical evidence suggests that there are two distinct populations which are totally different. Those who promote themselves as ‘abused’ are the personality-disordered and, as such, they do not represent the spectrum of normal women who may have been inappropriately handled. Women who have been raped or sexually traumatised want to get on with their lives and readily recognise the personality-disordered who want to make a fetish of their miseries. They decline to continue in group therapy with them.
Sexualised activities between children and older persons are very common. Most are trivial and forgotten but it is the personality-disordered who provide the majority of reports because, by blaming some evil in their childhood, they find a justifying cause for their predicaments.
[The fact that evidence shows only a minority of child sex abuse victims suffer ill effects in no way condones such activity – Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith.]
In recent years barristers have noticed an increasing tendency for the child protection services to allow sexual cases to proceed, regardless of the quality of the evidence. At the same time both magistrates and judges are reluctant to use their powers to dismiss unsound prosecutions or to halt trials that are an abuse of justice. The terror that an innocent person might be found guilty, which has traditionally and rightly been the foundation of our justice system, has been replaced by the terror that a guilty man might go free.
In a moral panic, hysterical beliefs short-circuit reasoning and an illusory paradigm governs perception. Judges, juries, social workers and doctors fear offending against the newly imposed values, and suppress their own common sense. The legislators of today should consider that the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages ceased when the accusers stopped being rewarded with half the convicted witch’s property.
The Daubert standard of expert, scientific knowledge can be used to keep experts off the stand if they cannot show scientific standards of validity for what they say. A paradigm shift has already taken place in what is to constitute expert evidence, irrespective of whether Australia adopts this standard in legislation. A new generation of Daubert-competent scientists, lawyers and tribunals is now learning how to judge science. The Daubert standard renders pseudoscience inadmissible in the court room. In time, the rest of the community can be encouraged to follow this evidence-based standard in social practices.
Dr Yolande Lucire PhD
Email: [email protected]
Another discussion of Dr Lucire’s presentation is here:Blending Science and Law
Accountability of Court Questioned
Letter to the Editor Evening Standard, published 21st Feb:
In your editorial (February 11) you interpret support for the parents of Liam Williams-Holloway in terms of viewing children as the "property of their parents". Another interpretation might be unease at the approach of the Family Court, which made the order.
On occasion the Court’s understanding of the law appears puzzling. For example Butterworths Family Law in New Zealand, a respected publication, describes a case in which a mother deliberately obstructed enforcement of an access order. "Judge Boshier found there was clear contempt, but doubted whether there was power to punish for such contempt".
Doug Graham, when Minister for Justice, said in Parliament that:
"Under the Guardianship Act 1968 it is an offence punishable by a maximum fine of $1000 to hinder or prevent access to a child by a person entitled to access. Custodial parents who deny or obstruct access may also be found in contempt of Court."
Overseas there is mention of "judicial activism", whereby the judiciary actively develops the law rather than applying the law as set by a country’s elected representatives. This goes beyond minor developments through the precedent of case law. Judge Boshier, in a conference paper in 1998, discussed the Matrimonial Property Act as follows: "… in spite of the superficially limited nature of the Act there is scope for innovation and diversity in the formulation of claims."
If the law as applied differs from the law as intended, who gave the Family Court the mandate to act in these ways, and to whom, if anyone, is it accountable?
Check out his website: link to ‘Stuart’s Gender Stuff‘
Lower Standard of Proof for Violence
California judges have just ruled that you can be convicted of domestic violence and sex crimes based on the ‘preponderance of the evidence’, rather than the traditional ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’. On February 1st, California’s Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of Evidence Code 1109 which allows admission of "evidence of a defendant’s commission of other domestic violence" in a criminal action in which the defendant "is accused of an offense involving domestic violence."
Despite Antoine Brown’s objection, two previous girlfriends were allowed to give evidence of his violence towards them. The jury was instructed that if it found Brown had committed the prior offenses, it could infer that Brown had a "disposition to commit offenses involving domestic violence. Furthermore, if in Brown such a predisposition was found, then the jury was allowed to infer that Brown "was likely to commit and did commit the crimes" with which he was currently charged. Additionally, the jury was instructed that the prosecution only had to prove the uncharged offenses by a preponderance of the evidence.
The California Supreme Court rejected Brown’s appeal, arguing that the bill establishing EC1109 was drafted "because of the typically repetitive nature of domestic violence crimes, and because of the acute difficulties of proof associated with frequently uncooperative victims and third-party witnesses…". One of the many flaws in this reasoning is that most crime tends to be repetitive, yet only crimes against women have been chosen for special law and special jury instruction which eliminate the defendant’s due process of law.
