04 Jun BATTLE FOR TRUTH – PART TWO
There is dangerous misinformation being so widely circulated and repeated so frequently among our community, that it is now becoming accepted as ‘truth’.
A falsehood which has the capacity to seriously emotionally harm children. Devastate and bankrupt loving parents. Damage OUR community.
I write about research by prominent, self-proclaimed feminist ex-lawyers and barristers who specialise in the field of domestic abuse.
Those who categorically state the pathogenic parenting behaviours which seek to suppress and ultimately sever the innate biological attachment bond every child has with one of their own parents – which is what the colloquial term ‘Parental Alienation’ references – is a ‘debunked theory’.
That parental alienation is used primarily as a ‘counter claim’ to domestic abuse cases by ‘perpetrator fathers’ to ‘further their abuse’.
That it was ‘invented by a paedophile’ only to remove child custody from mothers – categorically false on both counts. (See our rebuttal in a separate blog)
It has made this term, ‘parental alienation’ highly contentious.
So much so that those who are suffering from it – the most devastating abuse any person could ever inflict on a parent and child – are often warned not to raise it in Family Court.
We too have been warned by many experts working with us in this field to avoid using this term. It’s so contentious and inflammatory that the instant you speak it, is the instant you get attacked as a ‘rapist apologist’. An ‘anti-feminist’. A ‘supporter of patriarchy’.
And the real message, the key message, the CRITICAL message …that of psychological abuse and coercive control which typifies it, gets subsumed and lost.
It shames us all when here, in the UK, in a society which champions free speech and equality for all, we dare not speak truth for fear of attack.
It’s nothing new, unfortunately.
The legendary and inspirational campaigner, Erin Pizzey, who dedicated her entire life to protecting abused women and children – who set up the very FIRST refuge for battered women in 1971 – received death threats. Was bankrupted. Her dog killed. Had to flee the country.
Because she dared to speak truth. She dared to state that when she opened her first refuge in Chiswick, out of the first hundred women that passed through her door, at least 62 of them were as violent – if not more violent – than the men they had left behind.
They had to pin little notes on the children in the refuge to remind some of the mothers residing there not to beat them.
While Erin had no difficulty raising funds for female refuges, she found little interest in supporting her request for male refuges. Male abuse was unspoken. Hidden. Mocked.
The organisation she founded has disassociated itself from her. Closed all the female perpetrator support centres she had set up to help women with anger issues or substance addiction or lives full of trauma that repeated into adulthood.
Because it did not fit the gender driven narrative that woman are only victims.
It appears nothing much has improved in fifty years. In England and Wales there are around 3,600 refuges for abused women and around 20 for men. Yet the Annual Crime Survey shows us that one third of abuse victims are men.
This is all highly relevant when we explore the misleading narrative which surrounds the issue known as parental alienation. Domestic abuse – or the more relevant term ‘family violence’ which includes children – is inextricably linked with parental alienation.
They are the same thing.
I watched an interview recently between a judicial candidate in Michigan – Nick Roumel and Professor Joan Meier who is a Professor of clinical law.
Professor Meier has a distinguished background. She has designed three nationally recognised clinical programmes for domestic abuse in the USA and has won many awards recognising exceptional service and leadership.
It is a superb lifetime achievement and one to be commended and celebrated in such an important field as this. As a survivor of life-threatening abuse, myself, it’s extremely important to me that all genuine victims of family violence are fully protected.
Last year Professor Meier released the results of a five -year study into the family courts specifically in relation to domestic abuse claims v parental alienation claims. 4,300 electronic court papers which had reached appeal stage were analysed.
From this analysis she found that any mother who raised a domestic abuse claim which was countered by a parental alienation claim would lose custody of their children in almost half of the cases.
It sounds utterly terrifying. That any victim of genuine abuse could be re-victimised by their male perpetrator and have their own children removed from them. In Professor Meier’s own words “it is the worst harm anyone can inflict on her”.
We would agree that it is indeed ‘the worst harm’ anyone can inflict on a safe loving parent when they effectively see their child abducted in plain sight via the family court system. Abusers don’t share their children. They block. Subvert. Obfuscate.
There appear to be major flaws in this story, however, and exercising my democratic right to freedom of speech; I feel compelled to use this opportunity here to expound on my concerns.
It was a difficult interview to watch. I did so several times. Each time with an increasingly heavy heart. The first flaw evident from the outset and repeated no less than thirty times in different utterances within the 70-minute interview.
