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February 28, 2008 permalink
Canada's Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, has spoken in defense of women suffering domestic violence. Persons occupying positions at the ceremonial level in government ordinarily avoid controversy, limiting themselves to combating hunger or eliminating landmines. By speaking, Mrs Jean is saying that feminism is beyond controversy. It should not be.
In another item in the news, Leatrice Brewer on Long Island drowned her three children after social services ignored complaints from their father Innocent Demesyeux. There was a nearly identical case in Ontario when mother Frances Elaine Campione killed her two children after social services took them by force from their father Leo Campione. An article in Newsweek interviews Cynthia Scott on the subject of how child protectors can save children in these cases. She is utterly clueless.
Ordinarily we support mothers as the best caretakers of their own children, but there is one strong exception — the vindictive mother on the warpath against her former husband, or the former man in her life. This kind of woman is familiar to everybody, and there is nothing new about it. Twenty five centuries ago Euripides wrote a play Medea in which the title character murders her own children to spite her unfaithful husband. It takes the blinders of feminism to keep social workers from seeing the pattern. Children of vindictive mothers are dying because there is no way to help them within the feminist paradigm. Only restoring respect for men and fathers offers any possibility of saving these children.
Barbara Kay: Michaëlle Jean shouldn't take sides in the domestic abuse issue
Posted: February 27, 2008, 12:30 PM by Yoni Goldstein
By coincidence, on the very day that I published a column once again pointing out the myth of domestic violence as a one-way street of male abusers and female victims, I see in the Toronto Star that there was a conference in Kitchener, Ont., yesterday on violence against women, called "Communities Working to end Violence Against Women." (I suppose it isn't really a coincidence — there is probably a conference on violence against women somewhere in Canada every day of the year.)
My attention was drawn to this one because the guest of honour was the Governor-General. Michaëlle Jean said to the 1,000 people assembled that too often women don't admit their suffering: "We don't see them, we don't hear them, but they are there, taking the full brunt of the abuse."
I have several problems with that statement. First of all, it is not true that abused women are not heard or seen, as that very conference and a plethora of others make clear: Women's pain is bruited from the rooftops and every media outlet in the land. Second, it is not true that women are taking the full brunt of domestic violence. They are actually taking a little more than half the brunt. The irrefutable data on reciprocal partner violence has been available for many years (including from StatsCan), but have made no headway against the ideological forces that control the domestic violence agenda.
The other nearly half of domestic violence is being suffered by men. And we most certainly don't see or hear male victims of abuse, because nobody advocating for women on this file believes women abuse men except in self-defence. Even if they wanted to be seen and heard, unlike women, men have nowhere to take shelter, no conferences to address and no prestigious spokesperson to give credibility and exposure to their problems.
And that's my real problem here. The GG represents the Queen in Canada. She is not supposed to represent a "movement" or any identity group in particular. She is the representative of all the Queen's loyal subjects, and that means both men and women.
Before she became the GG, Jean was active in women's causes, and that's fine. But I don't think it is appropriate for her to manifest gender partisanship in her present role. I daresay she personally believes as firmly as most other feminists in the prevailing paradigm of women and children as the sole victims of domestic violence (the facts indicate that mothers, alone or in combination with men other than the child's father, are by far the greater threat to a child than fathers alone or with another woman), with men the sole initiators of violence.
Jean's active participation in these conferences is nevertheless incommensurate with her office. These conferences are highly politicized sites where hostility to men as a sex is openly expressed and tacitly condoned. Lending her presence to such an occasion is tantamount to identifying herself as an active political ideologue — even an activist — in a blatantly misandrist cause. Such partisanship would not be tolerated in a male GG. No double standards, please.
Source: National Post
Did the System Fail?
When a mother kills her three children, the obvious answer seems to be yes. But one expert says the resolution isn't so simple.
By Katie Paul, Newsweek Web Exclusive, Updated: 5:01 PM ET Feb 27, 2008
"It almost looked like they were cuddled up together for the night," said one of the police officers who found three dead children lying together on a bed in a Long Island apartment on Sunday, according to media reports.
The children's mother, Leatrice Brewer, 27, is now accused of drowning, stabbing and possibly poisoning her two sons, Michael Demesyeux, 5, and Innocent Demesyeux, 1, and her daughter, Jewell Ward, 6. Brewer calmly called 911 to alert police that she had killed her children, even spelling her name out for the operator.
Nine complaints about the family had been filed with Nassau County social services, but follow-up was only considered necessary for three of them. In the most recent instance, caseworkers visited the home twice last Friday to investigate a complaint by Jewell's father that Brewer might harm the children, but no one answered the door. The supervisor scheduled a return visit on Sunday, but by then it was too late. Brewer had been embroiled in a custody battle with both of her children's fathers; the father of the boys, Innocent Demesyeux, was arrested in June 2004 on an assault charge for allegedly beating Brewer.
So where and when did the system break down? Can child welfare officials do more, or are occasional tragedies simply inevitable, given their constraints? Cynthia Scott directs the Coalition Against Child Abuse & Neglect, a nonprofit that works with Nassau County officials to provide services and education to agencies handling abused children. NEWSWEEK's Katie Paul talked with Scott about what institutional problems may have led to the breakdowns and how they might be prevented from happening again. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What institutional problems could have led to the breakdowns in this case?