The American Coalition for Fathers and Children
To place this disturbing development in proper context, still the best paper is: www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-256es.html
Canadian Lawyers Who Fuel False Allegations of Abuse to be Held Responsible
On February 17, this year, Senator Anne Cools spoke to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa in support of a new Bill to address the problem of false accusations of child abuse. She told them:
"Honourable senators know that I have studied a terrible and pernicious heart of darkness that has developed in our court system, being the use of false accusations in civil justice. This is the mischief of litigating parties, usually mothers, suddenly within the context of divorce and within child custody proceedings falsely accusing the other party, usually fathers, of the sexual abuse of their own children.
These false allegations are often made with the overt or covert complicity of their lawyers. They are a lethal weapon in the business of parental alienation. They are a tool for achieving sole custody of children and creating fatherlessness.
Bill S-9 addresses the serious social and legal problems surrounding the employment of false accusations by parties and their counsel as an instrument to defeat adversaries in court proceedings. It would enact the principle that such wilful use of false accusations in civil justice is an abuse of process."
She discussed the testimony of psychologist Dr. Brian Hindmarch, who told a special joint committee in 1998 that research has shown that the vast majority of allegations in the context of custody disputes prove ultimately to be false. Cools continued:
"Bill S-9 addresses the role of lawyers in the use and advancement of false allegations in civil justice by creating three new offences in the Criminal Code. It would make it an offence for counsel, that is lawyers, in judicial proceedings:
first, to make public statements outside the tribunal that are known by that counsel to be false or that counsel has failed to take reasonable measures to ascertain were false;
second, to institute or prosecute proceedings known by that counsel to be brought primarily for the purpose of intimidating or injuring another person; or,
third, to wilfully deceive or to knowingly participate in deceiving the tribunal or court or wilfully presenting or knowingly relying on false, deceptive, exaggerated or inflammatory documents, whether or not under oath."
The complete statement is available here: (link)
The Christchurch Caring Fathers’ February newsletter arrived a few weeks ago.
This year the group plan to hold public meetings on the third Monday of each month, with a speaker, a panel, or a workshop. They also run a volunteer Fathers Helping Network to assist other fathers in need. Their parent organisation; Home and Family Society offers one-to-one counselling, courses in Creative Parenting and Couple skills, and is involved in promoting children’s rights and fathering through submissions to policymakers and Government.
The March meeting, titled ‘Promoting Fathering Issues and Concerns’, was planned to have MP’s discussing effective lobbying. It seems they have come to the same conclusion as other organisations providing social services to men – reform of the current family law system is essential. Obviously the pressure for social change is as strong down in Christchurch as in the rest of the country!
Other months will feature a lawyer running a workshop on how to prepare for the Family Court, a panel of fathers talking about shared parenting, and a workshop of activities and creativity for kids.
In addition to a copy of my review of Rex McCann’s book Fatherless Sons (Oct-Nov 99 MENZ Issues), the Caring Fathers newsletter also included a review of a Journal of Marriage and Family article by Paul Amato in 1999 which discussed how fathers can make a difference to the well-being of children. Author Don Rowlands says the findings support the need for shared custody and shared residential arrangements after separation. When fathers are able to develop strong emotional bonds with their children, to set effective limits and to directly finance them, their childcare will thrive in a ‘real’ and empowered parenting arrangement rather than through visitations.
E.M. Summer Camp
The Essentially Men Network Summer Gathering, held over four days in late February, was an inspiring and educational experience. I was particularly glad that new Men’s Centre secretary Richard Wheatcroft had the opportunity to learn from the experience of other men’s service providers around the country.
Camped on a quiet rural property in Mangawhai, there were many opportunities for intense discussions, with just as many chances for play and recreation. I particularly valued the chance to spend some time with Bruce Mackie and others from the Mensline team.
At one sharing circle, a man who had tried to get work with a stopping violence programme told us how he had been rejected because he dared to challenge some aspects of the service provided. "Something smells rotten", he told us.
From this evolved a morning workshop discussing Domestic Violence interventions around the country. We heard that at last year’s National Network of Stopping Violence Services meeting, a group of the more innovative programme providers were so intimidated by the politically correct executive, that they held a secret meeting to compare notes of new effective ideas!
Similar problems with the Domestic Violence Act are occurring throughout the country. A group of us agreed to form a task force to look at what changes are needed for the legislation to work as intended.
