In the last couple of weeks, men and fathers have made some headway in gaining recognition in the area of serious family issues.
What’s most interesting here is the paradigm shift that is taking place in the mainstream media.
Last week, ABC’s 20/20 aired a segment about Alec Baldwin and his custody battle with ex-wife Kim Basinger concerning their daughter Ireland. Everyone is familiar with Baldwin’s vicious voice mail rant he left for his daughter, but Baldwin tells his side of the story in the interview and in his new book “A Promise to Ourselves.”
Diane Sawyer of 20/20 conducted the interview and was willing to adress the controversial topic of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), something Baldwin and father’s rights advocates have been trying to raise awareness to in the family courts system. PAS is still controversial because it has not been validated by sufficient research – yet.
PAS is based on the belief that present in some bitter custody cases, one parent, usually the mother, will manipulate and brainwash the child/children into believing negative, false, and damaging stories about the other parent such as: the other parent does not love them, will harm them, will never bring them home again (kidnap them), etc.
This invokes tremendous fear into the child/children and can be used by the manipulating parent to try and prove false accusations of abuse against the other parent (“See how fearful the child is of him/her? This behavior proves he/she was abusing them!”). Or it is done to enable the manipulating parent to win a custody battle because a judge, upon seeing this type of parental fear in a child, will be heavily influenced in his/her judgment of who will be awarded custody.
I personally believe it to be true. Common sense and personal experience tells me that it’s true. However, feminist are trying stop the courts from accepting PAS as a legitimate diagnoses. They promote the theory that women simply do not do this, and furthermore, feminist reiterate that there is insufficient research to prove PAS is legitimate.
I’m always amazed how feminist’s, who have been caught perpetuating false research over the years, have the audacity to challenge the research and creditability of PAS with such hubris. One would think if they had any moral integrity, they would be more concerned with taking responsibility for their own fallacies and trying to re-establish their own credibility rather than organizing future events that are concerned only with trying to destroy the credibility of others before the final data is in.
And it should be noted that feminist and women organizations have repeatedly stated on record that they believe fathers who eagerly pursue custody of their child/children are nothing more than pedophiles and abusers who want to further victimize their wives and children.
So while signing books at a New York city book store, Baldwin’s book and his appearance was protested outside by a women’s group called Voices of Women Organizing Project. About twenty women from this organization protested Baldwin’s support and advocacy for PAS and fathers’ rights.
However, it should be noted that Baldwin’s appearance at the book store was standing room only, with an equal attendance of women and men, and the crowd was receptive to Baldwin’s talk on PAS, a biased and faulty family court system, and of his criticism of feminists and their practices.
Chalk one up for the good guys!
Here are the stories and video clip.
Alec Baldwin on Divorce, Children and Reconciliation
I can’t go on; I will go on: Baldwin promotes book
A story turned up on Glen Sacks website called “When dad is just bad” by columnist Mindelle Jacobs. Jacobs wrote about an international domestic violence conference and reported on some of the comments being distributed by the members of the conference.
Rita Smith, executive director of the U.S. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said her experience of men working on fathers’ rights is that many of the leaders are abusers or were accused of abuse.
Smith then states, “The agenda, often by the leadership, is to completely undermine women’s rights,” she said. “The ones that are the most dangerous are, in fact, creating safety problems for women and children.”
These sexist and malicious comments caused a firestorm among men and fathers’ rights groups, which then flooded Jacobs with protest e-mails. Jacobs stated that she was just the messenger, and she wrote the column because she thought the comments were controversial.
In response to the protesters, she then ran a follow-up column called “Divorced from reality”.
Men wrote about being assaulted by their wives – with no subsequent charges by the police. They complained about the nasty games women play to cut them out of their kids’ lives.
Former Edmonton lawyer Grant Brown has heard it all. He quit practising law in March after only four years as a lawyer because he’s sick of dealing with what he describes as a dysfunctional family law system.
