MENZ Issues November – December 2000 Volume 5 Issue 8
Fifth Anniversary Issue! Back in November 1995, the first edition of MENZ Issues was launched by founding editor Martin Lewis. Five years and 37 editions later it is clear that we have come a long way.
Ad Hominum – On the TV1 Assignment Documentary ‘The Parent Trap’, Alliance list MP Dr Liz Gordon made an incoherent attack the appearance of Men’s Movement representatives appearing before the Social Services Select Committee.
Compelling Argument in Family Court On what basis can a woman assume that a child is hers alone to have, control, make decisions for, influence and restrict access and love to? The right of custody as set out in Section 3 of the Guardianship Act refers to the right of possession and care of a child. Under Section 6 of the Act "the father and the mother of a child shall each be a guardian of the child." According to Section 3 guardianship means the custody of a child and the right of control over the upbringing of a child. Section 3 confirms that custody means the right to possession and care of a child. Therefore, as David’s father I have the same right of parenthood as his mother.
Out-of-date Mind-sets Dangerous An edited summary of the decision of Judge Inglis QC. "If, as the father suggested, there is a perception among separated fathers that the Court system is failing them and their children, then that in itself is an issue of public importance…
Family Court Special Review Time Special Review Time is an iniative of Mana Mens Rights Group representatives and NZ Judges. This has come about in negotiations with Judge Carruthers here in Wellington. Court time per week is allocated by the Judges of the region so that fathers – parents can argue access issues especially where there is a protection order. The important issue here is re-establishing the parent – child relationship.
Women Are Throwing the Punches Letter to the Editor, The Dominion. Objective overseas research has shown for decades that men and women are about equally bad when it comes to causing domestic violence. This latest New Zealand research is nothing new.
Domestic Violence Act "Good Law" As men’s groups and others who have been publicly critical of the Act were not included in the survey, the findings were entirely predictable.
Closure of COSA North To the best of our knowledge, there were no reported cases of "recovered memories" in New Zealand before about 1990. When the theory and practice of RMT spread, there were suddenly thousands of cases. Mainly as a result of the work done by COSA in educating the public, lawyers, politicians and professionals, and constructively criticising the theories, practices and beliefs underlying RMT and its adjuncts, the number of new cases slowed. A decade later, they have virtually disappeared and the epidemic appears to have ended.
Lump Sum ACC Compo For Alleged Sexual Abuse Re-introduced The Labour Government plans to re-introduce lump-sum compensation, so I’ve written to the Minister of ACC asking him some hard questions about their intentions for compensating claimants for alleged sexual abuse. ACC recently released data on new sexual abuse claims for the past financial year. It received 4,400 new claims and paid $15.8 Million to counsellors and claimants. ACC legislation expresses eligibility in terms of "mental injury as an outcome of criminal sexual offences." Conveniently ignoring this dictum, ACC chooses to rely almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of alleged abuse given by claimants, embroidered by the beliefs and opinions of counsellors.
Report Shatters Child Abuse Myths Common stereotypes about child abuse are overturned in the United Kingdom National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s (NSPCC) largest ever study of child maltreatment.
Government Puts Money Before Children "The Property (Relationships) Bill must be one of the most acrimonious and ill-conceived pieces of legislation ever to come before Parliament", FARE spokesperson Darryl Ward said today. "Much attention has been focussed on the same-sex and de facto couple provisions, but the real intent, namely the normalisation by stealth of unequal property splitting, will prove to be this Bill’s bitter legacy. The granting of an unequal share of matrimonial property in favour of the party who gains custody of children will cause a massive increase in the cases of one parent being given an incentive to force their children’s other parent out of their lives."
Message From New MCNS Chairman I believe the efforts of the Men’s Centre North Shore to provide support and assistance to men is good work. I believe that the culture and practices of the New Zealand Family Court system and the legislation that governs it which discriminates against fathers can be overturned. I believe the Centre’s advocacy role of men as important contributors to the lives of children needs to continue.
Fifth Anniversary Issue!
Back in November 1995, the first edition of MENZ Issues (here) was launched by founding editor Martin Lewis. His vision was of a "Pro-Man magazine…which recognises men’s worth and value to society and supports men in being all the positive things they can be without being anti-woman."
Martin was well aware of the daunting task ahead of him. He noted: "One of the major issues is the deliberate systematic misrepresentation of men by a small but politically powerful group of gender feminists whose propaganda is steadily affecting our society." He encouraged Men’s Centre members "not to apologise for our masculinity but to define and choose it for ourselves and then to celebrate it."
Five years and 37 editions later it is clear that we have come a long way. In September, following a petition organised by Warren Heap of the Separated Father’s Support Trust, and representations from men’s groups throughout the country, the Social Services Select Committee heard a number of well researched submissions in Wellington and Auckland. The Government have made it clear that they recognise the need to update laws on Guardianship and Care of Children to reflect changes in our society since the 1970s when current legislation was put in place.
