Justice Abused

Justice Abused

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A personal note to my readers

There comes a moment in a protective mothers life, when she realizes her children are no longer hers. This moment is something that will forever scar both children and mother. As mothers we are born with the knowledge that keeping these children safe and nurtured is simply,the act of a mother. For us we have been in the biggest fights of our lives. The fight to save our children from abuse, perpetrated by controlling, abusive, manipulative men. This is not a propoganda ploy of man hating women, this is a fight to show the world that this is real, children, women, sisters,mothers,daughters,sons,brothers,men are being killed, abused,assaulted and torn from the very Mother's and Women put there to nuture and protect them. Please take a look, Educate yourself with facts, and help us stop the horror of not being heard or believed. And moreover keep our children and our selves safe. The only way to do this is to expose the truth of Judicial Misconduct in the Family Court System. The abuse of power perpetrated by our very own Federal and State Governments.Listen, please readers,I acknowledge that this happens to men as well, understand this. I have witnessed with my own eyes the sad, hurtful,destructive things that have been slung at men. I know beyond this that we must come to some mutual understanding! Educate yourselves, then make the decision. I enjoy hearing from you.















































Friday, June 18, 2010

Points that should be taken seriously with administrative judges

These talking points were designed for domestic violence advocates and other allies of protective mothers to speak with administrative judges in the hopes of convincing them to use the research contained in the new book to train judges and other court professionals and reform custody practices to improve the safety and
potential of children in domestic violence custody cases. Feel free to use any part of the material in any order that makes sense to support your efforts. Use your own knowledge and concerns and focus the discussion based upon the local circumstances and situations the domestic violence community is concerned with. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Barry Goldstein at BarryG78@aol. com The
information in parenthesis at the end of each paragraph are the authors of chapters in the book that provide the information in the paragraph.

1. In recent years, the court system has developed many practices that are designed to help parents work together. These ideas include mediation, shared parenting, parenting coordinators, parenting classes, friendly parent approaches and programs to promote communication skills and compromise. These may work well in other cases, but are harmful in domestic violence cases (see Zorza, Fields)

2. Over 95% of cases eventually settle more or less amicably. Some of these involve domestic violence and could be handled better with domestic violence knowledge, but the real problem are the less than 5% of the cases that cannot be settled and will require a trial and often much more. Courts usually refer to these as "high conflict" cases and literally they are, but 90% of these cases are actually domestic violence cases that can't be settled because it reflects an abusive father's tactic of using the children as a way to get access to his victim or punish her for leaving. The court system has been very slow to recognize this tactic and instead frequently use approaches that collude with abusers to help them maintain control over their ex-partners. Frequent mistakes in these cases have resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with abusers. (see Zorza, Fields and Goldstein)
3. If there was a scientific basis for the custody evaluations regularly relied on by the custody courts, the evaluators could tell the courts how their recommendations have worked out for children based upon outcome studies. In fact they have no such research. This flaw is obscured in part by the assumption that once a court makes a decision, the findings are confirmed. Many of these decisions have been discredited by
later convictions of abusers found to be safe, poor outcomes for children and reports by children of horrific abuse after they age out of court orders giving custody to abusers. This is not surprising because the research demonstrates the custody court system regularly uses flawed methods that make it difficult for judges to recognize domestic violence and child abuse or understand the consequences proposed orders are likely to have on the children. (see Yeamans, Anderson and Waller)

4. The Truth Commission and the research in the book, recommends that court professionals receive not just generalized training in domestic violence, but specific training in Recognizing Domestic Violence, Gender Bias and The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. It is hard to imagine any objection to these recommendations. The courts can't protect battered mothers and children if they miss the signs of domestic
violence. Gender bias is particularly difficult because professionals acting in good faith often engage in gender bias without realizing they are doing so. The problem is compounded because some good professionals have suffered retaliation for pointing out examples of gender bias. Children who witness domestic violence, including non- physical abuse can face long-term harm as a result, but courts can't protect the children
if they don't understand the risk. (see Hannah, Crooks, Jaffe and Bala, Schwaeber, Dragiewicz and THE BATTERER AS PARENT).

5. Judge Mike Brigner writes that when he trains judges about domestic violence he often is asked what to do about women who are lying. When he asks what they mean they refer to women who return to their abuser, withdraw petitions for restraining orders, fail to make police reports or seek hospital treatment and the myth (obviously they don'trealize it is a myth) that women frequently make deliberately false allegations of abuse. All of these actions are normal responses by women partnered with abusers for safety and other reasons. In no way do they support the assumption that the woman is lying. Nevertheless the widespread belief by judges, lawyers and inadequately trained mental health professionals that it does, results in thousands of valid claims of abuse to be disbelieved and other evidence ignored. Similarly, unqualified professionals often look only to evidence of physical abuse and in doing so miss a lot of other evidence of
controlling behavior courts could use to confirm abuse allegations. (see Araji and Bosek, Brigner, Schwaeber and Goldstein)

6. One of the ways we know there is a problem in the custody court system is the frequent finding of circumstances that are rare. It is certainly possible for a woman to make a false allegation of abuse, an abuser to commit one act or a few acts and then stop without any intervention or for a mother to suffer from Munchausen by Proxy. Accordingly, we can't tell if an individual case was wrongly decided without substantial investigation, but when researchers look at hundreds and thousands of cases it is easy
to see patterns of results that cannot possibly be accurate. The improper practices confirm how courts get so many cases wrong. (see Zorza, Araji and Bosek, Dragiewicz and Goldstein)

7. Most abusers do not beat their victims frequently. Instead they commit one or a few physical assaults and then use other coercive and intimidating tactics to maintain their control. Their purpose is not to enjoy beating their partners but rather to maintain control and exercise what they believe is their right to make the major decisions in the relationship. Inadequately trained professionals fail to see the abuser's use of excessive litigation, strategies that bankrupt his victim and use of the children to gain access to her as a continuation of his pattern of abuse. When a woman seeks to limit contact with her abuser because she understands his tactics she is labeled as uncooperative or unfriendly when better practice would be for courts to use their
authority to discourage abusive men from intimidating and scaring their ex-partners. (see Schwaeber, Fields, Goldstein and Araji and Bosek).

8. Many professionals in the custody court system believe they have the ability to determine who is telling the truth just from observing them. There is no research to support this belief and only a very few elite CIA and FBI agents have demonstrated this ability. In the context of domestic violence custody cases this is particularly dangerous because abusers are very manipulative and plan out their tactics to fool the
professionals. At the same time women's normal reaction to their partners' abuse tends to be anger and emotion and this is used to discredit their concerns. The false belief by professionals that they can tell who is truthful, just from watching them creates a false sense of confidence in these wrong judgments and favors abusers. ( see Schwaeber, Araji and Bosek, Zorza and Washington Post article).

9. Over forty states and many other judicial districts have created court-appointed gender bias commissions. These commissions have found widespread gender bias particularly against women litigants. They have found the courts give women less credibility than men, blame victims for her abuser's actions and create higher standards of proof for women. We see this when courts punish women for seeking to limit contact with abusers instead of pressuring abusers to stop their intimidating tactics. We see it when they expect mothers to provide better care of children but don't reward them for their care or punish women more severely than men for extramarital affairs. (see Dragiewicz, Araji and Bosek and Zorza).

10. In one case, the trial court used a certainty standard for the mother and a probability standard for the father. Even a first year law student would know this was a fundamental violation of due process and equal protection that demands reversal. The use of the higher standard for the mother was in writing in the evaluator's report and the transcript of her testimony. Using a the proper probability standard she admitted the father abused the mother physically, emotionally and verbally throughout the marriage, did so in front of the children and abused her so badly as to cause PTSD. Accordingly the court could not claim the mistake did not affect the outcome. In the two related cases between 15 and 20 different judges reviewed the case but failed to object to the biased approach. Clearly the judges were smart enough to recognize the mistake and it is not possible they were all corrupt or in favor of abusers. The problem is that for thirty years the court system has been using invalid practices and the often inadequately trained professionals they rely on have reinforced misinformation so that the judges could not imagine a trial judge could be so unfair to a battered mother. They permitted a decision where a safe mother was denied any contact with her children and the
abuser received custody. Only in a broken custody court system could so many judges make such an obvious mistake. (see Dragiewicz, Goldstein and Fields)

11. More commonly, the higher standard of proof for mothers is not put in writing, but is demonstrated by the many double standards women face. Frequently protective mothers are punished because they seek to restrict the father's contact because he is abusive. Courts give custody to the alleged abuser on the grounds that he is more likely to encourage the relationship between the mother and children. Once he receives custody, abusive fathers interfere with visitation and take mothers out of their children's lives, but the same courts fail to require the father to facilitate visitation. (see Dragiewicz, Araji and Bosek, Zorza and Hannah)

12. In a typical domestic violence case, the protective mother claims to be the primary attachment figure to the children and that the father abused her and/or the children. The father claims alienation. Primary attachment refers to the parent who provided most of the child care for the first couple of years of the child's life. Children who lose their primary attachment figure are significantly more likely to commit suicide, suffer
depression, low-self-esteem and other problems. Accordingly it doesn't make sense to separate a child from their primary attachment figure unless the parent is unsafe. Children affected by domestic violence are as likely as children directly abused to engage in a wide range of dysfunctional behavior. There is no research that children who hear negative remarks about the other parent (as occurs in most intact families) or have mothers who seek to protect them by limiting contact with an allegedly abusive father experience any long-term harm as a result. At the same time almost all children have a primary attachment figure which is usually the mother because in this still sexist society, mothers continue to perform most of the child care. Despite the myths, mothers rarely (1-2% of the time) make deliberately false allegations of abuse. False or exaggerated complaints of alienation by fathers are very common and is taught by male supremacist groups as a tactic to obtain custody. Although the mothers' complaints are more likely to be true and significantly affect the safety and potential of the children, courts are granting custody or joint custody to the fathers in these cases between 70 and 83% of the time. (see Sussman, Erickson, Crooks, Jaffe and Bala, Araji and Bosek).

13. Courts tend to emphasize the belief that children do better with both parents in their lives. This belief is supported by research, but not if one of the parents is abusive. "Fathers' rights" groups have sought to promote and courts have accepted the idea that when the parents come to court they should have equal rights to the children. On the surface this sounds reasonable, but only if their history of parenting supports this
practice. There is no reason to treat the parents the same if one has performed significantly more child care, has better parenting skills or if one parent has been abusive. The best predictor of future parenting is past parenting, but courts often treat mothers based on past parenting and fathers on expectations of future parenting. These kinds of gender biased practices place an unfair burden on mothers and more
importantly result in decisions harmful to children. (see Zorza, Erickson, Araji and Bosek)

14. The widespread use of mental health professionals for evaluations and expertise developed at a time when it was widely believed domestic violence was caused by mental illness, substance abuse or the victim's behavior. Courts assumed that the mental health professionals had expertise in domestic violence. At the time there was no specialized body of knowledge about domestic violence. Mental health professionals can help custody courts understand the circumstances when there is credible information that one of the parties or the children suffer from a mental impairment that significantly affects the ability to parent. There are a few mental health professionals who also have substantial knowledge and experience in domestic violence and are familiar with up-to-date research. The problem is that most mental health professionals relied on by custody courts have at most a few hours of domestic violence training and are unfamiliar with the up-to-date research. The research demonstrates they often fail to recognize domestic violence because they don't know what to look for and tend to minimize its significance. This is particularly harmful because they provide a false confidence that there is a scientific basis for their recommendations. (see Yeamans, Erickson, Araji and Bosek, Zorza and Fields)

15. Best practices are for mental health professionals to consult with domestic violence experts when handling a case involving allegations of domestic violence. There have been several demonstration projects including Rockland County, New York where child protective agencies work with the local domestic violence shelter on cases involving suspected domestic violence. The agencies cross-train each other and when caseworkers have a potential domestic violence case they consult with a domestic violence advocate. This practice has proven effective in helping caseworkers recognize and respond appropriately to domestic violence cases. Psychologists and psychiatrists are ethically required to consult with experts when they are handling a case that involves a subject they are not expert in. It should be a standard practice for evaluators
to consult with domestic violence experts when they respond to domestic violence cases. Unfortunately, these professionals, often with only a couple of hours of trainingin domestic violence and unfamiliar with the specialized body of research about domestic violence wrongly believe they don't need to consult with a genuine expert. Many lawyers don't know to raise this issue when questioning evaluators, but even when the issue is raised, judges rarely discredit an evaluators testimony for failing to consult a domestic violence expert or have familiarity with up-to-date research. (see Zorza, Fields, Goldstein and Hannah)

16. The use of psychological tests increases costs, delays cases and creates a false assumption that there is a scientific basis for recommendations. Psychological tests were developed for populations very different than those engaged in custody disputes. They cannot determine issues like domestic violence or parenting skills. They were designed to determine mental illness. Psychologists rarely tell the courts that the findings are based on probabilities and most tests reach conclusions accurate in 55 to 65% of the cases. Other factors such as not being part of the intended population for the test, domestic violence or the stress of litigation further reduce the percentage of accuracy. Mothers' normal response to their partners' domestic violence is often
misinterpreted as paranoia or delusion. This is particularly a problem where inadequately trained evaluators fail to recognize domestic violence and then pathologize the victim for believing she was abused. (see Yeamans, Zorza, Erickson and Fields)

17. Mental health professionals relied on in custody cases often use a family systems approach which is not appropriate and in fact is dangerous in domestic violence cases. The approach seeks to have the parties forget past problems and develop new ways to work together in the future. This does nothing to change the belief system of abusers who are skilled at manipulating professionals who use such an approach. The
professionals are usually unfamiliar with scientific research including the fact that only accountability and monitoring have been shown to change abusers' behavior. At the same time protective mothers are punished because they couldn't overcome their fear caused by a long history of their partner's abuse. This is another example of blaming the victim for her normal reaction to the father's abuse. (see Fields, Zorza and Crooks,
Jaffe and Bala).

18. Context is particularly important in understanding and recognizing domestic violence. Repeatedly we have seen cases in which the court initially determines a mother's domestic violence allegations are false. When the father commits new abusive tactics (such as limiting contact between the mother and children after he gets custody or using the visitation exchanges to harass his victim, the courts usually refuse to consider the new information in the context of prior evidence of abuse on the ground that the court already denied the abuse. Courts often miss that the same acts should be treated very differently depending on motivation. There may be evidence that each party hit the other, but they may not be equivalent. One party may hit harder, one party may hit in self defense or to stop his abuse and the other to maintain control, and particularly important only one party may fear the other. Both parties may file complaints about professionals in the case. While they both would claim they have valid objections it is important to see the context of whether one of the parties had previously sought to isolate their partner from friends and family. (see Dragiewicz, Goldstein and Zorza)

19. Not all children react the same to domestic violence and child abuse. Inadequately trained professionals expect abused children to have serious social or academic problems as a result of the abuse. Some children react by taking on adult roles, being the good child or zoning out. On the surface it appears the children are doing well, but the problems play out years later. Such unexpected reactions often lead to courts assuming valid abuse complaints are false. (see Crooks, Jaffe and Bala, Araji and Bosek)

20. We are particularly concerned with cases involving retaliation against protective mothers and extreme results that give custody to alleged abusers and supervised visits or no contact with children to the mothers. Unless the mother is unsafe (drug addict, beats the children) such extreme results are virtually always harmful to children. Many mothers have been punished for continuing to believe the father is dangerous after the
court fails to find he committed abuse. Fathers are not similarly punished when they continue to deny their abuse after the court finds against him. Given the frequency in which courts fail to confirm valid claims of abuse, courts should be extremely reluctant to penalize motherswho continue to complain of their partner's abuse. (see Zorza, Araji and Bosek)

21. Surprisingly there have been some judges who object to training about up-to-date research in domestic violence based on the belief that somehow neutrality requires judges to stay ignorant of this information. In reality such ignorance is not neutral as the myths, stereotypes and misinformation used instead of scientific research strongly favors abusive fathers. The training of judges and other court personnel in domestic violence should be conducted by domestic violence advocates and other experts familiar with the kind of
up-to-date research contained in this book. It is important that administrative judges foster an attitude that the present system has resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with abusers so judges must be open to the likelihood that many of the beliefs and practices they have long used have been wrong. Courts should consider holding an evidentiary hearing about domestic violence early in custody proceedings. If the allegations of domestic violence are true and the other parent is safe (alienation allegations are not about safety), the non-abusive parent should receive custody and the abusive parent held accountable. This procedure would save courts time and money while achieving results that benefit children. Courts should consider not appointing an evaluator unless there is substantial reason to believe one of the parties or the children have a mental condition that would significantly interfere with parenting. If an evaluator is used judges should seek experts with substantial domestic violence training or at least have the evaluator consult with such an expert. Mediation and joint counseling are always inappropriate in cases with abuse allegations. The safety of the parties and the children must always be the first priority. Research demonstrates that the best way to prevent domestic violence is to hold the abuser accountable and monitor his behavior. Abusers tend to be extremely manipulative and court professionals must be careful to avoid colluding with an abuser. Most important, we are not seeking to challenge or criticize judges, but rather to work together to support the policy and laws of every state which is to prevent domestic violence.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Truth About Battered Women And Custody

In no other area of family law are battered women and their children inadvertently subjected to greater physical and emotional harm than in the child custody and visitation context. Battered women are often forced to participate in custody arrangements that require mediation, unsupervised custody and visitation, and
other types of exchanges that leave them and their children vulnerable to continued abuse and control at
the hands of their batterers. Women who try to protect themselves and their children by seeking sole custody or modifications in custody arrangements such as cessation of visitation, supervised visits, or who flee with their children are penalized by having custody taken away and given to their batterers. Despite the perception that mothers always win custody, when fathers contest custody, they win sole or joint custody in 40% to 70% of the cases.1 Indeed, even in cases where abuse is reported, a batterer is twice as likely to win custody over a non-abusive parent than in cases where no abuse is reported. 2 Domestic violence
While there is no uniform law that governs child custody, all states use the same standard in determining custody arrangements, called the “best interest of the child” standard. Under that standard, courts look at a number of factors in determining what type of custody arrangement would best suit the child’s physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual needs. Most states have separate statutes governing child custody and domestic violence. Although many states require the court to consider domestic violence in making temporary or final custody determinations, others do not. Moreover, a number of state custody
statutes make no mention of domestic violence as a factor to be considered in making custody awards. Of
equal concern are joint custody provisions that do not take into account how domestic violence puts both the
survivor and her child/children at further risk. See the section of this Legal Resource Kit entitled
“State Custody Laws That Consider Domestic Violence” for a complete list of custody statutes in the
different states. Indeed, for the battered woman, the custody and visitation processes often become a means by which a batterer furthers his abuse through attempts to continue to maintain control. Most forms of shared custody and visitation involve some type of proximity or contact between the battered woman and her abuser during the exchange of the child between parents. During these exchanges battered women are often subjected to verbal and physical harassment, stalking, assault, and threats, including the threat of child kidnapping.4 Women who deny visitation or who go to court to request a modification or supervised visitation in order to protect themselves and their children are frequently accused of trying to alienate the
child from the abusive parent.

                            Myths and Facts About Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The unfair treatment of battered women in custody disputes results from myths about the impact of domestic violence on women and children, as well as the widespread failures of civil protection agencies in taking women’s experiences seriously. Here are some of the common myths that persist:

Myth: It is easy for a battered woman to leave her abuser or to stop the abuse.

Fact: Fear of losing her children, pressures from religious communities to stay in the relationship, financial
dependence, the insensitivity and unresponsiveness of the justice system, and the escalation of abuse that occurs when women try to leave make it difficult for a woman to separate from her abuser. Even when a battered woman appears to “just accept” the violence, she is often making different attempts to avoid and stop the violence. Such attempts include complying with (or anticipating) a batterer’s demands, demanding that the batterer stop hisabuse, orchestrating the environment (e.g., keeping children quiet), leaving the home, calling the police, and fighting back with or without weapons.5

Myth: Battered women who take their children and flee an abusive relationship are safe from further harm.

Fact: Studies find that domestic violence escalates when battered women leave their abusers, and that
terminating a relationship results in a greater risk of fatality for battered women and their children.6 This
abuse takes the form of threats and actual violence to the mother and her children. Further, women and their
children risk additional (and sometimes fatal) harm during court ordered visitation or joint custody
arrangements. This occurs as many batterers discover that the children are a means of continuing the abuse of
a former partner. Five percent of abusive fathers threaten to kill their children's mother during visitation
with their children and 25 percent of abusive fathers threaten to harm their children during visitation.7

Myth: Domestic violence between parents does not impact their children
.
Fact: While most mothers in abusive relationships take precautions to shield their children from the harmful effects of violence, it is extremely difficult for them to protect their children from witnessing or
experiencing abuse. It is estimated that 87% of children who come from homes plagued by domestic violence
actually witness the abuse.8 Most children are adversely impacted by the abuse, although how they are affected may vary. Research suggests that child witnesses of domestic violence are more likely than other children to feel helpless, fearful, depressed, and anxious. They suffer both emotional and physical developmental problems, and are more likely than children who do not grow up in homes plagued by domestic violence to suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.9 Many experts believe that child witnesses of domestic violence internalize the fear and trauma that results from witnessing violence, and are themselves likely to become perpetrators of violence in the future.10

Myth: Abuse of one parent by another parent does not mean that the abuser poses any harm or danger to the children.
Fact: While research results vary, studies have found that child abuse occurs in 25% to 70% of the families that experience domestic violence.11 Further evidence linking domestic violence to the heightened risk of harm to children can be found in a report to the Florida Governor’s Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence, which identified over 300 domestic violence fatalities in 1994; 73 of those victims were children. Most of the children were killed by their biological fathers. In some cases, male abusers killed their entire families, including themselves.12

Myth: Batterers who seek custody do so out of love for their children and a desire to be good parents.

