Bettina Arndt: Fighting Back (don’t let the bastards take you down)

Every day, men are mown down by petty bureaucrats reveling in their feminist-bestowed power to crush ordinary blokes. With my correspondence bearing witness to the ongoing massacre, it’s a thrill to occasionally see someone take them on and win.

This week I have two stories, both of people facing injustice, who reached out to me recently for help. One is a senior medico, working in the health bureaucracy in Queensland, who suddenly found our draconian Child Support Agency (CSA) had overnight stolen half his wages – to pay for a child who didn’t exist. Child support officials simply refused to believe it was a mistake, and piled on the torture, rendering him technically insolvent, potentially wrecking his credit rating and his marriage. When he first wrote to me, he was sleeping in the spare bedroom – his wife found it hard to believe that he’d never fathered this mythical son.

The other case involved a 15-year-old boy who’d been suspended from his school after a girl in his class made a bizarre allegation that, three years earlier, in the middle of a crowded classroom he’d suddenly reached under the desk and thrust his fingers in and out of her vagina. She also claimed he repeated the process two days later.  

Four months after the suspension his distressed mother wrote to me, describing the family’s fear that the school’s investigation was going nowhere, critical evidence was being ignored and their son seemed set up as the sacrificial lamb, to be summarily tossed out of school to appease the alleged “victim” and her followers.

After long conversations with both these troubled people, my advice was similar. Take them on. Go in all guns blazing, right to the top of the food chain, armed with substantial threats about guaranteed severe consequences if they failed to address the issue properly.    

It worked. Both issues have been resolved. It took three days for the medico to have his income restored, his confiscated money paid back, and garnishee notice removed. He even received a groveling email from a very senior bureaucrat who wrote: “I would like to unreservedly apologise for the Agency’s errors and the frustration you experienced in having the errors corrected.” That’s worth framing, isn’t it? The perfect badge of honour to hang on a toilet door.

Amazingly, the teenage boy has been welcomed back to school. His accuser is now being home-schooled, claiming she doesn’t feel safe back in class. We suspect she’s simply embarrassed that her allegations failed to stack up. The boy’s parents are relieved but still contemplating whether they will take further action.

So, the lesson is to fight back – hard. So many of these institutions – government departments, bureaucracies, schools – are run by petty, anti-male bullies who can’t be bothered to ensure proper rules are being fairly applied. They prefer to just target men and boys, winning brownie points from their feminist colleagues in the process. Usually, they get away with it – because we let them.

Let me tell you more about the doctor’s story – I’ll call him “Alan”. It came as a huge shock when this mild-mannered man checked his bank account and discovered half his salary had been held back. He quickly learned the culprit was the CSA which has the power to garnish wages.

Alan then suffered through a two-hour phone call with Owen, a smug, sneering child support officer, who assured him that it simply wasn’t true that they had the wrong man. “No, no, we have the right person,” Owen assured him, giving “Robert” as the name of his alleged son, explaining they proposed to garnish Alan’s wages until he’d paid off the money they claimed he owed, and adding cheerfully that they were imposing an order prohibiting international travel.

“I can understand why men commit suicide under such circumstances,” wrote Alan, appalled and humiliated by his treatment from this despot who simply refused to believe that he had no such child.  

I consulted various knowledgeable people and was told by a child support expert that he should send a legal letter to the big boss, the Secretary of Services Australia, threatening action under CDDA (a body which compensates people for defective administration by Commonwealth agencies). She also suggested Alan should follow up with complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner over the lack of procedural fairness and breach of privacy.  

The letter to the Secretary was sent and within two days he learnt he officially no longer had a child called “Robert,” nor a child support debt, his legal expenses would be reimbursed, and a full investigation was being made into CSA’s handling of the matter. Owen’s career advancement is not looking too healthy.

Yes, we realise this all happened because Alan was enough of a big shot to look as if he could cause real trouble, and he still could hock himself to the hilt to pay the bills for his lawyer to handle the whole thing. I have many hundreds of letters from ordinary blokes who shouted from the rooftops over the way they were treated by the CSA and similar bodies, all to no avail. Men who spent their last dollar and then some on lawyers and got nowhere. Many are now totally destitute. I talked recently to a disabled man living in a rotting boat on the Queensland coastline, who has just such a dreadful story.

But the fact remains that many people don’t seize the reins when they find themselves being terrorized by these bureaucrats. And if they do employ a lawyer, they often end up with pen-pushers who are lazy, inept, or afraid of rocking the boat.

When the mother of the suspended 15-year-old boy first contacted me, the family had employed a lawyer who was supposed to find a way of stopping their son being thrown under the bus. But the school was still stalling, the prospects didn’t look good.

The school claimed to be conducting an investigation into the girl’s allegations but hadn’t interviewed two teachers present in the classroom when the girl was apparently being fingered. There was a critical sexy Snapchat conversation allegedly written by the boy which featured perfect grammar and spelling – unlikely from this kid who had known learning difficulties. The accuser had another Snapchat account where she attempted to solicit dick pics from boys, including their son, in order to blackmail them but that never seems to have been investigated by the school. So much potential evidence being ignored. Good reason for the parents to fear their son was being framed.      

It wasn’t hard to find a way of forcing a resolution. Luckily the boy was in a private school, with a school board full of fat cats who wouldn’t be at all keen on their fancy school attracting adverse publicity over a sordid lawsuit about an alleged sexual assault in one of their classrooms.

We arranged for the parents to instruct their lawyer to approach the school board informing them they were planning legal action over the case. When members of the board learned where this was all heading, suddenly the parents were summoned to the school and told their son was welcome to return. They were informed there was insufficient evidence to determine the truth of the allegations. “We are angry, damaged and exhausted,” wrote the mother, explaining to me how relieved she was to have her son back in the classroom, a clear signal that the girl’s lies had gone nowhere.

And perhaps also a message to the school that they can’t always assume they can just ride roughshod over the rights of boys, responding to dubious claims from girls who may not be nearly as innocent as they make out.  

That’s what we need. More people refusing to sit back and take it. Parents to start yelling loudly about the presumption that girls don’t lie and boys are expendable.

More committed, activist lawyers willing to go that extra mile to ensure fair treatment for male clients.

It would be great to have more support networks to guide people through these battles, planning strategies, finding the right contacts, helping them pick the right lawyers and ensure they do their jobs. Please get in touch if you have the time and skills to be an occasional cheer squad for men and boys who are being kicked to the kerb.   

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