She’s been researching this and speaking up about it for years. Here she is speaking about it in January of this year at Liberty University. Fourteen years ago, in an article published in the World Net Daily she wrote:
“According to PAS theory, if a parent (usually mom) accuses the other (usually dad) of sexual abuse, this “turns the child against the father,” hence, mom’s “influence over the child should be halted.” That is, even when the accused is a convicted sex offender, mom has lost custody and visitation rights.
The theory, based on Gardner’s observations during child custody disputes, largely discredits incest charges.
PAS was invented by Richard A. Gardner. Gardner is a Columbia University clinical professor of child psychiatry and he defends his theory in his 749 pages of “True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse” (1992).
Inevitably, Gardner’s sole experimental authority for this PAS theory is Alfred C. Kinsey. In fact, Gardner largely plagiarizes Chapters 5 in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Female (1953) to show child molestation is normal.”
Now that it’s October 2013, we’ve come so far as to be in our current state of a “partial government shutdown”. Congress can’t agree on a budget or how much money to borrow or how much interest to pay. They can’t agree on healthcare and state parks are closed too.
People are tweeting things like: #Democratshutdown! and #Republicanshutdown! Each side calls the other “extremist” and both sides agree that “extremists” are the problem.
The same goes for family court reform advocates. Insults and accusations fly among advocates as often as they fly in Congress. We all know who the “extremists” are and we know who to blame for the lack of investigations, zero oversight and and near zero family court reform.
As long as everyone who watches this video agrees that extremists are the problem, the family court crisis will be appropriately addressed and we might not have to deal with “terror threats” from those who call us “Infidels!” anymore.
Real extremists who cause real problems are easy to spot – especially those who openly associate with Nazis and demons.
The only time children aren’t protected in family court is when no one knows how to protect them and no one wants to talk about it.
Ever since Dr. Richard Gardner started marketing his ideas in lectures, “expert witness” courtroom testimony and self-published books, proverbial elephants in the room have stood in the middle of courtrooms, feeding at the troughs of hundreds of thousands of child custody cases with their backs facing abused children. Those elephants have been in the middle of courtrooms all over the country and all over the world for about the last four decades. They’ve been risking lives, ruining lives and taking lives.
It’s time for the elephants to leave.
Richard Gardner’s elephants are big, but they’re not complicated. In fact, as soon as everyone realized how twisted Richard Gardner’s theories were, the elephants should have been out the door.
Perhaps the first step is to ask this: Since those in authority must have known how disturbed Dr. Gardner was , why were the elephants allowed to stay? Was it because he earned a degree in psychiatry or because he invented a new “syndrome”?
He called the new creation, “The Parental Alienation Syndrome” — except it wasn’t a syndrome. It was a strategy.
PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused children. Prosecutors should educate themselves about PAS and be prepared to argue against its admission in court. In cases where PAS testimony is admitted, it is a prosecutor’s responsibility to educate the judge and jury about the shortfalls of this theory. As more criminal courts refuse to admit PAS evidence, more protection will be afforded to victims of sexual abuse in our court system.
What have the authorities done since then to protect us from the “PAS” scam?
One way to measure the progress would be to count the cases in which attorneys, Guardians ad litem, Attorneys for Minor Children, custody evaluators, mediators, visit supervisors, parenting coordinators and judges feed the elephants every Monday through Friday.
Another would be to count the cases in the headlines each week about “high-conflict custody battles” ending in tragedy.
Meanwhile, travelling from case to case and show to show all over the country, those peddling Gardner’s theories, his vocabulary and Gardner-like vocabulary, fuel the fires of lucrative “high conflict” custody cases. Long lines of mothers and fathers accompanied by attorneys who have hired evaluators, who recommend mediators and reunifiers to be followed up by social workers, Guardians ad Litem and/or Attorneys for Minor Children who bring with them witnesses and experts – form long lines, walking one by one through courthouse metal detectors, past security guards and into family courtrooms where judges who manage these cases drag entire childhoods into the ground until the children “age out of the system”.
Most everyone working in family court sees what’s happening in case after case — and most pretend they don’t.
It’s that lack of honest discussion for the last four decades which has purchased shiny new things for those who set up and use the PAS scam in family courts. One attorney representing a protective mother in Italyspoke about the use of PAS in the Italian courts, aptly called it GAS:
“NO TO PAS YES TO GAS
I do not maintain that, in the name of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) supposing that this pathology exists – and I am among those who firmly do not believe in it – that one can take children away from mothers or that it is possible to place children in foster homes for an indeterminate period of time – as happens for those poor mad offenders who violate the law and go to the criminal asylums (which are next to close down).
On the contrary, those who have serious mental problems are treated in a better way. They receive TSO (Involuntary Mental Health Treatment) and after fifteen days they are set free. The disease which surely exists in Italy and which is becoming more and more widespread is the GAS, acronym of the “Sindrome di Alienazione Giudiziaria” (Judiciary Alienation Syndrome).
This is one that actually exists: The citizens’ distrust of the Italian Judicial System is at it’s peak and there is no sign of improvement despite the experts’ government we have.
So I would ask psychologists and social workers to deal with from now on, the GAS instead of the PAS, and we will see who they suggest to be placed in the foster homes instead of the children.”
Rome 17th October 2012
Attorney Giuseppe Lipera
The PAS scam is wherever Gardner’s theories were spread and and wherever family court attorneys, child custody evaluators, parental coordinators and judges don’t talk about or care about whether or not child abuse occurred. Here’s why: According to Dr. Gardner’s theories, “inducing parental alienation in a child” is far worse than emotionally, physically and/or sexually abusing a child.
It should be no surprise to anyone that most child custody cases in which Dr. Gardner’s twisted theories reign drag on for the entire childhood of a child who is the subject of it all. Various attorneys, custody evaluators and parenting coordinators come and go, joining and leaving and joining the same circus year after year. Sometimes three or four elephants are needed to carry them all by the time the children “age out of the system”.
The attorney’s statement above and Gardner’s lecture below show what a nightmare of a spectacle it’s been ever since Dr. Gardner first began to spread his theories throughout the United States and other countries.
Maybe there’s enough of a smoking gun in the following transcript to show those with the power to do something where those elephants are so they can spoken about and removed from every family court.
The transcript is of Gardner’s lecture in The Netherlands in 1999. He’s speaking at a conference called “The Child’s Best Interest Conference”. He tells his audience about the “medical syndrome” he invented and named “The Parental Alienation Syndrome”. He recites his definition of “medical syndrome”. He lists the physiological and psychological symptoms of Down Syndrome and expects his audience will make the leap to believe “The Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS) is a “medical syndrome” too. At least one man in the audience who laughs the loudest at Dr. Gardner’s jokes seems happy to make that leap.
One problem that isn’t talked about is that physiological and psychological signs and symptoms found in syndromes like Down Syndrome are not found in Richard Gardner’s “PAS”. There are no outward physical characteristics of “PAS”. No genetic difference, hormonal imbalance or vitamin deficiency. There are no weak or excessive nerve impulse patterns. No abnormal change in any bodily fluid, tissue or function.
Lacking a scientifically definitive list, Dr. Gardner appears confused, interrupting and contradicting himself throughout his lecture. He tells his audience the following:
Mild, Moderate and Severe “PAS” is “a disease” found only in the context of child custody disputes.
Mothers acquire this “disease” from the family court process – fathers, not so much.
There are two components of the “PAS”:
The moth parent brainwashes the child in “a campaign of denigration” against the other parent; and,
The child’s own contributions to the “campaign of denigration”.
Although Dr. Gardner doesn’t mention it during his lecture, one should apparently also look for certain speech patterns in infected mot parents. Specific inflections of a mother’s voice might include: anxious, angry, impatient, flustered, fearful, terrified, inconsiderate, rude, and/or obnoxious.
In addition, the clinician should be able to hear all of the parents’ telephone conversations – which requires certification in Phone Tap 101.
In place of talking about behavioral data showing the difference between symptoms of malicious alienation and symptoms of emotionally, physically and sexually abused children, Dr. Gardner acts out short skits.