Principal Family Court Judge Patrick Mahony has acknowledged all is not well with the Family Court, and indicated his willingness to consider reforms. In the Oct. 2000 MENZ Issues (‘Secret Family Court Judgement’ here) we referred to a recent ground-breaking judgement which has been the subject of much discussion in legal and social policy circles. Just after the newsletter went to the printers we received permission from Judge Mahony to publish details of the case, providing we do not identify the parties involved. In this edition are excerpts from the "Compelling Argument in Family Court", followed by a summary of Judge Inglis’ decision, where he points out that "Out-of-date mind-sets are dangerous".
Even mainstream media are at last beginning to pay attention. On 23rd November, an hour long Assignment documentary explored some of the problems in the Family Court, and profiled some of the men’s organisations around the country which are trying to pick up the pieces and promote reform.
There is still a long way to go, and there are individuals in power who will bitterly resist every advance. But the tide has finally turned, and significant changes are now inevitable.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
Ad Hominum –
On the TV1 Assignment Documentary ‘The Parent Trap’, broadcast on 23rd Nov, Alliance list MP Dr Liz Gordon made an incoherent attack the appearance of Men’s Movement representatives appearing before the Social Services Select Committee. Some of the men are pictured here. Gordon complained:
"They weren’t the image of successful malehood. They weren’t sharp suited Aucklanders, they were people. They were sort of sweater brigade really. They’re not the most successful people in the world and maybe they blame the marriage break-up for that."
In the 1980s, Gordon was the women’s representative to the NZ Council of the Labour Party.
Download video of Liz Gordon’s attack [503 KB MPEG]
Compelling Argument in Family Court
(This MCNS member appeared in court without a lawyer earlier this year, and succeeded in convincing Judge Inglis that his son’s best interests would be served by allowing him meaningful contact with his dad, despite the mother’s strong objections. All identifying details have been changed)
On what basis can a woman assume that a child is hers alone to have, control, make decisions for, influence and restrict access and love to? What law determines that a mother can unilaterally decide to exclude the other parent from a child’s life? What authority gives her that right?
If David was ‘our’ child in utero, directly after birth, for the first month, the second month, the third, fourth and fifth, the sixth, seventh and eighth, then why did he become Rachel’s alone from the ninth month onwards?
The right of custody as set out in Section 3 of the Guardianship Act refers to the right of possession and care of a child. If possession was naturally shared between both father and mother then should it have happened that a mother can assume to take a child? After taking a child against the wishes of a father then a case can be built that a child has spent more time with the mother, has closer bonding with the mother, is more settled with the mother and has an established home. But that presupposes that that situation should have been allowed to happen.
Let us assume that an eighth-month-old baby is abducted and grows up to an age of four. The person that abducted him would then become the primary caregiver. On discovering the whereabouts of the child, should the child stay with that primary caregiver because it is the only life he has known or should the child be returned to his parents? Common sense tells us the child would be returned to his birth parents. What is different with separating parents?
In this case David’s conception was planned, he was nurtured in utero by both parents, both parents were at the birth, and both parents spent a considerable amount of time with him for his first eight months. After his parents separation he loses contact with his father because his mother does not allow contact to continue. If we were to turn the situation around and I, his father, had taken David without consent of his mother, would that have been deemed acceptable? If not, then we have a situation where a gender bias is occurring which is contrary to the spirit of the Guardianship Act.
Under Section 6 of the Act "the father and the mother of a child shall each be a guardian of the child." According to Section 3 guardianship means the custody of a child and the right of control over the upbringing of a child. Section 3 confirms that custody means the right to possession and care of a child.
Therefore, as David’s father I have the same right of parenthood as his mother. Taking him away from me without my permission is child abduction unless any of the points covered under sub section 2 of Section 6 applied. However Rachel does not qualify as sole guardian because she was married to me, David’s father, at the time of conception and we were living together as man and wife at the time of birth.
If there is any confusion about bias toward a female parent "in the best interests of a child" it is made clear in Section 23 that no gender bias should occur; that is, the motherhood principle has no place in decision making. "- there shall be no presumption that the placing of a child in the custody of a particular person will, because of the sex of that person, best serve the welfare of the child."
It follows that my unwavering demand for 50:50 sharing of our child that has proved to be so difficult for the court to understand is, in fact, correct in law.
The psychologist’s report claims that one impediment to David being returned to me is that of conflict between parents. I argue that the present situation of limited access is contributing to conflict between David’s mother and I. A 50:50 split in time would solve conflict in that one parent could not control the contact that the other parent has with David. As it stands Rachel stands to get what she wants if there is conflict. That is an unhealthy situation and one that would suit a passive aggressive. Common sense causes us to ask the question: why would I want or cause conflict? In this case to date, it is Rachael’s intransigence that has been rewarded.
I also question references that the psychologist used in his analysis. He refers to Joan Kelly’s Marital Conflict literature review. My direct contact with Joan Kelly shows that she regards this paper as "somewhat outdated".
There is more value in the Kelly & Lamb paper ‘Using child development research to make appropriate custody and access decisions for young children.’ This paper warrants careful attention as Kelly & Lamb raise numerous points that are of value in this case.
The benefits of maintaining contact with both parents exceed any special ‘need’ for relationships with male or female parents.
Relationships with parents play a crucial role in shaping children’s social, emotional, personal and cognitive development, and there is substantial literature documenting the adverse effects of disrupted parent-child relationships on children’s development and adjustment.
The evidence shows that children who are deprived of meaningful relationships with one of their parents are at greater risk psychologically, even when they are able to maintain relationships with the other parent.
The most common practice in custody and access decisions has been to emphasise and preserve continuity in the relationship between infants and mothers, with children living with their mothers and having limited contact with their fathers. Thus, the infant or toddler who was accustomed to seeing both parents each day abruptly began seeing one parent, usually the father, only once a week (or two weeks) for a few hours. This arrangement was often represented by professionals as being "in the best interests" of the child due to the mistaken understanding, based on Bowlby’s earliest speculations, that infants had only one significant or primary attachment. As a result, early child development research followed untested psychoanalytic theory in focusing exclusively on mothers and infants, presuming fathers to be quite peripheral and unnecessary to children’s development and psychological adjustment. The resulting custody arrangements sacrificed continuity in infant-father relationships, with long-term socio-emotional and economic consequences for children. A very large body of research literature now documents the adverse effects of severed father-child relationships as well as the positive contributions that fathers make to their children’s development.
The ideal situation is one in which infants and toddlers have opportunities to interact with both parents every day or every other day, in a variety of functional contexts (feeding, playing, discipline, basic care, limit setting, putting to bed).
There is ample evidence that infants and toddlers get used to regular transitions such as those associated with enrollment in alternative care facilities, without adverse effects on the quality of attachments to their parents. The same should be true of separations in the context of parental separation or divorce. Infants and toddlers should thus have multiple contacts each week with both parents in order to minimise separation anxiety and maintain continuity in the child’s attachments. Unfortunately, the concept of location-engendered stability (one home, one bed) has been incorrectly overemphasized for infants and toddlers, without consideration of both parent-child relationships. Living in one location (geographic stability) ensures only one type of stability. Stability is also created for infants (and older children) by the predictable comings and goings of both parents, by regular feeding and sleeping schedules, by consistent and appropriate care, and by affection and acceptance. Further post separation access or contact schedules that are predictable and can be managed without stress or distress by infants or toddlers provide stability after separation.
Photo: Law Professor Mark Henaghan on TV1 Assignment: "It’s always been the law that parents have equal rights to have a say in a child’s life, but now I think it is becoming more of a reality." (Pic: TV1 Assignment)
Research and experience with infant daycare, early preschool and other stable caretaking arrangements indicate that infants and toddlers readily adapt to such transitions and also sleep well once familiarised.
The evening and overnight periods (like extended days with naptimes) with nonresidential parents are especially important psychologically for infants, toddlers and young children. They provide opportunities for crucial social interactions and nurturing activities, including bathing, soothing hurts and anxieties, bedtime rituals, comforting in the middle of the night, and the reassurance and security of snuggling in the morning after awakening that 1 or 2 hour-long visits cannot provide. These everyday activities promote and maintain trust and confidence in the parents, while deepening and strengthening child-parent attachments.
Occasionally, mothers are very hostile to fathers after separation as part of a legal strategy to prevent or diminish the father’s participation in child rearing and coparenting. In such instances, fathers should not be denied adequate contacts with their children because "conflict between parents" exists.
David is nearly five years old and has not as yet been to stay with a friend and has certainly not been allowed to stay with his father. Is this healthy in terms of his social development and does it represent an unhealthy situation where a mother is not able to let go of her son? If she is hanging on too tight then this could explain why Rachel is consistently preventing contact of any meaningful proportions to occur between David and myself.
The Guardianship Act states that fathers and mothers of a child have equal rights to custody and yet in this case the mother has been able to take the child without consent of the father and then work diligently toward removing the father from the child’s life. This situation is nothing short of child abduction as it would have been viewed if the father had taken the child. While this situation is common it is contrary to law and cannot be justified.
When common sense prevails it shows that we have a father who wants, and has always wanted, to be part of this child’s life, that he is a good father a fact that is even referred to by the very hostile psychologist involved in this case. We can refer to a large body of literature that shows children are disadvantaged through being without their fathers and yet the wishes of a passively aggressive mother have won through to date.
We must also consider that what I am proposing in terms of shared parenting of David is now on the social agenda and so changes are imminent. Recently in Parliament when the Shared Parenting Bill was voted down along party lines, every MP that rose to speak for and against the bill voiced their concerns that fathers were being treated unfairly in the Family Court. The fathers who are fighting for their children have the support of the National and ACT parties and are making headway with the others. A change of government will lead to shared parenting becoming law as it is in most other countries.
We also must conclude that anything less than 50:50 shared parenting puts Rachel in the position where she only needs to ensure there is conflict and she will get her way and remove David’s father from his life. This is not a stable or clever situation for the court to be encouraging.