1.That perpetrators of abuse are male. Only male. ‘Typically, him’. Any reference to ‘protective fathers’ was token. This is all about the victim mother being attacked viciously by the abusive father to take her children away from her.
It should have come as little surprise that a self -proclaimed feminist who only appears to have undertaken litigation on behalf of female victims might be looking through a gendered lens.
This is not substantiated by scientific evidence. Perpetrators of domestic abuse can be either male or female. In the UK the annual crime survey shows us that one third of victims are men. We know that men are three times less likely to report abuse than females.
The UK Statistics Authority, no less, has issued two separate warnings about misleading narrative. Once in 2009 and the other in 2019. That to use the term ‘overwhelmingly female’ or variation of, in relation to abuse victims, is false
The reason this matters so very much is that we simply cannot protect all children until we protect all victims. This gendered bias puts children of female perpetrators at great risk.
2. Her repeated assertion that the behaviours which the term parental alienation references is ‘debunked science’. It is, dare I say it, deliberately disingenuous.
The confusion centres around Dr Richard Gardner; a child and adolescent psychiatrist who observed, recorded and worked with alienated children and their families throughout the ’80’s and ’90s.
Gardner, who has been incorrectly demonised as a ‘paedophile’ sought to recognise parental alienation as a distinct phenomenon or syndrome – hence his reference to PAS.
He outlined a ‘symptomatic checklist’ of eight child behaviours which he felt identified the phenomenon. While he was correct in identifying the set of behaviours which identified pathology in that sample of children; the symptoms should have been compared to other existing and well documented disorders before being reclassified as parental alienation syndrome.
More evolved and established models of assessment and diagnosis had already been developed that focused on the complex drivers of alienating behaviour – which include mental health and personality disorders – and result in this most brutal form of abuse. One Professor Meier referenced in her interview. The abuse of terrorising a victim parent by eradicating them from their own child’s life.
To use Gardner’s lack of diagnostic rigour to throw out this most pernicious and harmful parenting practice while ignoring global scientific evidence from highly qualified child psychiatrists, clinical and forensic psychologists and researchers across the world, is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. Literally.
Gardner’s symptoms check list is recognised worldwide by any parent who has suffered the great misfortune of being alienated from their own child. Therefore many PA practitioners still reference it, or variations of it. Their own subsequent research validating it.
Parental alienation refers to behaviours which seek to disrupt a child’s innate attachment bond with one of their own parents. The attachment system does not malfunction without cause. It is an evolutionary primal function which served to keep children safe from predators.
Gender ideology, despite best efforts, cannot eradicate human biology.
A child’s greatest fear is abandonment and loss of attachment. Any attempt to suppress or destroy a child’s attachment with a loving parent is psychological abuse. This is well evidenced. For example, DSM-5 category 995.51, V61.21 refers to it as:
“Non accidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child’s parent or caregiver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child”
Alienating behaviours have likely been around since the beginning of time.
The first literature referencing parental alienation appears to be in a book by William Reich where he describes narcissistic parents defending themselves against perceived emotional injury by defaming former spouses when fighting for custody of their children…
Revenge on the partner through robbing him or her of the pleasure in the child, in order to alienate the child from the partner. It is told that the partner is an alcoholic or psychotic without there being any truth to such statements
This was published in 1949.
Louise Despert, a leading French child psychiatrist and psychotherapist similarly wrote in 1953…
It is a sharp temptation for the parent who remains with the child to break down their love for the one who has gone. This may be a temporary relief to the parent who does so, but it can only do harm to the child.
Published many years before Gardner.
What I simply cannot comprehend is how Professor Meier – or indeed the other vocal feminist researcher and ex barrister, Dr Adrienne Burnett – can recognise the great harm done to alienated mothers and readily accept it as a form of domestic abuse yet refuse to acknowledge that it afflicts fathers too.
The big clue may be in the fact that their primary clientele were mothers. As Professor Meier stated “I don’t know how it is played out against mothers as I’ve not represented them” (i.e fathers). Given the gendered views of both researchers, that might not come as too much of a surprise.
Professor Meier actually used the phrase ‘fathers’ rights groups’ in a disparaging tone when referencing parental alienation.
The fact is this is NOT a gender issue. Nor has it ever been. Both mothers and fathers can alienate their children.
As this is so critical whilst our ‘landmark’ Domestic Abuse Bill which saw Philip Davies MP savaged in Parliament for rightfully tabling amendments to include parental alienation within it – I challenge both illustrious researchers to tell us whether it was a victim mother or a victim father who made which statement.The fact is there is NO difference. The behaviours are exactly the same irrespective of gender.
1.It’s horrible to be in this position and nothing can be done about it. My ex-partner was able to manipulate our two kids to lie and said it’s ‘their choice’ not to see me. My youngest was only three. How does he even know he doesn’t want to see me?
2.I have a Child Arrangements Order in place. I have followed all directions stipulated in the court order. The … is playing emotional games by refusing to let me see or speak to her. Changing dates & times to suit … My daughter is sometimes very distant and says things which are out of character for a four-year-old.
3. Cafcass, Social Services and the courts have NO idea how to deal with this type of abuse and actually allow the abuse to continue
4. My … put every conceivable obstacle in the way, including psychologically turning her against me
5. My son will be 16 yrs in October. I have been estranged from him since he was 14 yrs. There appears to be no help or support for parents in my situation.
6. Breaks my heart every day, ….. told me … would punish me for leaving
7. My situation is hell on earth because their …….. is allowed to poison the minds of my children.
8. Living with the social stigma every day is mentally draining. People are convinced I must be in the wrong; why else would my own children not want any contact with me?
9. The police had wished they had some law to help. The psychologist stated it was the worst case of parental alienation she had seen and yet the judge would still not allow the term to be used in the court room. How can a ……..lose ….. son like this? It makes no sense.
10. I have one little girl who has unjustified fear, the other unjustified anger. The Cafcass report was thrown out of litigation for not answering WHY? The PA framework was ignored even with every sign of it being validated in the report. The girls, when given space, cuddle up to me and need me yet, in front of professionals and their …, can’t think of one good thing to say about me. They are even pushing away the family they love. If the children were black & blue, they would have acted by now, yet the emotional psychological damage can do more long-term harm and they ignore the signs.
11. I strongly feel that my case is coercive manipulation. My son and I had a very strong bond however his …has over a period of years damaged it and manipulated him to the point where he no longer wants to see me.
12. It’s heart breaking to think of my daughter’s childhood being ruined by this
13. My mental health deteriorated significantly, and it has taken a lot to still be here even with my current family.
14. Families are being destroyed by this abusive behaviour, and the damage is infinite.
15. This whole situation has ruined my life. My kids are my world and my reason to wake in the morning. Without them, I’m nothing
If they are unable to; then we can all move forward and recognise this as the abuse it is – one which affects both mothers and fathers. One which seriously harms them. One which destroys children’s resilience, mental health, recognition of parental authority and appropriate boundaries. One that has life-long adverse consequences…
We will have made great progress.
Because there were several points that Professor Meier made which we completely agree with and would wholeheartedly endorse, namely:
- Domestic abuse should ideally be referred to as ‘family violence’ because the former refers to adult v adult abuse, whereas the latter encompasses children, which is critical. In any abusive environment, children within the home are also adversely affected.
- Law and social science should be integrated in family law cases whereas at present it tends to be in silo. The ‘best interests of children’ are a social science.
- That child maltreatment must be recognised in law. Not just the obvious physical or sexual abuse but inclusive of psychological abuse and maltreatment. She recognised that there’s a ‘thick emotional and psychological dynamic’ in abuse cases. It’s certainly evident in alienation cases
- Child welfare agencies do not pay enough attention to non-physical abuse, and need to.
- Perpetrators of abuse may use the court system to continue their abuse of power and control, fuelling re-victimisation
- It is essential that prior to custody decisions, anyone assessing family violence must have significant expertise in it. It is wholly unacceptable for any without direct expertise in the presenting abuse issue to subsequently opine on it and make recommendations to the judge. To base their views when screening, on personal lay reactions and bias. We would include ‘gender bias’ here.
- That all cases should be heard in a special abuse court with judges and professionals fully conversant in the often -subtle nuances of abuse to aid recognition and ensure proper judicial outcomes
- That all victims should be believed.
We would caveat this last statement by stating that any claims must still be validated. In any abusive relationship there is always a pattern. It is never a one off. Abusers continue to abuse.
Professor Meier stated in her interview that all abuse allegations are genuine. We wish that were true, however we have clear evidence to the contrary.
