False Allegations: Patterns of Coercive Control, Intimate Partner Violence & Non Feminist Practice

Think Coercive Control and wherever you are in the feminist driven arena of family services you will see and hear only one response, that of men’s control over women.  Look at the evidence however and you will begin to understand why the Family Separation Clinic does not approach the issue of family violence in the same way.  There is very clear and unequivocal evidence drawn from major studies across the world, that family violence is not a gendered issue.  Whilst saying that in earshot of any of the government’s family services such as CAFCASS causes some staff to believe that one is making vitriolic anti mother statements, it is the truth and it is essential that when working with separated families one uses the truth and nothing but the truth. Let me explain.

There is a very serious issue that arises during family separation which is often completely ignored by evaluators, mediators and others who work with the separated family. This is that coercive control patterns which were present before the separation happened, can be played out after separation using the children of the family as conduits for that control.  The incidence of false allegations made by a child against a parent is one such pattern and as such it is deeply damaging to both children and parent as it involves the child in a pattern of intimate partner violence.  In the field of family separation in the UK at least, the deeply held beliefs about separating families which have been forced upon our society by the women’s rights lobby groups over the years, have created a stereotyped picture that looks like bad fathers hurting good mothers and their children.  So deep is this belief that children who are caught in the coercive controlling grip of a parent after separation and forced into making false allegations to uphold the power that this parent has over the other, are often simply invisible to practitioners.   Couple that with the focus on children’s wishes and feelings and add in a dash of child abuse hysteria which is currently running up and down our land again and you have the perfect ingredients for the controlling parent to use the child to make the allegations that will prevent the other parent from seeing the child again.  Or at least for long enough to ensure that the child can be completely alienated from the other parent’s life by deepening inculcated fears and phobias of that parent.

The problem with the way that we support separated families in this country is that for too long we have been driven to believe that this is only about dads who leave families and mothers and children who are abandoned.  We have also been encouraged to believe that the only thing wrong with family separation is that said abandoned mothers are struggling to put food on the table and shoes on their children’s feet.  This is untrue.  It is a stereotype that serves to support the women’s rights groups who have dominated the social policy space around family separation for too long.  It is dangerous and it is corrosive, especially to children who are least well served by its ongoing promotion.

Working close to the coal face of family separation, stereotypes are not useful in helping to understand what is really going on in a family.  Use of punitive beliefs to drive practice does not serve children who are vulnerable to becoming caught up in parental battles.  Looking beyond stereotypes, it is easy to see that the way that a family separates is very similar to the way that the family operated when it was together. Lines of power and control are utilised in just the same way. People do not change during separation, they simply sharpen and harden their inherent traits and they often fall back onto negative behaviours which are used to the full to power their way through to victory.

Because family separation is not about bad dads abandoning angelic mothers and their starving children.  Much as we might like to think it is (because that makes it easy to deal with in policy and practice terms), it is not.  And saying it is not is not anti mother and it is not pro father, it is simply raising the reality that family separation is about mothers and fathers, some of whom behave well and some of whom do not.  When one reaches that place in practice with families, it is easier to see what is really going on and when you see what is really going on it is possible to assist the family. Properly assist I mean, not shove them into a state run service or the family courts where they are run through the mill of other people’s stereotyped beliefs again until they conform, walk away or die.  And I mean die.  Too many men die after family separation, not because they are not able to talk about their feelings but because of the relentless barriers placed in the way of their relationships with their children, all put there by the stereotyped beliefs which prevail in the world around them.  Yes, women die too, I am not denying that. But we hear about the women, we never hear about the men. Speaking about both is important in this field.

Working with that which we do not hear about is the focus of our research work at the Family Separation Clinic where we are examining Intimate Partner Violence in family separation and the way in which children are used in this through the use of false allegations of sexual abuse.  False allegations are differentiated by Bernet et al into two categories, false and fabricated.  False allegations are those which originate as rumors and which spiral out of control and fabricated allegations are those which are deliberately and maliciously generated either by a parent or by a parent using the child to report them.  Whichever category the allegation is in, the outcome in the UK is the same.  When allegations of sexual abuse are made, contact between the child and the parent they are made against stops and family proceedings must then await the outcome of any criminal proceedings which arise.  Working as we do at the Clinic with high conflict families, false allegations are part of the landscape and they affect mothers as much as they affect fathers.  And as deeper examination of the family dynamic shows, allegations of this nature are most often part of an ongoing pattern of ongoing intimate partner violence which has been present in the relationship prior to separation and which continues afterwards through coercive control of the child.

