Stop family courts/CAFCASS collusion with domestic violence deniers

To all women MPs and other MPs who have supported the call for the family courts to protect women and children.

Dear MP,

Stop family court collusion with misogynist fathers’ lobby.

We write urgently to ask you to object to the President of the family court, Sir Andrew McFarlane, and Jacky Tiotto, the CEO of CAFCASS (created to protect children), endorsing Families Need Fathers, a misogynist fathers’ organisation, by speaking at their national conference on Saturday 21 November.

Shockingly and dangerously, despite their blatant misogyny, Families Need Fathers and other similar fathers’ organisations have become embedded in the family court process: they are “stakeholders” of CAFCASS and on the Advisory Board of a new Review of the Presumption of Parental Involvement announced by Alex Chalk last week.  No organisation representing mothers threatened by these fathers are represented!  We must ask if there is a connection between the family court judgements that have led to the murder of children by their fathers and organisations which deny male violence being advisors to CAFCASS?

Families need protection and support, not violent fathers who use the family courts to avoid prosecution and continue their reign of terror against women and children.

On 15 May 2018, over 120 MPs wrote to demand a review of the family courts handling of domestic violence. An investigation by Victoria Derbyshire revealed the growing movement of mothers whose children were forced into contact with violent fathers with traumatic and even lethal consequences. Women’s Aid have shown that between 2005-2015, 19 children (and two mothers) were killed by their fathers, most during court ordered contact.

The Ministry of Justice review published in June 2020 confirmed that it is overwhelmingly women who are the victims of violence and men the perpetrators, and that the courts are biased against women and children. (According to ONS figures, in the year ending March 2018, 92% of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions were men; 83% of victims were female and around 95% of calls to domestic abuse helplines in the same year were made by women.)

Since the lockdown in March, domestic violence calls to the national helpline have gone up by 800%; and the murder of women by violent partners and ex/partners from two to three a week. Rape and domestic violence have de facto been decriminalised: prosecutions for reported rape are the lowest ever – 1.4%!

The MOJ review highlighted that:

‘… the legal presumption that it is in children’s best interest to have contact with both parents (introduced into law in 2014) has led to a ‘pro contact culture’ reflected in case law and promoted by all professionals … [which] results in a pattern of minimisation and disbelief of allegations of domestic abuse and child sexual abuse.’

‘… the dominance of contact [is seen] as excluding other welfare considerations, including the child’s need for protection from abuse, or the child’s wishes and feelings …’

‘… children’s views are frequently disregarded, primarily in cases where children are stating that they do not want to spend time with an abusive parent.’

‘… there is a disparity of approach to expert testimony, with the courts allowing expert testimony on parental alienation but not allowing expert testimony on domestic abuse.’

‘… when women do attempt to report the abuse suffered in court there are “a number of barriers to credibility including: fear, intimidation, retraumatisation in court room; sexism, racism, classism; pro-contact culture, minimisation of abuse; lack of understanding of coercive control and trauma …”’

‘BAME women felt their negative experiences of the court process were compounded by racism.’

The Domestic Abuse Bill is going through Parliament, and women have been demanding legal changes so that the family courts protect victims not perpetrators.

Families Need Fathers have repeatedly attacked mothers by accusing them of making ‘false accusations’ of domestic abuse, claiming that it is a ‘motorway to legal aid’ and, against all the evidence, that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts. …false and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children.’ Their Facebook includes comments such as: ‘It is abusive to say No to your husband… “Fraud by frigidity” should be a crime…’

They also use claims of ‘parental alienation’ to hide and dismiss women’s and children’s reports of violence, especially when the violence is sexual. Parental alienation is the invention of a discredited US psychiatrist Richard Gardner who defended paedophilia, dismissed domestic violence and advocated that children should be forced to have contact with fathers regardless of any risk to their lives. The World Health Organisation has refused to recognise this much-discredited theory. Against this information, CAFCASS and other professionals continue to, and increasingly, promote the use of ‘parental alienation’ to remove children from mothers trying to protect them.

This sexist collusion with violent men must stop, and women MPs have a responsibility to put an end to it. Mothers and children have a right to expect that you will stand for our safety against male violence. If not women in positions of power, then who?

Yours against rape, domestic violence and child abuse,

Lisa Longstaff   WAR  @againstrape

Anne Neale   Support Not Separation  @notseparation