A recent study by the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center in Seattle confirms these results (Kernic et al., 2005). The researchers analyzed documentation on more than 800 local couples with young children who filed for divorce in 1998 and 1999, including 324 cases with a history of domestic violence. They found that evidence of domestic violence did not appear to change how courts decided custody. In other words, fathers who were violent were just as likely to receive custody when they asked for it as fathers who were not violent. Only 17% of fathers with a known history of domestic violence were denied child visitation and they were no more likely than other fathers to be required by the court to have a third party supervise child visitations.(Myths That Place Children At Risk During Custody Litigation, Dallam. S. J., & Silberg, J. L. (Jan/Feb 2006). Myths that place children at risk during custody disputes.)
Attorney-writers like Robert Franklin purposefully misrepresent protective mother organizations by labeling them as "anti-dad." This is how they promote hatred (not unlike anti-choicers) and incite rage. Protective mothers are against abusive dads, and if many dads fit into that category, that is hardly to be blamed on women.
Attorney-writers like Robert Franklin also purport to be about children's rights, but only insofar as it pertains to the best interest of the father's control ("children's rights to paternal access"). This is in opposition to a children having individual rights of their own (autonomy), such as the right to choose how they would like to live post divorce, the right to choose to establish and/or maintain relationships with absent parents, the right to be protected from abuse, etc.
For every piece of "social science research" that fathers' rights groups highlight, there is another body of research that says the reverse. This is most likely related to affiliations with research universities who perform work under fatherhood grant money from the Department of Health and Human Services (specifically, the Administration of Children and Families). Are these selective studies unbiased? Maybe we'll never know. But we do know that upon careful analysis of host of statistics, from a variety of sources, from a variety of dates, internationally, mothers are not doing the most damage.
For example, in 2005 research, Filicide-Suicide: Common Factors in Parents Who Kill Their Children and Themselves:
Twice as many fathers as mothers committed filicide-suicide during the study period, and older children were more often victims than infants...Thirty cases of filicide-suicide were identified, resulting in a sample comprised of 10 (33%) mothers and 20 (67%) fathers who had committed filicide-suicide over the time period.
In Shaken baby syndrome in Canada: Clinical characteristics and outcomes of hospital cases:
The biological father (43%), followed by the biological mother (26%), was most often identified as the responsible caregiver with the child at the time of the injury, even though the primary caregiver was usually the biological mother (67%), followed by "other" (35%: 18% babysitter, 17% unknown) and then the biological father (18%)...
The perpetrator was identified in 240 cases (66%), with the biological father being the most common (50%), followed by the stepfather/male partner (20%) and then the biological mother (12%). Overall, the perpetrator was male in 72% of the cases; 15% of perpetrators had a previous charge or suspicion for maltreatment of a child in their care.
In Analysis of Perpetrator Admissions to Inflicted Traumatic Brain Injury in Children :
the most common perpetrator was the father, followed by the mother's boyfriend, and then by the mother...45 (56) No: 32 (36)
In Nonaccidental head trauma as a cause of childhood death:
Twenty-seven of the inflictors were male and three were female; therefore women were much more likely to report the event, even though they were much less often the perpetrators. Biological fathers and other father figures accounted for 24 (80%) of the 30 perpetrators.
In The Co-occurrence of Child and Intimate Partner Maltreatment in the Family: Characteristics of the Violent Perpetrators:
fathers were significantly more likely to maltreat both their partner and child than mothers and mothers were significantly more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence than fathers. Paternal Family fathers conducted the highest amount of physical and/or sexual child maltreatment while Maternal Child and Maternal Victim mothers perpetrated the highest amount of child neglect.
In Unilateral retinal hemorrhages in shaken baby syndrome:
The perpetrators were male (100%) and 11 (92%) were the babies’ fathers.
In Risk Factors for Physical Child Abuse in Infants and Toddlers :
Most often the perpetrator was the father or stepfather;
In Child deaths from family violence in Dakahlia and Damiatta Governorates, Egypt:
The majority of perpetrators were males (75.62%); they comprised children fathers in 60.98%, while female perpetrators represented 24.39%; they comprised the children mothers in 7.32%.
In Childhood deaths from physical abuse:
Fathers formed the largest group of perpetrators, followed by mothers and childminders.
In Perpetrators and their acts: data from 365 adults molested as children.:
The majority of the perpetrators (62%) were either biological fathers or father-surrogates. Ninety-nine percent of the perpetrators were known to the victim; 97% were male.
In Household composition and the risk of child abuse and neglect:
Abuse and neglect were both maximal in father-only homes...high risks of abuse and neglect in father-only and step-parent families.