I should be clear that in our work we also differentiate between child sexual abuse which is real and that which is alleged as part of a campaign of control. Differentiating between real and false child sexual abuse allegations requires careful work and demands that the allegations are set within the family dynamic both in the present moment and historically.  Achieving clear vision in this area requires us to work outside the feminist paradigm. This is because the feminist belief system which dominates family services, teaches that all women and children must be believed without question and questioning this belief means that one is biased against mothers.  This double bind which is imposed upon practitioners, is dangerous to both women AND children because it a) captures mothers in the net of fixed beliefs that all women are good women and b) causes practitioners to overlook the damage that mothers can do to their children.  To understand what I mean here let me unpick this just a little bit.

Intimate Partner Violence is not a gendered issue. It just isn’t. Look at the facts in the link above.  Men AND women are violent and men AND women are harmed by intimate partner violence.  To believe otherwise is to simply ignore the facts and impose your own (untrue) belief system upon families and force them to conform to this. This is not equalities practice, this is discrimination in action.  And when one works from a discriminatory perspective, one captures not only the people who fit your stereotyped beliefs, but those who don’t too.  This is called ‘unintended consequences’ in feminist speak.

It works like this.  If you believe that only men are capable of intimate partner violence and only women can be victims, when you come to look at the separated family where a child is making allegations of child sexual abuse, who do you assume is the abuser?

If you believe that coercive control is something that a man uses against a woman, when a child makes an allegation of child sexual abuse against a father, what is your first reaction?

What do you do then when the child makes an allegation of sexual abuse against her mother?

And what do you do when the allegation of child sexual abuse against his father is clearly shown to be untrue but the child and his mother continue to hold fast to the statement that it happened?

Who do you believe and why do you believe it?  Is your belief evidence based or is it based upon your own gendered assumptions about violence in the home?  When you face those realities which do not fit your belief system, how do you go on to assist families?  Or do you continue to try and make them fit your belief system instead of their reality?

Services delivered within a feminist paradigm, which teaches that men are violent and women are not, create significant problems for parents who face false allegations as part of a pattern of intimate partner violence after family separation.  For men who face such allegations the prevailing belief is that they are guilty until they are able to prove their innocence and for women so accused, the belief is that they must be really really bad people because women do not sexually abuse children and therefore if a child is saying that it happened they are courageously speaking the unspeakable.  All of which provides the coercively controlling parent with the perfect conditions for continuing their abuse, using not only the child but the practitioners who work with the family, the police and even Judges themselves who are not all free of their own deeply held beliefs about what men and women do.

Working outside of the feminist paradigm, with the facts and not the fantasy, it becomes possible to see the family and its patterns of power and control more clearly. This brings potential for understanding false allegations within a new power and control paradigm, one which uses not a constructed idea of patriarchy as its framework but horizontal and vertical lines of assessment which examine past behaviours, historical context and trans-generational family patterns. Locating the separating family within this context allows one to examine allegations within a framework of understanding what brought the family to this place – why this, why now? Using tools such as SET (sequence, escalation, timing) factors developed by Bush and Ross in 1987, allegations are examined within the current dynamic between parents and particular examination is made of the power and control element of the allegations.  As Campbell (2014) states,  ‘Were the allegations timed in such a way that one parent garnered greater control, has the family system divided itself into two hostile coalitions? Who did the child disclose the allegations to, was it the mother or someone in her coalition or was it outside of a coalition, a teacher perhaps or some other impartial person?’  All of these elements allow the person who is evaluating the allegations to get closer to the reality of what is really going on.  All of these elements are worked with outside of the feminist belief system and all are based upon an understanding that coercive control patters and allegations of child sexual abuse can be closely linked in cases of family separation.

Child sexual abuse allegations are damaging in the extreme in a landscape which is already littered with suffering.  Look closely at this landscape however and you will see that this is not a war between two people but a war waged by one person against the other with the heavy weaponry being the children involved.  When the lines of power and control are made visible through the application of non gendered practice, it is possible to see which parent is the war monger and which one is not.  And the one who is not is the healthy parent who is the person most capable of keeping the child safe.  Too many practitioners who come to these scenes of devastation and destruction assume that they know what is really going on and treat the problem as a he said/she said situation.  Too many bring their own belief systems to the war zone and spend their time trying to make parents fit their paradigm, causing more pain, more suffering and abandoning children to their fate as the conduits of hatred and harm.

When we step out of the need to believe that challenging feminist belief systems automatically make us anti mother or pro father our ability to serve the families who need us improves ten fold. Go on, read the statistical evidence in the link in the first paragraph and open your mind to reality.  Intimate partner violence and coercive control is happening all around you, perpetrated by women as well as men and capturing children and rendering them victim to not only the abusing parent but your practice too.  If you want to be part of the solution, stop being part of the problem and wake up to the reality of what really goes on in separated families. The children whose best interests you are charged with serving, depend upon you to do so.

 

27 comments

  1. Spot on! How can we best get this message out into the wider community?

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  2. martin murphy · February 11, 2015

    Excellent as usual. (could another link be posted for the studies as this one doesn’t work? Thanks!)

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    • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

      think it works now Martin. K

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    • nick234678 · February 12, 2015

      Excellently explained, Karen. As ever. Thanks.

      I think there are quite a lot of thinkers around the world who have separately worked out the same analysis of what is happening. Hopefully we will all converge and contribute to a sea-change of wider thinking.

      Could you give the fuller references, please, for your references to: SET / Bush and Ross (1987) and to Campbell (2014). Thanks.

      Nick

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      • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

        and those of us who understand have a duty to put our heads above the parapet and say it as it is in my view Nick, only when enough do and risk their reputations and livlihood because of it will we get change. I am attacked frequently for saying what I say, I am undermined and ridiculed in some places but I keep on saying it and will keep on saying it until those too afraid to say it as it is see that it is necessary to do so. You cannot change this culture without tackling the barriers and feminist thinking is one of the biggest, when I see and hear others saying that out loud I will know that they are on my wagon, until then my wagon is hitched to the international PA movement and will stay that way.

        References are – Campbell 2014 is in Bill Bernet’s book which is linked to in the peicer above.

        SET factors by Bush and Rose are in the same book in the false allegations section.

        I use these regularly, as should all practitioners in this field in my view.

        K

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      • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

        I don’t need or want medals Nick, I just want to bring forth in this country the kind of help and support that families facing this issue really need. I have done a lot of work and risked a lot to do it and keep doing it, your approach is not something I recognise or feel comfortable with and so cannot and will not promote it I’m afraid. You will have to hoe your own row with those who want to do that with you, my interests lie elsewhere. In all things, one has to be congruent and true to self and those people I work with and learn from, share the same clear vision and the same courage and bravery to stand up and say it on behalf of the parents we work with. Advertising your work will have to go on in places other than here I’m afraid. I wish you well with it. K

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  3. Johnnie · February 11, 2015

    Karen, once again a flippin’ great article. You speak for so many who know the above to be the truth.

    I have personally helped a father whose situation I would describe as a typical example of sexual abuse allegations being made for coercive purposes. I personally followed his case and was privy to the entire chronology of events in documentation, and without his word on this, I could see quite clearly what had/has happened. This man hasn’t seen his kids for 3 years now. A father who was not perfect but was definitely doting, gentle, loving and met his financial responsibilities (and still does I believe) towards his kids. He has “moved on” now, met a wonderful woman who has her own children, to whom he is a great step-father, and I’m so happy that he’s happy again and has ‘survived’ where many others do not, but I know that not a day goes by when he doesn’t think of his children. Very, very said for those children and for him.

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    • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

      dads AND mums face this in my experience Johnnie, it is as if in the current culture, a child says this happened and it therefore must have happened, no-one sets it in context, no-one appears to ask questions, it is just accepted, a terrifying situation in my view for parents and children alike.

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      • Johnnie · February 13, 2015

        Yes I’m sure both mums and dads go through this sort of thing. In fact I’ve spoken to mums on the outside and the noises they make are exactly the same as the dads’. Sometimes I think it’s even tougher for mums as they have the additional pressure of society thinking there really must be something wrong with them if they are not primary carers let alone not even seeing their children. The societal attitudes towards gender that hold that woman is nurturing and loving while man is immature and aggressive are the very same attitudes that judge the woman for not being there in the driving seat. Dads are expected to be ‘weekend dads’ at best. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve mentioned that I’m a separated father to have someone say, “So when do you see your child, every other weekend right?” And if I say, “no actually much more than that” (I’m one of the lucky ones having been through the worst), they are 1. surprised and 2. think I’m some kind of hero until I explain that it’s my job to parent as much as I can. It’s the default setting to my mind.
        My heart goes out to all mums and dads who aren’t being allowed to be parents to their children and my heart bleeds for the children who are at the centre of this pain and misery.

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      • karenwoodall · February 13, 2015

        MIne too Johnnie, it is shameful and it is child abuse in action, all perpetrated and sanctioned by the state.

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  4. Rachel · February 11, 2015

    Another thought provoking post… always profound, articulate, educating and reassuring. As a family caught in this ugly process, your posts are a leading light. Thank you so much. Keep posting we are reading and benefiting hugely from your words.

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    • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

      I am glad they help Rachel, we are doing all we can at the Family Separation Clinic to help families and raise the issue, more to come this year, we are on a writing retreat right now finishing off the book and from there will come the new site for families. We have so much to do to develop our services whilst at the same time meeting the needs of families who come to us but we are a determined band and we won’t let up until this problem is properly seen for what it is, a cancerous scar on the lives of families across our country. K

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  5. Johnnie · February 11, 2015

    The link seems to work OK. Karen, do you know the site owner/admin of the http://www.domesticviolenceresearch.org?

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  6. Jay · February 11, 2015

    I thought you must have been reading my mind after reading this article Karen. as I was lay awake just last night thinking about the whole issue of false allegations after having spent yesterday supporting a mate in a meeting with Cafcass who has had to defend himself against multiple and repeated false allegations over the past few years.

    Sadly, for society to move away from the stereotypic views you have described and that my mate and I encountered in that meeting yesterday it will take a step change in attitudes, not just of professionals working in the relevant fields, but also from ‘people in the street’ who are frequently completely oblivious to the bias all around them, at least until it encroaches into and blights their own lives.

    Certainly in the IPV arena it will be an uphill struggle when despite the proposed new Domestic Violence Bill being on the face of it a gender neutral piece of legislation, the application of it will no doubt in practise be far from that, just as has happened with other pieces of apparently gender neutral legislation in the past.

    This was highlighted in a debate about the new proposals I attended recently at the National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse (NCSPVA) which I have probably already mentioned in comments elsewhere, so apologies if I am repeating myself.

    Three of the five panellists, Harry Fletcher (not really quite sure why he has been tasked to do it or what his qualifications are to do so, but he appears to be heavily involved in shaping the new law), a regional Women’s Aid director, and a solicitor who heads up the domestic abuse help unit at a local law firm, all completely refused to accept the suggestion made by me the fellow male victim who I supported yesterday, that domestic abuse and violence is not a gender, but a social issue.

    Further confirmation of their adherence to stereotyping came from the latter two panellists later in the debate after I raised the issue of coercive control and the inability of the Family Courts to recognise or deal with it, when they insisted that no parent (father) would ever be prevented from seeing their children unless there was good reason. As a targeted and very much alienated parent myself the red mist started to descend and I had to bite hard into my lip before I uttered anything stronger than just “yeh, rite!”.

    Getting back to the issue of allegations, whilst I have seen a number of other parents suffer from being the target of false allegations, personally I have not, at least not of any significance. I was careful not to insert the word ‘fortunately’ in the last sentence, because I have sometimes, perhaps even often, wondered if it would have been better if I had, which may sound rather odd, given the devastation they can cause.

    However, I figure if false allegations are made, the truth will eventually out, there is always scope for the lies to be exposed and thus for the true colours of an abusive parent hell bent on causing trouble to become blatantly apparent to all and sundry.

    In my own situation, the manipulation of my children and I by their other parent has been so subtle, at times it was difficult enough for me to realise it was going on myself, so to expect it to be picked up by professionals who cannot even spot poorly crafted false/fabricated allegations when they slap them in the face it, is clearly going to be a bridge too far!

    I am intrigued to know if false allegations are generally a feature of high conflict cases, or whether there is equally as likely to be none, such as in my own case, and which if either are in theory the easier cases to unravel and resolve, those with or without such allegations?

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    • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

      This is the big problem Jay, what we have are policy makers who are politically motivated and who are absolutely blindsided by the women’s rights lobby. This lobby group is huge, it is financially powerful and it can manipulate reality at will. I have sat around tables with these people who are ferocious when they are challenged. I was once in a meeting with heads of women’s groups who more or less laughed at me, then threatened me and then spent the meeting trying to shout me down. I have been attacked, threatened and bullied by people involved in the women’s rights movement for speaking about the need to work outside of the feminist paradigm when working with separated families. I have seen possibilities for social policy changed absolutely wrecked by the fear of the women’s rights lobby and in the end I walked away because I could not stomach it anymore. Unless we work together, those of us who know the reality – that IPV and Coercive Control are not gendered issues, more generations of children will be used in this way and it is frankly appalling in my view that anyone charged with upholding the best interests of children is allowed to practice using a policitical ideology such as feminism. But they are and they believe they are holier than you and I and more committed to equalities. They are not. Equalities work can never be achieved using feminism as a basis. HIgh conflict cases often feature false allegations but not all false allegations come in high conflict cases and not all high conflict cases feature false alegations. Similarly, true allegations arise in high conflict cases and outside of high conflict cases. The reality is that there is no generic approaches. Unravelling the case from a therapeutic perspective is relatively easy when using non feminist, therapeutically derived protocols. That however is only the start. Then one has to ‘prove’ the case to the system and that is another matter entirely. False allegations which to me are clearly being used to further the power a parent holds over another parent are for me a child protection issue in that the parent making the allegations or forcing the child to make them is abusing the child. Sadly when social workers look at this or CAFCASS, they look at the surface and trained as they are to listen to the voice of the child they look no further than that. CPS seem to be the same and the Police these days appear to accept the word of the child without any other evidence whatsoever leaving CPS to make the decision whether to charge a parent. Utterly bewildering when these cases could be resolved at the outset with therapeutic work and guidance. K

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  7. daveyone1 · February 11, 2015

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

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    • Heartbroken · February 12, 2015

      In Canada, specifically the province I am from, the way of thinking is that “Dad’s have rights too”. That, unfortunately, has caused problems for my family significantly. I know he has tried to make allegations and my kids have said something but not anything big enough to create legal action just enough to create doubt. I don’t even know what was said. Nothing true that is for sure. I guess it just needs to be said that each situation needs to be looked at separately and that new stereotypes are dangerous too. Where I am from, they think that if a man appears to want his children so much then he must be a great man. They don’t look at all the persuasion and manipulation he has done to them.

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      • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

        and that is the end result of the madness that is a rights based approach to working with families. The pendulum swings and suddenly it is all about dads. You are completely right, new stereotypes are as dangerous as old ones and relying on stereotypes to deliver practice is the most dangerous thing of all. I would love to be able to take these people through an equalities training around family separation, then they would know what the best interest of the child really means. I am sorry to hear about your difficulties, sending my support to you. K

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  8. nrjnigel · February 12, 2015

    Although I know in theory why evidence based practice isn’t actually what happens in the “system” it is still a cause of some disbelief that after so many years of evidence therapeutic work is completely sidelined by a political ( almost religious) belief system that causes so much damage.

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    • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

      yes a political ideology which has been wrapped up and posted into our lives as being all about equality. It is not and until enough people recognise it is not and that saying it is not is not anti mother and pro father, we will circle around this damaged place for a very long time Nigel. Feminism is not about equality, it is about women’s rights before all else and it harms children and their mothers and fathers and has no place in practice with the separated family in my view. The argument that feminism is the way to achieve equality is akin to saying that only Maoism can eradicate poverty. Feminism is an ideology, it is political in nature and it does not promote equality. Equalities practice requires you to drop the political ideology, take off the feminist glasses and see the world as it is, not how it is filtered through a political construct. I am absolutely stunned when I hear therapists and other family practitioners arguing that their feminist practice is helpful to families, I am stunned actually that practitioners practice feminist practice without declaring it because I cannot see how that gives people an equalities based service. Why as a man would you subject yourself to a therapist who uses feminist analysis to understand your world for example? In doing so you are immediately subjecting yourself to their assumptions about you and who you are. Feminism has no place in this kind of work and we have to be brave enough to say it.

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  9. Anonymous · February 12, 2015

    Sitting upright in my bed this morning propped by three comfy pillows I could see birds going about their daily business, in the gutter immediately to the right of the downpipe. It looks fairly precarious and potentially dangerous to me, so high above the concrete footpath.

    Last year I sadly witnessed birds in a similar position that had had their nest washed away in a sudden downpour. I wasn’t sure if it was Mum or Dad’s fault that they had chosen to build the nest in such a vulnerable place…………well at least it was safe from cats and other ground based predators I guess.

    Anyway today he was climbing all over her back and it only took a few seconds. Previously I had watched other birds call to one another and the female lead the male a merry dance. It seemed like only the most persistent male would win his mate.

    Like last year (and for that matter all years previous and into the future) Dad would go out catching food, whilst Mum was otherwise engaged with hatching the eggs and later caring for her young. Sometimes Mum would go out too and come back to regurgitate partly eaten food for her chicks. For a while at least Mum and Dad seemed to be involved in a joint effort to bring their young into the world.

    Different bird species behave differently, the male Emperor penguin unusually being known for incubating the eggs, protecting them from the harsh Antarctic conditions. Mum goes out filling her belly full of food for the chicks and when she returns to Dad in August she has food for the emerging chick and Dad heads off to sea to fill his belly. He is starving having sat on the egg for some 50 days or so. He was in a huddle with his male friends (no doubt talking premiership football and rueing the fishy delights he was sorely missing).
    It all made me wonder whether other animal species had domestic tiffs, like us, and how the male and female roles were defined; whether males or females became predominant over their child rearing roles around the time of childbirth.

    I can’t see any evidence of political, cultural or religious norms which have determined and shaped the child rearing roles of the parents but there must be a reason why different species do the job differently. Have emperor penguins always done it this way? Was it the male or the female who decided it was Dad’s job to sit on the egg? Was there some kind of democracy, a collective decision making process that led to him sitting on the egg?

    Kind regards

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    • karenwoodall · February 12, 2015

      isn’t the difference that we humans can think and perhaps have thought our way so far away from the instinctual that we have lost the way back? Loved the story, k

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  10. padrestevie · February 13, 2015

    Hi Karen

    I have just discovered these promotional film clips from CAFCASS.

    I speak highly of some of their people. But, the CAFCASS “barrel of apples” is tarnished by some very rotten fruit. Consequently, I suspect that many people with experience of the family justice system will feel as nauseous as I did after watching these clips.

    In the context of this post I find some of the things said in these videos to be unbelievable. We hear a carefully selected sample of FCA’s and some very compliant parents and children tell us how CAFCASS typically get called upon during “high conflict cases”. In the next breath we are told how CAFCASS will “always try to interview children where they feel comfortable”. The example given is at home with mum! Surely, this is the last place on earth that a child alienated from its Dad will be able to articulate meaningful wishes and feelings. It is in these surroundings that rehearsed allegations will most likely be accurately trotted out.

    Other anodyne statements like, “we do a short, intensive piece of work…of a high quality” left me feeling numb with disbelief. When ideologically driven FCA’s are easily distracted from the core issues (which they are inadequately trained to recognise anyway) by erroneous accusations, then how can this statement possibly be true? The time allocated to face-to-face contact with children is woefully inadequate unless what is said is all that CAFCASS really want to hear.

