Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire, and the first crude stone axe.
Susan Brownmiller (Brownmiller, 2000)
Father John Taylor lost his job and his health; he was shunned by parishioners, his car was vandalised 3 times, and he was denied contact with his children after a woman – who was granted anonymity – falsely accused him of raping her, basing her allegation on a description she’d read in a Martina Cole novel (Daily Telegraph, 2013).
Rape is one of the most serious of all crimes, but politicising it into a gender crime has distorted the reality and undermined the efforts of reformers who try to protect the falsely accused or make testifying against a rapist less of an ordeal for the victim. Complainants of rape are automatically believed to be truthful while those they accuse are assumed to be guilty; feminists claim that no woman ever made a false rape claim, and that even to deny this is itself a sex crime. A fair trial before a jury becomes impossible by design.
Labour’s ‘equality’ minister, Harriet Harman, was censured in March 2010 for misrepresenting the figures on rape convictions (Stern, 2010). She had compared convictions with allegations rather than with prosecutions; the real conviction rate was 58%, which compared well with other crimes, but she had irresponsibly quoted a figure of only 6% which, it was feared, would deter women from reporting rape. What the discrepancy reveals is the high level of false allegations. Feminists like Harman will never condemn women who make false allegations, stealing real victim’s experiences and wastefully tying up scarce resources; they fiercely protect the status of rape as a gender crime, which means that allegations are invariably believed, resisting measures which might reduce incidence.
As part of the deal with the Liberal Democrats Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to allow men accused of rape to remain anonymous until conviction. Under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976 both complainant and defendant had been granted anonymity, but the Criminal Justice Act 1988 removed anonymity from defendants; Cameron’s pledge would simply have restored the pre-1988 position. For many men the mere fact of an allegation can result in loss of job, friends, family, home and children; some emigrate or even take their own lives. The high incidence of false allegations argues for anonymity. There was predictably outraged opposition from feminists, who denied there were any arguments in favour of anonymity, demanded that men prove their innocence and maintained (without evidence) the move would discourage genuine victims from coming forward (Baird, 2010). Anonymity for men would merely have levelled the playing field. In the event the plan was abandoned under relentless political pressure in one of the first of many Coalition U-turns (Kirkup, 2010).
When Justice Minister Ken Clark dared to suggest in May 2011 that some rapes were more serious than others (in accordance with Labour’s own sentencing guidelines which list aggravating and mitigating factors and recommend custodial sentences ranging from 4 to 19 years) he breached the feminist dogma which holds that all rapes are the same and must be punished accordingly. Lara Williams opined in the Guardian,
Through distinguishing “serious” and “less serious” rape, Clarke assumed a perverse gradient of suffering, a warped taxonomy of perceived victimisation (Williams L. , 2011).
The briefest consideration of the aggravating factors will show why this is a false ideology. Clark was nevertheless found guilty of causing offence and was paraded on the media uttering a string of forced apologies, but he was nevertheless factually correct – though not politically so – and in harmony with the legislation; in order to arrive at a sentence with an appropriate degree of retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation, sentencing guidelines must look at the perpetrator and the crime and not merely at the victim, however fashionable that may be. The papers were soon full of feminist writers (including Harriet Harman) explaining the ‘myths’ about rape and why Clark was wrong.
In March 2006 a student – and part-time stripper and prostitute – at Duke University in North Carolina, Crystal Gail Mangum, famously accused three members of the university lacrosse team of raping her at a party. Despite the complete lack of evidence the men were found guilty by media before they even came to court. In what became a cause célèbre prosecutor Michael Nifong suppressed exculpating evidence and proceeded to prosecute three men he knew to be innocent. Although he was eventually disbarred, the army of assistant prosecutors, police, crime lab. technicians, judges, lawyers, and journalists who assisted in this travesty of justice evaded censure.
In the US and the UK women who make false allegations of rape rarely face penalty; Gemma Gregory made no fewer than eight false allegations, but was still spared gaol (Salkeld, 2007). Prosecuting these women, it is believed, will discourage genuine victims from coming forward. The feminist dogma is that women never lie about rape; as this becomes the orthodoxy the presumption of innocence is abolished and sexual offences become the only category of crime which requires no corroborative evidence for a conviction. As the Duke University case showed, obvious innocence is no barrier to prosecution. Men who are unjustly accused of rape can even gain from the experience, argues Catherine Comins of Vassar College in a Time magazine article,
They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions (Gibbs, Monroe, Painton, & Toufexis, 1991).
In March 2013 the Crown Prosecution Service sought to prove that false allegations of rape are rare (and revealed its own agenda) by comparing the number of prosecutions for making false allegations (35 in a 17-month test period) with those for rape (5,651) (Levitt, 2013). The report was purposefully misleading, however, because the figures for prosecutions say little about the actual incidence of false allegations. In reality a majority of rape allegations are false, while genuine rapes are seldom reported, perhaps because the perpetrator is an intimate of the victim or because the victim does not want to endure the traumatic and invasive medical and legal ordeal. Accurate figures are difficult to come by; in 1985 no fewer than 45% of allegations were categorised ‘no crime’ by the police; privately investigators estimated that up to 70% were bogus (Blair I. , 1985). Thereafter the Home Office directed the police to rig the figures. False allegations are seldom punished; most women are just referred to counselling; even successfully prosecuted cases result in short sentences – 3 months or so – while the consequences for the falsely accused can be life-long.
Her Majesty’s Court Service states that allegations of domestic violence are made in 85% of contact disputes, while a study for the Ministry of Justice put the figure at 94%; the methodology, however, was critically flawed (Aris & Harrison, 2007). Unable to gather sufficient responses from parents, the researchers relied on the views of lawyers and social workers. They examined 297 applications, the majority of which (58%) were not for contact but for residence. In support of these applications 146 C1A forms had been submitted and in 93.8% of these parents had made allegations of DV. Given that this is the purpose of the form the figure was hardly revelatory. The figure discounted those applications in which a C1A was not submitted; the true figure cannot be calculated from the limited data in the report. We can see here a clear intention by the researchers to overstate the incidence of DV.
A Government study showed that 40% of mothers admitted obstructing contact through false allegations and other means (Department for Social Security, 1998). A 2009 study reported that half of parents concede having deliberately prolonged proceedings (Mishcon de Reya, 2009); a fifth confessed this was to make the process more painful for their ex-partners. Before he became President of the Family Division James Munby denounced the courts’ ineffective response to ‘groundless allegations’,
False allegations of misconduct are highly damaging and destructive… The court should grasp the nettle. Such allegations should be speedily investigated and resolved, not left to fester unresolved and a continuing source of friction and dispute. Court time must be found – and found without delay – for fact finding hearings. Judges must resist the temptation to delay the evil day in the hope that perhaps the problem will go away. Judges must also resist the temptation to put contact ‘on hold’, or to direct that it is to be supervised, pending investigation of the allegations. And allegations which could have been made at an earlier stage should be viewed with appropriate scepticism (Re D, 2004).
The domestic violence industry takes advantage of false allegations to promote its politicised agenda and to broaden the definition to the point of meaninglessness. A false allegation has become one of the surest ways for an obstructive parent to prevent contact or delay proceedings. False allegations of the most extreme violence against adults and of the physical and sexual abuse of children and which profoundly influence the orders eventually made are tolerated and go unchallenged. While all conduct by the non-resident parent is minutely examined and may count against him, actual conduct by the resident parent which in other circumstances would be considered perjury is habitually dismissed as being understandable at an emotionally-charged time: a response to the stress of the proceedings. Fathers are routinely told to put such allegations behind them; like false allegations of rape, false allegations of abusing your children are good for you:
It would be hoped that father might have been able now to put this matter on one side. It seems that he is not yet able to do so… the father would inevitably feel intensely bruised and battered by the allegations of sexual impropriety… despite his understandable sense of outrage at the allegations he had really learnt nothing from the whole process (A v A, 2004).
