On the face of it, Joshua Gonze is a successful man.
A wealthy, fit and handsome 47-year-old executive at Thornburg Investment Management, Gonze has shared his financial expertise with CNBC, Bloomberg and USA Today. A vocal Libertarian, he campaigned for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and organized “tea party” protests. A prominent member of Temple Beth Shalom, Gonze has described himself as “a happily married father in Santa Fe.”
Those words may have been true two years ago when they were published. But there is another side to this powerful man’s life, one that casts a troubling light on the views he has espoused.
Publicly, Gonze supports a controversial cause known as “fathers’ rights.” Less known is that for years, Gonze has been able to suppress and counter domestic abuse claims made by two former spouses. His latest ex-wife claims that on Aug. 18, Gonze threatened her with a 10-inch kitchen knife and “waterboarded” their 2-year-old daughter during a dispute over custody. On Nov. 30, in an open courtroom in Santa Fe, Gonze withdrew his own petition, in which he claimed his wife had lied about the incident, and that she was the “abusive” one prone to “hysterical rage.”
Gonze also has been the subject of numerous 911 calls. And a former court officer claims Gonze stalked her after a series of rulings didn’t go his way.
Gonze appears to have avoided the usual consequences of such actions. Although his second wife worked in a local newsroom, the multiple allegations against Gonze never so much as made its police blotter. In fact, Gonze may have influenced the system in his favor by spearheading a law that limits wealthy men’s child support liability.
Gonze was helped in that effort by Albuquerque lawyer David Standridge, who stood beside him in a court at the beginning of the month. Standridge is a theological men’s advocate: He has written in praise of the “warrior life,” defined as “violent men” who rule their households.
Indeed, the men’s movement that Gonze and Standridge belong to is about much more than fathers’ rights. And like many of its members, the movement has a dark side.
The “fathers’ rights” narrative goes something like this: Family courts, cowed by decades of feminist activism, are biased against anyone with a Y chromosome. A few brave men, undaunted by the forces of feminist oppression, are fighting for their rights as fathers—and for the rights of all male-kind.
David River, a divorce mediator and co-facilitator of the Santa Fe Coordinated Community Response Council, an umbrella group for efforts against domestic violence, says the view has some merit. There are men with legitimate grievances, he says—particularly those who wind up in the system following a false accusation, or are punished inappropriately based on outdated laws that fail to consider the context of any given case.
“But then,” River says, the fathers’ rights groups “tend to minimize everything, and fail to see how many women get killed in domestic violence situations. They refuse to give [domestic violence] any legitimacy.”
Most child custody cases, like most lawsuits, settle out of court. Those that don’t can get nasty. Soon-to-be-published research shows that approximately 90 percent of contested cases involve domestic violence or abuse. In these cases, the child becomes a tool through which the abuser, usually the father, continues to exert control over his ex.
How many women get killed? According to the latest Department of Justice figures, 1,640 women were killed by “intimate partners” nationwide in 2007. That’s compared to 700 men. In Santa Fe, 2009 brought a terrible wave of violence against women, including the murder of a pregnant 17-year-old by her angry boyfriend, police say.
Within fathers’ rights circles, such stories are little more than spin by a “party line” feminist press. That charge was made against SFR by one local man, Kenneth Kast, who founded a shelter for men like himself, who were made temporarily homeless and jobless by restraining orders.
To date, Kast’s shelter has served no clients, he says. Starting it was “more of a political statement,” he tells SFR.
“The party line is the woman can say and do anything. If the man reacts physically, he needs to be punished. And she does not need to understand that she played a role in that,” Kast, a retired licensed social worker, says.
Like many in the movement, Kast has been the subject of a restraining order; Kast says his ex-wife’s attorney admitted on appeal that he had not been violent.
While it’s true that every story has at least two sides, for DV deniers, the woman’s side is always a lie.
“In [batterers’] minds, they’re falsely accused. So they take every restraining order that’s ever dropped and say, ‘Look!’” Ben Atherton-Zeman, a victims’ advocate and playwright in Massachusetts, says. “The reality is, having been a court advocate, many judges won’t grant restraining orders when they need to.”
Another movement tactic: countering allegations with their own. It’s a tactic Joshua Gonze used in court against both his former wives.
In 2002, during their divorce and custody battle, Gonze’s first wife—then an aspiring law student—claimed he had stalked her; she told the court that when her neighbors called the police on Gonze after finding him lurking, he claimed to be “just out jogging (in a big storm). Then he ran off.”
Gonze filed counterpetitions. She was the stalker. She was the liar. “There is no violence in me,” Gonze wrote. “I have the ability to verbally express normal, healthy anger as occurs in virtually all marriages.”
In 2006, Gonze, by then remarried and legally barred from approaching his first wife, requested a protection order against his first wife’s boyfriend. The two men had an argument while exchanging custody of Gonze’s then-5-year-old son at Tesuque Village Market. Gonze claimed the other man physically intimidated him, calling him “crazy” and “sick.”
Gonze’s legal disputes with his second wife played out similarly. In a 2009 filing he later withdrew and apologized for, Gonze called his second wife “abusive and frightening” and a “disengaged mother.” He claimed she had “made fake 911 DV calls on two previous occasions” and would “try to neutralize me by filing her own [order of protection].”
These push-back tactics may not have been limited to the women Gonze married.