Fact: Abusive fathers continue to abuse and exert control over women after separation by vigorously pursuing custody of the couple’s children.13 Batterers are twice as likely as non-physically abusive fathers to seek sole custody of their children,14 and frequently refuse to pay child support as a way to continue the financial abuse and dependence of the mother.15

Myth: Battered women raise the issue of abuse in an attempt to turn their children against the other parent in order to gain sole or primary custody.

Fact: This allegation is often leveled at women who are simply trying to make judges aware of separation violence, their children’s concerns, and other abuses by the batterer. These assertions may be in the form of so-called “syndromes” like “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS) or “Divorced Mother Syndrome.”16 Regrettably, however, judges, guardians ad litem, and court-appointed custody evaluators often rely on these theories to discount the very real fears and concerns that battered women and their children bring before the court.17See the section in this Legal Resource Kit on the “A Guide to Parental Alienation Syndrome” for information on how to address these assertions (212) 226-1066

 Legal Resource Kit: Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Copyright © 2005 Legal Momentum.

                      I. Overview

In recent decades, our society has slowly and reluctantly begun to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding family life and intimate relationships to reveal the shocking pervasiveness of domestic violence. Studies have shown
that more women are abused by their husbands or boyfriends each year than are injured in car accidents,
muggings, or rape.81 Nearly one in every three adult women experiences at least one physical assault by a
partner during adulthood.82 An estimated 4 million American women experience a serious assault by an
intimate partner during an average year.83 Although these statistics reflect the large number of women who are battered by their intimate partners, the numbers only begin to account for the population of women who suffer from domestic violence, which frequently includes psychological abuse and patterns of coercion and control that may not be reflected in these statistics. Women who experience domestic violence fail to report the crime to law enforcement personnel six times more often than do women who experience violence that is perpetrated by a stranger.84

                II. Spouse Abuse and Child Abuse

Psychological studies have found a significant overlap between spouse abuse and child abuse. For example, one survey found that 45% of assaults on women are accompanied by physical assaults on a child in the
family,85 and an article revealed that in 30% to 60% of families where either child abuse or spouse abuse was identified, the other form of violence was also present.86

                III. Children Caught in the Crossfire

Whether they are the intended targets of the abusive parent or not, children are harmed both physically and
psychologically by the abuse of their mothers. Batterers often deliberately abuse children both physically and
verbally, in order to hurt and control the mothers. Children are also accidentally harmed by blows or flying
objects aimed at their mothers, by seeing their mothers abused, and by the constant disruption that such abuse causes. There are several additional ways that children experience adult domestic violence. These include hitting or threatening a child while in its mother’s arms, taking the child hostage in order to force the mother to return to the home, forcing the child to watch assaults against the mother or to participate in the abuse, and using the child as a spy or interrogating him or her about the mother’s activities.87 Children are also told by their abusive fathers that if not for their mother’s behavior their families would be together.88 This is frequently an attempt to put pressure on the mother through the children to return to
the batterer or to drive a wedge between the mother and her children.89

               IV. Witnessing the Aftermath of Violence

In addition to seeing, hearing, or being directly subjected to physical violence, many women and their children describe the aftermath of a violent event as traumatic. Children may be forced to see their mother injured and in need of help, may have to live with a father who alternates between physical violence and loving care, may witnesspolice intervention to remove a father from the home, or may have to move to a shelter for battered women.90 They may observe blood, bruises, torn clothes, broken glass, and injuries to their mother’s person as well as experience an atmosphere of tension and fear in their homes.91 Any
definition of “witnessing violence” must include all of these various ways in which children experience a violent event.92 They may see the violence or be used as a part of it. Even when they are not present, children often are aware of the violent event and experience its aftermath.93 Reports by battered mothers indicate that 87% of children witness the abuse.94 Many children actually see their father, stepfather, or mother’s boyfriend not only beat their mothers but rape them as well.95 Although some parents believe that they succeed in shielding their children from the batterer’s aggression, children often provide detailed accounts of the very events which adults report they did not witness.96 Reports by children and by adults of their memories of childhood experiences indicate that parents severely underestimate the extent to
which their children are exposed to violence.97

         V. Physical and Emotional Effects of Domestic

Violence on Children Subjecting children to their mother’s victimization is a form of emotional abuse. Exposure to threats of injury, suicide attempts, verbal assault, and threats to kill evoke in children a combination of intense feelings,98 including: fear that their mother will be killed, guilt at not stopping
the violence, divided loyalties, and anger at their mother for not leaving.99 Even one episode of violence can
produce post-traumatic stress disorder in children.100 Batterers must be held responsible for causing such
trauma in children.101 Studies indicate that children who witness their fathers beating their mothers suffer emotional problems, including slowed development, sleep disturbances, and feelings of helplessness, depression, and anxiety. Many of these children exhibit more aggressive, antisocial, fearful, and inhibited behaviors. They also show lower social competence than other children.102 Children from homes
where their mothers were abused have also shown less skill in understanding how others feel and in examining situations from the other’s perspective when compared to children from non-violent households.103 Research has found that many of these children also suffer somatic symptoms. They are hospitalized more, have more colds and sore throats, and are more prone to bedwetting than children from homes without violence.104 Witnessing abuse as a child also has long-term effects. In one study, witnessing violence as a child was associated with adult reports of depression, low self-esteem among women, and trauma-related symptoms among men.105 Studies also indicate that growing up with domestic violence increases the likelihood that a child will grow up to abuse his spouse.106

               VI. Abuse by Battered Women

Battered women may displace their anger at their abusers onto their children. In one study, sixteen percent of women who lived with an abusive man reported that they directed their anger toward their children. Five percent expressed this anger through violence.107 However, data from the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect show that where there is child abuse concurrent with spouse abuse, 70% of the
violence is committed by the man.108 In most cases of child abuse, removing the children from the batterer’s
environment and placing them with the mother ends the abuse.

Will He Kill A Lethality Assesment

 JUNE 2010


Dept. Justice Report: Implications of Domestic Violence Research, for Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges:

According to research by Katherine van Wormer, Professor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa, certain patterns have emerged in cases in which men have ended up murdering their spouses and/or children as well as in the common "murder-suicide" cases.

Violence Against Women Is On The Rise

June 15, 2010
         By Judy Silverclose

The Chicago Tribune says that domestic violence calls to the Indianapolis police department are up 13% this year over last. The Honolulu Advertiser says that Hawaii’s Domestic Violence Action Center is fielding a third more calls this year than last. Rates are up in Arizona and Texas, too. The economy is down; stress and violence are up.  A new Department of Justice study on Domestic Violence and Law Enforcement states that, while over the last decade the percentage of women who call the police after physical assault by an intimate partner seems to be rising from 30 to 60 percent, 40  percent of assaults still go unreported.
If police are called, either by the victim or by a third party (such as a neighbor or hospital) the study says: Researchers found 29% of victims reported “no assault.” Ironically, their alleged assailants were more likely to admit the assaults, with only 19% reporting “no assault”. Law enforcement officers may find that the most severely traumatized victims, behave least, as law enforcement officers expect of them. They may also be the least able to cooperate with law enforcement. Addressing the question of whether arrest is the best response to intimate-partner violence, the report says: Arrest deters repeat abuse, however, all actions taken by responding officers , including providing victims with information pamphlets, taking down witness statements, and helping victims secure protective orders were associated with reduced cases of reoffending abuse.
If an arrest is made, the percentage of cases prosecuted varies wildly, from 46% in Milwaukee to 94% in Cincinnatti, with the average being about 60%. Sometimes police arrest an abuser for a lesser charge (disorderly conduct) instead instead of assault. However, the report warns, reducing  charges to non-assault charges allows convicted abusers to retain firearms otherwise prohibited. One of the most crucial steps to prevent lethal violence is to disarm abusers and keep them disarmed. A commenter on our site, Sheri Ferber, a former member of Rick Warren’s, Saddleback church, was also a victim of Domestic Violence.The story is heartbreaking. Four years ago, [Ferber] approached a Saddleback pastor for protection against her husband, who’d violently attacked her while they were driving home from church. Instead of protecting her, Ferber says, the pastor called her husband to warn him that Ferber had been “gossiping about their marriage.” Ferber, it seems, had run into Saddleback’s teaching that the sanctity of marriage prohibits divorce in all but a few circumstances, and domestic violence is not one of them. Author Kathryn Joyce goes on to explain: Jocelyn Andersen, was severely battered by her assistant pastor husband. She argues that submission teachings don’t create abusers, but allow violent men to justify their abuse as biblical. The real danger, though, is in how the teachings impact devout women, who may conclude they can’t leave their marriages and remain committed Christians. Fortunately, there is evidence of people fighting for change, even in very conservative churches. In fact, the same author, Kathryn Joyce, also wrote on the Saddleback domestic violence issue for Religion Dispatches, where she quotes conservative Christian author Barbara Roberts: “I think Saddleback’s teaching is profoundly and dangerously wrong,” says Roberts, offering them her book’s findings that ,1 Corinthians 7:15-a verse commonly interpreted as applying solely to an unbeliever: Deserting a believing spouse-provides the biblical grounds for abused wives to consider their union nullified. “The key question is not ‘who walked out’ but ‘who caused the separation?’ Of course, many churches already teach that violence abrogates the marital covenant and refer congregants to abuse specialists. And Christians don’t have a monopoly on the issue.  Jewish, Muslim and interfaith women also suffer Domestic Violence. Thankfully, for victims who don’t feel comfortable calling the police, there are trained specialists available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline, provides crisis intervention, information, and referrals to shelters and programs. Calls are free, confidential, and anonymous. The Number Is 1-800-799-7233.

The New Agenda welcomes readers who have a background in this area, If you are interested in writing about it, in more detail. Contact us at:  blog@thenewagenda.net.
As “Lived It” said,  may God have mercy on us all.

Heartbreak And Loss ...Why?





Sunday, June 13, 2010

What happens in Domestic violence and Child custody, Visitation: The Truth

In no other area of family law are battered women and their children inadvertently subjected to greater physical and emotional harm than in the child custody andvisitation context. Battered women are often forced to participate in custody arrangements that requiremediation, unsupervised custody and visitation, and
other types of exchanges that leave them and their children vulnerable to continued abuse and control at
the hands of their batterers. Women who try to protect themselves and their children by seeking sole custody or modifications in custody arrangements such as cessation of visitation, supervised visits, or who flee with their children are penalized by having custody taken away and given to their batterers. Despite the perception that mothers always win custody, when fathers contest custody, they win sole or joint custody in 40% to 70% of the cases. Indeed, even in cases where abuse is reported, a batterer is twice as likely to win custody over a non-abusive parent than in cases where no abuse is reported.

