Last Saturday, 26/10/19, Mike and I were joined by several supporters at a ‘Survivor Uprising’ organised by The Court Said. Despite ostensibly being an event to highlight the plight of all sufferers of inter-personal violence in obtaining justice in family courts (as insisted by organisers and attendees), posts on their Facebook page suggested that in fact their mission is very much gendered. From girl power slogans to the feminist claim that men’s feelings are prioritised over women’s safety to statistics based on the guesswork of an American study from 2008 that seems to have been signal boosted (not because it has any relevance to present-day U.K. but) for emotive and propagandist purposes and memes dismissing parental alienation, our concern remains that the activities of this group could serve to entrench the existing bias against fathers in family courts.
A number of the placards at the event further confirmed these suspicions, for example:
Whilst it was difficult to hear the speakers at the event from the distance that the organisers insisted we keep, I did manage to listen to Chris Green, O.B.E., founder of The White Ribbon campaign. He gave a predictable speech that squarely laid the blame for inter-personal violence at the feet of men and called for them to be better.
Natalie Page, one of the organisers, insisted to me that there is a bias against mothers in family courts and that abusive fathers are routinely awarded custody of children.
The organisers were not pleased to see us in general and at one point called over police to move us on, however, after ascertaining that we were simply standing and entertaining polite discussion with people who approached us, the police refused to intervene. Other attendees were more or less reasonable and it transpired that many of us agreed that family courts need to be further opened up to public scrutiny and that allegations of domestic abuse should be subject to findings of fact.
We carried placards:
Leaflets handed out by other attendees contained some disturbing messaging, insisting that “violent fathers nearly always get contact”, “courts and social services must prioritise the welfare of the child by keeping children with their mother“, “Victims of domestic violence have a right to be protected in court and NOT to be cross-examined by their abuser” (given that Legal Aid is no longer available for those accused of domestic violence, leaving them unrepresented, one wonders whether this statement is suggesting that accusers should not be cross-examined at all). Suggestions to “Strengthen the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019” included an appeal to “End the legal presumption of child contact for fathers with a history of rape and/or domestic abuse” and (just in case you were wondering) that “Family courts must accept all types of evidence – reports to GP, midwife, counsellor, or non-molestation orders…”, and furthermore, asking to “End the use of ‘parental alienation’ to remove children from their mothers.”
All in all, a revealing day underlining the fact that advocacy supporting the rights of fathers and children is so important.