“I couldn’t hack it anymore,” says the 50-year-old who’s writing a book called Deadbeat Judges.
“The thesis of my book is that judges actually create the deadbeats. They make such harsh orders against fathers and give fathers no rights,” he says. “A lot of (dads) just give up.”
Police, prosecutors and judges are generally harsher with men in domestic abuse cases, says Brown. And, he adds, judges rarely punish women who violate court orders.
“Dads can spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to see their kids and the judges do nothing to make it happen,” says Brown.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Mindelle Jacobs for allowing both sides to be heard.
Another women who deserves a shout out is Katie Balestra for her column Taking a New Tack on Domestic Violence which reveals the new approach to diminishing domestic violence by not just focusing on the victim, but by also focusing on the abuser. In my four part series, Domestic Violence Prevention – More Hyperbole Than Truth, I covered this new appraoch and explained how the current model for DV prevention is based more on sexist politics than actually trying to diminish the violence.
Balestra writes in her article:
Amid the launch of the federal Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Marriage initiatives two years ago, social service agencies and industry experts have begun to recognize the importance not just of helping victims of domestic violence but also of treating the batterers themselves in programs such as the House of Ruth’s Gateway Project.
“No matter how many women you take in, it isn’t going to cure the problem,” said Toby Myers, vice chair of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, a nonprofit based in Austin.
Balestra also looks at a another insidious side to DV prevention industry – discrimination and money.
Abuser programs are like “a stepchild” in the field of domestic violence, says Edward Gondolf, research director of the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute, who believes the programs offer “a really important laboratory to understand domestic violence and its workings.” At the Crisis Intervention Center in Calvert County, for example, victims get about 10 times more one-on-one counseling than abusers; one full-time therapist worked with 392 abusers last year, while six therapists, three of them full-time and three part-time, treated 207 victims.
“Sometimes you feel like the lone wolf,” Nitsch says. “We can’t compete with victims’ services, particularly when you’re talking about private donors. To be able to say, ‘I helped build a shelter’ feels better to them than to say, ‘I funded classes for abusers.’ ” It’s disheartening, she says, that “some people don’t view abuser intervention as a victims’ service.”
And Balestra covers the financial discrimination between victim and abuser resources:
In 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the Justice Department gave abuser programs only a fraction of the $113.9 million that was doled out for domestic violence prevention through its largest grant program, Stop Violence Against Women. About 35 percent went to victim services, about half to law enforcement and prosecution services and just $5.4 million, or about 5 percent, to courts for programs including abuser intervention. Officials in Maryland and the District said their batterer programs receive no funding from these grants.
As I stated in my column, one of the main reasons DV is still a problem is because the model used to address DV issues advocates that only men are abusers, and that anger management classes will solve the problem with these men.
If the inherent cause for the abusive behavior is not found and treated, the abuser will abuse again. Anger management classes will never accomplish this.
Some experts say part of the problem with obtaining funding for abuser programs is that many of them are ineffective, depending on an outdated treatment model developed in Duluth, Minn., in 1981 that, critics say, largely pins the blame on men seeking to assert power and control over women. This standard, the experts say, doesn’t allow for cycles of “mutual violence” — the recognition that women can be abusers — and the use of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for treatment.
Donald Dutton, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, refers to the old models as “shaming” programs.
“It’s been demonstrated repeatedly that psycho-educational models don’t work,” he said, “and then half the guys repeat” their abusive behavior. The Duluth model assumes the male is always wrong, says Janet Scott, the abuser program coordinator at the Calvert County center. Scott developed a group for female abusers in 2001.
Understanding that breaking the habit of domestic abuse involves a more complex process of reflection is part of the goal at Baltimore’s Gateway Project.
What I find most interesting about these three stories is how the mainstream media seems to be entering a period of recognizing that men and father have relevant issues. And by reporting on them and raising awareness to them, they are doing what they have done for women and their issues for a long time now – giving them the respect and validity they deserve.
I hope the trend continues.