In Analysis of caretaker histories in abuse: Comparing initial histories with subsequent confessions:
76% of perpetrators were male; 56% were the child's father; 34% were the child's mother.
In Neonatal Injuries in Child Abuse:
Men are the abusers in 90% of cases. The abuser is usually the biologic father or, in some cases, the mother's boyfriend. The most common female attacker is a babysitter.
In Child Deaths Resulting From Inflicted Injuries: Household Risk Factors and Perpetrator Characteristics:
Perpetrators were identified in 132 (88.6%) of the cases. The majority of known perpetrators were male (71.2%), and most were the child's father (34.9%) or the boyfriend of the child's mother (24.2%).
In Victim, perpetrator, family, and incident characteristics of 32 infant maltreatment deaths in the United States Air Force*1:
The caretaker-perpetrator had a history of abuse in childhood (23%), was male (84%), the biological father of the victim (77%), and a first-time parent (54%)...The incident had the infant-victim crying (58%) and alone with the caretaker-perpetrator (86%) on the weekend (47%) at around noon in the home (71%).
And this next one is extremely important, because fathers' rights groups don't seem to understand what they reveal in their own data (ie. if 84% of mothers get custody, then only 16% of dads, or others?, get custody...and if, during that 16% of the time, dads are causing the aforementioned harm, then................ see Liz notes for a great breakdown)
In The Role of Fathers in Risk for Physical Child Abuse and Neglect: Possible Pathways and Unanswered Questions:
"In one of the first studies directly examining fathers’ involvement and child neglect risk, Dubowitz et al. (2000) reported that fathers’ greater direct involvement with child care was positively linked with higher child neglect risk...
fathers, as well as father figures, are highly overrepresented as perpetrators of physical child abuse, particularly in its most severe forms ...
Given that fathers provide, on the whole, substantially less direct child care than mothers (Margolin, 1992; Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean, & Hofferth, 2001), these proportions of fathers and possible father surrogates as perpetrators of severe child abuse appear as rather startling.
And it doesn't stop...From the NIS-3 (broken down by Silverside):
- Children living with their only their mothers experienced maltreatment under the Harm Standard at a rate of 26.1 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their dads? 36.6 per 1,000.
- Children living with only their moms: 10.5 per 1,000.
- Children living with only their dads: 17.7 per 1,000.
- Children living with only their moms: 6.4 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their dads: 10.5 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their moms: 16.7 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their dads: 21.9 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their moms: 3.4 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their fathers: 8.8 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their moms: 10.0 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their dads: 14.0 per 1,000.
All maltreatment (abuse and neglect)
- Children living with only their moms: 14.7 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their dads: 20.5 per 1,000.
- Children living with only their moms: 50.1 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their dads: 65.6 per 1,000.
- Children living with only their moms: 18.1 per 1,000 children.
- Children living only with their dads: 31.0 per 1,000.
- Children living with only their moms: 9.8 per 1,000 children.
- Children living with only their dads: 16.5 per 1,000.
So, where's that "twice as much" of the child injury that mothers commit? Is this what you were looking for?
Abused children presented a different pattern in connection with the sex of their perpetrators than did the neglected children. Children were more often neglected by female perpetrators (87% by females versus 43% by males). This finding is congruent with the fact that mothers and mother-substitutes tend to be the primary caretakers and are the primary persons held accountable for any omissions and/or failings in caretaking. In contrast, children were more often abused by males (67% were abused by males versus 40% by females). The prevalence of male perpetrators was strongest in the category of sexual abuse, where 89 percent of the children were abused by a male compared to only 12 percent by a female.
And then there's always the latest (2009) StatCan Report:
Police-reported family violence against children and youth
Male family members were identified as the accused in a sizable majority of family-related sexual (96%) and physical assaults (71%) against children and youth.
In 2007, almost 4 times as many women were killed by a current or former spouse as men.
Parents were the perpetrators in the majority of child and youth homicides committed by family members. Fathers (54%) were more likely than mothers (34%) to be the perpetrators.
Are these statistics also anti-dad?
Why would a family court judge ignore well-founded evidence of child injury or sexual abuse and grant custody to the abuser? If you can't think of any reason, you obviously haven't participated in, nor investigated any family court players. Why did Judge Timothy Blakely steer cases to the firm that did his divorce? Why did Judge Mark Ciavarella send juveniles with petty crimes to a particular facility? Why does Michael J. Bone still get away with practicing psychology, when his license is suspended? Why did Judge Jose Padilla deny Dawn Axsom's relocation request which resulted in her, and her mother's murder? Why did Judge James Souk give the Leichtenberg boys over to their suicidal father, who then killed them? Why did Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr. deny Amy Castillo's permanent protective order, and instead gave the kids over to the father, who drowned them one by one in the bathtub? Why does Judge Shawn Briese continue to rule on a case in which the court of appeals decided that his former actions were a violation of due process and an abuse of his trial discretion? Why don't we have access to the Florida Judicial Qualifications Committee complaints to see for ourselves who is doing what, without the fox guarding the henhouse?
