Wednesday, March 28, 2007

We live in an age like no other

Never has it been possible to divorce a woman, take her children, not let her see them, make her pay you to look after them for her, then, if she isn't able to, complain that she must not love her children and throw her in jail. The mere idea is transparently unjust. Yet, today that is exactly what custodial parents can do to non-custodial parents, under the full protection of the law. That almost always means what mothers can do to fathers. No one even seems to notice unless the mother doing it is a lesbian.

Today, a high court has to be called on to point out that accusations of rape ought to carry a bit more of a basis than "I was drunk, so I couldn't give proper consent". Meanwhile the media parrot out the line that only one in 20 accusations of rape result in a conviction without ever considering the possibility that there might be something wrong with our definition of rape. The real tragedy, of course, is that those who truly have been raped face an ever mounting pile of controversy at the mere idea of reporting their pain.

Then there's the study which concluded that one in five people are stalked in a two year period. Buried in the study itself (pdf), you'll find that the definition of stalking is so broad that one might wonder they didn't find the fraction to be larger, including, as it does, irate phone calls and email flames and possibly finding yourself on the same street as someone you don't much like. One wonders if a better conclusion is that one in five people experience significant episodes of paranoia over a two year period. But that wouldn't suit the victim culture we live in, where we must extend the definition of victim as far as possible and then expect "the police and prosecutors to identify these cases before they take a deadly turn". Before you know it, a pointed finger is enough to have you tarred for stalking and carted off to jail as a potential murderer. Thoughtcrime, guys.

It gets to the point that either you're a victim or a perpetrator, which would you rather be?

(The same report, by the way, expresses surprise that half of the stalkers reported by "male victims" are also men, but makes no comment that the numbers clearly indicate that half of all stalkers are women!)

Under such a climate, we can no longer see who the victims really are. Then we can have willfully ignorant journalists getting their knickers in a twist at some of the appropriately hurt and angry language they find on the intertubes from men who have been falsely accused, thrown out of their homes, kept from their children, and beggared with child support dues. With feigned fear and astonishment, they wonder at what they call aggressive words directed at the feminists who support the policies that have done these things, salting their pretend horror with claims of misogyny, suggestions that the men are barely evolved offspring of a thuggish boogie-man patriarchy who know only "hate speech", form "hate groups", "mimic the micro-practices of offenders" (whatever the hell that means), and whose "havoc" must be "dealt with".

To answer their "fears" they turn to "experts" who trot out carefully approved, politically correct doublespeak to reinforce the paranoia. A father desperate in his inability to do anything for his children besides pay for them is regarded as the cause of the problem because can't he see that "conflict is harmful to children, conflict between parents may cancel, or even reverse, any benefits associated with frequent visitation"? Never once do they consider that this means conflict generated by the custodial parent is an unassailable argument for the exclusion of the non-custodial parent from the children's lives and renders him helpless to do anything about it. Again, this nearly always means what the mother can do to the father. He is supposed to just swallow it whole and if he can't choke it down, he's the problem. The man's anger is the problem, not whatever caused it. An unbearable provocation is nothing, only the reaction has significance. Anything less than putting his tail between his legs and slinking off into the night is completely unacceptable.

Thus they pathologize outrage and turn victims into perpetrators. Appropriate, justifiable outrage and true, helpless victims ready for the administration of a coup de grâce.

Men are beginning to notice. The problem is worldwide. The news and opinions cited here come from the UK, the USA, South Korea, Canada and Australia. It's not a backlash against feminism, that is a red-herring distracting us from the reality of an underhanded and oppressive cultural regime rooted in all of us. There is no conspiracy, a conspiracy has to hide, this is our own foolishness in plain sight. But in our blindness it is nearly invisible. It has torn many lives apart, but in so doing, it must show itself, eventually. Let's hope that even if we and our children must pay the price, their children might not.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What's sauce for the gander, is sauce for the goose.

Cat fight!

Two lesbian moms, one baby boy, one adoption, one breakup, one lesbian mom takes unheard of step of obstructing contact (nope, that never happens, no, uh-uh, not nohow) between other mom and her adopted child. Lesbian ex-mom sues for shared custody. Lesbian mom becomes ex-lesbian mom. Ex-lesbian mom sues for adoption to be quashed. Lesbian community grinds righteous ax for ex-lesbian mom. Ex-lesbian mom gets all defensive. Ex-lesbian mom makes ludicrous arguments trying to defend her spiteful behavior.

