March 26, 2008

In Memory of All the Dead Fathers

What would drive a sane, loving father to take his own life?

3-26-2008 National:

I want for you to use your imagination for a few minutes. Pretend you are an average guy, say 30 years old, married with two children under 9 years old. You've been with the same woman for around 10 years. You've had your ups and downs, just like any other married couple, but things seem to be relatively okay.

One day your wife says she's leaving you. She is taking the kids and wants a divorce. You are shocked; you didn't see this coming. In time you accept the inevitability of the divorce, given the current no-fault divorce system that grants anyone a divorce for any reason. You know that you won't be with your wife anymore, but at the very least you are going to continue to be as active in your children's lives as you've always been.

Then she gets a lawyer and sues for sole custody of the children. You respond by retaining your own attorney and the legal battle begins. The entire process of divorce wears on you emotionally. You have lost the security of your family unit, your finances are suffering and you are sure to lose considerably more, your social circle shuns you out of a desire to stay out of the divorce matter and your ability to concentrate at work declines. This is the hardest thing you've ever been through.

In the midst of this acrimony, without warning you receive the most unbelievable news of your life.

You wife has accused you of sexually molesting your 4 year old daughter.

She has obtained an emergency ex-parte order prohibiting you from having any contact with your children while you are investigated for child sex abuse. What??? How did this happen? How could this happen? This isn't some stranger making a bogus charge - this is your wife! She knows you better than anyone on earth. She knows damn well that you would never hurt your own child - or any other child for that matter!

At first you feel angry. "Nobody is going to believe this crap", you tell yourself. You've gone online and read government statistics that state that nearly 77% of all child sex abuse allegations made by a divorcing wife against her husband during a custody dispute are false. Surely everyone will see her evil accusation for what it is - a legal stratagem to win full custody of the kids. But this case isn't as open and shut as you first thought. You soon realize that you are in real trouble.

Immediately you find that the very accusation of child sex abuse carries such power that you are instantly put on the defensive. You started out by seeking the support of family and friends, but now even some of them seem to be treating you differently. You become obsessed with trying to prove your innocence, but quickly learn the futility of trying to prove a negative. Ask an innocent politician in public whether or not he still beats his wife. No matter how he responds, the seed of doubt has been sewn in the public's mind.

In the meantime you learn through your attorney that your little girl has been subjected to invasive physical examinations by a doctor using a rape kit. Her vagina has been examined and she has been subjected to tests for STDs that you might have given her. You can only imagine how frightened she must have been as a stranger in a white jacket inserted things inside of her. The tests come back negative. There is no evidence of any physical abuse. But rather than confirm that your daughter was not molested, the doctor issues a written evaluation stating that while there is no evidence, abuse cannot be ruled out.

Your daughter is then subjected to a series of interrogations by a social worker or other investigator whose job it is to find out what you did to her. You are presumed to be guilty. Your daughter was given anatomically correct dolls and told that they represent her and daddy. The investigator then watched how she played with the dolls to decide if her play time can be used to substantiate the claim of abuse against you. You pray that your daughter doesn't exhibit any interest in the strange body parts on the dolls - because any subtle or innocent behavior during play time might be enough to condemn you. They aren't investigating whether you are innocent or not. They are looking for something to use against you.

You feel anger and hate toward your wife for doing this to your daughter. Why doesn't anyone see that what she is doing to your little girl is the real child abuse? Your older child has also been paid a few visits from investigators. "Has daddy ever touched your penis?" God only knows what else they have put into your child's mind. Even if you do get to see your children again, they will probably never think of you the same again.

Today your boss called you into his office to ask you why your work is suffering. You don't dare tell him, but it's too late. Word has already spread throughout the office. Your boss tells you that you are out of sick time (which you had secretly been using to cover for your court visits) and places you on a disciplinary action plan. Everyone at the office looks at you differently. Those fleeting glances cause you such pain. You thought they knew you better than this, but you accept that some of them have come to believe that you are a child molester. So much for your future at this company.

Your attorney paints a grim picture. Jail sentencing for child molesters can be longer than it is for murderers (and you know what they do to convicted child molesters in prison). It looks like you are going to have to mortgage your home to pay for this protracted legal fight. You also face the prospect of a felony sex offender charge and lifetime membership on the federal sex offender registry when you get out of prison. Any hope of a productive career in a respectable profession may be over.

You have lost your wife and children. Her parents hate you for a crime you didn't commit. You have no support network left, but people are coming out of the woodwork to slather your wife with words of comfort and sympathy - and she is gloating. You haven't had a full night of sleep in months because of frequent night terrors. You are full of anxiety and depression. Your tried drinking, but it didn't help. Prayer might have helped, but you feel bitterness toward God for letting such a travesty of justice take place. You are totally alone.

The dark thoughts won't go away. Someone invisible keeps whispering them in your ear: Nobody likes you or believes you. You are going to prison for a long time and will probably be sexually abused by violent criminals. Your children think you are a sexual deviant and never want to see you again.

You think of the children you will never see again. You are dead to them. You pick up the gun and pull the trigger.

All because a vindictive wife chose to use the most devilish of legal tactics to beat you in a custody battle....

Dear reader, this account really happened. It was not a piece of fiction. Men's lives are being destroyed by the divorce industry. Nothing hurts a man more than having his children torn from his life when he has done nothing wrong. The use of the false abuse allegation is the most sinister legal tactic used today.

The story above is, sadly, not unique. Men throughout America are committing suicide, unable to bear the humiliation, shame and loss of companionship of their children that results from false child abuse allegations.

This week such a man was buried in Missouri. His name was Shawn W. O' Banion and his story is similar to those of other men that have been victimized by the family court system. His marriage to his former wife, Angela C. Meyer, ended in divorce. To win sole custody of the children, Angela filed multiple false abuse allegations against Shawn. Even though the abuse charges were not substantiated, they were enough for Judge Kathryn Elizabeth Davis to prohibit Shawn from seeing his children. Judges are elected officials and crave reelection. Many judges take a "better safe than sorry" attitude toward abuse allegation cases to ensure that mistakes don't come back to haunt them politically. Davis, apparently, cared more for her career than for Shawn or his children.

I never spoke with Shawn personally, but I recall reading about his situation in a father's rights discussion group that we both participated in. Caring men tried to help Shawn with his case, but the dismay and depression were too great for him to deal with. He took his life a week ago. His second wife will never see Shawn again and his unborn child will never know what a good father he was. This should never have happened. ..more.. by Jake Morphonios is a civil rights advocate and North Carolina State Coordinator for Fathers 4 Justice - US. Jake's political opinions do not represent those of Fathers 4 Justice. Neither Jake nor F4J-US provide legal advice or assistance with individual cases.

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