“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 lettersgiven 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.
Parental alienation does not resolve itself without judicial intervention.
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.
"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?"
"I have a Child Arrangements Order in place. I have followed all directions stipulated in the court order. Their X 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"
"Cafcass, Social Services and the courts have NO idea how to deal with this type of abuse and actually allow the abuse to continue"
"My X put every conceivable obstacle in the way, including psychologically turning her against me"
"Families are being destroyed by this abusive behaviour, and the damage is infinite"
"I strongly feel that my case is coercive manipulation. My son and I had a very strong bond however his X has over a period of years damaged it and manipulated him to the point where he no longer wants to see me"
"It's heart breaking to think of my daughter's childhood being ruined by this"
"My mental health has deteriorated significantly, and it has taken a lot to still be here even with my current family"
"This whole situation has ruined my life. My kids are my world and my reason to wake in the morning. Without them, I am nothing"
“My son’s last words to me three years ago, were on the phone. I’m not going to agree to see you until you sort out the endowment policy pay-out with X and then he hung up. He was only eleven at the time”
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.
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