By Gus Sleiman
The Western Parent featured a full front page color photograph of a father holding a baby against his bosom.
The Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA) is devoted to helping men, fathers and their children in domestic crisis. MESA, along with an ever-growing number of men and father’s rights organizations that span Canada, the United States and other countries, is committed to preserving the integrity of fatherhood for the sake of the children.
MESA offers support to men and women in conflict with the aim of reducing the incidence of domestic violence. The association also works to promote a healthy two-parent family and, with it, real gender equality. MESA believes that the interests of children are best served by having both parents participating fully in their children’s lives even after separation or divorce.
As an organization, MESA accepts that aggression and abuse are human issues not a gender issues and works to raise public awareness of the effects of physical, sexual and psychological abuse upon both the individual and society as a whole.
The issue of domestic violence is a serious societal problem. MESA provide an unconditional supportive environment in the community for both acknowledging and validating the physical and emotional abuse that victimizes. In its simplest form, abuse occurs if another person hurts you or treats you badly. Abuse can take many forms; it can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial. An example of emotional abuse is denying a parent access to a child after separation or divorce.
MESA WORKS TO CORRECT IMBALANCE
While academic research indicates that both women and men are almost equally responsible for abusing each other, there is a tendency by governments in Canada to advance and finance one-sided public awareness campaigns that characterize family violence as a crime against women carried out by men. This political and societal labeling of men as abusers and perpetrators of violence is the challenging task facing MESA and its volunteers. Key to this task is changing the traditional view of the media. The media’s representation of domestic violence has, in the past, been biased against men. Through persistent work, MESA is now beginning to see a noticeable change in reporting; with some media outlets and journalists seeking a more balanced representation of women and men’s issues.
Perhaps, the most challenging of the task facing MESA is convincing men themselves to speak out about their own experiences. MESA is there to listen and provide a friendly and supportive environment to men and fathers. By lending an ear to men, men are coming forward with their stories of abuse and alienation suffered at the hands of spouses, families, and the court system.
Compared to women, men are severely disadvantaged when it comes to societal support services and programs. Men, when in crisis,do not have access to battered men’s shelters, or programs to help men obtain access to their children. There is no office of men’s health, there are no men’s studies program, men’s life span is shorter by five to seven years than women, men are more than twice as likely to be murdered, and have the highest rate of injury on the job and the highest rate of suicide. MESA strives to correct this imbalance in social programming.
BIAS OF COURTS BIGGEST HURDLE
Fathers are regularly deprived of parenting their children when they are reduced, after a separation or divorce, to no more than weekend visitors. This is carried out in the name of justice. The bias of the courts is expressed in an irrational, over-identification of children with their mothers, to the exclusion of the dependence and need children feel for their fathers. For many men, the aftermath of court rulings fosters a powerful and destructive climate of anger, pain, and frustration.
Code phrases such as “Tender years doctrine,” “the primary care-giver” and the much used, “the best interest of the child” are used in the decision making process to erode our families through the systemic dismantling of fatherhood.
PARENT AND CHILD ACCESS CENTER
The non-existence of Access Enforcement programs, despite what Canada’s Divorce Act advocates about the children need to have as much contact as possible with each parent, has moved MESA to establish the Parent and Child Access Center. The center helps parents maintain a meaningful relationship and stay involved in the lives of their children after separation or divorce. The Parent and Child Access Center is dedicated to enabling maximum contact and ensuring it is safe and as pleasant as possible for all involved.
CHILDREN NEED DADS…NOT VISITORS
As the lives of many children across Canada are affected by the separation or the divorce of their parents, Alberta families are faced with a devastating rate of approximately 8000 divorces per year. It is one of the highest divorce rates in Canada. When the children are involved, mothers are awarded custody, care, and control almost exclusively. Fathers are effectively removed from the lives of their children and their attempts to remain involved are thwarted.
It is time for our governments to concentrate on building a healthy family by supporting the two-parent family, by amending the Divorce Act to reflect the concept of Equal Shared Parenting and to provide support programs to men. These are the aims of MESA.
To support these aims, MESA yearly sponsors a father’s Day event that brings fathers, their children and their supporters to Prince’s Island Park to enjoy and celebrate Father’s Day.
“Preserving the integrity of fatherhood for the sake of the children”
MEN’S EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT ASSOCIATION (MESA)
P.O. Box 4691 Station “C” Calgary, Alberta, T2T 5P1
Gus Sleiman is the President of MESA
Copyright © 2001 The Western Parent
The Western Parent provides parents and professionals with timely information and resources available to enhance all aspects of parenting and family life. And, to facilitate a shared sense of community among parents by providing useful material, support and a forum for dialogue on issues that are important to all of us as individuals, parents and families.
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