Archive for December, 2009

Once a Day Ohana

December 23, 2009

Being a non-custodial parent is different than any other parenting experience we read about regularly. My children have a family, over 40 uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and Grandma and Grandpa who love them unconditionally.

I’m a Father, to my own kids and more. I have a girlfriend. She has kids. They are like my kids and they are not like my own. I try to be the responsible Dad they don’t have. My family accepts them as their own, and when I try to put it into words, it is only Ohana.

The Hawaiian Ohana is an old-world, Italian comfort. It’s an Irish tradition. It’s a custom of Great Britain. It is a good day for an Australian. It’s hard to understand why it is not American.

I have been kept away from my daughter since Summer 2005. From my son, since Fall 2006. These are lifetimes in the time my children have had to grow. I don’t know how to tell them “I am here.”

I don’t know what my children want for Christmas or their Birthdays. If I could give them one gift, I would let them know, “No one can get between us and no one ever will. I love you. You are our Ohana.”

Every day, I do at least one thing to bring you into our life in a very meaningful way. I can’t think of any better way to express Ohana.

To learn more about what it is like to be a non-custodial parent without visitation rights, visit my web site at www.LiveBeatDad.com.

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Illegitimacy Normalized

December 17, 2009

In two articles on the “Motherlode” column at the New York Times web site, Lisa Belkin explores the tragedy of a child born out-of-wedlock. Strange that the term wedlock–being married–connotes a state of being “locked” into a relationship of “choice.” Ms. Belkin’s post gives credence to the abundance of women who believe that inviting a man over for a semen deposit is normal.

Increasingly, we are being introduced to a generation of savvy young women who know that they can get the fulfilling experience of motherhood without the emotional attachments required to maintain a relationship. And, BONUS*, they get a monthly child support check to supplement–or replace the need for–an income.

The story started out as a “Family Secret.” Today, illegitimate children are not the family secret. The blended family is the norm. Still, in the high-morality cloud, many transgressors perpetuate the stigma of infidelity without regards to the cost on the children born of these relationships.

While women have plentiful access to freedom of choice, a man is supposed to keep his nature behind his zipper. The moment he changes his pants, a woman is ready to receive the child she wanted. She is under no obligation to tell and he may not know until the first notice from a distant Child Support Enforcement Agency.

Putative Father registries are the standard. In a world where a man may never get a return phone call for a second date, a classified advertisement, perhaps thousands of miles away, suffices to prove notice that his child exists. The putated Father is then shackled for the gestation of his sperm into a human being by a woman who will make him pay for the next 20 years. Thankfully, there are DNA tests.

Although I was married for 9-years and have been separated for 10, I understand Mr. Brown’s plight. These children exist. They are part of you. They are your children. Yet, you are denied even the most basic intimacy, such as the name “Dad.”

Sara Brown calls this a family secret because it is too hard to explain to too many people who are too quick to make negative judgments against them.

They have two children of their own. Every Dad knows that two kids demand a lifetime of attention. And, in Sara’s story, it is impossible to forget about the older child who will never get the attention he deserves. These tragedies are played out a hundred times in every neighborhood across the U.S.

The NY Times got at least one statistic right. Forty percent of children in the U.S. are born to single mothers. Most of these kids are not up for adoption. Motherhood is too lucrative. It’s far too easy to marginalize a Dad. It is too politically correct to be a single mother. Ms. Belkin, in two articles, has not recognized that these phenomena represent a new, early-life profession for women.

In her articles, “Coming to Terms With a Family’s Secret” and “A Child You Didn’t Know You Had,” Lisa tries to tackle the issue that many of us know too intimately. Our children are not alien life forms. They are the continuation of us.

I am concerned about Ms. Brown’s comment that the child is “illegitimate.” Does that make the child illegal or irrelevant? The prejudice is a cultural meme that cannot be erased, though each of us must take responsibility for perpetuating harm against the child.

Ms. Brown’s account is far too prejudice for most men to face. I would rather walk away from her statements like “the women he did not respect but slept with anyway.” Where women frequent bars made up in fashion magazine style; from false eyelashes to push-up bras, there is a simplistic evolutionary goal–perpetuation of the species–about which men have no choice. The prejudice is an illogical social dogma against the nature of humanity directed at an arbitrary sex.