It may be different in the USA but in the UK there is a major incentive to make false allegations.
It is called Legal Aid.
As part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO); legal aid provision was removed other than for genuine victims of domestic violence, or persons who met ‘exceptional circumstances’. This made sense. Genuine victims of abuse must be protected.
There were clarion warnings, however, that in the absence of rigorous checks on allegations before legal aid was awarded, false allegations would increase. That their strategic deployment would be the only way litigants could secure funding and the only way many legal firms could maintain their businesses.
Since LASPO was introduced, and despite a declining divorce rate, we have seen these warnings become a reality.
We saw a charity quietly change their status to a ‘for profit’ commercial enterprise and build a highly lucrative business model on the back of issuing Non -Molestation Orders. In particular the ‘ex-parte’ (without notice) orders.
An investigation into the financial arrangements between this organisation and legal aid lawyers has already seen legal firms sanctioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for breaking the law.
Ex-parte orders which some legal firms continue to deliver late on a Friday evening, so the recipient has little time to respond and contest. It is such common practice, it led to some West Country Judges taking the unusual step of speaking out publicly in concern about it.
All this should not really come as any surprise considering we are dealing with human nature and vested interests. The fall out, however, is incalculable. In economic cost, ironically enough, but most especially in human cost.
It’s the stuff of nightmares. Almost incomprehensible. Yet it’s happening to innocent parents throughout the UK. Right now.
And it’s not just the liberal dispensation of non mol orders which increased, as an example, by 239% in Barnet Family Court, 444% in Birmingham Family Court, 2918% in Wolverhampton Family Court.
Even without the evident misuse of non -molestation orders, we are witnessing other sickening abuses of our judicial system.
If the assertions by feminist researchers that most of the abuse is perpetrated by males were true, we would not have so much evidence to the contrary
Listen to this story recounted by the wife of a loving father who was prevented from seeing his own children through false allegations. Allegations which were repeatedly imprinted in his children’s impressionable young minds.
Two serious crimes were committed here. 1) The false allegation itself 2) the crime of assaulting a child’s mind with false memories of abuse.
Children cannot differentiate and are equally likely to suffer serious trauma whether the abuse claims are true or manufactured.
In this case, a domestic abuse organisation, without reference to any other agencies such as the police or social services to check the validity of the accusation, and without any reference to the falsely accused parent; installed a panic button and repeatedly taught the children how to ‘run and hide’ if they saw their ‘abuser father’.
Unbelievably, staff from this domestic abuse organisation were even allowed into the children’s school to further indoctrinate them with their ‘run and hide’ mantra.
It took a long time before the Judge finally wrote to the children to reassure them their father was, in fact, safe. Insisted they went to court and signed her letter personally to prove they had read it. Tried to encourage them to find it in their heart to forgive their innocent father. Recognised she couldn’t ‘force them’ to see him again but ‘hoped’ they would.
Therefore we cannot accept all allegations as ‘true’ without rigorous validation.
Here a parent made false and vexatious allegations. Created such intense fear in her children’s minds that they refused to see or speak to their father ever again. False allegations brought to sever the close attachment bond they enjoyed with their much-loved daddy, and thus perverted the course of justice.
Yet this crime went unpunished. These children remain with their real abuser. A pathogenic parent who created unimaginable fear, anxiety and distress for her children, for no other reason than to prevent an equitable co-parenting plan.
This, and so many similar cases just like it, demands that we protect all victims of abuse – male or female – so we can ensure they get the urgent help and support they need.
And those who bring false allegations with impunity must be held accountable.
False allegations – alongside gender biased research – wreck lives, careers, reputations and – most importantly – the childhood memories of precious and vulnerable children forced to relinquish a much loved parent.
And, as a note to Professor Meier, we continue to refer to this abusive and pathological behaviour as ‘Parental alienation’ only because it’s recognised by the UK’s Children and Family Court Advisory And Support Service (Cafcass) and innumerable court judgements on Bailii references it.
Usually, sadly, when its too late.
When the target mother or father – is bankrupt, physically and mentally exhausted and their child who used to love them, now expresses hate towards them.
Let us end this absurd gender polarisation and unite for a common cause. This is not, nor ever has been, a gender issue.
It is a mental health issue. A legislative issue. A public health issue of scandalous proportions.
And, most crucially of all – it is a serious child protection issue.
For a more thorough review of Professor Meier’s research, please read this: