The advocacy of bitterness

2012-10-03 00:00

I AM a single mother of two children. I was recently summoned to the office of the family advocate. I say “summoned” because you’re not actually given a choice in the matter.

Since my horrid experience, the feeling of resentment has remained within me, festering like a septic wound. Fellow citizens, women in this country are being demeaned every day. My visit to the family advocate has proved this.

Perhaps the forceful and excessively intimidating visit to the office needs to be made clear to women who have not yet experienced this process. It is not a pleasant experience. It is called “mediation”, but the truth of the matter is that no one is supportive, no one helps you and no one cares about who you are and where you come from.

After spending the past three years of my life doing everything on my own for my two children, I was treated as if I had absolutely no idea about motherhood.

When I arrived at the office with one child on my hip and the other firmly clutching the strap of my handbag, I paused for a moment, took a deep breath and felt the sudden closeness of my children around my legs. I embraced the unavoidable and faced my fears.

The moment one walks into reception, which is embellished with happy pictures and sweet miniature furniture and story books, supposedly to try to settle the nerves of children who haven’t seen their biological father since the day they were born, the people behind reception glare viciously at you.

After informing the one brave employee who offered me assistance that I have a legitimate protection order in place, I was instructed sternly to “sit!”

This is astounding. I have safe-guarded myself and my children for two-and-a-half years from a man who failed at my murder, yet insisted he would do it properly “the next time”, and I was just made to sit down, so that if he walked in, he could have full access to us and do as he pleased. (He was tried for murder and for 18 months I appeared in court. In January this year, somehow, the docket was misplaced and he was acquitted.)

Yes, this was the case. It seems that in our judicial system today, a protection order is nothing but a piece of paper that holds no weight. It’s a representation of how senseless you were not to fight back.

As I sat down and tried to act composed in front of my children, my fear became a reality. Their father, in a cavalier fashion, strolled in half an hour late and sat opposite us.

After much trepidation, I was finally called, together with this man against whom I have a restraining order, to “consult”.

After being stripped of my dignity for two hours with two women and the father of my children, I was sent to “fetch” my eldest son. Apprehensively, I walked down a long passage and collected him from the reception area, where he was waiting patiently for my return. He was put into the same office with this man he knew was his father, but that was it. Here, all claptrap around how important our children are vanished into smithereens.

I paced agonisingly up and down the passage, praying for strength for my son. Not long after this, in a demented state, he came crawling out the room. My second fear had just been made a reality. My child had once again become the victim of his father’s revenge on his mother.

This ordeal is unacceptable. Why do we single mothers have to drag our children through this? What is the point of trying to give a deceitful man a second, or maybe third or fourth, chance to prove himself? Why should our children have to be exposed to the preposterousness of the family advocate’s intimidation? This is not humane, let alone just. It is demeaning, goes against our rights as women and certainly violates the children’s right to protection and a safe environment. What are these rights put in place for when they are blatantly ignored?

How can one sleep at night, knowing that they have destroyed the lives of countless children while assisting inadequate fathers who have all of a sudden woken up to the fact that they have children, to gain access to them?

Why go on about women’s rights when we are actually just lonely voices in the wilderness? Why underrate the ability of a single mother? Who gives anyone the right to undermine my judgments? Who says that because a man has representation in matters like this, that what he says is true? Who gives anyone the authority to force a breach of a protection order, and to upset my child? What is it that makes a person ignorant enough to shrug one woman’s pain and anguish off and feed the predator confidential information about his prey? What is it that you want to achieve at the end of the day? Because it certainly isn’t an outcome that is made in the best interests of the children, as claimed. My questions remain unanswered.

This was not mediation at all, it was intimidation, where the victims suffered and the perpetrator gained.

My wish for those concerned, those who took pride in intimidating me and my children, is that you never find yourselves in the chair that I was sitting in, being interviewed by people of your calibre, because the hard truth is, you may have to taste your own medicine and believe me, it’s a bitter taste.

• This article was sent to the family advocate’s office for comment, but nothing had been received at the time of going to press.

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