According to Women’s Aid:
“Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. It is a particularly insidious form of post-separation abuse.”
Here is why the psychologically abusive behaviours of parental alienation, are a form of domestic abuse.
Alienating parents who seek to unjustly sever a child-parent bond, engage in many of the following behaviours:
Repeatedly denigrates, demeans and devalues the other parent in the presence of the child and others. They often insist a child stops calling their parent “mum” or “dad” or even prevents them talking about the other parent. They bad mouth the other parent, criticise their parenting and deny their value to their children.
Isolates the other parent from friends and family. They act as a gatekeeper, preventing children from spending time with the other parent, from talking on the phone, or messaging. They repeatedly break agreed arrangements and court orders.
Causes financial hardship by refusing to communicate or make arrangements other than through solicitors or the family court. They barter child-parenting time, offering to increase time, or threatening to reduce it, depending on money exchanged.
Interferes with parental responsibility – failing to consult on medical or educational issues and relay important health and schooling information. They may unlawfully change a child’s name in an effort to eradicate a parent from the child’s life and identity.
Makes false allegations of abuse, fitness to parent, substance abuse or mental health difficulties – reporting these to the police or social services – in order to prevent a parent from being with their child.
Interferes with child-parent time by arranging other appointments, events and activities. They may continually text or video-call the child or ask the police to make repeated welfare checks.
Destroys or disposes of gifts, mementos, photographs and letters given to children by their target parent, fostering a belief that their other parent is not important or does not love them.
Burdens their child with angry or emotional outbursts – crying or appearing fearful or anxious when a child spends time with the other parent. In this way, a child comes to feel responsible for their parent’s emotional regulation and stability.
Behind the behaviours of an alienating parent are often unresolved psychological issues, and children are unable to protect themselves. An alienating parent’s behaviour is abusive and the consequences are likely to be longer lasting than other forms of abuse.
Dr Adrienne Barnett wrote the following on ‘SAFE’, on behalf of Women’s Aid:
“The success of the strategy has been to co-opt into the PA lobby mothers who have experienced fathers’ undermining of the mother-child relationship as part of a strategy of abuse.
Perpetrators intentionally try to undermine, distort and disrupt this relationship and turn children against their mothers by demeaning, belittling, criticising and insulting women to and in front of children, encouraging children to participate in the abuse of their mothers and treating children to expensive gifts and days out, which can continue to be perpetrated through child contact.
The ‘alienating’ behaviour I would suggest, be called out for what it is – a strategy of domestic abuse.”
Please take a few minutes to read the following genuine quotes and see if you can identify whether they are a ‘strategy of domestic abuse’ against mothers or fathers.
Are you able to discern the difference? Can you tell which statements came from target mothers and which from target fathers?
The fact is, there is no difference. They are all caused by the exact same psychologically abusive and controlling behaviour.
If we take gendered ideology out of this equation, these alienated mothers and fathers’ plight is exactly the same.
Alienating behaviour is indeed a strategy of domestic abuse. As with other forms of abuse, it is NOT a gendered crime.