This disenfranchised father wonders why it takes lesbians to expose the kind of abuses ordinary mothers are allowed to perpetrate every day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

How to game the system

Responses to my post How to Talk to a Disenfranchised Father continue to accumulate over at the MSN message board. I was particularly taken with Zosha's Mom's comments, they are illustrative of the kinds of dirty tactics the father has to face when battling an uncooperative ex who holds his child hostage. Here they are in their entirety, with my commentary.
I am sure my ex sees me as one of these women, who force him out of our lives. Perception is in the eye of the beholder though.
If she's sure her ex sees her as "one of these women", then I submit that she probably is, or else why say it? She knows this, suspects she's a bad guy, and feels the need to justify herself, because no-one wants to be the bad guy. This can be done by suggesting that the only problem with her behavior is one's perception. A woman who who looks like the back end of a horse or, say, Andrew Lloyd Weber, can protest that beauty is in the eye of the beholder until they're blue in the face, but it's not going to make them pretty, now is it?
He called me a psychotic b*t*h for consulting a family therapist for an educated opinion about an overnight visit. He hadn't seen her in almost 6 months, she was only 20 months old, and it didn't sit right with me, so I had a professional tell me the way to go about it. He didn't like the solution suggested, to see her 4 times a week for the 3 weeks remaining before xmas before he took her overnight. Too bad for him, he didn't get her overnight. Oh, and he hadn't seen her in almost 6 months because he was too busy working and partying with the guys to be bothered with diapers on a saturday, his hangover day.
This part of the story is cleverly told backwards, starting with a reason to condemn the man, and ending with the reason why he might have been provoked, thus you are primed to disregard the provocation because you've already been told he's a jerk. Neat, don't you think? But this is a common tactic of those who are trying to distract you from the real source of conflict - muddling cause and effect is second only to demonizing the enemy as justification for warfare. (WMDs, anyone?)

She blends the most likely reason for no contact for 6 months - because he's working during the hours she permitted - together with a probable red herring - that he's been partying with the guys. This is a diversionary tactic designed to further reinforce the reader's picture of her ex as a bad guy while simultaneously allowing her to claim that she told you the truth, as well.

Somewhere before Christmas, he asks for an overnight visit, perhaps he is better able to spend quality time with her in an overnight than during a day when he's supposed to be working. Anyone who's read their child bedtime stories can understand that, can't they? Perhaps he was hoping his ex would be a little more cooperative around Christmas, which would also be a good occasion for him to get some quality time in with his child, don't you think?

But this "doesn't sit right" with her, so she finds a "professional", who doesn't know her ex from Adam, to give her some "advice" on how to go about it. Note that she is not concerned that her child shows some anxiety at the idea of being with her father (yes, I know, not 2 yet), nor that she voices a specific reason, it just "doesn't sit right". This "professional", given only her spin on the story, suggests a possibly difficult regimen for a working man who is not getting on with his ex - to see her 12 times in 3 weeks under unspecified conditions (who wants to bet, supervised at her home?) before he's allowed an overnight with his own child. Is anyone surprised that there follows an altercation in which she gets called names? I wonder what she called him? Possibly, she didn't have to, she just had to adopt a condescending attitude and fob off all responsibility on her "professional".
Then the court case. Right after the judge awarded me graduated access, ie. 5 consecutive saturdays at my home after not seeing her for 7 months, he called me a vindictive c*nt. I called the court, discovered a centre about 20 minutes away from our homes that he could see her at for the 5 saturdays, then he could have her at his house. When I got this information I called him, told him about it, told him if he showed up at my home I would not let him in. I do not have to deal with this kind of abuse in my own home in front of my daughter. That was 3 months ago and he still hasn't called about the centre.
Then the court case. If he can't be bothered to see his child because he's too hungover from partying, why is he wasting time and money (and money, and money, and money) seeking visitation through the courts? Is that a dumb question? I don't think it's a dumb question.

Her phrasing is especially interesting, don't you think? "The judge awarded me graduated access", my emphasis. Isn't that just a little, er, smug? (Actually, I think it's a humungous Freudian slip, and I think Freud was a bit of a loon.) Is there any father out there, facing a malicious ex who has been needling him through his kid for months, who would not feel humiliated at having visitation ordered in that woman's house? Not all men would take that like water off a duck's back. Nor do we know that there wasn't further provocation prior to the new name that she gets called. Again, one wonders what she called him, but perhaps it was just a grin and a wink as she skipped out of court.