Instead of comparing and contrasting reliable and scientifically valid therapeutic responses to malicious alienation with the reliable and scientifically valid therapeutic responses to emotionally, physically and sexually abused children, Dr. Gardner tells jokes.
He displaces actual child abuse statistics and data which provide plausible reasons for paternal abuse and maternal abuse with this theory:
“The women were the primary caretakers primarily, and the children wanted to be bonded more with the mothers because they want the mothers to have more availability, more access and the children wanted to stay with their mothers, they were more strongly bonded with their mothers.”
Using examples of his “own personal experiences” to support his theory, Gardner plays the roles of mothers, fathers and children – mostly anxious, angry, impatient, flustered, fearful, terrified, inconsiderate, rude, and/or obnoxious mothers and children who don’t sound very alienated at all.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Dr. Gardner’s lecture is that the behaviors he describes are common behaviors seen in mothers and children who have actually witnessed and/or endured emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. Each scenario dramatized could easily be a typical day in the life of an abused mother and child. The words are there and the behaviors are there, but Gardner’s mocking impersonation of mothers and children trivializes those same words and behaviors – leading an unsuspecting audience to believe that red flags of possible abuse should instead be automatically suspect. (See FOX NEWS interview: Retired California Family Court Judge DeAnn Salcido , Lost in the System)
Gardner places behaviors actually seen in abused children in his category of: “Absurd Justifications” and speaks the words that would be cries for help in variations of the same mocking voice. He says the cases he dramatizes are cases from his office practice – in which he apparently mocked, challenged and ignored children if they:
– did not immediately disclose abuse
– used multisyllabic words
– became angry and/or emotionally shut down when their disclosures of abuse were challenged, and/or
– if they stopped disclosing abuse after being isolated with their named abuser.
Instead of saying how we can differentiate between symptoms of real abuse and symptoms of “induced” alienation he warns, “…bringing in the child protection people in it can destroy the father’s life in one telephone call.”
He does say in passing: In cases of real abuse, “the PAS diagnosis” doesn’t apply. If you sneeze, you’ll miss that part. If you miss it, you might think alienating a child is worse than any other kind of abuse anyway – because Dr. Gardner says that too. (That part is a “must see” because it’s when he feeds the elephants.)
Playing a teen who says his father “used to beat” his mother and threaten to hit him, Dr. Gardner morphs from the teen to a young child, using a sing-song voice and the term “mommy”. Then he turns himself back into a teen, explaining as Gardner the Teen to Gardner the Clinician that his father threatened to hit him if he didn’t smile for a photo. He says his father makes him watch videos he “hates”. Notice the total lack of follow-up questions to clarify why he “hates” the videos. There is no “What happened before that?” or “What happened next?” Instead, after a question or two, Gardner the Clinician confronts Gardner the Teen with the allegedly abusive father’s denials of abuse – something abusers can usually do for themselves.
He mocks a hypothetical mother who complains of becoming financially destitute after divorce – as though irreparable physical, emotional and financial damage could never leave a single parent – mother or father – without the funds to pay for food, clothes and bills.
That which Gardner says isn’t science, social theory or common sense. It’s entertainment – complete with someone in the audience laughing more loudly than the others like he’s planted in the audience to prompt others to laugh when he laughs.
He tells a joke with a punch line about a mother in labor. He questions a four-year-old girl about her use of the word “penetrated” and sounds like he’s struggling to keep a serious look on his face. Gardner the Clinician doesn’t ask the questions most good clinicians would ask. Instead, he explains to Gardner the Hypothetical Four-Year-Old Girl that the definition of the word “penetrated” is “sexual intercourse”.
Listening to the audio of this lecture and/or reading the transcript, most should wonder how Dr. Gardner’s twisted ways became such an integral part of the family court process.
After his gig in The Netherlands, Gardner toured the world for the next four years – marketing PAS and selling his books until he died from what was said to be a suicide. The FBI should probably investigate that too.
Transcript: June 24 , 1999, Open University, Breda, The Netherlands. A One Day Symposium led by Richard A. Gardner M.D. on The Parental Alienation Syndrome.
Um… When I was a student in high school, and a, my teacher, one of my teachers, was giving me guidelines for writing a… an article, book review, or just any kind of an article. The guideline was this: Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell ‘em what you’ve said. And that helped increase my grades. It’s a very good principle.
So I’m going to tell you what I’m going to say first. And that is, that the legislators have power to give judges power to cure the disease Parental Alienation Syndrome. I repeat, the ju…the legislators have the power to empower judges, to cure, to prevent The Parental Alienation Syndrome. If the legislators do not give the judges the power to cure this disease, it will continue to grow and (unintelligible) and get worse and worse.
Now, um… You people in Europe have certain advantage over us in the United States, in that you can, you can sometimes learn from the errors that we make.
I have lived in Europe for two years, from 1960 to 1962, when I lived in Germany I was in the, a, military service. And then I’ve been back and forth many times. I’ve lectured in many countries in Europe. And uh, I was a visiting professor for a couple of years at The University of Leuven. I was a visiting professor at the University of St. Petersburg, uh, formerly uh, Leningrad, and I have lectured in various cities throughout uh Europe (unintelligible).
And I have been back and forth and I have seen certain trends. You take on our bad habits and you take on our good habits. Kind of what Oppenheimer once said, uh, “The United States is the greatest country in Europe.”
And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. But, we may be very bright, but we also have made mistakes. And bad habits start and you people pick them up a few years later.
So I’m going to tell you something about what’s going on in the United States and give you some advice, the same advice I’m giving in the United States. You’ll see how this all falls into place as I progress.
Let me first talk about the Parental Alienation Syndrome and elaborate what I mean by it. You have in your handout materials in the doc… this document, which I strongly recommend you look at as I talk. It’s an outline of my presentation. There are two pages. The diagnosis of The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the treatment, oh … I’m very sorry. There’s been an error! The um… this one sheet should have been diagnosis and one sheet should have been treatment. It was reproduced incorrectly.
So I’ll talk about the diagnosis and I’m going to just verbally tell you about the treatment. It’s unfortunate that… that error was made.
Okay let’s talk about the diagnosis. It is a syndrome. What is the definition of a syndrome? A syndrome in medicine is a collection of symptoms that justify being put together because they occur together and they may have a common cause. A good example of a syndrome would be Down Syndrome, uh in which you have a combination of uh mental retardation, um.. you have a uh, a drooping lip. You have a facial expression that is… is similar to Asian people. And it was because of that, that in… in the, in the last century, it was called “Mongolian Idiocy” because the facial expression was similar to Asians and of the mental retardation. Of course today, we would not… we’d find that offensive and we would not name a disorder uh, in that manner. Uh, but that was the original name. In addition, the children had certain uh, abnormal creases of the palms of the hands and uh… uh a shortening of the fifth finger. Now when you look at all those symptoms, why do they fit together? We now know that there’s a certain genetic abnormality that explains that.
And so it’s a cluster of symptoms that appear together in uh, and that warrant a uh, a that cluster is given the name “a syndrome” and… uh… you may or may not know the cause. I observe the syndrome and I will describe it to you and then I will give you some of my ideas as to the cause of this syndrome and um, what can be done about it – going back to the legislators and going back to the judges.
Now I have been involved in doing child psychiatry uh since my training days in the late 1950s, over forty years ago. And I have been involved in… in… in child custody litigation uh since the early 1960s – a period of about thirty-five years and I’ve observed certain… the evolution of certain developments. I did not see the Parental Alienation Syndrome until about 15 years ago. Uh, so from the late 50s and early 60s until the early 1980s I never saw this disorder. And yet I began to see it in the early 1980s, wrote my first article on it in the mid 1980s – 1985 – and it is still growing and uh, increasingly become a problem.
Now, what are the symptoms of this disorder? Let me define it first. The Parental Alienation Syndrome is a disorder that arises almost exclusively, if not completely, in the context of a child custody dispute. I have not yet seen a case in which it was not a child custody dispute. So most often it’s the mother and father. On occasion, I’ve seen it in grandparents and a, and a step-daughter or a step-son or, or some other relatives who are fighting with the parent for the child. But it’s still a child custody dispute.
