Petter, 38, was accused of everything from maltreatment to necrophilia, but got his children back after not seeing them for four years
After a battle of four years, Petter finally got his children back. In spite of being traumatized and scared by their mother’s brainwashing about how dangerous their father was, they are now a happy family again.
Then comes the next strike. In a major opinion piece in the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, the lies about Petter continue: ”In Sweden, the interests of men convicted for mistreatment can be set above the welfare of children.” The article is signed by three leading representatives for domestic violence organizations in Sweden: Angela Beausang at Roks, (a national organization for women’s shelters) Carina Ohlsson at Sveriges kvinnojourer, SKR (“Swedens Shelters”), and Tomas Wetterberg, Män för jämställdhet (“Men for Equality”). According to them, the verdict that granted Petter sole custody of the children is a scandal, proving that courts ignore women and children subjected to violence. But is that true, or is the opposite the case: that the district court of Stockholm managed to look through a mother’s lies and realized that she constitutes the gravest threat to the mental health of the children?
Petter, aged 38, is a typical representative of a modern father – active, interested and assuming responsibility. When his son Lukas was born, he took parental leave, he was usually the one to bring Lukas to day care and pick him up, and the staff there would later testify that he had an excellent bond with his son. The mother was usually on sick leave. Some years later they had three children, but when the smallest child was seven months old, Petter filed for divorce.
He was merely thinking of practical matters such as going through the assets and dividing the household, but his wife became furious. If Petter did not want her, he surely should not have the children, either!
A horrendous time followed. The mother accused Petter of mistreatment, incest and pedophilia – one charge was worse than the next. And she vanished with the children.
The social authorities immediately sided with the mother, as did the police. As in a Kafkaesque movie, Petter saw himself convicted and sentenced to four months in prison for mistreatment of the mother of his children – without any other evidence than her claims. An appeal to the higher level court led only to a one month’s increase to the sentence.
“I have complained to the European Court of Human Rights, but the chances are slim,” says Petter, who served his sentence wearing electronic tagging and was able to work all the time.
“In spite of my conviction, nobody really believed that I was a criminal. I didn’t even get a probation officer after having served my sentence.”
In this situation, many would have capitulated to the system, found a new wife, and hoped for better fortunes next time. The chances that Petter would get custody of the children, or even be allowed to meet them again, seemed microscopic now that he was a convicted “woman abuser”. But Petter never thought of abandoning his three children. Also, he had one of the keenest lawyers when it came to bizarre custody cases, Ia Sweger.
“This case has been a battle from start to finish,” says Ia Sweger to Dispatch International. “I am convinced that Petter is innocent of the crimes he was convicted of four years ago, and that in our society under the rule of law, innocent persons are being convicted of crimes they never committed.
“The scariest aspect of this case emerged when the children were finally reunited with their father, and social services in his municipality conducted a solid child protection investigation, which showed that the children would be at risk if having unsupervised visitation with their mother. One can only wonder how it is possible that social services in Sweden can come to such radically different conclusions.”
Petter now has had time to reflect over what has happened.
“Now that I look back on the time without the children, I can see that I was walking as if in a haze. But I had only one thing in mind – to get my children back,” he says.
Then in the spring came the all but unique verdict from the district court of Stockholm. It read:
”Seen against this background – that she is hiding the children from a perpetrator wishing them ill – she probably is doing a very good job. The district court, however, has found that no reason for this hiding exists. Thus, it appears to the court that the caretaking skills of the mother stand in a significantly more dubious light.
Her behavior not only destroys the children’s contact with their father and the extended family on the father’s side. It is also highly questionable how the general social life of the children will develop after the teaching they seem to have been exposed to, namely that one has to watch out due to threats from their father. The district court sees an obvious risk to the well-being of the children under these circumstances, that the unjustified life in hiding and full of restrictions will lead to an unacceptable limitation of their right to future relations and networks. With this background, it is the opinion of the district court that it is best for the children that Petter is granted sole custody over them, in spite of the considerable conversion problems that can be expected to arise.”
The verdict came as a joyous shock for Petter. Through four years, he had not received a single sign of life from the children – not even a photo – in site of appealing to the social authorities to make the mother send pictures. Two months after the verdict came the first day of visitation, under the supervision of a contact person.
“I was extremely excited and had expected that the children might hate me. But it actually went better than expected, even though my son Lukas, who was then 6 years old, was quite scared of me. He obviously had no direct memories from our time together, but his mother had depicted me as a monster.”
After three visits, this no longer worked. The children were upset and crying, Lukas had been ordered by his mother that the visitation must not last longer than a few minutes; he cried desperately and refused to have anything to do with Petter.
“I knew all the time that the mother would not permit the children to be handed over to me. And it ended as I feared – the children were taking into custody by the authorities,” explains Petter.
The were relocated from the mother to a foster home, where Petter was permitted to live with them. The estimate was that it would take at least 4-6 weeks for the children to get used to their father, but things went so well already after three weeks that Petter could move home with them, and they could celebrate their first Christmas together in many years.
“It has been easiest to connect with Lukas, for after all he and I had two and a half years together before the mother broke our relationship. And one day Lukas told me: “My mother lives in the Teletubby world.”
Although the roles have now been reversed, moving to their father now means that they have access to both their parents. It is obvious to Petter that the children should be able to see their mother – in spite of all she has done to them.
“The problem is that she came with a whole bunch of people for the last visitation, among them a women’s rights activist, and created an insecure atmosphere. Then she played back a tape to Lukas, where he says that he is afraid of his father, who is violent. Meaning he said what she had taught him to say.”
The social secretary overseeing the meeting reacted immediately, took the tape recorder, and said that she had to shut it off immediately. In the future, visitations to the mother will take only once a month, under the oversight of two persons.
Thus, the truth is entirely different from what the women’s shelter organizations had tried to depict in the media. Petter was very upset when he read the opinion piece – once again, he was depicted as an abuser wishing his children harm, although the court clearly had shown that it was the mother who had trouble taking proper care of their children. The extensive investigation undertaken showed that he has an excellent ability to take care of his children.
“I believe that Angela Beausang and the others are at the same level as my children’s mother. They disregard all facts and throw accusations around entirely disconnected from reality.
“What is particularly sad is that they represent organizations receiving millions of kroner in grants from the state, contributing to ruling over, dividing and splintering the family, rather than strengthening it. They exclusively side with the woman and amplify the image of her as the victim – an image that does not make women stronger, probably quite to the contrary.
“Their article reveals that they entirely lack the perspective of the child, as they exclusively assume the perspective of the woman, not of the child. Those seeking to work for the rights of children must conduct a gender-neutral discussion. And as I see it, only organizations that work for the good of the child, ignoring the gender, should have a right to state support.”