The Power to Keep & Protect
mothers, with loss of custody, visitation, jail, sanctions, etc., is principally about power—the power that the Power Elite confers upon fathers through judges. Any activism not focused on correcting this disparity of power, i.e. discrimination, cannot ultimately result in any significant numbers of children protected, as it is overwhelmingly mothers who are powerless to protect them.
Although there are certainly other problems in family courts, none come close to causing the amount of damage as this systemic male entitlement. Financial corruption most definitely fuels court licensed abuse, but is secondary and has, for the most part, sprung from the many strategies employed to maintain paternal power, such as government funding and court-appointee profiteering. If efforts for change are focused on symptoms such as these, rather than the core cause, the plague of children being court-ordered to live with their abusers will continue virtually unabated.
Some readers and activists may object to this analysis as not being “gender neutral”, but, as politically incorrect as it may be, there is no epidemic of judges taking kids away from loving, protective fathers, giving them to violent or sexually abusive mothers, while severely punishing fathers with loss of custody, visitation, jail, sanctions, etc. There are regular protests by women and an active international community of protective moms on Facebook, whereas there is no such male counterpart. When fathers do lose custody to violent mothers, it is relatively rare and happens for different reasons, certainly not systemic female entitlement. Although it is just as horrible for protective fathers and their children when it does happen, it is important to concentrate our efforts on ending the actual epidemic, as that will protect the most children. Some of the solutions that will be proposed will actually help protective fathers as well.
In order to understand why the Power Elite would have an agenda to empower fathers to abuse their children, it is important to take a historical perspective.
For illustrative purposes I am borrowing from Louise Armstrong’s “Rocking the Cradle of Sexual Politics”, an excellent analysis of Court Licensed Abuse. Armstrong divided history into the “Age of Permitted Abuse”, which went on for thousands of years until the 1800's, and the “Age of Denied Abuse”, which went on until the 1980’s. The “Age of Concealed Abuse”, from the ‘80’s to present day will be added here.
For thousands of years, during the long, dark Age of PERMITTED Abuse, children were considered chattel and men had absolute power to use and abuse them at will. Children could be bartered, sold, battered, mutilated, starved or raped without recourse. Men were permitted sexual access to their own and to marginalized children but had to stay away from each other’s. Women had no legal right to their children and no power to protect them; they had been made completely dependent on men.
By the late 1800’s, child abuse stopped being openly permitted and the Age of DENIED Abuse began. It was at this point mental health professionals became important in helping to shift the blame away from perpetrators. Sigmund Freud, who had discovered that sexual abuse by fathers was common, extremely damaging and the cause of serious mental illness, was pressured greatly by the Power Elite to drop this valid theory. He capitulated and his new theories shifted blame to children for the next 100 years, claiming their reports of abuse were fantasies. This helped maintain male entitlement for another hundred years. In the 1950's, Alfred Kinsey reinforced this position with his invalid findings that children enjoyed sex from birth and that incest (child rape) can be a positive experience for the child.
For a short time during this Age there was supposedly a maternal “presumption” of custody during the tender years, but this did not mean women had the power to keep their children. If men wanted it, they usually still got it. During this period, most men did not want custody during the younger years when kids were high maintenance and little to be gotten from them. During this age there was no child support enforcement so there was no penalty for walking away and no financial benefit to wresting custody of infants and young children away from their primary bonds.
In the 1980’s the Old Boys encountered vexing new challenges.
New research had discredited Freud and made clear children cannot consent to or imagine sexual abuse, and that it is very psychologically damaging. So it was not possible to continue to place the blame on them. Also, women were becoming educated and financially independent and could walk out on husbands who were abusive to their children or them. This loss of control inspired an intense backlash by the Power Elite consisting of clever and varied strategies with which to maintain historical male prerogative. The main strategy employed to retain the last great patriarchal perk was to cover up the abuse, ushering in the Age of CONCEALED Abuse.
Many institutions have been found to be concealing sexual abuse since the 80’s: the Catholic Church, Jewish Orthodoxy, Mormons, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witness, Boy Scouts, schools, pre-schools, sports programs, foreign exchange programs. Even some entities specifically in place to protect children, such as courts, appellate courts, judicial ethical commissions, child protective services, domestic violence organizations, law enforcement, district attorneys offices and Children’s Advocacy Centers have been involved in cover ups.
The Royal Commission in Australia is investigating institutional cover ups and a senior official has just deemed the judiciary an “institution” which can be included in their investigation. The UK is investigating cover ups by powerful people involving other powerful people assaulting children in care homes and the civil service. In the UK, the cover up is recognized as being orchestrated by the Power Elite. The European Parliament is investigating cases in Denmark and New Zealand has an ongoing privately funded inquiry. In the U.S., mothers have been petitioning Congress to conduct oversight hearings on Court Licensed Abuse with protests every Mother’s Day at the White House.
