• 04Jan

    Our latest Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull says:

     “Real men don’t hit women.”  

     

    In Australia, violence against women raised its profile in 2015.

    Rosie Batty our Australian of the Year has been a strong advocate during this year in raising awareness and bringing it to public attention. She has been (and continues to be) a strong advocate for women. She has shown much strength and courage in bringing violence against women to the forefront of Australia’s consciousness.

    As Real for Women has shown there have many women and women’s groups throughout Australia this last year standing up for women.

    thankafeminist

     

    The Australian Government  announced a $100 million package of measures to provide a safety net for women and children at high risk of experiencing violence.

    Of course, they didn’t announce that they had previously taken away $300 million dollars from women’s services and organisations.

    The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence was initiated in 2015 by the new Labor government in Victoria.

    The ABCTV’s  ‘Hitting Home’2 part series on family violence received high acclaim.

    Sarah Ferguson

    But let us look at the reality of what is happening in Australia for women.

    Domestic violence services continue to be de-funded.

    Tweed Valley Women’s Services recently forced to close

     

    “I was shocked and outraged that this forced closure has occurred as the Tweed Valley Women’s Service provides vital services, particularly for those women and children fleeing from domestic violence,” Ms Elliot said.

    SaveWomensRefuges recently conducted a survey of domestic violence victims

    “Our survey results are telling us heartbreaking stories of women and children forced to return to live in violence, of sleeping in cars, in stairwells and on public transport. We need the Prime Minister to fund domestic violence refuges now. Sign and let Malcolm know it has to be a priority!!”

     

    Womens Electoral Lobby have also raised concerns about the loss of secure funding for women’s refuges.

     

     “Women’s refuges save lives. We request that the Prime Minister act swiftly to agree to a long-term secure separate national funding program for women’s refuges to ensure women and children escaping family and domestic violence have a safe haven and access to specialist services to enable them to rebuild their lives.”

     

    The Guardian in June 1914 reported that the Liberal State government redirected $6m funding from inner city to rural NSW, predicting that up to 20 shelters will have to close their doors.

    “The tendering process is completely new for this sector. We’re talking about an established network of women’s services across Sydney that have been operating for 30 to 40 years and never had their funding come under threat from any government – Liberal or Labor – until now.”

    “You can’t provide quality care for women unless you’re operating from a specialist framework. We’re all operating on evidence based models.” There is also the likely outcome that women, including those escaping domestic violence, will have to seek shelter in mixed accommodation.

    As reported to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence:

    “For victim support, historically underfunded (and recently suffering cutbacks and closures), needs adequate funding to cope with current demand, because DV is not going to be resolved or reduced overnight, these are life-saving services, and pay for themselves in reducing homicides and serious injuries. As for social workers and child protection agencies, better education and better case management is needed.” 

    Media coverage of domestic violence

    A study recently showed that the media often distort domestic violence.

    “The report, published by Our Watch and Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (Anrows), found there were widely established patterns of reporting in Australia and internationally that were overly simplistic, distorted and inadequate and increased the public’s confusion.”

    Many reports also shifted blame from the male perpetrators to their female victims.

    “One common theme across much of the media reporting in Australia and the US was that the social context in which male-perpetrated violence against women occurred was often excluded.”

     

    Cuts to homelessness services

    “Several peak organisations that provide policy advice and research into homelessness and housing services received word from the Department of Social Services on Monday that they would no longer receive funding.”

     Homelessness groups were informed just prior to Christmas in 2015 that the federal government reportedly pulled funding from a number of advocacy organisations.

    Reported by the Guardian.

    It is well-known that women and children fleeing domestic violence make up the majority of homeless people.

    Family Law

    In 2015 Background Briefing presented a critique of family law – ‘In the child’s best interests’

    I wrote about this programme previously on MairiVoice

    It would seem that parental alienation syndrome and father privilege is still the ideological underpinnings of our family law system.

    Notably, the programme interviewed one specialist family law assessor, Chris Rikard-Bell and he was true to form.

    “One cannot just depend on what the child’s statements are.” 

    When asked specifically about parental alienation syndrome, which appears to be the basis of his work:

    “The concept of alienation, by which a parent consciously undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent, is still a valid concept.”

    ‘I refer to alienation if it specifically occurs and describe it but I avoid using the Parental Alienation Syndrome label, even though it is often useful, as it has now come under such scrutiny that it often creates more debate than is helpful.’

    Apparently you can follow the principles of parental alienation – just don’t call it that.

     

    Community Legal Centres lose funding.

    Funding for CLC’s have not been restored.

    ‘Community legal centres will lose 30 per cent of their funding by the end of 2018 at the same time as police in Australia are handling one domestic violence matter every two minutes’The Federal Government is once again punishing victims of domestic violence with the toughest measures it has ever imposed on women seeking legal help.”

    “Pockets of funding at all levels are under threat. Some are not being renewed, others are being reduced. In 2017, the sector will see a 25 percent cut in Commonwealth funding across the board. Funding cycles are now reviewed annually rather than every three years, making it difficult to plan ahead further than a single financial year. As a result, new employees are generally put on 12, six or even three-month contracts, which makes it hard to attract top talent.”

    “However, CLCs do turn away tens of thousands of people a year. The demand is so high that the Productivity Commission has recommended an injection of $200 million into the sector, but with the Government seemingly ignoring the report, cuts remain a part of daily life at the RLC.”

     

    And Daily Life reports on how legal help is now being means-tested.

     

    “In a shock move just days after this year’s federal budget, community legal centres learned they would be compelled to means test those in need of legal support.  Eight months of consultation were pushed aside to make way for just one measure to get help – financial hardship.”

    “Gone were categories such as the risk of physical violence. Gone from the list were Indigenous women seeking support or people at risk of homelessness. The only thing which matters now is money.”

     

    Cuts to welfare benefits

    Families face cuts in welfare payments under the Federal Government’s changes to Family Tax Benefit rules.

     

    The biggest changes are hitting Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB-B), which will be cut for families when their youngest child turns six.(ABC news).

