June 20, 2010

Stay-At-Home-Dads On The Rise? Not So Fast...

[This post was originally posted on the Ms. Magazine blog.]

Stay-At-Home-Dads On The Rise? Not So Fast…

June 20, 2010 by Elizabeth Black

Stay-at-home dads are all the rage in the media since this rotten economy has forced many unemployed men back in the ranks of the homestead. Judging from the plethora of Father’s Day articles celebrating stay-at-home-dads, you would think that dads across the United States are turning into Mr. Mom at an unprecedented rate.

From a profile in Michigan’s Lansing State Journal:

[For Chris Singer], raising Tessa–who has huge, Gerber-baby blue eyes, adorably chubby legs and a smile that could melt the hardest of hearts–is mission one. That means nights without sleep, trips to the library and zoo, loads of diapers, bottles, burp cloths and the conviction that he’s doing the right thing right now.

From columnist Jeff Gillenkirk in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The number of stay-at-home dads rose nearly 60 percent between 2003 and 2008 and is expected to keep rising as the economy and family roles continue to change.

Don’t be fooled. These feel-good stories are trotted out for Father’s Day, but the reality is not so rosy. It’s true enough that the tide of layoffs has hit men harder than women. But bona fide primary caregiving fathers are still rare, and a man doesn’t automatically become a primary caregiver of the children simply because he’s unemployed or underemployed. The horrid worldwide economy has simply created a larger number of unemployed/underemployed men who aren’t picking up the slack at home.

In The New York Times, author Catherine Rampell describes the more complex reality:

On average, employed women devote much more time to child care and housework than employed men do, according to recent data from the government’s American Time Use Survey analyzed by two economists, Alan B. Krueger and Andreas Mueller.

When women are unemployed and looking for a job, the time they spend daily taking care of children nearly doubles. Unemployed men’s child care duties, by contrast, are virtually identical to those of their working counterparts, and they instead spend more time sleeping, watching TV and looking for a job, along with other domestic activities.

So despite media fantasies, men getting laid off means that many moms are now acting as both the primary caregiver and primary wage earner. Slacker dads, get up off your duffs and do the right thing by supporting the mothers of your children both financially and in the homestead.

Posted on June 20, 2010 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Want To Be A Good Dad? Support Mom And Avoid Father's Rights Groups

Over the past decade, fatherhood has been all the rage and dads are naturally the talk of pundits on Father's Day. So let's say you're a divorcing dad and you're having trouble coping. You look for help on the internet and discover the father's rights movement.

Be warned – avoid father's rights groups like the plague. According to the pro-feminist men's group The National Organization For Men Against Sexism (NOMAS), "male supremacist groups (“Father’s Rights”) have caused unspeakable harm to our country and to our children by encouraging abusive fathers, often with little past involvement with their children, to seek custody as a tactic to pressure a mother to return or to punish her for leaving. "Shared parenting", "friendly parent", involvement of both parents and other concepts that seem fair and benevolent have instead been used to manipulate courts and legislatures to help abusive fathers. For instance, women are routinely denied custody of their children after being classified as "unfriendly" for asserting that the husband has abused them or their children." Father's rights groups prey on confused men angry and sad over the break-up of their relationships by stoking their rage and insecurities. In addition, father's rights groups encourage men to fight for custody of their children by using harmful tactics that further erode their relationships with their ex's – and by extension their children.

How can a dad – unemployed or working outside the home – be a good father? Not by fighting for custody or demanding "shared parenting" after divorce or breakup. The best way a dad can be a good father is by providing support to the mother of his children, including both financial and emotional support. According to Florida attorney Elizabeth Kates, "a father's most important role, and the one common "father factor" in all research that indicates any correlation between father involvement or presence and positive effect on child well-being is: a father who emotionally cares for, financially supports, respects, is involved with, takes some of the work load off of, and generally makes life easier, happier and less stressful for. . . his children's mother."

If dad wants to make sure his children thrive he must do whatever he can to ensure that their mother is thriving. Stop fighting for "shared parenting" or sole custody if you are in court. Don't badmouth their mother. Stop hiring paid mouthpieces that tout the latest psychological theory to show that the children are best off with a dad who had never acted as their primary caregiver. I know this will piss off lots of men but it is the truth.

Don't believe me? How about the research?

A seven-year study by Dallas's Timberlawn Psychiatric Institute found the one factor that was the most important in helping children become healthy, happy adults, was the quality of the relationship between their parents. This one factor was more important than giving kids hugs, providing good discipline, building their self esteem, or any other aspect of what is traditionally considered 'good parenting'." Other studies found that "the strongest single factor associated with resiliency in early years is social attachment to a primary caregiver. There is considerable evidence linking secure attachment to social and academic competence and positive developmental outcomes, such as improved communication, problem-solving, social relationships and grades" and "the single most important determinant of child well-being after divorce is living in a household with adequate income."

Even the National Fatherhood Initiative agreed with the mother-needs-support assessment when it found that "the best thing a dad can do for his children is love their mother." Researcher Michael Lamb, known for his studies of fatherhood, noted that "...the warmer, the richer, the more supportive the relationship he has with the mother, the better he is able to be a supportive and loving father for the child."

So dads, the message is clear. If you want your children to grow up to be happy and healthy adults, the best thing you can do for them is to make sure that their mother is comfortable, healthy, and happy. When primary caregiving moms thrive, children thrive. And happy children enjoy their fathers more.

Happy Father's Day.

Posted on June 20, 2010 at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2010

Maryland's Roadblock To Helping Victims Of Abuse

[Reprinted with permission from Eileen King.]

Maryland's roadblock to helping victims of abuse

By Eileen King
Silver Spring
Sunday, March 14, 2010; C05

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee has a reputation for being not only a place where good bills go to die but also where witnesses can expect little sympathy for having suffered from violent or sexual crimes. The committee's worst tendencies were in evidence once again during a Feb. 25 hearing on a bill to help keep victims of domestic abuse safe from their abusers.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Sue Hecht (D-Frederick) and Sen. Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery), would have changed the burden of proof from "clear and convincing evidence" to "preponderance of the evidence" for final orders of protection, the same standard in place for the vast majority of other civil actions in Maryland, including tort actions for large damage awards, child abuse determinations and custody decisions. Maryland hangs on obstinately as the only state to adhere to this high standard of proof.

Predictably, the bill was killed by the committee.

Our witness was Amy Castillo, a Montgomery pediatrician who did everything she could to protect her three children, including getting a temporary protective order on Christmas 2006 after her husband, Mark, told her that "the worst thing he could do to me would be to kill the children and not me." On March 29, 2008, Mark Castillo followed through on this threat, drowning Anthony Castillo, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2, in a hotel bathtub.

Amy Castillo came to Annapolis to tell the members of the committee about her unsuccessful attempts to get a final protective order against Mark Castillo. She told them about his behaviors, threats, mental health problems and refusal to get the help he needed, and about her grave fears for her and her children's safety.

This testimony was met with something worse than indifference. Referring to a transcript of the final hearing on her request for an order of protection, Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) attacked the rationale for the bill, stating that Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr. had substantial problems with Amy Castillo's credibility. In tones that were anything but kind, Simmons declared that he wouldn't read verbatim what the judge said because he didn't want to "embarrass" Castillo. The exact nature of this "embarrassing" information -- presumably the fact that she submitted to her estranged husband's demand for sex, something not uncommon in such cases -- was left to the imagination of those present.

In his zeal to discredit the mother of three murdered children, Simmons seemed to forget that Dugan had been tragically wrong when he disregarded Amy Castillo's fears for her children's safety and bought the arguments made by Mark Castillo and his lawyer. Simmons's flawed logic: The judge found reason to question Amy Castillo's credibility, so it was her fault that she didn't get the protective order. Simmons expressed doubt that Castillo could have met even the preponderance standard, suggesting that changing the legal threshold wouldn't have helped save her children. And this is why other at-risk or abused children should be denied protective orders?

Amy Castillo's case illustrates a point made by Joan S. Meier of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project at George Washington University Law School: "The higher the burden, the more the risk of error is placed on the alleged victim or protective parent. The burden is a direct reflection of whether you believe the majority of petitioners are lying, or not. If you don't, this burden is inappropriate because it privileges abusers over victims."

Feeling they have nowhere to turn, parents are condemned to wait helplessly for the next violent or abusive act. Try this thought experiment: Imagine that your child has met the preponderance standard for abuse but a judge says that is not enough for a protective order to keep the child from the abuser. Imagine what it would be like to live knowing that you or your children are at lethal risk but that you can get help only if you or the children are hurt badly enough.

This is not the first time that a House Judiciary Committee witness was treated in a manner that many observers found offensive. It is also not the first time the committee killed a bill that would have increased protection for victims of family violence and abused or at-risk children. From the questions they ask, the anti-victim positions they take and the bills they kill, it appears obvious that the committee's most outspoken members are aligned with the defense bar.

