Intimate Partner Violence and the Fathers’ Rights Movement

The fathers’ rights movement is an interesting phenomenon, if only because so many sites in this genre are a curious amalgam of ‘support’ for women and children on the one hand (lip service, really) while at the same time underplaying the undeniable role of patriarchal ‘values’ in sustaining abusive attitudes and behaviors. Therefore, as a movement it cannot really be filed under feminism because it is, in large part, a derogatory response to feminism — one that co-opts the language of feminism in an effort to deny the validity of feminist arguments, including the assertion that such traditional ‘values’ that define male privilege underpins gender-based violence and that persistent opposition to the ERA maintains the economic (and hence, cultural) status quo.

Rather, the  movement should be filed under ‘Anti-Feminism’ and the rhetoric on some of these sites is vitriolic to say the least, if only in comments posted by its most ardent proponents, which are typically abusers. These abusers are not ignorant of what they are supporting, nor are they ignorant of their own abusiveness. They exercise their self-assumed entitlements to superior treatment, superior opportunities, superior pay, and, importantly, unlimited latitude in the way they conduct themselves with intimate partners and the children they father — knowing full well they would never accept such treatment at the hands of women or jurisprudence. They unapologetically support and perpetuate a double standard and seek to preserve the male privilege that until recently has been a culturally accepted paradigm. Their aim is to make sure it stays that way.

While they cannot en masse literally beat women into silence and submission, a growing number do exercise their sometimes considerable economic and political advantage through legal means: by ‘educating’ men about alleged threats to their male privilege (e.g. domestic violence laws and child support enforcement policies; legal aide, advocacy, and shelter to victims of IPV and their children; identification of ‘victim-friendly’ attorneys, judges, counselors, etc.) so that they may work to perpetuate the abuse of former partners through spurious counter-allegations of abuse; allegations of ‘parental alienation’; flagrant misuse of Motions to the court to exhaust the emotional and financial reserves of the abused; lobbying for changes in policies/laws regarding child support, division of property, and civil damages; and lobbying for mandatory joint custody arrangements which keep their abused partners tethered to them until their children are adults.

In sum, the fathers’ rights movement speaks not to men who accept and embrace their responsibilities to their children and seek only to protect themselves from unwarranted malicious attacks on their assets and their character. Rather, it speaks to men who wish to be empowered to manipulate their abused former partners, the children they have in common, and the judicial system in order to preserve their wealth and augment their opportunities to exact retribution on those they hold responsible for the perceived assaults to their male privilege. It is essential that the fathers’ rights movement be critiqued objectively regarding its language and tactics, its influence on the sociocultural, political, and legal landscapes, and the ways in which it intentionally misrepresents the interests of men, women, and children in an effort to promote a damaging and dangerous agenda.


[For an excellent and objective treatment of this topic, see: Behre, K. A. (2015). Digging beneath the equality language: The influence of the fathers’ rights movement on intimate partner violence public policy debates and family law reform. William & Mary Journal of Women & the Law. 21(3). Retrieved from



I have shed tears,
not simply for what could have been
or for that which never was and never could be…

I have shed tears of gratitude
for the nearly narrow escape,
the breach in the wall that was too often passed over.

home to my self

with you, i lost my self.
i drifted slowly, inexorably…
bound by fear and hope,
intertwined and inseparable.
tethered by convention and covenant
and by my need to satisfy myself:
i will have done all that i could do.
together and yet alone,
the one to make accommodation,
subsumed by your expectations
of inexhaustible understanding.
time and again you extracted
my pledge to stand to you.
and stand to you i did
— to my own peril.
oh, yes! i was useful.

and at the last i saw you —
unmasked, naked in your contempt.

you may not yet know,
but you are undone.
and i am reborn.
for without you,
i have come home to my self.

fragile hope

all the times he wounds me
at the heart and mind of me
and i say nothing,
i let it slide
hoping and clinging —
not to him of course —
but to compassion,
this higher purpose that says
you, child, are the stronger
— you understand…
and there is good, too, yes?

but what else do i understand?

i understand that for too long
have i held fragile hope
in trembling hands
and unwound the thread
making space for pain

i understand the picture
i paint for my legacy:
in colors washed by tears it says,
hanging on to fragile hope
is a woman’s obligation

what disservice i do, then,
to cultivate patience
i am no stoic
where is the compassion
for me and my loves?

just now, sister Red Tail flew
across my view, low to the ground
as if to say
you will fly solo
but never alone