A workshop on ‘Deep Ecology’ gave us a useful insight into the direction the mythopoetic elements of the men’s movement are headed. Compared with other western countries, New Zealand seems to have a lot more links between the ‘mythos’ and the political wings of the movement.
Despite the attraction of a wonderful surf beach just down the road, I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from the stimulating contact. I’m encouraged that the network is rapidly building strength and energy.
more info about Essentially Men
or contact Rex McCann [email protected]
PO Box 48 169, Blockhouse Bay
The fifth MensTrust newsletter arrived from Christchurch in March. Contributions from members describe experiences at the ‘Heart Power’ and ‘Exploring Tribal Aliveness’ events. Mainly focused on personal growth and creating a men’s community, they run regular sharing circles, numerous support groups and social events. Their weekly radio show recently won a Golden Disc Award from the station, Plains FM, and now they are even talking about a TV show!
PO Box 2419, Christchurch
(03) 366 4217
Project K Mentoring Programme now on North Shore
1999 has seen the introduction of the Project K Programme on Auckland’s North Shore together with the development of a Mentoring Programme at AUT- training people to be Project K mentors.
A LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT PROJECT K:
Project K is an exciting youth development programme run in 3 phases. Fourth form students spend 3 weeks completing a Wilderness Experience aimed at providing challenges and fostering the growth of self confidence, 13 days completing a Community Experience aimed at developing life skills and a knowledge of community resources, and thirdly a mentoring partnership focused on providing support and encouragement toward the achievement of goals set during the first two stages.
AND A LITTLE INFORMATION ON MENTORING:
During this third phase – the role of a mentor is to build a trusting relationship with a young person and encourage them toward achievement of their goals. Project K mentors are required to make weekly contact with their student by phone, and fortnightly contact in person. They are also expected to report back as to the students progress and attend a meeting each month. The meetings are for mentors and students and are designed to maintain the momentum of the group and provide support.
WHO ARE WE LOOKING FOR?
Project K is looking for people who relate well to young people, and preferably have some experience in dealing with them. Mentors need to be prepared to make a commitment to a young person for a minimum of one year. Above all, mentors need to be good listeners! Being a Project K mentor is an amazing opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life and to give something back to your community and the future of New Zealand.
Help us on our journey call us now about becoming a Project K Mentor
All Project K mentors are required to undergo training and orientation. The opportunity for training is provided by AUT and the dates of the upcoming course are listed below. The course (among other things) focuses on "who am I?", relationships, adolescent development in NZ, self-esteem, goal-setting, conflict resolution and effective communication via a training medium using stories, discussions, role plays, lectures and non-threatening energisers. After the training (before being matched) all mentors are required to provide a copy of any criminal record history and to complete a Project K interview.
Next Mentoring Training Programme is:
Tuesday evenings: 5:30-9:00 pm
May 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30
Venue: Community Board Room, Takapuna Area Office,
2 The Strand, Takapuna
Marcus Frith, Mentor Recruiting and Training, Ph.473-8775
(a further AUT course is scheduled for Tuesdays & Wednesdays
9am – 3pm June 13, 14, 20, 21)
From Chairman Jim
Jim & Javan Photo: Alan Candy
The little man is asleep. So let’s have an update on what’s happening at 7.30pm on 23rd March.
I had lunch with a mate today whose friendship has lasted some 20 years. I asked him to spend a little time with me to settle me down and to discuss a letter summing up the access I have had with Javan, my four and half year old. The letter was given to and discussed with my Court appointed counsellor this afternoon to help continue negotiations to improve access and to move toward shared custody. It went well – the court counsellor will now have a talk with Javan’s mum and we go from there.
Then I started my ‘After School Care’ taxi run and picked Javan up from his mum in the middle of it. This is our alternating long weekend. I return him to his mother’s care as of ‘Kindy Monday Morning’. He was not very well, a head cold I think, a graze in the groin, and a bit grumpy. However, we finished the run which he loves as he has known most of the kids for several years and they have lots of fun. Did another small job and handed the taxi over to my business partner Lance who spoils Javan something shocking.
We got home to find a playmate here, so suddenly he is alive and well again. They mucked about with his cars, trucks and watched 101 Dalmatians yet again for about an hour and I put tea on. We ate on the deck and enjoyed a beautiful evening, had a bit of a laugh and a cuddle – he even helped with the dishes. The grump returned so I encouraged an early night and luckily he thought that a good idea but crashed within a few minutes. Did not get a chance at the customary couple of stories. Shame, it’s an important part of us. I am addicted to it and know the Thomas characters intimately, even Diesel.