It is high time for some review and oversight of this committee, its leadership and composition and its commitment to the public welfare of Maryland's most vulnerable citizens: victims of crime and our children.


Eileen King is regional director of Justice for Children's Washington office.

Posted on March 14, 2010 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2010

More On Maryland Legislator's Sad Cave-In To Anti-Domestic Violence Propaganda

More On Maryland Legislature's Sad Cave-in To Anti-Victim Domestic Violence Propaganda

The Maryland Legislature killed a bill this month that would have brought Maryland's restraining order policies into line with every other state in the Union. Remarkably, in Maryland, a victim seeking help is required to prove her case with "clear and convincing" evidence, a higher standard than "preponderance of the evidence", which is the universal standard for civil disputes. There can be only one reason for this absurd requirement: that Maryland legislators believe that women frequently lie when they allege abuse. Under the "clear and convincing" standard, even if it appears to be more likely than not that it's the victim telling the truth in a "he said, she said" situation, the victim still loses.

The legislators who voting against the bill [listed here]; if they did this, that can only mean that they have fallen for propaganda that leads them to believe that women who claim abuse (testify in court) are less credible than men who deny abuse (testify in court). That's not a level playing field, and it's an absolutely unacceptable attitude for a legislator to hold.

Important Information About "False" Allegations Of Domestic Violence

Bona fide false allegations of domestic violence are rare. They account for only about 8% of all allegations of domestic violence. These facts have been overshadowed by propaganda coming from father’s and men’s rights activists in Maryland who say that false allegations of domestic violence are rampant, especially in custody cases, and that women frequently file for protective orders in order to gain an upper hand in divorce. None of this propaganda is true.

Please see these excerpts from papers about domestic violence and protective orders for the facts about both:

Rita Smith (NCADV) & Pamela Coukos (PCADV), “Fairness and Accuracy in Evaluations of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in Custody Determinations”, The Judges Journal, Fall 1997, Pp. 38-56:

“(…)Although both common sense and the prevailing legal standard dictate careful consideration of evidence in domestic or family violence when determining custody, allegations of domestic violence and/or child sexual abuse made during a divorce or custody proceeding are not always taken seriously. These allegations often are wrongly perceived as false because they are asserted in a contentious environment and because of the widespread myth that parents fabricate domestic violence and child abuse allegations in order to gain an advantage in court. When combined with the misuse of psychological syndrome evidence, the perception that a parent has fabricated the allegations often results in unfair retribution against the reporting protective parent. (…)

Using unscientific “syndrome” evidence can have serious consequences, and according to the American Psychological Association, in domestic violence cases, “psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving *inappropriate pathological labels* to women’s responses to chronic victimization.” (APA, Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 40 (1996)) The protective parent’s mental “impairment” can be used to portray her as a less fit parent, and justify granting custody to the batterer. She may have to attend on-going mediation or marriage counseling with her abuser, endangering her further. In a worst case scenario, the diagnosis can result in the protective mother’s loss of the child to foster care and even the ultimate termination of her parental rights. This can result in placement of the child back into the custody of the abuser, endangering the child further.

Unscientific syndrome theories also feed on a serious misperception of the rate of false accusations. In its Report of the Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, the APA confirms that, “false reporting of Family violence occurs infrequently… reports of child sexual abuse do not increase during divorce and actually occur in only about 2 percent to 3 Percent of the cases… even during custody disputes, fewer than 10 percent of cases involve reports of child sexual abuse (APA Report, 12). If Parental Alienation Syndrome were as common as Gardner reports – 90 percent of his caseload – then the reporting of abuse should be much more prevalent. Furthermore, the overall reported rates should be dramatically higher in cases where custody is an issue as compared with the general population of families. But studies examining this comparison do not find significantly higher rates of any abuse allegations raised during divorce or custody proceedings. (Cheri Wood, “The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Dangerous Aura of Reliability”, 27 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1367-8, n. 7 1994) Moreover, these studies find only a very small rate of fabricated allegations in this context. (Nancy Thoenes & Patricia G. Tjaden, “The Extent, Nature and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody/Visitation Disputes”, 14 Child Abuse and Neglect 151, 161-2 (1990) As the APA documents, “when objective investigations are conducted into child sexual abuse reports that surface during divorce or custody disputes, the charges are as likely to be confirmed as are reports made at other times.” (APA Report, note 8 at 12)


MYTH: Restraining Orders Are Easy To Get.

