Jakob Letkemann faced the biggest challenge of his–or maybe anyone’s–life: The battle for custody of his three-year-old daughter, Darian. He struggled through exhausting and heartrending court battles, during which time the 40-year old resident of Salt Spring Island, located off the west coast of British Columbia, found himself on an emotional roller-coaster ride, falsely accused of various abuses as he sought to prevail against a system biased against fathers.
But none of this mattered after the verdict came in. Jakob fell to his knees, victorious when the female judge announced she was granting his request for custody of Darian. Initially unaware of just how stacked the deck was against dads in such situations, as well as the fact that they were notorious for bringing out the worst in others, his eyes welled up. He was grateful it was over and happy he had overcome the feelings of betrayal and rage that had enveloped him amid false allegations by his ex-girlfriend and her relatives. His heart was bursting as he savored the moment.
In Canada, it is uncommon for courts to find in favor of fathers. In fact, statistics indicate that mothers are awarded custody more than three times as often as men. For the most part, this appears to reflect an institutional bias against men, though there are those who would argue otherwise. Regardless, while Jakob comes from a family of women’s right’s supporters, his eyes have been opened up to a new reality. He witnessed first-hand the lopsided skirmishes between the sexes that occur when the lives of children are involved.
But he also understood why so many men feel compelled to crawl through the barbwire-laden battleground of Canadian family court proceedings. He was shocked to see how men are shortchanged, lacking the sorts of protections that women have long argued for. “I’ve had more sleepless nights than a bee searching for nectar,” he said. “I was subjugated to daily events of discrimination ‘cause of my gender, and I became ill and got ulcers. So I studied and learned and showed the court that the allegations her family made against me were false, and I won. I’ve learned how to fight and present my case,” he added.
Nowadays, Jakob has become a fervent supporter of equal rights–for all. He understands that there is much to be done for men regarding social and legal issues. His lengthy experience dealing with the courts and custody advisors has earned him a degree in navigating paperwork, stumbling blocks and frustrations that seem to have been purposely put in place to stymie fathers. “I never thought men would need to have their privileges protected until I sat across from a committee of six women–I was the only guy–and watched their unmoving and pensive demeanor and expressions. My gut wrenched,” he said.
The sad reality is that after decades of indoctrination by women’s and gender studies propagandists, Canadian society has a thoroughly distorted image of males. Subconsciously, at least, men are viewed as violent and aggressive, perpetrators of domestic abuse. That said, some are beginning to reject such stereotypes; among other things, questions are being raised about the Canadian family court system’s bias against males. A growing consensus believes that the gender-biased lens is like a one-way looking glass, identifying any man in its sights as a perpetrator of violence against women.
Making matters worse for struggling fathers is that any sign of frustration or anger on their part apparently confirms the stereotype, convincing even those who might be a bit more open-minded to take a harder line. Few take the time to understand why biased and seemingly perfunctory proceedings could push even the most passive of individuals into a state of despair. And then, all of a sudden, those who are in the position to pass judgment are no longer interested in what the man has to say.
Fortunately, advisors cautioned Jakob about this relatively early on, spurring him to take whatever steps were necessary to avoid being on the wrong side of others preconceived beliefs. Jakob explained, “My hurt feelings turned into searching on the Internet. I took an anger management course and the times I was in court I was able to be calm. I was strong and believed in the truth–and it worked!”
Others have not been so lucky. Many fathers endure accusations of the most hideous kind from spouses and in-laws who escalate charges without any real sense of moral limits. In a great many custody cases, husbands face accusations of domestic violence, often inflated to charges of daily battering and relentless emotional abuse. Naturally, the words paint an ugly picture of someone who is unfit to be a parent. If the “accused” flinches, perspires or bursts out under pressure, he can only lose.
In Jakob’s case, he couldn’t believe his ears when he heard the preposterous charges being leveled against him. “They made claims of how I hurt my family, but I wasn’t prepared for the accusation that I was too close to my own little girl–essentially, they said we fear a sexual relationship will evolve. God, that destroyed me. It twisted my gut. It felt like my insides were ripped out. I ached and was defeated, cried a lot and didn’t think I could continue. I wanted to end it all.”
But his case is not the exception; others have shared a similar fate. There have been numerous reports about court sessions and private negotiations, comprised of individuals with unconcerned faces who simply ignore what the husbands and fathers say, leading to a deep sense of having been defeated before the hearings actually begin. While it is only natural for people to feel like lashing out in such circumstances, Jakob quickly learned what was necessary to avoid getting caught in a trap.
In fact, his recurring struggles with the Canadian family court system eventually inspired a perseverance in him that he regularly shares with other men in the throes of divorce to assist them in their efforts to gain rightful access to their children. Among his recommendations:
- Prepare for the emotional battle, read up on the court process, and take any course, such as one oriented towards anger management, that can help you control your emotions.
- Take Parenting and Parenting after Separation classes.
- Remember that people will slander you with the worst things that can be said. NEVER get angry or aggressive, or respond in what is considered to be a distinctly masculine fashion.
- Always be on time for everything. Never miss a class, meeting, or court appointment.
- If you can talk to people involved in the process, do it. Communication is how you win!
- Make sure you have people supporting you. Jakob had his dad and mom and others by his side all the time. They talked, discussed and strategized. They went with him to any and every meeting.
The Next Phase
Now that he has succeeded in gaining custody of Darian, Jakob feels energized and motivated to take additional action on behalf of himself and others. He has collected thousands of items of evidence and is seeking justice against an anti-male regime. “I love my life with my daughter. I’m grateful, so I’ve decided to sue key governmental agencies for false removal and gender bias to ensure more justice for males. I want to share my experiences with as many people as possible. I am dedicated to changing the system.”
Jakob intends to file suit against ten parties in all, ranging from social welfare agencies to hospital and health nurses to counselors from the Island Woman Against Violence (IWAV). He hopes to level the field by winning landmark cases that become roadmaps or legal footprints for others to follow, helping to reduce baseless, false reporting, harassment, and threats. If he succeeds in winning any damages, he will support efforts that assist low-income families, including the development of parent school centers with support training programs.
In doing what he thought was best for his family, Jakob has also been waging a larger fight against the war on single fathers. He has been burned by legal advisers who line their pockets at struggling families’ expense; like the millions who have also battled through custody proceedings, he has found himself financially depleted. Sadly, many so-called experts seem more interested in bleeding desperate fathers who are angry and frustrated than in helping them get the justice they deserve.
But that is not right. As Jakob explained, “My family and I are fully involved, and we are reaching out for help. I’m asking for the smallest donation at my GoFundMe page. Follow my updates and me so we can all work to reduce or eliminate the biases in the Canadian system.”
On behalf of the innumerable men who have experienced the subjugation of divorce and the custody courts, it is time to change this narrative–to join forces and assist him in his quest. In fact, as someone who believes in advocating for other men, I have made a donation and urge others to follow suit by visiting https://www.gofundme.com/5gnn2b6c and giving as little as $5 for the benefit of Jakob Letkemann’s very worthy cause.
By coming together in this way, we can not only wish him the best, but we can help transform a system distorted by sexism, systematic oppression, and discrimination against men.