There are two components. The first is a programming or brainwashing by one parent where they brainwash into the child a campaign of denigration against the other parent. And the second component, and this is most important, is the child’s own contributions. So it’s the two together that are present when one justifies the term, um, Parental Alienation Syndrome. Um, if it were merely a question of programming or brainwashing, I would have called it that. But there was this other ingredient, the element of the child’s own contribution, that led me to the conclusion that I should provide it a… a different name and then to encompass that other component.
Now, it generally does not start until a programming parent uh, decides to program the child in order to strengthen his or her position in a child custody dispute. The hope being that the children, in the context of this campaign of… of… of denigration and hatred will then speak to the court, speak to the judges and… and the lawyers, whomever, and convince them that they should not go with the other parent because they hate him or her because that parent has been so abusive, so neglectful that complete rejection is justified and that any court or any judge that would… would put the children with this other parent would be making a serious error. And so that there is a campaign that goes on every single day in order to keep it going, to keep the… the scenarios in the memory of the children, so that they can, they can uh, give their little speeches, uh to the proper people at the proper time in order to strengthen the programmings [sic] parent’s uh position in the custody lawsuit.
Now, if I will now address myself to the eight major symptoms of The PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome. And the term PAS is… is… is very common and it is the one that is often referred to. Uh, now the first is the campaign of denigration. The, the other parent who we call “the victimized parent”, “the victim parent”, “the alienated parent”, these are the terms that are… are coming into use uh, in the United States.
Um, it’s usually not a parent who has been an abuser. If the parent has been an abuser, then The Parental Alienation Syndrome diagnosis is not applicable. It’s only in the situation where that parent has been a reasonably good, devoted and loving parent and then suddenly finds himself the, the target, the victim, the word “targeted parent” is also used, “the target parent”, “the victim parent” uh, to be the target of this campaign of hatred.
Uh and it’s a, it… it… it… it’s divided, you’ll see mild, moderate and severe forms. There are three categories, and the categories are very important in deciding what to do. So in the mild category, the campaign is… is a is mild, it may be uh just uh… uh maybe five ten percent of the time. It often, uh in the presence of the programmer, it will be most intense, but once the programmer is not available, not there. It’s at the transition points when the child is being transferred from one parent to the other that a, the children will come forth with these little speeches of hatred in order to demonstrate to the programmer that they are uh, saying these things that they have been programmed and brainwashed to say. Uh, and the children will uh use violent profanities, uh, spit in the face of the uh, victimized parent, uh, the most terrible names that they can think of, uh they will use uh, against their parent. And the programming parent just stands there, says nothing.
Uh, if I were to say, you know, “What do you think about uh, what he’s saying to his father? It’s very disrespectful.”
It’s… (Feminine voice, nonchalantly.) “He’s just expressing himself. I encourage him to say how he feels. It’s important for him to express himself.”
With none of the traditional, “That’s no way to speak to your father.” You know, “If you say that again you’re going to be punished, you’ll go to your room.” No disciplinary measures uh, are uh, are imposed and that’s the way of programming the child and encourage, encouraging the child to uh, continue in this way.
Uh, the next, uh the second, there’s a weak, frivolous or absurd rationalizations for the deprecation.
So uh, you’ll say to the child, um, “Why do you hate your father so much? Why?”
He’ll say. (Voice of older child, hesitating, nervous.) “Uh, well, I,I, I can’t remember now, I’ll tell you next time.”
(Kindly.) “We have time. Please, please tell me, why?”
“Um, well, he used to chew too loud when we eat at the table.” Or, “He chews very loud.”
“Is that a reason never to see him again? “
“Yeah. Yeah. Well uh, that’s a reason.”
You’ll say to the mother, ”What do you think about that?”
(Feminine voice, flippantly.) “Well I respect his feelings and if he thinks it’s a good reason, it’s good enough for me.”
There is that support again. That’s more of the programming process. Um, some of these are very absurd. Every example I give, that I will give you today, and every example that I’ve written in any of my books and articles come from my own personal experience with these… patients. I have created none of them. I don’t have a creative enough mind to think of these things. Every one is a true clinical experience.
“Um, well, uh, why else don’t you want to see him?”
“Um, Well, uh um, he used to belch when he eats.”
“He used to belch.” he says. “Is that the reason not to see him? He used to hiccup, or belch or burp?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s the reason.”
“Uh, any other reason?”
“He used to hit my mother.”
(In disbelief.) “Did you ever see him hit your mother?”
(Changing his voice to a sing-song younger child’s voice.) “No, but my mommy says he… she… he used to hit her…” >
“Did you ever…”
“…used to beat her.”
“Did you ever hear him beat your mother?”
“No? Well, how do you know? Your father says, he says he never did that. He says that your mother is lying and that he not once in his life has he ever hit her.”
(Deeper voice, talking loudly, sounding agitated .) “He’s a liar!”
(Calmly.) “Your mother [sic]… your father says that your mother is a liar.”
“My mother would never lie to me.”
“My father always lies to me.”
(Calmly). “Wha, wha.. give me another example of the time your father lies.”
“I can’t think of it now. I’ll tell you next time.”
So, it’s… it’s… that the excuses, they have no basis in reality. Um the um…
“I never had a good time with him. I always hated every minute of it.”
“Well. There’s a picture here, and it’s from Disney World, and your mom and your dad and you and your sister. There’s Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse and you have a big smile on your face. You seem to be having a good time.”
“I hated every minute of it.”
“Then why are you smiling?”
“He made me smile, he said if I didn’t smile, he would beat me.”
Or uh, “He said if I didn’t say “Cheese” like this, “Say cheese”, to make believe I was smiling, that he would hit me.”
So you have these absurd justifications for the campaign, uh maybe ludicrous, but uh, the child that doesn’t appreciate how absurd they are but it’s part of the child’s campaign.
Uh, the next is lack of ambivalence. All human relationships have mixed feelings. So you , you say to a child. “Okay, I want to write down the things you like about your… mother, the things you don’t like about your mother, things you like about your father and things you don’t like about your father.”
So when you get to the…preferred parent, everything is positive. Everything is wonderful. Anything negative? Nothing negative. And the opposite with the hated parent. Only negatives. So it, let us say it’s the mother who is the uh the target. And I’m going to come to that later. It’s an important point about the gender differences. There’s been a change, where now it’s shifting where more and more fathers are now becoming programmers and the mothers victims. That’s a recent development in the United States which I’m going to elaborate on a little later.
Um, so um…do…You’ll say, let’s say the father has programmed the child.
“I hate my mother. Uh, I can’t stand her.”
“Something positive. Something good.”
“And in your whole life, she never did one good thing?”
And then a list all of the bad things. “What’s the bad things?”
“She makes me turn off the television and go to sleep. She makes me…she says I can’t even watch television until I finish my homework. Uh, she says uh, uh, I…, I…, I can’t go out and play with my friends until I do my homework.”
Something like that. The opposites – all positives or all negatives – nothing’s a mixture. And you see that in PAS.
Uh, then the next is the “independent thinker” phenomenon where the child claims that all these ideas are his or her own and that it has nothing to do with the influence of the programming parent.
Now, the programming parent wants the child to say that because the programming parent is often accused by the father and by others of being a programmer, of being a brainwasher. So the child says, “It’s all my own ideas and she had nothing to do with it.”
Uh and the that, the programmer says,
(Feminine voice, harshly.) “It’s your opinion, right? It’s your own opinion, right? And it’s nobody elses’ opinion, right?”
(Weakly, resigned.) “That’s my own opinion.”
Uh, and I remember one mother said, “Now you tell him, do you want to see… if you don’t want to see your father, you don’t have to see your father. I respect your right not to see your father. I respect your right. If I have to get a lawyer to protect you from seeing your father, I will do so. If I have to go to the Supreme Court of the United States to protect you from seeing your father, I will do that because I respect your right not to see your father. Now, do you want to see your father?”
(Laughter from some in audience – one laughing louder than others.)
“No, no, no.”
“See Doc? He doesn’t want to see his father.”
