The Modern Day Ducking Stool: Domestic Abuse Programmes and Man Shaming

This week domestic abuse and all things related have been at the forefront of my thinking and my practice.  Never far away from the experience of family separation, domestic abuse is the number one issue facing dads who are fighting to stay in the lives of their children.

For years we have been told that fathers are unsafe after family separation.  The mantra ‘supporting children’s relationships with both of their parents where it is safe to do so‘ is attached to every service which is funded by government and the only parent it refers to is dad.  ‘Where it is safe to do so‘ arises from the years when organisations like Women’s Aid and Gingerbread ruled the space after family separation and basically means that dads are dangerous and should be prevented from automatic relationships with their children after separation, whilst mums are the natural carers who should never be regarded as anything other than the proper and primary parent.

If we listened to Women’s Aid and Gingerbread et al, every dad at the point of separation, wakes up with a monster mask on his face and murder in his heart.  Thus protection of the children, from this violent and unpredictable being, should be our number one priority.

Of course there are dads who damage their children and damage their children’s mother too.  And for that reason I have never been a proponent of anything but safeguarding and support where it is necessary.  How we determine what support is needed however, is something that I have long been concerned about.   Because the determinants of who is violent, what constitutes violence and how violence should be treated in the family, seem to me to be made up largely of wounded women who are seeking revenge on men in general.  And the broken nature of the interventions that are standard in this country, when dealing with domestic violence, appear also to me to less about protecting children and more about performing a sort of brainwashing routine on men. Sometimes I think that if these women could lobotomise men, just as women were lobotomised in the past, there would be some kind of satisfaction achieved.  Instead what they do is something far far worse in my view, they take the relationship that dads have with their children and hold that hostage, aided and abetted by CAFCASS and supported by the family courts.  Is this in the best interests of children?  I don’t think so, do you?

Working as I do, in the field of family separation I see this story daily and so I long ago abandoned the notion that these stories are just freak tales. Here is just one of them.

Danny is a dad to three children, he is one of those dads who came home one night to find his wife and his children were gone.   Six years later he has not seen his children since the day he kissed them goodbye and went off to work in 2008.  The years in between have been like walking through a holocaust of grief, loss and pain for Danny, but he has survived, just.

Danny was ordered onto an Idependent Domestic Abuse Programme (IDAP) in 2009 on the basis of the fact that his wife said that he had regularly threatened to hurt her.  Danny says that the couple often fought verbally and that she as well as he could be cruel in the process.  And there were physical fights too, she would pull his hair and kick him, he would grab her wrists and hold her down so that she could not continue.  After these explosions, both would feel shocked and ashamed of themselves and promise each other they would get help.  A visit to Relate however left Danny feeling blamed and his wife feeling she was not dealing with this problem properly.  A quiet word with the counsellor after a session made her understand that she was in an abusive relationship.  She made a plan and executed it.  Danny was excised from her life and the children’s.  He was ordered to submit to the IDAP leader and admit his failings.  When he asked why only he had to undertake the course, he was told he was in denial, when he talked about the couple in conflict together, he was told he was minimising the damage he had done.  Finally he was made to understand the rules –  conform and change your mindset or lose your children forever – he was told –  failure to show the ability to reflect on the ‘truth’ would mean failing the course. Failing the course would mean no contact.  Danny tried but could not bend his mind enough.  All he could ask was why, when the couple had behaved badly, was he being punished and his relationship with his children held to ransom? He failed the course. He never saw his children again.

Up and down the land this modern day ducking stool scenario, is being quietly played out in a community centre or other such place near you.  Behind closed doors, your sons and your brothers, other women’s ex husbands and lovers are being subjected to this grim and unpleasant ritual.  From all walks of life, from accountants to carpenters, men are being shuffled along a conveyor belt designed to strip them of their power and their sense of self so that they can be moulded into acceptable dad, docile dad, dad who is aware of his inherent deficiencies.  Rolling off the end of this conveyor belt, these men are graded to show how accepting they are of their failings, not enough acceptance and it’s an automatic fail, just enough and they might just pass, complete acceptance presumably wins them a gold star and the right to join the Fatherhood Institute (I jest but you understand my meaning).

What kind of madness is this? What happened to humanity? What happened to dignity?

This is a constructed world in which the family courts have turned domestic abuse into very very big business.  Run by women for women, the domestic abuse perpetrator programmes are designed to reassure the courts that the man standing in front of them, charged with all manner of heinous crimes, is fit to be a father.  Before 1973, when the divorce laws changed, women who left a marriage were regarded as being an unfit parent.  Today the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that women can choose to leave a marriage, take the children, the assets, years of financial support AND decide the fate of the fatherhood of the man with whom they chose to have children.  Women truly have it all. Apart from those who get caught up in this winner takes all system and who lose to the man who outwits them in the court system.  But they are just collatoral damage, invisible and disregarded in the general scheme of things.  The sick and twisted truth of the matter is that those women who do lose in this system are often those at the mercy of the very kind of men who SHOULD be on Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes, but that appears to fall on deaf ears when raised in the company of the women’s rights groups. Instead  what we see, is routine man shaming wrapped up in the idea that all dads are dangerous. It is shameful, it is inhuman and it is happening near you right now.

DV perpetrator programmes are nothing more than the cold revenge of wounded women and it is time we stopped using them.  It is time that we began to see them for the modern day ducking stools that they are, that damn men if they admit their violence and damn them if they don’t.  The women’s rights political agenda that has underpinned thinking around domestic violence for five decades now has to be shown for what it is, incapable of stopping intergenerational violence, unconcerned with women’s violence and focused on one thing and one thing only, shaming and blaming men.

We are now one of a very few countries that fails to use, as standard, a triage approach to violence. Other countries are recognising that co-ercive controlling violence is not the only kind of violence that occurs in family relationships and are acknowledging that these other types of violence cannot be treated through routine shaming and brainwashing.

 Violence between people in marriages is not uncommon, it is something which is dysfunctional for sure and something for which there should be widespread help and support; which is tailored not to the needs of women at the expense of men, but to the realities that face men and women in relationship together.  

The ducking stool approach which is currently in use, is cruel, inhuman and wrong and it is time we all stood up to say so. But just like the emperor’s new clothes, until we do, more men as fathers will face the same routine humiliation and destruction of their masculinity as their brothers gone before. It is our responsibility now to say no more of this, enough is enough. 

Domestic violence/abuse is NOT a gender issue it is a generational learned behaviour which can be treated. But not this way.

(This is my last post before my summer break. I will be back in September when we will be launching something new which is focused entirely on alienation and related issues. I will still blog on all matters to do with families and separation here too but all of our work on parental alienation will be under one roof soon, I am looking forward to a lively and exciting Autumn)


  1. Karen I found this document powerful and upseting. It seems fathers are not in with a fighting chance.I wonder how we could rally troups there must be many people like us who know the system is failing non resident parents children and the extended family. As a political activist I wonder would the grey vote make political parties sit up and take notice. We are fragmented in our opposition we need to link.


  2. As someone who may be about to face some of this – currently on a DV charge for sending a supportive text message to my wife (following a mutually extensive and really entirely unproblematic phone conversation with her) – so that this article could not be more relevant.

    Having been able, as a consequence, to start having some conversation with a senior police figure in this field – I will point him towards this, as well as Karen Straughan’s very comprehensive but concise attack on modern day feminism here;

    (Note – although everything Karen Straughan says about contemporary feminism is correct, at the same time it is also important to note that some of us actually adhere to what might be termed a ‘Utopian’ socialism – that DOESN’T support the Marxist collectivism – that as she rightly says has been used as the basis for the gender feminism that she rounds on. To fail to perceive this VERY important distinction – is an extremely common error. Very few people are aware of the differences between the two socialism’s, which are really MOST profound To put it another way, Utopian Socialism has given rise to Equity Feminism – while Marxism has given rise to Gender Feminism. The two are entirely antagonistic. In ‘Scientific’ socialism i.e. the Marxist kind – there is a class war in which the “workers take over”. In ‘Utopian’ socialism i.e. the William Morris kind – the two classes only move ROMANTICALLY – NOT violently – towards becoming a larger, effectively united, one. For example, all workers are encouraged towards taking decision-making roles in their work lives, and all management are encouraged to do some manual work too. I hope one can see the parallels in terms of gender relations. I trust that helps shed some further light on previous discussions).

