Daily News & Info on Men's Rights Issues
Sunday, February 11, 2001
What did your daddy do?
Frustrated father fights abuse charges
By SCOTT PATTISON, EDMONTON SUN He hasn't seen his two daughters in almost eight months and doesn't know when he will.
An agreement with his ex-common-law wife says he should be getting weekly access - custodial visits.
But ever since cops launched an official investigation last summer, that legally-agreed-to arrangement has been tossed out the window.
Initially, it sounds understandable given the nature of the accusation; it's alleged he had sex with his 10-year-old daughter, and until the truth is uncovered it's not safe for her or her older sister to be around their father without supervision.
The disconcerting part isn't how "David" is being treated - it's how his life has been torn apart since he was accused of such a heinous act, not by his daughter, but by the former common-law wife - a partner who has a lengthy documented history of custodial visitation interference.
"I'm very concerned as well that someone has done something terrible to my daughter," said David, who last saw his girls after a judge intervened permitting him to take them on a one-week vacation to British Columbia last July.
"Why am I the only suspect here? The perpetrator of this terrible crime didn't exactly leave his initials on my daughter's hymen."
The allegations were levelled against David, after the mother brought her daughter to CAP - the Child and Adolescent Protection Centre - for a physical examination.
Feeling as though the system had already unduly convicted him, David turned to Louise Malenfant, a local family advocate who runs Parents Helping Parents - a non-profit group advocating for parents - often fathers - who become targets of sexual abuse allegations levelled by their former spouses, during bitter child custody battles.
Malenfant has a history of challenging inadequacies in social service programs across the country, beginning with a crusade that led to major child welfare reforms in Manitoba over the last decade. Shortly after moving to Alberta last year, she was introduced to David - that's when she decided Wild Rose Country's child welfare system deserved equal scrutiny.
The CAP doctor's report, undertaken by one of the province's top practitioners in this field, was rife with inconsistencies, claims Malenfant.
In the report, obtained by The Sun, the doctor initially states the girl's hymen (a mucous membrane partly closing the external orifice of the vagina in a virgin), does not appear to be scarred.
The doctor's findings then support evidence of not one, but two "notches" to the girl's hymen.
In conclusion, the report states the genital examination is "abnormal," with evidence of only "one notch" on a stretched hymen, suggesting "past and probably recurrent vaginal penetration."
An author on a variety of research topics and papers on medical and psychological issues related to sexual abuse, Malenfant says she has serious concerns about the report.
"A doctor's report in a child-abuse case should be written in such a way that a second doctor could review that report and know exactly what the first doctor saw - that hasn't been done in this case," says Malenfant, who considers the report typical of the kind of work she found in Manitoba. "There are horrible inconsistencies."
The report, however, does suggest the girl has been sexually violated - it doesn't pass judgment as to the identity of the perpetrator.
Not once has the child said there was any kind of sexual interference by either her father or any other males she has come into contact with.
In fact, the only documented irregularities in the parents' visitation agreement were the 41 cases of custodial interference committed on the part of the mother, claims David.
At the very least, says the advocate, David should be allowed to see his daughters with a neutral third party present
It's their "number 1 priority," emphasizes Malenfant.
"We've asked for a letter of support from Edmonton Child and Family Services for a second opinion - outside of the jurisdiction - to be undertaken of the doctor's report, simply so neither the father nor the hospital can say there was bias."
Malenfant's nearly 10 years' experience as an advocate in custodial interference cases tells her that while she can't be sure David is innocent, the fact the girl hasn't identified her father as the abuser during more than eight months of therapy is suspicious, to say the least.
Not to mention the fact police have yet to charge him.
The girl's mother and the mother's lawyer did not return calls from The Sun made earlier this week.
Alberta Children and Family Services' spokesman Jerry Bellikka said a third-party visitation formula proposed recently for David is simply a case of erring on the side of caution.
"We're not assessing guilt in these cases, we're only concerned about protecting the child," he said.
CFS has proposed a compromise of sorts: third-party supervision, but with a psychologist it hired to provide therapy to the young girl - not a neutral party.
Malenfant and David's lawyer have both suggested he reject the idea.
"This psychologist has already aligned herself with the mother, and we don't want to legitimize her ongoing involvement," said Malenfant, noting the psychologist's report is based solely on testimony from the mother and was given only to the mother's attorney and not David's.
"The psychologist has assumed the position of trier of fact, assuming abuse has occurred and submitting a child to treatment without the consent of her father," she says. "She has not maintained the fact-finding, neutral orientation that is recommended for consultants in child-abuse cases."
Dr. Stephen Carter, executive director of the Alberta Psychologists Association, confirmed psychologists are often asked to be a third party during supervised custody visits for "reasons of safety."
"If we've got a case when a child is well-bonded and the therapist has a good relationship, that could give the child a degree of safety in a visit with the father," explained Carter.
"I hesitate to say this, but sexual abuse allegations are the best and worst way of doing things, because we just don't have the assessment tools to say, 'Yes, this person's a sexual abuser or not.' "
Carter noted, however, that when no disclosure has been made by an alleged victim, and when there are no witnesses to the alleged abuse, the process is significantly complicated.
"And we do have parents out there that will use the system quite badly knowing full well that this is the way of getting - at the 11th hour - custody back," he said.
This week, Malenfant was informed the psychologist involved has agreed to terminate therapy with the 10-year-old, as a result of a formal complaint lodged against the psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists.
The move is a small victory for Malenfant, who is aware her approach to the discrepancies in the case may sound somewhat cold and clinical given the horribly emotional nature of the accusations against David.
But that, she says, is the whole point: nobody has considered the case from a purely clinical, even-handed basis from the very beginning.
"If a conclusion of abuse, whether right or wrong, was reached as a result of sloppy work by CAP officials, it brings into question the reliability of many other cases being dealt with in Edmonton," Malenfant said.
CAP spokesman Dr. Terry Klassen turned down a request by Malenfant to have an independent second opinion assessed of the medical report, because consent must be obtained from the mother - the parent who currently has sole custody of the girl. A second opinion could be granted, however, were the father able to successfully acquire a court order instructing CAP officials to proceed with an independent review of the doctor's findings.
Klassen confirmed earlier this week that CAP's medical team had reviewed the physical findings in the case, and "the team supported the conclusions" of the doctor's report.
Malenfant's experiences in Manitoba are another reason why she doubts David's guilt. Malenfant, and other researchers, have concluded that false sexual allegations are on the rise across the country.
Toronto's feisty Sen. Anne Cools has also taken note of the increase in false accusations, labelling the situation an "epidemic" in Canada.
She's pressing for legislation to go after false accusers, but admits it's difficult to accomplish without hard numbers. The only agencies tracking such things, says Cools, are the very social agencies that stand to have egg on their faces were the scope of the problem exposed.
"It's very difficult to obtain comprehensive statistical data on false allegations because the child welfare agencies involved don't want to admit they have a poor record in this regard," explained Cools, whose private member's bill, S-9, died a quick death on the table last fall when the federal election was called and the Senate subsequently dissolved.
The most troubling problem, explains Cools, is a technicality that allows for such allegations to be considered pleadings, or arguments from one side, as opposed to sworn statements accusers can be held to under obstruction of justice or perjury charges.
Meanwhile, Edmonton cops can't talk about David's case until the investigation is complete.
David would like to know just how long that will be.
"Bitter? Damn right I'm bitter," spouted David, his mounting frustration replaced by a glimmer of hope the often slow, squeaky wheels of justice are finally beginning to make some noise.
"I used to take them everywhere: swimming, biking, hiking and to visit their grandparents, their cousins.
"The longer I don't see them, well, who knows ... what's going to happen to my relationship with my daughters."
Malenfant and the father's lawyer are preparing to launch their own legal attack, seeking full unsupervised access, police enforcement of the current visitation agreement and a court order for a second independent opinion of CAP's medical report.
"I want to see my girls - I still have their Christmas presents at home."
Dad's visitation right reinstated by courts
By SCOTT PATTISON, EDMONTON SUN
A local dad who hasn't seen his two daughters for nine months after sexual abuse allegations were levelled against him by his former common-law wife, had his visitation privileges temporarily reinstated by the courts yesterday.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Darlene Acton ordered the Edmonton dad be granted weekend overnight access, with a neighbour or family member present, beginning with a two-hour visit tomorrow afternoon.
The court order was small vindication for the father, who maintains he did not have sexual intercourse with his 10-year-old daughter at his home during visits last year.
"Finally, but Louise (Parents Helping Parents family advocate Louise Malenfant) and my lawyer have done lots of work on my behalf," said the father, emotionally sapped from battling police investigations and allegations.
"I'm excited now, but I'm not sure how they're (the girls) going to react. I'm more mentally drained than overly excited now, because for the last nine months I've been coming home from work totally drained thinking about my girls.
"It's going to be awkward at first. It'll always be in the back of my mind that I have to tiptoe around my girls now."
The judge also ordered the two children to be interviewed by a psychologist who has expertise in sexual abuse allegations, a step the mother had previously refused.
More importantly, says Malenfant, a second independent opinion of a medical examination report submitted by a doctor will now proceed. Malenfant claims the report is "rife with inconsistencies."
"It's a great day for justice, to see this father reunited with his two daughters - and the girls with their grandparents."
The doctor and a play therapist were directed to provide all notes, test results, reports, correspondence and videotape of the examination of the alleged victim to the courts.
The play therapist had been hired by child welfare to provide "treatment to the girl," even though no court finding of abuse has been made, Malenfant said.
The judge will render a decision on their findings into the sexual abuse allegation case by June 30.
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See also letter to the editor relating to this article
There's more: Subsequently the police slapped handcuffs on mom for interfering with a court order.
Back to Table of Contents for Parents Helping Parents
Monday, March 26, 2001
Charges as mom bars dad's visit
Defies court-ordered visitation rights
By SCOTT PATTISON, EDMONTON SUN
An Edmonton mom who alleges her ex-husband sexually abused their youngest daughter was led away in handcuffs by cops over the weekend, after refusing to honour a court order demanding visitation rights be reinstated for the dad.
"Though I've had approximately two dozen women charged with breach of a court order, it's the first time I have seen a woman led away in handcuffs," said Louise Malanfent, a family advocate with Parents Helping Parents.
The organization legally tackles cases of false sexual allegations levelled against fathers caught in custody disputes.
"It was very gratifying to finally see this lady experience some consequences for the dreadful experience she routinely submits her two girls to during access transfers."
Malenfant filed a formal complaint with Edmonton Police Friday, after the mother refused to abide by the court order, during an ugly confrontation on her doorstep.
Police arrived to enforce the court order, but met with an overly aggressive mother, who was subsequently cuffed and placed in their cruiser.
Police charged the mother, who has a history of visitation interference, with breech of court order.
The court-ordered visit was the first time the father has seen his two daughters in nine months - since the allegations of sexual abuse first surfaced.
Malenfant says she's concerned by the attitudes of those who work in Edmonton's child welfare system.
A judge has requested a second opinion be sought on a medical examination conducted on the 10-year-old girl, and that all reports in the case to be submitted to her. The judge will then render a decision on their findings into the sexual abuse allegation case by June 30.