Saturday 8th of August 2020

the cost of violence in families...


At first, I presumed, like many others, that the government’s recently announced inquiry into the family law system was an exercise in pure politics – a sop to Senator Pauline Hanson and her constituency of angry white men. Nothing would come of it, as nothing has come from the two big inquiries that preceded it. Another report to languish in a drawer.

But on close reading of those two inquiries – one from the House of Representatives, the other from the Australian Law Reform Commission – I see I was wrong. This new inquiry is not just cynical horse-trading. It is, I believe, a deliberate move by the government to bury the findings of the two inquiries it commissioned.

Both inquiries recommended sweeping changes that would put children’s safety – instead of parents’ rights – back at the centre of our family law system.

One reform, recommended by both inquiries, is so incendiary it’s provoked warnings of reigniting “the gender wars”. It is that the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility – and the mandate for judges to consider the option of shared care – should be abolished, because the evidence shows it is putting children at risk.

Shared parenting is the jewel in the fathers’ rights movement’s crown. After decades of aggressive lobbying on it, they got much of what they wanted from the Howard government in 2006. To remove the presumption of shared parental responsibility from the Family Law Act would not only undo gains made by the fathers’ rights movement since the 1990s, but also those of the Coalition’s own culture warriors.

How did we get here?

Until the mid-1990s, children’s safety and wellbeing was central to custody decisions. Judges were cautious about ordering children into supervised contact with a father who had been abusive, noting the risk of psychological trauma, and would even refuse access if contact between the mother and the abusive father was likely to diminish her capacity to parent. Overall, the family law system was guided by research that evidenced the importance of stable relationships between children and their primary caregivers.

But that cautious culture began to change when new research, now contested, highlighted the benefits of a sustained relationship with both parents, and linked negative outcomes to absent fathers. As law reform commissioner Prof Helen Rhoades wrote, fathers’ rights groups used this research to lobby for laws mandating equal shared parenting, “arguing that failure to provide them with contact is child abuse”.

In 1995, after sustained lobbying from fathers’ rights groups, this shift towards a “pro-contact” culture was written into the Act by the Keating government. The reformed Act stated that parents share responsibility for the care and welfare of their children, and children have a right to ongoing contact with both parents. This wasn’t meant to apply carte blanche – it was to be balanced by the court’s requirement to ensure children’s safety from family violence.

Over the following decade, however, multiple studies identified a terrible trend: the rights of children to be safe from violence were slipping beneath the principle of the “right to ongoing contact”.

Despite clear evidence of this disturbing trend, another campaign by fathers’ rights groups moved the Howard government to further amend the Act in 2006. The Shared Parental Responsibility Act introduced changes designed to make it easier for fathers to be granted access to or custody of their children. These included the new “friendly parent” provision, which required parents to support their child’s relationship with the other parent. “Unfriendly” parents – especially victims of domestic abuse – were routinely warned by their lawyers that presenting allegations of abuse would damage their case or risk them losing access to their children altogether.

Across the family law system, the pro-contact culture was mutating. Denying contact between a father and his child was being identified as an unacceptable risk of harm – even greater than the risk of maintaining contact with a father who had abused his children. In Murphy v Murphy (2007) Justice Carmody wrote:

The consequences of denying contact between the abusive parent, usually the father, and the child, may well be as serious as the risk of harm from abuse. Thus, in D’Agostino a father who was convicted of sexually interfering with his 11-year-old daughter was not denied contact either with her or her two younger sisters, but was allowed contact on condition that all three children were together at the same time and another adult was also present.

This emphasis on pro-contact became, according to Rhoades, “the new orthodoxy” in family law. Culturally, across the family law system, father absence was being constructed “as a greater social problem than domestic violence”. Statistics bear this out: despite allegations of family violence featuring in more than half of cases, only 3% of fathers are denied access to their children. Three per cent.

