When Fathers Kill Their Children

Illustration for article titled When Fathers Kill Their Children

If you're getting sugar overload from all the sweet Mother's Day tributes out there, here's a dispiriting antidote: a story on dads who kill their kids.

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Writes Cara Tabachnick on The Crime Report,

In the nine months between June 2009 and April 2010, 75 children have been killed by fathers involved in volatile custody battles with their former partners, according to the Center for Judicial Excellence, a court advocacy organization which has been tracking news articles of such deaths around the U.S. Based in San Rafael, California, the Center focuses on strengthening court integrity as well as improving public accountability of the judiciary.

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So: what's going on? While overburdened family-court caseloads are certainly partly at fault, the article makes the point that the problem is more systemic: that judges are not trained to spot abuse, and that in fact allegations of abuse are regarded as "difficult" in a system that, intentionally or not, rewards obedience. In other words, Tabanchik argues, the system is biased against abuse claims. The subject is particularly politicized, she goes on, in the wake of the Fathers Rights movement - the pendulum may have swung, for some courts, in quite the other direction. That it should swing in any direction other than that of children's well-being is of course depressing in the extreme.

While one judge in the article argues for the efficacy of appointing a lawyer to each child to act as an advocate, Janet Malcolm's recent New Yorker profile of a Queens murder case, in which one such lawyer's vindictiveness and failure to so much as meet with his young client are presented as both damaging and not atypical, presents quite another picture. "For the moment, abused mothers who are trying to protect their children through the overworked family court system have the cards stacked against them," says one advocate quoted.

But however flawed the system, does any of it really explain why men have resorted to such unnatural violence on such a grand scale? On the subject of "family annihilators," as such men are known in law enforcement, a 2007 Associated Content piece noted that "there are definite differences between men and women who kill or harm their children. He says that women tend to be mentally ill, frequently suffering from post-partum depression. Men, on the other hand, feel rage, jealousy, hatred, and revenge when they kill their families." However, as Newsweek noted in 2008, "there's relatively limited research on men who kill their children." While this is baffling in itself, it does point to the importance of repairing the visible holes in family court systems that have too often contributed to letting situations become tragic. Says the head of non-profit the Leadership Council, "the problem is that family court is not set up to protect children."

Failure To Protect: The Crisis In America's Family Courts [The Crime Report]
A Reporter At Large, "Iphigenia In Forest Hills," [The New Yorker]
The Family Annihilator - Fathers Who Kill
[Associated Content]
Annals of Filicide [Newsweek]

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[Image via PhillipBantz]

Image via Zurijeta/Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

CassandraSays
CassandraSays

This issue makes me so angry. A few months back a local paper published a story that was the classic Father's Rights crap. Even at a cursory glance I could see the holes in the father's story. He kept calling his ex a whore and claiming that she was a danger to the kid. He had his whole family posting comments accusing her of things, really nasty stuff. All the comments from people on her side were relatively reasonable. Even better, they managed to portray the family court judge handling his case as deliberately malicious and out to get him just because he was a man and the judge is a woman. He broke his visitation agreement, repeatedly. He argued with the judge. And then he whined that the judge was giving the MOTHER too many chances. The freelancer who wrote it quoted Glen Sacks!

The editors are not anti-feminist. They're smart people, and yet somehow the fact that this story was biased as hell slipped past them. No one seemed to realise that Glen Sacks is not an impartial source.

This is the scary thing - from a PR point of view, the Father's Rights people are winning. People take their crap seriously. We need to do everything we can to challenge that, because these people are dangerous. I don't even mean dangerous to feminism, although they are - they're dangerous to both their former wives/girlfriends and their children. I have yet to encounter a Father's Rights guy who wasn't seething with rage at women as a group. They seem to have no qualms about taking that rage out on the kids they claim to love - hurting the kids is the best way to hurt the mother.

Let no one mistake the reality of this situation - the Father's Rights movement doesn't care about kids. If you dig a little, most of them have records for violent crime, stalking, etc. We need to make pushing back against these assholes a priority, because they're gaining ground.