    “The federal government has reintroduced to parliament cuts to family payments including abolishing annual bonuses.”

     

    Families will no longer receive family tax benefit supplement Part A of about $726.35 and Part B of $354.05 under the measures which Labor previously rejected. https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/30249637/family-tax-benefit-cuts-return/

     

    Anti vilification law

    Wicked Pickets have done a wonderful job in raising awareness about A community action to extend anti vilification law to include ‘sex’ as a ground for complaint.

    wicked pickets van

    So far they have had no luck in convincing our politicians about this.

    Refugee policies

    Headline the Saturday Paper in August:

    Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’

    “One woman lies catatonic in hospital after being raped and beaten. Another was raped and immolated. This is the world awaiting refugees released from detention on Nauru.”

     

    And from the Huffington Post

    “At least two Iranian women detained on Nauru claim they were strip-searched by male security guards from an Australian firm who laughed as they ordered the women to remove their clothes, with allegations male guards are telling female detainees they have the power to conduct strip searches.”

    And for the Somali woman who had been raped on Nauru and was seeking an abortion, shows us that Peter Dutton, our Immigration Minister lied about what occurred when she was brought to Australia,

     

    Documents from the Department of Immigration and Border protection show that officials knew a Somali woman who had been raped on Nauru had not outright refused an abortion despite claims she had by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton after she was sent back to Nauru without the procedure last year. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said at the time that Abyan had changed her mind about the abortion and that she was to be returned to Nauru. It is unclear from the documents why Abyan was removed when she had not rejected an abortion, as claimed by the Minister, however a note in the FOI documents from Australian Border Force warned: “There is a risk that once in Australia, [Abyan] will seek to join legal action which would prevent her return.”

     

    “Ms Tranter said the fear expressed in the comment that Abyan would use the abortion to try and stay in Australia, was disturbing, given the matter involved a rape victim. “http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/01/02/departments-claim-raped-refugee-rejected-abortion-wrong-foi-reveals

    “From the multiple reports of abuse, rape and sexual assault, to the awful treatment of pregnant rape victim Abyan; it seem increasingly obvious to the general public of Australia (as well as the recent United Nations Human Rights forum delegates) that Nauru and Manus Island are not safe places.”

    Meanwhile our Immigration Minister Peter Dutton wanted to make it known that he was in support of White Ribbon Day, and that he is someone who publicly denounces violence against women.

    “Unfortunately, he also happens to be the bloke who effectively sentenced a bunch of women and children to mandatory detention centres where sexual assault, rape, and violence against women runs rife.”

    “Sending women and children to harmful and dangerous detention centres means you’re kinda okay with horrendous acts of sexual assault and violence against women, and are more or less part of the problem – otherwise you’d stop it happening, right? Which makes Peter Dutton a big fat hypocrite. “http://www.pedestrian.tv/news/arts-and-culture/peter-dutton-shoots-self-in-foot-with-tweets-about/8bfbbf0f-73c6-44ea-996e-da84fda5618b.htm

     

    Pornography

    ABC produced a discussion panel on Pornography – Porn Even

    As Laura McNally reports:

    “Even in follow up to the panel, Tom Tilley continued to press the idea that porn is healthy, saying, “the personal experiences [expressed by the panel] weren’t extreme, it was just the broader generalisations and the theories people were making that got extreme.” Tilley apparently sees empirical data as theory and anecdote from half-a-dozen porn users as fact. With a sample size of one couple, the show seems to have concluded that porn is changing sex lives, and only for the better.”

    “After a careful, nuanced and sensitive approach toward domestic violence on Hitting Home, the ABC has shown all the nuance of a train-wreck in examining the role of porn in sexual violence. Survivors of sexual violence, including the many performers harmed in the production of pornography, deserve better from the national broadcaster.”

    Sexual Assault

    Federal Minister Briggs has stood down from his position on the front bench after complaints of sexual assault from a junior public servant. To top this off he then sent a picture of the young women “to several people” which ended up in our newspapers.

    And to start our new year, today’s news is that our esteemed Peter Dutton sent a SMScalling a female journalist  a “mad f … king witch” in a text.

    Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

    ditch the witch

    In Conclusion

    So Mr. Turnbull you say “real men don’t hit women”.

    Well it appears that real men

    • cut women’s services

    • lock up refugee women in detention centres, subject them to strip searches and to rape, fail to provide them with access to abortions after being raped;

    • cut welfare benefits to women

    • refuse to change anti-vilification laws;

    • do nothing to change the family law system to protect women and children from violence;

    • become MP’s so they can publicly vilify women

    • become MP’s so they can sexually assault women.

    • etc, etc

    Perhaps First dog on moon best expresses the hope that women have for 2106

    first dog

    First dog on moon: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/nov/25/this-white-ribbon-day-lets-raise-awareness-of-our-awareness-raising

  • 30Dec

     

    Suffragette_poster

     

    I had the privilege of seeing this film yesterday. I thought it was brilliant. My heart was in my mouth for most of the film, and by the end when they showed the real footage of women marching in white and purple at the funeral of Emily Davison (Natalie Press) the tears were running down my face.

    Suffragette_film_v_3430096b

    One of the most pleasing aspects of the film was that it was centred on a working class woman, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan). I always had the impression that the Suffragette movement, particularly in Britain, was a middle class white movement. So it was interesting and informative to see it from a working class woman’s perspective. I understand that she is a fictional character so was interested to learn more about working class women and the suffrage movement and came across this article by Missjones4history:

    “The working class, working women who became involved in the suffragette movement have, for the most part, been written out of history. A fact which is astounding considering the hurdles the working class women had to jump in order to secure their right to an involvement in politics.” 

    She writes about the  women of the Lancashire Cotton Mills.

