Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Male victims get lost in domestic-abuse data

WASHINGTON — When Adele Freeman fired five .38-caliber bullets into her boyfriend in 2000, she contributed to an often-overlooked statistic within the sometimes-deadly world of partner abuse: namely, that more than one-third of all homicides each year connected to domestic violence are perpetrated by women.

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — When Adele Freeman fired five .38-caliber bullets into her boyfriend in 2000, she contributed to an often-overlooked statistic within the sometimes-deadly world of partner abuse: namely, that more than one-third of all homicides each year connected to domestic violence are perpetrated by women.

"Men can be victimized in the same way women can," said Laura Martin, the Calvert County, Md., state's attorney who helped secure Freeman's first-degree murder conviction in 2002. "And it's not just the violence. It's about control, dominion, power," she said.

The fact of female abusers and male victims is often lost in the discussion of domestic violence. In fact, women's advocates have used selective statistics — the same federally funded survey that found women are equally as abusive to men — to bolster their plea for funding and services.

That absence of attention to the men's side of the coin has contributed to an imbalance of services for men who are victimized in abusive relationships.

"This is the best-kept secret on family violence," said Murray Straus, a sociologist who led the commissioned survey in 1975, and again in 1985 with the same results. "There is a tremendous effort to suppress and deny these results."

No one disputes that when physical violence occurs, women are prone to more serious injury than men; however, Straus and others caution that this should not obscure the fact that about a third of men sustain injuries, or are killed, from partner violence.

Bill Hall, of Adam's House, a health and wellness center in Suitland, Md., agreed. He called domestic violence an "equal opportunity" issue that often gets overlooked by the 24 or so women's advocacy centers throughout the state.

"It's kind of hard to find programs that cater to men and boys," he said. "Most of the agencies I know of refer men to us ... as abusers."

Each Monday night, he and his wife, Stacie, counsel two groups of some 30 women and 65 men. Within each group, about 70 percent have been court-ordered to attend the 90-minute-long counseling sessions, aimed at curtailing future violent behavior.

In dealing with those who've punched out girlfriends and choked wives, socked boyfriends, stabbed exes and even shot at spouses, both Halls agree that domestic violence is anything but a one-way street of male-on-female violence.

"Most women who abuse in the relationship [do so] because they feel pressured and don't feel that they can communicate any other way," Stacie Hall said. "Because he's just not listening, and [men] are much bigger than we are."

But other advocacy groups ignore female-on-male violence.

Take one particular bullet point from a brochure sponsored by Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, a state advocacy coalition backed largely by federal funds: "Every 15 seconds a woman is battered in the United States by her husband, boyfriend or live-in partner."

To Michaele Cohen, the nonprofit's executive director, that statistic sounds about right. "There are male victims, of course, but the majority of victims who come forward are female," she said.

Cohen said other data suggesting that men suffer from equal rates of violence are unreliable.

"That methodology is very controversial because, you know, you're saying that every hit is equal and you're not taking into account context," she said. "I think you have to look critically at those studies."

Yet both sides of the debate are actually looking at the same studies: that 1975 survey, updated 10 years later, that revealed nearly identical rates of abuse by men and by women.

Cohen did not know of the connection to the statistics in her group's brochure, but said anecdotal evidence supports their contention.

"I don't really want to quibble about the particular stats," she said. Instead, Cohen pointed to the "huge number" of female victims she sees in need of assistance each and every day.

"I'm not relying on statistics. I'm relying on 30 years of experience."

That reliance on nonscientific data is no shock to Richard Gelles, who co-authored the 1975 and 1985 surveys with Straus.

"People cherry-pick their numbers for advocacy studies," he said. "This is what advocates do, and that's not sad. What's sad is policymakers don't create evidence-based policy."

Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, offered up the Violence Against Women Act as an example.

Since 1994, the federal law has doled out some $4 billion to states — dollars aimed at eliminating domestic abuse, stalking and sexual assault through increased financial, legal and housing support to women. The act has also upped the penalties against offenders and more closely knits prosecutors, judges, police and victims advocates to the effort.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last May, Gelles said the law, which is set for reauthorization in 2011, mostly ignores services and resources for male victims of abuse.

"No other federal legislation dealing with an aspect of family violence, including child maltreatment, sexual abuse and elder abuse, singularly focuses on one sex," he testified.

So what of services available to men?

Laura Dugan, a public-policy expert and associate professor at the University of Maryland, said you might not know of a need for men based on the services available to them.

"All of these service providers, they do not let men on their premises," she said, recounting a case she was familiar with in which an alcoholic wife was abusing her husband. "She really abused him. And he had nowhere to go."

In Maryland, the House of Ruth, one of Maryland's largest domestic-violence service providers, will assist men, but active outreach efforts seem in short supply.

