(identifying details may have been changed to protect privacy)
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From a Helpline caller
I just wanted to say thank you. On March 5th my former partner and her father misrepresented the law to me and in events that were highly traumatic to both myself and my children 'evicted' me from my house. The following day I was so distraught our (marriage guidance) counsellor referred me to the police and hospital in the fear I may be suicidal. Medical records now show this wasn't the case I was just affected by the stress.
Many friends 'didn't want to take sides' and I shuffled from house to house trying to get my mind and life back in order. A couple of days later I called your helpline. The guy I spoke to actually didn't offer a lot of practical help but spoke 5 magical words "are you ok my friend' for the first time in days someone had not passed judgement, told me they didn't want to be involved he simply expressed in a genuine way that he felt my pain and cared. You cannot imagine how much this meant.
A few days later (having not seen me for 8 days) she did the 'police station run' raised an AVO and I am now subjected to the pains of this, limited access to my kids and a battle ahead. Whatever happens, I'll never know who said those words but thank you for them and the feeling behind them.
From a group participant
I would personally like to submit a letter to firstly acknowledge that I have been a member of the group (Dads in distress) since October 2014 till present.
I came across this group not long after my separation (August 2014) and I was welcomed quickly into the Liverpool group (Family). I use family as a word as it is a place that you get to share your story freely and openly. R often calls myself (outside of the group) to see how I am going mentally and where I am at with matter(s).
The group enables me to express how I feel without any judgement and also offers strategies to assist me moving forward.
The group is open to many males and the attendance over recent months has been overwhelming, it is to a certain extent nice to know I am not alone. I have used other options that are available to males post separation (Mensline) and they ask me is there any other groups / courses that I am attending to assist me in my journey, I have on a number of occasions mentioned that I am a member of Dads in Distress (DIDs) and they often express what an amazing organisation it is.
Thus far, I am recovering quicker than I thought I would (emotionally), able to liaise with my ex-wife in a respectful manner and put aside any grievances we may have had in our relationship and implement the strategies that R has offered.
I have in the 5 month short months realised that I can function and create a happy and safe environment for my daughter and move on with my life, and I dare say that if I hadn’t engaged R and the Dads In Distress group I would be the man or where I am today.
Child abducted overseas
You may recall I met with you at your electoral office a few years ago to discuss the issue of International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA). Mrs S from the Family Law Reform Association (FLRA) and a father whose child had been abducted to Poland by the child’s mother joined us at the meeting. At the time you expressed concern and sympathy for parents whose children had been abducted from Australia by the other parent. One of the questions you asked was about the types of support being provided to these parents and I referred to a volunteer organisation called Dads in Distress Support Services (DIDSS)
In 2008, my then three-year-old son was abducted from Australia by his mother and disappeared without trace.
I turned to several government agencies for help but their support was minimal at best. The only organisation that was able to provide the types of advice and assistance I needed at that time was DIDSS. Without their help I really don’t know how I would have coped with the trauma and anguish that comes with losing a child under such extreme circumstances and not having any idea where that child is or whether or not that child is still alive.
DIDSS provided me with a much-needed network of fathers who were suffering emotional distress that had been brought about by being disconnected in various ways from their own children. These fathers understood to some extent what I was going through. In return, I provided many of them with support as well, which also helped me to focus on something other than my own grief and which became an important part of my own coping process.
My son was eventually located in Europe almost three years later. He is now back in Australia and living with me. I relied heavily on the support of DIDSS throughout the period of his abduction and disappearance and throughout the extensive process of my son’s recovery. I also relied on their support during the process of my son being reunited with me after such a long and traumatic separation. I still maintain contact with DIDSS and I continue to provide support to other fathers who have found themselves in similar situations to mine and who have turned to DIDSS for support.
I don’t like to think what the outcome could have been for me and my son if it hadn’t been for the very hands-on support provided by DIDSS and the many people who are part of that organisation as either paid employees, volunteer facilitators, or the dads themselves. All I know is that I was in the depths of despair and couldn’t see the point in continuing with my life while I was under such extreme distress and that DIDSS played a very significant role in helping me get through that period in my life.
There are no government agencies that can provide the types of services that DIDSS provides. There are no non-government organisations that can provide the types of services DIDSS provides either. I know because I looked for them and they simply weren’t there then and they aren't there now. I believe DIDSS provides an extremely effective support service for parents who are going through highly distressing experiences and that they provide these services in an extremely cost-effective way for government.
I am a 46 year-old man with 3 young children. When I first started with the parental support group, known as DIDS (Dads in Distress) I was in a state of confusion and depression. My life and family had just fallen apart. My wife was having an affair and I was thrown out of my house and unable to see my children.
My wife contacted the police and made false allegations that I threatened to shoot her. I did not know she had contacted the police until I went into the local station and surrendered my guns voluntarily as she said she was afraid of them being in the house. I was then arrested, finger printed and videotaped. The next day I was appeared in court and an Interim Intervention order was granted against me. I was to appear in court some 4 months later. My wife together with the police had also put the children on the order, which then did not allow me to see or speak to them. I was unceremoniously kicked out of my house. My world came crashing down.
I then moved a short distance from the home, hoping to be able to see my children. During this time away from my children, my depression and sadness grew. Most of the organisations I contacted for assistance advised me they only help women including EVDOS. I was lost and broken, tired and stressed. There was no support for people like me. I tried to contact many psychologist to help me with my grief, however once the 50 minutes was up I had to hand over my credit card and book another time. I left each time wondering what was happening.
Nothing seemed to help, I kept spiralling down. I search on the internet and stumbled across Dads in Distress. I was sceptical at first, as I had the impression that this was some sorry group of men whom would bring me further down the road of the black dog. What would they really know, how could they help me. Why waste my time and money.
So, I went to my first meeting and the facilitators gave everyone a chance to tell their story. There was no pressure. I think I may have been the last person to tell my story. I was so overwhelmed that finally I was able to talk and not be judged. There was no “bad mouthing” of the ex-partners, it was a relief, because at the time I was still in love with my wife. I did struggle every week not seeing my children. Four months had past and my ex-wife had contacted the police another 37 times stating I was stalking her, killed the family chickens, driving past the former matrimonial home and yelling abuse. Her boyfriend had threatened to cut my throat. The house I moved into was egged several time, tyres let down on my car and rubbish dumped at my door step. I did go to the police on a few of these occasions and the only response I received from them was “I could not be bothered, this is just wasting our time”
We finally went to court in late January 2014. Through cross examination of my wife and the magistrate asking her a number of questions during the 5 hour case, the magistrate discovered that she had being lying and using the intervention order process to keep me away from my children and bolster her property claim. Finally cross intervention orders were granted with only one condition. This did not last long as the children wanted to spend more time with me. Within 2 weeks she was back in court getting another order against me with the help of an officer of the family violence unit. Her reason for going back this time, was because I did not agree that if I gave her my house, she would let me see my children. I said we should go to family court and let them decide. This angered her and away we went to court.
During this time, every Tuesday, I caught up with the people from DIDSS. The support I received from the group and the facilitators made my journey more bearable. They were always ready to listen give sensible advice and ready take my phone call, any-time.
I was confused, depressed and I was spinning in circles. I was having a life crisis. I had been forced out of my home, lost my children, lost all my personal belongings, contemplating quitting my job, and told my friends good-bye. I was ready to run, go overseas and hide. Over the coming year, my wife made in total 50 false accusations. Many of the accusations she made of harassment and driving by, breaking keys in the locks of the house, I was overseas with work. Even though I could prove I was not even in the country, the police did not believe me. It was distressing to receive yet another phone call from the police requesting I come into the station. Each time I was interviewed and then let go. It became a running joke with some of the police and at DIDS. With this light humour, I was able to push through.
We meet once a week at DIDS for a few hours. No-one ever watches the clock. Everyone is there for you. They understand what you are going through, as they are experiencing it themselves. It may sound selfish, when this was all happening to me, I thought I was the only one suffering, that no-one else knows what I am going through. Until I came to DIDS. They saved my sanity and possible my life. Psychologist charge by the hour, family and friends say “Get over it, move on”; “She's not worth it”, “Harden the f*** up”. And I feel no-one really listens. It just felt like I was being patronised. And what did DIDS do, they listened to my story, they knew what I was feeling. Some had gone through their journey and some like me are still going through it. But they are always there for me.
I have made so much progress, the group has helped me make the right decisions based on my needs, making decisions without emotions, letting go of guilt, a zest for life, and I learned to stay true to myself. I was involved in a flying accident that almost killed me and at the time I wished it did, until I heard in my head the facilitator (F) saying to me, “Think of the children, think of the children” And because of that, I am here to today, walking and talking and I get to see my children once a week. And I love every moment. I see them on the weekends for a few hours and we go to the park run and play. And then I come to the group so excited and I get to tell everyone about my visit. They are probably sick of it, but no one judges and every-one is heard. And best of all, they listen and smile, even the fathers that do not get to see their kids. The support is immeasurable, many give up their time for me, for the group and each other.
The group has taught me to stay focused on my goals and always look for the good in every-one. They taught me to say and do the right things. Think of my children ALWAYS. That I can't change my ex and that anger achieves nothing. They taught me that fast is slow and slow is fast. Think before I act and know that when things do get bad that they are a call away.
So in summary with-out DIDS and the help from the group, I would not have been able to cope with; 50 false accusations; police at my door once a week arresting me, 16 Magistrate court appearances, 20+ Police welfare checks, 7 family court appearances; death threats by my ex-wife boyfriends, alienation from my children, my former matrimonial home being destroyed by my ex and boyfriend, personal belonging being thrown away, car tyres slashed, major flying accident that almost killed me; being thrown out of my house, no real support from friends and family and still function and excel at work. Thanks DIDS and I wish you and the fathers well. You helped me and I thank you for the ongoing support. My journey has not ended though with your help, you lighten the load.
Lifesaving group support
Hi I am A, a member of Dad’s in Distress, Liverpool, NSW.
I met R, our DiD leader, at the lowest point in my life when I was homeless and completely lost.
My story starts like this: I had medical surgery to get rid of nine tumours on my left hip joint on March 2013 and I could not sit up or stand up for 5 months. During that time, my rocky marriage crumbled to the ground. My ex-wife put our matrimonial house on auction to sell, she flip flopped between threatening to kick me out and wanting to start our marriage over again and at the same time she blocked me from contacting with our daughter, who was just 2 years old daughter at that time.
On 17 April 2014, my ex - wife came home with three police officers and I forced out from our matrimonial house in …. One of police officers said "I'm sorry A. Please understand this is my job. You have 5 mins to pack up all your stuff and we will take you out from this house. Your wife's karma will come back to her."
Since that moment, and for the next few weeks, I was thinking about suicide. I had lost everything: I was still recovering from surgery and was unable to work; I had no home, no car, no job, no other family in Australia and I couldn’t see my daughter, who is the sunlight in my life. I remember that I had the urge to jump onto the railroad track every time I saw a train coming.
At one point during my darkest despair, I opened my wallet: there was my last $20 and a brochure for Dads in Distress that I had been given by a counsellor at Catholic Care. I made a phone call instead of doing something stupid.
I phoned Dads in Distress and the counsellor transferred me to the NSW Housing Department. They provided me with five days accommodation until I could connect with Centrelink and my local Dads in Distress group.
At our first meeting, I remember thinking, “Thank God I am not alone anymore. There are other men out here who are struggling like me. There are other men out here who are also fighting for their children.”
R, our Dads in Distress leader, has become like a member of my extended family, an uncle I never knew I had. I have been seeing him every Thursday evening. He has offered me emotional support and he even attended the Sydney Family Court for my parenting order.
I no longer think about suicide and I’ve successfully been granted court orders to see my daughter.
What a shame that the government has decided to stop funding non-profit organisations like Dads in Distress. This group saved my life. I do not want to imagine how many other fathers are faced with a situation like mine and what kind of decision they will make if they have no one to turn to.
If we need to protest to protect Dads in Distress, I will be there.
More Level-Headed Now
Good to see you are still around. I am now posted in Darwin since Jan 2013 and before that I spent 12 months in Perth and prior to that 12 months in Sydney. Loving the weather and lifestyle here and moving on with life. Even though I have been posted at sea a lot of the time, I still see my kids at least once a year (when I go and see them) as they are still living with the ex and her partner in X. I have a full time partner now who has been moving around with me state to state. Hopefully I will hang my boots up in three years and retire in X. Please say hello to X if he is around the group.
Have a wonderful safe and merry Christmas - you guys are doing a wonderful job and I am the product of it.
From a volunteer's eyes
I am 72 years old and semi-retired in private practice. I am an accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Clinical Member of the Australian Association of Family Therapy, and an accredited and experienced Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.
Although I have worked professionally in the family support space for nearly 30 years, it was a surprise to me how affected I was and somewhat frustrated that I did not know what to do in the circumstance when my own son had been alienated from his 2 children during the early stages of separation. Fortunately a close colleague was chairman of the DIDSS Board, and when we were in need I had the sense to ask him what DIDSS was all about. I am still amazed with all of my experience and professional connections that I did not know about DIDSS years earlier as a resource for my clients.
I joined DIDSS as a group member and as a volunteer in July 2012, having initially accompanied my son to their Frankston service after his separation. Since that time we have been attending their weekly group as both a participant and also in my guise as a family therapist and at different times of need, the group has also been able to engage my wife and other family members struggling to cope with the loss of the grandchildren in their day to day lives.
Beyond my experience in our personal need, I have been able to help as a professional and a volunteer with DIDSS and have attended all the regular volunteer training and information forums as both student and teacher. My skill set is very complimentary to the other members of DIDSS staff and associated professionals and volunteers, so I have been able to pick up some of the work load with some DIDSS clients. The resident group psychologist does a great job as the regular on site counsellor for the members who are in crisis. Our son attended sessions with him, and this proved to be very helpful and useful. My skill set is a little different, but it complements the other great work done by DIDSS Frankston.
I use the DIDSS professionals as my consultants; I act as consultant to DIDSS in some matters and now refer many of my private clients to DIDSS because of the much specialised service it is. DIDSS and the group experience has certainly extended my skill-set with regard to the family law pathways, and the support and referral of people going through this very harrowing experience of family breakdown, social isolation and separation from their children.
My observations have been that the majority of those who attend and actually engage with the DIDSS group and services do much better personally as a result and they become much more able to engage in more productive problem solving; engage with legal processes and other referrals in a more meaningful and effective way, and those who could easily self-harm are brought back from the edge of that high risk state and have been supported there for as long as needed.
I have observed the growth of personal responsibility in separated dads and some mums who attend DIDSS in the time I have been attending; calmness, improved parenting skills and attitudes. Respect increasing for the other parent is often seen as the DIDSS members encourage each other, and as they learn. With the support of other group members and regular exposure to other relevant professionals, the majority of parents much more confidently engage with a wider range of appropriate services with clearer expectations and understanding of pathways and barriers.
The DIDSS group which I attend meets the needs of a wide range and number of group members in their varying situations. I have been surprised how participants from very diverse social, cultural, economic and educational backgrounds are contained and supported within the one group. Where-as in many other groups I have experienced, a principle of homogeneity seems to limit membership and effectiveness; in DIDSS modelling, the common dilemma of navigating and normalising the separation experience, and the need to understand and navigate family law, family violence, mental health and other pathways, allows very diverse participants to safely co-exist and support each other while limiting the negative effects of collusion so prevalent in other services more concerned with Men’s Rights than outcomes for families.
I think DIDSS is an essential service in our society which is experiencing such high rates of family breakdown.
One Saturday afternoon I was so desperate to help my son whose wife had told him she doesn't love him and has been cheating on him. They had been married 4 years, together 9 years, and have a 2 year old son, a Mortgage, a house and 5 acres.
I had the phone book leafing through it absolutely desperate searching for HELP and there was Dads in Distress in the front of our local phone book. My son, Steve has rung a few times and spoken to someone. The advice given has enabled him to "keep on track” with maturity and stay rational.
I am an extremely grateful mum and grandmother and felt that after viewing your website and talking with my son, your organisation has helped him and his 2 year old son at least deal with their unknown future. We know we have such a rocky road ahead of us. I realised family can only be involved so much, and this is where Dads in Distress was such an answer to my prayers as he knows the person he is talking to has experienced such PAIN as he is currently undergoing.
Please, please, please keep up the support that is now needed. I've been told 1 in 4 marriages in the age group of 30 something now ends in divorce.
These statistics are scary and while they may be true, there is such a need for people like your organisation that operates when dramas occur.
Support At Last
My name is Geoff and I have worked in education for over 20 years. Prior to that I worked as a specialist probation officer with the Department of Community Services for and have also supervised prisons education for this Institute. Increasingly over the years I have become concerned regarding the lack of support given to men’s issues and this ultimately lead me to the Dads in Distress organisation.
I am proud to be working with this organisation. It’s professionally run and I have witnessed firsthand how powerful and important it is to men how are going through divorce and who are being denied access to their children. I have seen men attend a DIDSS support group and not say a word for 3 weeks fearing they would break down in tears when they did begin to relay their plight. I’ve seen men who I feared would perhaps not make it back to the following week’s meeting: but they did and even managed to smile. I’ve seen men come in a mess and come out the other side with their dignity intact and reconnected with their children.
Suicide is ever present with men going through divorce and child separation. I personally have known of several and am convinced that if they had have access to DIDSS many of these would have been avoided. I only wished that DIDSS was there when I went through divorce many years ago. This is a vital organisation and my employer is proud to assist it by delivering courses tailored specially for this target group. It is long overdue that a sound, professional, caring and supportive organisation be established for men and it is my solid belief that DIDSS is one of those.
Referrals and Support
Thank you for coming to the court with us on Monday, my wife and I felt supported and cared for by your skill and kindness and support of our son. It would be a lonely and confusing journey without someone who has a few clues on how to navigate this sort of situation. Well, we will get there eventually.
I’m pleased to report that I have made intake appointments with the man you referred and his Ex, I think we may make some positive progress on the basis of my conversation in making both appointments.
Thank you. An amazing service I should have turned to a long time ago. But glad when I did. The results of that discussion helped and a false assault charge against me by my ex. It gave me focus in my turmoil on who to contact and what to do for myself and my children. I still have some family court battles to fight for interim orders and I have to start a legal battle to see my step daughter of 8 years I am deliberately refused contact with… but I have confidence now something is achievable and why something is better than the nothing I have now. Thank you DIDSS.
From a distressed Mother
I am not sure where to go to say that the support service that I received today was the most helpful support that I could have wished for in this time of my life. I phoned in desperation as to where to go for my son on Sunday. I did not leave a message and the support line phoned me back.
I spoke with Z today (I am in Brisbane) and he was my life line for today. Thank you very much Z and thank you 'Dads in Distress'”
Thank You DIDSS
Well first off my son would like to say a big “Thank you DIDSS” and I would like to say a big “Thank you” as well. I first started attending DIDSS in January this year after a very nasty separation, I was an emotional wreck, suicidal, no idea how I could ever see my son again. DIDSS picked me up from the hole I was in and helped me gather my thoughts, reflect on the situation and better myself.
Within 3 months I became a new man and a better father, stepped up in court, and achieved 3 days a week access with my son. The only problems was I could not achieve overnights due to his age (17 months old).
After attending DIDSS continually and getting an understanding of the system I self-represented today. I walked in there unsure on what to expect and was confronted by my ex’s lawyer and a children’s lawyer. I put everything I have learnt into action and sat there for 4 hours in a room getting grilled by the 2 lawyers but at no time did I ever back down from my proposal.
After a full day of negotiations I achieved what I originally proposed and finished all the court proceedings. I now have overnights for a child under 2yo and I did what I was told by many could not happen.
Without DIDSS I don’t think I would have achieved this outcome so for that I say again – Thank You!
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, for your wonderful work in guiding, supporting, and encouraging X and all of our family through to this point in the pursuit of the best interests of Y and Z. I know you have good material to work with in X, but without you, God knows where we would be at this time with this process. Please accept our heartfelt thanks from the whole family.
The kids benefit from our work too
I would like to take this opportunity to thank DIDSS for the incredible support and help I received over the past 11 months through what I would deem as one of most difficult and emotionally challenging times in my life to date.
Although I was not always able to attend the Wednesday night group in Frankston, I found them enlightening, helpful and very grounding. It helped me greatly to be able to share my thoughts, feelings and upsets in a safe, caring supportive environment and similarly to hear about other people’s stories and struggles too. I must admit that as a mum in a mums world, I still find it extraordinary that it was a service specifically set up to support men that really understood me and provided the support and advice I needed and even more importantly, when I needed it most.
I guess I could go on all day about how wonderful your service is and in particular your staff and volunteers but as X often said, it's all about the outcome. Given how competing and polarised our views were 11 months ago, to have avoided a trial and settled out of court from where we were is the best outcome I could have imagined. All the guidance and support kept me on track and grounded, and I really feel I would not have had the success I did representing myself otherwise.
If anyone ever questions you on why an organisation like DIDSS should be helping a mum in distress, please remind them that 2 future husbands and fathers, our two boys, now have a mum and dad on the same page and in some sort of agreement about their future parenting. So DIDSS, if not from me, then a big thank you from them, your program is invaluable and I know it has and will continue to assist many more families in the future.
Keep up the great work.
Powerful group experience
I just wanted to let you know that I travelled from Toowoomba to attend my first Dads in Distress meeting tonight at Logan in Brisbane.
It was the most wonderful experience.
The group welcomed me and made me feel safe, secure and very comfortable.
The chance to speak freely without fear of judgement was truly a relief.
Speaking to other men that could relate to my situation has helped me realise that there is hope.
This experience was nothing short of life saving for me.
I can truly say that I was inspired to keep going and to be grateful for what I already have and what I can achieve with a little time and perseverance.
Thank you so much, what a great service.
Dads in development
Spent another day in court today, did not expect it but it’s all over! Thank you for all your support, guidance and advice. I have achieved an outstanding result – all credited to the amazing work you do at DIDSS.
I will now start working on my new life, a new beginning, and new possibilities. Forever grateful. Please pass on my thanks to your partner – I hope she understands how much her sacrifice every Monday night changes our lives for the better, to better men, and better dads. A dad now in development!
In finding out today that funding may be cut in Feb 2015, I'm on a mission to get as many people involved to stop this from happening. By sending your link to as many people I can. As all the help for my son I have received in the short time for my son, has been incredible. Thankyou for the help regards M