All A Woman Need Do Is Lie Or State That
She Is Afraid,
 And She Can Force An
Innocent Man Out Of His Own Home

The WBA Law Journal

May, 1999, Vol. III No. 1

Why Attorneys Should Routinely

Screen Clients for Domestic Violence
By Pauline Quirion, Esq.


In the recent landmark decision, Custody of Vaughn, the Supreme Judicial Court has observed that “[t]he very frequency of domestic violence . . . may have the effect of inuring courts to it and thus minimizing its significance.” A 1994 study of batterers based on the database used to track restraining orders concluded that:

[t]he high frequency with which RO’s [sic] are issued might lead some
skeptics to assume that these orders are granted too easily for minor
offenses and almost any man is at risk of being a defendant. The data
from the new RO database in Massachusetts reflect otherwise. Men
against whom RO’s have been used are clearly not a random draw
from the population. They are likely to have a criminal history, often
reflective of violent behavior toward others.

Research suggests that false reports of family violence occur infrequently. Although many believe that women especially will lodge false charges of child abuse or battering against their spouses in an effort to manipulate or retaliate, the rate of false reports in these circumstances is no greater than for other crimes.

Most batterers minimize and deny the frequency and severity of their abusive conduct. Similarly, victims often underreport and may minimize the abuse. They may be embarrassed or fear that disclosure will lead to retaliation by the abuser, financial hardship or personal stigma. In addition, some practitioners fail to appreciate that abuse cuts across all class lines and stereotype abuse victims as primarily indigent. These dynamics make it easy for an untrained practitioner to gloss over information pointing to domestic violence and which may be relevant to a client’s case or continued safety.

Posted on March 13, 2010 at 05:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Remember Them In November

Washington Post - Sunday, March 7, 2010: AS EXPECTED, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee wrongly killed a bill on Thursday that would have made it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain protective orders. H.B. 700 would have brought Maryland into conformance with the practices of every other state in the country. As an election-year service to voters, here is the 15 to 6 vote:

Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's) did not vote, as is the general practice.

Against: Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore), Benjamin S. Barnes (D-Prince George's), Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore), Frank M. Conaway Jr. (D-Baltimore), Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel), William J. Frank (R-Baltimore County), J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County), Kevin Kelly (D-Allegany), Gerron S. Levi (D-Prince George's), Tony McConkey (R-Anne Arundel), Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's), Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), Todd L. Schuler (D-Baltimore County), Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) and Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil).

For: Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery), Susan McComas (R-Harford), Kriselda Valderrama (D-Prince George's) and Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery).

Remind Maryland lawmakers that domestic violence victims will not forget how they have been pushed to the side once again. Here are links to information and contact info on the legislators who voted against this important bill.

Michael Smigiel Sr.
Todd Schuler
Samuel Rosenberg
Victor Ramirez
Tony McConkey
Gerron Levi
Kevin Kelly
J. B. Jennings
William Frank
Donald Dwyer Jr.
Frank Conaway Jr.
Jill Carter
Benjamin Barnes
Curtis Anderson
Luiz Simmons

Posted on March 13, 2010 at 05:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2010

Fooling Around From Trysts To Cyber Affairs

I have long been fascinated with affairs, ever since I was in college and I realized that some married men would screw anything female with legs, as long as the woman presented herself to him in an appealing manner. I was occasionally that woman. It wasn't just men who cheated on their spouses. Women have cheated countless times throughout history.

Is it really cheating if you never meet in person, leaving your sweaty paw prints all over the computer screen when interacting with your honey? I recall an article about a guy who was addicted to the online role playing game "Second Life", and his real life wife was not happy that he had cheated on her with a woman he had "married" in the game. I found the real life wife posting on the Yahoo group EverQuest Widows, and she was so pissed about the article and all the new things she learned about her husband's cyber affair that she had decided to divorce his ass.

A man had described a near-miss he had with his wife. The paragraphs below describe that incident:

When Tim's wife opened the Valentine's Day gift he had mailed to her, he knew he was in trouble when she pulled an eight-inch purple butt plug out of the box.

That gift was meant for his cyber playmate. The company had shipped it to the wrong address.

He stammered, telling her it was really for him. He's into bondage and sadistic play. She's not.

He likes cybersex. He likes kinky web sites, in particular BDSM web sites. He said that he had done it "often when I had a day job that allowed unfiltered access to the Internet."

He doesn't consider his cyber-relationships affairs.

"They're flirtations," he said. "There's no face-to-face.

Is it really an affair if it's only on the Internet? What about hot, steamy e-mail exchanges? The concensus from my research into that article was that, yes, indeed, a married person who has cybersex is having an affair. Energy, attention, and sometimes even money are paid to the person who is not the adulterer's spouse.

Here are some movies and books that address the time-honored practice of infidelity:

Anna Karenina
Double Indemnity
The Scarlet Letter
Body Heat
Fatal Attraction
Same Time, Next Year
The Bridges Of Madison County
Indecent Proposal
Brief Encounter
The Postman Always Rings Twice
52 Pick Up

Actors are also well known for their affairs. Katherine Hepburn has long been known to be Spencer Tracy's lover, but his wife would not give him a divorce because they were Catholic. Elizabeth Taylor cheated on Eddie Fisher with Richard Burton, and later married Burton. Twice. When Billy Bob Thornton met Angelina Jolie, he was living with Laura Dern. Dern had once stated that "I left home to work on a movie, and while I was away, my boyfriend got married, and I've never heard from him again." Angelina Jolie made the news again when she was linked with a very married Brad Pitt. As anyone with a pulse knows by now, Pitt left wife Jennifer Aniston and hooked up with Jolie. They are still together, and Jolie's pregnancies and adopted children have made gossip columnists very happy.

So, affairs are common, but they can also be devastating. I've never been with a man who cheated on me, but I have been involved with married men when I was younger and much more reckless. For any woman who is considering the idea of having an affair with a married man, I can tell you due to my experience that he isn't worth it. For one thing, it's likely that he would cheat on you should he leave his wife for you. Then again, most married men don't leave their wives for their mistresses. You're in for a lonely life if you have an affair with a married man.

Affairs have been great fodder for literature and movies for many years, and they will continue to draw crowds.

Posted on January 26, 2010 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2007

'Tis The Season For Affairs

While most people associate the holiday season with festive cookies, gifts, decorated trees, lights, and family dinners, this is also the season to have affairs. According to PI Jack McEligot, the holidays can create more opportunities to cheat. There are "office parties, all-day shopping trips, or drinks with friends." A spouse who wants to cheat can go to a party and cut out early to see a lover without being noticed. A day of gift shopping can be made more fun with a little nooky at a hotel.

When you hire a PI to track your spouse if you suspect there's some hanky-panky going on, be prepared to take the bad news and not take it out on the PI. A PI interviewed for the article said that she was threatened by a client after she told him his wife was fooling around. She even caught them on tape. People sure can get crazy.

Posted on December 27, 2007 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2007

From The Deanna Troy School Of The Obvious

Getting fired or divorced sucks.

Like you needed a study to tell you that.

Posted on March 12, 2007 at 04:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2007

This Is Just Plain Sick

This girl was not "lost" in a poker game in Pakistan. Her father handed her over as a prize to his male relative since he viewed his own daughter as chattel to be handed over to her male relative when she matured. Plus, she's worth only $151.00. Her father paid the debt in cash last year, but her relative still wants her because of "tribal customs". So "tribal customs" permit incest? Sick, sick, sick.

Posted on February 26, 2007 at 06:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2007

Fighting Bans Against Cohabitation

Did you know that it's against the law to "live in sin" in North Dakota? Did you know that there are similar laws in Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia?

Well, it's against the law in North Dakota, and a freshman Democrat is trying to get that old ban off the books. In North Dakota, "23,000 of the state's 642,000 residents are living together as opposite-sex partners." They are breaking a law that dates back to 1889. I'm interested in this because the Count and I lived together without being married for over a decade. We married a year and a half ago. There was no reason why we didn't marry. We were just lazy. Plus, his company gave health insurance to cohabiting couples, so there was no reason to marry for health insurance, which is one reason I understand some couples marry these days.

The media has covered the news that, for the first time, there are more women living without husbands than being married. One reason this is the case is that more couples are cohabiting. Marriage won't go away, and I certainly don't want to see it go away, but it's not the only family form out there these days. It's not even the most common family form out there. Cohabitation is on the rise, and laws like those in the states I've mentioned in this post are archaic, and they need to be abolished. Plus, gays and lesbians are beginning to get recognized regarding marriage in some states.

It's only a matter of time. Just think - years in the future, people won't even think twice about knowing that there are more ways to live as a family than heterosexual first marriage with children. Cohabiting couples, married gays and lesbians, and other family forms will be recognized for being just as valid as traditional marriage.

Posted on January 23, 2007 at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)