It wasn’t just the courts that came to see mothers as the problem: a national survey from 2017 found 43% of Australians agree that mothers “often make up or exaggerate claims of domestic abuse in order to improve their case”. The “accepted wisdom” that false allegations were commonplace became a weapon for lawyers acting for alleged perpetrators. As soon as a mother (or child) alleged abuse, they could counter-allege “parental alienation syndrome”, a now discredited term that denotes children’s abuse allegations and fears are commonly coached into them by vexatious or delusional mothers. The cure, according to the child psychiatrist who invented the concept, was to switch custody to the father, and suspend contact entirely with the mother for a period of weeks or months.

The widely used concept of parental alienation (which, after being exposed as junk science, is still alluded to under synonyms like “brainwashing”, “projection of anxieties” and “enmeshment”) has led to some extreme outcomes in the family courts. One case I examined closely in my book on domestic abuse was that of Sandra*, who raised disclosures of sexual abuse made by her two young children.

Despite her youngest, Sally*, repeating the disclosures to police, child protection services and a counsellor, and despite child protection finding that the father was a risk of sexual harm to one or both children, the family court judge in her case agreed with the family report writer’s analysis that the allegations likely stemmed from the “anxiety of the mother”.

In a secret hearing, the judge ordered that custody be switched to the father, despite the kids having only ever had limited contact with him. Sandra was prohibited from seeing or even speaking to her children for two weeks. Following that, she could only see her children a couple of hours every fortnight, monitored by a supervisor at $65 an hour. Aside from her allegations, the family report writer found no other problems with Sandra’s parenting.

In the majority of cases featuring allegations of family violence or child abuse, however, orders weren’t made for a switch in custody. The vast majority did, however, end up with orders for equal shared parental responsibility – up to 79%.

Allegations of family violence dismissed

So why wasn’t the child’s right to be safe overriding the presumption of shared parental responsibility? Because, according to criminologist Dr Samantha Jeffries, from the school of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University, allegations of family violence were simply being minimised or dismissed by the courts. In focus groups with lawyers and social workers, Jeffries was told time and again that this was because domestic violence does not fit into the pro-contact ideology of the court.

“Participants said the parent-child relationship has to be maintained at all costs,” she says. “So you need to make the domestic violence go. You need to invalidate it, otherwise, how can you possibly legitimise an ongoing relationship with a perpetrator of domestic violence?” The quickest way to make the violence disappear, said Jeffries, was to discredit the mother. “She’s dishonest, she’s exaggerating, she’s hysterical – she’s the one with the issues.”

In the 2010 report No Way To Live, mothers described the reality of being court-ordered to co-parent with an abuser. Said one, “It’s very distressing some of the things they come home and say. ‘My daddy said he’s going to run over you’ or ‘My daddy wants me to go to karate so I can bash you’.” 

In one case, the father had sexually abused the children during a court-ordered contact visit, and yet was still granted supervised access. The mother, forced to relocate to enable the supervised contact, was told by the court-appointed expert in her case that an ongoing relationship with their father was necessary for the children, because they “needed to have positive experiences to forget the rest”.

By 2011, it was clear that the family law system was not protecting children. This moved then attorney general Robert McClelland to fight for another set of changes to the Family Law Act. In 2012, McClelland’s reforms removed Howard’s “friendly parent” provision, expanded the definition of domestic violence, and gave greater weight to the child’s right to safety over the benefit of a relationship with both parents.

But despite these changes, the family law system continued to prioritise the right to contact over the right to safety. As one evaluation showed, perpetrators of domestic violence were continuing to achieve “significant and substantial unsupervised time with their children”. In cases involving allegations of family violence or child abuse, shared parental responsibility was still the result in up to 83% of cases (and 40% of cases that went before a judge).

Putting children at centre of law

The 2017 House of Representatives inquiry into family law, chaired by then Liberal MP (now Senator) Sarah Henderson, recommended that the Australian Law Reform Commission consider removing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility from the Family Law Act, because it appeared to be “leading to unjust outcomes and compromising the safety of children”. It also recommended that allegations of family violence be determined earlier in legal proceedings, to deliver justice not only to those impacted by family violence, but also to those falsely accused.

Following 179 consultations across Australia, and over 1,200 written submissions, the ALRC agreed that the presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility” should be replaced with “joint decision making about major long-term issues”. It also recommended abolishing the section requiring the courts to consider equal, substantial or significant time with each parent.

