Why gender matters: balancing support for mothers and fathers after family separation

In the midst of what is actually a momentous time of change in family separation politics I thought it might be useful to revisit the things that we have been saying at the Centre for Separated Families for the past decade or more.  The kind of things that we have long ago grown tired of saying but the kind of things that are, actually, the nuts and bolts of the changes that will bring better outcomes for children living in separated family situations.  I was reminded of the need to say these things again by a post on Pink Tape about a young parents project in Bristol and a discussion about whether or not dads were being left out of the loop.  Being pedantic, as I often am, I could not help but post that it takes more than a picture of a dad and a mention of a contact centre to make young dads feel included and as if the door to services is open to them.  The response was that a page on the website is now being dedicated to dads, its not everything that they could be doing to make dad feel at home, but its a darned sight more than was going on before.

I too often forget that the roots of our work at the Centre for Separated Families lie in gender analysis and our understanding of the ways in which use of this and other gender mainstreaming tools can and do deliver the most astonishing outcomes.  In the early days of our use of these tools, we increased the use, by dads, of one of our drop in services by a whopping 19% in one year.  These days the use of our services are more or less balanced with around 49% use by dads and 51% use by mums.  Our specialist services are even more evenly balanced, with engagement with 52% dads and 48% mums and our advice and information services come out at around 54% dads and 46% mums.

Our aim, in using gender mainstreaming tools to plan and deliver our services is to ensure that mothers and fathers are enabled to access the services that they need to carry out their ongoing responsibilities for their children.  In the culture that we are currently working in, this means that we have to plan for delivery of more specialist services for fathers, because it is father that currently face the highest barriers to carrying out those responsibilities.  I have written on many occasion about the barriers that fathers face, written as they are into the legislation that governs family separation in this country.  Thankfully, the government are, now, in the process of unpicking that legislation and in doing so it is possible to see just how gender biased this has been in the past.

Take child maintenance for instance.  The Child Support Agency, brought into being in the early nineties, was an agency that was created in order to alleviate the burden on the state, of the financial responsibility for supporting single mothers.  Those single mothers, were enabled to make choices about their parenthood outside of a financially supportive relationship, because of the legislation that divorced them from having to depend upon the father of their children.  The feminist academics of this world, who created that legislation, deliberately stitched gender bias into it, the whole basis of which was to enable women to live free of dependency upon men.  When Mrs Thatcher and her government identified that the burden on the state was too great, the Child Support Agency was the remedy of choice and punishment of fathers, for being reckless and feckless enough to impregnate and then leave the mother of their children, was the media hype that brought the CSA into being.

These days the Child Maintenance Commission looks like a very different organisation.  From the reforms that were identified by David Henshaw’s review in 2006 to current day commitments by government to invest in services that support parents to collaborate and make their own agreements, the responsibility is being transferred back from the state to parents themselves.  And despite all of the resistance from the organisations concerned with mothers’  rights, this government has never wavered from the objective of shifting the focus from punishing one parent on behalf of the other to supporting parents to collaborate.  Gender balance, in reform of child maintenance is, from our perspective, absolutely right and when analysed through a gender lens, demonstrates that balance is being brought back into play through ensuring that the different needs of mothers and fathers are recognised and met.

An area where gender analysis would be really useful is the family courts.  Long heralded as delivering gender biased outcomes by fathers groups, the family courts are a fine example of gender blind service delivery.  CAFCASS, responsible as they are for frontline services, should, in our view, be routinely collecting gender disagreggated statistics about the numbers of mothers and fathers that they work with and the outcomes that their services deliver for those parents.  This is not about ensuring that decisions about children’s relationships with their mother and father are equal in some way or even that mothers and fathers get the same treatment. It is about ensuring that all frontline workers understand that the legislation, cultural expectations and service delivery to fathers is different to that experienced by mothers.  A gender analysis of family court outcomes would collect the statistical evidence that is often argued over by the parental rights organisations and would allow us to see how the decisions that are made, reflect the realities of the lives that separated families live in this country.  Gender budgeting would ensure that CAFCASS can match the needs of the families that they work with to their staffing levels and it would also ensure that the kind of discrimination faced by too many dads in our country would end tomorrow. The kind of discrimination faced by Gareth, one of the dads we have been working with recently.