    “ At the turn of the twentieth century, working women increasingly found their work, and their right to work under attack from the ever increasing, male dominated trade unions who wanted to protect jobs for men. They therefore began to organise themselves into unions to protect their rights in the work place and to campaign for the enfranchisement of women. An example of this is the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade and Labour Council…”

    “In terms of an organised suffrage movement, the working women of Lancashire have been called the ‘original inspiration’ behind the formation of the Woman’s Social and Political Union, the WSPU, infamously known as the militant suffragettes.[4] This was due to a petition that the North of England Society organised, a petition for female enfranchisement; signed exclusively by women working in the textile industry of the North West. By the spring of 1901, the petition was taken to Westminster containing 29, 359 signatures; Mr Taylor, the MP for Radcliffe said that he’d heard of bigger petitions, but had ‘never seen a larger one’.[5] This petition aroused the active interest in the suffrage movement among working women, an interest which was to make many women politically active, a role hard to fulfil taking into account the many different roles a working woman already had.”

    This article, as does the film, highlights the great sacrifices that working class women in particular, made to fight for their rights.

    Maud Watts was born and worked from the age of seven in a laundry. The scenes in the laundry highlight how difficult these conditions were. She is also, as a young child, subjected to sexual abuse by her employer, who continues to sexually abuse the girls in the factory.

    We also see domestic violence when Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff) arrives to give evidence in Parliament with a battered face. There is no horror or shock at this from the other women – an acceptance that this male violence is a part of their lives.

    Violet also withdraws from the most violent acts of the activism, because she is pregnant. In the scene with Maud, she cries – she is worried that she will be unable to cope with yet another child. An example of the lack of options for women in controlling their own fertility. And a reminder that this is still a large issue for women all over the world today, even in our so-called progressive Western countries.

    I was astounded at the level of violence meted out to the women as they demonstrated and held rallies. They were beaten, kicked, belted with police trugeons. And then the mounted police would move in and trample the women with their horses.

    It also showed the humiliation the women experienced when placed in prison – strip searched and demeaned – something that women prisoners continue to be subjected to today.

    And the torture involved in force feeding the women was horrific to watch.  The missjones article argues that this violence was more extreme for working class women:

    “Despite official lines stating that all women were treated the same by the authorities, regardless of social background; it soon became apparent that this was not the case. It was noticed that middle class and upper class suffragettes were receiving preferential treatment, for example, if they resisted being fed, they would only be force fed a few times before being released. On the other hand, the working class suffragettes, who the prison authorities thought to be anonymous, were often subjected to the torture of force feeding on a daily basis for the full term of their sentence.”

    The sacrifices that Maud was forced to make to continue her activism is heart-breaking. She is kicked out of her home by her husband – for bringing shame and social stigma to the family. She loses her son. He is her husband’s property and so he is able to determine that she is not to have contact with him. In another painful scene she is confronted with the fact that her husband has given him up for adoption. A memorable quote to her son

    “Your mother’s name is Maud Watts.”

    Whilst the laws around custodial rights to children have changed since then, I have written extensively about how the family law system continues to punish ‘bad mothers’ and privilege fathers’ rights. http://mairivoice.femininebyte.org/the-fault-that-is-family-law-part-1/

    The film has been criticised for its whitewashing of the suffrage movement and its lack of inclusion of women of colour.

    “Britain was a white society in the main,” Dr Bartley tells me, “and the movement reflected that.” Dr Sumita Mukherjee, a fellow at King’s College London researching Indian suffragettes, notes that the women’s suffrage movement in Britain was “very different from the American case or the Australian case or the New Zealand case, because although there were ethnic minorities in Britain at that time, there wasn’t the same scale or the same questions of citizenship as there were in other countries”. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11914757/Racism-and-the-suffragettes-the-uncomfortable-truth.html

    Anna Leszkiewicz  has written an interesting article about the composition of the British suffrage movement.

    “Anita Anand, author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, tells me that there were women of colour working alongside more famous white suffragettes, most notably the subject of her book, the Indian princess Sophia Duleep Singh. “There were many overlaps between the Indian suffrage movement and the British suffrage movement. Sophia Duleep Singh had every reason to hate the British. They had taken everything from her: her father’s kindgom, wealth, future, everything. But she believed in this sisterhood, and she sacrificed everything to fight for British women’s vote, and also then fought for Indian women’s emancipation as well.””

    asian_suffragettes

    Dr Mukherjee adds:

    “There’s a popular image of Indian women in 1911 involved in a suffragette procession [see above]: they were Indian women living in Britain at the time living with their families. What’s interesting about that photo is that they’re part of a procession campaigning for the vote for British women, but in that procession they had an Empire section with Australian women, New Zealand women and Indian women. British suffragettes tried to convince women from other areas of the British Empire that if they got the vote, they could look after Indian women and other women in the other communes of Britain.

    “There’s an implication that white women felt they were more able to speak for Indian women than Indian women themselves. So although I’m not sure I’d say it’s overtly racist, it is imperialist.”

    This article also briefly raises the issue of lesbian women in the movement, which the film fails to address. An issue which has been controversial in women’s movement then and since.

    “There are many other suggestions of gay relationships within the movement, including Mary Blathwayt herself, Christabel Pankhurst, and Dame Ethel Smythe. “Dame Ethel had realised early on in life that she loved women, not men, and was fairly bold about things,” Pugh adds.”

    Whilst the list of when women were given the right to vote in different countries at the end of the film was informative it should be noted that this really does not cover the full picture. For example in South Australia until 1973 the Legislative Council vote was available to any person who owned, rented or leased any dwelling house(thus excluding many women who did not own property) and it excluded joint occupiers, which effectively allowed only one vote to a married couple, disenfranchising one partner – inevitably the woman. It was not until the 1975 elections that voting for the Legislative Council was open to all adults.

    Aboriginal Australians have had full voting rights at all levels of government in Australia only since the 1960s.

    Aboriginal Australians had first begun to acquire voting rights along with other adults living in the Australian colonies from the late-19th century.[1] Other than in Queensland and Western Australia, Aboriginal men were not excluded from voting alongside their non-indigenous counterparts in the Australian colonies and in South Australia, Aboriginal women also acquired the vote from 1895 onward.

    Following Australian Federation in 1901 however, the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 restricted Aboriginal voting rights in federal elections. For a time Aborigines could vote in some states and not in others, though from 1949, Aborigines could vote if they were or had been servicemen. In 1962, the Menzies Government (1949-1966) amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to enable all Aboriginal Australians to enroll to vote in Australian federal elections. In 1965, Queensland became the last state to remove restrictions on Aborigines voting in state elections. By 1967 Aborigines had equal rights in all states and territories.

    So the film had flaws. But this does not prevent me from feeling great admiration for the strength and courage of these suffragettes.

    I was also struck by how the film raised issues for women that are still relevant to our struggle today – violence against women; child sexual abuse; poverty; women’s rights to birth control and abortion; lack of economic parity and independence; lesbian visibility and freedom from discrimination. All these issues remain significant to real freedom from oppression for women.

    This film acts as a commemoration to all the women throughout history who have sacrificed, who have shown strength and courage, who have given up their lives for the freedom of women everywhere. As the film quotes Emily Pankhurst:

     “Never surrender. Never give up the fight.”

  • 24Dec

    xmas

    I’m wishing you all a Merry Christmas – because that is part of my history and culture. Although I am an atheist, I was fortunate to grow up in a happy nuclear family and Christmas has always been a time of love and warmth for me.

    But for those who don’t celebrate Christmas I wish you a happy and safe holiday.

    Christmas is not happy for everyone. For many women it evokes memories of trauma and abuse. For many women and children the patriarchal nuclear family is the site of male violence and abuse. For those of you who were physically and/or sexually abused as a child; those of you who witnessed male violence against your mother and whose Christmas time is fraught with distressing and painful memories, I wish you a safe and peaceful holiday.

    trauma tree

    Trauma and Christmas

    As a result many women are ostracized or  estranged from their families and face a lonely and isolated time. I send you much love at this time.

    There are many women and children who continue to face trauma and abuse at this time of year. The holiday season sees an increase in calls for help from women facing male violence from their partners. May you find safety at this time and I hope that the support services that are so desperately needed are available to you.

    Picture1

    Many women face Christmas without their children. Children who may be forced to visit or live with their abusive fathers. May you have the strength to continue to fight to protect your children and provide them with the support and love they need.

    wsas

    There are also women, particularly indigenous women,  whose children have been forcibly removed from their care because of the racist and misogynistic policies of our society. May you have the support of the community behind you to give you strength and love at this time.

                                                      cropped-GmarMcGrady

    It is a difficult time for incarcerated women who are often locked up for reasons of poverty and male violence.

    sisters inside

    http://www.sistersinside.com.au/

    And our refugee women who as a result of our draconian and inhumane policies are facing years of imprisonment, degradation and assault in their bid to flee from war, violence and abuse. Be aware that whilst our government is enacting such inhuman treatment, many Australians are advocating for change.

    safe_image.php

    I have also been fortunate to have in my life many strong and committed feminists who have given me strength and support over the years. It is important to know that throughout the world women are gathering , meeting, sharing and struggling – across many and varied issues – to end the oppression of women; to end male violence in all its forms; working towards the demise of patriarchal rule.

    So may next year be one of hope, joy and strength as all women continue in their struggles against patriarchy.

    women-hold-up-half-the-sky-annastaysia-savage

  • 10Oct

    Here are a list of articles about the Australian Family Law System.

    These articles have been written over a period of over ten years and may not include any subsequent changes to family law in that time. However, the issues outlined continue to be of relevance for women now.

    Parental Alienation -Fact Sheet

    Fact Sheet 1 Parental alienation

    Family Law         November 2009

    The family law reforms which were made law in July of 2006 have been described as the most significant reforms since 1975. We have considerable concerns about these reforms which we believe take the focus away from the best interests of the child, and place the emphasis on parental rights. In particular it is non-residential parents who potentially have won the greatest gains with these reforms.

    Escaping Gendered Violence: The role of Family Relationship Centres.  Help or Hindrance in Providing Safety for Women and Children      November 2009

    Escaping Gendered Violence

    Myths and Facts               Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in the Context of Separation and Divorce May 2009

    Myths and Facts

    Barriers to Women and Children’s Safety in Family Law system                May 2009

    Barriers to Women and Children’s Safety in Family

    No Escape from Violence: The Silencing of Women and Children                             April 2008

    This article outlines the significant barriers that women and children face when they attempt to escape from male violence within the family and the barriers within the family law system.

    No Escape from Violence presentation

    “Barriers to Safety: Proposed Changes to the Family Law System” April 2006

    This paper examines the proposed reforms to family law as a result of the Government’s inquiry into family law which resulted in the report ‘every picture tells a story’ (2003).

    It is important to examine the political context of these reforms and the political agenda of fathers’ rights groups to gain an understanding of what these reforms are about and how they reflect a right wing shift in political thinking away from creating safety from women and children towards fathers’ rights.

    DVIRC Family Law Forum

    The Relationship Between Child Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence and Separating Families April 2003

    This paper examines the relationship between child sexual abuse and domestic violence and highlights the research that indicates the coexistence of these two forms of violence in families.

    This paper will examine how the mutual existence of these two forms of abuse impacts on families who are separating. Australian research will be cited which highlight those cases involving all forms of family violence are an integral part of the work of the Family Court. It will be argued that the legal system needs to take into account that both domestic violence and child abuse are significant problems in the separating family and that issues of gender both in the context of child sexual abuse, domestic violence and separating couples are integral to our understanding and the way we deal with these concerns.

    csaconfpaper03

    CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS AND THE FAMILY COURT    February 2003

    A study was conducted at the Adelaide Registry of the Family Court of Australia into 50 cases where child sexual abuse allegations had been made in the context of proceedings before the Family Court. The results of the investigations into the child sexual abuse allegations show that child sexual abuse was confirmed at a similar rate to such allegations made to the South Australian statutory child protection agency. More significantly when specific child sexual abuse allegations are made against fathers, then confirmation rates of child sexual abuse are substantially higher than those in the general population. The results of this study confirm the hypothesis of this thesis that child sexual abuse allegations in the context of Family Court proceedings are not more likely to be false than those in other contexts.

    Child Sexual Abuse and the Family Court

  • 15Jun

    wsas

    It is pleasing that Background Briefing presented a critique of family law last Sunday.

