"Out of Order?"

"Chronicle" WCVB TV

Air date February 17, 2000


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OUT of ORDER?

Segment One

 

home vids music
9.14.02-09 Watts I was put on this earth to be a daddy. I will say that to anybody who asks 'til the day I die.
21.10.25-34 I was as happy as any man on the face of this earth. And then all of a sudden it was taken away. And it was taken away through a lie!
TRACK: FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS DENNIS WATTS HAS BEEN HAUNTED BY THE FALLOUT FROM WHAT HE CLAIMS WAS A FRIVOLOUS RESTRAINING ORDER--FILED BY HIS WIFE AS THEIR MARRIAGE WAS COMING UNDONE.
10.1.09-25 The kids told my wife they wanted to live with Daddy and that's what started this whole issue. I have nothing to hide--you can look at the records, the court records, the police records, and there's nothing! That's what makes this so absurd and I can't even believe this can happen in America!

THREE YEARS WITHOUT HIS GIRLS, AND FIVE JAIL STINTS LATER--THE RESULT OF TRYING TO CONTACT HIS KIDS--WATTS'S LIFE IS IN PIECES.
21.9.48-01 You know I sit here some nights alone, and think about this--I think about it often--I think about it maybe too much. But it has completely destroyed my life.
sound up news report
AS THE RECENT ATROCITY IN MEDFORD ATTESTS: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IS A VERY REAL PROBLEM. THE MAIL-BOMB DEATH OF SANDRA BERFIELD HAS RAISED ANEW THE QUESTION OF WHETHER RESTRAINING ORDERS WORK.
12.13.42-51 Mark Charalambous If there's a man who for whatever reasons wants to harm or even kill a woman--is this the man who's going to be stopped by a piece of paper?
BUT FATHER'S RIGHTS ACTIVISTS LIKE MARK CHARALAMBOUS ALLEGE THERE'S A FLIP SIDE TO THE PROBLEM...LESS LETHAL PERHAPS, BUT FAR MORE COMMON: THE ABUSE OF RESTRAINING ORDERS IN BITTER DOMESTIC SITUATIONS.
11.15.23-26 I think the only thing to call this is a war! A war on fathers that's taking place across Mass. and really the country!
sound jail door closing
Mary 16.1.31-55 Harry what was the violation that brught you here, why are you incarcerated today?
Harry Well, I held this Bible and raised my right hand and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me god. And because of that fact that I would not lie, I am now housed in a 11 feet by 7 and a half feet cell...
TRACK: HARRY STEWART, A LAY MINISTER FROM WEYMOUTH, ADMITS HE GOT OUT OF HIS CAR TO HELP HIS SON AT HIS EX-WIFE'S APARTMENT HOUSE--A VIOLATION OF HIS RESTRAINING ORDER. BUT HE SAYS HE HAD NO CHOICE.
stand up 8.11.57-13 Harry Stewart was dropping off his 5 year old son after a scheduled visitation. Stewart says he honked the horn several times as was customary. But when his wife didn't come out, and his son was struggling to open the front door, Stewart got out of the car and cracked the front door open for his son.
16.4.31-33 I just waved, hugged my son Derek, and left.
TRACK: HE'S CONVINCED IT WAS A SET UP. HE WAS ARRESTED, AND ORDERED INTO A TWELVE MONTH BATTERER'S PROGRAM. JUST ONE HITCH--STEWART'S NEVER BEEN ACCUSED OF PHYSICAL ABUSE. WHEN HE REFUSED TO ADMIT TO VIOLENCE--A CONDITION OF ENTERING THE BATTERER'S PROGRAM--HE WAS SENTENCED TO SIX MONTHS IN JAIL.
16.12.28?-41 Stewart To be honest some people thought I was nuts! Some people thought I was crazy! Harry what are you doing? You know, this is what you got to look at: you go ahead and lie--you're free! You go ahead and tell the truth and your going to jail for six months!
13.6.44-01 Mark Charalambous As part of the therapy you have to admit that you understand all this theory about battery and the patriarchy and control and abuse and violence. And he wouldn't admit it--he said 'Look I didn't do these things!'
TRACK:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CASE OF HARRY STEWART HAS MADE MASSACHUSETTS GROUND ZERO FOR FATHERS' RIGHTS GROUPS. MARK CHARALAMBOUS AND FELLOW MEMBERS OF THE FATHERHOOD COALITION SUPPORT STEWART'S STAND AGAINST WHAT THEY SEE AS A COURT SYSTEM THAT'S PARALYZED BY POLITICAL CORRECTNESS...BEHOLDEN TO RADICAL FEMINIST NOTIONS THAT MEN ARE WIRED FOR VIOLENCE CONTROL.
Charalambous 13.7.30-58

 

 

 

movie insert??

He said I'm not going to admit this. It's really like 1984--it's like 'How many fingers Mr. Smith? How many fingers? And finally Winston says 'I see it, there are 3 fingers there! now I see it!' I mean it's really an Orwellian situation where you have to tell them what they want to hear! And if you don't tell them exactly the way they want to hear it they say that you need more treatment, or they say you're in violation and we can't work with you here.
Mitch Rothenberg 7.4.40-47 Denial's a big problem in the beginning. What we look at is denial, victimization, and victim blaming.
MITCH ROTHENBERG--DIRECTOR OF COMMON PURPOSE, THE BATTERER'S PROGRAM HARRY STEWART REFUSED TO ENTER.
7.14.24-51 You may have a man who violates a restraining order, and in his mind the intention is simply to let the child in, to make sure the child's safe. I wonder if there's also another level of intention where it's also to give a message which is something like this: 'you may get a restraining order against me but I don't always have to abide by it.' Or 'you just can't say no to me. I'm still in this child's life and I'm still in your life...'
VIRTUALLY ALL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROGRAMS ARE DESIGNED FOR MEN. EVIDENCE, CRITICS SAY, OF AN OUTDATED NOTION THAT 'ONLY MEN BATTER.'
9.00.52-00 Murray Straus, UNH We found , starting in '75, that women assault their partners at about the same rate--there's hardly any difference.
TRACK:

 

CHAT: men cause more injury

MURRAY STRAUS HAS BEEN STUDYING DOMESTIC ASSAULT FOR OVER TWO DECADES. HE'S PLEASED WOMEN HAVE GREATER PROTECTIONS TODAY--AS THEY SUFFER THE GREATER PHYSICAL HARM. BUT HE SAYS OUR LAWS WRONGLY ASSUME MEN ARE THE ONLY AGGRESSORS.
9.8.26-39 Straus ...it's gone too far the other way, as though men are never the victims, or as though women are never the offenders. And this is an offense--regardless of whether men or women do it.
HARRY STEWART CLAIMS THAT THE ONLY VIOLENCE IN HIS HOME WAS AT THE HANDS OF HIS EX WIFE.
16.16.00-22 Stewart As a man--many men will look at that as being a wimp. I would not have tolerated the type of abuse I received from a man. But I did from a woman--the woman I loved, my childrens' mother. As you may have recognized she's not my 'ex wife' she's my 'childrens' mother.' If I keep that in focus -choke up--then I think I'll do better.
TRACK: THE NORFOLK COUNTY DA'S OFFICE--KNOWN FOR AGGRESSIVELY PROSECUTING DOMESTIC ASSAULT CASES--DECLINED AN INTERVIEW.
Mary 18.6.50-18 The DA's office refuses comment on your case. Why do you think?
Stewart

HAT harry was actually charged with 4 violations of his RESTRAINING ORDER--one of which he was arrested because he got out of the car to buckle in his 5 year old in the back seat--the DA dropped 3 of the charges. Harry has asked that the charges be reinstated! He wants to expose what he sees as ludicrous charges into the light--says if they honestly believe that someone is being battered or is in danger they have an obligation to prosecute. Otherwise, drop em all!

Seems his ex wife objected to his unannounced coming and goings. --he once appeared on a tv program about battered men. ....very complicated....

Well I honestly believe that they're embarrassed, that they've been caught doing their business as usual and the media got a glimpse of it. I think they're kicking themselves that when the media started getting involved that they didn't start straightening up a little sooner.

 

OUT of ORDER?

