Through the Gendered Lens Darkly

I am reading today, a report from  research undertaken by CAFCASS and Women’s Aid on the nature of allegations of domestic violence in the UK Family Courts.  This report on a study of 216 cases, is problematic in so many ways, that it is difficult to know where to begin in determining the damaging impact upon families this may have.

What is most concerning is that Women’s Aid are known to have a political agenda, whilst CAFCASS are supposed to be delivering a state funded and therefore non political service.  This therefore, is an uneasy partnership in terms of research because CAFCASS have given access to its records to an agency which is known to interpret research through a politically driven lens.  This leads one to wonder how much this report can be taken seriously given that it is so skewed by the agenda of women’s rights.  When the research element of the partnership is undertaken by a body which upholds the principle of women’s rights first and children’s as being indivisible from those rights, it is difficult to see how this report does anything other than drive biased outcomes in understanding of family violence and its impact upon children.

CAFCASS are charged with upholding the rights and needs of children, not women.  Their responsibility is to determine the safety and wellbeing of children outside of any political agenda.  From their website their mission is set out as follows –

CAFCASS represents children in family court cases. We make sure that children’s voices are heard and decisions are taken in their best interests. We are independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities and all similar agencies.

Women’s Aid have a clearly set out mission as follows –

working together
until women and children are safe

We are a grassroots federation working together to provide life-saving services and
build a future where domestic violence is not tolerated.

and according to Women’s Aid domestic violence is

Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse [1] as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

All of which serves to tell us that Women’s Aid ignore the research on domestic violence which shows that men are harmed by women in the home and that children are also harmed by their mothers as well as by their fathers. It also serves to tell us that the lens through which this agency looks at the 216 cases provided by CAFCASS is not going to give us an unbiased outcome.

The truth about Domestic Violence is to be found in the  ONS BCS Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences 2015/16

 For every three victims of domestic abuse, two will be female, one will be male. These figures are the equivalent of 2.2 million male victims and 4.3 million female victims. One in four women and one in six men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime.

The truth is that women are violent in the home too and children are victim to both male and female perpetrators. The picture painted by Women’s Aid, of violent fathers and vulnerable women and children, is both skewed and dangerous to the wellbeing of children because it causes the belief that only fathers are harmful and children should always be seen to be safe with their mothers. This is untrue as so many tragic deaths of children have demonstrated.  Baby P, Daniel Pelka and others, all died because their mothers were instrumental in their deaths and no-one saw fit to challenge their control.

The Women’s Aid agenda, which is to empower women and see children’s needs as indivisible from those of their mothers, is not one which an agency such as CAFCASS should be supporting in my view.  It does not promote child safety, it promotes instead beliefs about separated families which are not conversant with reality. Beliefs such as this

‘We believe women and children’s experience of abuse’


‘We give priority to women and children’s safety’

Which automatically, in the paradigm of women’s rights means that all women and children tell the truth and the majority of perpetrators are male which therefore means this –

There should be no assumption of child contact for perpetrators of domestic abuse” – Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid   Wednesday 26th July 2017  –  on the findings from Women’s Aid’s joint research with Cafcass on domestic abuse in the family courts and its impact on children.


The outcomes when such an agency gets involved in family separation as it often does, are not difficult to predict.

‘We believe you’, leads to fathers being accused of domestic violence simply for being men.

‘We believe you’, leads to children whose mothers are inveigling them into their own beliefs about an ex partner after family separation, from being prevented from having a relationship with a good enough dad.


We believe you leads to the oft quoted and re-stated message in the main body of the summary of findings from this research which reads as follows –


The main finding was that domestic abuse was alleged in almost two-thirds of cases (62%), with fathers more likely to be the subject of allegations than mothers. The sample cases provided a complex picture of domestic abuse within family proceedings and it was uncommon for domestic abuse allegations to feature in isolation from other safeguarding concerns. This demonstrates the substantial challenge for courts in determining which cases can safely proceed to contact with the child. (my emphasis).

The conclusion that contact with a father is not safe has underpinned every initiative of Women’s Aid in the Family Court arena for decades.  Repeated reports, direct blame at fathers and analyse material using the feminist lens. In this paradigm you cannot fail but show the outcomes one sees in this report, because the methodology and the analysis drives the outcomes Women’s Aid are seeking.