    In the child’s best interests

    In Child best interests
    They were critiquing the way the family court in Australia deals with family law cases.

    “Today, we look at some of the most vexed cases that come before the Family Court; those alleging child sexual abuse. Background Briefing has been contacted by numerous mothers who claim that the Court is biased against parents who raise abuse allegations, and disbelieving of the children who make them. It’s a claim the Family Court rejects.”

    The programme highlighted the reliance that the judiciary places on expert evidence provided by single expert reports in assessing the credibility of the sexual abuse allegations.
    As Professor Patrick Parkinson, a family law and child protection expert and former chairperson of the government advisory group, the Family Law Council points out…

    “The judge has usually no training in child development, no expertise in child development, no expertise in child protection and may have no expertise in family law. Sometimes judges are appointed without any background in family law. The reality is they are highly dependent upon the expert evidence.”

    Parkinson rightly talks of the hierarchy of experts where courts preference psychiatrists.

    “At the bottom of the hierarchy there are social workers.”

    One has to question our meaning of expertise in this context.
    Why is this no surprise? In a highly hierarchical environment such as the law where white upper class men make judgements about all of us, it is not surprise they would preference white male upper class psychiatrists as having more expertise. After all they are likely to reproduce the ideology of class and patriarchal privilege.
    The dilemma of course is that whilst there are no doubt problems with our current child protection system, this is where our current expertise lies.
    In contrast, the father of child psychiatry, Sigmund Freud is infamous for his rejection of the notion of child sexual abuse. Whilst initially propositioning that many of his female clients were victims of child sexual abuse, under threat of ostracism from his professional colleagues, he developed the theory of child sexual abuse fantasies.

    “In 1895, Sigmund Freud formulated what was perhaps his most profound theory: that emotional disturbances in adults stem from actual early traumatic experiences, the knowledge of which has been repressed. But Freud eventually renounced this theory in favor of a new view, that his women patients had “fantasized” their early memories of rape and seduction – a view on which the whole budding science of psychoanalysis would be based.” Jeffrey Masson

    “As a result, most psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have in effect been reluctant to trust the memories of their patients, women in particular, about the traumas they experienced in childhood. Like Freud, they see such traumas as fantasy rather than reality. This cover-up of the truth, Masson asserts, has poisoned the entire profession.”

    As Parkinson points out in the programme:

    “…psychiatry does not provide necessarily very good training for identifying whether a six-year-old child has been sexually abused.”

    The programme interviewed one such psychiatrist, Chris Rikard-Bell and he was true to form.

    “One cannot just depend on what the child’s statements are.”

    He also believes it is important to conduct joint interviews with child and her alleged abuser, the father. The image of a poor child having to face her abuser whilst detailing her abuse is profoundly disturbing. What trauma to put a child through!
    Mr, Rikard-Bell also believes that 90% of allegations raised in family court proceedings are false. A belief he has based on his own biased experience – certainly not on reliable research.
    As Carolyn Quadrio an expert report writer for the Family Court stated in the programme:

    “…the research on false sexual abuse allegations made in custody cases shows that on average, they comprise around 10% of the total.”

    Which means that 90% of sexual abuse allegations have some basis in truth.
    This is supported by research evidence both in Australia and overseas.
    The psychiatrist talked inexplicably about ‘parentification’.

    Apparently it’s the new word.

    When asked specifically about parental alienation syndrome, which appears to be the basis of his work:

    “The concept of alienation, by which a parent consciously undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent, is still a valid concept.”

    ‘I refer to alienation if it specifically occurs and describe it but I avoid using the Parental Alienation Syndrome label, even though it is often useful, as it has now come under such scrutiny that it often creates more debate than is helpful.’

    Apparently you can follow the principles of parental alienation – just don’t call it that.

    Because Parental Alienation Syndrome has since been widely discredited, and is not recognised as having any scientific basis.
    Even Chief Justice of the Australian Family Court, Diana Bryant agrees:

    “there is no valid condition as Parental Alienation Syndrome.”

    But they still use it. And in priority over forensic child sexual abuse allegations conducted (when they are) over child protection authorities.
    I have written about these issues previously on this blog:
    The Fault that is Family Law – Part 2 Child Abuse and the Family Law System

    and about the problems with Parental Alienation and its cohorts:

    The Fault that is Family Law – Part 3

    The programme cited two cases where allegations of child sexual abuse were made against fathers during contact visits.
    In both cases reports from the expert witnesses determined the outcome for the children.

    In the first case, based on the expert’s report, the mother was advised by her lawyer that if she did not agree to unsupervised contact, she risked having the child removed from her care. The child visited her father regularly for the next 5 years where she was repeatedly and violently sexually abused. Due to the constraints of the court, neither her nor the child were able to raise child sexual abuse allegations.
    In the second case, in an ex-parte hearing, the judge and an appointed children’s lawyer met and made a judgement, based on the single expert report, that the children should be immediately removed from the mother’s care to go to live with the father.
    It is good that these issues are being raised in the media. However, women’s organisations in Australia (and overseas) have been raising these concerns for over 20 years.

     

    It is difficult to believe that there will ever be a time when the judicial system will provide protection of children from child sexual abuse, a time when children will be believed, a time when men’s rights to abuse and violate women and children will ever be stopped.

  • 21Oct

    Update:

    “The up-to-date research and information now available makes it clear that the present practices can no longer be justified and the custody court system must create the necessary reforms to protect the safety of children and protective mothers in domestic violence custody cases. This article will discuss ten reasons we know the custody court system is broken and must be reformed.”

    http://www.nomas.org/node/168

    Parental Alienation

    family law hammer

    If there is one symbol of misogyny and patriarchy within family law it must be the use of the concept of parental alienation.
    Parental alienation epitomises how the patriarchal legal system has viewed women within our western civilisation.
    It views women as vindictive liars – out to destroy men and fatherhood. It deems women as pathological – not the norm; not male.
    And the intended result is to negate and trivialise male abuse of women and children. It denies and minimises the impact and severity of domestic violence and child abuse.

    problems with feminism

    (Taken from https://www.facebook.com/shoutoutaustralia)

    In basic terms, parental alienation takes the position that when a mother raises concerns about child abuse and domestic violence following separation – in a bid to protect her children from exposure to further abuse – that her allegations are likely to be false. That her motivations include revenge and vindictiveness against her ex-partner.
    And most importantly it is seen as an effort to deny men/fathers the inalienable right to their children.

