• 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

  • 24Sep
    bastard out of carolina

    “The grief. The anger. The guilt and the shame. It would come back later. It would come back forever. We had all wanted the simplest thing, to love and be loved and be safe together, but we had lost it and I didn’t know how to get it back.”

     

    This is the story of Bone (Ruth Anne). It is told in her voice – a strong, heart-breaking voice. It is Bone’s story of growing up in poverty in Carolina. It is a story of childhood abuse – physical and sexual.
    We come to know intimately Bone’s experiences of being part of a poor, extended family in America’s south, which is told exquisitely by Dorothy Alison. We become immersed in this family – its trial and tribulations, its warmth and connectiveness.
    But it is not a ‘nice’ family. It is a macho world where her uncles are proud of their violent reputations, consistently getting into brawls, drink heavily and are always in and out of jail.
    But it is the aunts that we are drawn to. This community of women who are immersed in poverty, struggling to survive, who are there for each other, who support and care for each other. They are strong women. We get to know them intimately through Bone’s eyes. These are women who are the core of Bone’s life.
    Bone is subjected to episodes of extreme violence and sexual abuse by her step-father. Her mother becomes increasingly aware of the violence and attempts to protect her such as ensuring that Bone is not left alone with him. But of course the abuse continues.
    What is told so poignantly in this book, are Bone’s feelings and experiences – her grief, her shame, her anger – and her desire to protect her mother and her happiness.
    As Dorothy Allison says in the Afterword:
    “I made her brave and stubborn and resilient. I made her want to protect her little sister and her mother. I made her a child full of hope as well as despair; and while I worked carefully at all the ways she learned to hate herself, I also made it plain to the reader that she was not hateful in any way.”
    This book does not have a happy ending. I fought against the inevitable result. But I was left feeling hope for Bone – hope that she would survive, hope that her gritty determination would lead to a happier life.
    I applaud Dorothy Allison’s courage in bringing Bone’s story to us, and for the empathy and understanding that she sensitively and skilfully she shows – for she is writing for all of the children who suffer horrendous abuse and violence.
    However, the Afterword also tells us that this book has been banned in several school districts in America.

    Dorothy Allison responds:
    “I want the society in which I live to be clear about the reality of our families; to know all the ways in which we avoid the issues of violence, abuse, and societal contempt; and to see survivors as more than victims. If we know more about what it means to survive abuse, we will better able those still caught in the whole shameful secret world of physical and sexual violence.”

     

    This book is a beautiful book. It is heartbreaking to read. But it is a courageous testament to women and children who suffer at the hands of male violence.
  • 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.

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