For example, here is the definition used in this report of coercive control.

Coercive control encompassed both controlling and coercive behaviour. Practice Direction 12J defines ‘Controlling behaviour’ as an act or pattern of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. ‘Coercive behaviour’ is defined as an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.

This definition of coercive control is exactly that which could be applied to children who are being alienated from a loved parent, a power dynamic which is common in post separation relationships. In this report however, it is used as if coercive control can only ever be used by men against women and the rest of the analysis flows from that assumption.

This is not good enough in the lives of children and CAFCASS have made a big mistake in my view in both the carrying out of this research without balancing it with the experience of fathers and without taking into consideration the political motivations of Women’s Aid.  I am not surprised by this however and not particularly outraged either, I have long been aware that the arena we work in is dominated not by the needs and wellbeing of children but by the rights of women.

Sadly I think CAFCASS haven’t done their image any favours whatsoever with this research and they haven’t taught us anything either.

What they have done however is damaged the trust that many already feel is impossible to place in them.  Trust which is sorely needed to avoid CAFCASS staff becoming embroiled in the already difficult dynamics which surround family separation in the UK.

In the midst of drives for change for families affected by family separation, it seems that for CAFCASS, business remains, very much as usual.

27 thoughts on “Through the Gendered Lens Darkly

  1. I was shocked and disgusted when I read that report yesterday. As someone who was the victim of controlling and coercive behaviour by my ex-wife for many years, it offends me greatly that Cafcass can work jointly with such an organisation to produce such a skewed report.


  2. After reading your blog only one question comes to mind. Is CAFCASS fit for purpose? If CAFCASS judges gender and not individuals then how can it be on the side of the child. Children are male and female. A boy grows up to be a man and a father. Is not it this attitude toward gender that is perpetuating the notion of abuse and an expectation in society therefore causing the cycle to happen again in the next generation?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a male victim of domestic violence (proven and admitted), I and my concerns have been ignored by Cafcass, children’s services and the family courts. I have attempted to have my concerns for my child’s safety at her mother’s hands known yet all attempts are brushed aside. Before assault charges (as a result of an assault witnessed in public ) were made against my daughter’s mother, I was criticised for refusing to accept that my daughter’s please for help from me could be false.. my daughter remains with her mother as her primary carer with my term-time ‘contact’ heavily restricted. At Norwich Family Court at a recent hearing applying for the judge to recuse and for the hearing to be transferred from Norwich because of my concerns that my daughter is being harmed and is being denied any justice – her human rights ignored – the judge handed all parties a report by Liz Trinder ( a report from 2007 on Australian experiences of 50/50 shared parenting) claiming that in ‘high hostility’ cases, outcomes for children in shared residence scenarios are ‘poor’. The message from the Judge is clear – “This is the policy followed in Norwich.”

    Clearly this plays directly into the hands of alienating parents who are being encouraged and effectively helped by The Family Court to ensure and maintain high hostility against the other parent safe in the knowledge that the court will never entertain shared residence because the outcomes for children are poor ( according to Trinder) and that alienated parents might as well not bother to go to court because the outcome has already been pre-determined. How many Norfolk children have suffered harm as a result of these jurassic practices and inept Judges? It seems irrefutable that the Family Judiciary (Norwich) are neglecting the welfare of children and causing them harm through their blinkered shortsighted approach.


  4. Its happening in Australia too. There’s an organisation formed by the Mother of a Child murdered by his Father.
    They are promoting that children should be able to choose to not see an abusive FATHER.
    Only the Child in question chose TO SEE his Father.
    Its staggering.
    Its seems they have jumped on a bandwagon, but keep their eyes tightly closed when anyone points out they are headed in the wrong direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Spot on Karen.
    Whoever at CAFCASS reviewed and approved this report should be sacked, they either do not have a clue or they are colluding with Women’s Aid.
    Unfortunately this men-are-bad view is endemic in government today. It is the starting point for both Theresa May and Amber Rudd.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, thank you for writing this blog. I only read the press release & was so horrified I couldn’t bring myself to even read the report itself.
    It is widely accepted by fathers that Cafcass invariably believe & protect the mother, usually the resident parent. This has done absolutely nothing to dispel that belief.
    When a Cafcass officer tells a father he has already formed his opinion, at the START of the meeting with the father, then you have to wonder if they even know what ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ means. This father was subjected to years of domestic abuse by his ex-wife, she was/is a master in the art of coercive control, so you can imagine how demoralising & damaging for his mental health this Cafcass meeting was. Yet another person that didn’t want to know. Add that being ignored by the police, social services, children’s doctors & schools, and it’s no wonder that so many estranged fathers are exasperated & become ill with the constant battling.
    Please send your blog, and all your reader’s comments, to Cafcass CEO & insist upon a response and a rethinking of this awful Women’s Aid propoganda that Cafcass are enabling.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Let’s not forget Women’s Aid’s on so-called ‘contact’:

    “We believe that legislation is still required to create a rebuttable presumption in family proceedings legislation that child contact is not awarded unless and until it can be shown to be safe, and that this should be done through a mandatory risk assessment process.”
    Women’s Aid: Consultation response: Green Paper, Parental Separation: Children’s Needs and Parents’ Responsibilities

    By contrast:

    There is no aggregate figure for all maltreatment by mothers and fathers from the NSPCC prevalence study. The study found that ‘both parents were equally likely to be involved in maltreatment [physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect], with the exception of sexual abuse’.
    Cawson (2002) Child maltreatment in the family: the experience of a national sample of young people. London: NSPCC. p.5 and 26.


    Killings of children by a natural parent are committed in roughly equal proportions by mothers (47%) and fathers (53%).
    NSPCC from Brookman and Maguire (2003) Reducing homicide: a review of the possibilities (PDF). London: Home Office. p.16.

    [In Australia] between 1997 and 2008 there were 110 child murders committed by fathers or stepfathers and 106 by mothers (none by stepmothers).

    Still the myths persist…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am so surprised that CAFCASS has allowed themselves to be exposed to such a single minded organisation with a known political agenda. Especially to pick up their mantel and produce a joint report on the matter. Equity should dictate that they conduct a similar research paper with a male gender orientated organisation. I wonder what that report would say??

    As pointed out CAFCASS are supposed to be ensuring focus on the child. This report turns the axis 90 degrees. Alan


  9. Also when the violence of women cannot be ignored it is somehow considered less serious. A father I know found that CAFCASS was recommending no direct or indirect contact for him based simply on the allegation by the mother of domestic violence. Luckily he succeeded in getting a finding of fact hearing. It was found by the court that rather than the father being the perpetrator of domestic violence he was in fact the victim of the mother’s violence. CAFCASS then changes its recommendation from no contact to the father to 50/50 shared parenting. In court under cross examination the CAFCASS officer changed her mind and the father got every other weekend.
    “There should be no assumption of child contact for perpetrators of domestic abuse” – Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Wednesday 26th July 2017” This thus seems to apply to male perpetrators only as far as CAFCASS is concerned.


  10. I have said this before, and given the chance will repeat myself here.

    Violence is a direct result of something called anger. We all feel anger at some stage in our lives, perhaps even daily.
    It is not gendered. Both sexes can feel angry. The young and the old can both feel angry too.

    Anger is a type of behaviour. We can use our anger effectively in many ways.

    1 One might be to physically overcome someone.
    2 Another might be to verbally or emotionally abuse someone to manipulate them and control them.
    3 Anger could be used to exert physical force on an object.

    Anger or violence is neither good nor bad. It is how we as individuals decide to use it that makes it either a good or bad thing.

    For example:
    1. The man used his anger to break down the door that held them captive. This is a positive use of violence from the perspective of those wishing to escape from their captors.
    2 The woman found reserves of strength she didn’t realise she had to lift the cupboard that had toppled onto the child.

    Examples of violence used negatively might be:
    1 Frustrated at her attempts to discipline the children mother would shame her children, sometimes feeling the need to grab them by the throat and shake them till they stopped screaming.
    2 Father was ruthlessly demanding when he came home from a night on the booze. He would curse and lash out with his fists unhappy with his situation.

    We can all be angry but we don’t need to be violent. If we become more aware of what triggers our violence it is possible to gain more control over how we deal with our anger.
    George had been asked by Phil why statistics tell us that there are more violent men than women.

    Do you remember Toby, said George?
    He left home with his 11-year-old daughter, Sally because she had been bitten by her mother. It was the culmination of something horrible that had been building up for several months, perhaps longer. A few months prior to this event social services had engaged a relatively fresh recruit to interview Sally. She had taken Sally to McDonalds and managed to form quite a good trusting relationship with her. Sally felt comfortable talking to the social worker and in the preliminary report which came out one of the things Sally said was, “Mummy doesn’t bang my head against the panels any more”.
    Of course, Toby wasn’t happy about this and he wanted social services to help his daughter and her mother who was being violent toward her.

    So, what did social services do? said Phil.

    They wrote a longer report in which Sally’s quotation “Mummy doesn’t bang my head against the panels any more”, had been removed. A much more sanitised version of events replaced it in which Toby was incriminated suggesting he was inadequate as a parent. The description they gave him was, “needy”.

    So, what happened to the original report? said Phil.

    Toby made a formal complaint and was asked to return it, which he dutifully did. It never again saw the light of day.
    Oh! Said Phil seemingly surprised. So, mother’s violence simply isn’t recorded in this case.

    Toby was told that dwelling on such matters was not going to help his Ex. Consequently he left his trust in them. After all social services are the experts.


  11. Karen . Isn’t the problem with parent alienation concept the fact that society is not child focused enough? Have we not learned from all the Jimmy Savil scandal baby P ., Rochdale child exploitation etc that children’s happiness and human rights are just not on the authorities agenda. I have not seen my son properly since March. Since then I have not just face parental alienation / discrimination from my ex wife but my son’s school, doctors etc. If the courts find this difficult to deal with then all facilities / services that children come into contact with need to start treating both parents equally. It is not an excuse that it’s always been like this. With all the technology we have keeping both parents informed should not be that difficult.


    1. Well said Matthew. We are a referral society. Many professionals can’t risk getting involved or being blamed. The veil of secrecy in the Family Courts means that nobody is accountable in any way. The wider public only discovers the mistakes when children die. Family Justice in the UK is a sham. The concept of the child’s welfare being paramount is a sick, self-serving misnomer. Elderly, inept Family Judges with outmoded, stereotyped views about the almost completely matriarchal status quo in today’s society result in fathers (in the vast majority of cases) being excommunicated from their children with the full encouragement, support and enablement of the secret family judiciary. Many of that generation (of Judges) hardly know their own fathers, so why would today’s children need to have a father? After all, the best and safest place for a child is with their mother.. isn’t it? (My own father even espouses this view! – he’s 82..) When Family Judges are able to peddle such outdated and clearly illogical views and beliefs (as espoused by the likes of Liz Trinder and Norwich Family Court) , it’s no surprise that so many children are prevented from knowing their fathers by the unaccountable faceless demigods (Judges) created by our society. The reason the concept of transparency within Family Courts has failed/ is failing is because it is not in the interests of the Courts. The human rights failings and abuses must be kept secret to protect the Judges/Cafcass/Social Services.
      Children’s best interests and rights are simply ignored. All that has been learned from the Saville/baby P/Rochdale etal cases is how professionals can avoid being blamed for failings…. by not getting involved…. Judges refer/defer to police, police refer/defer to social services/cafcass, social services/cafcass refer/defer back to the court and the circle is complete.. and nobody is responsible.


    2. Society sees itself as child focused but doesn’t realise that the idea that you empower children and listen to their expressed wants and needs is not being child focused. Society pays nothing but lip service to the idea that expressed wants and needs do not equal actual needs and when this cannot be ignored tries to resolve the situation by rationalising with the child rather than appropriate boundary setting. I am not saying that we should not listen to children of course we should, but we have to accept where they are in their psychological development and not expect them to be mini adults.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As an abused child myself who was not listened to (I’m 52 now), I cannot agree Kat. Today I am powerless, (as is society) and must stand back and accept that my own child is abused and harmed by her mother, aided and abetted by the Family Court while she too is ignored. Her (clearly expressed, independently written) views are completely ignored and she continues to suffer now as she has since she was born, 10 years ago. What is needed is a little common sense and less psychobabble.


      2. I think the key word you are missing is “sees itself as child focussed.” That does not mean that it is child focussed, indeed lots of things that would happen in a truly child focussed society are not done, above all the one thing that is not happening is listening to children. The child wants chocolate for dinner: we all know that is no good and will talk the child out of that. Child doesn’t want to go to school, same response. Child expresses concern about mum, again the same responce, that’s irrational, let’s talk her out of it. All of these is what I call paying lip service to the idea that expressed needs are not the same as actual needs. Society believes that mother and child are part of the same parcel and expression of a different opinion is so obviously wrong that there is not even a need to question that. As someone explained to me, no matter how poor a mum is we must support her to keep her child as otherwise that child will become a psychopath, not could but will. Most will not express it that extremely but the sentiment is there: above all a child needs mum, help mum and child will be fine. The idea that the needs of mum and child are separate is too alien to consider.
        This is also why women who fall foul of a female focussed family court system suffer so badly. They are truly judged by the very same people who uphold the female focussed family justice system. A mother rejected by a child due to PA, i.e. with no expression of the ambivalence you would normally see if there was a real problem, is seen as almost evil. When mother and child are not seen as separate then a child rejecting mum must have suffered something indescribable from that mum. You can hear them say: “this child is so clear, no ambivalence in the rejection. This child is really sure that this is what they want and look how child focussed we are, we are taking the child away from this evil mum” what has not happened is listening to that child.


  12. As you, Karen…..’business, very much, as usual’. Nevertheless, those words still need to be repeated (by professionals like you) every time another opportunity is missed


  13. I am working on my Masters in Education in Canada. I will have to write a thesis this next winter. I am deciding whether or not I will write about Parental Alienation and then which area I will write about as there certainly are many issues to discuss. I will write with an educational interest. All of these topics, discussions, comments and issues give me much to think about. Maybe I can make a difference as Karen is doing for many people.


  14. Opinions only Karen and if nothing else gives a perspective that is shared by others:-

    Cafcass provides the environment children’s Family Court outcomes are created within. Ninety two percent of parents requesting the maintenance of a parental role with their child are from one gender. The same group has the ‘parental relationships cull’ undertaken by Cafcass at the same ratio. Relationship culling is extremely rare within the other half.

    Cafcass- gender it’s decision making criteria. In enlightened times an indefensible view. Cafcass is a ‘traditionalist’ organisation in a modern world, it’s track record queried by the public and problematic.

    Domestic violence? Use D.V. as a proxy. Sell to the public that D.V is gendered.* One gender cast as ‘unsafe’ resolves the dilemma of Cafcass ‘gendered’ outcomes. A short term ‘fix’ that postpones any need for controversial change.

    Genders are empty aspirations. An Authority tying it’s actions with ‘gender’ holds no authority does it. Colour aspirations better known as Apartied in South Africa ring any bells? Rather real life behaviours viewed without ‘gender lenses’ provide- A Child’s Best Interest.

    Children’s lives being affected while ‘aspiration’ creates outcomes:-

    A free pass to abuse children
    A free pass to remove a child’s own primary parental relationship
    To remove children’s future ability to become parent’s inturn.

    * D.V. is not ‘gendered’ according to science – instead the extreme turbo charging of the ordinary, everyday interactions within a relationship. The physical, emotional, financial, sexual, are vehicles open to those who seek to dominate a relationship. Personality types the true villains, equally uncommon in either sex.

    Woman’s Aid – a charity seeking to raise funds to support it’s chosen group. Not a D.V. charity as such, instead a charity that segregates by gender first, then supports that group solely. Charities need to sell narratives/spin. Woman’s Aid perfectly entitled to, hold a worthy cause, hold a dominant profile/monopoly.


  15. I have one comment…….leaving my own views on cafcass aside as I’ll only end up swearing! Please please please can you get this read by Anthony Douglas & the head of woman’s aid…..we need answers!


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