On Father’s Day this weekend we saw David Cameron talk about absent fathers. On Facebook we were encouraged to change our pictures to one of our father. And whilst I have no problems with my dad, many people I have worked with do with theirs, and many women I have supported long for dads to be absent, and with good reason.
There are many reports on the impact of domestic violence on children, not just from actually seeing the violence, but also by being in a house where the violence/abuse is going on. And we know that sexual abuse has a massive impact on individuals, and that a very disproportionate figure of those with mental health issues have experienced sexual violence or abuse. So celebrating fathers is something that must be done with measured sensitivity.
Whilst some men’s groups blame women for destroying their relationships with their children they fail to address that it is their behaviour that has caused the break down, or the mother’s need to protect. Each year father’s do kill or harm their children and yet the courts still encourage many abusive men to be given access to their children. We need to be much bolder in admitting that not all families work, and that some fathers should never have access to their offspring.
We also need to examine how referring to “God the Father” can impact on those with such negative experiences of what a “father” is. If your church celebrated Father’s Day did it examine the different aspects of fatherhood, the failure of some to “father” in terms of a positive role model, and the harmful impact fathers can have? Probably not. And you may say that raising such things during a celebration is not appropriate, but that fails to address that it is not a celebration for those who have been hurt nor should it be for those who are deliberately hurting others.
We don’t tend to refer to our fathers as Abba. But maybe we should in terms of God the Father. To differentiate and distance people’s understanding from God as father in human form.
Abusive father’s can change, or stop their behaviour but we need to make sure that we protect first, and accept that actions have responsibilities, and by abusing them they can loose that right.
Stop it Now! is a secular organisation that can help men who want to abuse. They provide support and work with men to change their behaviour.
I hope that if you are reading this as a father, that you were able to celebrate. But I hope that you can also appreciate that for many this was a day in which bitter, painful memories were present, even if hidden behind a smile.