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The system that breeds Blackshirts

http://www.dailytelegraph.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,4774398%255E12634,00.html
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The Daily Telegraph
26 Jul 02
Opinions

It's the system that breeds Blackshirts
The militant Blackshirts threaten the cause of both fathers and mothers.
MALCOLM MATHIAS* and KATHLEEN SWINBOURNE** speak up for parent groups

JOHN Abbott is the leader of the Blackshirts and he has long held opinions
that are fairly extreme in my view. I can certainly understand his
frustration at the Family Court/Child Support system, but I don't condone
the actions of the Blackshirts.

Most men's groups certainly feel they have been done over by the Family
Court and Child Support system, and some of them feel so done over, and so
separated from everything they grew up believing in, that they end up
committing suicide.

According to figures from Monash University, 70 per cent of all male
suicides are related to relationship breakdowns. That translates to
roughly three men per day and 21 per week nationally who take their own
lives. The suicide rate of adult males is far higher than the
much-published and talked about youth suicide rates.

Anything that drives men to the extreme emotional level of suicide can
obviously be manifested in other ways, and the Blackshirts are simply one
manifestation of all those extreme emotions.

That said, it is extremely disappointing for groups like FFE if we are
then lumped in the same category as the Blackshirts, or labelled as
deadbeat dads.

For example, Child Support Agency figures show that 87.5 per cent of all
Child Support payments due since 1989 have been paid by non-custodial
dads. The vast majority of dads go on caring about their children after
divorce, despite the bias of the Family Court, the high levels of Child
Support demanded by legislation, and the parental alienation instigated by
some custodial mothers. We want changes!

Men face the double jeopardy of a system that doesn't seem to recognise
fatherhood, and we do our "shared-parenting" cause no good by being
labelled deadbeats, Blackshirts or stalkers. We face those misconceptions
almost every day.

Society seems to expect men to simply accept divorce and get on with life.
Unfortunately people like to mould their lives in their own way. At this
stage, the Family Law, Child Support and divorce system removes virtually
any vestige of personal choice for non-custodial men.

But we still would not expect the average man to join the Blackshirts.

* Malcolm Mathias is the president of Fathers for Family Equity Inc. As
told to Michelle Cazzulino.

BLACKSHIRT members say they are operating to bring back family values.

As far as I can see, they have a very warped sense of what constitutes
both families and values.

Most divorced fathers care about their children and try to maintain a good
relationship with them. Most succeed admirably. Even those who have
problems don't resort to this behaviour.

Blackshirt members (and men who identify with them) are nasty, personal
and vindictive. It's absolutely terrifying for both the women and the
children involved.

If the women go to court they can face groups of these men, who sit there
trying to stare them down. It becomes very difficult for the women
concerned to be able to give evidence freely and clearly - particularly
when they know that the men know where they, and their children, live.

The women then face further harassment at home, where neighbours have been
fed all sorts of misinformation.

Even if the stories have a grain of truth, they are exaggerated and
manipulated beyond recognition in order to prove that the women are "bad"
people and deserving of the treatment they are receiving.

There are obviously men out there who feel as if they've been done over by
the court system - decent people who don't understand what has happened to
them. They don't resort to this type of behaviour. They seek other avenues
in order to make sure they are able to see their children.

Good guys do not terrify women and children. Even if they have a bad
relationship with their ex-wives, most parents would grit their teeth and
work through it for their kids, even if it meant having as little to do
with one another as possible.

The Sole Parent's Union does not, and would never, condone the actions of
the Blackshirts and groups like them.

I know that I'm leaving us open to claims of being anti-male and anti-fathers
by protesting about this group, but that is untrue. We, at every turn, try to
encourage both parents to maintain a working relationship - at the very
least - and for children to have good relationships with both parents.
The Blackshirts are not a normal fathers' group.

This level of harassment is very serious. They've made threats against
people's lives. They frighten children by standing outside their homes
hurling abuse. They are breaking the law. This is a mob mentality, when
you get a group of people like this together, and they build each other up
and feed on their anger.

** Kathleen Swinbourne is president of the Sole Parents' Union. As told to
Michelle Cazzulino.

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The Daily Telegraph
26 Jul 02

Blackshirts spread terror campaign
by MICHELLE CAZZULINO and BARBARA ADAM

CELLS of a militant fathers' group are being set up in some parts of NSW,
welfare groups warned yesterday.

The Victoria-based Blackshirts movement, which mounts terrifying campaigns
against women and children involved in divorce proceedings, is considered
highly-organised and extremely dangerous in its home state.

Members of the group wear masks and paramilitary uniforms - and employ a
range of tactics to unsettle, harass and threaten families.

[Photo caption: Militant ... John Abbott and members of the Blackshirts]

These tactics include filing into court hearings in an attempt to
intimidate women while they were testifying against their ex-husbands and
spreading false allegations of sexual impropriety among the women's
friends and neighbours.

While some NSW-based fathers and the most extreme elements of certain
men's groups had taken their cue from the Blackshirts, they were
previously less organised and did not wear uniforms, experts said
yesterday.

A Wollongong-based mother, speaking under a guarantee of anonymity, told
The Daily Telegraph her ex-husband and his mates had made her life "a
living hell" while her divorce was going through.

"Despite my having AVOs out against him, he used his friends (to
intimidate me) so he technically wasn't in breach of them," she said. "He
made threatening phone calls from public phones, his mates followed me and
even when I was on the beach he had them constantly watching me."

According to a spokesman for VOCAL, a Newcastle-based victims' group, a
small number of NSW men had attitudes similar to those espoused by the
Blackshirts.

"There are certainly elements of [the Blackshirts] within NSW, however, so
far, we haven't had any direct experience with that level of militancy,"
Robyn Cotterell-Jones said.

"There are pockets within some social groups and the Lone Fathers'
Association, a member of whom came in to see me one day and said, 'We only
believe in violence if no other form of coercion will do'."

In Victoria, Blackshirts leader John Abbott yesterday vowed to continue
his aggressive defence of marriage, despite being threatened with
prosecution by the State Government and condemned by key women's groups.

State Attorney-General Rob Hulls has written to the Blackshirts warning of
possible prosecution.

In his letter, Mr Hulls warned against the distribution of abusive open
letters, phantom phonecalls and mysterious knocks on people's doors.

Such "intimidatory and cowardly behaviour" was illegal, he said.

But Mr Abbott demanded a public apology, threatened to sue Mr Hulls,
and vowed to continue his crusade, saying: "It will continue until the very
issue, the very essence of marriage is re-established."

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