And what is her reaction? Give him a chance to cool down? Look for ways to make it less difficult for him? Yeah, right, in your wildest dreams. It is immediate over-retaliation through the courts, pure passive aggressive bullying-by-proxy. "He called me a nasty name!" Pout. Let's make him jump through yet another hoop before he can see his kid, see what he thinks of that! Perhaps the change of venue isn't even court approved, and it's just another stunt. She calls him up and tells him about the center and that she won't let him in her house if he tries to come around. (Perhaps until recently, it was his house - another barb.) At this point, perhaps his counsel has told him the courts won't do anything much on any reasonable timescale to make her obey the order. Perhaps he's decided it might be better to leave it a while, see if time mellows her obstructiveness.
I am sure he thinks that I have made it hard for him to see her, but it is not my job to make it easy for him either. He has the order, and I will not refuse to take her to the centre, if he ever calls.
Perhaps he thinks she's made it hard?! I think she's made it hard and all I've got to go on is what she's told us. Like another commenter in the thread, I believe that it most certainly is her responsibility to make it easy for him. That ought to be what "custody" means, not complete control over him through his kid. She is an abusive control freak, pure and simple.

The order he has sets him up for more trouble - time spent in her company is obviously a liability for him, to spend time in her house is begging for trouble. Big of her to say she won't refuse to take the kid to the center, where he can be studied by people used to bona fide abusers who are expecting him to be more of the same. I'm sure it would be immense fun for him and his child.

Note that she hasn't once said she's afraid of him, that he is abusive, or that he might do something to the kid. That is a bit of a strategic error, it would be the icing on the cake, and would convince many not-so-deep thinkers out there that being called names is just the tip of the iceberg and he really must be kept away. Signed, sealed and delivered. But the truth is, she doesn't need to. All that is necessary is for it to "not sit right" with her. The rest is spin, manipulation, vindictiveness.

All in good fun, of course. Let's all watch him squirm.

Do you begin to see how it works yet...?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Romeo's a bleeding idiot

One of the more disorientating experiences an honest man can face on undergoing a malignant divorce is that so much of the literature that purports to empower and encourage the defensive party is written as if she were inevitably the spurned wife, as opposed to the spurned husband. There seems to be an infinite amount of writing out there to help women come to the conclusion they've been treated abominably, nay, that they've been abused and bugger all to help men who are targeted by unpleasant women.

To illustrate, a while back, I compiled a series of book titles in the genre and switched the genders as an experiment in semiotics, noting that only one of the 32 book titles I produced actually exists. It was a notably easy exercise. I've also argued before that men don't report domestic violence because they don't know that's what it is. When the language is all about one gender and not the other, it is that much harder to make a cognitive shift in the opposite direction and abused men are deterred from recognizing their plight by the world's simple assumption that it doesn't happen to them, even as they nurse the bruises.

I spend quite a lot of time browsing the web, trying to understand what I have been and am being put through. Time and again, I read about physical abuse, verbal abuse and emotional abuse from the perspective of the female as victim, and it is always difficult going as these words erode my confidence in my picture of what happened even as I search in them for an explanation. One can almost feel that confidence slip away as one reads about yet another horrible trait, supposedly only found in men.

Once in a while, a short article makes an effort to be gender neutral and occasionally, there will appear a disclaimer at the beginning or the end to the effect that sometimes the woman can be the aggressor, but it's much more likely to be the other way around, so suck it up man. We know, of course, that that isn't true, but we also know where the market is, don't we?