I urge therefore that the court finds that Rachel and I should have equal joint custody of David and trust that situation will quickly be proven to be the most beneficial for his well-being and care.
Photo: Justice Minister Margret Wilson on TV1 Assignment:
"Talking about custody you tend to think of people in prison…you don’t think of caring for someone. We’re looking now at a more inclusive language where we can talk about shared parenting plans." (Pic: TV1 Assignment)
Out-of-date Mind-sets Dangerous
An edited summary of the decision of Judge Inglis QC in the case outlined above. W (formally C) vs C 14301337 – 27 June 2000.
‘Extremism will move only molehills; Moderation can move mountains.’
This quotation provides an apt start to this judgment. The small boy whose parenting needs to be decided is now a little more than four and a half years old. His parents were married but separated when he was quite young. Since the separation he has lived with his mother. The father has become proactively involved in a political movement which asserts that the position of fathers in the lives of children requires much greater recognition by the Courts than it is presently perceived to have. The father’s aggressively vocal political stance on such issues has not been allowed to distract attention from the real merits of the case as disclosed in the evidence or from the true essence of the father’s case, which is that the Courts have approached guardianship and custody issues from the wrong direction and with an incorrect perspective. That is a question of substance which squarely arose in these proceedings. As a legal, as distinct from a political, issue, it is this Court’s duty to give it serious consideration. If indeed the Courts have taken a wrong turning, there is nothing in the existing statute of law to prevent the Courts from changing course.
If, as the father suggested, there is a perception among separated fathers that the Court system is failing them and their children, then that in itself is an issue of public importance.
The central and essential point of the father’s thesis is that when parents separate consideration of the welfare and interests of their child should always start from two propositions. First, that the child is entitled to retain the advantage of being nurtured by both parents. Second, that neither parent has a greater right than the other to nurture the child. Those propositions do not admit of any assumption that the parents’ separation automatically requires that the principal responsibility for nurturing should be assigned to one parent only, whether that be the mother or the father. If there is a general public perception that the Courts ordinarily approach custody or guardianship on the latter basis, that perception will profoundly influence the arrangements which separated or separating parents will make for themselves in regard to the future care of their children. So that separating parents will be conditioned to approach decisions about their children’s future on the footing that one parent will have custody and the other access, rather than on the footing that before they get to that point they are required as a compelling priority to think seriously about how they can jointly continue to carry out their responsibility as parents to nurture their children.
As a matter of strict law, the only appropriate starting point in a dispute over arrangements for the child’s care on the parents’ separation is recognition of their equal and shared guardianship responsibilities and obligations and their equal and shared legal right to exercise them. In the last analysis, deviation from that structure can be justified only by circumstances in the individual case which demonstrate that the child’s welfare and interests require that deviation. On that footing neither parent can take it for granted, on separation, that he or she is entitled to assume sole possession and control of the child, for that would be to deny for the child the other parent’s equal guardianship rights and in itself would be a misconceived view of parenting responsibilities.
It must follow, therefore, that when parents are considering separation their responsibility as parents requires them as a primary obligation to their child to consider the means by which they can continue to preserve for their child the advantages of their joint parenting and nurturing. That means that in the changed circumstances produced by their separation the parents are required to treat those joint parenting responsibilities as a primary influence in any decisions about the pattern of their future separated lives. The parents’ choices for themselves remain controlled to a very significant degree by their duties and obligations as parents and guardians. A decision to separate is a decision which relates essentially to the parents’ adult relationship. It does not change their responsibilities and obligations as guardians of their child, however much one or the other parent might wish that this were so. Nor does their decision to separate in itself change their legal status as guardians so that it can automatically be assumed that one parent is entitled to take primary control of the child’s care and upbringing, in some cases at least relegating the other parent to the position of a visitor, entitled to borrow the child from time to time.
It is of the greatest importance to understand that this reasoning assumes that each parent is equally (though no doubt from time to time in different ways) able and willing to exercise the duties and obligations of a parent and guardian in an appropriate and responsible manner, with the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration.
It is likely that the expectation that custody and access is an appropriate and generally acceptable means of allocating parental responsibilities in the event of separation stems from past notions of the division of functions within the traditional nuclear family, in which it was the function of the wife and mother to care for the home and the children and the function of the husband and father to work to support the family. Within that frame of reference it would be natural to suppose that in the event of separation practicalities required that the wife and mother would ordinarily continue to have the prime responsibility for the children’s care and that the husband and father, restricted by his work commitments, would realistically have the opportunity to see the children only from time to time. Within that social framework the great majority of separated parents tended to accept such a result as necessary. In such a situation it is understandable that any attempt to assert or maintain equal guardianship rights in the full sense would ordinarily have been seen as impractical.