    Finally, Karen – what would you say about this…doesn’t this article suggest that at last there are some extremely encouraging counterbalancing moves that are in motion? (Not currently coming from the Left, obviously)!


    1. While I agree with much of what Karen S says (as usual), her simplistic conclusion that radical feminism is Marxism is simply beyond the pale. Traditional Marxism always believed as a central tenet that class was the principal division in society NOT gender. The interest Marxists took in feminism was with the equality feminist wing, not the gender feminists. Even the evidence for her simplistic association does not stack up if you look at the remnants of the failed Marxist states today. The issues to day are justice and equality, culture and biology and how society can be changed to make life better for parents and most importantly children.


      1. I think the issue here is some lack of historical perspective – in the anxiety to condemn what is clearly a very severe contemporary problem. For sure, for most Marxists who have ever lived, there has not been anything OTHER than Equity Feminism, for them to take an interest in!

        However, just at the point when Marxism as an intellectual movement was beginning to wane; Gender Feminism came along and took the embers of the emphasis on class struggle – and fanned them into the flames of a gender war which has been promoted ever since for all its worth!

        The innate male tendency to be protective of women – has allowed it to be taken by surprise and to struggle to understand and respond – to the attack against it.

        It would seem from the Daily Mail article that the conservative wing of society is actually leading the fight back – and championing family values at last. That is also somewhat problematic, since by the same token they will tend to be contemptuous of progressive values, but it seems all we have right now – the Left still appears in total disarray on this, as far as I have seen.


      2. (My apologies about the Daily Mail article link…this is OLD news from 2012 (that someone passed on to me…I was thinking it was current…just realized…my bad) – whatever happened with that, then?

        Yes – it doesn’t make any difference whether we are married or not…or how established the family is…the attack is on any man who has children at all. Simply to be a father – is to effectively have become a criminal…in these women’s eyes.


      3. I agree Ian. Karen S undermines what she says by attacking Marxism so unfairly and incorrectly. Just because there are parallels (both have their basis in an analysis of struggle) does not mean that they are synonymous. My own view is that feminism began with good intentions but got hijacked (as most things with good intentions do), and that many think that they are still at war when all they are doing is supporting the neoliberal agenda. I think the gender war that politicians have since manufactured (with the help of their footsoldier sidekick charities) is just a means of disguising the real war, which is always to do with class. Gender war has the added benefit of continuing to deprive working class people of their rights. Men and women need to unite and stand up against all forms of inequality and abuse by government.

        This thing called domestic abuse, whether commited by women or men, will just continue to rise until the disease at the top is cured and a fairer society comes into existence.


      4. Continuing in support of Karen Straughan’s outstanding talk – while conflation of the entirety of “Socialism” with “Marxist Collectivism” is unfortunate…she is speaking at a meeting where individual liberty is uppermost on the agenda – and they are the ones who ended up choosing this rather provocative title.

        Collectivism, whether socialist or feminist, or indeed of any other kind, is an unfortunate outcome where individual identity is set aside in order to achieve group solidarity – in what is deemed to be a “war” scenario.

        Also, I see that Karen describes Feminism not as Marxism – but as Marxism “Re-Purposed” – and yes, it does have to be acknowledged that the tendency to see men as an oppressive group collectively was in place from early days, as she says – although the driving impulse at this time seems to have been a religious one, it would seem – more than anything derived from Marxism.

        As Karen highlights, the oppression and exploitation of males, and the obligations incumbent upon them – are unfortunately absent from this account of the world.

        I would suggest that a particularly important point – for the purposes of the current discussion – is the one that Karen makes at 18.00 mins, where she talks about the radical feminist perspective of all male sex with women as constituting rape – as according to patriarchy theory the required societal conditions for true consent – simply don’t exist.

        The consequence is, that although likely not openly acknowledged, radfem theory will be subtly informing all subsequent policy towards men. Otherwise – what would be the POINT of being a “radical feminist”? This also explains why the majority of radical feminists will be lesbian – as much a political gesture as anything else, and why heterosexual women involved in DV work may well feel guilty about their involvement, and can also treat other hetero women harshly.

        So those of us who have children – have overwhelming proof of our guilt as “rapists” in this respect. Consequently – we can be punished accordingly, simply for this ‘crime’ we cannot deny.

        Until there is an open discussion about all this, and the women in DV work are forced to start to come clean about the kinds of motivations involved – then the absurdity of what we face here – will surely continue?


    2. If you were arrested before they interviewed you, sue the chief constable for unlawful arrest. I did after a bogus DV allegation was made against me. I said I’d go happily and answer their dumb questions. ‘No’ they said, ‘you’re arrested’. Arrest the male forms part of their nasty, squalid, DV protocol. The custody officer told me brusquely it was ‘standing police policy to arrest any man accused of domestic violence’.- the stated words of an ignoramus whose job is to know the law on arrest and apply it fairly. The ACPO DV manual says proactive arrest is a tactic aimed at discouraging men from further DV offences, on the wholly presumptuous basis that you’ve offended in the first place.

      Offer yourself for interview, challenge any arrest based on policy rather than facts around your circumstances and threaten them with county court proceedings. If they do arrest you unnecessarily, sue them. If your case is there, they”ll pay up as they’re too cowardly to have their dodgy DV policies exposed in court..


      1. Thanks Paul – I would very much hope that we can build up some good will at the policy level of the police, but I do agree that sometimes the perspective you put forward – is the only way to get taken seriously.


    3. It is very clear from the currently existing legal, media, and political attitudes, that Marxist Socialism and feminism, it’s off-shoot, have won. They control, exclusively, the family courts, media, and legislatures. What is child support, if not a “Transfer of Wealth” scheme. Our predilection for sole maternal custody is a socialist division within our society, as per “Rules For Radicals”, (Saul Alinsky). Decades of objective research has shown that single mother homes are the absolute worst environment in which to raise children, yet that is still the predetermined choice for custody decisions across the country.


        (cites omitted for brevity)

        37.8% of single mothers are divorced, 41% never married, and only 6.5% widows.
        Growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain, and produce children who are more aggressive and angry. Children brought up only by a single mother have a higher risk of developing deviant behavior including drug abuse.
        “The strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison, is that they were raised by a single parent”.
        70% of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long sentences, were raised by single mothers.
        72% of juvenile murderers, and 60% of rapists came from single mother homes.
        70% of teen births occur to girls in single mother homes.

        70% of drop-outs, and 70% of teen suicides come from single mother homes.
        70% of runaways, 70% of juvenile delinquents, and 70% of Child murderers, come from single mother homes.
        “Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous, and more likely to end up divorced.”
        “After controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rates disappeared.”
        63% of all youth suicides,
        70% of all teen pregnancies,
        71% of all adolescent chemical/substance abusers,
        80% of all prison inmates, and
        90% of all homeless and runaway children, came from single mother homes.
        Children brought up in single mother homes are:
        5 times more likely to commit suicide,
        9 times more likely to drop out of high school,
        10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances,
        14 times more likely to commit rape,
        20 times more likely to end up in prison,
        32 times more likely to run away from home.

        “America has more than twice as many teenage births as other developed nations.”
        86% of American teen births are out of wedlock.

        Single parents make up a third of Wisconsin parents, The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports. And according to a 2009 report from the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents across the U.S., with single mothers outpacing single fathers five to one.

        In 2003, there were 1.5 Million unwed births, and less than 1% were put up for adoption.
        50% of single mothers are below the poverty line, their children are 6 times more likely to be in poverty than children with married parents.
        85% of homeless families are single mother families.
        90% of welfare recipients are single mothers.

        Over 30% of families led by single moms are living in poverty, compared to 16.4% of families led by single dads.

        There were 3 million single mothers in 1970 and 10 million in 2003.
        The illegitimacy rate went up more than 300% since 1970.
        A 2008 study led by Georgia State University economist Benjamin Scafidi conservatively estimated that single mothers cost the U.S. taxpayer $112 billion every year.
        But in fact, Scafidi underestimated single mothers’ burden to society by excluding additional costs of single mothers to poverty programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.
        That makes his estimates very low: Single mothers are six times more likely to be in poverty than married families. More than 80 percent of homeless families are single mothers.
        Scafidi’s study also did not consider the burden single mothers place on law enforcement because of their higher likelihood to neglect or kill their children.


  3. Marriage is a three-way contract between a man (capital provider), a woman (legally privileged, capital recipient) and the State (legal enforcer for woman, capital recipient).