                                              Domestic violence

While there is no uniform law that governs child custody, all states use the same standard in determining custody arrangements, called the “best interest of the child” standard. Under that standard, courts look at a number of factors in determining what type of custody arrangement would best suit the child’s physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual needs. Most states have separate statutes governing child custody and domestic violence. Although many states require the court to consider domestic violence in making temporary or final custody determinations, others do not. Moreover, a number of state custody
statutes make no mention of domestic violence as a factor to be considered in making custody awards. Of equal concern are joint custody provisions that do not take into account how domestic violence puts both the
survivor and her child/children at further risk. See the section of this Legal Resource Kit entitled

“State Custody Laws That Consider Domestic Violence” for a complete list of custody statutes in the different states. Indeed, for the battered woman, the custody and visitation processes often become a means by which a batterer furthers his abuse through attempts to continue to maintain control. Most forms of shared custody and visitation involve some type of proximity or contact between the battered woman and her abuser during the exchange of the child between parents. During these exchanges battered women are often subjected to verbal and physical harassment, stalking, assault, and threats,including the threat of child kidnapping.4 Women who deny visitation or who go to court to request a modification or supervised visitation in order to protect themselves and their children are frequently accused of trying to alienate the
child from the abusive parent.

                               III. Myths and Facts About Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The unfair treatment of battered women in custody disputes results from myths about the impact of domestic violence on women and children, as well as the widespread failures of civil protection agencies in taking women’s experiences seriously. Here are some of the common myths that persist:

Myth: It is easy for a battered woman to leave her abuser or to stop the abuse.
Fact: Fear of losing her children, pressures from religious communities to stay in the relationship, financial
dependence, the insensitivity and unresponsiveness of the justice system, and the escalation of abuse that occurs when women try to leave make it difficult for a woman to separate from her abuser. Even when a battered woman appears to “just accept” the violence, she is often making different attempts to avoid and stop the violence. Such attempts include complying with (or anticipating) a batterer’s demands, demanding that the batterer stop hisabuse, orchestrating the environment (e.g., keeping children quiet), leaving the home, calling the police, and fighting back with or without weapons.5

Myth: Battered women who take their children and flee an abusive relationship are safe from further harm.
Fact: Studies find that domestic violence escalates when battered women leave their abusers, and that terminating a relationship results in a greater risk of fatality for battered women and their children.6 This
abuse takes the form of threats and actual violence to the mother and her children. Further, women and their
children risk additional (and sometimes fatal) harm during court ordered visitation or joint custody
arrangements. This occurs as many batterers discover that the children are a means of continuing the abuse of
a former partner. Five percent of abusive fathers threaten to kill their children's mother during visitation
with their children and 25 percent of abusive fathers threaten to harm their children during visitation.7

Myth: Domestic violence between parents does not impact their children.
Fact: While most mothers in abusive relationships take precautions to shield their children from the harmful effects of violence, it is extremely difficult for them to protect their children from witnessing or experiencing abuse. It is estimated that 87% of children who come from homes plagued by domestic violence actually witness the abuse.8 Most children are adversely impacted by the abuse, although how they are affected
may vary. Research suggests that child witnesses of domestic violence are more likely than other children to
feel helpless, fearful, depressed, and anxious. They suffer both emotional and physical developmental
problems, and are more likely than children who do not grow up in homes plagued by domestic violence to
suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.9 Many experts believe that child witnesses of domestic
violence internalize the fear and trauma that results from witnessing violence, and are themselves likely to
become perpetrators of violence in the future.10

Myth: Abuse of one parent by another parent does not mean that the abuser poses any harm or danger to the children.
Fact: While research results vary, studies have found that child abuse occurs in 25% to 70% of the families that experience domestic violence.11 Further evidence linking domestic violence to the heightened risk of harm to children can be found in a report to the Florida Governor’s
Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence, which identified over 300 domestic violence fatalities in 1994; 73 of those victims were children. Most of the children were killed by their biological fathers. In some cases, male abusers killed their entire families, including themselves.12

Myth: Batterers who seek custody do so out of love for their children and a desire to be good parents.
Fact: Abusive fathers continue to abuse and exert control over women after separation by vigorously pursuing custody of the couple’s children.13 Batterers are twice as likely as non-physically abusive fathers to seek sole custody of their children,14 and frequently refuse to pay child support as a way to continue the financial abuse and dependence of the mother.15

Myth: Battered women raise the issue of abuse in an attempt to turn their children against the other parent in order to gain sole or primary custody.
Fact: This allegation is often leveled at women who are simply trying to make judges aware of separation violence, their children’s concerns, and other abuses by the batterer. These assertions may be in the form of so-called “syndromes” like “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS) or “Divorced Mother Syndrome.”16 Regrettably, however, judges, guardians ad litem, and court-appointed custody evaluators often rely on these theories to discount the very real fears and concerns that battered women and their children bring before the court.17See the section in this Legal Resource Kit on the “A Guide to Parental Alienation Syndrome” for information on how to address these assertions

(212) 226-1066

Ms Magazine article about family court punishing women

How Family Courts Punish Abused Women

May 17, 2010 by R. Dianne Bartlow


“The dirtiest little secret in America” is that family courts, in deciding custody, often wreak devastation upon mothers and children.

So argue Mo Therese Hannah and Barry Goldstein, editors of the new anthology Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody, which brings to light what many familiar with the family court system have long known: Designed to dispense justice, the system has become instead “an instrument of oppression,” particularly in cases involving domestic violence.

To find a chilling example of what the editors mean, we need look no further than the recent murder of infant Wyatt Garcia, reported in the Daily Beast:

Wyatt Garcia was born in April 2009. Nine months later, he was shot and killed by his father, who then turned the gun on himself.

Proof That Only A Sicko Would Write about, Believe Or Use Parental Alienation Syndrome

This is researched information, compiled by attorneys, therapists and victims. If you are truly intent on using Mr. Gardner's Parental Ailenation Syndrome against someone in court, perhaps you might want to think twice about what it is you are truly saying. Unless of course your a pedophile, then the only thig you need is prison and castration. These are the facts. These are statements made by Mr. Gardner. Now that you are informed there is no reason to use this theory. And if you still choose to then obviously, you shouldnt be parenting any child.     


               Overview of Dr. Richard Gardner's Opinions on Pedophilia and Child Sexual Abuse


Richard A. Gardner, M.D., is the creator of the creator and main proponent for Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) theory. Prior to his suicide, Gardner was an unpaid part-time clinical professor of child psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University . He made his money mainly as a forensic expert.

PAS was developed by Dr Richard Gardner in 1985 based on his personal observations and work as an expert witness, often on behalf of fathers accused of molesting their children. Gardner asserted that PAS is very common and he saw manifestations of this syndrome in over 90% of the custody conflicts he evaluated--even when abuse allegations are not raised (Gardner, 1987, p. 67).1 Gardner (September 6, 1993) claimed that PAS is "a disorder of children, arising almost exclusively in child-custody disputes, in which one parent (usually the mother) programs the child to hate the other parent (usually the father)."2

Gardner 's theory of PAS has had a profound effect on how the court systems in our country handle allegations of child sexual abuse, especially during divorce. Gardner has authored more than 250 books and articles with advice directed towards mental health professionals, the legal community, divorcing adults and their children. Gardner 's private publishing company, Creative Therapeutics, published his many books, cassettes, and videotapes.3 Information available on Gardner 's website indicates that he has been certified to testify as an expert in approximately 400 cases, both criminal and civil, in more than 25 states.4 Gardner 's work continues to serve as a basis for decisions affecting the welfare of children in courtrooms across the nation. He is considered a leading authority in family courts and has even been described as the "guru" of child custody evaluations.4

Because Gardner 's PAS theory is based on his clinical observations--not scientific data--it must be understood in the context of his extreme views concerning women, pedophilia and child sexual abuse.


                                                  Gardner on pedophilia

The vast majority ("probably over 95%") of all sex abuse allegations are valid.

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp. 7, 140).

"There is a bit of pedophilia in every one of us."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 118)

"Pedophilia has been considered the norm by the vast majority of individuals in the history of the world."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 592-3)

Similarly, "intrafamilial pedophilia (that is, incest) is widespread and ... is probably an ancient tradition"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

"It is because our society overreacts to it [pedophilia] that children suffer."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 594-5)

Pedophilia may enhance the survival of the human species by serving "procreative purposes."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 24-5)

Pedophilia "is a widespread and accepted practice among literally billions of people."

Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, (p. 93)

In addition, Gardner proposes that many different types of human sexual behavior, including pedophilia, sexual sadism, necrophilia (sex with corpses), zoophilia (sex with animals), coprophilia (sex involving defecation), can be seen as having species survival value and thus do "not warrant being excluded from the list of the `so-called natural forms of human sexual behavior.'"

See, Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 18-32)

                                     Gardner on the sexual aggressiveness of children

Gardner suggests that children want to have sex with adults and may seduce them.

Some children experience " high sexual urges in early infancy. " "There is good reason to believe that most, if not all, children have the capacity to reach orgasm at the time they are born."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 15)



Children are naturally sexual and may initiate sexual encounters by "seducing" the adult .

Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p. 93).

If the sexual relationship is discovered, " the child is likely to fabricate so that the adult will be blamed for the initiation ."

Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p. 93).

"The normal child exhibits a wide variety of sexual fantasies and behaviors, many of which would be labeled as 'sick' or 'perverted' if exhibited by adults"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 12)

Sex abuse is not necessarily traumatic; the determinant as to whether sexual molestation will be traumatic to the child, is the social attitude toward these encounters.

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 670-71)



                Gardner on therapy with children who are sexually abused by their father

 Keep the child connected to the abuser

Special care should be taken not alienate the child from the molesting parent. The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapprochement with the family have proven futile."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 537)

The child should be told that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. "The sexual exploitation has to be put on the negative list, but positives as well must be appreciated"

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 572)

 Tell the child that sexual abuse by a father is normal

Older children may be helped to appreciate that sexual encounters between an adult and a child are not universally considered to be reprehensible acts. The child might be told about other societies in which such behavior was and is considered normal. The child might be helped to appreciate the wisdom of Shakespeare's Hamlet, who said, "Nothing's either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 549)

"In such discussions the child has to be helped to appreciate that we have in our society an exaggeratedly punitive and moralistic attitude about adult-child sexual encounters"

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 572).

         Gardner on mothers who discover that their husband is sexually abusing their child

Gardner blames the father's abuse on the mother, who he faults for not fulfilling her husband sexually. He suggests that therapists should help mother's of incest victims achieve sexual gratification.

• Discourage litigation.

• Encourage her to stay with her husband (the abuser)

• Blame her and the daughter for the sexual abuse by the father

"It may be that one of the reasons the daughter turned toward the father is the impairment of the child's relationship with the mother" (pp. 579-80)
Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 585)

• Help her get over her anger at her husband for sexually abusing their child.