However it is not possible to argue that any such mind-set or expectations produced by social patterns of the now distant past can realistically survive unchanged into the 21st century. Quite apart from the experience of the Family Court in dealing regularly with the needs of families who require its assistance, it is common knowledge that the stereotype of the nuclear family with a working father and a home-bound mother has become noticeably and significantly eroded. The relatively large number of impermanent de facto relationships, the children of which have required the Court’s attention, is a further factor. In these markedly changed social conditions it is impossible to accept the validity of any mind-set which assumes that the acceptable solution to separated parents’ parenting problems is ordinarily or necessarily a custody and access division. If any such mind-set remains, it is dangerous, for it perpetuates the public expectation that a solution which may have been appropriate in many cases under past social conditions and which may remain be appropriate in some cases now, is appropriate in all cases.
For a variety of reasons including the manner in which the respondent first presented the notion of 50:50 sharing of the boy, it never occurred to the applicant that it was not for her to make any unilateral decisions about his future care, and it never occurred to her that their separation had not altered their joint and basic parenting responsibilities. She simply assumed that she was the one to have the boy’s primary care, at the same time knowing that the respondent saw himself as unjustifiably excluded. One can understand why the applicant felt as she did, if indeed she took as her starting point that on separation the only issues that needed to be considered were custody and access. If her starting point had been that both of them, as parents, had equal and shared rights and responsibilities as their son’s guardians, she might seriously have reflected on whether there were any valid reasons relating to his welfare why the balance of parenting responsibility needed to be so drastically altered.
In the absence of any factors compellingly requiring a different regime, it continues to be the legal responsibility of each parent on separation to recognise his and her continuing responsibility and obligation as guardian to co-operate with the other over all parenting issues in a mature and sensible way. That legal obligation, imposed on the parents as guardians, cannot be evaded by one party simply saying, without good reason relevant to the welfare of the child, that he or she will not co-operate in joint guardianship. A personal reluctance to deal with the other parent, or a personal agenda, cannot in itself be sufficient justification, for that is to put the parent’s own wishes ahead of his or her responsibilities to the child.
This judgment is not to be seen as an attempt to stand the law of custody and access on its head. What I have been concerned to emphasise is the need for a more exact focus, in now markedly changed social conditions, on parenting issues which arise on separation. There needs to be a particular emphasis on the parenting responsibilities which the legal status of guardianship confers and requires. When social conditions have changed, it is self-evident that cases of this kind should be approached on the basis of first principles established by the law, rather than on the basis of a practice that had developed to meet the needs of the children of separated parents in the different social conditions of a bygone era.
Judge B. D. Inglis QC
Photo: Principal Family Court Judge Patrick Mahony, TV1 Assignment.
"We do have custodial parents, they are often mothers, who for various reasons will make access difficult for the father and sometimes will go out of their way to make it almost impossible. I do not think that we do very well in that area in enforcing those orders. It’s very important that children, following separation, do not suffer the loss of either parent and that both parents as far as possible continue to be involved with the children. I think there is a very strong case for being able to put into the public arena developments in family law so that the public become aware of developments that are occurring in the family court all the time" (Pic: TV1 Assignment)
Family Court Special Review Time
Special Review Time is an iniative of Mana Mens Rights Group representatives and NZ Judges. This has come about in negotiations with Judge Carruthers here in Wellington.
What is Special Review time for?
Court time per week is allocated by the Judges of the region so that fathers – parents can argue access issues especially where there is a protection order. The important issue here is re-establishing the parent – child relationship.
In Wellington Family Court Judge Jill Moss is allocated the task of ensuring the time is available and to inform and up-skill her collegues.
Mana Men’s chairman Bruce Cheriton addressing a recent Banardo’s conference in Wellington. (Pic: TV1 Assignment)
Circumstances where SRT is necessary:
Non-cooperation of custodial parent. Inability to communicate the need for change to access rotation. The need to move away from supervised access and not getting heard or cooperation. Re-establishment due to no contact eg. moved outside the area and naturally had no contact and now returning etc, etc . Its application is quite wide. The yardstick being will this resolve conflict and return a child to the parent? (without it going to court hopefully.)
Generally it is where you are not able to negotiate your needs as a parent with your ex-partner due to stalling, withholding and generally being obstructive, possibly due to a D.P.O. or just plain obstructiveness.
Judge Carruthers said he would do more work to be in touch with all Judges everywhere to make sure they understood this is a nationwide policy and needs to be implemented immediately.
If you run into problems in your local Family Court you may inform them of what is going on or ask them to be in touch with Judge Carruthers or his secretary or get a hold of either Robert Murray (email@example.com) or myself.
Keep pushing this issue with the various courts and participate with your client in the process if you wish. Solicitors are also needing education in this area so if a person has a solicitor who is not aware of this process inform and up-skill them. They aren’t happy about this at this point because in reality they are not required. YOU CAN DO IT and they don’t like that.
Please if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us.
Bruce Cheriton, Chairman
Mana Mens Rights Group. (04) 232 3775 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Wellington Men’s Groups listen to Muriel Newman MP launch the referendum on Shared Parenting at Parliament. (Pic: TV1 Assignment).
Women Are Throwing the Punches
Letter to the Editor, The Dominion, 13th October 2000.
Your article "Women are throwing the punches" was probably a revelation to many of your readers. For many other readers it would simply have been a confirmation of what they already know from their own personal experiences.
Objective overseas research has shown for decades that men and women are about equally bad when it comes to causing domestic violence. This latest New Zealand research is nothing new.
For years New Zealanders have been bombarded by a politically motivated campaign that tells us men cause domestic violence. This message has been delivered by various parties, including the Ministries and Departments of Justice, certain politicians and university academics, and the Women’s Refuges (always on the lookout for more funds).
The New Zealand Police and the Courts have taken up the domestic violence political message. If a man calls the Police to complain about domestic violence he will most likely be effectively ignored. If a woman complains, the Police will almost certainly turn out immediately and probably arrest the man. The same rules apply if the case gets to Court. The Courts seem to follow the politics, not the facts of the case.
Using domestic violence, the balance of power has been significantly moved in favour of women. It is virtually hopeless for a man to get proper access to his children if he is accused of domestic violence. A man can now be thrown out of his home using a domestic violence accusation.
But now the great domestic violence political fantasy is beginning to unravel. The facts are overriding the politics. The same is happening with child abuse, another social evil attributed to men. Recent media coverage has exposed the truth of how often children are killed or injured by women.
The New Zealand public is getting sick of this social engineering and the damage it is doing to our communities. It is time to stop using the differences between men and women for political gain. We must start treating women and men as equals, or else risk further damage to our families and children.
Families Apart Require Equality, Tel 04 389 4222, Fax 04 934, 4080 Mob 025 439 461
Domestic Violence Act "Good Law"
The Northern Law News (Oct 27th) reports that "an overwhelming number of people interviewed for a Ministry of Justice survey see the DVA as a good piece of legislation which achieves its objectives."
As men’s groups and others who have been publicly critical of the Act were not included in the survey, the findings were entirely predictable. Proper, credible research on this subject needs to be done urgently.
Closure of COSA North
Photo: Colleen and Gordon Waugh at Men’s Centre meeting (held second Monday every month)
The New Zealand organisation COSA (Casualties Of Sexual Allegations) was originally formed in 1994 to combat the epidemic of false allegations of sexual abuse in New Zealand, arising from the use of "recovered memory therapy" (RMT) and its derivatives. COSA was inundated with calls for help from wrongly accused parents and our membership grew apace. Our workload was such that in late 1996, we formed Incorporated Branches in Auckland and Christchurch.
To the best of our knowledge, there were no reported cases of "recovered memories" in New Zealand before about 1990. When the theory and practice of RMT spread, there were suddenly thousands of cases. Mainly as a result of the work done by COSA in educating the public, lawyers, politicians and professionals, and constructively criticising the theories, practices and beliefs underlying RMT and its adjuncts, the number of new cases slowed.
A decade later, they have virtually disappeared and the epidemic appears to have ended.
By early 1999, workload for the national body (COSA) had diminished greatly. We elected to close the national body and convert the two Branches into separate entities. Thus, COSA (North) Inc and COSA (South) Inc were formed. Membership was divided into those who lived in the North Island, and those in the South Island.
In the past year, COSA (North) has had very few calls for help, and only one case was based on "recovered memories". Many of our members have gradually faded away as they adjusted to their personal situations.
COSA (North) is faced with the spiral of diminishing membership, diminishing funds and a shortage of volunteers to continue to run the organisation. The Committee asked the few remaining Members to vote on our future. Most agreed with the reality that our organisation had run its natural course and should close. COSA North Inc. will therefore cease operations on 31 October 2000.
COSA (South) will continue to operate and has agreed to accept any of our members who may wish to continue their association with COSA’s activities.
An option for some will be to join the Men’s Centre North Shore in Auckland, especially those involved in child custody and family separation matters.
It has been a long battle which should never have been necessary to fight. Sensible people now accept that "recovered memories", multiple personality disorder, satanic ritual abuse and all the associated trappings, was a dangerous fad with no scientific or common sense basis. A small handful of True Believers still cling doggedly to their beliefs, but they have clearly isolated themselves from mainstream knowledge and understanding.
A shameful and inexcusable aspect of this fad is that the counsellors in New Zealand, who created the problem, do not appear to have the courage, honesty or integrity to attempt to heal the thousands of families they so glibly and zealously shattered.
COSA could not have achieved it successes, or borne its losses, without its members and the many professionals and individuals who gave us their unequivocal support. Nor could we have functioned so well without the grants of funds from the John McKenzie Trust Board and the Lottery Grants Board.
Of special note is the invaluable help and encouragement, and the masses of information, provided by Pamela Freyd of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Paula Tyroler and Adriaan Mak in Canada, and our colleagues in Australia. We especially thank Felicity Goodyear-Smith for the enormous amount of effort and personal commitment she gave to COSA as its President from 1994 to 1999.
Please accept our heartfelt thanks for making such a positive difference to the lives of the many hundreds of people we dealt with over the years.
We close this chapter in our lives by sincerely thanking all who supported us and by expressing the hope that sanity and science will prevail in other countries to put the destructive and despicable fad of RMT and its derivatives into true perspective.
Colleen and I will continue to be available, on an informal basis, for those who might need our advice, guidance or information.
Liaison Officer COSA (North) Inc. 26 October 2000
Lump Sum ACC Compo For Alleged Sexual Abuse Re-introduced
I am pleased to tell you that the New Zealand Herald published my Letter to the Editor (below) in the 7th November edition. He gave it a banner headline, in the centre of the page.
The Labour Government plans to re-introduce lump-sum compensation, so I’ve written to the Minister of ACC asking him some hard questions about their intentions for compensating claimants for alleged sexual abuse. Some of the basic questions were :
(1) What maximum amount of compensation will be available to each claimant?
(2) What measures will Government take to compel ACC to use acceptable and proven evidential methods in its decision-making on claim eligibility ?
(3) What measures will Government take to compel ACC’s "approved counsellors" and claimants to provide genuine, testable evidence of the alleged criminal sexual offences and consequential mental injuries?
(4) What measures will Government take to provide people, accused of criminal sexual offences in ACC sexual abuse claims, with a statutory right to challenge the accusations?
(5) Will Government introduce a time limit on claim-making ?
I’ll let you know his answers in due course. My Letter to the Editor is part and parcel of this topic.
New Zealand Herald, Tuesday 7 Nov. 2000, Page A12, Editor’s choice of title:
Compo for alleged abuse
ACC recently released data on new sexual abuse claims for the past financial year. It received 4,400 new claims and paid $15.8 Million to counsellors and claimants.
In the same period, around 800 people may have been convicted for sexual crimes. Assuming all those victims made ACC claims, the remaining 3,600, and about 70,000 earlier claims, were untested in criminal courts.
ACC legislation expresses eligibility in terms of "mental injury as an outcome of criminal sexual offences." Conveniently ignoring this dictum, ACC chooses to rely almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of alleged abuse given by claimants, embroidered by the beliefs and opinions of counsellors. In claims untested by the courts, counsellors rarely have genuine, testable evidence of either criminal offences or consequential mental injury.
Every such claim alleges a serious crime. But neither ACC, nor its counsellors, are empowered, or have the competence, to decide matters of criminality or assess genuine mental injury.
The human and fiscal costs of these glaring defects is disgraceful.
Government must intervene to correct them, by amending the Act to compel ACC, claimants and counsellors to produce genuine, testable evidence of the crime and the subsequent mental injury.
Report Shatters Child Abuse Myths
Common stereotypes about child abuse are overturned in the United Kingdom National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s (NSPCC) largest ever study of child maltreatment.
Myth: the most common form of abuse suffered by children at home is sexual abuse. Fact: children are seven times more likely to be beaten badly by their parents than sexually abused by them.
Myth: most sexual abuse occurs between fathers and their daughters. Fact: this type of incestuous relationship is rare, occurring in less than four in a thousand cases. The most likely relative to abuse within the family is a brother or stepbrother.
Myth: adults are responsible for most sexual violence against children and young people outside the family. Fact: children are most likely to be forced into unwanted sexual activity by other young people, must usually from someone described as a ‘boyfriend.’ Less than three in a thousand of the young people reported sexual behaviour against their wishes with professionals working with children.
Myth: sexual attacks on children from strangers are common. Fact: sexual assaults involving contact by strangers are very rare. Even with indecent exposure, only seven per cent of the young people reported ever having been ‘flashed at’, and just over a third of these said the person was a stranger.
Myth: most physical abuse is carried out by men, especially fathers. Fact: violent acts towards children are more likely to be meted out by mothers than fathers (49% of the sample experienced this from mothers and 40% from fathers).
Photo: Representatives from Auckland Men’s Groups attending the Social Services Select Committee hearing on the Family Court on 20th September. Not a sweater in sight! (see Liz Gordon’s comment here)(Pic: TV1 Assignment.)
Government Puts Money Before Children
Media Release from Families Apart Require Equality (FARE).
"The Property (Relationships) Bill must be one of the most acrimonious and ill-conceived pieces of legislation ever to come before Parliament", FARE spokesperson Darryl Ward said today.
"Much attention has been focussed on the same-sex and de facto couple provisions, but the real intent, namely the normalisation by stealth of unequal property splitting, will prove to be this Bill’s bitter legacy.
The granting of an unequal share of matrimonial property in favour of the party who gains custody of children will cause a massive increase in the cases of one parent being given an incentive to force their children’s other parent out of their lives. Even more children will be forced to lose their fathers. This Bill will see parents who had sacrificed precious time they could have spent with their children so that they could work to support their families, penalised by a lucrative incentive for their partners to leave with the children and continue to enjoy the material benefits of their former relationship.
It is clear that the primary victims of the Government’s radical social engineering will again be the children who will have one of their parents taken off them by a regime that places greed and self interest ahead of the welfare of children.
