Celebrating Our Culture
When Fatherhood is Under Attack
An Interview with Dean Tong
by Joyce Dixon
An event in Dean Tong's life changed a promising career in medicine to one of activist for fathers and forensic consultant on child abuse, domestic violence, and child custody cases. He is a published author, international speaker, and has appeared as a media commentator for high profile cases such as: Elian Gonzalez, Jon Benet Ramsay, and Michael Jackson.
Why is the father-child relationship important?
According to the research from such noted experts as Dr.'s Wallerstein, Kelly, Lamb, and Fonagy, "the best parent is both parents," and children as they develop need paternal attachments in their lives as much as maternal attachments.
What are the five most important actions a father should have with their child to create a healthy, lifetime relationship?
You will be taking part in the Fatherís Day Rally for Menís Rights in Washington. How does the government create problems/situations where they may not exist?
Sadly, in today's society there are a plethora of unfounded and false child abuse and domestic violence complaints filed as bargaining chips for revenge or because the accusers suffer from paranoid delusions. The laws on the books, namely CAPTA & VAWA allow for the filing of these frivolous reports.
What action would you like to see passed by Congress?
A repeal of CAPTA to exclude anonymous reporting of child abuse, and require confidential reporting, and the abolition of governmental sovereign immunity in child protective investigations. I'd recommend a total repeal of VAWA or in lieu of the same an addition of VAMA (Violence Against Men's Act). Moreover, I'd like to see a law that ordered a convening of a national task force to investigate all reports of child abuse, including statistics, scientific studies, et al. And, I'd like to see in Juvenile and Family Court a change from a preponderance of evidence to clear and convincing evidence.
A FATHER'S WORST NIGHTMARE: The Dean Tong Story is your memoir of your ďtrial by fireĒ experience with false abuse accusations. When will the book be released?
The book is not a book, yet, and we've yet to secure a publisher for the same. We do have a completed prospectus and it is agented.
You were a victim of false child abuse claims during your divorce proceedings, and it took ten years to clear your name. Are abuse claims common in divorce cases?
In about 1/3 of all high-conflict divorces, visitation disputes and custody battles, accusations of child abuse and/or domestic violence will surface. The false allegation of sexual child abuse within a divorce has been coined the SAID (Sexual Allegations In Divorce) Syndrome.
What are the warning signs that a spouse may use this legal maneuver?
A spouse whose mental health behavior changes, whereby she or he starts reading books dealing with child abuse, taking the child to see a counselor or therapist, starts to over-react because the child is itching himself or herself, etc. Any case involving a disputed divorce, child visitation, custody, child support or paternity is open-season for the launching of a SAID, or other accusation.
What is your relationship with your daughter today?
It is outstanding. We have a normal (finally) father - daughter relationship as she is now 22. We live about 3 hours apart in Florida, but communicate constantly.
What advice do you give parents starting divorce actions?
Divorce is messy. There's no way around it. If you can exact an uncontested and/or mediated divorce, do so. And please if you must resort to protracted court litigation, keep the kids out of the line of fire. If you do not do so they will be the ones to suffer potential irreparable harm.
What was your role in Floridaís Spanking Bill? How are parents and the school systems at odds?
I aided former Senator Jim Hargrett (D-Tampa) with the language of the Bill, which reads "Any significant welts or bruises is consistent with physical child abuse."
Teachers are mandated reporters of any reasonable suspicion of child abuse and at times will and do turn parents in to Child Protective Services. Parent Beware: If your child goes to school with a bruise on their extremity it could turn into a legal quandary.
You were a media commentator for the Elian Gonzalez Case and the Jon Benet Ramsey Case. Could you give us a short overview of each case as it relates to their fathers?
Juan Miguel Gonzalez was never ruled to be an unfit parent in a Cuban Court of Law and was never incarcerated. Hence, there was no reason for the USA to deprive him of his son and vice-versa for 7 months like we did. I helped to expedite that father - child reunification along with prominent attorney Jeffery Leving.
Mr. Ramsey was under suspicion for murdering his daughter, JonBenet Ramsey, an entirely different type of case. It was not a civil investigation like the Gonzalez case, but a criminal one.
How does the media foster a culture of abuse accusations?
The genuine horrific cases like Megan Kanka (Megan's Law), Polly Klaus, and Danielle Van Dam grab front line headlines, as they should. The problem I have is that cases where, e.g., DNA evidence prove the man to be wrongly convicted after doing 20 years in prison, receive a little paragraph on the back page of the paper. It's terribly unbalanced.
Itís clear that your own false accusation was a life-changing experience, leading you into new career paths and legislative goals. Do you have any regrets about this life path?
Not one iota because it has made me a better person and caused me to help others in my type of situation. I do regret that my path to becoming a physician was short-circuited.
What is most rewarding about your work?
The ability to win one case at a time and effect changes in public policy.
Books by Dean Tong
Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused. Huntington House Press, 2001. ISBN: 1563841908
© 2004, Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved