MICHAEL Ord has not seen his three children for a decade.
“They are grown now and do not want to have contact,” he said.
Mr Ord runs the Brisbane branch of the Lone Fathers Association of Australia, and he offers a different perspective on the campaign to eradicate domestic violence.
He is not a supporter of the State Government taskforce that delivered the Not Now, Not Ever report on domestic violence.
And he believes the courts that hand down domestic protection orders, primarily towards men, are hindering, not helping families to reconcile.
“It is a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s adversarial through court orders. There are far too many court orders being issued for basic family conflict – not domestic violence,” Mr Ord said.
“So on one hand you’ve got the family law system trying to reduce the conflict and then on the other hand you’ve got the domestic violence industry actually ramping up the conflict, creating division between men and women.
“Children are caught in the middle.”
To support his view, Mr Ord pointed to a research paper from Sydney Law School Legal Studies entitled “Post-Separation Conflict and the Use of Family Violence Orders 2001”.
The research paper highlights concerns about the Queensland taskforce report and the way it presents domestic and family violence principally in terms of a “perpetrator” and a “victim”.
“It’s an over simplification,” Mr Ord said, pointing to the paper’s author Patrick Parkinson, who found that research literature commonly identified four types of domestic and family violence – coercive controlling violence; violence driven by conflict; violent resistance; and separation-instigated violence.
Mr Ord said violence driven by conflict predominated in general community studies and this violence typically involved intimate partners “losing control” rather than “using violence to assert control”.
“The use of language of ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ does not easily fit with the nature of violence driven by conflict; nor does an analysis that insists that only one gender is responsible, even if the patterns of female violence within intimate partnerships are different from male violence, and women are at greater risk of injury,” Mr Ord said.
“The Queensland taskforce appears to focus on coercive controlling violence and ignores the other three types.”
Mr Ord said the Sydney Law School research paper pointed out that it was violence driven by conflict that predominated, not coercive controlling violence.
“Hence the problem is not mostly a gender inequality crisis, but more likely a marriage and relationship crisis between men and women, with children caught in the middle,” he said.
University of Nevada psychologist Dr Steven C. Hayes, recognised for his work in managing partner abuse, wrote an article entitled “Perpetrators are People Too”, in which he claimed “the perpetrator is in the picture only in the sense of being an object of shame and blame”.
“I worry that the public, or even the domestic violence community, who should know better, thinks we have ‘solved’ the issue as long as there are loud calls for strong action against perpetrators,” he wrote in 2014.
“We can all shout at the top of our lungs that we believe domestic violence is wrong, but until we as a society figure out how to reduce partner violence our shouts are nothing but wind.
“Worse in a way, we can walk very close to objectification in these conversations and if we cross that line and begin to dehumanise perpetrators; we are participating in the same process we despise.
“Objectification and dehumanisation is psychologically abusive whenever it is applied to a human being.”
Dr Hayes observed the one place perpetrators were clearly in view was in treatment.
“I believe that we need a new approach that puts the perpetrator back in the picture in a different way – as whole human beings,” he wrote.
Mr Ord agrees.
For lone fathers the situation is “frustrating and disappointing”.
“A father has a very important role to play with his children and it is natural you want to carry out that role,” he said.
“And that is what I hear from a lot of fathers – that they are just cut out of their children’s life, and the domestic violence claims, and the system that is used to frustrate their contact and their relationship with their children.”
By Mark Bowling