I admire Ms. Brown’s forthrightness, “I cry in the open,” she says. Then she commits a flaw of anger so grave that it had to have put a dent in her marriage, “he is a “deadbeat,” at least in an emotional sense.

Nothing that she says after that convocation matters. Yet, she recognizes her double-bind, “The knee-jerk responses far outnumber the people faced with our unique situation.” I applaud her willingness to share the pain in her marriage. But, I cannot condone her mocking gaffe; so useless to those of us who have lost our children.

Still, I consider Sara one of the more enlightened mothers. One who can live with the challenge of a family made up of unequal and separated parts.

It is David who shows his true nature.

The situation is so complex and convoluted that even after volumes of explanation, outsiders are still prone to oversimplification and the passing of judgment with idealistic morality. In the end, under some circumstances, the only way to remain functional is to hide things away; otherwise your life will be wasted by constantly having to defend yourself.

Far from the deadbeat his wife labels him, he is a LiveBeat Dad.

David opens a window on what it is like to be a LiveBeat Dad, “Picture yourself in my shoes,” he starts. In 900 words, David lays open his heart to his son, to his children and to the world what it is like to be a Dad without the child.

In spite of Sara’s literary blunders, far too many Fathers recognize and empathize with the pain her family feels. All of us are one court paper away from the nightmare David and his son must live.

To find out more about Fathers who live apart from their children, visit my web site at “www.LiveBeatDad.com.”

The Ideologies of Domestic Violence – The Perpetrator

December 10, 2009

In my last article, I discussed a very simplified version of different stereotypes of victims in DV relationships. While the DV industry presents a single unique ideology in which all victims are without culpability, it is possible to identify at least several different types of victims; each with their own motivations.

What is a Perp?

As with victims, there are several different types of perpetrators from the clueless to the downright manic. The DV industry presents all perpetrators as a single manic and aberrant stereotype to complement the blameless victim.

From an early age we teach our children to be aware of strangers, filling them with anxiety and dread about the bogey-man. Today, one only needs to listen to a victim’s advocate in a 30-second commercial to get the idea that perpetrators are around the corner, in your schools with your children, in the stores where you shop, in your work, and even in your home.

What the DV industry hides is that the perpetration and the perpetuation of DV is steeped in cultural habits of fear, hate, and anger. Their job is to get you to side with a victim, to imagine the faceless and nameless everyman as a violator, to increase your fear of violent acts, to foster your hate, and to get you to act out your anger.

The “fear, hate, anger” cycle is very effective at motivating politicians to create new laws that break-apart families and take away personal liberties. And the cycle is very effective at destroying personal relationships, families, communities, and a democratic society.

What the DV industry hides is the same thing that our culture denies: the root cause of domestic violence is the conflict inherent in every relationship. We are all responsible for our failure to respect, encourage, and love others.

Perpetrators, a perspective

Perpetrator ideologies are not adopted as much as they are co-opted. Often without knowing it, perps become the black-hat, the back-side of a coin, or bad person in a relationship. Perp ideologies fall into distinct classes:

• The naive fall into the “What just happened?” crowd;
• The “I know I did it. I’m sorry. Can we move on now?” are the acknowledgers who recognize that their relationship is in a constant state of change;
• The openly defiant (and shameful) “She deserved it” crowd are the poster perps for the DV industry, and
• The DV deniers do not believe that they are capable of DV even while they are committing acts of violence.

Perpetrators are real. Just pick up any newspaper on just about any day of the week and you’ll find a story or two about a man accosting a woman, two lovers duking it out, and occasionally, a woman who has abducted her children to keep them away from the frightening bogey-man she married.

What just Happened?

You come home from work and find a note from your wife of 10 years. She has taken the children on a short-vacation and is threatening to leave permanently unless you “change.” The wife and mother has planned her departure long before she wrote this “Dear John” letter. There have been no instances of domestic violence that you can identify for two or three years. Even that was caused when the wife refused to de-escalate, refused to accept any apology, and refused to look at the way her life was making the family life spin out of control. When blows were exchanged, you were not the first, but she jumped up and called you a perpetrator.

Most perps find themselves in this role. How did an argument over the butter dish turn into a smack-down with the person you love and the mother of the children you adore?

In some instances, two people living together ignore minor issues to such an extent that a focal point, an emotional moment, brings out the worst in both parties.

In some instances, it is the alleged victim who’s goal is to provoke a reaction on a trivial matter that has become lost or dead between the couple.

In some instances, the alleged victim is looking for a way out of the relationship and has chosen a particular weak spot–an emotional weakness in her partner–that she will exploit until he breaks. The break she wants is an act of domestic violence.

Most men who are pegged as perps fall into these traps. These men often take full responsibility for their action without knowing that the other person had an active–and sometimes intentional–role in creating the volatile situation.

Can we move on now?

Many of us were abused as children. To be abused as an adult is something we have come to expect is normal in relationships. “It didn’t have any long-term effect on me,” they say. They took the beating as a child. The adults should be able to accept the beating and move on.

This cultural lifestyle has been handed down for generations–maybe eons. It is fostered by the religious edict, “Spare the rod; spoil the child.” It is part of being human to be fallible and violent, as Cain was to Abel.

And it is a mistake.

When founded in religious fervor, the perp must come to realize the wisdom of “love thy neighbor” and the golden rule. When founded on a rationalization that “It’s always been done this way,” the perp must see how violence destroyed his father, himself, and will destroy his sons. The quote goes something like, “live by the sword; die by the sword.”

Nothing kills love, trust, and respect more than domestic violence. If we are all born with inalienable rights, then every human must be respected, every person must learn to trust, and each of us must find love to give to one another.

For a partner to ask the question, “Can we move on now?,” represents an acknowledgement of the fallibility of human relationships. Can we grow? Can we exceed our expectations? Can we stop fighting like our parents fought?

Change is most difficult for a person who has adopted the ideology of a culture, but it is possible. This perp is in a position to change.

The Defiant

In some ways the defiant perpetrator is, sociologically, the person most willing to present his or her fears, hates, and anger outward. While the defiant is in denial of his or her propensity for DV, he or she is most likely to announce, and even revel in, acts of violence against the people closest to him or her.

Nowhere is this more observable than with two people whose honeymoon is over; where love is a memory, and the comfort of company is sought vicariously through fan magazines, the internet or in real life in places other than the home. He’s a fat slob who didn’t bring me the moon. She’s not the sexy fox she used to be. Proud of their misery, they openly display their adversarial nature for bravado, contempt, or a cry for help. But, change is not on their agenda.

A husband and father may take on the role as the authoritarian figure in the household while the wife and mother takes on the role of the passive and permissive parent who will helicopter mom and never let her children out of her sight. Both these roles are filled with defiant, enabling, and increasing behaviors that can quickly lead to abuse against each other and against the children.

The children are not blind. They see the antagonism, the fights, the uncaring moments, and the slights. They learn that this is how men and women behave towards each other. They grow up being chastised, even hit, for spilt milk and–in turn–hit their siblings trying to do the “right thing” their parents have taught them.

In every relationship, people expect a difference of opinions. In far-too-many relationships, people instigate and escalate minor opinions into major family battles. This is the defiant. It’s repulsive and it make headlines. The DV industry likes to crucify this type.

DV Deniers

Parents, especially in the U.S., have a pathological obsession to raise their children in their own image. If they (in their own imagination) are the beauty queen, they dress up their 6-month-old girl for a competitive beauty pageant. If they are the champion, their children are forced to play sports 6-days a week and piano lessons on Sundays.

The parent’s stress is the child’s education. It is commonly accepted that children of abuse often become abusers. The reasons are more obvious than you might imagine. Children learn abuse from their parents. When a parent expresses fear, hate, and anger towards others, children learn that it is the “normal” way of treating people.

All around them, abusers find sympathizers with similar experiences who believe it is normal to treat their spouses, sons, and daughters without respect. Often, they speak of the abuse they have suffered. To every ally they complain, justify, and condone their worst behaviors towards the people closest to them; their family.

DV deniers are in denial of their humanity. They pass it on to their children who become just like them. Trust, respect, and love are conditional. Life is measured, not by who we are, but by everyone and everything else. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters test themselves against superlatives and never succeed but cast blame easily. If they are not a success, they cannot be a failure; they must be a victim and society will owe them.

The DV denier is most likely to be the instigator and escalator of conflict in a relationship. They are the most likely to be aware of the conflict they create and the least likely to change their behavior before major events, like family disintegration, murder, suicide, and extreme family strife. They are the last to take responsibility for their actions.

The DV denier is the most potent of perpetrators because of their firmly held conviction that they are not the abuser; they are the victim.

Perpetrators Summary

This summary is not meant to be a diagnostic tool. These definitions hold no relevance outside the badly needed dialogue about DV.

It is my hope to put together some framework on the causes of the perpetration and perpetuation of DV within families. I hope that, with these definitions, for victims and perpetrators, the dialogue about domestic violence can move from fear mongering by an industry with vested interests to purposeful communication that reduces the incidence of domestic violence, reduces the incidence of false allegations, and increases family stability by maintaining both parents relationships with their children.

To find out more about divorce, separation, and the harmful effects on children, visit my web site at www.LiveBeatDad.com.

The Ideologies of Domestic Violence – The Victim

December 3, 2009

Getting a conversation about domestic violence going is tough. It’s tough because DV is a highly-charged, emotional issue for everyone that has ever been affected. And, whoever or wherever you are, there has been at least one person in your life that has been affected. Because of the emotional weight of the DV experience, most people will adopt an ideology.

Victims, friends, and families of victims tend to adopt a victim’s ideology. There is a very large and organized culture of victim advocates who promote a consistent ideology that simplifies DV, making it easy for neophytes and politicians, but placing the topic beyond dialogue.

On the other hand, perpetrators are often confused about their role. Perpetrator ideologies range from the majority “What just happened?” crowd, to the openly defiant (and shameful) “She deserved it” crowd.

Victims tend to treat all perpetrators the same and that makes for a big disconnect when trying to teach children and families about DV. In this article, we will look at the ideology of the victim.

Victim Ideology

As I noted, there is a loosely connected, huge, and well-funded organization of people promoting a 100% intolerance message for DV. As laudable as are the goals of the campaign, they recruit victims with ease anywhere that men and women gather freely. Their message is that DV is bad, perpetrators are everywhere, you should be afraid, and all perps must be brought to justice. The campaign has brought about laws in every state that allow any alleged victim to use DV, often without evidence, as grounds for legal action against that other alleged perpetrator.

With every well publicized incident, the ideologues of victimization tend to present women and children as victims. They consistently present men, boys, and military personnel as perpetrators. Even when men are wounded in a DV fracas, it is often his fault. They revel in the multiplicity of stories about the abuse of women by men. The indignation and the gossip spread the fear that furthers their cause.

The schemes are common and are often discussed on the web site, Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting.

The victim’s ideologue is active and outspoken. Having been the first to file court papers, such as a temporary restraining order, they are the first to be heard in the media. They bring these stories to the state legislature with petitions and public gatherings for stricter laws against perpetrators. Victims also want something in return for their pain and suffering. The ideology is that the perpetrator has taken something away and someone must pay.

Many times the victim is the only one to be heard because, after the point of filing, the issue is brought into the family courts where details are hidden behind a veil of secrecy. The secrecy of the Family Court is founded upon the notion that family matters are personal matters and that family members, who are victims, would be hurt further if details of the matter were made public.

Any person can go into the file-room in the Court House and ask for specific records. Parties and dispositions of Family Court proceedings can be looked up online at Ho-Ohiki (MSIE only). Yet, only a person with a lot of time on their hands could actually find something substantive for each and every case that gets marched through the courts.

In effect, the sheer volume of family court cases covers up the hidden world of domestic violence. The victim’s advocate is comfortable with this knowledge that the truth to so many cases will never be known and one of societies greatest ills will never be open to analysis.

Victim Classes

Some victims are completely justified in having everything they ask for. They never wanted to be victims and the crimes against them were unforeseen by any measure.

Yet, in spite of DV advocates attempts to class all victims together, others do not quite fall into the totally deserving category. There are at least three other categories of “victims.”
• We both were responsible for our troubles and I know it.
• I escalated such trivial matters. Why did it have to end this way? And,
• Every man has his limit and I got him.

Recently, evidence has come to suggest that there may be a fourth category; the “I can plan my life around this with child support and a better, more deserving husband later on.” See my 6/25/2008 article on “Pregnant Teen Pact Excludes Fathers” about 17 Gloucester High School Girls.

The success of the domestic violence industry relies on the tacit cooperation of these victim classes and the secrecy of the family court.

The Children of DV

Ideologies destroy the common ground that we need to begin the open discussion on DV that is sorely needed.

The most inflexible ideology of domestic violence is the one being perpetrated by an industry of people profiting from the break-up of families. They argue that children are adaptable and will cope, but the evidence is mounting that our children and, in turn, our society are suffering more than ever from our mistakes.

Stay Tuned

I plan to map out the ideologies of the perpetrator before I suggest a plan for a discussion. As I noted earlier, perps are a varied group of people who are 100% misunderstood by an intolerant system.

In the meantime, visit my web site at www.LiveBeatDad.com.

The Discourse of Domestic Violence

December 2, 2009

For many, the discourse on Domestic Violence stops dead when one person or the other finds out that you are a perpetrator or a victim. The discussion is polemically charged and dominated by ideologues who cannot acknowledge that a perpetrator can be a victim or that a victim could possibly be responsible for any part in the DV occurring.

This blog tries to strike a balance. My wish is to make it a forum where both sides can be heard, the facts examined and consensus arrived at concerning domestic violence in families. After all, while we are all fighting about it, our children are being hurt.

That said, I would like to return to the October 2009 letters in the Honolulu Weekly.

On October 14, Dr. Michael Bouchard wrote about DV with a firm belief that abusers must be held accountable, undergo treatment, and emphasizing that DV is a “good enough reason for ending a relationship.”

My October 28 letter focused on DV as a family problem that most of us have in one form or another. In addition, I mentioned the industry of people who are profiting from our inability to resolve family conflicts. By raising awareness of what DV is, we can learn to be good fathers and mothers and prevent the government from destroying our family bonds.

On November 11, Mr. Wegesend does not seem to understand that–from minor disagreements–there are throat’s grabbed, pregnant women kicked, stabbings and gunshots. Mr. Wegesend argues that, in such cases, families should be torn apart. He argues that change comes for too many after decades of abusive behavior. For the record, I don’t disagree.

From this exchange, facilitated by the Honolulu Weekly, I contacted Dr. Bouchard and Mr. Wegesend. My emails to Mr. Wegesend typify the combatants who fell together; such as Gandalf and the Balrog. The direction is ever downwards and there is only one survivor. In this regard, I am still falling. It is not my first time that–while falling–I have said, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry that we cannot continue the discussion.

Dr. Bouchard has been a gentleman. He writes with the conviction of a person who–in his life–has lived through his family being torn apart by an abuser. He sent a link to an extended version of and a follow-up on the HW posted letter. Dr. Bouchard understands that DV is a highly charged issue “impacting many island families in a multitude of ways.”

The public discussion of DV should always be open to the simple fact that the best place to eliminate domestic violence is from within the family before family conflict turns into family violence. Before family members are cast as victims or perpetrators, every family member can mitigate, minimize, and eliminate domestic violence.

Along with a thoughtful response and links to his web site, Dr. Bouchard added “Should you find either of these letters from my website helpful to your cause I give you authorization to post them both on your blog.”

Better than posting, here is a link to Dr. Bouchard’s letters. In addition, I have posted our email conversation on my own web site. From www.LiveBeatDad.com, click on About LBDad, The Years, and 2009.

Thank you gentlemen for your support and the opportunity to make DV an open discussion.

At this point, I am inviting comments on “who is a victim” and “who is a perpetrator”. My perspective is that they are polarizing ideologies when applied in the context of families. What is your perspective?