What is Fair for Children of Abusive Men?

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A presentation by Jack Straton at What About the Kids? Custody and Visitation Decisions in Families with a History of Violence, a National Training Project of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Project on Thursday, October 8, 1992, Duluth, Minnesota

Introduction

I will first critically examine the criterion at the base of all custody laws today, “What is in the best interests of the children?” I will the talk about children’s choice in these matters. Then I will examine the actual effects of wife-battering on children, and develop an alternative paradigm for custody based on those effects. From this I will examine the question, “Is it ever appropriate to ever give a batter custody of a child?” In the process, I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control. I know that it is popular these days to de-gender family conflict, to talk about “spouse abuse” and “family violence” rather than “wife beating” and “rape.” I know that we want a society in which men nurture children to the same extent that women do. I know that fathers and mothers should both be capable parents. But if you ask “What about the kids?” I want to give you a serious answer. I cannot seriously entertain the myth that our society really is gender neutral, so to consider “What about the kids?” while pretending such neutrality is to engage in denial and cognitive dissonance. I cannot hope to arrive at an answer that will positively affect reality if my underlying assumptions are based on fantasy.

So I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control.

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