    It’s a nightmare arrangement for a man. No wonder fewer and fewer men are interested in pursuing it.


  4. Having had to attended one of these IDAP courses, on trumped up charges of Harrassment, (they are exactly as described above) you either conform or are punished, if you question things you are punished, if you sit quietly you are punished. To sit in a room of 10 men where I could stand up and say “i am the only man here who has not hit a woman”, because that is the crux of this issue no matter how much they try to portray it, as soon as Domestic Abuse is mentioned they presume violence! The solicitor even used violence instead of abuse in Court!!!!
    I could not complete the course because my ex partner called me with “if you don’t come home I am going to kill the kids” (whilst suffering acute Post Natal Depression i.e. suicidal) just as I was going to an IDAP appointment, what do you do?
    The result was a 6 week spell in prison (no previous offences) for breach of the Order, they refused to allow me community work or the equivalent, despite me returning it to Magistrates Court and them agreeing with me, I was then punished further for showing the Probation service up in Court!
    So when my Daughters mother decided to leave and move to the other end of the country and make me take the issue through the family Court system and the nightmare that entails, obviously more false allegations, including rape and child abuse, were thrown at me by the despicable other parent, which Cafcass believed (my cafcass report has been described as possibly the most bias report ever seen), and resulted in me being removed from my Daughters life for 6 months, which was rightly so given the false allegations that the Judge had to read!
    Obviously the IDAP and prison were used by the ex partner to stop me being a parent to my Daughter. Although during Court proceedings I did find myself privy to a document from Probation which hinted that I should never have been put on IDAP let alone prison, isn’t hindsight great???
    Anyway to cut along story short, after a long drawn out Family Court battle, which showed all of my ex partners lies for what they were, I now have my amazing Daughter for 13 weeks of the year and revel in educating her and watching her young mind explore this big bad world with a naivety that I hope she is allowed to keep throughout her childhood.
    Excellent article, you seem to write a lot of “common sense” articles Karen, hopefully the people in the say will start to think like you soon, I hope my shared experiences have been of some help. 🙂


    1. It’s a terrifying story…and one that needs to be highlighted.

      This week I had a magistrate tell me that if I felt that a Non-Molestation order was unjust, that it was simply a question of taking the matter back to court – there was information about this (so he supposed) on the bottom of the form.

      Does anyone have a such a Non-Mole form? This is a man who deals with Non Mole cases on pretty much a DAILY basis. But has he even properly looked at one?

      And yes…Judges are VERY well known for admitting that they got their judgements completely wrong – they admit that ALL the time, don’t they…?

      All this tells us – is that it is 10 times (or maybe a 100 times!) harder to CORRECT an injustice – than to COMMIT one.

      So – surprise, surprise – as to what happens then?

      Any suggestions – as to what would be needed to prevent this state of affairs?


  5. Dear Woodman

    Firstly I think you have to decide what your desired outcome is.

    For example, is your objective to correct what you perceive as an injustice that has been levelled against you, thereby proving yourself to be worthy of any of the attributes listed below:

    Section A

    A. Important
    B. Someone to be acknowledged or recognised
    C. An honourable person committed to your beliefs.
    D. Someone worthy of adulation amongst a group of like minded people.
    E. An expert at outwitting the judiciary
    F. Good at making those you perceive as being opponents look like idiots.
    G. Good at avoiding punishment
    H. Winner or whiner

    Section B

    1. Gracious
    2. Honourable
    3. Empathic
    4. Responsible
    5. Apologetic
    6. Sincere
    7. Sensitive

    You can mix and match any of the traits from section A and section B then work back from your desired end result to where you are now. This should help you think about what you want to say and why.

    Kind regards and good luck


    1. I’m ALMOST at the point of sending a letter to the Court (which also covers the very distressing treatment of two disabled people that I witnessed on the same occasion – so that I imagine this will be fairly typical).

      I will work through your list to help me double-check my response – before it goes off.

      Thank you.


  6. As a father’s rights leader for thirty years, I have learned of a number of agencies and individuals which offer “batterers councilling”. None of them admit female batterers, and most rely on the courts for referrals. Once such agency, in the Boston area, bragged that they were taking in over a million dollars per year from accused men. And that was about twenty years ago.


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