The pre-school scandals (e.g. McMartin) of the ‘80’s marked the first public spectacle of discrediting children through blaming therapists, rather than the children. Therapists were accused of implanting false memories and and the media helped create the impression that it was all just a witch hunt, but a new bookshows it was not.
While all that covering up was occurring outside the family involving vulnerable and marginalized children, cases in which men were abusing their own children were being covered up in Family Court. Family courts are where abuse cases involving custody end up and custody is always hotly contested when there is abuse. Family Courts became the main staging grounds for the maintenance of paternal entitlement and a new psychologist was commissioned to replace Freud's now useless theories.
Dr. Richard Gardner introduced a scientific-sounding theory to deflect blame onto mothers: "parental alienation syndrome". This theory posits that vindictive mothers coach children to lie about sexual abuse in order to alienate them from the father. Fathers’ Rights activists, the right hand men of the Old Boys, came onto the scene and pushed this theory heavily as well as legislation which makes it even easier for them to wrest custody away from primary caregiving moms. They have successfully employed both overt and covert strategies to achieve their goal of keeping power and control with the father.
Family courts, at closer inspection, can be seen to be specifically designed to maintain paternal power. It is not just permitted paternal abuse of children, but permitted rage and revenge against women as wives and mothers, expressed through taking custody away from mothers and making them endure the excruciating pain which comes from the knowledge that their precious children are being abused, and are powerless to stop it.
It should be clear after viewing Court Licensed Abuse through this historical lens, that women have, at no point in history, had the power to protect or even to keep custody of their children. Conversely, men have always had the power to keep custody and have rarely been held accountable with any significant punishment for abusing their children, even when there is substantial corroboration over and above the child’s word. Dr. Phyllis Chesler's book, "Mothers on Trial" provides the history of custody determinations.
In this third millennium, the research is clear that abuse by fathers, especially sexual abuse, in contested custody cases is very common and is, in fact, the reason these cases are so hotly disputed. Research also shows that mothers and children rarely lie about abuse, and decades of experience confirm violent and abusive fathers are being routinely granted custody, while protective mothers are punished severely for having challenged male privilege. There are thousands of documented cases from all over the world in which the same pattern is being used to empower fathers and disempower mothers.
This concept of court licensed abuse—that it is driven by the agenda of the power elite to maintain paternal power and control within the family—explains everything that occurs in court licensed abuse cases. It explains why the system is designed to allow family court judges to violate statutes and Constitutions enacted to protect children by instilling ineffective oversight mechanisms, such as appellate courts and ethical commissions. It explains why the same pattern occurs in all developed countries, but not third world countries, where women do not even have enough power to attempt to protect their children from fathers. It explains why so many children’s lawyers and psychologists and other professionals collude with the judge in the cover up, and why, no matter how much judges are educated about family violence, no matter how many reforms are enacted, this scourge continues.
It explains why judges threaten mothers and children they will never see each other again if they don’t allow the abuse to continue, and why mothers are jailed when they won’t get with the program. It explains why judges isolate children from protective mothers in order to brainwash them into recanting and to break their will to be free of their abuser. It explains why mothers are gag ordered and placed on indefinite supervised visitation. It explains why mothers are systematically disempowered by being bankrupted and traumatized and why white middle class men are most often the ones reaping the benefits of court licensed abuse. (Minorities are not automatically entitled and upper class men have the power to keep it from ever getting into family court.) It explains why, no matter how much money the mother has or how good her attorney is, no matter how much evidence of abuse there is or how little evidence that reports of abuse are a result of alienation or mental illness, judges will still disregard and conceal abundant evidence of abuse and grant custody to abusive fathers.
On the other hand, financial incentives, general corruption, judicial ignorance, etc. cannot explain all facets of court licensed abuse. Even if we get rid of fatherhood grants and other government funding, eliminate the cottage industry surrounding family court, enact stricter standards for children’s attorneys and evaluators, enact more laws and more cursory policy reforms within family courts, and completely disallow the use of parental alienation, women will still not have the Power to Protect their children. The Old Boys will simply find new ways to execute the old agenda.
We don’t need more studies, investigations, education or proof of this discrimination against women and children. There is plenty already. What is needed now is to stage a civil rights battle: all women, along with all good, enlightened men, need to unite in outrage over this oppression of women and children and demand that finally, for the first time in history, women gain the Power to Protect.
- Cindy Dumas, M.A.
Executive Director, The Women's Coalition