"We also work with men," said program development director Cheri Parlaman, referring to an abuser intervention program


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Single fathers feeling trapped in one-sided system

This reporter gets the issue that affects 10's of thousands of fathers across Canada. We have, on average, about 280 divorces each working day many involving custody issues. Lawyers for dads know full well mom will receive custody and tell dads to cut their losses and take the standard 14-15% visitation or face at least a $10,000 bill for a custodial trial.

Mom's in Canada get 90% of sole physical custody, child support and often alimony.  Child support has a degree of spousal support built in.  Dads are often then controlled by mom who has him over a barrel. She can stop access with impunity, move away and unless dad has lots of money to go back to court he is both estranged and alienated from his child(ren). This is clear child abuse but goes unenforced by today's breed of misanderous judges.

Eight dads a day kill themselves across Canada unnoticed for the most part because they are men.  Many do this as a result of Family Court gender apartheid.  Every now and then one takes others with him as an act of despair.

Family law is highly biased and needs to change. Bill C-422 is a first step in this to obtain shared and equal parenting for fit parents. With both having legal custody if the other withholds access it can be construed as kidnapping.MJM





By Gerard Creces

Posted 1 day ago

Single fathers lose more than the stereotypical house, car and bank account.
They lose their families, their confidence, and in some cases, even their means of making a living. What's more, any success they have is garnished without prejudice.

The stigma of the deadbeat dad, the father that is never there for his kids, still remains as strong as ever, though a large part of what perpetuates it is a social justice system that assumes fathers as providers, breadwinners and supporters, without needing support themselves.But what happens when, in order to meet those obligations, the father's standard of living suffers greatly?

What happens when failing to meet those obligations results in not only punitive family law measures, but the degradation of the individual who is suffering to make ends meet?In all the cases of fathers interviewed, not one said they regretted contributing to their children's wellbeing. Not one wanted to be free of their familial obligations. All they wanted, they said, was a little fairness, be it the chance to see their children or the ability to have some say in how their money is being spent.

All Mike wants is some accountability.

Every month, he pays $800 for child support. He travels back and forth to Bayfield for work, pays auto and life insurance, gas, groceries and rent, and on $18 an hour, it doesn't leave much left for living. On top of that, he said, are equalization payments that are anything but equal. These are above and beyond child support, paying for things like sports, extra-curriculars and dental.

"There are two sets of braces I have to put out for now. I'm looking at 8,000 to 10,000 dollars," he said. "And I'm looking at 75 per cent because she only makes minimum wage.

"I'm not saying I don't want to pay or deserve to pay, but where am I going to get that money?" Mike had to go to St. Vincent de Paul when he had an abscessed tooth that he couldn't afford to take care of.

Mike said he has been back and forth with lawyers, however, he firmly believes the court system is not the way to deal with families. It is costly, adversarial and does more to divide than to rehabilitate families, he said.

On top of that, the system places penalties on fathers that only help to hasten the decline of the "deadbeat dad". If Mike is unable to make his payments, the law makes it even harder to do so by taking away his means of getting to work.

"There's the threat of having my license pulled because I'm not paying other things," he said. "How am I going to get to work? It's like a kind of vicious circle… like dogs chasing you around."
Mike doesn't qualify for Ontario Works – he makes too much money. However, 75 per cent of his paycheck is gone after deductions, support payments and bills, leaving him 25 per cent to live on. His $18 just became $4.50. Ontario Works works out to $3.50.

Mike's situation is different than most. He called 911 for himself, after an argument with his then spouse. The police came and Mike waited for them outside the home. Even though he acted in what he thought his own and his family's safety, he was handcuffed, taken away and segregated from his wife and children while Children's Aid workers interviewed his kids.

The result was devastating for Mike.

A one-year peace order meant he couldn't even talk to his family unless through a lawyer, and with no home and no contact, things, he said, inevitably worsened.

At the St. Vincent De Paul in Goderich, Mary Barry sees first-hand the effect of poverty on single people in the area. Nearly half of all food bank users are singles – a figure she said is alarmingly high.

"Even though we knew it would be high, it was still shocking to see it in black and white," she said. "Of all the people we serve a staggering 45 per cent are singles. This is both men and women, young and old… just living alone."

But, if you are out of work, have no transportation and live in a rural area, life is tough.

There is nowhere for men to go; no shelter to take them in, no services or resources for them.

The maximum a single adult can receive from Ontario Works is $585 per month. The average rent in Goderich for a one-bedroom apartment hovers around $650.

"Where in Goderich are they living?" Barry asked. "They can't pay rent, hydro, or heat and they certainly don't get to eat. And if they have a car, forget that idea."