And then the child says, “I don’t want to see my father.”
And the (Unintelligible) will say, “It’s my idea.”
“That’s your own opinion, isn’t it?”
“Yes, that’s my opinion.” (Sounding bored, resigned.)
(Seriously at first, Gardner then changes to a lighter tone, sounding like he’s smiling. He provides no background for the case or details of what “danger” prompted the mother to approach the Supreme Court for protection. He elicits more chuckles from a few in the audience.) And you see the programming. There is also the message that he is so dangerous, so dangerous that we’re going to have to get a lawyer to protect the child and that if we have to go the… the Supreme Court of the United States to hear this case, uh, on this child to see his father. Uh, but you see the programming. And you see the child being programmed, brainwashed to profess that these opinions are his own.
Uh, the next is the reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict. Uh, no matter how strong the evidence, that the victimized parent is… is… is in the right, has done nothing, and that the programming parent is being deceitful, the child reflexively supports the position of the programmer.
So uh the mother says, “He’s not giving us any money. He’s not sending us the money. Uh, uh, I don’t know where we’re gonna get food. We may starve. We may have to leave the house, freeze in the winter and things like that. We won’t have enough clothing to buy.”
And, and, and she… she creates in the children the… the idea that they’re going to be naked in the streets in the middle of the winter, frozen in the snow, starving to death, and it’s all because of the father because he’s not paying the money.
And, and, and the father, um says,
(Calmly, authoritatively.) “That’s a lie. That’s not true. I have checks here. Every week I give her this check and s..he shows the child, and she signs her name, that’s her name, and that means that she took that money”.
(Note: This was Gardner’s “therapy” in which the alleged abuser directly – and sometimes forcefully – confronts the child’s allegations with the “therapist” present in the room. Gardner recommended using this same confrontation in cases of child sexual abuse.)
The child looks at him and says, “That’s a forgery. You’re lying. That isn’t her s… that isn’t her signature.”
There’s no way to get the child to be convinced that perhaps that the… the programmer is lying. Uh, and, um, so there’s always support.
Uhm. The next is the absence of guilt.
The child I mentioned will spit in the face of the victimized parent. Uh, use the most vile profanities, the most hateful statements without any guilt, without any feeling of embarrassment, without feeling any… any sense of sympathy or empathy for the victimized parent. (Note to reader: It is important to know that this behavior is frequently seen in children who are forced to visit with a parent who has emotionally, physically or sexually abused them. Later in this lecture, Gardner tells his audience that parental “alienation” is worse for a child than physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. This might be the reason, in all of these scenarios, Gardner dismisses all presented variations of alleged abuse as absurd or irrelevant.)
Uh, so I’ll say to the child, “Now, let me understand this. You say you never want to see your father again in your whole life, even if you live a thousand years.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” (Unconvincing.)
“And, uh, you say you want him to pay for all the expenses from your school, private school and private college uh, no matter how far you want to go.”
“Uh, Yeah, that’s right.” (Again, unconvincing.)
“Do you think that’s fair to him? That you never see him and that all he should do is pay them money?”
“Uh, don’t you feel a little embarrassed with yourself?”
“No, I’m not embarrassed at all. I’m not guilty, no, it’s right.”
“Because of all those things he did.”
“All what things?”
“He’s mean. He’s always very mean to me. He made me go to Disney World. Uh, he, he, he made me uh go to movies I didn’t want to see. He… he got these video tapes that I hated.”
And… and… and all these, all these preposterous reasons.
Uh, but there’s no guilt because the programming parent is not inducing guilt, is not teaching the child good manners, respectful behavior, not reprimanding the child when the child is disrespectful and… and providing a healthy environment which teaches the child respect for the other parent. It’s the healthy parent says, “We’re divorced, I’ve had my problems with him, but he’s your father and you’re not going to speak to him that way. And you’re going to respect him and I want you to apologize to him for using those words. And if you don’t, then you’re gonna, no television.” Something like that.
Um, so you… you don’t get the parent teaching the child proper behavior, proper morals, proper ethics, proper values when it comes to the father… uh… uh… the… the victimized parent.
The next is the borrowed scenarios. The children incorporate into their campaign, words, terms that are not age appropriate.
Uh the… the child could not possibly have that in his or her vocabulary.
A, uh, a…a…a father calls.
(Authoritatively.) “Let me speak to the children.”
(Glibly.) “They just came home from school, and they’re changing their clothes, and they’re ready to go out and play, and they’re too busy to talk to you. Call back later.”
Call back later.
“Uh, uh… oh they’re ready, they’re just ready to have supper. You can’t talk to them now.”
And hangs up and he calls again.
“It they’re they’re just finishing their dessert. You can’t talk. And stop harassing us. Stop this harassment. “
And then uh, calls again.
“They’re doing their homework. They can’t be bothered. Stop harassing us. Stop the harassment.”
“They’re watching television”
“They’re re, they’re reading bedtime stories. Stop this harassment.”
(After somehow listening in on all of the phone conversations, Gardner moves the scene to his office.)
“Why don’t you want to see your father?”
“ He..” A four-year-old… “He harasses us.”
“Harrass? That’s a big word for a child your age. What… what does harassment mean?”
“Ask my mommy, she knows.”
That kind of thing. So you, you see where it came from. Um.
A, a sex abuse accusation is often a spin-off or a derivative in… in maybe 10 or 15 percent of the cases. And bringing in the child protection people in it can destroy the father’s life in one telephone call.
Uh, a four-year-old girl.
Uh, “Why don’t you want to see your father?”
Uh, (Young female voice.) “He penetrated me.”
“Penetrated. That’s a big word for a four-year-old girl. It means se, sexual intercourse…but…”
“He penetrated me.”
Says, “What does that mean, he penetrated you?”
“I don’t know. Ask my mommy. She said he penetrated me.”
So you see the incorporation of… of terminology that could not possibly be uh, appropriate to the child that comes into the scenarios of denigration.
Um, the uh, last is the spread of the animosity to the extended parent… extended family of the alienated parent. Um, the um previously, uh the grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins had good relationship with the child. Now almost overnight, the child doesn’t want to speak to the grandparents or the uncles. The grandmother calls,
“I hate you Grandma. I never want to speak to you again.” Hangs up.
Uh, and uh, the grandmother of course is very pained by this, or the grandfather, uh, uncles aunts, they call up, they send presents for certain uh… events, cards, birthday cards, birthday presents, Christmas cards, Christmas presents, they’re returned, they’re thrown in the basket and there’s a sudden cut-off of all the extended family. And uh, uh… uh… and and these people may be in deep grief and pain over the loss of this child, but the alienating parent um… uh feels no sense of loss.
“I hated to go over there. I only acted as if I wanted to go but I really hated it.”
Now, as you can see from the chart, uh…these symptoms are in three categories uh, mild, moderate, uh and severe. Uh now, um, the differentiation is extremely important. And uh, if we go to the bottom part of this chart where it says “The transitional difficulties uh and the behavior”, that gives you a good idea often uh, as to which category it’s in. And so in uh transitional time, when the child is going from one parent to the other, um, you have limited or minimal problem in the mild. The moderate may be a significant problem. Uh the children refuse to go, uh, the… the father is begging, he’s trying to talk them into it, says to the programming parent, uh,
“Would you please tell them to cooperate?”
(Slightly higher-pitched voice.) “Can’t you see they don’t want to see you? Can’t you see they hate you? Don’t you get the message? What’s wrong with you? Are you blind? They hate you. Can’t you see they hate you? Why are you pushing them? Why don’t you respect their right not to see you if they don’t want to see you. What kind of a father are you?”
Those are the kinds of things which often serve to support… (Interrupting his own sentence.)
“Don’t you respect their wishes? Can’t ya see that they don’t want to go?”
And ah, or “Go to your father, we, I’ll get in trouble with the judge if you don’t go.”
Implication being that there’s no reason to go, but I’ll get in trouble, so go.”
And the children in the moderate, sometimes the visit is possible. Most often it is. Once the children are outside of the view of the programming parent, usually they will quiet down and then they’ll be alright, …but then periodically, they catch themselves and will then start in with the campaign. Um, they um, often an older sibling will be the assistant programmer to the younger one so that you’ll have the ten or eleven-year-old girl uh, you know, who’ll watch the younger ones. And uh, uh intermittently, periodically say,
“I gotta watch, you gotta be careful of him, make sure everything’s alright….watch over you.” And then,
“I’m going to tell mommy you were nice to Daddy.”
“Daddy, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.” And then,
So then child will go back, and go back to the mommy and say, “I told him I hated him.”
It’s traditionally, they only say bad things to the programmer. They say nothing good happened, that they were there for the whole weekend, they hated every minute of it and they couldn’t, kept look, looking at their watches to see when the time would be over and couldn’t wait to get back. The reality being, they had a great time and that periodically, they come forth with these uh, uh angry statements in order to have the material to give back to the programming parent.
In the severe form, visitation is impossible. Impossible. The children refuse to go. The programmer is often paranoid. The children believe they will be murdered, they will be poisoned, they’ll be raped. Uh they will be uh sexually abused, physically abused, neglected, beaten. Uh, uh togetherness in the house, there’s blood-curdling shrieks, they’re trying to jump out of the window, run into the street. Uh, the.. they’re paranoid and they believe that uh… uh they will be subjected to, to terrible punishments, even though they have no evidence for it or even though they’ve never had any personal experiences to suggest that even for one second that such things will happen to them. And so visitation is just about impossible in the severe form.
Now the behavior during visitation I described uh…
The bonding with the alienator: In the mild and moderate cases, the bonding with the alienator is usually good with the exception that the alienator, in, in order to um… strengthen his or her position in the lawsuit will um… uh, will program the children. Um, in the um, severe cases, the bonding with the alienator is usually quite set. Either the m… the uh, the alienating parent is is programming, uh, i… i… is paranoid or is extremely over protective, never trusted the um, the father, even at the very beginning.
Uh, I’ve had cases, uh, one case in which uh the mother uh refused to let the father in the delivery room. Now in recent years, this is much more common. I don’t know in Europe, in… in the US, they come in with the camcorders and they’re taking pictures of the delivery… (Gardner laughs and the audience laughs.) and they show their friends the delivery. (More laughter.)
Uh, anyway, uh…
(Feminine, irritated voice) “I don’t want you to film me. This is a personal matter.”
There was one woman, when the father came into the delivery room she said to the obstetrician… while she’s in labor, delivering,
“If you don’t get him out of here, I’m going to fire you.” (Just a few laughs.)
That’s not usually the time to fire the obstetrician.
But uh… this is the uh, the extent of the, of the uh… uh the re…the rejection. Uh, they don’t trust the father to hold the baby, he’ll drop it. I… I had one father who was a professional football player – uh, not soccer, our American football. Professional football player, and uh, the mother didn’t trust him to hold the baby. Uh, he couldn’t hold the baby, but he…he could hold footballs. And uh, this kind of thing. He would drop the baby. Uh, but these things are ludicrous and absurd, but uh, this is the extent uh to which you have people justifying uh ,the over protectiveness.
The bonding with the alienated parent is usually good. And that, as I said at the outset, if the father is a rejector, is an abandoner, is an abuser, then… uh… the “parental alienation syndrome”… uh… diagnosis is not justified because there has been no… there has been abuse and it’s an entirely different situation and this is a very important point.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about my opinion as to what has happened, why we have this disorder, why it wasn’t until the early 1980s that I saw it and that I was doing uh, child psychiatry for maybe twenty-five years and never saw it, and then suddenly appears in the early 1980s.
I believe that the main reason relates to the uh, the fact that prior to the 1970s, uh mothers were automatically given custody. And that at least in the twentieth century, uh p… prior centuries, it was usually the fathers. That, that’s a different thing.
Um, and that in the 60s and the 70s, with the expansion of the women’s liberation movement, uh women, justifiably uh were given more opportunities for education, equal pay, job opportunities, education opportunities, all of these things which are important and wonderful developments and uh long past due. Men began to say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Uh the idea that a woman should be given preferential treatment in child… as primary custodial parent sets it’s… it’s… it’s predjudiced, it’s biased against men and we want to have equal opportunity for custody of the children.”
And the legislators, the courts agreed and there became a shift where fathers had equal opportunity for custody. And what happened was that then the custody litigation began to increase uh because now fathers had a chance to be, to get primary custodial status. The… as a result, there was an increase in custody litigation and then the parents began to program the children in order to strengthen their positions in the lawsuits.
Now, up until a couple of years ago, my experience had been that it was primarily the mother who was the programmer and that although the fathers would program, they weren’t as successful and the mothers seemed to prevail. And that uh, so that most of the programmers were mothers. And in my first book on the PAS, uh, my… my first was in 1987, uh the mothers were the primary programmers. The second book in 1992, the mothers were the primary programmers. The third book, which came out in 1998, I started to see a shift. And in the last year or two, the shift has been dramatic, where I’m seeing in the US, many more fathers now who are programmers and it’s almost at the point now where it may be 50/50. And I think what’s happened is, one thing, is that fathers have read my books and are learning the techniques and so can use the same intervention. And another relates to the fact that there’s been increasing time the children have with the fathers with the expansion of father opportunities and father access so that the more time, they have more opportunity to uh, to program the children.
So now it seems… and my own personal experiences are being verified by friends, relatives, colleagues, uh, various parts of the country who are reporting the same thing to me and when I lecture in different parts of the US, I ask my greatest fans, “What’s your experience been?” and that’s usually been uh… uh the um… uh… in… in the last year or two, it seems to be equaling out.
Let me ask this audience, for all of our interest. For those of you in this audience who have familiar with this disorder… who are familiar with the disorder, in how many cases have the mothers been the programmer and the father the victim? By raising hands. Where it’s primarily the mothers as the programmer and the father… uh please raise hands high you should all look and see. It seems about a third of you are raising your hands. Now, how many have seen as the… the father is the programmer and the mother is the victim? Father is the programmer… I see just a few hands. This is why we’re seeing in the U.S. … um… up until two or three years ago and now it’s changing. And if I’m correct, and so many other waves that I’ve seen to come here a few years later, uh, you probably will see more fathers as programmers if that principle continues to hold uh, of… of… of getting our bad habits here in Europe a few years after it they’ve come… they’ve become common in the United States.
Now, um, unfortunately, your uh material does not have information on the treatment. It… it’s uh there was an error, there was another error, all the publications, uh on the PAS in scientific journals have been omitted from this document as well.
You have uh, citations from the uh the legal movements in which testimony of The Parental Alienation Syndrome has been recognized by a court of law but the um, and those are listed in your document here, but all the publications of which, of which there are probably a hundred now, uh some in German literature, uh one in French and the others in English. Um, I, I would assume uh that uh, Mr. van Dijk can probably make those available to you.
Now let me say something about the treatment um and uh emphasize very important points.
(Clears throat.) The Parental Alienation Syndrome has become politicized.It has become adversarial uh… in part because anything that goes into a court of law, almost, almost automatically becomes adversarial as one lawyer supports one parent’s position and one lawyer supports the other. So it behooves one of the lawyers to come up with garbage, with lies, with misrepresentations in order to support that lawyer’s position. Another reason why it’s become politicized, is that, because women were the ones who were more often the programmers up until a couple of years ago, I was criticized as being sexist, as biased against women for claiming that women are more often the programmers.
And my answer was, “That’s the reality. Let’s not deny this reality. To call me names for describing the reality, is it loses sight, what’s the reason for it?”
The reason was that the women were the primary caretakers primarily, and the children wanted to be bonded more with the mothers because they want the mothers to have more availability, more access and the children wanted to stay with their mothers, they were more strongly bonded with their mothers.
Uh, and uh, but with time now fathers are becoming equally bonded and the children now it it’s evening out.
The… the problem that I have found is that the courts have been unreceptive to coming down heavily and being properly restrictive of the programming parent. Um. This is the central problem.
(Lowering voice. Speaking slowly, deliberately.) Um. Inducing The Parental Alienation Syndrome in a child is a form of abuse. In a way, it may even be worse than physical abuse and sexual abuse.
(Speaking more casually.) You see, in physical abuse, there comes a time when the child reaches a point where the child can s…stop the parent. You… you’re twelve you… you’re thirteen, you’re fourteen, you can fight back, you can resist, you can run away. You’re old enough to call the police and you can protect yourself somewhat. And, so it certainly reaches a… a point when it stops. Not that there aren’t ongoing psychological consequences after but it… it can stop.
(Less seriously. Raising the pitch at the end of each statement as in questioning.) Sexual abuse uh, can certainly damage any child, psychologically to varying degrees from very little to very much depending upon the… the… the trauma associated with it. But ultimately the child can… is old enough to stop, to report it and bring about a discontinuation of it.
(Slowly, seriously, emotionally.) In psych… in PAS, you get life-long alienation. The bonding is eroded, it’s corrupted, it’s destroyed and if… if after eight, ten years, you’re strangers. It’s like an alumni meeting. The brain is just filled with hatred in the brain circuitry and all the loving, tender feelings all the… all the positive, loving experiences have evaporated. They’re replaced by the campaign of denigration. And even if there is contact then, it’s a lost. It’s lost. It’s never again the same. And it’s… it’s a… it’s a form of abuse that may not be as easy to detect as physical abuse where you see bones and broken fractures and you see abrasions and you have medical reports or physical abuse, where you s… you may see evidence in… in… in medical examination. Here it’s psychological but it is… it is very detrimental.
Now, the courts have the power to cure the PAS. If a judge were to treat a PAS indoctrinating parent… like, let us say a father who reneges on paying his support or alimony. In the United States, and I’m sure here too, if a father doesn’t come up with his support and alimony payment, they can be taken from his salary or uh automatically or he can be put on notice that if he doesn’t pay, he’s on house arrest for the weekend so that from Friday afternoon to Monday morning he must stay at home and if he’s out of the house, he’s in contempt of court, he can be arrested. They can put shackles on his ankle, electronically communicating with the police department. Uh, random telephone calls 24 hours a day. No answering machine to ensure that he’s there. They do that routinely to fathers who have not properly paid for their uh, their monetary obligations.
If a judge were to say to a mother, “If the children are not… if the children… if the children are not at the father’s house at 5:00 on Friday, the car … there’s a court order here at 5:01, for the police to come and arrest you … for not getting your children there. And you will spend the weekend in jail …to help remind you that those children must be there.”
I haven’t gotten one judge to do that. Not one.
I haven’t even gotten one judge to say to a, such a mother, “I order you to take a tour of the jail just to see what it’s like to give you an idea of where you’re going if those children don’t go.”
I had a child in the early eighties, a seven-year-old boy, who was a PAS victim himself… boy is …the children are victims too. (As afterthought.)
(In the voice of a young adoring child.) “Dr. Gardner, is it true that if I don’t go and see my daddy, uh the judge is going to put my mommy in jail? That’s right, isn’t it true the judge is going to put my mommy in jail?”
Oh my, the kid was begging me. Every cell in his body was begging me to say, “Yes, the judge will put my… your mommy in jail.”
I said, “Well, you know that’s a possibility, he has the power to do that.”
“Okay I’ll see, I’ll see my daddy. Mommy, Dr. Gardner says the judge will put me in jail if I don’t see daddy, my daddy, so I’ll go see my daddy.” (Note: According to Gardner’s categories, such behavior in a child would indicate a total absence of the “Parental Alienation Syndrome”.)
He was begging me for the excuse. I beg the judges, the kids need the excuse. They want to be able to say to the alienator “I hate him. But I’ll go anyway to protect you.”
The judges won’t do it. Because it’s not the politically correct thing to do in the United States in 1999 to put a woman in jail, for not visit… visiting. Put a man in jail for not paying the money, it’s done every minute. Put a woman in jail, politically incorrect…look bad in the papers.
Now that men are starting to induce PASs, it’s easier… it will be easier. There are so many cases all over the United States of PAS… hundreds of thousands. There’s an epidemic, there’s no question. It has to happen. And once it happens, it’ll probably be easier if the man is the first one because then it will be easier for the judges.
So what I’m saying is this, the judges have the power, if anybody is in contempt of court, to put in jail. In other words, if… if… if somebody before a judge in the United States were to not appear … [Audio 45:28 – 45:31 missing]… to work within those guidelines. Contempt of court in general, the judge has power to incarcerate.
There’s only two states in the United States that I know where the judge is empowered to incarcerate up to six months a parent who is in contempt of court for a visitation uh… order. And once that happens, there will be very, there will be a rapid shrinkage of PAS.
So, I started this presentation saying, what I said about the cure of PAS is the legislators empowering the judges to impose penalties, meaningful, humane penalties, on PAS inducing parents – regardless of the gender of the parent. This is the only cure I know of. Psychotherapy will not work. Nothing else I can think of will work and I’ve certainly been giving a lot of thought to this over the last fifteen years. And there’s nothing in my experience to suggest that there’s any other route to cure and my hope is that what I’ve said today will play some role in bringing about this change here.
Mothers and domestic violence advocates have been complaining for many years about problems in the custody court system that have resulted in large numbers of children being sent to live with abusive fathers while safe, protective mothers are denied any meaningful relationship with their children. Courts have tended to dismiss the complaints by referring to the mothers as “disgruntled litigants.” As more concern about the problem has been expressed and more research performed, the mothers’ complaints have been confirmed. Early in 2010, a new book co-edited by Dr. Maureen T. Hannah and Barry Goldstein, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY will be published and end any doubts that there is a pattern of mistakes made in the custody court system. These mistakes have caused thousands of cases to be mishandled and placed the lives and well being of battered women and their children in jeopardy. The book includes chapters by over 25 of the leading experts in the United States and Canada including judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, journalists and domestic violence advocates. Although these experts come from different disciplines and approached the issue from different directions, there is a remarkable consensus about the problem and the solution. The up-to-date research and information now available makes it clear that the present practices can no longer be justified and the custody court system must create the necessary reforms to protect the safety of children and protective mothers in domestic violence custody cases. This article will discuss ten reasons we know the custody court system is broken and must be reformed.
1. Mothers’ Complaints:
The problem this article seeks to discuss are cases in which a mother who has been the primary caregiver and makes allegations of domestic violence and/or child abuse loses custody to the alleged abuser and receives supervised visitation or no contact with her children. These cases have increased since federal laws designed to increase enforcement of child support orders were passed. Male supremacist groups have encouraged abusive fathers to seek custody as a way to avoid paying child support, to pressure his partner to stay or punish her for leaving. The courts and the often inadequately trained professionals they rely on, glad to see the involvement of fathers in children’s lives often fail to recognize the tactic and motivation. Courts tend to look at each case separately and so fail to see the patterns of mistakes in these cases. Demonizing their victim is a common strategy employed by abusers so a court could believe there was something profoundly wrong with an individual mother to justify the extreme outcome. When experts look at the pattern of these cases it is evident that the unusual circumstances needed to justify a particular outcome cannot be as common as the results would suggest. Women and children make deliberately false allegations of abuse between one and two percent of the time, but the court decisions support the myth that such deliberate false allegations are common. Furthermore, domestic violence allegations are painful and embarrassing to make and require the victims to speak about uncomfortable issues and questions. Research demonstrates that allegations of domestic violence and child abuse make women less likely to obtain custody. We can’t know that an individual case was improperly decided without careful review of the case, but we know the frequency of outcomes that give custody to alleged abusers cannot possibly be based on objective facts.
2. Available Research:
The modern movement against domestic violence is only about thirty years old and there was little research available when it started. We now have extensive research to demonstrate common mistakes courts and the often-unqualified professionals they rely on use in domestic violence custody cases. Studies show that while evaluators believe they are considering domestic violence in their investigation of the family, in fact most fail to do so. We have many studies proving widespread gender bias against women in the approaches used by the courts. Evaluators regularly use psychological testing that has little or no relevance to the issues before the court and is gender biased. Psychologists testifying before the courts rarely inform the judges that their results are based upon probabilities so that factors in the case that would reduce those probabilities can be considered. Most important to the present topic is research that considers the accuracy of the actual court decisions. Most custody cases (over 95%) are settled more or less amicably. The problem is with the minority of terrible cases that continue to trial and beyond. Courts often think of them as “high conflict” cases, but in reality these are mostly domestic violence cases. Research studies vary somewhat on the percentage of these cases that involve abusive fathers, but all agree the majority of such cases involve domestic violence. I believe the studies that found 90% of these contested custody cases are caused by abusive fathers because unqualified professionals frequently miss domestic violence. In any event, contested custody cases should be being decided overwhelmingly in favor of protective mothers because most of the fathers are abusive, but 70% of the cases result in custody or joint custody to the father. This does not tell us an individual case was wrongly decided, but does demonstrate that a large percentage of cases are being decided in a way that is harmful for the children.
3. Battered Mothers Testimony Project and Research:
Several states including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and New York City have done studies based on questionnaires filled out by protective mothers. These surveys have demonstrated widespread problems in the custody court system, many common mistakes and outcomes that fail to protect battered women and their children. This is admittedly not scientific research as the participants are volunteers rather than randomly selected (much of the “research” cited by male supremacist groups comes from interviews with alleged abusers, but is often treated as if it were valid research). Sociologists, Sharon Araji and Rebecca L. Bosek went several steps further for their chapter in DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. They performed a similar study in Alaska and then compared the results from the various states that interviewed protective mothers. The authors found the responses similar across the several state surveys. They then compared the results of the surveys filled out by protective mothers to scientific research performed by a variety of researchers using accepted scientific methods. Significantly the findings from the protective mothers are strongly supported by the scientific research. In other words, the complaints by protective mothers that have been so often dismissed as coming from “disgruntled litigants” actually have substantial validity.
4. Courageous Kids:
If a court system wanted to determine the validity and value of psychological evaluations, it would look for research that examined how the recommendations and approaches used by the evaluators worked out in the lives of the children. Without such research there is no way to determine if the time, money and results for evaluations are useful. In fact there is no such research and I would certainly recommend obtaining such research if evaluations were to continue to be used in child custody cases. The closest we have to such research is the Courageous Kids Network. The Courageous Kids are young adults who were forced to live with abusers by the decisions of the custody court. They are now old enough to have escaped their abusers and are speaking out about their experiences. The stories are painful to hear because they had to survive such awful abuse, but life affirming as they overcame the obstacles to support each other and help change the broken system. These heroes have spoken at judicial trainings, legislative hearings and domestic violence conferences. Their presentations are effective because it is all too easy to discredit protective mothers, but hard to discredit the children for whom the courts and the professionals are supposedly trying to help. Remember these children were forced to live with and be influenced by the abuser. In most cases they had to endure “therapy” designed to support the abuser and discredit the protective mother. There are many psychological, safety and other reasons to discourage such children from coming forward and speaking out. The fact so many Courageous Kids have spoken out demonstrates the courts are getting large numbers of cases tragically wrong.
5. Review of Bad Cases:
The authors of the 25 chapters in the book have carefully reviewed hundreds if not thousands of these cases. In their book, FROM MADNESS TO MUTINY, Dr. Amy Neustein and Michael Lesher reviewed over 1000 cases. The Truth Commission listened to the testimony of 16 women and reviewed records from their cases. Many other experts have studied domestic violence cases where the alleged abuser received custody and the protective mother received little or no contact with her children. In these cases we have found widespread mistakes, bad practices, use of myths and stereotypes, the failure to use up-to-date research, gender bias and outcomes that place children at risk. The legal system works on the assumption that once a case is decided or facts determined that the findings are established and any further consideration should be based upon the assumption the court decided the case properly. This assumption will lead to misinformation and inaccurate research because there is strong evidence that most contested domestic violence custody cases and certainly those that result in custody to the alleged abuser are wrongly decided. We are particularly concerned with the growing court practice of retaliating against protective mothers and professionals trying to help them for exposing court mistakes in these cases. Frequently a mother’s refusal to believe an abuser is safe after the court fails to recognize his abuse is used to justify severe and extreme limitations on her access to her children without regard to the harm such rulings have on the children.
6. Parental Alienation Syndrome:
PAS is a bogus theory created based on the personal biases of Dr. Richard Gardner. His books were self-published and never peer reviewed. It is used only in domestic violence custody cases to prevent or shorten investigations of the father’s abuse. PAS assumes that if a child expresses negative feelings about the father or doesn’t want visitation, the only possible explanation is that the mother alienated the child and the solution is to force the child to live with the abuser and have at most supervised visitation with the protective mother who has been the primary attachment figure for the child. PAS is not recognized by any reputable professional organization and does not appear in DSM IV, which contains recognized diagnosis. Dr. Paul Fink, past president of the American Psychiatric Association wrote a chapter for the book in which he demonstrates the invalidity of PAS. Dr. Fink points out that Richard Gardner made numerous statements complaining that society takes child sexual abuse too seriously and that sex between adults and children can be appropriate. This explains why PAS is so often used to give custody to fathers who have sexually abused their children. Dr. Fink points out that psychologists are starting to lose their licenses for using PAS in evaluations. They are, in effect diagnosing something that does not exist. Thousands of the cases in which alleged abusers won custody was based upon the discredited PAS or PAS by a different name. Any case in which “evidence” of PAS was allowed was likely wrongly decided.
7. Gender Bias:
The Truth Commission recommended that rather than training professionals with general domestic violence information, all professionals should have training in Gender Bias, Recognizing Domestic Violence and the Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. This is because they found that many of the mistakes made in these cases were caused by a lack of understanding of these basic concepts. At least 40 states and many other districts and communities have created court-sponsored gender bias committees. They have found widespread gender bias and particularly in domestic violence custody cases. Among the common problems were blaming victims for their abuser’s behavior, burdening women with higher standards of proof and giving fathers more credibility than mothers. Other research, including the chapter in the book by Molly Dragiewicz has made similar findings. In one New York case the court gave custody to an abuser and denied the protective mother any contact with the children after the evaluator used and the judge supported a certainty standard for the mother and probability standard for the father. Few litigants could win a case when faced with a certainty standard. At least 15-20 different judges were asked to review this clear example of gender bias (the different standards were stated in the evaluator’s report and repeatedly challenged in the transcript), but every judge failed to correct this obvious error. Lynn Hecht Schafran wrote a brilliant article “Evaluating the Evaluators” that illustrates the problem. The article describes a new psychologist asked to perform an evaluation on a young family. She went to the father’s apartment and found it a complete mess with no food in the refrigerator. She wrote the father lives in a typical bachelor apartment. She went to the mother’s apartment and found it to be somewhat messy, but not as bad as the father’s. She had food in the refrigerator, but not as much as preferable. The evaluator wrote the mother lives in a messy apartment with inadequate food. The evaluator had a supervisor because she was new and the supervisor asked if she saw what she had done. The evaluator could not believe she had engaged in gender bias and quickly corrected the report. The article is valuable because it demonstrates that professionals acting in good faith (including women) can easily engage in gender bias without realizing it because of the sexism and stereotypes so prevalent in our society. How can anyone reasonably believe the courts are reaching fair decisions in domestic violence custody cases when gender bias is so common?
