Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Would Happen If The Fathers Sue?

I recently read the article “Dad Gets Custody; Sues Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services and DV Shelter” ( by Robert Franklin, Esq. This article is worth reading, due to its particular approach to the problem of domestic violence and to what Franklin calls the “domestic violence industry.”

Domestic violence is an extremely delicate matter. On one hand, domestic violence is a real problem that is suffered by both genders and that causes numerous deaths every year. On the other hand, during child custody disputes, domestic violence accusations (along with sexual misconduct) are often used as means to exclude one of the parents from their children’s lives and to eradicate from the process any chance of fair treatment. Because many divorcing parents know that courts follow the official policy of “shoot now, ask later,” they accuse the other parent of domestic violence to isolate them from their children. And since making false accusations is a crime everywhere except in family courts, the accuser knows that even when the accusations are proven false and malicious, even when in many times the other parent has done time in jail, nothing will happen to them and they would have achieved their goal of planting a physical and temporal barrier between the other parent and his/her children.

It is from the acknowledgement of this complexity that Franklin’s article should be read. The article starts stating Franklin’s concerns regarding the way battered women shelters deal with the problem of domestic violence. Quoting a study done in Germany, he sustains that many shelters work as centers of radical feminism indoctrination, where they teach women that only men are perpetrators and only women are victims. That view assumes that domestic violence is a political act of power and oppression, not the result of a psychological disorder. These shelters, more than making an effort to actually help victims, their goal is often the separation, whether by divorce or otherwise, of the woman and her husband/partner.

Is in this context that the case of Crystal Hall should be understood. Mrs. Hall, who suffers from a form of mental/emotional/psychological impairment, contacted Safenet Services, a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Oklahoma, claiming that she and her five children had been abused by her husband, James Hall. Safenet, through its executive director, Donna Grabow, suggested her divorce as the only solution to her situation, telling her that the court would be sympathetic to a woman claiming abuse.

Over the course of 28 months, Mr. Hall underwent seven evaluations by various state agencies, all of which found him to be a fit and loving father with no evidence of abuse of either his wife or his children. The court ordered the children placed in his custody and further ordered his wife to pay child support, given that she is mentally capable of, and is in fact, working.

Since this ordeal started, there has been no discernible improvement in Mrs. Hall's psychological health, and she has become seriously co-dependent on Grabow and Safenet, who come to her house three times each day, seven days each week to make sure she takes her medication. Furthermore, although the court granted her visitation rights, Mrs. Hall has made no effort to visit her children for over a year. Even more worrying is the fact that the Oklahoma family court judge has forbidden Safenet staff from contacting the Hall children, who feel harassed by the organization.

Franklin assess Hall case as the case of “a mentally unstable woman who fell into the hands of a more or less typical DV shelter.” Because the shelter religiously followed the ideology of men are abusers and women are victims, they accepted unquestioningly Mrs. Hall’s claims, and urged her to divorce with the promise of the custody of her children. And from then, the mess that followed.

Now Mr. Hall has filed a civil suit for damages against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Safenet Services, Inc. and Donna Grabow. I have always wondered what would happen to the family courts system if the fathers who suffered their abuse counterattack with legal actions, not against their spouses as they usually do, but against the court system itself. Mr. Hall is probably one of the firsts, if not the first, of a new breed of fathers that should propagate fast.

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