When Fathers Kill Their Children


If you’re getting sugar overload from all the sweet Mother’s Day tributes out there, here’s a dispiriting antidote: a story on dads who kill their kids.

Writes Cara Tabachnick on The Crime Report,

In the nine months between June 2009 and April 2010, 75 children have been killed by fathers involved in volatile custody battles with their former partners, according to the Center for Judicial Excellence, a court advocacy organization which has been tracking news articles of such deaths around the U.S. Based in San Rafael, California, the Center focuses on strengthening court integrity as well as improving public accountability of the judiciary.

So: what’s going on? While overburdened family-court caseloads are certainly partly at fault, the article makes the point that the problem is more systemic: that judges are not trained to spot abuse, and that in fact allegations of abuse are regarded as “difficult” in a system that, intentionally or not, rewards obedience. In other words, Tabanchik argues, the system is biased against abuse claims. The subject is particularly politicized, she goes on, in the wake of the Fathers Rights movement – the pendulum may have swung, for some courts, in quite the other direction. That it should swing in any direction other than that of children’s well-being is of course depressing in the extreme.

While one judge in the article argues for the efficacy of appointing a lawyer to each child to act as an advocate, Janet Malcolm’s recent New Yorker profile of a Queens murder case, in which one such lawyer’s vindictiveness and failure to so much as meet with his young client are presented as both damaging and not atypical, presents quite another picture. “For the moment, abused mothers who are trying to protect their children through the overworked family court system have the cards stacked against them,” says one advocate quoted.

But however flawed the system, does any of it really explain why men have resorted to such unnatural violence on such a grand scale? On the subject of “family annihilators,” as such men are known in law enforcement, a 2007 Associated Content piece noted that “there are definite differences between men and women who kill or harm their children. He says that women tend to be mentally ill, frequently suffering from post-partum depression. Men, on the other hand, feel rage, jealousy, hatred, and revenge when they kill their families.” However, as Newsweek noted in 2008, “there’s relatively limited research on men who kill their children.” While this is baffling in itself, it does point to the importance of repairing the visible holes in family court systems that have too often contributed to letting situations become tragic. Says the head of non-profit the Leadership Council, “the problem is that family court is not set up to protect children.”

Failure To Protect: The Crisis In America’s Family Courts [The Crime Report]
A Reporter At Large, “Iphigenia In Forest Hills,” [The New Yorker]
The Family Annihilator – Fathers Who Kill
[Associated Content]
Annals of Filicide [Newsweek]

[Image via PhillipBantz]

Image via Zurijeta/Shutterstock.

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