Gareth and his partner Shannon separated two years ago, they have two children aged seven and three. Gareth works in local government, Shannon is a Library Manager, both are educated and they are home owners in a reasonable income bracket.

Prior to the separation, Shannon had repeatedly threatened Gareth with physical violence and told him that if he moved out of the house, he would never see his children again.  When Gareth walked through our door it was clear that he was a) terrified of Shannon and b) terrified he would not see his children again.  Despite that however, he was determined that he would leave Shannon because in the very recent past she had burned his hand with an iron in an argument over money.

We worked with Gareth throughout his journey and prepared him for the difficult road ahead.  What we didn’t know was that Gareth was about to undergo the stereotypical journey, an almost identikit journey to that of so many fathers that we hear from.

Gareth and Shannon agreed that they would separate after a long and difficult weekend in which he managed to tell her that he wanted their relationship to end before he was seriously hurt.  Shannon laughed off his fear of her as being ridiculous and taunted him with threats to call the police and accuse him of domestic violence.  At the end of a tortuous weekend however, it was Shannon who moved out to her mother’s house, taking the children with her.  Before she did so however, she did call the police and she told them that Gareth was throwing her out of the house.

Six weeks later and Shannon has reported Gareth to the police on fourteen different occasions and has also managed to blacken his eye, break one of his fingers and attack him with a garden spade.  On each occasion, it was Gareth who was arrested and Gareth who was labelled the domestic violence perpetrator.  Shannon now has a collection of domestic violence workers visiting her on a regular basis and has already applied for a non molestation order on an ex parte basis, this eventually being thrown out of court by a Judge who appeared to see right through her.

Twenty weeks later and Social Services are involved with a full Child Protection Conference being convened.  Shannon has alleged sexual abuse of the children, Gareth’s time with his children is stopped, further investigations show that no such abuse has taken place.

Fifty weeks later Shannon shows up at Gareth’s house whilst the children are in his care, she is drunk and trying to get the children to go back to her home with her.  She accuses Gareth of being domestically violent towards her because he has persisted in court in his application for parenting time with the children.  The Freedom Programme is mentioned as evidence that he is abusing Shannon by taking her control over the children away from her.  Gareth calls the police when Shannon launches a roof tile at his car window, the police arrive and once again it is Gareth who is arrested.

Two and a half years later CAFCASS are involved and Shannon is asking for the parenting time arrangements to be changed yet again.  Gareth is hanging on to his health and well being by the skin of his teeth now, if it was not for the support that we have offered him things would be over and done with by now.  He remarks on several occasions that he is unsurprised by the oft quoted figure of 40% of fathers losing touch with their children after separation, how could they stay the course he wonders, we wonder how he has managed to survive this far and how much more he has the strength to cope with.

Gareth is one of the statistics that Liz Trinder, that very useful academic, wheels out on occasions where change in the family courts is being discussed.  Gareth is one of the 10% oft quoted as ending up in court and more than that, he is in the 1% involved in ongoing litigation.  Liz, as F4J have recently been pointing out, is convinced that these cases are absolutely those where dad is dangerous.

Far from being dangerous, Gareth has sustained several injuries to his person and several years of emotional, mental and psychological battering.  His experience however is unrecorded and remains invisible.  Where gender awareness should be, Gareth has been faced with gender bias, from the police who arrive at a ‘domestic’ and assume that the man is the perpetrator, to the social worker who assumes that Gareth’s desire to care for his children half of each week is evidence that he is a ‘dominator’.  Finally, CAFCASS arrive on the scene and instead of careful analysis and attention, a wishes and feelings report is commissioned which tells them all they need to know, the children want to live with their mum and time with dad is not really working for them.

The government have recently announced their consultation on the issue of changing the children act and this has lead to disappointment amongst father’s groups who will, I imagine, recognise Gareth’s journey as their own.  The disappointment seems to lie in the fact that the government have not, in the case of care for children, acted with the same degree of determination that has been shown in the reform of financial support for children.  In this arena too however, there is an opportunity for gender mainstreaming to be brought into play in ways that could immediately rectify the gender bias inherent in our service delivery and the appalling discrimination that is being meted out on a daily basis to dads like Gareth.