    It is about male ownership and control.

    The parental alienation syndrome was originally developed by Richard Gardner (1931-2003). It was based solely on his own (biased) clinical experience with little objective basis and lacks any empirical basis.
    Gardner also had bizarre beliefs about sexuality. He is quoted as stating that:

    “adult-child sex need not be intrinsically harmful to children.”

    Parental alienation syndrome is grounded in misogynistic views and reflects a mother-blaming ideology.

    ALIENATION AS A DYNAMIC OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

    What we do know – and there is empirical evidence – is that alienation is a pattern of control used by male abusers in domestic violence and child sexual abuse.
    The use of denigration of mothers is part of the pattern of both child sexual abuse and domestic violence.
    And then when the mother separates from the abuser, perpetrators of domestic violence use custody litigation as a form of ongoing harassment and abuse of mother.

     

    Chesler

    Alienation theory and its continued use reflect historical and societal denial of the extent of male violence within the family.

    wsas

    I would highly recommend Liz Library – lots of useful information about child custody, family law and parental alienation.

    Other websites: Women’s Safety After Separation

      WEAVE Inc

     

    And another useful book which examines how perpetrators use of controlling tactics:

    Batterer as Parent

     

  • 01Oct

    Update:

    chief-justice-warns-lawyers-against-custody-case-pressure

    Chief Justice is asking that lawyers not pressure women into making agreements where there are concerns about violence and abuse.
    Of course what she is doing is deflecting responsibility from the court which we know is just as likely to order unsafe arrangements for women and children.

    And women face the possibility of punitive measures by the Family Court for raising allegations of abuse and violence.

    Abbey’s mother said this in response:

    “However, Abbey’s mother said she had spent 11 years navigating the family law and child-protection systems and did not give her consent willingly.

    She said she could not afford to challenge final orders in court, ­especially when she would have to fight the recommendations of the psychologist.”

    In May last year, Abbey (surname withheld) disclosed to her mother that her father sexually assaulted her repeatedly between the ages of three and seven.

    At 17 this Western Australian girl took her own life.

    Her father had just been released from jail after having been convicted of abusing her friend during sleepover visits. He was granted access visits to his children upon release from prison.

    “In my attempts to protect my children, I was treated as a hysterical woman by the Family Court, even though [the father] had been charged with child sexual offences at the time,” Abbey’s mother said.

    “I was made to look like a vindictive wife instead of what I was, a protective mother.”

    “Every week in Australia, the Family Courts are ordering children into contact with, and even into the custody of. parents who are dangerous, toxic and abusive because Family Courts do not have the powers, expertise, and resources to competently investigate allegations of child abuse,” Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston

    Tragically there exists within the family law system, within child protection systems and in our community more broadly the belief that women vindictively make allegations of both domestic violence and child abuse, either to punish their ex-partner or to gain some kind of advantage in the family court.

    This has consistently been disseminated widely –  at the time of the Federal Parliamentary Inquiries into Family Law in 1996 and 2006.

    It is not based on reality.

    Numerous studies, both in Australia and overseas have unswervingly found that false allegations of child sexual abuse are rare indeed. (See also ‘Child Sexual Abuse Allegations and the Family Court‘)

    Let us look at some of the reasons why child sexual abuse allegations may arise following separation.

    1. Sexual abuse occurs after separation.

    Sexual abuse may occur when an abuser has unconstrained access to children, without the restrictions of the mother being present.
    The abuser may also sexually abuse children in order to punish the mother – as a result of his anger at the separation and loss of control over the mother.

    2. Disclosure of abuse following separation

    There are several reasons abused children may be more likely to disclose abuse and to be believed by the other parent.
    Children who are sexually abused sometimes experience a sense of responsibility for keeping the family together, and can be coerced to do so by the offending parent. This pressure lessens when the family splits.
    There is also diminished opportunity for the abusing parent to enforce secrecy, and increased opportunity for children to disclose abuse separately to their mother. The child may feel safe to report because the perpetrator is out of the picture and no longer able to punish her for disclosure.
    A child may disclose abuse when she realises that despite the separation she will continue to have unsupervised contact with the abuser during contact visits.

    3. Disclosure leads to separation

    A significant proportion of mothers on learning that their partner is sexually abusing the children will separate from him.
    It is likely that the sexual abuse, for a number of reasons, will not be revealed to any authorities, and it is only when the offender seeks contact with the child that the mother discloses the sexual abuse.

    The structure of the patriarchal family can be a perilous place for women and children.

    And the patriarchal systems – our legal systems and our child protection systems – are not going to seriously address this. Dealing with the reality of child sexual abuse confronts the whole ideology of patriarchy, the institution of the family, and male control.

    Bravehearts has launched a privately funded inquiry titled Abbey’s Project to uncover and reflect the experiences, testimony and outcomes for families and other stakeholders in their dealings with the Family Courts (and related child protection agencies) to better protect children against child sexual assault.

    “The community has had enough of these courts ignoring the testimony of children, banning access to all support to the families and children making allegations of harm for fear of the courts retribution, demonising the credibility of protective parents and destroying the lives of children.

    “We have seen the courts continually put the rights of repeat, dangerous and /or violent offenders and child sex predators above the safety of the most vulnerable members of the community.”

    For information on Abbey’s Project and how to make submissions to the royal commission, visit www.bravehearts.org.au

  • 06Sep

    It was great to see an all-female panel (except of course for Tony Jones) on Q and A on Monday night. (1st September).

    anc qanda

     

    Unfortunately we know that not all women are feminists or are willing to promote women’s issues.

    The research that Kay Hymowitz was propagandizing sounded very familiar.

    Her research posits that the family unit is suffering

    – that single motherhood is causing high levels of poverty and inequality

    – that the destruction of the nuclear family unit is toxic to boys’ well-being.

    She links single motherhood to high rates of delinquency and criminal activity in boys.

     And of course we have heard this all before. Fathers’ rights groups have been pushing this line of the crisis of manhood and the destruction of the nuclear family.
    It fits in very well with right wing ideology:

    “children’s interests are met best in a heterosexual, two parent family, where the mother says at home to raise her children” Cohen and Katzenstein

     

    And of course they blame feminism.

    Kay Hymowitz reflects common views held by right and neo conservatives.

    For example, it is claimed:

    “the feminist movement…has caused certain changes in the family which further the dissolution of society. He suggests that the family and the independence of women cannot exist together.” Lasch (1977)

    It was ironic and interesting that later in the discussion on Q and A, Jane Caro linked prostitution with marriage. This has created quite a commotion in the mainstream media.

    Michelle Smith from The Conversation provided us with a more realistic exploration of the issue.

    “In 1790, the English writer Mary Wollstonecraft argued that for women to “marry for a support” was “legal prostitution”. Other British feminists made connections between the male dominance inherent in both institutions, as well as the ways in which both could “enslave” women’s bodies.”

    Marriage in the not far past did involve economic exchange of women’s bodies. Women depended on men in order to survive economically.
    Male heirs inherited property, women were expected to marry.

    At the beginning of last century, the legal status of married women in Australia reflected English common law.

    Women were unable to vote or hold public office. Married women did not have legal guardianship of their children and a wife could not hold property. Divorce was rare. Husbands had complete legal powers over their children and extensive powers over their wives.

    “Marriage, for many women, was a necessity to ensure that they would be housed and fed into old age.” Michelle Smith

     Radical feminists have argued convincingly how the nuclear family is oppressive for women.

    “It may be expressed through its physical manifestation in assault, its economic manifestation in male control of resources and decision-making, its ideological control through the socialisation of women and children, and/or its control of women’s energy in emotional and physical servicing of women and children.” Robyn Rowland and Renate Klein

    radically speaking

     

    It also is a site of socialisation where children learn the gender rules. Where boys learn that to be boys they need to be aggressive, whereas girls learn that being feminine is being passive.

    “The pressure on women to undertake the mothering role is intense, yet it is only admirable when the mother is attached to a legal father.”Stacey (1993)

     As marriage has become less obligatory, particularly for women, we have seen an increase in the rhetoric about the destruction of the nuclear family and negative critiques of single mothers.

    Ellen Friedrichs cites research which shows that negative views about single motherhood tend to stem from a conviction that there is something inherently wrong or damaged about a single mother as a person.

    As I have written in my previous post: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY – WELL MAYBE NOT.

    “If you are a single mother you are likely to face discrimination and condemnation – and lesbian mothers even more so.
    Government policies push single mothers into poverty.”

    Research which promotes the view that the two-parent patriarchal heterosexual family is the only way to raise our children is ultimately damaging for both women and children.

    We must continue to resist this right wing conservative ideology that seek to lock women into traditional patriarchal nuclear family relationships.

    Michelle Smith sums it up:

    “Ultimately, Caro’s comparison has a real historical basis. The facts of traditional marriage should not be forgotten as we continue to address the vestiges of sexism in a culture that was once grounded in the economic exchange of women.”

    Lasch, C (1977) Haven in a Heartless World, Basis Books New York

    Stacey, J. (1993) Good Riddance to “the Family”: A Response to David Popenoe Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55 pp 545-547

    Robyn Rowland and Renate Klein in  Radically Speaking. Feminism Reclaimed eds Diane Bell and Renate Klein (1996) Spinifex Press

    Cohen and Katzenstein (1988) The War over the Family is not Over the Family In Dornbusch, S.M. & Strober, M.H. (eds) Feminism, Children and New Families. Guilford Press New York

     

  • 29Aug

    Too many women, too many children – killed by husbands and fathers.

    red rose

    From the Domestic Violence Death Review Action Group

     

    And it is done in the context of domestic violence.

     

    These murders are about power and control, a sense of male entitlement and for revenge.

     

    And yet we continue to hear about the suffering of these fathers and husbands – their grief over separation from their wives and children.

     

    Helen Garner has just written a book “This House of Grief” which explores the deaths of Jai, Tyler and Bailey Farquharson who were driven into a dam and left to drown by their father, Rob Farquharson.

    The very title of this book raises concerns. She was interviewed on Life Matters, Radio National.

    Her account of the event and the court case was definitely harrowing.

    But it was her assessment of preventing such murders can only be described as misinformed. Her answer to this serious problem is to provide support in helping men deal with grief.

     

    So often when these events occur we see headlines in the media such as

    “He was a good man”. “He loved his children.”

    Just-say-goodbye

    Debbie Kirkwood in  ‘Just Say Goodbye’ Parents who kill their children in the context of separation’, explains how the media contributes to society’s views of men who kill their partners and their children – a view that makes excuses for such behaviour.

     

    “The way these cases are reported shapes public discourse on the subject and the way people understand the events.” 

    We also hear so many court cases in which women are blamed in some way for the behaviours of their partners –

    “She provoked me”; “She was taking my children away from me”.

    And of course we have Men’s Rights Activists blaming women and the family law system for tipping men over the edge!

     

    Destroy the Joint are currently raising awareness about the killing of women.

    This year, they have recorded 50 women that have already been killed.

    counting dead women

    Every year 75 Australian women are killed by their partners or ex-partners, according to national homicide data.

    Every year violence against women is the single largest contributor to the public health burden of illness, injury and premature death for women aged 15-45.

     

    And yet we still hear the excuses – about grief, about loss!

     

    “Separation filicides by fathers are more likely to involve one or more of the following contributing elements:

    • Violence and controlling behaviour towards their partner before, and after, separation

    • Anger towards their ex-partner and desire for revenge in relation to the separation

    • An intention to harm the ex-partner by killing the children.” (Just say Goodbye)

     

    Fiona Mc Cormack writes that “Rhetoric isn’t enough to stop domestic violence. Here are five real solutions”

    One of her solutions is to hold violent perpetrators to account.

