Fathers & Families abhors domestic violence, and believes that children who witness domestic violence in many cases are harmed by the experience. We are eager to become part of the solution of the domestic violence problem, but find that mainstream domestic violence advocates are reluctant to include fathers’ organizations. Moreover, we find that many of these organizations actively resist even our most innocuous legislative proposals. One example is that in Massachusetts, domestic violence advocates have succeeded in passing a law that requires all non-custodial parents to obtain annual approval of the courts before they can receive their child’s report cards and other school records. Similarly, our experience has been that domestic violence advocates inflate and exaggerate both the prevalence and severity of domestic violence, to create an atmosphere in which oppressive measures are enacted restricting the ability of fit fathers to provide loving and competent parenting to their children after separation or divorce.
We are also concerned about the matter of parental alienation. For the purposes of this dialogue, we are not concerned with the arcane and technical debate as to whether there is such a thing as Parental Alienation Syndrome. What is absolutely beyond doubt is the large number of children who previously had a close and loving relationship with a parent but who subsequently reject the parent, usually their father, after separation or divorce. This phenomenon is a real one, and when considered in its full clinical spectrum, an extremely common one. In some, but not all, cases, the rejection is actively cultivated, fostered and encouraged by the custodial parent. In other cases, there are other dynamics at work, including some cases in which the father’s own parental shortcomings are the primary cause. There is much about this subject that is unknown. But it is important that when credible evidence is raised that a child has become seriously alienated from a parent with whom he/she previously had a normal relationship, the court must be free to evaluate this circumstance and act on it appropriately.
Fathers & Families believes that this critique, as well as those by the Ombudsmen for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting respectively, cast severe doubt on the quality of the reporting in “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories.” We believe that PBS and its affiliates owe the public a more thoughtful examination of the proper role of non-custodial parents after separation or divorce. The approach taken in this film is not helpful to children who are caught up in their parents’ divorce, and they will actually be harmed by it if the one-sided views expressed in this film are widely adopted.
From the beginning our sole request of PBS has been that fatherhood advocates be provided a meaningful opportunity to present our side of this issue. Given, We do suggest, however that PBS consider: ceasing further airings of this film, removing the Viewer’s Guide and other website material pertaining to this film, ceasing efforts to distribute the film to schools and any other institutions, and issuing a public statement of error in having aired this film. We would also welcome the opportunity for Fathers & Families and similar organizations to work with PBS to fund, produce and air a film that examines the issues of non-custodial parents in a more thoughtful manner.