of London compares him to Osama bin Laden. He's been dubbed
a "menace" holding a city for "ransom,"
as well as a lunatic and an extremist.
What has 36 year-old
David Chick done to arouse such anger? He loves his little daughter,
from whom he's been forcibly separated, and he had the courage
to do something about it.
The now world famous
Englishman recently ended his traffic stopping, six day, one
man protest atop a 150 foot high crane near the Tower Bridge
in London. Dressed as Spiderman because he is his two year-old
daughter's favorite comic book character, Chick says his daughter's
mother has not allowed him to see his girl for eight months
and has tried to alienate her from him. Interviewed by English
newspapers, the ex-girlfriend admits blocking the standard yet
paltry twice a month visitation which English courts have granted
Chick. To date, she has declined to offer a reason publicly.
Chick is one of
hundreds of thousands of English fathers who have been cut off
from their children after divorce or separation. Their voices
have crystallized into a widely popular campaign by the activist
group Fathers 4 Justice. This campaign seeks to reform the family
law system to allow divorced and unwed fathers to play a meaningful
role in their children's lives.
The English Lord
Chancellor's Department admits that mothers win custody in about
four-fifths of all cases in English and Welsh courts, and English
courts are notorious for their failure to enforce fathers' visitation
rights. According to Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips,
"some senior judges recently acknowledged that with so
many contact [visitation] orders being flouted by mothers, the
law is being brought into disrepute."
When one judge recently
did transfer care of a child from the child's alienating mother
to the father, it was such an event that it merited inclusion
in Phillips' column. In reality, these types of transfers should
be more common, and would no doubt have a salutary effect on
the behavior of parents who try to prevent their children from
seeing their exes.
Chick's plight will
sound familiar to many American fathers. According to the Children's
Rights Council, a Washington-based advocacy group, more than
five million American children each year have their access to
their noncustodial parents interfered with or blocked by custodial
parents. And while politicians and the media hammer away at
absent fathers on both sides of the Atlantic, they too often
fail to examine the critical role that family courts and vengeful
exes play in creating the problem.
To the minimal extent
that defenders of the current system have been forced to justify
mothers' actions, they claim--as the mayor of London now does--that
these men often should not have access to their children.
This is no doubt
true on occasion, but is inaccurate in most cases of access
and visitation denial. Those opposing fathers' rights claim
they are defending women and children from abusive fathers.
However, according to the US Department of Health and Human
Services, the vast majority of child abuse, parental murder
of children, child neglect, and child endangerment are committed
by mothers, not fathers. In addition, decades of research, including
that carried out by the National Institute of Mental Health,
show that women are just as likely to be violent towards their
spouses as men are.
According to Carol
Plummer, Chick's sister, "David would never harm his daughter
or Jo [the ex-girlfriend]. He doesn't want custody of his daughter,
he just wants to see her. But Jo is making him suffer by depriving
him of seeing his daughter, who is his life."
Though one can sense
a smear campaign against Chick on the horizon, two weeks of
digging for dirt on him have turned up little. He was convicted
of cannabis possession three years ago and of public indecency
(for consensual sexual activity) while a teenager. According
to Chick's brother Steven Reed, in the cannabis conviction David
took the trap for his ex-girlfriend.
is the most precious thing in my world. I was there for the
scans when she was still in the womb, I was there for her birth.
I fed her, bathed her, got up in the night with her, cuddled
her when she cried.
"Now I'm just
another statistic--another dad who has no part in his daughter's
life. For me, it is a living bereavement."
fathers in England, America and most of the Western world stand
upon a foundation of sand, knowing that our loved ones can be
ripped away from us and there is often little we can do about
it. We invest our lives in the children we love and tell them
that we will always be there for them. But in the back of our
minds we can't help but think of a question which Spiderman
no doubt considered before he began his ascent up that crane
hanging over Tower Bridge: will we be allowed to?
Glenn Sacks is a men's and fathers'
issues columnist. His radio show, His Side with Glenn Sacks,
can be heard every Sunday on KRLA 870 AM in Los Angeles. His
website is GlennSacks.com.
This column first appeared in the Daily
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