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The hidden half of domestic violence

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Vilification of men and fathers


This report would be sad, if it weren't so pathetically anti-male -
betraying a deeply nurtured and heartfelt  misunderstanding of men and
fatherhood - and seeking to manufacture vicious, bias and vilification
about and toward men and fathers and turn a tragedy into a gender issue
and battle.

Manumit has reported past instances of women/mothers killing themselves
and their children - whether related to family breakdown issues or more
general individual/personal issues - which indicate a similar 'identification'
with the children.

The issue is not a gender issue.  Though one should be realistic and note
that if more women lost custody of their children there would be more
female murder-suicides.

The issue is not so much one of depression either, but of despair... of
having your family and home ripped apart and being forced to live apart
from them (and to top of the insult, of being forced, not asked, to pay
for it).  It is testimony to men and so many do (so quietly) and obey the
'law'.

~~~~~~

http://argument.independent.co.uk/regular_columnists/deborah_orr/story.jsp?story=315306

The Independent (UK)
16 July 2002

The confused role of the modern father
Some fathers cannot recognise their children other than as
extensions of themselves
by Deborah Orr
d.orr@independent.co.uk

Claude Mubiangata killed his four children and himself on Saturday by
setting fire to the parked car they were in. At his home, a friend found
letters to his estranged wife, Chantalle, and to his younger brother. The
letter to his wife asked her to "forgive me for everything I have done"
and said that he was "giving you freedom to do your thing and look after
your sister's kids because I am taking mine with me".

These five terrible deaths, early evidence suggests, came about six or
seven months after the breakup of the couple's marriage, which itself
appears to be linked to Mrs Mubiangata's sister's move from Africa to
Britain. But whatever the particular details of this awful crime, the
general pattern of this atrocity is no less familiar for its rarity.

A bleak little list has grown in recent years of men who have killed their
children, themselves and sometimes their partners when faced with their
family's breakdown. Almost a year ago, Police Constable Karl Bluestone
killed his wife and two of his four children, then himself, during a
catastrophic flashpoint in a disintegrating marriage. In 2000, Frank
Fairless smothered his two children then hanged himself during a weekend
custody visit.

The year before, after his marriage broke up, David Price killed himself
and two children with carbon monoxide in a car. In the same year,
Alexander Lumsden strangled his partner, smothered their two children, and
committed suicide after he learned of her intention to leave him for
another man.

In all of these cases, and in that of Claude Mubiangata, those who knew
the perpetrators of these murder/suicides stress how deep the bond was
between father and children. These men seem driven to their appalling
deeds by above all else a frightening, pathological love for their children for
which they have been unable to find a healthy and nurturing outlet.

Sometimes the perpetrators survive while their children do not. Leonard
Hurst, who had recently broken up with his girlfriend, was found in the
car where their daughter had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was
jailed for five years for manslaughter. Some years before, Wayne Skerton,
whose marriage had also broken up, was discovered alive in his car,
alongside one dead son and one who lived. He was jailed for four years for
manslaughter.

These are not punitive sentences, and they suggest that there is a great
deal of understanding and sympathy for the men who cannot separate the
fates of their children from their own thoughts of suicide. Certainly the
men who commit such crimes must be considered to be suffering from mental
illness.

Psychiatrists who deal with such cases talk of a toxic combination of high
anxiety, low self-esteem and depression. The father becomes suicidal, but
cannot bear to leave his children. His bleak world view leads him to
believe the world too hostile a place for his children to thrive in. He
may convince himself that by taking their lives he is in fact behaving
altruistically, and that in his situation he has no alternative.

Yet at the same time suicide is generally looked upon as, ultimately, a
selfish act, which is part of the reason it has so many religious and
cultural taboos around it. The idea that, as Mr Mubiangata put it, "I am
taking mine with me" seems to suggest a truly monstrous selfishness, an
inability to see his children as people rather than possessions.

There is a real sense in these crimes that the fathers cannot recognise
their children as anything more than extensions of themselves. A suicidal
mother might deny herself the luxury of ending her life because she cannot
bear to leave her children. In child murder-parental suicide cases, almost
always involving fathers, the solution to the same conundrum is to end the
lives of the children as well. These rare but regular instances of
filicide/suicide by men should also be looked at in a context in which
suicide is widely prevalent, and rising, among men. Women, generally, are
far less likely to resort to suicide, just as they are far less likely to
resort to murder/suicide.

Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that there is a deeply nasty and
vengeful aspect to such actions too. Mr Mubiangata's baleful suggestion
that his wife can now have "freedom to do your thing and look after your
sister's kids" is a cruel piece of reproachful irony.

His suggestion is surely that Mrs Mubiangata is somehow the architect of
her children's loss, and that at some level he is doing what she wants.
Above all, while he asks for forgiveness for himself, it is clear that he
wants his wife to bear all the guilt and to suffer as much as is possible.
This awful ambition he has certainly achieved.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it is in the cases where the children - but not
the mother - is killed, that the vengefulness is most apparent. But
sometimes the desire for vengeance plays no part in a family man's desire
to obliterate that family. Robert Mochrie killed his wife and his four
children, then hanged himself after his Welsh hotel business had failed.
Peter Stafford, a window cleaner, faced with mounting debt and the loss of
a vital contract, behaved in an almost identical fashion the year before.
The terrible decisions made by these men are clearly born of an inverted
wish to protect. Their madness is driven by their desire to be
old-fashioned breadwinners. Because these crimes are free of other motives
such as sexual jealously, it is easier to see these men and their families
as victims of their own exacting expectations of what a father should do
for his family.

It is perhaps worth noting that these ghastly expressions of male
attachment to family and home are a nightmarish mirror-image of the widely
held view in today's society of men as feckless husbands and fathers,
insufficiently attached to their partners or their children.

For these men the attachment is too insufferably great, to the point where
they don't understand where their own identities end and their family's
identities begin. Their predicaments suggest that there is huge insecurity
and confusion among fathers in the late-capitalist, post-feminist West
about what it is to be a man.

There was a spate of similar killings in the Netherlands during the 1990s,
which prompted much soul-searching in the Dutch media. Some commentators
suggested that part of the problem was that in Holland, as in this
country, fathers in relationship breakdowns were treated in the eyes of
the law as being of far smaller relevance than mothers. This was not
argued as a causal factor. The point was simply that if mothers were
denied access to their children in the way that fathers were, the gender
divide for such crimes would be different.

I don't think that is necessarily the case, especially since childless
young men are disproportionately suicidal in Britain anyway. But I do
think it is a result of the dreadful imbalance in the message of
expectation that men receive. On the one hand, the lack of role models for
boys is bemoaned as a reason for failure at school and early criminality.
But on the other, it is constantly suggested in family courts that men are
of marginal importance to a child's development in most aspects beyond the
financial.

What we desperately need to do is decide how important we really think
fathers are. It is a further tragedy of the Mubiangata case that the
actions of this man will further demonise fatherhood and fathers, when
what is desperately needed is a far more positive reassessment of this
vital parenting role.

2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
The Independent Home: 
http://www.independent.co.uk/
===
Related articles:

Are Fathers' Rights a Factor in Male Suicide?
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,44183,00.html
by Wendy McElroy -- Fox News, 29 Jun 02

Distraught Father's Courthouse Suicide Highlights
America's Male Suicide Epidemic
http://www.glennjsacks.com/distraught_fathers_courthouse.htm
by Glenn Sacks -- glennjsacks.com, 11 Jan 02

 

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