Here's an example I discovered recently: "Romeo's Bleeding" by a shrink from the land of fruits and nuts, Roger Melton (the mugshot gives me the creeps, by the way) a shortened version of a book (that he can't get published) about nasty men and vulnerable women. I couldn't read the whole thing, until I decided to write this post; like so many others, it's just too demoralizing. Allow me to pull out some representative extracts and do the gender-switch thing. Mull these over, and see what they do to your perception of the people described:
Unlike women that can honestly struggle with their own uncertainties and confusions about a relationship, and recognize the part they play in creating problems and conflicts, there are other kinds of women that see love as a game and you as their pawn. In this cruelly covert contest, cunning is their watchword, deception is their fix, and control is their high.
The question is multi-faceted. Although it starts out recognizing normal women, a paragraph like that can easily be taken as misogynistic, in which case, why is the original not misandristic? Imagine a woman reading it, who is not like that, and yet is accused of that in court. Should the paragraph be gender-specific at all? It seems to me that it would lose none of its point or impact if it were gender neutral, although it would appeal less to reflex prejudice.
Just as addicts are unrelenting in pursuit of making the next score, these kind of women are unyielding in their hunt for men that they can deceive and manipulate. Unlike emotionally sound men and women, who respect others as much as they do themselves, controlling-women respect no one. To them, people are things. And things can be used.
Here, we are possibly even given to wonder if such addicts are really to be found among the gentler sex, that first sentence sounds almost unreasonable in a world where we are told that so many women are helpless prey to unscrupulous men. It is interesting that the second sentence contains a partially gender neutral context, but is not gender neutral when it comes to the bad, er, guy.
While the harm most of these women inflict is emotional and psychological, there are those among them with a more dangerous twist, who feed off their victims' souls the way a leech drains the blood of its prey: drop by drop. These are the captivating vampires, whose devious masks conceal every man's worst nightmare-the terrifying face of a future batterer or stalker.
Now it sounds positively unreasonable. The purple prose clearly ridiculous when applied to a man. Women feeding off men's souls? How bizarre does that sound outside of some lurid Hollywood crap? In which case, why does it sound any less bizarre when said of women victims? Men don't usually wander around being terrified of battering or stalking women. (Do they?) But notice also what this paragraph, as I have rewritten it, says about the men it supposedly addresses - the implication, patently weird, is that they ought to be careful to harbor suspicions of every woman they meet as a potential threat. Surely then the original passage demands that of its target, female audience.

The article continues, reinforcing the danger of some nasty, manipulative, narcissistic ghoul out there, just waiting for a suitably naive ingenue to drain of HER life, her blood dripping from HIS fangs, and purports to equip her against his wiles. There is nothing here for a man, for he is the enemy. There is nothing in this article which is able to see women as more than the defenseless prey of unpleasant men. Anyone reading it, male or female, is driven to the conclusion that women must be protected, empowered, educated and men are to be treated with the utmost caution.

And yet I find nothing in the article that could not be applied to women as abusers and men as victims, given a suitable modification of the more lurid prose. There is no reason to reject the idea of a naive, gullible man taken for a ride by a female "Narcissistic Controller" or sociopath. Nevertheless, I challenge anyone to find anything on the internet so constructed as to educate such a man, to put him in fear of those women who would use him and warn him of the signs that could presage a future betrayal. At least, outside a small number of distinctly paranoid sites with deservedly bad reputations. At this point, I can address the reasonable reader's objection that this article is to be found on, so what did I expect? OK, so where's the equivalent, "Juliet's Bleeding" on
To the Sociopath, love is the thrill she gets when you've finally taken her bait, she's yanked on the line and the hook is buried deep in your heart. Love, to her, is the look of stunned bewilderment and dread your eyes reveal when you realize it's too late to run.
There has been plenty of this type of character in literature, tales of love cruelly used to destroy a man. But not much recently, and certainly not in writings designed to help people in the normal walks of real life, in those stacks of self-help books at Borders, although you might find a small section of "Men's studies" as a punctuating afterthought at the bottom left of a dozen or two shelves of other euphemistically called "Gender studies" or, sometimes more honestly, "Women's studies".

Melton continues his article into examples of the truly pathological, describing hospital "patients who generate intense conflicts between staff members ... One psychiatrist diagnoses him as schizophrenic, another labels him manic-depressive and a third believes he is a hypochondriac." (My emphasis.) They're all men.

The treatise is not without insight and useful information, but it, like so many others, is fundamentally sexist and misandrist in its approach. If we could imagine a library full of self-help books for men to protect themselves against unscrupulous women, accepted as a normal part of life, we would probably be imagining a key part of a fundamentally misogynistic culture. Instead, we have a library of such books for women, so do we not therefore live in a fundamentally misandristic culture? The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dying every day, the lost daughter and a brother in arms.

I apologize for the break after my last post. I found my inspiration a little lacking, and, well, the nights have been a little dark.