"If the mother has reacted to the abuse in a hysterical fashion, or used it as an excuse for a campaign of denigration of the father, then the therapist does well to try and "sober her up".... Her hysterics ... will contribute to the child's feeling that a heinous crime has been committed and will thereby lessen the likelihood of any kind of rapproachment with the father. One has to do everything possible to help her put the "crime" in proper perspective. She has to be helped to appreciate that in most societies in the history of the world, such behavior was ubiquitous [i.e., everywhere], and this is still the case."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 576-7)

"Perhaps she can be helped to appreciate that in the history of the world his behavior has probably been more common than the restrained behavior of those who do not sexually abuse their children."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585)

• Encourage her to become more sexually responsive to her husband.

"Her increased sexuality may lessen the need for her husband to return to their daughter for sexual gratification."

"Verbal statements about the pleasures of orgastic response are not likely to prove very useful. One has to encourage experiences, under proper situations of relaxation, which will enable her to achieve the goal of orgastic response."

"One must try to overcome any inhibition she may have with regard to [the use of vibrators]."

"Her own diminished guilt over masturbation will make it easier for her to encourage the practice in her daughter, if this is warranted. And her increased sexuality may lessen the need for her husband to return to their daughter for sexual gratification."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 585

                                 Gardner on fathers who sexually abuse their children

• Tell him what he did his normal

"He has to be helped to appreciate that, even today, it [pedophilia] is a widespread and accepted practice among literally billions of people. He has to appreciate that in our Western society especially, we take a very punitive and moralistic attitude toward such inclinations. He has had a certain amount of back (sic) luck with regard to the place and time he was born with regard to social attitudes toward pedophilia."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 593)

He has had bad luck with regard to the place and time he was born with regard to social attitudes toward pedophilia. However, these are not reasons to condemn himself.

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

• Keep him in the home

The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapprochement with the family have proven futile"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

• Help him protect himself

"He must learn to control himself if he is to protect himself from the Draconian punishments meted out to those in our society who act out their pedophilic impulses."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill , NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585-592)

• Help him forget about it

Therapy with the father should not be spent focusing on the primary problem (I.e., sexual molestation). Instead, therapy should be spent "talking about other things" as the goal of therapy is "to help people forget about their problems"

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585-592)



            Gardner on how society should respond to the widespread victimization of children

•Take a more sympathetic view toward pedophilia

"One of the steps that society must take to deal with the present hysteria is to 'come off it' and take a more realistic attitude toward pedophilic behavior." (p. 120)

"The Draconian punishments meted out to pedophiles .go far beyond what I consider to be the gravity of the crime." (p. 118)

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.

•Abolish mandated reporting of child sexual abuse.

•Do away with immunity for reporters of child abuse.

•Create federally-funded programs to assist those claiming to have been falsely accused of child sexual abuse.

Gardner, R.A. (1995). Written testimony on HR3588 - Proposed revision of the child abuse prevention and treatment act (CAPTA) (Public Law 93-247).

• Keep pedophiles in the community

The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapproachment with the family have proven futile"

Pedophiles who abuse children outside of the home should first be given the opportunity for community treatment. "If that fails then and only then should some kind of forced incarceration be considered"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

Gardner on Child abuse hysteria

Child abuse allegations are the "third-greatest wave of hysteria" the nation has seen, following the Salem witch trials and the McCarthyite persecution of leftists.

Gardner, R.A. (1993, February 22). Modern witch hunt--child abuse charges. The Wall Street Journal, p. A10.

"We are currently living in dangerous times, similar to Nazi Germany. Sexual abuse hysteria is omnipresent."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. xxv)

Who is to Blame for "Child Abuse Hysteria"?

• People who voice negative feelings against pedophiles

"During their harangues against the 'perverts' who are the objects of their scorn, they often rise to a level of excitation that can readily be seen as sexual. . . . Psychological, such individuals are ever fighting to repress their own unacceptable pedophilic impulses, which are continually pressing for release."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp. 30-31).

• The legal system - including judges

"There is no question that abuse cases are "turn ons" for the wide variety of individuals involved in them, the accuser(s), the prosecutors, the lawyers, the judges , the evaluators, the psychologists, the reporters, the readers of the newspapers, and everyone else involved - except for the falsely accused and the innocent victim .. Everyone is getting their 'jollies, ."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 31).

"Judges . too may have repressed pedophilic impulses over which there is suppression, repression, and guilt. Inquiry into the details of the case provides voyeuristic and vicarious gratifications .. Incarcerating the alleged perpetrator may serve psychologically to obliterate the judge's own projected pedophilic impulses."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 107)

• Sexually inhibited mothers

"The mother . is . psychologically gratifying [her own sexually inhibited needs] with the visual imagery that the sex abuse allegation provides."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp. 36-37).

• Greedy parents

"Many are victims of their greed, which is so enormous that they blind themselves to the psychological traumas they are subjecting their children to in the service of winning lawsuits that promise them enormous wealth."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p 43).

• Judeo-Christian principles

"It is of interest that of all the ancient peoples it may very well be that the Jews were the only ones who were punitive toward pedophiles.. Our present overreaction to pedophilia represents an exaggeration of Judeo-Christian principles and is a significant factor operative in Western society's atypicality with regard to such activities

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 46-7).


                                               For more information see:

Dallam, S. J. (1998). Dr. Richard Gardner: A review of his theories and opinions on atypical sexuality, pedophilia, and treatment issues. Treating Abuse Today , 8(1), 15-23.

1.Gardner, R. A. (1987).The parental alienation syndrome and the differentiation between fabricated and genuine child sex abuse . Creskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.

2.Gardner, R.A. (1993, September 6) Dr. Gardner defends work on sex abuse. National Law Journal, p. 16.

3.Sherman, Rorie. (1993, August 16) Gardner 's Law: "A Controversial Psychiatrist and Influential Witness Leads the Backlash against Child Sex Abuse 'Hysteria.'" The National Law Journal , pp. 1, 45-46.

4. See Gardner 's CV on his website (available at http://www.rgardner.com/pages/cvqual.html). See also: People v. Fortin, 706 N.Y.S.2d 611, 612 (Crim. Ct. 2000). Fortin was a criminal sex abuse case in which Dr. Gardner offered to testify on behalf of the accused molester concerning PAS and the credibility of the complaining witness. The court refused to permit his testimony because of a failure to establish general acceptance of PAS within the professional community.)

5. Quinn, K.M. (1991). Family evaluation in child custody mediation, arbitration, and litigation (Book Review). Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law , 19(1), 101-02.



            Return to Page: Abuse and Custody Disputes: Scientific and Legal Issues

Richard Gardner and Parental Alienation Syndrome

The debate rages on...

In Death, Can He Survive?

Psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner’s theory - used by parents in child custody battles - gained prominence. And critics.
                           


                                 By Jamie Talan, Newsday.com, July 1, 2003

In life, Richard A. Gardner was known for single-handedly devising a psychiatric syndrome that became widely used in courtrooms by parents battling over child custody.

Gardner died in May, and only time can determine his legacy - whether the label he created, parental alienation syndrome, can withstand critics now that he can no longer defend it.

Most mental health professionals have an opinion about Gardner's creation - and it's not generally flattering.

"This is junk science," said Dr. Paul Fink, a professor of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association in Arlington, Va. "He invented a concept and talked as if it were proven science. It's not."

Gardner developed the syndrome, known as PAS, almost 20 years ago, contending that

a child has been alienated from one parent - usually the father - when the other parent makes charges of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

PAS appears to be used only in custody battles during divorces.
Gardner's online biography says he testified in about 400 cases in 25 states. Psychologists and psychiatrists who trained under him or embraced his theory also have offered testimony in such cases.

Most often, it is a father who hired Gardner or another psychiatrist in response to the mother's allegations that their child or children had been abused, Fink said. The psychiatrist then would label the mother a "parental alienator" and urge the court to prevent her from being with the children - the ones diagnosed with PAS.

But most mental health professionals say the label doesn't meet the definition of a psychiatric illness.

It's not found in psychiatric textbooks on diagnoses. In the late 1980s, when psychiatrists were revising the profession's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was leading the effort and is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in Manhattan, said Gardner, also affiliated with Columbia, asked whether PAS could be included.

"It would never be taken seriously in DSM," Spitzer said in an interview. "It isn't a mental disorder."

Dr. David Shaffer, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Columbia, said the controversy triggered several in-house reviews of Gardner's ideas. (Gardner had a nonpaid clinical appointment on Columbia's voluntary faculty.) Reviews found he "didn't do formal research."

Nevertheless, he defended Gardner's right to create a syndrome.

"Most of medicine is not based on formal research but clinical observation," he said. He saw Gardner as a "contrarian. [...] He liked getting a rise out of people."

Fink said the practical effect of introducing Gardner's theory in custody cases is that the issues of abuse are pushed aside.

Harvard's Dr. Eli Newberger, an assistant professor of pediatrics and an expert on child abuse, said he's been called on by state child protection agencies to evaluate ambiguous disclosures of abuse in divorce cases and believes that PAS deflects any real investigation into such allegations.

At the center of the storm, Newberger said, is Gardner and his theory.

"This is an atrocious theory with no science to back it up," he said. "This so-called diagnosis has been used to steer clear of the children's needs."

"There are lots of people who alienate their partners during a divorce," Fink said. "But it is not a syndrome, a disease or a disorder."

Joyanna Silberg, a Baltimore psychologist and strong opponent of the theory, said that Gardner used a questionnaire to determine whether a parent fit the profile of a sex offender - then used the results to show that allegations of child abuse are lies. But the questionnaire is "far from valid," said child sex abuse expert Robert Prentky of the nonprofit Justice Resource Institute in Bridgewater, Mass. Scales that Prentky has developed to diagnose sex offenders have been tested and accepted by the profession. "There is no science to back up Gardner's tests," he said.

Gardner, who was 72 at his death, trained in the heyday of psychoanalysis in New York, the late 1950s and early '60s. He then served a two-year stint in the Army as director of child psychiatry for a U.S. Army hospital in Germany, and subsequently settled in Cresskill, N.J., where he began testifying in child custody cases, according to an entry on his Web site: "Qualifications for providing court testimony."

That he wrote a popular children's book on divorce in 1969, followed by a book for parents, helped bolster his role in custody cases.

According to Donna LaTourett, Gardner's editor at his own publishing company, Creative Therapeutics, by the 1980s he noticed that more children were having "strong objections over one parent for no good reasons." He coined the term PAS in 1985 and listed eight primary signs and symptoms.

In 1992, he self-published a book about the syndrome. Fathers' groups heralded his work. Women's organizations bashed it. After a period of observation, professional mental health organizations tried to discredit it.

Gardner had a growing group of followers and clients, mostly men. He promoted his theory around the world and built a practice as a court-appointed psychiatric evaluator and paid expert witness. Detractors say he also used his affiliation with Columbia to bolster his status.

There are no statistics on how many children have been characterized as having PAS.

"I do believe that there is a phenomenon of children who turn against the parent for no good reason," said Richard Warshak, a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "Children are influenced by their parents."

He is a proponent of Gardner's theory and says that his death won't stop the controversial diagnosis. He agreed that use of "syndrome" may "strengthen confidence in the expert's testimony and the validity of it" and said mental health professionals are trying to shorten the term to "parental alienation."

"Yes, he said things that were very provocative," said Warshak, author of "Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex" (Regan Books). "Some of the stuff is outrageous, speculative and outright contrary to the evidence."

But the court's acceptance of the diagnosis without the psychiatric profession's endorsement is "dangerous," Newberger stressed.

During a hearing in Nassau County in 2000, Gardner was called to testify about PAS. According to the transcript of the hearing - called to evaluate scientific evidence supporting the theory - Gardner offered this definition of PAS:

"The programming of the child by one parent into a campaign of denigration directed against the other."

"Courts cannot wait the 25 years or more that it would take to conduct such studies [to validate a syndrome]," Gardner told the court. " ... Neither can people who have been accused of sex abuse wait for these results."

The court ruled that there was not convincing scientific evidence that PAS was a psychiatric syndrome.

But it has endured - perhaps, said Silberg, the psychologist in Baltimore, because it is rare in family courts for lawyers or judges

"to question the expert testimony of a psychiatrist with a long list of seemingly impressive credentials and dozens of professional-looking books and journal articles."

PAS "is a defense lawyer's dream," said Richard Ducote, a New Orleans, La., lawyer who has spent a decade fighting Gardner and his supporters in court.

Last year, Norma Perez of Elgin, Ill., was suing for divorce and testified that she worried that her husband's history of alcoholism might endanger the welfare of her daughter during visits. Her husband's attorneys began to talk about parental alienation syndrome and hired Gardner, who eventually testified that Perez was a parental alienator.

"He never interviewed me or my daughter," said Perez, 44, who lost custody of her daughter and was not permitted to see her for eight weeks after the judge's ruling. She now gets to see her daughter every other weekend. Her lawyers have appealed the decision.

But fathers' rights activists see Gardner's theory as a boon.

"Richard Gardner gave science to the anecdotes of alienation," said Warren Farrell, author of "Father and Child Reunion" and a board member of the National Congress for Fathers and Children. He says that PAS "is an attempt to distinguish between false accusations and real abuse."

Farrell added that parental alienation itself is "probably the most insidious form of child abuse" and charged that many women allege abuse during a custody battle to curtail visitation with the father.

But others say that in many of these cases there are confirmed reports to back up the allegations of abuse. However, so many women have lost custody battles when PAS is used that lawyers are beginning to advise them not to make allegations of abuse, Silberg said.

Gardner's son, Andrew, said that his father's death came when he was at the height of his career, when he "had to turn down case after case."

His father had undergone three foot surgeries, the last of which triggered a disorder called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which caused sharp pain in his legs. He was taking pain medications, Andrew Gardner said.

On the last weekend in May, his pain out of control, Gardner took an overdose to end his life. He sent an e-mail to his office about the suicide.

But he awoke from the drug stupor and killed himself with a knife, said his son, who added that the suicide had no connection to his father's work.

But that work - and that syndrome - has left hundreds of women questioning its value.

"We are exhausted," said Lauren Smith, 52, who lost custody of her daughter in 1993. She told the court that her husband, Marshall Krause, a criminal attorney in Marin County in California, had a violent temper. He used PAS to gain custody of their daughter, Alanna, and Smith was denied visitation.

In 1995, according to court records, a teacher reported to police that Krause physically abused Alanna at school. A court reversed custody upon evidence that Alanna's father had been physically violent.

Alanna, now a student at Northwestern University, has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleging that she suffered years of abuse at the hands of her father.

Idelle Clarke knows firsthand how damaging an untested theory can be. "Our children are his legacy," said Clarke, a Californian whose ex-husband was twice identified and charged as a child abuser by Children and Family Services. But Clarke was characterized as an alienator and lost custody to the father.

"What's a child to think?" she asked. "I will not give up."

The PAS label "has lived a lot longer than the data that supports it," added Alan Scheflin, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School. "I expect people to come up with crackpot theories. "But then I expect scientists to do their jobs."

           Parental Alienation Syndrome - What Professionals Need To Know Part 1

                                                                               by Erika Rivera Ragland1 & Hope Fields


Update - Volume 16, Number 6, 2003
Part 1 of 2

Introduction

The late Dr. Richard Gardner, a clinical professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, coined Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in 1985, after noticing a “disorder” among patients within his private practice. The “disorder” involves one parent alienating the child against the other parent typically in the context of a child-custody dispute. Dr. Gardner defined PAS as follows:

[t]he parental alienation syndrome is a childhood disorder that arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. When true parental abuse and/or neglect is present, the child’s animosity may be justified and so the parental alienation syndrome explanation for the child’s hostility is not applicable.3

Absent from this definition is specific reference to sexual abuse allegations, but these are often the “denigration” to which Dr. Gardner referred in his definition. In this context, PAS becomes a litigation tool for the accused parent to discredit the validity of the child’s sex abuse allegations by mounting an attack against the “inducing parent.”

Although PAS may be hailed as a “syndrome” (a group of symptoms that occur together and constitute a recognizable abnormality), in fact it is the product of anecdotal evidence gathered from Dr. Gardner’s own practice.4 The purpose of this article is to briefly discuss the major premises upon which PAS is based, and to identify key weaknesses. Part 2 of this Update considers case law and strategies for meeting PAS defenses.

PAS is based primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical research.

1. PAS Presupposes a High Rate of False Accusations in Custody Cases

The theory of PAS is based in part on the notion that, within custody disputes, there is a high incidence of false abuse allegations. Dr. Gardner theorized that allegations arising within the context of a custody dispute have a “high likelihood of being false,”5 and went so far as to state that he believed “the vast majority of allegations in this category [divorce cases with custody disputes] are false.” 6 To the contrary, the available research suggests that false allegation rates are not significantly high. For example, a 1990 study by Thoennes and Tjaden evaluated 9,000 divorces in 12 states7 and found that sexual abuse allegations were made in less than 2 percent of the contested divorces involving child custody. Within this group, it appears false allegations occurred in approximately 5% to 8% of cases.8 This study is one of the most comprehensive and least subject to bias and sampling problems, since its sample is so large and representative of the population of those divorcing with custody and visitation disputes.9

2. PAS Presumes a Disadvantage to Women in Child Custody Determinations

Another underlying principle of PAS is that women more often than men resort to making false allegations of abuse in disputed custody proceedings. The theory is that mothers encourage false accusations in order to obtain financial or strategic advantage during custody determinations. 10 The reasoning behind this theory seems to be that, in most jurisdictions, custody determination standards have changed from the “tender years” presumption—a standard which favored women obtaining custody of young children—to the “best interests of the child.”11

This hypothesis ignores the fact that most sex offenders are indeed men.12 It also fails to account for the possibility that the divorce process might liberate an abused child from the heavy burden associated with keeping a secret like sexual abuse,13 or that post-divorce living conditions or circumstances might render a child vulnerable to sexual abuse.14

Although the tender year’s presumption which favored women is largely gone, women are not disadvantaged under the new standard. The “best interests” standard removes gender presumptions altogether from custody determinations.15 It should be noted that some legal scholars suspect a gender bias within PAS theory itself.16

Other Weaknesses: Lack of Peer Review and Recognition by DSM-IV

Dr. Gardner mostly self-published and thus did not generally subject his theory to the peer review process.17 Moreover, PAS is not recognized by any professional associations,18 including the American Psychiatric Association. PAS is also not included within the DSM-IV.

It is also worth noting that Dr. Gardner often expressed disdain for child abuse professionals, labeling them “validators,” theorizing that greed and desire for increased business prompted some sexual abuse allegations, and speculating that parents and professionals alike made some false allegations because “all of us have some pedophilia within us.”19

Conclusion

At best, PAS is a nondiagnostic “syndrome” that only explains the behavior of the child and the mother when there is a known false allegation.20 It is a courtroom diagnosis befitting adversaries involved in legal sparring. It is not capable of lending itself to hard data or inclusion in the forthcoming DSM-V.

In short, PAS is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law.

Prosecutors and other child abuse professionals should educate themselves, their colleagues and clients when
confronting PAS in the legal realm. Part 2 of this newsletter will address the case law on this subject. For more in-depth and comprehensive treatment of these issues, contact the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1 Staff Attorney, American Prosecutors Research Institute, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

2 Staff Attorney, American Prosecutors Research Institute, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

3 Richard A. Gardner, M.D., “Does the DSM-IV Have Equivalents for the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Diagnosis?” American Journal of Family Therapy, 31(1):1-21; also available, http://www.rgardner.com/refs/ar12.html.

4 Richard A. Gardner, M.D., The Parental Alienation Syndrome, at 59 (1992) (noting in the introduction of this book that he termed the disorder PAS after seeing children in his practice whom he believed were “brainwashed by one parent against the other”).

5 Gardner, 1991, p. 4.

6 See Kathleen Coulborn Faller, The Parental Alienation Syndrome: What is it and What Data Support it? Child Maltreatment, Vol. 3, No. 2, May 1998.

7 Thoennes & Tjaden, The Extent, Nature and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegation in Custody/Visitation Disputes, Child Abuse and Neglect 1990, 14:151-163.

8 Id.

9 Kathleen Coulborn Faller, David L. Corwin & Erna Olafson, Literature Review: Research on False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce, APSAC Advisor 1993, 6(3), page 9.

10 Richard Gardner, M.D., The Parental Alienation Syndrome, p. 62, 1992.

11 Richard Gardner, M.D., The Parental Alienation Syndrome, p. 61-62, 1992.

12 Faller, Corwin & Olafson, supra note 9, at 10.

13 See Meredith Sherman Fahn, Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse in Custody Disputes: Getting to the Truth of the Matter, Family Law Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 2, Summer 1991, page 203 (quoting Sink, Studies of True and False Allegations: A Critical Review, Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation Cases 37, 38 (American Bar Association) (E. Nicholson ed. 1988)). For more information regarding the dynamics of sexual abuse, contact the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse for materials regarding Dr. Roland Summit’s “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome.”

14 Id. See also Robin Fretwell Wilson, Children at Risk: The Sexual Exploitation of Female Children After Divorce, 86 Cornell L. Rev. 251, 262-263 (2001).

15 See Ex Parte Devine, 398 So.2d 686 (Ala. 1981) (discussing the origin of the tender years presumption and its constitutional infirmities; ultimately abandoning it in favor of the best interests of the child standard).

16 See, e.g., Cheri L. Wood, The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Dangerous Aura of Reliability, 27 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1367, 1372-73 (1994); Kathleen Niggemyer, Comment, Conceiving the Lawyer as Creative Problem Solver: Parental Alienation Syndrome is Open Heart Surgery: It Needs More than a Band-Aid to Fix It, 34 Cal. W. L. Rev. 567, 576 (1998); Priscilla Read Chenoweth, Don’t Blame the Messenger in Child Sex Abuse Cases, N.J. L.J., April 19, 1993, at 17 (finding that “Gardner’s extravagant and conclusory language, and his obvious bias against women, should be enough to give any judge or lawyer pause before accepting his invitation to disbelieve and even punish the messenger [i.e., the parent reporting abuse by the other parent].” See also Marie Laing, For the Sake of the Children: Preventing Reckless New Laws, 16 Can. J. Fam. L. 229, 274 (1999) (concluding, “much of Gardner’s writing is strongly anti-woman. He states that the claims of women who refuse joint mediation due to violence are somewhere ‘between fabrication and delusion’”). For direct quotes from Dr. Gardner, refer to his 1992 book, The Parental Alienation Syndrome, p. 122.

17 See Cheri L. Wood, supra, note 16.

18 Id.

19 Gardner (1991), page 26. He wrote, “Each time the accusers make an accusation, they are likely to be forming an internal visual image of the sexual encounter. With each mental replay, the accusers gratify the desire to be engaging in the activities that the perpetrators are involved in in the visual imagery.” See also Faller, supra note 6, at 104-105.

20 See Faller, supra note 6, at 111.

More Ignorance On The Part Of Father's Rights

Now if this isn't blatently based on Mr. Gardner's PAS, I dont know what is. If you would like to comment or read the truth of what this group truly maintains, check out this link below
                                             http://www.parentalalienationischildabuse.com/



How Removing a Dad's Love from His Child's Life

Through Parental Alienation Syndrome By "Malicious Mothers"

and Malicious Mothers Syndrome are Destroying Children's Lives

and Children's Hopes for a Normal Life


Abusive behaviors used by "mothers" lawyers and the Courts, and by anti-child "feminists" that abuse the Laws across this land in Divorce Related issues.

Simply having a vagina, two ovaries, one uterus, and two breasts no longer qualifies that person as the better parent for courts to automatically award her custody of the child/children of divorce.

Dad's are quite capable of providing the love, nurturing, care and support children of divorce need. Why is it that dad's still only get awarded primary custody in less than 20% of all divorces?

Why are our courts, attorney's and judges still living like we're in the 19th century through the "automatic" awarding of children to the "mother?"

These individuals have caused major psychological and emotional trauma on the innocent children of marriages that have ended in divorce, and prevent a loving Dad that wants to co-parent his child/children, but are prevented and thwarted due to the "evil" inflicted by an un-forgiving ex-wife and "mother" on their children.

Women have always been "automatically" awarded custody of children in divorce cases. They have their "equal rights."

When do the innocent children and loving dad's get "equal rights" and custody, and when are the courts going to wake up to the serious emotional and psychological harm that is being done to America's children of divorce, by these "malicious mothers"?

It's time for America to join the 21st century and for courts to start awarding custody to Dad's in at least 50% of all divorce cases where each parent is equally qualified, and STOP ending their discrimination against men and their children!

Divorce-Related

Malicious Mother Syndrome

by Ira Daniel Turket, PhD


With the increasing commonality of divorce involving children, a pattern of abnormal behavior has emerged that has received little attention. The present paper defines the Divorce Related Malicious Mother Syndrome. Specific criteria's are provided with abundant clinical examples. Given the lack of scientific data available on the disorder, issues of classification, etiology, treatment, and prevention appear ripe for investigation.

                                                      INTRODUCTION

A divorced man gains custody of his children and his ex-wife burns down his home. A woman in a custody battle buys a cat for her offspring because her divorcing husband is highly allergic to cats. A mother forces her children to sleep in a car to "prove" their father has bankrupted them. The actions illustrate a pattern of abnormal behavior that has emerged as the divorce rate involving children has grown.

Today, half of all marriages will end in divorce (Beal and Hochman, 1991). The number of children involved in divorce has grown dramatically (e.g., Hetherington and Arastah, 1988) as well. While the majority of such cases are "settled" from a legal perspective, outside the courtroom the battle continues.

The media have spent considerable effort raising public awareness about the problem posed by divorced fathers who do not provide court-ordered child support payments. Hodges (1991) has noted that less than 20 percent of divorced fathers provide child support payments three years after their divorce. Research on the decline of women’s economic status following (e.g., Hernandez, 1988; Laosa, 1988) has contributed to recent legislation to address the "Deadbeat Dad" problem.

While the media correctly portray the difficulties imposed upon women and children by the "Deadbeat Dad" phenomenon, the cameras have yet to capture the warfare waged by a select group of mothers against child support paying, law-abiding fathers. Everyday, attorneys and therapists are exposed to horror stories in which vicious behaviors are lodged against innocent fathers and children. Unfortunately, there are no scientific data on the subject. Similarly, the clinical literature has relatively ignored the problem..

A noted exception can be found in the clinical writings of Gardner (1987, 1989) who has provided excellent descriptions of the Parental Alienation Syndrome. Here, a custodial parent successfully engages in a variety of maneuvers to alienate the child from the non-residential parent. Once successfully manipulated, the child becomes "…preoccupied with deprecation and criticism of a parent-denigration that is unjustified and/or exaggerated" (Gardner, 1989 p. 226). In the typical case of Parental Alienation Syndrome, both mother and child engage in an array of abnormal actions against the father. Gardner views "brainwashing" as a concept "too narrow" (Gardner, 1989) to capture the psychological manipulation involved in turning a child against his/her non-residential parent.

While Gardner’s pioneering descriptions of the Parental Alienation Syndrome provide an important contribution to our understanding of divorce-related child-involved hostilities, the present paper is concerned with a more global abnormality. As noted in the examples provided in the beginning of this manuscript, serious attacks on divorcing husbands take place which are beyond merely manipulating the children. Further, these actions include a willingness by some mothers to violate societal law. Finally, there are mothers who persistently engage in malicious behaviors designed to alienate their offspring from the father, despite being unable to successfully cause alienation. In sum, these cases do not meet the criteria for Parental Alienation Syndrome. Nevertheless, they portray a serious abnormality.

The purpose of the present paper is to define and illustrate this more global abnormality with the hope of generating increased scientific and clinical investigation of this problem.


                                                             DEFINITION

The present section provides a beginning definition of the Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, which has been derived from clinical and legal cases. As in all initial proposals, it is anticipated that future research will lead to greater refinement in the taxonomic criteria.

The proposed definition encompasses four major criteria, as follows:

1. A mother who unjustifiably punishes her divorcing or divorced husband by:

a. Attempting to alienate their mutual children from the father

b. Involving others in malicious actions against the father

c. Engaging in excessive litigation


2. The mother specifically attempts to deny her child(ren)

a. Regular uninterrupted visitation with the father

b. Uninhibited telephone access to the father

c. Paternal participation in the child(ren)’s school life and extracurricular activities


3. The pattern is pervasive and includes malicious acts towards the husband including:

a. Lying to the children

b. Lying to others

c. Violations of law

4. The disorder is not specifically due to another mental disorder, although a separate-mental disorder may co-exist.



                                             CLINICAL ILLUSTRATIONS

In this section, I will provide clinical illustrations for each criterion using the reference numbers provided above. As criteria 1-3 are behavior specific to the Malicious Mother Syndrome, I will provide a series of clinical examples. The fourth criterion which addresses the relationship of the proposed syndrome to other mental disorders, will be discussed more generally.


Parental Alienation

Is CHILD ABUSE!

www.ParentalAlienationIsChildAbuse.com

   Criterion 1A: Alienating the Children

The range of actions taken by a mother to attempt to alienate her children from their father is impressive. For example:

One mother lied to her children that she could no longer buy food because their father had spent all of their money on women in topless bars.

A doctor’s wife forced her 10-year-old son to apply for federally funded free school lunches to delude the boy that his "daddy has made us poor."

A woman who for years was very close to the children in a custody battle, was asked by their mother to give up neutrality and join her campaign against the father to "dance on his grave." When the friend refused to give up her neutrality, the mother falsely informed her children that their father was having an affair with this woman.

These behaviors, if successful, could lead a child to not only hate the father, but perhaps go years without seeing him. As Cartwright (1993) has noted: "The goal of the alienator is crystalline: to deprive the lost parent, not only of the child’s time, but of the time of childhood." (p.210).

    Criterion 1B: Involving Others in Malicious Actions

The second component of the first major criterion where the mother attempts to punish the husband, involves manipulating other individuals to engage in malicious acts against the father. Examples of this kind are as follows:

During a custody battle, a mother lied to a therapist about the father’s behavior. The therapist, having never spoken with the father, appeared as an "expert" witness to inform the Judge that the mother should be the primary residential parent and that the father needed to be in therapy.

One angry mother manipulated teenagers to leave anonymous threatening notes at the ex-husband’s home.

A mother who had lost legal custody of her children, manipulated a secretary at the child’s school to assist in kidnapping the child.

In the above examples, it is important to note that the person manipulated by the angry mother has, in a way, been "alienated" against the divorcing husband. Typically, the individual "duped" takes on a righteous indignation, contributing to a rewarding climate for the mother initiating malicious actions.

    Criterion 1C: Excessive Litigation

There is little question that either party in a divorce or custody proceeding is entitled to appropriate legal representation and action.

Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, however, attempt to punish the divorcing husband by engaging in excessive litigation.

A belligerent and unreasonable mother verbally attacked her ex-husband whenever she saw him. Over time, his response was to ignore her. She then took him to court, asking the judge to require the ex-husband to talk with her.

One mother told a judge that her daughter was not really her divorcing husband’s child

One woman refused to stop attacking her ex-husband through the courts, despite numerous attorneys being fired or voluntarily leaving the case. Over a three-year period, seven different attorneys were utilized.

Data exist which can help in determining the range of excessive litigation. For example, Koel et al. (1988) report on the frequency of post-divorce litigation in a sample of 700 families. Their data indicate that only 12.7% of families file one post-divorce petition to the court, whereas less than 5 percent file two or more petitions (Koel et al. 1988); less than one percent file four or more petitions.

     Criterion 2A: Denying Regular Visitation

Experts are in relative agreement that regular and uninterrupted visitation with the non-residential parent is desirable and beneficial for children, except in extreme circumstances (Hodges, 1991). In fact, some states, such as Florida, have laws written to reflect this view (Keane, 1990). Unfortunately, even when the father and children have legal rights to visitation, individuals with Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome continue to interfere with it.

A mother who previously attacked her ex-husband physically during visitation transfers of the children, refused to provide the children when the ex-husband had the police attend to monitor exchanges.

When one divorced father arrived to pick up his children for visitation, the mother arranged for her and the children to be elsewhere so that the father could not visit with the children.