Gender mainstreaming in the arena of care for children would focus upon the services that support separated families and would ensure that the different experiences of mothers and fathers are recognised and met. It wouldn’t take a great deal of time, effort or cost to implement the same kind of gender mainstreaming that has underpinned the reform of the child maintenance system. And it would eradicate the kind of practice that leads to a male victim of domestic violence being arrested for reporting it and the kind of practice that assumes that dads are perpetrators simply for wanting to care for their children as well as provide for them after separation.

At the Centre for Separated Families we have been saying the same thing for the past twelve years.  Gender neutral services deliver gender biased outcomes.  Equality is not about treating mothers and fathers the same, it is about acknowledging and meeting their different needs, enabling them to overcome different barriers and about helping them to stay engaged with all of their parenting responsibilities after separation.

Whilst some fathers groups remain disappointed, there is in fact a real opportunity now to reform our family courts and our family services to ensure that whatever the change to the children act, the cultural change that is required to prevent other dads going on Gareth’s journey is brought into being.  Our contact with men and boys organisations show us that it is clear that much is going on to ensure that gender equality is being fought for  and it is vital now that we keep the pressure on for continued reform.

In other countries gender mainstreaming is a part of life and, in the UK, we should be utilising these tools on a routine basis to ensure that mothers and fathers can continue to remain engaged with their children before and after separation.  With that kind of work going on, Gareth might just survive and hang on to his relationship with his children.  Gender matters in family separation and it takes more than a picture of dad and a contact centre to ensure that dads like Gareth, who is absolutely not a Liz Trinder version of dad, but an ordinary, everyday kind of dad, can keep on keeping on despite being invisible, despite being frightened, bullied and silenced.

This is not about fathers’ rights and its not about mothers’ rights either, it is about gender equality and the different things that men and women need in order to keep on being the best parents that they can be.  When we get that right, we will get the balance right for mothers and for fathers like Gareth and most of all, for the children they are responsible for.


  1. Wow powerful, hits the mark, Karen I take my hat off to you, the journey you have taken on behalf of the children that need both caring parents to be involved in their lives post separation is an example of selfless and dedicated motivation to make a real difference to our society
    I just wish we could just fast forward to the fair and equitable end result for the sake of those children that would otherwise suffer at the hands of feckless parents who would wantanly abuse the system and process for their own foul reasons
    Give protection to those children genuinely at risk from harm of one or other of the parents, but be vigorous in the pursuit of bringing to justice those parents who stoop to the very low levels of making false and malicious accusations without any evidential proof whatsoever
    Shame on the system who takes unsubstantiated claims at face value without looking into any factual evidential basis


    1. Hi Russ, surprisingly that journey was kicked off by Oxfam, they funded us to use gender analysis in relation to our work with families and we took that further and analysed the policies and practice that surround family separation. That was in 1998/99 and its taken us all that time to really get people to listen to what we are saying.

      The thing is that it took decades to get race equality into institutions like the Police, it took the Stephen Lawrence enquiry to really tackle the issue of institutionalised racism. We would say that institutionalised gender discrimination is also present within police practices and it is most certainly present in family services and CAFCASS. We just have to keep on saying it and saying it and saying it again. Equality in family separation does not mean treating mothers and fathers the same, it means understanding the different blocks and barriers to their ongoing parenting choices and responsibilities and meeting the different needs to help parents overcome those.

      And education in our family services and, if we can ever knock the CAFCASS wall down, in CAFCASS itself, is critical. We could, if we were given access to CAFCASS staff, turn around their practice in one hour with one simple exercise that illuminates the issue. Problem is that CAFCASS don’t believe they need education on the issue of gender, they think they have it all sewn up.

      One day though. K


  2. Good Morning Karen,
    Yesterday I posted on my blog a response I received a while ago,when I was setting up the support group, from someone in high office at The Church of England, and when you read his comment it makes you realise how entrenched this awful stereotypical reaction is.
    I think you may have a fighting chance of getting a support group off the
    ground, though I doubt in the current climate that a change in Family Law
    is tenable because of the governments proper pre-occupation with
    protecting children from harmful adults. Sadly, as you will know, there
    is a fairly well established body of evidence which shows that most child
    abuse takes place within families and in the past this has involved
    grandparents (usually grandfathers).



    1. I very naive view I feel. So is this man saying that all grandfathers (and why single out grandfathers rather than fathers) are a potential risk to their grandchildren and in which case, they should be routinely rounded up and made to take psychometric tests to verify their threat level or was he saying that it was the grandfathers on wither the mother’s side or father’s side that where a potential threat and how in hells name could he justifiably quantify the risk to each group.
      No lets lump everyone in under the same banner, you are male therefore you are a risk.
      Now let me see, the number of clergy (all male?) that have posed a risk to children because of their sexual orientation (i.e. wanting to sexually abuse children) has been found to be?
      And of course by definition, the man saying this statement was male and therefore when he became a grandparent was a risk to children or at least his make descendants children.
      Bloody hypocrite


  3. Jane, the thing that puzzles me most about all this is this:

    let’s say we were to go with the stereotype and assume that most abuse of children comes from men in the family (grandfathers, fathers, uncles), then does family separation make these men more likely to act abusively? If not then why hasn’t the Government just made it law that no male relatives are allowed near children, full-stop, until they have proved their worthiness, safety, innocence? Why doesn’t the Government automatically decree, upon the birth of a child, a ‘probation period’ for all male relatives so that they can investigate and be sure these men won’t abuse that child? If we are going to protect children, surely we must protect them whether they are in an intact family unit or a separated one.

    Otherwise, what the sterotype must be saying is that family separation brings the child abuser out of a man and so that is when we must be most careful of them.

    Whichever way you look at it, it’s ridiculous and set up by those who wish to keep control AFTER family separation.


    1. Anotherfather,

      The stereotype is built upon the notion that all fathers and grandfathers are dangerous and should that there should be automatic barriers placed in the way of fathering and grandfathering after family separation because of the lack of female supervision that this causes. And yes, the stereotype is predicated upon the fact that legislation is designed in such a way that it places control over children after separation into the hands of women whilst men have to ask for/fight for permission to be allowed to continue to be involved with their children. If you unpick the legislation it is designed to do exactly what it delivers – give mothers control and put fathers at a distance.

      Classical discrimination in action.



      1. Bingo.
        There is an unwritten rule in play that gives the parent with majority care the de-facto control of the decision making process (normally the mother)
        Now the courts get away with being labelled biased as to gender by wrapping their speak round terminology such as “parent with care” “resident parent”, “non resident parent” etc. which innocuously enough looks and sounds unbiased as to gender. However the real unwritten rule is revealed in how they deal differently to fathers and mothers transgressing the rules.
        Fathers are cast out with the sodomites, mothers given chance after chance after chance.
        We cannot see the unwritten rule but we can see it’s effects, therefore there must be some tacit belief amongst the judiciary that that is the way it should be and that’s that, now what I want to know is how is a new judge entering the system indoctrinated to its ways, what school does he go to or does he come already armed with the inbuilt biased unwritten rule etched into his decision making process by virtue of the way the legal system is structured, lawyer first judge second and no real training in the art of Judiciary.
        So what I am really saying is where, in the legal system is this stuff taught?


      2. well its taught as part of our societal norms and because it is unchallenged (as racism used to be) it just goes on and on and on. There is also this thing going on with gender discrimination against men that they can’t really be discriminated against because they hold more power in the world than women. That again is another form of institutionalised bias.

        Institutionalised racism works like this. A black man drives a BMW and gets stopped because he must be a drug dealer. know else could a black man afford to drive a BMW? A white man drives a BMW and no-one blinks, that’s because it is an expectation that white men make money and drive big cars.

        Institutionalised gender discrimination against men works like this. A report goes in to social services about a child being abused. The report is made by the father of the child. An investigation assumes that the father has made the report maliciously because he is a dominator and wants to cause trouble for the mother. Nothing happens other than the father’s time with his children is stopped.

        Another report goes to social services about a child being abused. The report is made by the mother of the child. An investigation is immediately launched into the father’s behaviour and his time with his child is stopped because he is a man and therefore dangerous to his child.

        That’s how you get outcomes like Baby P. Gender blind practice that delivers gender biased outcomes and puts children at risk and in some cases causes their death.

        But just like domestic violence, abuse by mothers is not ‘real’ abuse. Mothers who kill kids are mad whilst fathers who kill kids are bad. There is an outcry when dad jumps off the balcony with his kids in his arms and silence when a mother stabs three kids to death because she can’t stand the idea of shared care. Which of the two is worse than the other? Neither, they are both the same and they both kill kids and we could stop such tragedies if we mainstreamed some gender aware and respectful practices into our family courts and family services.


  4. Hi Karen, Like Bobtboo7 says a very good article indeed and does sum the situation up. i know how Gareth s feeling and my heart goes out to him along with all the other dads in the same boat. Its a very sad time for him right now as he’s only been in this situation 2.5 years i pray that at least he gets some normality within his own family circle and it soon settles down to a routine for the children. since my case has been 12 years in the making with never being any routine that was good for our children due to the bias family courts and cafcass and a bitter ex who has been hell bent on destroying any meaningful relationship i had with the children. i now feel my own story is coming to a close as my eldest child is of an age to seek her own solicitor and judging how she feels about this contact blocking by her mother, i shall be advising her to seek her own solicitor to put a stop to the systematical abuse of her right to see her father, my case is similar to that of Gareth’s and since the last court appearance i fear i may have lost the battle with my son as no one seams to be bothered that he is expressing hatred towards his dad and i may of said this before to you but i’m at the time frustrated as to what to do because he has no justification or reason to hate me i always treated them the same he is younger than my daughter by two years and spends most of his time with mum so is been in a position to have been brainwashed which is what i feel has happened. I have emailed the courts and pointed this out but i think it will fall on deaf ears they are just not equipped to deal with these kind of issues. in court this woman is cool as a cucumber butter wouldn’t melt but behind closed doors she is volatile at the very least and worse case scenario a Narcissistic Parental Alienator with Borderline personality, this fits with the childhood she had it also fit with the way she can manipulate the courts and cafcass and anyone else for that matter as she fooled me for 6 years in those 6 years i had the “walking on egg shells” feeling i say its very close to PDSD even after i had the strength to not go back to her in 2007 i continue to suffer whenever i had to talk to her i would sweat profusely and shake uncontrollably this was another reason i had to pull away in 2009 to try and sort myself out, i know it was probably not the best thing for our children but i feel i had to change so i didn’t react in the way i did whenever i heard her voice. thankfully i continued to have contact with my daughter over fb but sadly it seamed my son refused fb contact to keep mum happy and so i haven’t seen or spoke to my son in two now nearly three years. i’m sure he doesn’t hate me but is aliened to his mum’s thinking and is expressing her feelings and i just don’t know how to tackle this problem without the court thinking i’m counter attacking, as i’m hit with a continuous barrage of new allegations each time i turn up for the hearings, i believe this is called “projection” a way of shining the spot light on the target parent to evade from her own demeanor’s thus bringing in to question my integrity as a good parent these allegations have not been proved but on the “balance of probability standard” its damaging none the less, its awful to think that my only save in grace is my 14 year old daughter who has continually demanded to see me i quote the word demand as it was the word the cafcass guardian used when she said that is how my daughter felt about contact seemingly as if she had no choice but to demand that contact took place its was due to this word that i realized cafcass was not acting in the best interests of the children she had been duped into believing the mothers story’s and hence the reason why my daughter had demanded to see her dad.
    what i would like to see happen in the near future is the recognition of PAS or PA to be placed into the DSM-V i understand there are reasons for and against why it should be placed in the book but i think that if things are left as they are things will only get worse in this country, i believe this syndrome is recognized in the USA has has gone a long way to rectify the issue relating parental hatred towards the other parent. i read somewhere that it was being considered in June this year for the entry into the DSM-V.

    Thank for your brilliant article again and thanks for listening to us ranters too 😉

    Stephen Callard


    1. Hi Stephen, rant away I know how bad it is for some dads and their kids and it is important that people understand that its not just one or two, this is going on all the time on a wider scale than people believe. PA isn’t going to be in the DSM-V unfortunately but we are starting to raise awareness of it now and as you know I do a lot of work around the issue with families. Best wishes K


    2. Why? Why would one parent be so bent on destroying a relationship of another parent with their children?!? This I simply cannot understand… Why? Why?