She said most clients seek help near the end of their EI. By that time, she said, even if they do get Ontario Works, there is little to look forward to.

"You've got three months before your homeless," she said. "You have to find someone who will let you stay on their couch."

"The OPP told me the best they could do was drive me to London for shelter," Tom recalls. "I had no vehicle and no transportation."

Tom and his then girlfriend had a falling out worse than most. A domestic assault left him with severe injuries to both his back and his jaw and unable to work. After both he and his girlfriend were charged in different assaults, she was granted custody of their son while he was put out in the street.

Since then, he has completed parenting courses, attended group counseling sessions and even went through the Children's Aid – all in an effort to regain access to his son.

But, it has been a battle every step of the way.

In his case, the mother of his child refused to sign a consent form, and as she had care and control of the child, there was nothing he could do. He's scared to fight back, because any sort of aggression will only make his case worse.

"The worst part is, I've been there as a father," he said. "But even my lawyer tells me to keep my mouth shut and bite my tongue. I never tried to argue – I just want access. I eventually had to call the police to get it."

Now, he only wants to see his son regularly again, but it is getting increasingly hard, as the mother moved away from Huron County in direct contravention of their agreement.

Tom collects disability pay, earning $630 a month.

His rent is subsidized, however, after hydro, gas and food are factored in, there is little left to live on, and nothing for his child.

"It's not where I want to be," he said. "If I want to get clothes for (my son) I can't do it."

With no money for transportation, he was/is at the mercy of the courts, who ordered that the child's mother deliver the son for their weekly visits. However, with no means to provide, Tom said even those visits are growing less and less.

Heartbreaking is how he described seeing his access go from a weekend together to just five hours on Sunday afternoon. How long will that last when the mother "can't afford" to bring the child to Goderich.

"I try to be a good parent and I get my son taken out of the county," he says. "What if he gets hurt? I can't just up and go to him now."

Not only that, but being on disability means no more bike rides, no more making lunches together and no more sleepovers. Rather than receive benefits to help him care for his son, his access becomes more restricted, he said.

However, he is not in a financial position to combat the agreement, and so is relegated to a diminishing role.
However, it's not only finance that can limit a father's access to his kids, but the length of the court process itself.

Phil has taken his ex to court multiple times for violating their visitation agreement, and the longer the process takes, the more profound the eventual estrangement from his son. After years of court hearings and thousands of dollars in legal fees, Phil has finally been granted visitations again – though in a limited capacity.

"My access is cut back so they don't devastate the child, since I haven't been around," he said. "At this point, I'm just glad to be reconnected, but I feel my rights have been violated.

I feel my kid's rights have been violated. And I can't get that time back."

The worst part, Phil said, is that he has a court order to see his son, however, he is powerless even if the mother of the child continues to violate the agreement. Rather than the courts making the mother obey the court order, he said, he has to go through the whole process from the beginning. He said fathers currently fighting for visitation rights should know it's not an easy process, even if you already have the law on your side.

"The mother can deny access until you go to court, basically," he said. "It took me nine months to reach an agreement the first time, but it could take a year after that to actually start getting access.

"Even though I have a court order to see this child."

His advice to fathers is to get into court as soon as possible and pay the money to get all the necessary documentation from a lawyer. Duty Counsel, he said, is ineffective if any sort of legal documents are needed.

When he needed his child support payments adjusted, he said, the only way to make it happen was to buy software from a lawyer for paperwork he feels should be available to the public. If a father is taking free legal representation, he said, chances are he isn't able to afford the necessary documents.

"Even the courts can't produce the documents you'll need," he said. "I feel that to be unfair."

However, no matter how many obstacles society puts in the way of non-custodial fathers, Phil said there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

"Don't give up," he said. "Even if it is taking that long. You will get somewhere eventually, even though you may be fed up with the time it takes."

In 1995, Andrew Renouf of Markham devastated the country when his suicide note grabbed the attention of the national media.

A single father who was cut off from his daughter for four years, Renouf's suicide note described a situation where his paycheck garnishing left nothing to live on. By the time his pay reached his bank account, he literally had 43 cents to his name.

Too 'rich' for welfare and too poor to sustain himself, Renouf chose suicide.

"I would have preferred to die with more dignity," he said.

In his eulogy, Rev. Alan Stewart summed up not only Renouf's situation, but that being faced by men across Huron County, Ontario and Canada.

"The access that mother and father have with their children, aside from obvious abuse, should not be determined by the issues that the mother and the father have with each other. Each parent can say that we are having problems with each other, but we both love you very much…

"It takes years to recover from taking sides, and that same taking sides sabotages future relationships when those children become adults."


The work of Fathers 4 Justice and the Pain of Fathers ~ Activism in the UK

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie