Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We Have to Learn from Darcey Case


WHILE most people have reacted with horror to Arthur Freeman's horrific murder of his precious little daughter Darcey, some have used it to blame the Family Court, rather than a vengeful, self-pitying, cruel brute of a man.


Arthur Freeman


Barry Williams, president and founder of the Lone Fathers Association, was quick to use the tragedy to claim that men are treated unfairly in Family Court disputes, which can lead them to harm their children.

The main problem with Arthur Freeman, however, was not that he didn't have enough access to his children, but that he had any access at all.

Darcey's poor grieving mother, Peta Barnes, says she lived for years fearing that Freeman would harm their children. Her deep-seated fear was obviously justified.

Tragically, there are countless parents still living with the kind of fear experienced by Barnes, forced to kiss their children goodbye before sending them off on access visits, wondering if they'll ever see them again.

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This is not a gender issue and I don't want to make it one. It's just the ugly truth about how some aggrieved parents react after separation and divorce -- they become so obsessed with self-pity and the desire for revenge that their children's welfare becomes secondary. No amount of counselling, mediation or other support services can stem their fury.

Among the hundreds of online comments the Herald Sun received after Freeman's sentencing were a handful of chilling ones that echo this kind of self-obsessed thinking.

"Mike of Armadale" raised hackles with his reference to "Feminazis" and his claim that fathers become violent because of "the system" that conspires to send men broke and rob them of their children.

As someone who has been through "the system" I can assure Mike that it can also cost mothers dearly in terms of money and emotion.

As "Annie who knows" points out, both men and women do it tough in custody disputes, but they don't all go out and kill their children.

What can we learn from the murder of Darcey Freeman? We hear this question a lot. While there may well be room for improvement in the Family Court system, in my view, we as a community also need to tackle head-on attitudes such as that expressed by "Alan of Malvern" who claims online that Freeman's wife "forced him into" killing Darcey. "Change the divorce system and things will become better" says Alan, especially for the "man who drowned his three children too".

Now, I know nothing about the men who posted these comments, but I assume they are divorced fathers. Their views should be ringing alarm bells, particularly for their former partners and children.

Anyone who tries to excuse murderers such as Arthur Freeman and Robert Farquharson has serious problems.

What can we do to protect the Darcey Freemans of this world? Keep an eye and ear out for parents who become obsessively self-pitying after divorce and separation. Take note if they're endlessly going on about their former partners and seem consumed by hatred. Do they enjoy the time they get with their children or use it to quiz them about the other parent? Do they speak of getting revenge? You should consider intervening as tactfully as possible to ensure children are not left unsupervised with such parents.

Children suffer enough from divorce. They shouldn't have to pay for it with their lives.

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