    Helen Garner’s summation of addressing this problem does not hold perpetrators to account.

    It gives them excuses.

    She fails to address the issue of male entitlement and privilege and male power and control.

     

    “Preventing violence means tackling the underlying causes – misogyny, the objectification of women, gender inequality, and male entitlement and privilege – that all contribute to men who choose to use violence believing they have a right to behave this way. These causes are embedded at all levels of our society, including among our politicians.” Fiona McCormack

     

    Amanda Marcotte reports on a successful programme in Massachusetts where a high risk assessment team target the men most likely to kill.

    Men who kill their wives or girlfriends (85 percent of victims are female) generally give us lots of warning by beating, stalking, and even raping their victims, usually for years before they finally kill.

    The high-risk teams shift the burden of being surveilled from the victim to the abuser. Now, if he makes a threat, Massachusetts has the power to escalate. If he uses visitation time to attack her or her children, Massachusetts restricts visitation. Now he’s the one who has to make his decisions with the understanding that someone with power can further restrict his movements and his ability to live freely

     

    WEAVE has been lobbying with other activists for the establishment of Domestic Violence Death Reviews in every state.-

    national quilt

     

    Domestic violence fatality review is a “deliberative process” to prevent further domestic violence and homicide; to provide strategies to ensure safety and hold perpetrators and systems accountable.

    We need to stop giving men excuses.

    We must oppose men’s power and privilege over women and children.

    And we must acknowledge that this power, this privilege, this sense of entitlement permeates our society and leads to many abuses and far too many deaths.

    “We also need to challenge the sense of entitlement that some men continue to have in relation to their families, an entitlement that leads them to believe their partner has no right to leave them and no right to form a new relationship, and that punishing her is justified because of the suffering they experience.” Debbie Kirkwood

     

     

  • 11Jul

    Update:

    Child sex abuse within families rampant

    Victoria Police wants to open a new front in the fight against family violence as frightening new data reveals a 43 per cent jump in child sex abuse cases in the past five years.

    Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning, head of the Victoria Police sexual and family violence division, said the true rate of child sex abuse by family members and others known to the victim was horrifying. He said Victoria Police’s campaign to tackle family violence had encouraged unprecedented reporting of partner on partner violence, but too many child sex abuse victims were still not coming forward.

    child sexual abuse vic

     

    The Latest News from the Royal Commission

    Cardinal George Pell disputes evidence of his closest advisers at the inquiry at the royal commission into child sex abuse.

    George Pell’s truck driver analogy veers into hostile territory by Tammy Mills of The Age

    And again from the Age: Vatican refuses to hand over files on accused pedophile priests

    cuts to royal commission

     

    The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is probably one of the most noteworthy legacies of the Gillard Labor Government.

    German-priests

     

    It was established to be serious and important – the way it was set up, its structure and its operation – it was no empty gesture to the concerns being expressed by the community in response to child sexual abuse allegations which occurred and are occurring within our large church and government organizations.
    During this we have some high profile child sexual abuse allegations against men such as Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.
    In January of this year a new research study was released (Profiling parental child sex abuse by Jane Goodman-Delahunty)
    Just a quick glance of some of the research findings:
    • High prevalence rates of childhood sexual abuse in Australia—38 percent for women and 13 percent for men.

    • Only 10 percent of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by strangers.

    Most parental child sex offenders were men in a father–child relationship with their victim.

    More than three-fifths of the victims were under the age of 10 years at the time of disclosure of the abuse, and overwhelming were exclusively female (91%).

    • Parental sex offenders are among the successful and productive sex offenders who tend to be classified as low risk and to receive shorter sentences.

    •  One in every four victims experiencing sexual abuse it was accompanied by threats of extortion, or violence.

     

    This research clearly shows us that the incidents of child sexual abuse that are currently hitting our headlines are not the majority – that the majority are occurring in our homes.
    However, what the headlines are capturing is that this is about power and control.

    The power and control offenders have over children – in homes, in churches and in institutions.

    The power to do harm.
    And this power and control is enacted with impunity – because they are protected by powerful institutions – whether it is church organizations or those protecting the sanctity of the family.
    Be very clear that the sanctity of the family is at the heart of this impunity.

    Our family law system fails to acknowledge or hear victims, and punishes mothers for raising their concerns about the safety of their children.

    Our child protection system is more likely to punish mothers for failing to protect their children, than take action against offending fathers.

    wsas
    Our media portrays these men as “pathological or aberrant”, placing them as out of the norm.

    But how abnormal can it be when over a third of women are victims of child sexual abuse?
    Suzanne Power has written an excellent article about this in which she talks about the absence of the discussion about gender, patriarchy and male power.

    “Many would prefer to take refuge in the idea of the paedophile as pathological and aberrant. Those who work with victims of abuse will tell you that as with rape, most abusers are known to the victim. Home is where the hatred is and that is why abuse rips apart the boundaries between love and trust and intimacy in families and is so devastating.”

    She talks about sexual politics, men in positions of power, cover ups and a culture of culpability. And the refusal to examine this in terms of patriarchy and how male power works. As she says:

    “We are called feminists. Child abuse isn’t a new story for us.”

    The questions that Suzanne Power asks go to the very reason why child sexual abuse is such a major problem and why there is so much silence surrounding it.
    And the answers are that it is about patriarchy and male power and our “collective refusal to contemplate how patriarchy works.”

     

    I will leave it to Suzanne to conclude:

    “But it is absolutely negligent to talk about power and abuse without any context, in some gender-free vacuum. If we cannot talk about historical abuse and how male privilege operated to make it so risk-free, then it won’t go away. Abuse is always an expression of power. Not acknowledging that power is another way of silencing its victims.”

    Update

    Another useful reference is Rocking the Cradle of Sexual Politics: What Happened When Women Said Incest by Louise Armstrong. A very good article she wrote in 1994, ‘Who Stole Incest?‘ is still very relevant 10 years later.