The family justice industry relies heavily on the false paradigm which teaches that contact between a father and his child is fraught with danger, fathers are inherently abusive to their children, a child is at greater risk when with a father than with a mother, and fathers must justify any wish to have contact with their children and prove contact to be ‘safe’. This paradigm has provided us with the ‘Duluth Model’ of intervention: an inter-agency, multi-disciplinary approach designed to enable local authorities to intervene effectively; it was developed in the early 1980s within the women’s refuge community in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. It has spawned similar programmes such as Pat Craven’s Freedom Programme in the UK or Cecilia Lenagh’s AVERT programme in Australia. It is based strictly on the assumption that ‘violence is patriarchal’ and that ‘women and children, and some men are vulnerable to violence because of their unequal social, economic, and political status in society’. The model focuses solely on violence perpetrated by men in a relationship, and encourages them to face their behaviour and change it. Duluth ignores the reality of intimate partner violence and was developed by people who were political campaigners, not therapists. It is widely used, but perpetuates the feminist myth, damaging relationships between fathers and their children.
The need to distinguish ‘good’ fathers and ‘bad’ mothers is necessitated by the ease with which a false allegation of domestic violence can be used to prevent contact between a child and a parent who presents no risk to him. In a 2009 study Ana Jordan observed,
In the case of the UK group, Fathers 4 Justice, the central message is that ‘Dads aren’t Demons [and] Mums aren’t Madonnas’… My analysis… suggests that there is indeed an anxiety to distinguish ‘good’ from ‘bad’ fathers and also to underline the need for fathers by highlighting the existence of ‘bad’ mothers (Jordan, 2009).
‘Bad’ mothers ‘steal’ the experiences of genuine victims of domestic violence and, dressed in these pilfered clothes, wear them as camouflage beneath which they abuse their own children. It is a scandal that the courts are unable – or unwilling – to see through the deception. The same failure explains why the courts recommend contact between children and abusive, violent parents; the same failure explains why social services are unable to prevent the murder of children who are so obviously at risk and yet remove children from parents with whom they would be perfectly safe.
Data on non-lethal child abuse show that mothers are the perpetrators in more instances than fathers, and when neglect is included the gap widens. Child Maltreatment in the UK, a report produced by the NSPCC, showed 49% of children abused in the home were abused by their mothers and 40% by their fathers/stepfathers (Cawson, Wattam, Brooker, & Kelly, 2000). A second report, Child Maltreatment in the Family showed that 65% of total child abuse (neglect, sexual, emotional and physical) is perpetrated by mothers and only 8% by fathers (Cawson, 2002). Fathers fell on these figures greedily, and the NSPCC suppressed the latter report. A later study Child abuse and neglect in the UK today (Radford, et al., 2011) only distinguished between adults living in the child’s home and those not living there. So confident was the Labour Government that only men abuse children that they didn’t even bother to gather the data; Beverley Hughes, the Minister for Children, Young People and Families answered a question from fathers’ charity Men’s Aid saying, ‘unfortunately we do not collect any information on child abuse perpetrators, just on children’ (Sewell, 2006). If it doesn’t support the stereotype, it isn’t recorded.
Because statistics on child abuse overwhelmingly implicate mothers, many lobbyists concentrate on child homicide, but even here the reality is that fathers are the perpetrators in only slightly more cases than mothers. In the 6-year period to 2000/01 Home Office figures show that parents murdered 296 children; 160 – or 54% – were killed by fathers and 136 by mothers (Brookman & Maguire, 2003). In 2008/09 there were 49 child homicide victims, 51 victims in 2009/10, and 56 in 2010/11, 64% of whom were killed by parents (Smith, Osborne, Lau, & Britton, 2012); note, however, that these figures include step and adoptive parents. Thus fathers are the suspects in about 18 child homicide cases per year, and mothers in about 15 cases.
The murder of a child by a parent is a terrible thing but, thankfully, very rare. Child homicides fall into certain categories of which the most prominent is the ‘Baby P’ scenario, involving a child who eventually dies after months or years of unrelenting abuse and neglect. Less common is the sudden violent murder of children by a parent followed by successful or attempted suicide.
What ‘murder-suicides’ have in common is the involvement of the family courts: a story of separation, obstructed contact, the futile quest in court for a solution, separation-related financial difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse, descent into absolute despair and hopelessness. Child murder is an extreme reaction to a real danger. A parent who threatens the other with sole residence and total exclusion from their children’s lives makes no idle threat: the default approach of the courts to child disputes is immensely dangerous and in private law this threat to family integrity can have catastrophic consequences. These parents believe no one will ever be able to separate them again if they kill their children and then themselves. At the same time murder is the most extreme way of carrying out the threat.
In August 2010 Theresa Riggi stabbed her three children to death: 8-year-old twins Augustino and Gianluca and 5-year-old Cecilia. She triggered a gas explosion to cover the crime, then jumped from the second-floor balcony of an Edinburgh block of flats. She survived and was charged, initially with murder, later with culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility. She was gaoled for 16 years. Theresa and her husband Pasquale had been locked in a bitter custody battle for their children; she had apparently obstructed contact, and the previous month the police had tracked her to Edinburgh after she abducted the children from their home in Aberdeen. The day before the children’s murders Pasquale’s solicitor had raised safety concerns when Theresa failed to attend court for a divorce hearing and he had asked for a protection order. Theresa’s mother had said her daughter was terrified of losing her children as a result of custody proceedings and was finding the pressure more and more difficult to bear (Daily Mail, 2010).
Sergeant Michael Pedersen survived an IRA bomb attack on the Blues and Royals in July 1982. His horse, Sefton, became a symbol of hope when it survived 34 injuries, including deep shrapnel wounds and a severed artery, and the two became celebrities. When Pedersen separated from his wife Erica in August 2012 he described it on Facebook as the worst day of his life; ‘Why is it that when you ask someone who is hiding something, why they acted as they did, they maintain they were “drunk”, yet when something dreadful happens they maintain they weren’t and try to assassinate your good name instead?’ (Rayner, 2012) Erica had taken out an occupation order against him, after he had allegedly assaulted her, excluding him from the family home. Days later, on an isolated Hampshire bridleway, he stabbed to death his 7-year-old son Ben, 6-year-old daughter Freya and finally himself.
In November 2006 there was a sudden flurry of interest about the phenomenon in the national press. Some of the writers revealed their agendas by publishing under titles like Killer Fathers and Why do dads kill children?, and then used the cases to support the familiar falsehoods that men are inherently violent, fathers are unsuitable parents who should not be granted contact, and that killing your children is a normal part of fatherhood. In her article in the Sunday Telegraph, Olga Craig claimed the vast majority of children murdered by a parent were killed by their father (Craig O. , 2006); India Knight said the same in the Sunday Times (Knight, 2006) and prompted a letter from the NSPCC, of all people, pointing out the Home Office statistic that mothers and fathers kill their children fairly equally. Tom Rawstorne used false statistics in his Daily Mail article (Rawstorne, 2006), just as Lorna Martin implied that all child killers were fathers in her Observer piece (Martin, 2006). Not to be outdone, Zoë Williams claimed in the Guardian that a mere 5% of parental killings were by mothers (Williams Z. , 2006), forcing the paper to publish a humiliating correction acknowledging the Home Office figures. Perhaps the most striking aspect was that between them the journalists only managed to uncover 10 such cases in over a decade. Two perpetrators were women; there was certainly no epidemic.
India Knight and her ilk like to turn this into a gender issue and pretend that when women kill it is because they are insane, or suffering post-natal depression, but that when men kill it is rationally and in cold blood; they like to believe these men kill out of revenge or the urge to punish their wives. However, these journalistic presumptions are contradicted by Theresa Riggi’s story or by the case of Angela Schuman who was gaoled for 18 months just days after these articles appeared for the attempted murder of her two-year-old daughter Lorraine (Stokes, 2006).
What Riggi and Schuman had in common with their fellow male perpetrators was the threatened loss of a child: Schuman had recently been divorced from her husband, Julio Cesar Tumulan Nava, whom she had met when 7 months pregnant with Lorraine. She had lost custody to him and was struggling to cope; she had written in a letter, ‘I had no hope of receiving help from the court or elsewhere. I do believe in the afterlife. Solving the problems of this world seemed no longer possible’. A psychiatrist had said she was suffering from a ‘depressive disorder’ as a result of her loss of contact with Lorraine.
The family court connection is prominent in many other cases: in the same month Theresa Riggi killed her children Chris Hall of Poole, Dorset, killed his diabetic son and then himself. Neighbours said he had been involved in a custody battle with his wife Rachel,
He loved that little boy so much and he feared he was going to be going as well. His son was the most important thing ever to him (McDermott, 2010).
Christopher Hawkins killed his four-year-old son Ryan and attempted to kill his 14-year-old daughter Donna, apologising to her before stabbing her 13 times. Hawkins was permitted contact only at weekends. David Oakes shot and killed his ex-partner and their two-year-old daughter a few hours before they were due to attend court for a custody hearing; he seriously injured himself, but survived (Hughes, 2011). Christopher Townsend apparently killed his son, set fire to his house, and then hanged himself, following the familiar pattern of an unsuccessful battle to remain involved in the lives of his children. A close friend said, ‘He’s endured years of turmoil at the hands of his ex-wife’ (Salkeld, 2008). The landlady at his local said,
There was a custody hearing in the day and they wouldn’t let him present any of his evidence to the court. Chris told us he had 12 hours’ worth of tape with his ex-wife screaming down the phone about how he would never see the kids again, and other ramblings. But the court wouldn’t hear any of it. They only listened to Paula’s evidence and evidence from her parents.
She took both of the kids with her and it had a catastrophic effect on him… He was absolutely distraught. He desperately wanted access to his children. Paula hasn’t let him see them for nearly a year. This is a tragedy. Chris was a lovely man and a doting father.
The comments of two parents who pulled back from the brink will help us to better understand the phenomenon; the first is from a mother, the second from a father:
I once suffered severe depression, I had two young children. When I planned to take my own life of course I was going to take them with me. The thought of leaving them to grow up without their mother was unthinkable, and seemed infinitely more cruel than peacefully taking them with me. Right or wrong, that’s how it felt, and maybe it’s how she felt. Please don’t condemn just because you don’t understand. Things are not always black and white (Narain, 2010).
I know; thank God I pulled back: your wife has betrayed you, your home is gone, then your children are removed and the courts allow it… My ex wife packed in her job, the police assisted her in removing the children, then lawyers were telling me to leave my home. I wanted to die when I heard that; later I felt like my loving children would be desperate without me, so it made sense I should take them in that fire of depression that swept over me.
It is important that our understanding of the risks presented by parents to their children is accurate and not clouded by falsehood; there is, for example, an additional risk to a child presented by his mother’s partner, a phenomenon known as the ‘Cinderella effect’. In the 1995/96 to 2000/01 period mothers’ partners killed 54 children; where partners have their own biological children they are usually spared. It represents a worrying trend, given that 84% of stepfamilies involve a mother and stepfather (Office for National Statistics, 2008). We’ll consider the phenomenon further in Chapter Twenty. Unfortunately, as with domestic violence so with child protection: a false, gendered understanding takes precedence over the facts and prevents the proper protection of vulnerable children and adults.
A fourth area of gender crime is the non-payment of child support. This too is regarded as a crime of which only men are guilty and only women the victims, but in truth men are slightly better at paying than women. In April 2006 the CSA released figures under the Freedom of Information Act showing that 30% of liable fathers had failed to pay, and 31% of liable mothers. The Department for Work and Pensions said, ‘Previous figures suggesting that 70% of absent fathers [were non-payers] were a misinterpretation which the agency has tried to correct’ (Hencke, 2006).
Gender crimes have been reinterpreted as political crimes against feminism and are subject to special rules. Accusers are granted anonymity, while limitations are imposed on the right of the accused to defend himself. Gender crimes are characterised by a high level of false allegations (made with impunity), the pretence that only women can be victims and only men the perpetrators and the circumvention of normal legal process. Even when acquitted a presumption of guilt always attaches to the – named – accused while his accuser remains anonymous. The criminal justice system thus becomes co-opted into the service of ideological ‘victim feminism’ rather than of justice. As a consequence juries in rape cases may be more likely to acquit because they don’t like the state trying to influence the verdict; the state responds by making defence more difficult and placing the onus on the accused to prove his innocence.
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