Cardiff council deputy leader Neil McEvoy has called for an investigation of organizations running women’s shelters. He says he’s received information that they knowingly abet mothers who defy court orders allowing fathers contact with their children. Read about it here (Wales Online, 1/14/12).
It wasn’t too long ago that McEvoy raised a firestorm of protest by simply saying the same thing – that women’s shelters help mothers keep children from fathers by accepting at face value all allegations of abuse. He was temporarily suspended from his council position because of his claims. Now he’s calling for the Welsh Children’s Commissioner, Keith Towler, to investigate “third sector” groups.
Those groups are analogous to non-profit organizations in the United States that operate women’s DV shelters. The ones in Wales, as here, receive taxpayer money to provide services. That of course raises the important question of whether the public purse should be used to thwart the orders of public courts regarding father-child contact.
In an open letter to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, Coun McEvoy writes: “I call on you now to initiate a commission or committee to look at how some of the third sector operates in the closed world of family breakdown, which involves children.Needless to say, all of that closely parallels the situation in the United States. It was just last year that I reported on the abductions of a little boy by his mother, Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm. She had been married to a Canadian logger named Danny Dimm. They split up and she got custody, but refused to allow their little boy to see his father. When the court ordered an extensive period of time for father and son to be together, Bartell-Dimm simply abducted the boy.
“The respected charity Families Need Fathers Both Parents Matter Cymru has confirmed that its clients claim that some third sector groups in Wales support mothers who are breaking court orders. Such groups are publicly-funded.
“Furthermore, such groups offer what is termed, ‘non-judgemental support’. Non-judgemental support essentially involves such groups believing and acting upon any allegation which is made. Reports are written and submitted to various agencies and yet no checking is done. False allegations can and are at times written as fact. This practice severely distorts the child having a fair chance of a reasonable relationship with both parents, as stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been adopted in law by the Welsh Government.”
She was found within a few days, but, since the court refused to punish her wrongdoing in any way, the incident served only as a lesson in how to improve her abduction technique. The next time she abducted the boy, she was far more effective. In fact, she vanished entirely. That led one Minnesota private detective who specializes in parental abductions of children to surmise that she’d be found in a domestic violence shelter. And sure enough, she was. A DV shelter in North Dakota had been harboring her for two months before she was found and arrested, and the child sent to live with his father.
That incident demonstrates a lot of what Neil McEvoy and many fathers’ rights groups are alleging. Bartell-Dimm was in no way a victim of domestic violence; she had barely even seen Danny Dimm since they divorced almost two years previously. But that didn’t stop her from being taken in by a DV shelter. There, as in Wales, claims of being a victim of DV are taken at face value, no questions asked. The unsurprising result is that DV shelters often take in women who aren’t victims of domestic violence. That in turn means that women who are victims of DV often have nowhere to go; their beds are occupied by women like Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm and others.
Why, for example, are only 25% of the homeless women? I suspect that one of the reasons is that DV shelters are used by women who would otherwise be on the streets. Now, it can be argued that those women need shelter regardless of the reason why. That’s true, but domestic violence shelters are supposed to take in victims of domestic violence; that’s what the money is budgeted for. If we want to budget money for the homeless, fine, but let’s admit what we’re doing.
Likewise, those who donate to non-profit organizations that provide services to DV victims probably think they’re supporting, well, DV victims. What we learn from certain studies, the Bartell-Dimm case and Neil McEvoy’s claims, however, is that money supposedly spent for DV services is in fact spent for other things.
Into the bargain, the Bartell-Dimm case shows exactly what McEvoy is alleging – that DV shelters help mothers separate fine, loving fathers from their children. Danny Dimm was a good father who eventually got custody of his son, but a DV shelter in North Dakota went to bat against him. It aided criminal wrongdoing by a mother; it helped deny a father to a child; it allowed a woman who was not a victim of DV to occupy space that could have been used by an actual victim; and it did all of that with your tax money and mine.
It’s that sort of thing that Neil McEvoy thinks is happening in Wales and his opinion is supported by the allegations of a great number of fathers who’ve had experiences similar to those of Danny Dimm.
So he wants an investigation, and I hope he gets one. It’s always been one of the keys to the DV establishment’s ability to separate children from their fathers that DV shelters don’t investigate the claims of victimization of women seeking their services. Taking all claims at face value is an absolute guarantee that some women will abuse the system. How could it be otherwise?
So there’s ample justification for governments and non-profits to demand some sort of proof by DV shelters that the women they accept are actually victims of DV and not criminals on the run from the law. And once governments start demanding that sort of accountability, the DV establishment is going to have to start behaving very differently from what it has all along.
Whatever happens with McEvoy’s request for an investigation, DV shelters play a vital role in depriving children of their fathers. That has to stop. Women who truly need a place to go to avoid violence by a partner shouldn’t be turned away because mothers are using the space to keep children from their fathers.
Coun McEvoy goes on to state that he firmly believes in the right to refuge and the right to be protected, adding: “I would comment, however, that we seem to have developed a family breakdown industry whereby organisations receive millions of pounds in public money and seem to be straying into areas which should not concern them.The issue of contact between a parent and its child should be dealt with by a court of law when disputes are irreconcilable. Organisations which involve themselves in contact disputes on the side usually of the mother in my view are acting ultra vires and are going beyond their remit.There are far more than that, I’d wager, and far, far more in the United States. It’s high time that Congress stopped turning a blind eye to the abuses and misuses of public monies in the guise of helping female DV victims. It’s long past time that Congress stopped funding the separation of children and fathers.
“As you are well aware, a court order for contact is only awarded when an assessment has been done of usually a father and when a court of law has decided that it is in the best interests of the child to see its father. I have been made aware of a number of examples where a number of good fathers claim to have been denied contact, with their court orders being ignored, while the mother is being supported by a third sector group.
“I made you aware of three organisations in the family justice review that are alleged to be operating in this way.”