Cynthia Scott: I think this is a really difficult case and difficult issue. I'm not suggesting there can't be changes to how we do business in protecting children, but they're really difficult cases that can often present in one way to a case worker and end up in reality being something else, which is, I think, what happened in this case. The struggle for CPS [Child Protective Services] is that it's a snapshot in time that workers get when they go out and see these families. They're also guided by very specific statutes in the law regarding what needs to be presented to them before they can make a decision to remove a child or make any other kind of major intervention.
What is the biggest problem facing caseworkers when they're handling cases like this?
They're limited in what they can do. Very often the public doesn't have good understanding of what they can and can't do. Yes, there might have been something else that could have been done in this case. However, living on Long Island and hearing the media reports saying, "Oh my God, they should have removed these kids," and the reality is you can't just remove kids. There need to be very clear things present that provide a worker the opportunity to present the case to a judge, who makes a final determination about removal. It's not as simple as people would like it to be. And CPS is required to make an assessment on a very minimum standard of care. They're not assessing optimal care for children. So what we would all like our children to have is not what the law requires of parents. They need to be fed, clothed, go to school, not be physically or emotionally abused. So if there are no bruises, no disclosure from the kids that there's abuse, and there's food in the house, there's heat in the house, there is a house—those are the basic things workers are looking for.
But they went out there quite a bit—nine times. How could that happen?
There were numerous reports made over the course of several years. I think there was some domestic violence in that family, which would certainly generate a report—and which would have nothing to do with how the mother was caring for the child. Knowing the cases we have here, you could go out there for different reasons at different times and not necessarily see anything that's so glaring that you're going to decide the kids are in imminent danger and need be pulled from their home. So if a worker goes out, the report may be that the mom left the children alone. Well, the reality may be that mom ran down to the basement to do the laundry and didn't really leave the kids alone. And based on the statutes CPS is bound to go by, that's not a neglectful parent. The difficulty comes—what do we do with these families about whom we get chronic reports? I think that's worthy of looking at, as a community.
Any specific ideas on what to do?
I think we can coordinate around these cases everywhere. It's not an issue just for Nassau County by any stretch of the imagination. But it requires resources. It requires people to be able to do the work with at-risk families. And it requires families to be open to wanting help. From my vantage point, there's no easy fix.
Is a lack of funding at all responsible for that?
Those of us doing this work are always struggling for resources, so yes, it would be great to have more CPS workers and organizations well funded to handle families in crisis. It takes a great deal of intervention to get through to some of these families who have historic issues of abuse and neglect. It's not just one parent suddenly abusing children. It's a cycle of abuse.
Which specific links in the chain should be singled out for improvement?
[We should] look more at the chronic cases coming through, who are being called in on a regular basis over the years, being reported numerous times. We could go out there and not see anything glaring, but [we should still ask], what does this mean? There must be something going on here.
Should anything be done at the legislative level? Should laws be changed?
You know, there's a piece of me that says I would love to see the bar raised in terms of what we require as a standard of care for children, but I'm also realistic enough to know that that requires a great deal of resources. If we have parents who aren't meeting this minimal standard now, what would we have to do to get them to meet a higher standard? So it is about resources. If we don't take care of the parents, we can't take care of the kids. But we've got mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, chronic histories of abuse and neglect that happened to the parents—so you're not talking about one level of intervention, you're talking about numerous systems that have to be in place and be supported.
Could the bias toward giving mothers custody have been a problem?
I don't think we have all the facts that were in front of the judge making that custody decision, or in front of that CPS worker making those decisions. And families are very good at hiding the things going on in their lives. So, do mothers end up with their kids more often than men? Yes. But I would hate to say that in this case, it was an error. It is so gray, all of these areas. I know the public would like it to be black and white, but it's never black and white.
The CPS supervisor was suspended, so it seems blame is landing squarely on his shoulders. Is that appropriate?
I understand it. Any of us who have a responsibility for the safety of children would feel a need to retrace our steps and see what, if anything, we could have done differently. Clearly there's disappointment at the county level with this case. But, ironically, what may have been the trigger in this case was the fact that CPS showed up at this lady's house. The organization responsible for protecting kids may have been what pushed her over the edge, ultimately. A woman with clear mental health issues may have seen it as the push for her to have to decide to do that instead of letting her children be taken away.
Should anything be done differently in deciding when to take children out of a home?
It is a very careful, deliberate decision. It is a grueling process and difficult for the team making that decision. There have been points in time when CPS has been chastised for taking kids out of the home. Then the pendulum swings, and then they get asked why they didn't take kids out of a home. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. There needs to be a community response to these issues. It can't just be CPS. These are complicated families with sad histories and a multitude of problems, and I don't think we can just expect that sending CPS out to investigate is going to fix it. We desperately need CPS, but they need to be part of a bigger team that addresses the needs of children.
Addendum: In an unbelievable turn of law, triple child murderer Leatrice Brewer is demanding part of the estate of her dead children. Father Innocent Demesyeux settled a lawsuit against Nassau county last year for $250,000, claiming that social services caseworkers could have done more to save his children. A lawsuit on behalf of the third child is pending.
The preceding is a paraphrase of Walter Olson. Only the first two paragraphs of the story are online.
Woman who drowned children seeks part of their estate
A woman who admitted to drowning her three young children in her bathtub in New Cassel nearly five years ago is telling a judge that she deserves some of the money from her children's $250,000 estate.
Leatrice Brewer, 32, who admitted to the drownings but pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in 2009, was brought to Nassau Surrogates Court Wednesday morning so she could...