Segment Two

pamela Dunne audio tape The purpose of my being here is to seek the safety of the court....
TRACK: NOT LONG AGO WOMEN WERE AS LIKELY TO BE PATRONIZED AS PROTECTED--BY THE COURTS.
Judge heffernan audio tape What I am concerned with ladies is that we put our order into effect and wrap it up as far as this district court is concerned which has alot more serious matters to contend with as people.....
TRACK: SPOUSAL ABUSE WAS CONSIDERED A PRIVATE MATTER--SOMETIMES WITH TRAGIC RESULTS.
news save The death of Pamela Dunn comes shortly after she sought a restraining order....
Sheara Friend 2.16.31-53 What's happened is 10 years ago battered women had no support, no legal support, no support in the court. And it was wise of the courts and the legislature to recognize that this was a problem. The pendulum however has swung the other way, and we've completely abdicated any rights of the defendents, or those accused of abuse.
TRACK: ATTORNEY SHEARA FRIEND ESTIMATES ABOUT A THIRD OF ALL RESTRAINING ORDERS FILED IN DIVORCE CASES ARE BOGUS--TACTICAL WEAPONS IN NASTY CUSTODY BATTLES.
Mary 2.9.59-11 You see this in your own practice?
Sheara I see it in my practice constantly. I see lawyers who'll come to me and say 'Look! If you give me the financial deal I'm looking for, we will vacate the restraining order.'
Mary 2.10.23-28 So it's almost a form of blackmail?
Sheara Yeah. It's extortion. I think it's extortion.
TRACK: SIXTY THOUSAND RESTRAINING ORDERS, OR 209a's, ARE ISSUED EACH YEAR IN MASSACHUSETTS. AND A RECENT COURT STUDY SHOWED LESS THAN HALF CONTAINED ALLEGATIONS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE.
3.5.37-46 Sheara Friend And you don't need to have an allegation of actual physical abuse in Massachusetts. You have to have 'fear' of physical abuse and that's a very subjective standard.
TRACK: OF COURSE THE IDEA IS WELL MEANING: TO PREVENT VIOLENCE BEFORE IT HAPPENS. BUT THERE'S A STEEP PRICE FOR THAT PREVENTION SAYS MARK CHARALAMBOUS OF THE FATHERHOOD COALITION .
12.4.02-24 We have a law that basically punishes people for behavior that hasn't happened! And I think that's anathema to a free society! What we have now with this Chapter 209a law is that men are basically restrained from their liberties from where they can go, from associating with their own children, a preemptive strike based on what they might do because of how somebody feels!
CRITICS SAY THAT BECAUSE RESTRAINING ORDERS ARE TECHNICALLY A CIVIL MATTER--DUE PROCESS AND RULES OF EVIDENCE ARE ROUTINELY IGNORED.
Harry 17.3.33-52 Stewart If you accuse me of stealing a car and we go to court and you don't have any evidence--it's just your sayso against my sayso--case dismissed! You go into court with a woman and she accuses you of being abusive, or that she's even just afraid of you--that's it, no matter what you say, no matter what excuses you have, it doesnt matter!
courtroom nat All rise!
TRACK: JUDGE DOROTHY GIBSON DENIES THAT THERE IS ANY BIAS AGAINST MEN IN HER CAMBRIDGE COURTROOM.
19.13.26-32 ...the family law area is a very emotionally charged area...
TRACK: AND SORTING OUT THE FACTS IN MESSY DOMESTIC SITUATIONS CAN TAKE TIME. IN THE INTERIM, SHE CONCEDES, IT'S OFTEN BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY.
Gibs 20.5.18-21 and in some instances I may err on the side of caution...
39-46 ...in the short term I may enter that order to be safe, so there is no possibility of abuse occurring.
4.12.11-39 DiMatteo I think this is an unprecedented situation where there's no down side for the accuser. There's no penalty for making false accusations, there's no perjury or slander here.
PETER DIMATTEO IS AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN--TRAINED TO HANDLE THE UNEXPECTED. AND ALTHOUGH HE AND HIS WIFE WERE IN COUPLES THERAPY, HE SAYS NOTHING PREPARED HIM FOR THE KNOCK AT HIS FRONT DOOR ONE MORNING. IT WAS THE POLICE...NOTIFYING HIM OF HIS DIVORCE.
DiMatt 4.10.51-17 And he said this is a restraining order, you have to leave your house immediately. And it was very very unsettling and a difficult thing to relive. You've seen movies where people's lives just collapse in front of them and that's just what this is all about. Everything you've worked for is just flushed out of your life.
TRACK:

 

 

THE RESTRAINING ORDER CLAIMS THAT DIMATTEO HAD THREATENED HIS WIFE AND SHE WAS-- QUOTE-- 'FILING FOR DIVORCE TODAY AND WAS AFRAID OF HOW HE WOULD REACT.' ATTORNEY SHEARA FRIEND REPRESENTS DIMATTEO.
Friend 3.5.14-31 At what point does the state intervene with family relations? Are you allowed to fight anymore with your spouse? Are you allowed to yell anymore? There are affidavits from women--and men--that say 'he's raised his voice and I can see anger and his veins--or her veins--are coming out of his neck!' Boom! restraining order is issued.
TRACK: DIMATTEO DENIES THAT HE WAS EVER VIOLENT OR INTIMIDATING WITH HIS WIFE. SHE STANDS BY HER REQUEST FOR A RESTRAINING ORDER, BUT ON THE ADVICE OF HER ATTORNEY DECLINED AN INTERVIEW.
stand up Let's face it, no one can ever pretend to know what happens behind the closed doors of a marriage. And no one is arguing that people shouldn't be given vigorous protection from true physical harm. But critics are asking whether a mere allegation of what might happen should be enough to trigger a powerful legal weapon like a 209a restraining order.
DiMatteo 5.4.58-36 I think that it's a very important story we're telling now. I think that since divorce can affect 50% of the people in the country, I think the people of the Commonwealth need to know that any day the police could knock at their door.
Harry Stewart 17.15.34-46 I think we need to just give everybody equality. And that means you're innocent until you're proven guilty. If you do it the other way around you're causing a lot of devastation and torture in people's lives.

 

OUT of ORDER?

Segment Three

 

21.7.40-47 When I got a restraining order saying I couldn't see my children for 2 weeks, it was the most devastating thing I'd ever gotten in my life.
TRACK: DENNIS WATTS SIMPLY COULDN'T ACCEPT THE TERMS OF HIS RESTRAINING ORDER. HE'D BEEN ACCUSED OF THREATENING TO TAKE HIS DAUGHTERS AWAY FROM HIS WIFE AND HER NEW PARTNER.
21.10.42-00 The only accusation was 'I am afraid my husband will take my children.' And after that accusation was made I was given the restraining order 'You stay away from your children.' I never said I was going to take my children, I never thought of taking my children, and I never would have taken my children.
WATTS WOULD GO TO JAIL FIVE TIMES OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS FOR CONTACT WITH HIS DAUGHTERS DENNA AND SARA--ONCE AFTER A CHANCE ENCOUNTER AT A MALL.
9.18.41-52 I simply beeped the horn and waved to them and they waved back to me. I kept going and an hour later I came home and the police are sitting in my driveway and I went to jail for 55 days.
TRACK: THE RESTRAINING ORDER WAS A WOUND WATTS COULDN'T STOP PICKING AT. IT SEEMED TO HAVE INFECTED HIS GIRLS AS WELL.
9.17.34-59 They ran away 27 times to come home to Daddy. And the police would come up to the home that they grew up in and simply take my children away. And they would run away the next day and the police would come up and take them away again. And finally it got so bad, it got so emotional one day--I was crying, my kids were crying and I said 'don't do it anymore, don't come see Daddy anymore, because I didn't want to see them put in the police car and taken away.'
TRACK; CALLS TO WATT'S WIFE'S ATTORNEY AND THE JUDGE WHO SENTENCED HIM WENT UNRETURNED.
Watts**** I honestly beleive that this was because I was a man. The lawyers were women, the judge was woman, and once you get into the system it's almost impossible to get out.
1.8.38-43 Scannel What I would like to say is that when a judge makes an order, we need to follow it.
NANCY SCANNEL OF JANE DOE INC.--A WOMAN'S ADVOCACY GROUP. SHE CAUTIONS THAT SPECIFIC INFRACTIONS MAY SEEM MINOR...BUT WHEN ADDED TOGETHER...MAKE FOR A VERY REAL THREAT.
1.9.29-47 The victim in question is going to say 'yeah well, these things have happened over and over and over again, and I finally said I am not going to do this anymore.' And so when the final thing happens what she is certain of is that this person is demonstrating that they are not going to abide by this order.
11.1.06-15 Eve Buzawa The fact that he is not willing to comply with a restraining order is as predictive of his reoffending as if he committed an actual assault.
TRACK: EVE BUZAWA'S RESEARCH ON RESTRAINING ORDERS SUGGESTS THAT WOMEN ARE TARGETING THE RIGHT MEN.
Buzawa 10.8.17-29

chairman Criminal Justice U.Mass Lowell

Certainly the offenders the women take them out against were very serious offenders. They had twice the criminal history rate of those who didn't have restraining orders against them.
TRACK: BUT SHE SAYS THERE IS A MORE COMPLEX CONTINUUM OF SPOUSAL ABUSE THAN THE LAW ALLOWS FOR.
10.11.56-59 We need to better identify the cases that are high risk.
TRACK:

COME UNDONE

CLEAN SLATE ERASED

BUZAWA SAYS THE BEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE VIOLENCE IS PAST CRIMINAL HISTORY. BUT WATTS FOUND HIS INNOCENCE LOST FOR GOOD.
Watts 21.12.08-21 I'm 47 years old, never been arrested, never been in jail, never been in a bit of trouble my entire life! And now all of a sudden I've been in jail 5 times because my wife left me for another man!
9.16.19-25 Watts It has devastated my life. I find it hard to go to work. I find it hard to just function in life every day.
Sheara Friend 2.11.34-54

 

 

44

And what I've noticed is in these men they suffer post traumatic stress disorder. The same types of symptoms an abused woman would have. They replay the story constantly about what happened in the system, why they were treated unfairly. They're obsessed with at what point the judge didn't listen to them...
Appel 14.4.17-30 ...we haven't figured out yet how to discriminate what's going on from what we think is going on. And so everyone errs on the side of caution and the aftermath is sometimes very traumatic for families.
TRACK: (uh-PELL) THERAPIST JANE APPEL HAS NOTICED A TROUBLING TREND.
15.00.45-05 I think if you speak to people in the divorce field, there was a time in which allegations of sexual abuse of children were used to get people away from their kids and out of the house and to make a claim for custody. I think the 209a's have become the vehicle of choice more recently.
TRACK: APPEL OFTEN EVALUATES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES FOR THE COURTS. .
Appel 15.2.46-51 We're very scared in this society in general about anger getting out of control.
Appel 15.3.02-13 And I think what we're seeing here unfortunately are some very bad violations of people's rights in our attempts to struggle with that issue.
TRACK; ******** FATHER RIGHTS ADVOCATES KNOW THEY'RE IN FOR A STRUGGLE. PETER DIMATTEO'S RESTRAINING ORDER HAS BEEN VACATED AND HE SAYS HIS FOCUS IS ON GETTING HIS KIDS THROUGH THE DIVORCE. BUT HE TOOK TIME TO TESTIFY AT THE STATE HOUSE ON HIS EXPERIENCE.
DiMatteo 7.7.27-35 I think fathers are at a point where Rosa Parks might have been at--where we're tired of walking now, and we're going to be heard.
THEY NOTE THAT ANY CRITICISM OF RESTRAINING ORDERS IS OFTEN INTERPRETED AS BEING 'ANTI-WOMAN ' OR 'PRO-VIOLENCE'
Friend 2.16.13-31 You will find that most domestic relations attorneys know it's a problem but very few will speak out. And they don't want to talk about it because it's so politically incorrect. And they feel they will be branded as someone against Motherhood and someone supporting abusive spouses. That isn't the case.
TRACK: BUT WOMEN'S ADVOCATES SUSPECT THAT FATHERS GROUPS ARE MERELY RESENTFUL OF WOMEN'S NEW FOUND POWER..
1.13.38-47 Scannel These particular groups are not who they say they are. But they are people who are trying to hold onto the right to control other people.
Scannel 1.6.48-58 *** If we have murders happening each month, how can the pendulum have swung too far in terms of protection?
TRACK: MEANWHILE, HARRY STEWART RESERVES HIS RESENTMENT FOR THE SYSTEM--NOT HIS SPOUSE.
I don't blame her, I blame the judge for letting this go on
TRACK: BUT HE'S MOST UPSET AT AT BEING CUT OFF FROM HIS BOYS.
Stewart 17.20.00-08 My children need to hear from me, they need to see me, -choke up--and they need to know I'm o.k.
TRACK: AND A JUDGE RECENTLY DECIDED DENNIS WATTS CAN SEE HIS DAUGHTERS AGAIN.
21.5.15-36 This experience--it's changed me as a person, it really has. It's changed my life, it's changed my way of thinking. I never even thought anything like this could happen. I never imagined it could happen. And I'd like to say to anyone watching this that if they think that something like this could never happen to them, they're absolutely wrong! Because if it could happen to me it could happen to anybody.

 

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