I am ashamed to be part of a system that has allowed a warped interpretation that puts fathers on the back foot and drives them away from their parental duties. Without the support of some real people around me I would have walked long ago. The pressure from some family, most church people, most friends and certainly the so-called Family Court and government social structures was to devalue my male input into Javan. I am most grateful to those that helped me confirm that only I could be dad and how important that is. Stick with it, dads, you are most valuable. Don’t try to be mum and certainly don’t allow mum to be dad.
So here I am from dad to Chairman. Many of you will know we are winding up our drive for funding. Many thanks to those who stuck with it and to those who have sent in support letters. Keep them coming – we need all we can get. I want a folder of support letters so convincing it will even bring funding from central government and certainly our local council. The first of many applications has gone. Funding a vision like ours is a complex continuous issue combining many aspects and people. Basically our vision is as big as we want it to be. What is yours?
Read our mission statement. There is much to do. A few can continue to do what we do now till we suffer stress-related illness and give up or we can build an army and get down to some real work with and for men. To continue as we are means all members, all of those that read MENZ Issues, all those that browse the web site, all those that attend our Monday night meetings and quarterly events must keep their subs up to date. Subs ASAP please. To grow we need major funding and donations. Your support letters are invaluable here, let alone being able to show potential funders that we are building funds because of a vibrant membership that puts its money where its needs and mouth is.
Vision Brain Storm Day is now 27-5-2000. Sorry about the duck shoving with venue options. In this edition you will receive a personal invitation from me if your subs are up to date. I make no bones about it, we need your $ support. Issues may come up on the day that need a vote. Thus there are two reasons to be financial. It is my intention to ask for a steering committee to be formed to look at and come up with an up-to-date constitution that takes into account what comes out of the day. A constitution that will allow us to forge ahead in ‘Caring for Men’ and ‘Advocacy’. Why both I hear some say? Simple. I believe we need both to forge MCNS ahead to be a healthier vibrant place for men. My chairmanship stands on this ticket which you have the chance to support now or block and eventually change at the upcoming AGM in September. Anyone paying their subs or donating more than $30 will be considered financial for this purpose and welcome. The day will combine Community Building, brainstorming for a collective MCNS Vision, members from all over the country, fun and a serious vote at the end of the day to consolidate that vision.
You expected me to include something about the Shared Parenting Bill. I have watched it for a long time. I respect the people who put it together heaps and those that have worked tirelessly in more recent times. It has my full support. I have argued many of its aspects for many years and of course in recent times with the so-called Family Court and in particular Child Support without realising so many men felt so similar world wide. It has been an absolute buzz to watch this unfold before me and I am convinced that nothing will stop the paternal and male mentor coming back to his valuable place in law and social policy within a few years if we all continue to do our bit.
References to Dr Goodyear-Smith’s Letter
1. Hess R, Camara K. Post-divorce family relationships as mediating factors in the consequences of divorce for children. Journal of Social Issues. 1979;35:79-96.
2. Hetherington E, Stanley-Hagan M, Anderson E. Martial transitions: a child’s perspective. American Psychologist. 1989;44:303-312.
3. Thompson RA. The role of the father after divorce. Future of Children. 1994;4:210-235.
4. Braver S, Wolchik S, Sandler I, et a. Frequency of visitation by divorced fathers: differences in reporting by fathers and mothers. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 1991;61:448-454.
5. Behrman RE, Quinn LS. Children and divorce: Overview and analysis. Future of Children. 1994;4:4-14.
6. Kelly JB. The determination of child custody. Future of Children. 1994;4:121-142.
7. Wolchik S, Braver S, Sandler I. Maternal versus joint custody: Children’s post-separation experiences and adjustment. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. 1985;14:5-10.
8. Johnston JR. Children’s adjustment in sole custody compared to joint custody families and principles for custody decision making. Family & Conciliation Courts Review. 1995;33:415-425.
9. Luepnitz DA. A comparison of maternal, paternal, and joint custody: Understanding the varieties of post-divorce family life. Journal of Divorce. 1986;9:1-12.
10. Pryor J, Seymour F. Making decisions about children after parental separation. Child and Family Law Quarterly. 1996;8:229-242.
11. Braver SL, O’Connell D. Divorced dads: Shattering the Myths. New York: Tarcher/Putnam; 1998.
12. Carbone JR. A feminist perspective on divorce. Future of Children. 1994;4:183-209.