    Perhaps the most disingenuous nugget was when the FCA described how things that a parent is not happy with can be brought up in court. In reality, does this opportunity ever arise unless there is a contested final hearing? This statement is also deliberately and grossly misleading because, in fact, there are complaints procedures. Although CAFCASS actively attempt to restrict the scope of complaints they also fail to notify service users about other avenues of complaint to which they are entitled e.g ombudsmen, the professional registration bodies for social workers and judicial review etc.

    I am so grateful to some wonderful people that work for CAFCASS because without their care and diligence my daughter would have been deprived of a decent father. However, had I not asked a few pointed questions my involvement would have been just a few letters until she felt able to ask her own questions. Such an outcome would have been nothing short of criminal and wrong.

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    • karenwoodall · February 13, 2015

      I think it is important Padrestevie to acknowledge those pieces of work which have been done by CAFCASS which have been exemplary and which have contributed to the well being of the children involved. It is equally important to point out the failures of this government body and the problems that CAFCASS officers can and have caused in families because of, as you put it, woefully inadequate training, a view I share and have raised with Anthony Douglas himself. I do not see the consistency from CAFCASS that is necessary in service delivery or the skilled interventions which are referred to in my work with families. That is perhaps because of the lack of a standard framework for training or assessment of the skills base of CAFCASS officers. Many people have asked for the training framework that is used by CAFCASS, some have obtained through FOI requests, the ‘knowledge bites’ that are used to inform officers about issues such as parental alienation. There are concerted efforts happening all the time to try and make CAFCASS fit for purpose which appear to be simply batted off as unnecessary by those charged with responsibility for delivery of this government service across the country. I absolutely acknowledge the skill and determination of some CAFCASS staff, I have worked with them and found them to be utterly brilliant in their understanding and delivery. Others I find are not so skilled and not able to understand the basic necessities of working with separated families which, from an equalities based perspective, means working with the whole family outside of the feminist ideology of mother’s interests first and everyone else second. It has been made very clear to me in recent weeks that many officers approach their work from the basis of making assumptions about things that are said and written and that if this does not fit with a particular officers world view, this affects the outcomes that are delivered by an individual. This is the very essence of discriminatory practice and my concern is that without a standard equalities training framework, individual CAFCASS officers are free to make their assessments based upon their own personal and world views, views which may deliver discriminatory outcomes. This lack of equalities training would certainly explain the deep dissatisfaction which is expressed by families about the services delivered by CAFCASS. A government body which allows it’s staff to practice political ideology within its work with families is deeply flawed in my view. In my experience of working with this body, those CAFCASS officers who work against this grain are those who make a critical and often rapid difference to the lives of children and I acknowledge them, however my criticisms of the lack of understanding in basic equalities remains and I will not stop speaking about it because it causes heightened risk to children in private law cases as well as destruction of the child’s right to a relationship with both parents. This is a thorny issue which I will continue working on in research and evidence based challenges because to remain silent about it is to collude with a system which can be damaging to children if it is not held up to scrutiny. It simply is not acceptable in my view to make parents believe that they are going to get a fair hearing when too many of the people who come knocking at their door are practicing a political ideology which is incompatible with helping families as a whole.

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  11. Jay · February 14, 2015

    Good spot and analysis Padrestevie, and yes, as suggested I felt nauseus after the first clip and did not have the stomach to endure the rest. The clip I did watch certainly did not portray the organisation which has blighted the lives of my own children over the past six years, and those of a number of friends.

    And picking up on Karen’s point

    ‘It has been made very clear to me in recent weeks that many officers approach their work from the basis of making assumptions about things that are said and written and that if this does not fit with a particular officers world view, this affects the outcomes that are delivered by an individual.’

    Earlier in the week I supported a friend, during a meeting with the Cafcass Guardian to his child, I won’t go into any further detail to avoid compromising identities or the case. I just want to focus on what the guardian said in summary, which in no way reflected the vast difference in attitudes and behaviour of the two parents that had been well documented and available for her to explore, had she chosen to do so.

    Using the usual sweeping generalisations which seem designed to make it appear that both parents are being treated equally, I had to sit there biting my lip as the guardian described the behaviour of both parents as ‘NOT NORMAL’, she then preceded to explain how she had NEVER experienced such behaviour in her own personal life, and rarely IF EVER during her professional career, reiterating again before she finished that she considers the behaviour of both parents to be NOT NORMAL and they need to sort themselves out.

    Clearly what she encountered within this case did not fit with her own world view, she appeared to have little understanding of what was going on, or desire to find out, and may as well just have said

    “Well this whole situation is totally beyond my comprehension, I am completely out of my depth, I have had no relevant training and have absolutely no idea what to do about it, but I need to get this case off my desk, so I will probably just deliver the industry standard recommendation in my report, keep my fingers crossed, and hope it all turns out okay for everyone, particularly me”

    There again, perhaps I am just becoming cynical?!

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  12. Nearlybel · March 12, 2015

    Hi Karen,
    I think every right thinking person would want their child or anybody’s child to have contact with, mother, father, siblings, grand parents and other extended family and friends. Each contributing to the child’s development, welfare and happiness through that interconnectedness. It is not through separation that relations breakdown, many separations, enhance conditions for children, introducing more loving people into their lives.
    It is an abusive individual that is the problem. These individuals use their partner and children ‘the family’ as a facade in which to hurt, humiliate and hinder, all within that family to meet their perverse needs. Their needs must be met at all costs, invoking menace permanently, us prioritising him for fear of the consequences. They lie, all the time, they distort your reality, they literally drive you mad, because one can see they’re lying but they deny it. You can’t believe ( cognitive dissonance) and think that what he says is true because it’s ‘easier’ to believe. And when you eventually ‘discover’ what it is they are doing, what it is they are, and a health professional believes what I couldn’t believe myself, he was an abuser, a pathological liar, a whole new lexicon opens up, psychopath, narcissist, cluster b personality types. Living in your bed, and the horror of trying to get away.
    They accuse you of what they have been doing. They contact GPs, solicitors, demanding their ‘rights’ as yours have been systematically eroded by him. And you know how ‘sick’ he is in his perversity, will stop at nothing to destroy you now you have lifted the veil of secrecy you didn’t even know you were keeping.
    And how he infects and affects all around him, manipulating and lying as he goes, fooling the family therapist, and she had exactly the same take as ye Karen, equality in relations with the father and the children, the children didn’t want to see him, now they had a choice, now that we moved out of family home because he wouldn’t, they chose not to see him. And all the while I was trying to engage with him, to sort without resort to court he’d accuse me of ‘turning the children against him’
    I replied ‘why’ ‘how’ ‘do you not think they can see for themselves’
    He replied ‘no’ ‘ you are poisoning them against me by telling them stories’
    Exactly what he does!
    A feminist agenda interfering in family relations? is this the same feminist agenda that got women, property rights, right to work and equal pay, health and reproductive autonomy, that brought us out of the dark, recognising the contribution women make to societies worldwide?
    I think all ‘the feminist agenda’ wish for is the best for all, they will stand by all the fathers and mothers that work towards a loving and respectful life with their children.
    You have seen the high profile ones, jimmy saville, Rolf Harris, the abusive, paedophile liberal MP I forget his name. I heard a stat 1 in 100 people are pathological, this is the problem in high conflict families, learn to identify these, look at yourself, why do you believe what you do?
    what is your agenda?
    All good wishes in your very difficult work.

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    • karenwoodall · March 12, 2015

      Phew. I don’t share your faith in the feminist agenda. My agenda is to help children to have relationships with their loved and loving parents despite separation. I do not share your view of separation which is feminist based and about women’s rights and needs before children’s rights and needs. I wish you well but your individual experience is not the sum total of the whole of family life. Perhaps your children’s father wanted to be with them because he loves them and misses them. ys a feminist agenda brought changes, but it was hardly the dark ages, I am glad that change came but it is out of kilter now by many miles. I think you will find many parents on here will be terribly upset to hear you call them abusive individuals, in your case maybe, in too many cases absolutely not. Best wishes K

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