8. Failure to Recognize Domestic Violence:
Many of the mistakes custody courts make have to do with failing to recognize domestic violence. In fairness some of the problem is caused because victims or their attorneys fail to present the necessary evidence. Unqualified professionals often discount allegations of abuse based upon information that represents a normal and reasonable response to his abuse. In the book, Judge Mike Brigner writes about training judges in domestic violence. They often ask him how to respond to all the cases where women are lying about domestic violence. When he asks what they mean, they cite cases where women go back to their abuser, withdraw petitions for a protective order, fail to file police complaints or don’t seek medical care. In reality there are safety and other explanations for women’s response to domestic violence and none of these examples should be used to assume her complaints are false. At the same time they use information of limited value to discount domestic violence, professionals fail to use helpful and relevant information to understand the pattern of domestic violence tactics. Too often the professionals are interested only in physical abuse. They fail to consider a variety of controlling and coercive tactics. They don’t understand the significance of a woman’s fear of her partner. Domestic violence advocates are the only professionals that work full time on domestic violence issues. The advocates receive more training and have more knowledge of domestic violence then the professionals relied on by the courts. Domestic violence agencies have very limited resources so they are forced to screen clients before providing services. Accordingly when a woman is receiving services from a domestic violence agency, it is a strong indication that she is a battered woman, but many professionals fail to consider this information. Although seeking custody to pressure a mother to return or punish her for leaving is a common abuser tactic, few courts consider why a father with limited involvement with the children prior to separation suddenly demands full custody. Similarly unqualified professionals often fail to consider evidence that a man believes his partner has no right to leave is a strong indication of his motivation in seeking custody. How can courts be expected to decide domestic violence custody cases appropriately if they don’t know what to look for when determining the validity of domestic violence allegations.
9. Effect of Domestic Violence on Children:
Every state has passed laws designed to promote greater consideration of the effects of domestic violence on children. Some states require domestic violence to be considered in making custody and visitation decisions and others create a presumption against custody for abusers (although often the laws or the courts require a level of proof or create other restrictions that limit the effectiveness of these laws). Prior to these laws, when a protective mother asked to limit the father’s contact with the children because of domestic violence, the judge would ask some version of “Does he also abuse the child?” If the answer was no, the court treated the father as if he was just as appropriate for custody and visitation as the mother. The change in laws was based on overwhelming research that children witnessing domestic violence were harmed as much as children directly abused. The research found these children to be at substantially greater risk of a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors when they were older. In other words, domestic violence is a serious form of child abuse. We have found, however that courts frequently place greater reliance on other custody factors that have far less consequences to the safety and well being of children. In fairness, the courts are not solely to blame as legislatures have passed laws like “friendly parent” factors and failed to make domestic violence and safety the primary factors in custody determination. There is no research that “alienating” statements or attitudes by one parent to the children has the kind of serious long-term harm of domestic violence and yet many of the cases reviewed focus far more attention on alleged alienation. When mothers respond normally to their partner’s abuse with fear or attempts to protect the children, courts frequently treat this as the most important issue in deciding custody. This is a common example of what was discussed in gender bias reports in that the mother is held responsible for her reaction to the father’s abuse instead of holding the father responsible for his abuse. This type of mistake is at the heart of the common mistakes made by custody courts and does not serve the best interests of the children. If children are having problems as a result of the father’s abuse, unqualified professionals often blame the divorce and separation instead of his abuse. They often recommend cooperation and interaction between abuser and victim that is the opposite of what is healthy for children, but often benefit the fathers’ cases. When children appear to be doing well, inadequately trained professionals mistakenly assume this means the abuse allegations are false. Some children respond to abuse by trying to be perfect and take on adult responsibilities. Many years later the harm of the father’s abuse comes out in debilitating ways. Similarly children will often behave well with abusers and act out with their mothers because they know she is the safe parent. This is often misunderstood and courts reach the false conclusion that the father is the better parent. As long as the courts fail to understand the long-term harm to children of placing them with abusers, the courts will continue to make decisions that ruin children’s lives.
10. Extreme Results:
If a court were to give custody to a protective mother and limit the father to supervised visitation because of his domestic violence, it would be following the recommendations of up-to-date research. In other words there is a scientific basis for such an outcome. The researchers weigh the harm of restricting the children’s contact with their father and the harm the father is likely to cause with unrestricted visitation and the message sent to the children by awarding normal visitation with someone they know abused their mother. Instead what we are seeing is alleged abusers receiving custody and protective mothers having supervised or no visitation. Obviously, in these cases the courts are assuming the mother’s allegations of abuse are false. They justify the visitation restrictions by their concern the mother will continue to believe she was abused and say negative things about the father. Where is the research that the harm to the children of hearing such statements is greater than the harm of being denied a normal relationship with their mother? Even in intact families the children often hear negative comments about the other parent. In other words, these extreme court decisions are based upon the belief systems and biases of court professionals and not up-to-date research. Many children have been denied any contact with their mothers in these cases. Ironically fathers are often granted custody based on the belief they are the friendlier parent and will promote the relationship between the mother and children, but he proceeds to terminate all contact once he has control. Many courts that jumped all over mothers for requesting the court restrict the father’s access have done nothing in the face of the father preventing visitation or other contact between mother and children. Rapists and even murderers frequently receive some supervised visitation and yet mothers who sought to protect their children from an abuser are completely cut off from their children. The extreme outcomes faced by protective mothers are unsupported by any research, but demonstrate serious flaws in the custody system.
Now That We Know the Custody Court System Is Broken
Now is not the time for blame or attacks. As the Schafran article demonstrates, it is all too easy for good and caring people to fail to understand and recognize gender bias and domestic violence. In the book, Judge Hornsby writes that in his 19th year on the bench he finally understood the proper way to handle requests for protective orders. The judge’s humility, integrity and openness should serve as a model to the legal community as it responds to the clear information and research that the present court practices are mistreating protective mothers and their children. I was recently at a domestic violence conference in Hawaii where a court official was asked a question implying serious problems in the court system. She responded by saying if someone didn’t like a decision they could appeal. To her credit she later acknowledged that many people don’t have the money for such an appeal. This official fell into the trap of responding defensively to criticism. The challenge for the custody court system is to be open to the up-to-date research even though it finds the courts have made widespread mistakes in its handling of domestic violence custody cases. The medical community faced a similar situation in responding to research that found avoidable mistakes were responsible for 100,000 deaths each year in our nation’s hospitals. For years, fear of lawsuits, discipline and damaged reputation caused the medical profession to ignore, deny and seek to place blame on others. Finally they realized this was a losing strategy. Doctors, nurses and hospitals have now come together to correct the problems with more openness and accountability. Lives have already been saved from implementation of this approach and the campaign to prevent such avoidable errors. Rather than harm the medical community’s reputation, this campaign has increased the respect for the medical community. I believe if the legal community makes a similar effort to apply the latest research and create a campaign to avoid the kinds of tragic mistakes that have ruined the lives of so many women and children, the campaign will improve the reputation of the legal system. The promotion of the safety of battered mothers and their children is not and should not be considered a partisan issue.
Every state and every court system has rules and laws against domestic violence. Although some fringe male supremacist groups object to these laws, society has spoken and there is no longer any legitimate dispute about whether domestic violence should be tolerated. If a community had a rash of arson fires and the courts and legislature wanted to figure out how to respond they would seek the expertise of the experts. The experts are the firefighting community because they know best how to recognize arson, prevent it and respond to arson. No one would ever accuse the firefighters of being partisan because they are always against arson. In responding to domestic violence the experts are the domestic violence community. They are the only profession working full time on domestic violence issues and know how to recognize domestic violence, the best ways to prevent it and the harm it causes. Too often the courts have failed to take advantage of this community resource because they viewed domestic violence advocates as partisans. The validity for this claim ended when society determined it would no longer tolerate domestic violence and passed laws to enforce this determination. The crimes of arson and domestic violence are treated differently because arson has always been a crime and domestic violence is a relatively new crime and most firefighters are men and most domestic violence advocates are women. In this still sexist society what women say is not treated with the respect and value that what men say is. The domestic violence community is an important and valuable resource that the court system can benefit from as it applies the up-to-date research to practices that are now discredited. The legal system must use this research to launch a re-evaluation of its response to domestic violence custody cases so that custody courts become a safe place for battered mothers and their children. We are ready to work with them to help accomplish society’s goal of ending domestic violence.
Barry Goldstein is the author of SCARED TO LEAVE AFRAID TO STAY. He has been an instructor and supervisor in a NY Model Batterer Program for 10 years. He was an attorney representing victims of domestic violence for 30 years. He now provides workshops, judicial and other trainings regarding domestic violence particularly related to custody issues. He also serves as a consultant and expert witness. His new book, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY, co edited with Dr. Maureen T. Hannah will be published early in 2010. For more information, visit his web site at Barrygoldstein.net