Viewed together, the two reports outline out a radical plan to put children’s safety back at the heart of family law. This is urgent work. We need a revolution in the family law system that is both cultural and structural. It needs to change the court’s position from pro-contact – an orthodoxy that has led to women and children being routinely disbelieved – to pro-children.

This new inquiry is not about giving everyone a say. Few women will feel comfortable airing their most traumatic and humiliating stories before a politician who has already pre-judged them as liars. This is about boosting the grievances of a certain group of men – some dedicated fathers who have been wronged, and others excluded from their children’s lives because they are dangerous. In an inquiry like this, there will be no way to tell the difference between the two.

If this new inquiry further entrenches the dangerous pro-contact culture of the family law system, one thing is clear: it will make it an even more dangerous institution for children.

*Names have been changed

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Image at top MAD Magazine circa 1975...

the inquiry...



a domestic abuse story...

Domestic violence

Labour MP moves colleagues to tears with domestic abuse story

Rosie Duffield’s harrowing personal account is described as ‘moving and horrifying’ 

The Labour MP Rosie Duffield’s harrowing account of her own personal experience of domestic abuse left colleagues in tears in the Commons in what has been described as one of the most moving contributions ever given in parliament.

After months of what she described as terrifying verbal abuse, humiliation and financial control unbeknown to her friends, family and colleagues, she described how she eventually gained the courage to leave a partner.

She spoke during a debate on the domestic abuse bill, which the Speaker, John Bercow, said had been “simultaneously horrifying and as moving a contribution” as he had heard in his 22 years in the Commons.

Duffield, 48, who won Canterbury for Labour from the Tories in 2017, said domestic abuse was often very different from the images presented on TV.

She said: “Often we see the same images and stereotypes on TV. Housing estates, working-class families, drunk men coming home from the pub. Women surrounded by children and a sequence of shouting followed by immediate physical violence or assault.

“But the soap opera scene only tends to focus on one or two aspects of a much bigger and more complex picture.

“Domestic violence has many faces and the faces of those who survive it are varied too. Sometimes there are no bruises. Abuse is very often all about control and power. It’s about making themselves feel big or biggest.”

Duffield, a former teaching assistant and political writer, explained that her relationship had been full of romantic gestures at first.

She said: “They don’t threaten criticise, yell or exert their physical strength in increasingly frightening ways.

“Not at the start. Not when they think you’re sweet, funny and gorgeous. Not when they turn up to your third date with chocolates, then jewellery.

“Not when they meet your friends, or the leader of your political party.”

Over time she said the verbal intimidation had become more intense, and there were periods of time when her partner would not speak to her at all.

She claimed he had also moved into her home and had become reliant on her financially, never disclosing his own salary or contributing to bills, and eventually not working at all.

She said: “You learn that ‘I’ll always look after you’ and ‘You’re mine for life’ can sound menacing, are used as a warning over and over again.

“It’s when the ring is on your finger that the mask can start to slip and the promises sound increasingly like threats.”

Among the emotional knocks to her confidence were comments like “Your dress was too short” or “The top you wore in the chamber was too low-cut.”

Some of the most harrowing detail was her account of a surprise weekend break. She said: “In a strange city his face changes in a way you are starting to know and dread. In a way that tells you, you need to stay calm, silent and very careful.

“You read a city guide … mentally packing a day full of fun. But he seems to have another agenda.

“He doesn’t want you to leave the room. He’s paid a lot of money and you need to pay him your full attention. You are expected to do as you are told. You know for certain what that means, so you do, exactly what you are told.

“Those patterns continue: reward, punishment, promises of happy ever after, alternating with abject rage, menace, silent treatment and coercive control.”

Eventually the abuse spilled out in public, with him shouting at her at constituency events, which she said was extremely humiliating.

For two weeks she timed the moment he took a shower and one morning took his house keys from his bag so that night he was locked out of her house, ending the relationship.

She finished her account, in which colleagues sat in absolute silence, saying: “You realise it’s not your fault. He is left alone with his rage and narcissism.

