This response to the CAFCASS consultation on draft domestic violence assessment policy is made on behalf of Dewar Research. Dewar Research is a private initiative formed in 1996 to collate information available in the public domain in order to encourage more informed debate of social issues. As such, it calls on professional and academic expertise as required. Since 1996, Dewar Research has taken a particular interest in the issue of domestic violence and has undertaken research of its own in this field.
A report giving the main findings of a 2001 survey by Dewar Research of 100 male victims of domestic violence was published in October 2004. This and other Dewar Research publications and information on the issue can be viewed on the Dewar Research website (www.dewar4research.org). and Carlson, 1987 (footnote 1), deal specifically with the experiences of women victims and their children. More alarmingly, a number of the other references quoted as
underpinning the CAFCASS draft policy are from authors whose writings are known to be antithetical to men in general. For instance, one author, whose work is quoted in the draft policy, and whose opinion has been used quite extensively in relation to matters of child contact and the family courts, wrote a book on child sex abuse which was exposed for its extreme bias and prejudice as long ago as 1993 for proposing that all men are child sex abusers. (see Thomas, 1993, p199).
The use of such biased sources, and of a framework designed to deflect attention away from and totally ignore the contrary findings of scores of scholarly and reputable gender-neutral studies of conflict in couple relationships for a total sample size now exceeding 150,000 people, is presumably meant to disguise the reality that domestic
violence is shown by such research to be an equal opportunity scourge, with both women and men being victims (see Fiebert, 2005. Bibliography). Significantly, none of the main assertions made in the CAFCASS draft policy are supported by this corpus of academic research findings.
As a result, the exposition is unbalanced and biased, and likely to mislead many practitioners. The exposition in para 1.3 reflects, therefore, either an ignorance of the wider picture of the results of domestic violence research (including by the Home Office) or a wilful distortion of the picture. It is the antithesis of an “informed manner” about the issue, which is unworthy of a professional organisation seeking to treat all service users fairly.
There are several important issues likely to be relevant to the work of CAFCASS which are not considered at all in the draft policy. Unless these are anticipated and properly catered for in the final CAFCASS assessment policy guidelines, such omission could result in many users not being treated fairly.
These issues include:
- domestic violence and residence when the perpetrator is (or has been) the resident parent
- plight of children who remain with violent mothers after parental separation because the
mother’s violence is ignored.
- prevalence of false allegations during residence/contact proceedings
- no sanctions or procedures for dealing with, or protection against, false allegations
- child abuse in the form of deliberate denial of contact for no good reason and of parental
- no publicly funded refuges for battered fathers and their children
Dewar Research believes that research is beginning to show that it is a hallmark of the violent female that, once relationship breakdown has occurred, abuse of the male is continued by refusing or thwarting contact and by alienation of children against their father. In fact, such research shows that quite often such aligning and programming of the children against their father has been occurring as part of the abuse perpetrated by a violent female during a relationship. This is, of course, emotional abuse of children and must be recognised as such by CAFCASS practitioners.
CAFCASS needs to improve its performance immeasurably in this respect as it is reported too often that its practitioners either collude with violent females to help denial of contact with fathers, or find that they are unable to deal with the intransigence and intimidation of such a female, so overpowering their professional competence and integrity, with the result that contact is effectively thwarted. CAFCASS needs to adopt proven methods for assessing the extent of any brainwashing and alienation of children against non-resident parents, such as that published by the American Bar Association (see Clawar S. and Rivlin B. Children Held Hostage: Dealing with programmed and brainwashed children. American Bar Association. 1991) to improve the competence of its practitioners in dealing with violent and abusive females who seek to alienate their children from their father.
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