Ask any poor person who has presented in a court of law, especially against a wealthy litigant, if they felt they received a fair and impartial trial. Uh, gee, you probably can't think of any reason why they wouldn't.
It is obvious that there is pervasive bias against mothers in the family courts because we operate in a sexist society in which men still hold the cards. And the women that do climb the power ladder can not be presumed to have conquered misogynist thought because it is embedded in our culture.
Women are "given" 84% of custody not because there is a battle, but because the role of women as caretakers has not ever changed. Most men are comfortable with, and agree to this arrangement as it is a continuation of what existed in the household. While it is sexist to assume that the mother is the best child caretaker, it is also ignorant and dangerous to assume that the father knows how to provide for the child beyond financial means--if he has not previously done so.
We could give you a myriad of examples, especially if more women being abused by the court system would come forward. And oh why wouldn't they come forward? First, because many judges place gag orders in these civil court cases. Second, because of retaliation. Women lose everything and so most want to stay anonymous because they still have that glimmer of hope that the system is just. There is no reward for reporting domestic violence and sexual abuse. There is no promised land when you flee to protect your children.
To argue sexual abuse on the basis of the prefaced word, allegation, is short-sighted at best. Everything in court is an allegation, EXCEPT parental alienation, you see, because parental alienation syndrome was constructed to negate "allegations" of sexual abuse. Parental alienation is so legally crafted that there needn't be any evidence to prove that the mother is causing it--only that it is "present" based on the actions (or inactions) of the child. On the other hand, if the mother doesn't have all her documents in order, or a high-priced attorney, any "evidence" can be dismissed by the judge. This doesn't mean that the abuse has NOT occurred. In multiple cases that we have seen, Child Protective Services (CPS) has substantiated the abuse, but the judge has dismissed it. The child psychologist has substantiated the abuse, but the judge has ignored it. And not every mother calls on CPS to assist because CPS has a history of mistreating mothers and the children they are supposed to protect. Furthermore, family violence cases are at a distinct disadvantage in that they are not tried in criminal court.
And not one case that Robert Franklin mentions has the court found real evidence that the mother was abusing the child during, or prior to involvement with the family court. The court, aided by the father's attorney and other players, derive at the conclusion that the mother is being abusive in "alleging" the abuse and insisting on justice. The family court system routinely silences protective mothers by focusing on her behaviors, instead of the evidence. In this way, she appears to be the current threat and the past documented evidence of the father's abuse is rendered mute.
If you consider the "ease with which temporary restraining orders are obtained," you must also consider the ineffectiveness of such orders in preventing death or injury and also the relative ease in which they are denied based on judicial interpretations of what "imminent danger" is. A woman filing a protective order is writing based upon what she knows based on past/present circumstances that she has experienced. The judge decides if legal paper protection is warranted based upon his own thoughts. The only people who benefit from this are the media and surviving family and friends--once they follow the trail post-mortem.
CPS and the law enforcement are merely a subset of the court system that are operating under sexist assumptions. They are often trained by trade organizations, like the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), which promote theories such as parental alienation syndrome and sexual parity in domestic violence. The protection and safety of women and children is secondary to the rights of fathers.
Robert Franklin highlights the Jonea Rogers case but omits a more pertinent example of injustice. Joyce Murphy "kidnapped" her daughter after failed attempts to protect her from her [alleged] sexually abusing father--who accused her of parental alienation. Sole custody was awarded to the father, who, 6 years later, was caught molesting three other girls.
Speaking of sole custody, a 19 year old Canadian woman just successfully sued her father, whom she resided with in sole custody, for years of sexual abuse.
And none of these even come close to summing up protective mothers' cause against abusive fathers and the lack of protection for themselves and their children. There aren't enough threads in a California King sized Egyptian cotton sheet set to describe this true epidemic.
This piece was written in response to a Glen Sack's author's bashing of Kathleen Russell's article, Child abuse: when family court gets it wrong, in the Christian Science Monitor. Thank you to the many that contributed to this piece. Thank you to the mothers so courageous enough to name names.
See Also: Are Good Enough Parents Losing Custody to Abusive Ex-Partners?