Men rally to allege Mass. bias in domestic-rights cases

By Thomas Grillo, Globe correspondent, Sunday [Boston] Globe

February 13, 2000

Hours after being released from the Norfolk County House of Correction for violating a restraining order, Harry Stewart told a small group of supporters yesterday in front of the State House that he was wrongfully imprisoned.

"I've been released from jail, but I am not free because in Massachusetts men accused of domestic violence are considered guilty until proven innocent," he said.

Stewart was convicted last year of violating a restraining order taken out by his former wife. He was arrested, he says, after he left his car to help his young son open the door to her apartment building. He acknowledged he violated the order, but said he was simply helping his son. It was not abusive or threatening to his ex-wife, he insisted.

During his sentencing, a judge asked the 44-year-old Quincy man to choose between a batterer's treatment program or jail. Rather than confess to being a batterer, Stewart chose six months in prison.

The Fatherhood Coalition, a group of activists founded in 1994, says the courts and a powerful network of domestic violence agencies are stacked against them.

John Flaherty, the coalition co-chairman, said fathers are being discriminated against. "As soon as a woman says she is in fear of a man, a judge issues a restraining order. But David Adams, program director of EMERGE, a Cambridge batterers' treatment program, says the Fatherhood Coalition is doing a disservice to batterers.

"When batterers come to us, they present themselves as victims because they are in complete denial," he said. "And this father's group feeds their denial."

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