One mother had her physically intimidating boyfriend assault her ex-husband when he came to pick up his children for visitation.

The President of the Council for Children’s Rights (Washington, D.C.) notes that such alienation is considered a form of child abuse (Levy, 1992). Unfortunately, the police typically avoid involving themselves in such situations. Furthermore, unless a victimized father is financially capable of returning to court on an ongoing basis, there is little that can be done to prevent such mothers’ behavior. Finally, even when such cases are brought to trial, the courts are often inadequate in supporting fathers’ visitation rights. (Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial System, 1992).

Given the physical absence of one parent, the telephone plays an important role in maintaining the bond between child and non-residential parent. Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome engage in an array of actions designed to circumvent telephone access.

A father called to speak to his children and was told that they were not at home when, in fact, he could hear their voices in the background.

When one father called to speak with his children, the mother put him on "hold," informed no one, and then left him on hold.

Knowing that the children’s father was away on vacation, one mother encouraged them to leave several messages on his answering machine to call back immediately only if he would like some additional visitation time with his children.

Some fathers find the alienation attempts so painful and fruitless that they eventually are extinguished from calling their children; they simply "give up." Placed in a no-win scenario, the father’s "abandonment" (Hodges, 1991) unfortunately achieves the precise result aimed for by the individual suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.

        Criterion 2C: Denying Participation in Extra-Curricular Activities

An integral part of the process of maintaining one’s bond with one’s child is to participate in activities that one did before the parents separated. School plays, team sports, and religious events are just some of the type of activities of importance. Malicious Mothers frequently engage in maneuvers designed to prevent participation in these activities.

One father was deliberately given the wrong date and time for an important event for the child. The child was asked by the mother, "I wonder why your father didn’t want to come to see you today"?

One mother refused to provide the father with any information about any extra-curricular activities in which the children were engaged.

Prior to a child’s soccer game, one mother told many of the team parents disparaging falsehoods about the visiting father. When he came to watch his son’s soccer game, many of these parents looked at him with angry eyes, refused to talk with him, and walked away when he moved toward them.

Malicious Mothers who engage in such behaviors rarely have to face penalties for such actions. Judges, attorneys, and policemen cannot involve themselves in every instance of blocked paternal access. Furthermore, most fathers cannot afford the financial requirements involved. As such, the cycle of access interference perpetuates itself.

       Criterion 3A: Malicious Lying to the Children

Given their developmental status, children in a disputed divorce situation are quite vulnerable. When one parent decides to attack the other by lying to the children, examples of this type of malicious behavior may include some of the following:

One divorcing mother told her very young daughter that father was "not really" her father, even though he was.

An eight-year-old girl was forced by her mother to hand unpaid bills to her father when he visited because the mother had falsely told the daughter that the father had not provided any economic means of support to the family.

One mother falsely told her children that their father had repeatedly beat her up in the past.

These examples of malicious lying can be contrasted with the more subtle maneuvers typically seen in Parental Alienation Syndrome, such as "virtual allegations" (Cartwright, 1993). Here, the mother setting up a Parental Alienation Syndrome may hint that abuse may have occurred, whereas the individual suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome falsely claims that abuse has actually occurred.

         Criterion 3B: Malicious Lying to Others

Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome may engage a wide range of other individuals in their attacks upon the ex-husband. However, with this particular criterion, the individual with Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome specifically lies to other individuals in the belligerency against the father. Some examples include the following:

One furious mother called the president of the (1500 employee) workplace of her divorcing husband, claiming falsely that he was using business property for person gain and was abusing their mutual children at his work locale.

One woman falsely told state officials that her ex-husband was sexually abusing their daughter. The child was immediately taken away from him and his access to her was denied.

During the course of a custody dispute, one mother falsely informed the guardian, who was investigating the parenting skills of each parent, that the father had physically abused her.

Snyder (1986) has reported on the difficulty imposed upon legal authorities when confronted with someone who is an excellent liar. Consistent with research on the inability of "specialists" to detect lying (Ekman and O’Sullivan, 1991), a skilled fabricator can be a compelling witness in the courtroom (Snyder, 1986). While sometimes seen in borderline personalities, Snyder (1986) notes that pathological lying (Pseudologia Fantastica) is not restricted to that particular character disorder.

      Criterion 3C: Violating Law to Attack the Husband

Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, have few, if any boundaries in their campaign against the divorcing husband. Violations of law are common in many cases, although the laws broken may be relatively minor. However, in some cases, the violations of law may be quite serious.

One woman deliberately drove her automobile into the house of the ex-husband where their mutual children resided.

In the midst of a custody battle, one woman broke into the residence of her divorcing husband and stole important business papers.

An angry divorcing mother called a Christian evangelical television station and pledged $1,000, giving the name, address and phone number of her divorcing Jewish husband as the pledge.

The above descriptions may remind the reader of certain personality disorders (e.g., antisocial, borderline, sadistic) but these behaviors may be demonstrated by individuals with Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome who do not appear to meet official diagnostic criteria for an Axis II disorder. Further, in each of the four examples provided above, none of the Malicious Mothers involved was sentenced for such behavior by a Judge.

     Criterion 4: Not Due to Another Disorder

In assessing the Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, it is important to note that many of the above clinical examples seem to have occurred in individuals who had no prior mental disorder diagnosis or treatment. In fact, one mother who engaged in extreme maliciousness toward her divorcing husband had several mental health professionals testify that she was not suffering from any type of mental disorder.

In the author’s experience, for each mental disorder that might come to mind to account for some of this behavior, an exceptional case presents. For example, in some cases, an Adjustment Disorder might seem an appropriate diagnosis, yet one woman still denied her ex-husband visitation 10 years after the divorce. Other cases might suggest a possibility of a personality disorder diagnosis, yet one woman who repeatedly violated the law in attacking her ex-husband, received no personality disorder diagnosis despite being evaluated by masters level and doctoral level examiners. In some instances, Intermittent Explosive Disorder might be considered, yet the anger for many of the mothers does not appear to be intermittent.

Finally, the reader should appreciate that while diagnostic accuracy for certain psychiatric difficulties is not as good as one would like (e.g., the personality disorders, see Turkat, 1990), the problem is compounded in family law where incompetent mental health examiners sometimes become involved in the judicial process (Turk, 1993). Clearly, the relationship between Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome and other mental disorders is a complex one which requires significant investigation.

                                                             DISCUSSION

The above description of the Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome raises a variety of important clinical, legal and scientific issues.

From a clinical perspective, families that involve a Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome are subject to serious episodes of stress and distress. Yet, there is no scientific evidence on how to treat this phenomenon. It is particularly compromised by the fact that many of these cases that appear to meet the proposed diagnostic criteria deny that there is anything wrong with them.

An additional difficulty is that many therapists are unaware of this pattern of malicious behavior (Heinz and Heinz, 1993). As such, there are malicious therapists who are "fooled" by such cases and, as noted earlier, will come to court testifying that there is nothing wrong with the mother involved.

From a legal perspective, there are some attorneys who may unintentionally encourage this type of behavior (Gardner, 1989). On the other hand, there are some attorneys who deliberately encourage such behavior as the financial rewards for them are time dependent. In other words, the more involved the litigation process, the greater the profits for the attorney. (Grotman and Thomas, 1990). However, even for the subset of attorneys for whom this may be true, there is a point of diminishing returns. Furthermore, independent of economic considerations, many who become involved with family law courtrooms find that these types of cases are not handled well (Greif, 1985; Levy, 1992).

The woman who is not disturbed "enough" to lose custody of her children in the courtroom will not have money denied to her because she engages in this behavior; nor will she go to jail. Thus, many clients report significant frustration when they and their children are exposed to this type of behavior, and the courts seem to do little.

In a review of pertinent law literature on bias against men in family law proceedings, Tillitski (1992) concluded that there is widespread discrimination. This is well illustrated by one family law Judge’s statement that, "I ain’t never seen the calves follow the bulls, they always follow the cow; therefore, I always give custody to the mamas." (Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial System, 1992, p. 741). Similarly, it is noted that visitation rights of fathers are not enforced as rigidly as are child support orders (Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial System, 1992.) Such bias against men in family law proceedings results in a unique group of fathers who unintentionally become relatively helpless victims of the system (Tillitski, 1992). This situation would seem to reinforce much of the vicious behavior displayed by women suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.

The issue of sex distribution of the disorder certainly needs to be addressed. The overwhelming majority of custodial parents are female (Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial System, 1992). Gardner (1989) has noted that Parental Alienation Syndrome appears most commonly in females, although it is possible for a male who has custody of the children to engage in the same type of alienating behaviors. The author’s experience with Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome is similar to Gardner’s. However, the present writer has yet to see a case of a father engaging in all of the criteria listed. This does not mean that it is not possible for there to be a "Malicious Father" Syndrome. In fact, Shephard (1992) reports that there is significant abuse of some custodial mothers by non-residential fathers. On the other hand, it should be noted that there are females who are required to pay child support, but we have yet to hear about "Deadbeat Moms." Given at the present time that a case in which the father met all of the criteria for Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome has yet to be documented, it appears advisable to await scientific evidence to guide issues of nosologic labeling.

How prevalent is the Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome? The answer is unknown. Gardner (1989) reports that approximately 90 percent of all custody battles involve some aspects of parental alienation. Further, Kressel (1985) reviewed data indicating that up to 40 percent of maternal custodians denied visitation to the ex-husband in order to punish him. Relatedly, Arditti (1992) reported that 50 percent of a sample of divorce fathers (N=125) indicated that visitation was interfered with by the mother. While aspects of parental alienation may be common, it is highly unlikely that such a percentage of maternal custodians would meet all of the criteria for Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.

In regard to incidence, it would appear through the title of this syndrome that the malicious behavior is precipitated by the divorce process. However, this is clearly an empirical question. While the malicious actions may first be noted during a divorce process, it is possible that maliciousness may have been present earlier but undetected. Research on pre-divorce parental conflict (Enos and Handal, 986) supports this speculation. Relatedly, it may also be that there are some cases of pre-existing mental disorder that have not been discovered until the stress of the divorce itself unfolds.

Finally, it should be noted that research on the nature of post-divorce family functioning is beginning to emerge. Some data exist on the role of parental conflict in children’s post divorce functioning (e.g. Frost and Pakiz, 1990; Furstenberg et al., 1987; Healy, Malley and Steward, 1990; Kudek, 1988), but studies have yet to appear on the more extreme cases of Parental Alienation Syndrome and Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.

The Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome represents an important societal phenomenon. The disorder affects children, parents, attorneys, judges, guardians, mental health professionals and others. Until this phenomenon is explored more thoroughly in the scientific and clinical literature, the problems imposed by individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome will continue to plague us. Hopefully, the present manuscript will stimulate research so that clinical and legal management guidelines can be developed.

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Children Learn What They Live

Children Learn What They Live