Parental alienation – A form of domestic abuse…

Parental alienation is a form of family violence. Until fairly recently, this has remained relatively hidden, misunderstood and misrepresented. 

Coercive control and emotional abuse are key features in cases of Parental Alienation, perpetrated by both men and women. The long-term damage caused by emotional abuse is increasingly recognised.

Many survivors often refer to it as the worst part of their abuse. Their external injuries heal but the psychological damage to their self-esteem, mental health and ability to form healthy new relationships can be difficult to recover from. 

The Serious Crime Act 2015 makes behaviour that is ‘controlling or coercive’ towards another person in an intimate or family relationship punishable by a prison term of up to five years. In Scotland, the Coercive Control Bill includes former partners.

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 (Women’s Aid). It is a particularly insidious form of post-separation abuse.

In parental alienation, the abuser:

  • Repeatedly denigrates, demeans and devalues the other parent in the presence of the child and others. They insist a child stops calling their parent “mum” or “dad” or even prevents them from 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 break agreed arrangements and court orders. They insist friends “choose” between them.

  • 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. False allegations are also made to employers, friends and on social media to damage reputation and impact on financial stability and job security.

  • Interferes with child-parent time by arranging appointments, events and activities. They may continually text or face-time your child or ask the police to make repeated welfare checks.

  • Will destroy or dispose of gifts, mementos, photographs and letters given to children by a loving parent, fostering a belief that the other parent is not important or does not love a child. 

  • Burdens their child with their 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.

This urgent societal issue has been obfuscated by a great deal of background noise and gender politics and through lack of awareness and understanding.

These are dangerous distractions from the single, most fundamental truth; that every child has the right to enjoy a close family relationship with both of their parents and their wider family when it is safe for them to do so.

This fundamental truth is enshrined in law. Human Rights Legislation and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These are currently being shredded.

This is the truth that led to Good Egg Safety stepping into this volatile space; why we launched a major survey to assess prevalence among ‘ordinary’ families, which will be released soon, and why we will not now remain silent on this issue.

To remain silent, knowing what we have witnessed, would be to become complicit, while children are being seriously harmed.

Our children deserve so much better.