  5. “Gender neutral services deliver gender biased outcomes.”

    A brilliant use of 7 words.

    Gareth’s journey is very similar to mine, not in every detail, but generally. I too have been falsely arrested for similar reasons. What is more sinister is that police officers themselves (who have found themselves similarly shut out of the lives of their children) have since openly come out and claimed that the police especially thrive on these cases because it is an easy way to fulfill their arrest quotas, and justify the public funding of the forces. I’m not sure if that is true, but I would not be surprised. So it seems that gender discrimination against dads in society is compounded and complicated by all sorts of other pressures that have to do with funding and finance.

    This is certainly the case with Woman’s Aid, which as we all know started with good intentions, and then got twisted into an organization that preys on women like Shannon and exploits them like pawns in a game. They program all the moves for Shannon, so that Shannon just becomes another statistic used to apply pressure on the government for more funding. Where does the real domestic violence lie, I wonder???

    Speaking of domestic violence, if it is anywhere near the problem that certain organizations claim it is, does this not suggest that the systematic exclusion of fathers from the lives of their children over the last half century is directly responsible for a new generation of domestic abusers, both female and male? Something to think about perhaps? Maybe if they had a more morally exemplary upbringing with strong involvement of both mom and dad (gay or not gay), they would not be the domestic abusers that they are.


    1. Karen, how do we apply these principles of gender analysis and gender mainstreaming to our own individual court cases so we can get the court to consider the issues more fairly? It is uncanny how many of the events that befell Gareth are so common to us all. And I have police CJ Arrestee status too – although I’m suing them for unlawful arrest as I suggest many fathers do too. Some of the actions of state agencies are truly obnoxious.


  6. The only reason I haven’t sued the police yet is because I just haven’t had any time, having prioritized my kid first. But I did get my complaint in, and discussed it with my MP – something that all dads should also be doing.

    Paul – in terms of gender analysis, all you really need to do is look at each aspect of family law in isolation and think about what its implications are for men and women, fathers and mothers. And think about the preconceptions or assumptions that are being made, and which have become normalized. So, for instance, think back to when your children were first born, and how involved you were made to feel. Chances are, like me, you were regarded as dispensable by health visitors and the like, who talked to mom but not you. It is not that the health visitors are plain nasty of course; that is just how they have been told to do their job, and most would rather chill out after hours rather than actually reflect on the gender mainstreaming that they are contributing to….

    As for taking this into the courtroom, I wouldn’t bother. Judges are not interested in it; they are looking to how they can make their jobs simpler, not more complex. Unfortunately, simpler often means cutting out dads or demoting them to visitors in the lives of their children, and this task is all the easier when you have moms slinging lots of mud around.


  7. at the moment its about tackling gender discrimination on a case by case basis so it is essential to tackle the police if you are wrongly arrested and it is essential to go to your MP and tell them what is happening to you.

    It is generally for the organisations who represent dads and mums and families going through separation to tackle the institutionalised gender discrimination in family services. I despair a bit at the haplessness in this arena though little bursts of it are coming through and there are drives to tackle it in the DV arena for example, its about linking it up and pushing for change together.



  8. What is important to understand is that the organisations that represent mothers get millions to do their work and they have banks of researchers all producing report after report and asserting that this is the ‘truth’.

    Fathers organisations on the other hand have very little in the way of cash, very little in the way of research function and very little in the way of ‘credibility’ by which I mean the ability to make people listen.

    Also, the whole arena is gendered in that when women speak about issues to do with family separation they will do it in a particular way, persuading, talking, writing, pleading, using evidence of harm done to women and children which is always the killer trump card.

    Men on the other hand will often climb up things, hang off things, shout a lot, stamp their feet, be generally loud and aggressive about the issue, and their voices are then dismissed as being evidence of how bad dads are and why we should not let them near kids unsupervised.

    Actually, there is a whole post in this issue itself. I am hugely interested in the way in which mothers and fathers organisations go about the debate, which remains polarised around a parental rights argument. From our perspective the debate does not need to be polarised, it is actually about gender equality, which does not mean treating men and women the same but means meeting their different needs for support in the lives that they lead as men and women.

    In terms of how you gender mainstream your own case in the court process, difficult to say other than to be able to point to evidence that shows that your case is not an isolated one. A piece of research that you would hope an organisation representing dads would be to gather the evidence of cases like Gareth’s and analyse them through a gender lens. Can’t see the Fatherhood Institute doing it, they are far too focused on the mother as dominant parent and father as secondary resource model, but someone like Glen Poole of the Mens Network or Mankind Initiative might take it on.

    I am going to be doing some work with both in the months to come, perhaps a gender and parenting study group might be the way forward. That’s the thing, unless we get up and do it, we will be waiting a long time for it to happen. The women’s organisations thrive because they are rooted in activism and doing. The drive to change things has to be brought to fruition by doing the practical work underneath that brings change.

    Off now to develop a gender and parenting study group spec and gather some folks to get it going! Anyone interested, drop me a line. K


    1. Karen, I agree with you on the differences in communication styles being very important. However, I also think that the gender stereotyping in society in general affects the way any communication is percieved. Thus everytime we hear of abused women it fits in with the general belief that women are sometimes victims of domestic abuse and we will tend to believe what we are told. However, if you suggest that a man is a victim this does not fit the stereotyping and is met with disbelief, thus you need to be far more persuasive, have far more evidence etc before anyone will listen.

      As an example I remember tea brake at work some years back in my then female dominated workplace. Discussion fell on domestic violence and I brought out some recently published statistics on the number of men and women experiencing domestic violence. I was told in no uncertain terms that there is no such thing as male victims of domestic violence. This lot of very well educated women were quite happy to believe the statistics presented for women but not statistics gathered as part of the same study for men.


      1. I know that one Kat – recent training delivery from CSF to early years sector – stats on DV are shown and someone says ‘oh I would have to be challenging that’…on discussion it emerged that the consensus in the room is that male violence against women = ‘real’ domestic violence female violence against men = self defence….. we then have to take people on another journey of self awareness to get them to a place where they can shed the brainwashing of the past decades on what domestic violence actually is and who suffers it. Its a HUGE problem and because DV is common in family separation we have to tackle it. K


      2. Kat, the article you posted below in the “Independent today” is dated Nov 12th 2000. It is interesting nevertheless and the final sentence which talks of the attitude that “There is a sense now that it’s OK to ‘slap the bastard'” is an attitude I encounter only too often amongst women and one that, I believe, pretty much epitomises the issues we are faced with around the subject of Domestic Abuse by women on men.


      3. Hi Kat, there is a wonderful lady called Erin Pizzey, whose work I am sure Karen is aware of, and she opened the first Women’s Aid refuge in Chiswick in the 70’s and claims that she learned very quickly that women are prone to violent behaviour and abuse towards their children as well as men etc.

        Her story is very, very interesting and colourful and she does some fantastic work. Anyway, she wrote an article in the Daily Mail in 2007 which I thought you might find interesting.



      4. Thanks for that, nice to read something that makes sense. I firmly believe that the attitude that domestic violence is innocent female victims and male aggressors as well as using definitions that makes almost any relationship abusive, is damaging to victims of both genders. Men because they find it hard to be taken seriously and women because when almost anyone is a victim of domestic abuse it can be equally hard to be understood.


    2. Karen I’m interested in that group, I have lots of (uneducated?/unbiased) ideas that are born from my observations of life people, their habits and their motivations
      For instance, if I where a woman and I joined an “activist” type of (women’s) group, I would be driven by the reason that I wanted to join. Therefore almost my whole raison detra would depend on that major driver
      I am also convinced that our genetic coding given to us via evolution could or even must have an influence on our basic sub conscious actions when put in certain circumstances. These actions and reactions would, of course, be covered by our mask identity and with other social interactions and expectations from our peers colour our day to day lives. However our root psychology would remain largely unaffected and if it fails to serve us (or our family post separation) well can be the root of untold misery for the target parent or group
      With regard to gender and parenting, I think that there are signs within a relationship that bookmark the potential “troublemakers” and but for the fact that the other parent either does not notice the signs or chooses to ignore them, the die is already cast for the future
      Those parents that make up the 10/20% of the population that can’t find a compromise post separation must, in some particular way, look at their world differently than those parents who can come to an understanding
      I have a theory and I call it the “route to conflict in post family separation” this theory is quite simple and it is frighteningly simple and it has predicts that that there are only two types of people who end up in court (albeit excepting the genuine cases of (including potential) harm that do exist)
      I can share my musings if it would be of any interest, it is probably stuff you already know but I approach things from an “amature” point of view so my thoughts are untainted by mainstream programmed thinking, in my opinion.
      Great blogs still


  9. Hi Karen,

    I was recently interviewed by a very nice, and smart, lady who is doing PHD research into Domestic Abuse perpetrated by women on men, and specifically the male experience. Her hypothesis is that it’s about 50/50 i.e. 50% men abuse women and 50% women abuse men. I endured 3 years of mostly emotional and psychological abuse. I’m not crying ‘victim’ as I was not faultless myself (although never physical) but I was definitely the more rational and more balanced of the 2 of us. I think that in many “abusive” relationships that are reported as such through Women’s Aid/Cafcass etc. in a Court process, it was probably a 2 way street and just a dysfunctional, co-dependent and unhealthy relationship and yet the woman manages to create the impression that she was the innocent victim and he was the monster. It sometimes is this way but I reckon that is the extreme and there is the other extreme too, that the PHD student is doing research on. The majority of cases are probably in the grey area that I describe above.

    Anyway, this PHD student is a hero in my books as it is exactly this type of work that is needed and the men’s groups are not doing it, even though there are many within who are able and willing but the leaders block it and I get the feeling it would spoil the party for them in some way, if they allowed this sort of evidence through. One group in particular seems to be led by someone who has absolutely no experience whatsoever of the family courts and so doesn’t even believe that there is a problem, so their work is more like just a job rather than something they believe in with all their being (the way you and I do). In fact I would go as far as to say that they think we are all just a bunch of angry dads who are bitter and can’t “move on.” It’s the actions and the in-between the lines things that someone says that give their motivation away.

    So we are left as independents, freelancers if you will, out there trying to do what we can. I would absolutely love to form some sort of coalition of like minded groups and one day I might.


    1. who is the Phd student I wonder, would love to know. There are bits of work going on in this country and it is critical we link them up. There is much much more going on overseas, some absolutely fascinating work on differentiation of DV that I am going to spend more time reading and will incorporate into our gender and parenting study group which will be up and coming shortly – will post details on here. K


      1. What’s the best way to let you know? You can email me at my email address which you’ve probably got access to and I’ll email you back. I would just prefer not to post her name here.


      2. Karen, Are you familiar with the work of Dr Tara J Palmatier of the website Shrink For Men? This has been invaluable for us as a family in understanding the behaviour of our son’s ex wife during his desperate battle in the secret “Family” Courts during LTR. We have not seen the children for four years now, although we do have letterbox contact.


      3. Hi Margaret

        The shrink4men web site is one I have read avidly for the last three years. It has taught me an awful lot about the psychology of these types of people. I hesitate to use the word women, but it must be said, mostly it’s a normal bloke who walks into the lair of a BPD or NPD or Alienating woman’s life and strikes up a relationship. From the outset unbeknownst to him, her desire is to subjugate him, control him and if children become part of the relationship she then has a very powerful weapon with which to control him. If the relationship ends that is when she looses direct control of him and she reverts to other means of attention seeking and indirect control. Up to the point of alienation and as far as false allegations of sexual abuse. The whole system suits her personality down to a t, to the point of even sympathising with her should the father have the temerity to have any direct charge of the child via a court order.
        Things are changing but until and unless the system recognises that these personalities actually and habitually (once given the amunition of knowledge by a solicitor) abuse the system then they are given free reign to flourish


      4. Karen, I sent you an email at the centre for separated families email address that is on the website. I asked that whoever pick it up, pass it on to you. Anyway, in that email I gave the name of the PHD girl that I refer to above.


      5. Hi I did get it, thank you so much for sending, I am having a pretty hectic week am presenting this evening at the HoC on PA with Prof Bala from Canada, will post on here about that and also about DV and separation vy shortly. best wishes Karen


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