If the Government really cared about the welfare of children it would have supported Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill, which made shared parenting the starting point for children’s care arrangements (as opposed to the 100% to 0% split that is the current norm). However Hon. Laila Harre and Hon. Margaret Wilson refused to allow the facts to get in the way of ideology, and made all sorts of erroneous comments trying to ignore the superiority of shared parenting. The Government would not even allow the Shared Parenting Bill to have a conscience vote, yet it will allow a conscience vote for the Property (Relationships) Bill.
This shows that, in the words of Dr Newman, this Government is more concerned about the welfare of fridges than of children.
Once again it will be lawyers who are winners and children who are losers in this latest destructive act of a Government whose blind commitment to an extremist social agenda will put even more families at risk. Considering that the real damage of this Bill will not start to happen until 2002, this Government may know already that it lacks the courage to pick up the pieces", Ward concluded.
Families Apart Require Equality, Tel 04 389 4222, Fax 04 934 4080, Mob 025 439 461
Message From New MCNS Chairman
Photo: Men’s Centre Executive Committee 2000 2001. Rear: Jim Bagnal, Chuck Bird, Wayne Pritchard, Saeed Naraghizadeh, John Brett, seated: Chairman Mark Walsh, Secretary/Treasurer Richard Wheatcroft.
A recent edition of the New Zealand Herald carried the photograph and story of a couple who finally received acknowledgement from the Inland Revenue Department that they had been treated "unfairly" (i.e. ruined financially and emotionally) in a dispute lasting many years. A culture of intimidation had developed within the government organisation that has over the last couple of years been exposed by people unprepared to cave into the IRD’s daunting monolithic power.
Many people, separated fathers in particular, feel that a similar culture of intimidation exists within New Zealand’s Family Court system. Legislation, although written in gender neutral language, is in its application used to discriminate against men, particularly separated fathers.
Fortunately organisations like Men’s Centre North Shore contest the assumptions that underpin the New Zealand Family Court system and continue to criticise the cultural institutions that effectively demonise men in their most important social relationships.
MENZ Issues in particular regularly presents an alternative male perspective to our legislators, providing a critical perspective on current and proposed legislation as it affects men. Carefully considered submissions to parliamentary Select Committees are also made by the Centre’s members. In addition to providing a male perspective at a governmental level the Men’s Centre North Shore provides help at a practical level to assist men in the initial traumatic stages of a separation.
I believe the efforts of the Men’s Centre North Shore to provide support and assistance to men is good work. I believe that others, not only separated fathers, can be attracted to the organisation and it can grow in status and effectiveness. I believe that the culture and practices of the New Zealand Family Court system and the legislation that governs it which discriminates against fathers can be overturned. I believe the Centre’s advocacy role of men as important contributors to the lives of children needs to continue.
There is a gathering momentum for social change in New Zealand especially in regard to our family law practices. Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting bill and petitions organised in support of it are symptomatic of the mood for change.
Men communicating with one another through groups like the Men’s Centre North Shore are breaking down the barrier of isolation that effectively maintains the power of institutions like the Family Court to continue its, at times, humiliating practices. Men throughout the country are getting organised politically to repeal oppressive elements of legislation including the draconian provisions of the Domestic Violence Act. Demands for openness and accountability in the Family Court are getting louder and louder. Shared Parenting as a preferred option after separation is also gaining widespread popular support. The activities of the Men’s Centre North Shore and the continued publication of MENZ Issues are vital to the processes of maintaining the momentum for change.
Conventional media too are beginning to confront the tidal wave of ‘political correctness’ that has swamped many of New Zealand’s social cultural and political institutions for what seems like forever. Fathering is getting positive press and the issue of domestic violence, usually considered solely a male problem, is being considered more thoroughly. Female violence, against both men and children, is being acknowledged and excuses for it increasingly challenged. However it is unlikely that change will occur immediately or unopposed. The review of the guardianship act is not a step closer to Shared Parenting, merely an attempt to deflect the heat from the issues swirling around the concept. The Men’s Centre North Shore needs to keep the issue on Parliament’s agenda and to gain multi party support for changes to be made.
I would like to thank the other men who put themselves forward to serve on the committee as well as acknowledge the efforts of predecessors who have bought the Men’s Centre through to the present. Their efforts have established the support services that exist and have opened lines of communication with other men’s groups throughout the country to create a national movement for change.
I ask you to consider how you can support the Men’s Centre activities. It may that you simply pass your copy of MENZ Issues on to someone else, pay your subscription to the newsletter promptly, make a cash donation, or attend a Monday night meeting to offer encouragement to someone who is trying to deal with a recent separation. I hope you will consider a more active involvement to support and extend our work.
If a married couple can go the distance with the IRD and prevail, then our collective efforts to improve the lot of men and children in our society in the face of formidable social institutions that appear hostile to our objectives will also eventually succeed.
I look forward to meeting you throughout the year.
Mark Walsh, Chairman