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In 15 years, nothing has changed

Tiny FingersDaddy’s Girl
I fondly remember my little one’s birth, 15 years ago, and I remember how she already held my thumb with her tiny little fingers when she was only a few hours old. My love for her hasn’t changed at all, not even during her dark teenage years. To quote from searchquotesThey say that from the instant he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that little girl in pigtails. She makes him feel like Christmas. In exchange, he makes a secret promise not to see the awkwardness of her teenage years, the mistakes she makes or the secrets she keeps.“. She is a strong girl with her Daddy’s genes and I am so proud of her that she is able to survive the storms that broke around her since the divorce and that she still has to witness every day.

Fast forward to today – 15 years later – and I was reading a news article in City Press – SA’s divorce law fails good dads this morning.

I might have written the article myself. The director of the Justice and Reconciliation Centre, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to protect children and preserve families in high conflict divorces, Errol Goetsch, coined the term “the windmill” for situations like the one I found myself facing many years ago when I was unexpectedly and out of the blue served with divorce papers on one cold winters’ morning while leaving the house to go to work.

The package the sheriff served on me was an ugly cocktail of protection orders, eviction orders and several sworn statements. I was accused of potentially violent behaviour because I might be upset by the divorce and accused of possibly sexual violence with my daughter. I was given 3 days to vacate the erstwhile marriage home and the protection order prevented me from talking to my work colleagues whom I have been working with for 26 years! Including the minister of my church!

Imagine both my hands being tied behind my back while being slapped in the face!

I am so deeply aligned with Goetsch, who wrote about the sequence of preplanned dirty tricks using violence, clever tactical accusations with no substance that was ever allowed to be tested in Court, and obstructing and frustrating access to the children for whatever gain I fail to understand as the children are ultimately suffering the most.

I particularly connected to the sentence where Goetsch says: “For girls, it’s the sexual violence windmill … allegations that this sort of abuse is being carried out by the father (and) an interim protection order is granted on the basis of only an affidavit with no further proof needed … and the father is evicted from the house and denied contact“. He continues to outline the scenario where a paid social worker prepares an obviously one-sided report which further shackles an already disabled father.

Bingo.

This must be the ugliest law in South Africa where a person is found guilty on the basis of hearsay and a simple statement, without the police investigating a single thread of evidence. The abuse of this law by is rife with devastating consequences to the children who sometimes suffer from life-long afflictions.

Happily, time is a great healer and as the children grow up many of them begin to see the aggressor parent for what they really are. Maybe the “violent parent” that was posited is not violent after all, or whatever the allegations were. Fifteen years later my little girl is still holding my hand albeit it with the awkwardness that come with teenagering. In any case it seems like children continues to love both parents despite the unrealistic and unbalanced view they might be gaslighted with.

In 15 years the law hasn’t changed for the better, according to Goetsch’s research, and it seems like this is the new normal. I don’t feel alone any more, thank you sir!

But somehow if you just love your children unconditionally, and you let them know every day, even though you can’t pull up the blanket over them at night, they seem resilient enough to kick back with love for both parents. And that is good enough for me.

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