“If anyone is watching and needs a friend, please reach out if it safe to do so and please talk to any of us, because we will be there and hold your hand.”

Labour’s Harriet Harman said: “What she said just now will save lives. We are incredibly proud of her.”

The domestic abuse bill will for the first time include economic control and manipulative non-physical abuse within definitions of domestic abuse.


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domestic violence can be deadly...

The pregnant ex-partner of Daniel King, the man who was shot dead by police in Penrith last night, claims she had previously warned officers he had threatened her.

Key points: 
  • Stacey Taylor claims her family were sent screenshots of texts by Daniel King of plans to have her attacked
  • Ms Taylor said she contacted police about the threats, but no action was taken
  • The NSW Attorney-General said her claims would be investigated and domestic violence threats should always be reported


Stacey Taylor, 32, who is 27 weeks pregnant with King's child, said she went to police after seeing text messages in August that he wanted to have the baby killed.

"The threats were saying that he actually hired a hit person to bash me and stab me in the stomach to make me lose my baby so I wasn't pregnant anymore," she told reporters.

King last night used a shotgun to fire at Ms Taylor's Marayong home, and two police stations in Sydney's west.

Police eventually shot him dead outside Penrith Police Station about 9:30pm.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman, who is also the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, said Ms Taylor's claims would be investigated.

Ms Taylor claims the messages had been forwarded on social media to her mother from King's new partner at the time. 

She said she and her mother called triple zero when they saw the correspondence.


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men don't cry...

Welcome to the Men's Rights Activists Seething Divorced Resentful Fathers Support Group


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lawyers at ten paces...

My pastor recently told me that 25 years ago, the first person that people would contact when they faced a marriage crisis was their pastor. Ten years ago, he continued, it was their counselor or psychiatrist. Today, it’s their lawyers.

A recent study conducted by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago concurs. “Doctors, teachers, members of the military,” and scientists are, according to the survey, esteemed “more positively than clergy.” Among infrequent churchgoers, clergy are viewed as negatively as lawyers. (For the record, that last line came from a member of our editorial team who’s been admitted to the bar in two states.)

As my pastor observed, the declining respect for clergy is a trend both in and out of the church, including among those who attend church frequently. While 75 percent of churchgoers “hold clergy in high regard,” they aren’t as positive when it comes to personal attributes and character qualities of their clergy. Barely half consider clergy to be trustworthy, and only slightly more regard them as “honest and intelligent.”

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Note: Gus is a fierce atheist... 


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in need of protection...




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subservience due to religious beliefs...

Complementarian theology is a way "to keep women in their place”. It is a source of controversy with the various Churches and in some secular organisations alike. 

So some women preacher take the case, especially in regard to abuse, domestic violence and submissive attitude demanded of women.  

We thus can only recognise the value of such search for “emancipation”, even from a religious perspective, though most of the tenets of religion are male dominated...



Bible teacher Beth Moore has said that while complementarian theology does not necessarily cause abuse in the Church, having too few women in power has directly contributed to the sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention.

On Thursday, the founder of Living Proof Ministries delivered a message titled “The Courage to Confront the Crisis of Abuse in the Church” at the Caring Well conference hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

She began by asking the question of whether “complementarian” theology – the idea that women have distinct roles in the family and church and are forbidden from holding certain offices in the church – is to blame for the abuse crisis within the SBC. 

“The answer’s 'no,'” she said. “Sin and gross selfishness in the human heart cause abuse. Demonic influences cause abuse.”

"However,” she continued, “has a culture prevalent in various circles of the SBC formed and burgeoned out of it contributed to it? Absolutely, and heavily.”

Moore argued that the world is watching to see if Southern Baptists will deal with “what they believe is the biggest elephant in the room.”

Complementarian theology, Moore explained, became “such a high, core value, that it inadvertently ... became elevated above the safety and well-being of many women.

“So high a core value has it become that in much of our world complementarian theology is now conflated with inerrancy,” she stressed. “Case in point: notice how often our world charges or dismisses egalitarians by saying they have a low view of Scripture because unless they think like us about complementarian theology they do not honor the word of God.”


Complementarianism is a theological view in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam,[1] that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. The word "complementary" and its cognates are currently used[2] to denote this view. For Christians whose complementarian view is biblically-prescribed, these separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the community.[3][4] Though women may be precluded from certain roles and ministries they are held to be equal in moral value and of equal status. The phrase used to describe this is 'Ontologically equal, Functionally different'.[5]

Complementarians assign primary headship roles to men and support roles to women—based on their interpretation of certain biblical passages. One of the precepts of complementarianism is that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.

The main contrasting viewpoints are egalitarianism which maintains positions of authority and responsibility in marriage, religion, business, and elsewhere should be equally available to females as well as males, and 'male chauvinism', a generalized bias that in most situations men are of significantly greater value than women.

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Here we should revisit the cathars, who during the early Middle Ages, valued equality between women and men.
Note: Gus is an egalitarian and in order to achieve this in our unequal social system supports feminism. Gus is a fierce atheist. Thank you.
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male violence in australia...

Last month, eight women died as the result of male violence in Australia. Five were within one week. In six of the cases, the alleged perpetrator was a current or former partner.

These figures seem all too familiar. This time last year, seven of the nine women allegedly killed by a male perpetrator were in the context of an intimate relationship. 

And like this time last year, media coverage, national and political outcry remained relatively limited.

But there's another side to the crisis of women being killed by an abusive partner or ex-partner that remains somewhat invisible in national conversations. In most of these cases, the women killed were mothers.

While children remain physically unharmed in many intimate partner homicides, they experience trauma and abandonment. All face the loss of the victim parent who also tends to be their protector and primary carer.


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the wrong burger...

angry white male

A fast food producer in Belgium has apologised after posting an ad on social media showing a man punching a woman for handing him the wrong burger.

Bicky Burger posted the comic-book image on Facebook on Tuesday featuring a man striking a woman with the words: "Serious, a fake Bicky?"

Belgian politicians said the ad was "sickening" and "irresponsible".

Goodlife Foods, the Dutch food producer behind Bicky Burger, later said it "regretted" the post and deleted it.

"We had no intention of inciting violence," the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Belgium's Jury of Ethical Advertising (JEP) said it had received hundreds of complaints within hours of the ad appearing on Facebook.

Two politicians responsible for gender equality in Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region called on the advertising body to investigate. 

Bénédicte Linard, vice-president of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation - a political entity that covers women's rights, culture and education - said it was "totally irresponsible" to trivialise domestic violence.

She wrote in a tweet that 18,000 domestic violence complaints had been registered with the federation in 2016.


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change password, get a new supplier or the police...

Natasha Malmstrom says she is onto her sixth smartphone after her ex-partner managed to track her down via the five previous devices.

Key points:
  • The Brisbane Domestic Violence Service hands out 50 phones a month to women fleeing abusive partners
  • The eSafetyWomen program says technology is involved in almost all DV cases
  • Brisbane spyware expert has found GPS trackers in cars, devices and even children's toys


The 34-year-old says she now anxiously waits with bated breath for him to call or text on her new phone, having been stalked via Facebook, iCloud and social media for the past six years.

"It is frustrating, it is anxiety-provoking and it is scary," she said.

"I am constantly on high alert wondering when he is going to turn up and what he is going to do next."

The Brisbane woman says every time her phone pings she has a panic attack.

"That ding could be a threat, it literally makes me sick.

"You feel as though you have gained a freedom then you are just dragged back in again."

Ms Malmstrom says the stalking via technology started in 2013 after their relationship broke down the year before.

"He had set up our phones as a couple at the same time, so he knew all the passwords," she said.


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evangelical violence...

Jane* was a member of Australia's evangelical Christian community, and throughout her marriage she heard many sermons on honouring a husband's authority.

These sermons focused on a wife submitting to her husband's authority in everything, from finances to where and when she worked. He was to be respected as head of the family, because this was "God's plan".

For three decades, Jane's husband abused her under the guise of this notion of authority. He isolated her, denied her money and the use of a car. He yelled at her, kicked and punched her, told her she was mad and threatened to kill her.


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