I was pleased to get several comments, including one from a man much further down this horrible road than am I. "When did I last see my kids? Eight and a half years ago, and I die a little every day." That is an excellent way of putting it, to die a little every day; not because it is a pleasing analogy, but because that is exactly what it feels like. Death seems that much closer when you can't see your children.

Also, I got a comment from the child of a disenfranchised dad and by her own account, although she doesn't call it that, an alienated child. She encourages us to keep fighting, to "take the emotional punches and never back down". If only she knew how exhausting it is to keep up that fight, to look for the next possible battle front after losing yet another legal round, how few weapons dad might wield and how many from which mom may pick and choose. Just recently, a friend of mine mused how poorly suited a man is to such a battle - evolved for solving one problem and moving on to the next, he is tormented by a problem he is not permitted to solve, nor to walk away from.

She says "Your children - at least the grown female ones - want huge, magnanimous gestures." clearly not realizing how expensive and dangerous such gestures can be. In fact, I might hazard a guess that she's taken mom's lesson to heart, that dad was never good enough, dad never did enough, even as she bewails not having done something herself. "But he was careful, and respected and space and waited some more. He was wrong to do that."

What sort of "magnanimous gesture" might he have made? You wanted him to "have made me see how much he loved me - even if he had to embarrass himself (and me!)". You do know what stalking is, don't you? Did you want to see your sad old dad dragged away by the cops? You do realize that many of the things he might have done without the court's approval would have landed him in jail, or his rights further curtailed?

It is not your fault, lost daughter, but it is not his either. Respect his memory, such as it is, and help us fight, don't just goad from the sidelines.

My post was also reposted, without asking my permission, claims to the contrary notwithstanding (but it's OK demonspawn, you were right, I don't have a problem with it) on an MSN message board. One comment in response (from fusebox) read:
While reading the Blog I found myself in a state that I have never been in. It was like I was reading what I have been feeling and saying for a long time. I have the anger problems and am truly fed up with the system and I had the exact argument with GAl in my case and she had the satisfied look that he is referring to. I see that look in my sleep. I have never been under this kind of scrutiny let alone interrogated from different angles and then of course there are the loaded questions that I would have had to have been leader of the political debate team at Harvard to answer without putting myself into some corner.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, cried the blood, written the blog post. The writer goes on to reflect on the effect his own trials, literal and figurative, have on the new woman in his life. I am pleased that I have been able to write something to touch him, and others. But I am also distressed. No-one should have to go through this sort of thing to remain, and even fail to remain, a parent.

I leave you with an item I found on poking around this message board. Of all the malignant visitation rulings, consider the gut-wrenching humiliation of having to travel across country to have visitation with your daughter under the supervision of your deserting wife's new boyfriend. That's a judge who just loves to torment. Don't anyone dare comment that it's better than nothing.


Monday, March 05, 2007

How to Talk to a Disenfranchised Father

"If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven't, you cannot possibly imagine it." -Lemony Snicket.
A disenfranchised father is an adequate father who has been unreasonably and unwillingly removed from his children's life. By "adequate", I mean a father like any other, a father who cares for his children, who sees himself as a valuable part of their upbringing and who has invested a significant part of his identity in his role in their lives. By "removed", I mean that he no longer lives with his children, that he is reduced to a visitor in their lives or possibly prevented from seeing them altogether. He has no say in what happens to them. The mother works to keep him out, limits and controls their interactions, she likes it that way. To her, "the best interests of the child" are what she wants, period.

Many believe that the system is supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening. That if such a father, loathed by his ex, can find no support in the courts, then there must be good and valid reason. These people are sorely mistaken. They have no understanding of the gaping holes in family law. By default they believe that the problem of absentee fathers must be the fault of the fathers themselves, single mothers are saints fighting the good fight against tragic odds and through no fault of their own.

A father who has gone through the worst of this may have "trust issues". He has probably spent a lot of time among supposedly professional people who have examined him closely and found him wanting according to standards impossibly higher than those to which his ex is held (to which nor even should be held any typical parent). People he thought he could trust have lied to him, have given him false hope and have actively worked against him, only for him to realize too late and leaving him with only resentment.

He will have spent a lot of time in an environment where the only appropriate response is outrage and yet any sign of anger from him would have cost him dear. The stress may have been too much and he may have expressed that anger and then seen the satisfied looks of those who look for excuses to do their awful work. An angry word may have been enough, he didn't need to actually get violent (although that would have produced all the more satisfaction and definitive result).

He may seem obsessed, only able to talk about one thing: the betrayal to which he has been subject. Alternatively, he may not want to talk about it, having learned that most people can't take it, can't accept the obvious pain he feels and melt away leaving him alone with it. "I've got my own problems, I can't get involved with that", or "I wish he'd just get over it".

They wish he'd just get over the loss of his children.

He may be a strong enough person that it no longer shows at all. Until you dig a little, if you're so inclined and if he is inclined to let you.

Sometimes, to lose a child like this, especially in the event of a complete lockout, is compared to the loss of a child to death. Not so. That would be what the philosophers call a category error. The circumstances and consequences are completely different. The death of a child is forever, it is final, it is by definition resolved even if the consequences are not, it must be survived, and those who are left behind must try to rebuild their lives without the dead child. Everyone with an ounce of humanity is sympathetic, tries to accomodate it.

Disenfranchisement, by contrast, is ambiguous. The child is not there, but is elsewhere. Many do not know if they should feel sympathy or not. They don't think "there but for the grace of God go I" because they know they're good parents, and there's no risk and, after all, he must have done something wrong, mustn't he? There is always hope, for those who have not had to spend years trying to maintain hope, even after years of no contact, because the child is not dead. If he does have contact, it may be difficult. He may have to run the gauntlet of the ex's bile (as she pockets the child support check - you think she should thank him? That's what the man says he owes her). He gets limited time, perhaps supervised, shoving down his feelings, to engage the child who would otherwise engage by default, whenever he or she was ready. How long do you think he should tolerate it? How long would you? Why should you have to tolerate anything? Why should he? Or his children?

The tiredest cliché a disenfranchised father will hear and keep hearing as long as he lets on what has happened: "Don't worry, they'll come back to you, just wait and see". This is poor comfort for two reasons. First, it's a statement of faith, not fact, and his faith has taken a severe beating. He may have believed in justice, the good motivations of psychologists, the objectiveness of court personnel. But the system that was supposed to prevent this, either did nothing of the sort or actively caused it. The society that touts the value of family life proves itself a deranged lunatic by doing nothing to preserve it. You want him to believe that his children will somehow absorb the importance of a father in their lives while not actually having one around to show them? That it should be somehow instinctive and one day they will wake up and realize this, tell their Machiavellian mother where to shove it and run back into his arms?

The other reason for this "wait and see" being bad advice is that it takes no account of the lost years. In advance, it shrugs them off and resigns to their being lost forever. Not just the normal security that the children should have as they grow in knowing that their father is there by their sides, but also the satisfaction and love that a father should feel in having his children near so he can watch over them and calm and keep them from their fears. All this is lost, not fully appreciated until it is gone, and only really by those who have lost it.

How do you talk to such a man? It depends, in part, on your own resources. How much of his anger are you willing to explore? That may seem odd, why should he get angry at you? Once you show some sympathy, you may find that his anger comes to the fore. He can't get angry at the people who deserve it. They have power over him and his children. Show him some sympathy and he may let that anger show, not necessarily at you, but in front of you. Are you man or woman enough to take it? It's difficult to express anger without offending someone, will you take it at face value or look for the deeper meaning he hasn't the lucidity to express?

Grief? He surely feels grief, and surely you're old enough and experienced enough by now to have been able to comfort the grieving and to have felt some yourself. But what if that grief goes on for years? What if it never really goes away but becomes a permanent wound that won't heal? He can't visit a gravesite, he can't really mourn. What, after all, does he have to mourn but the loss of something that, however improbably, could come back any day? Every time you see him, you will be conscious of his pain, even if he isn't. We all assess each other by what we know to have happened to each other.

One thing he may need more than anything else (besides his children) is validation. His self-image as a man and as a father has been under sustained and ongoing attack. Powerful people have either found him wanting or not found the spine to help him when they could (or should). The erosion on his sense of self worth is inevitable. All around are conflicting indicators of what he must do - shrug it off, take it like a man, grow a pair, don't give up on them, do everything that you can, fight!, don't fight!, never give up, build a new life, keep calling them, give it up. Whatever he does, it won't be the right thing (and there's no shortage of judges), but he has to do it anyway.

Perhaps the most meaningful thing you can say is: "what has happened to you is wrong", it'd be nice if you believed it.