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PBS Follows Through on Commitment to
Air Balanced Program

PBS's Breaking the Silence:
An Assault on Fatherhood

   

Why We Protest

Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories, which aired on many PBS affiliates on October 20 and subsequent weeks, is a direct assault on fatherhood. The film portrays fathers as batterers and child molesters who steal children from their mothers.

Breaking the Silence aims to reverse the minimal, hard-won gains shared parenting advocates have made in protecting children’s right to have both parents in their lives after divorce or separation. The film is extremely one-sided, and presents a harmful and inaccurate view of divorce and child custody cases.

In addition, newly revealed court findings, records and testimony show that Sadia Loeliger--portrayed as a heroic mom in the film—abused children under her care. In fact, a Tulare County Juvenile Court concluded in August of 1998 that Sadia Loeliger had committed multiple acts of abuse, and adjudged both her daughters as dependents of the Juvenile Court. To learn more, click here.

To learn more about what's wrong with Breaking the Silence, click here. To read the film's producers' press release on the film, click here.


What We Seek

We believe that PBS has a responsibility to present both sides of this issue. We want PBS to provide fatherhood and shared parenting advocates a meaningful opportunity to present our side. Some examples are fatherhood advocates' recent appearances on PBS affiliates in Houston, Texas, Columbus, Ohio and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.


Who We Are

This campaign is led by the shared parenting organization Fathers and Families, with support from the American Coalition for Fathers & Children, Help Stop PAS Inc. and newspaper columnist Glenn Sacks. We believe in protecting and preserving children's right to a meaningful relationship with both parents.


What's Wrong with Breaking the Silence?

PBS's Breaking the Silence has been criticized in numerous published opinion columns, including: Jeff Leving & Glenn Sacks' PBS’s Breaking the Silence: Family Law in the Funhouse Mirror (Albany Times-Union, 10/20/05, Norfolk Virginian Pilot, 10/24/05); Jeff Leving & Glenn Sacks' PBS Declares War on Dads (World Net Daily, 10/20/05); Wendy McElroy's PBS Film Ignites Fathers' Rights Debate (Fox News, 11/7/05); Cathy Young's PBS's negative picture of fathers (Boston Globe, 11/21/05); Wendy McElroy's PBS Film Controversy Continues (FOX News, 11/23/05); and Wendy McElroy's PBS Continues Probe into Biased Film (FOX News, 12/6/05).
 

Over 10,000 Protesters Call, Write PBS over Anti-Father Film Breaking
the Silence

 
 

News

December 24, 2006
Sacks & Leving Discuss PBS Campaign in 'Dads finally get fair shake in the media'
(Chicago Sun Times, 12/24/06)

December 19, 2006
Producers Forced to Apologize to Father Over Defamatory Portrayal in Breaking the Silence, Agree to Alter All Future Copies

December 2006
Parent Trap: Are false abuse charges a common tactic in child custody battles?
(Reason Magazine, 12/06)

November 27 2006
Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ombudsman Commends PBS for 'Making Good on Its Promise'

September 15 2006
Dr. Ned Holstein Critiques PBS Film "Kids & Divorce: For Better or Worse"

September 12 2006
PBS Follows Through on Commitment to Air Balanced Program

August 22 2006
PBS Documentary on Family Law to Be Aired

May 13 2006
Syndicated Columnist Kathleen Parker Discusses PBS Campaign in 'Parental alienation gets a day'

April 28 2006
PBS Films Fathers & Families Meeting, Lobbying

April 17 2006
An Announcement Regarding Our Campaign Against PBS's Anti-Father Breaking the Silence

February 2 2006
Major Network Drops Domestic Violence Show

January 29, 2006
Holstein Debates Meier on NPR's Justice Talking

January 23 2006
Maligning fathers 
(Boston Globe, 1/23/06)

January 6, 2006
Hartford Courant: PBS Snubs Producers of Breaking the Silence

January 4, 2006
CPB Ombudsman 'Welcomes' PBS's Agreement to Make New Film

January 3, 2006
Critique of Breaking the Silence Reveals Numerous Falsehoods in Film

January 2, 2006
Sacks Discusses PBS Campaign on KFAX in San Francisco

more >>

 
 
#1: Breaking the Silence Makes a Hero out of a Documented Child Abuser

Newly revealed court findings, records and testimony show that Sadia Loeliger--portrayed as a heroic mom in the film—abused children under her care. In fact, a Tulare County Juvenile Court concluded in August of 1998 that Sadia Loeliger had committed multiple acts of abuse, and adjudged both her daughters as dependents of the Juvenile Court. To learn more, click here.


#2:
Breaking the Silence Presents a False View of Child Abuse
 

In Breaking the Silence the filmmakers emphasize the need to protect children from abuse, and say that children are "most often in danger from the father." Yet according to studies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and

Read Mark B. Rosenthal's analysis at Breaking the Science: Misleading Stories from PBS
others, the vast majority of child abuse, parental murder of children, child neglect, and child endangerment are committed by mothers, not fathers. In Breaking the Silence fathers and only fathers are portrayed as committing child abuse.


#3:
Breaking the Silence Presents a False View of Child Custody Cases

In Breaking the Silence viewers are told that "All over America, battered mothers are losing custody of their children,” and that between 1/3 and 2/3rds of abused mothers lose custody. It is further asserted that when mothers claim that fathers are sexually abusing their children, the fathers usually win custody.

In reality, mothers rarely lose custody of their children to anyone, ever. Claims that fathers win custody when they choose to seek it are spurious.  In those few cases where fathers are awarded custody after a mother's accusations of molestation, the courts usually have good reason to believe the accusations are false and malicious. And false domestic violence allegations are often used by mothers to drive fathers out of their children's lives.

To learn more, see Where's Dad? (Boston Globe, 6/19/05) by Ned Holstein, president of Fathers & Families, Do fathers have the edge in divorce? (Detroit News, 12/10/99) by Cathy Young, Fathers Bear the Brunt of Gender Bias in Family Courts (Insight magazine, 8/19/02) by Dianna Thompson and Glenn Sacks, Ruling in High-Profile Marks Custody Case: Painful but Correct (MND, 9/14/04) by Jeff Leving and Glenn Sacks,  Hitting below the belt: Easy to get, hellish to deal with, restraining orders have become the ultimate weapon in domestic disputes (Salon.com, 10/25/99) by Cathy Young,  No Restraint on Restraining Orders  (Human Events, 8/5/02) by Stephen Baskerville, and  Baseball Player's Domestic Violence Arrest Demonstrates How Men are Presumed Guilty in Domestic Disputes (Los Angeles Daily Journal, 8/8/02) by Glenn Sacks.


#4:
Breaking the Silence Presents a False View of Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) occurs when a parent turns his or her children against the other parent after divorce or separation. PAS is committed by both mothers and fathers and is most frequently perpetrated by the custodial parent against the noncustodial parent.

The filmmakers assert that PAS is "junk science" which “has been used in countless cases by abusive fathers to gain custody of their children” by accusing the mothers of PAS. In the film family law attorney Richard Ducote states that "All experts have disavowed” PAS.

However, research shows that parental alienation is a common facet of divorce or separation. For example, a longitudinal study conducted by Stanley S. Clawar and Brynne Valerie Rivlin, published by the American Bar Association in 2003, followed 700 "high conflict" divorce case over a 12-year period. Clawar and Rivlin found that elements of PAS were present in the vast majority of the cases studied.

To learn more about PAS, see "Parents Who Have Successfully Fought Parental Alienation Syndrome" by Dr. Jayne A. Major of Breakthrough Parenting, Inc.


#5:
Breaking the Silence Presents a False View of Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence Policies

The filmmakers equate "domestic violence" with wife-beating. This ignores a large body of research, including data from the National Violence Against Women Survey in 1998, which shows that women also frequently abuse their husbands or male partners. While women's violence against men is in general not as severe as vice versa, studies show that women often employ the element of surprise and weapons to balance the scales.

In the film, “divorced dads” and “batterers” are practically synonymous. The film claims without any evidence that the vast majority of divorced dads who refuse to cede sole (or de facto sole) custody to their ex-wives are “abusive.”

To learn more, see Girls Against Boys: Ending bias in domestic assault law (Reason, 7/26/05) by Cathy Young and Lawsuit Against Shelters is Valid Response to County's Refusal to Help Abused Men (Daily Breeze [Los Angeles], 6/22/03) by Marc Angelucci and Glenn Sacks.

 

#6: Breaking the Silence Directly Contradicts PBS's Mission Statement

Because PBS is a publicly funded institution, its conduct is of concern to all citizens. PBS's Mission Statement states that one of the central aims of its programming is to "provide multiple viewpoints" and "treat complex social issues completely." Breaking the Silence misses the mark by a wide margin.

There was no attempt to "provide multiple viewpoints" in the film whatsoever. One of the film's biggest supporters, Bob Port, noted this in his pro-film column Custody fight: Documentary sheds light on system that lets children suffer at the hands of abusive fathers (Albany Times-Union, 10/16/05). Port stated that the film "will not try your patience with he-said, she-said debate between couples or among experts." Port's correct--there certainly is no debate or opposition permitted in the film.

The film does not "treat the issue completely," but instead gives only one side of the story, a side which cherry-picked a few highly unusual cases and pretended that they represent a widespread problem. Our campaign's demand--that fatherhood and shared parenting advocates be given a chance for a meaningful on air response to the film--is entirely consistent with PBS's stated goals and aims. In fact, it is far more consistent with them than Breaking the Silence is.

 

 

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