Parental Alienation (‘PA’), Domestic Violence (‘DV’) and False Allegations
We have been hearing a lot recently about ‘Parental Alienation’. My aim today is to offer a brief guide as to the condition, and what we can do to combat it. I argue that PA is nothing less than the psychological abuse of a child.
There are many definitions out there, but probably the most persuasive and accurate is this:
“Parental alienation is the process and the result of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent, relative or others.”
More simply put, PA happens when one parent deliberately turns their child against the other parent, without justification. The aim is to sever the child’s relationship with the other parent, and it is motivated by hatred. The parent that carries out this form of psychological abuse of a child hates the other parent more than they love their own child. The child will be hurt by this process, but the alienator does not care.
In the first stage, the child is rewarded if she reports unfavourably on a contact visit with the ‘target parent’. The child will also be punished if she reports that she had a great time with the other parent. The alienator brainwashes and coerces the child, and ‘trains’ the child to loathe or fear the target parent, in exactly the same way that Pavlov trained his dogs. The child quickly gets the hang of this and, wanting to avoid punishments, rejects the target parent.
After a while the child rejects the other parent without any need for coaxing. The alienator then shifts ground, hiding behind the programmed child, and will say ‘well, I try to encourage contact, but the child will not cooperate.’ Now, the alienation process is complete.
Of course, most of the time, when couples separate, the children tend to stay with the mother. Because of this fact, there is a perception that PA is something carried out by mothers against fathers. This is an over-simplification. There are many times when the alienation is carried out by the father against the mother. Parental Alienation affects both genders, and in many different ways.
How can PA affect mothers?
There are many ways you might be affected by PA. Firstly, you might be married to a man who has children from a previous relationship. You, as their step-mum have invested time, money and love in these relationships. If your husband’s ex deliberately frustrates contact and makes life difficult, it’s not just your old man who’s affected. You will miss these relationships too…
You might be a grandmother whose child is going through a messy divorce, and contact is being frustrated or denied. Again, it’s not just your son or daughter that’s missing out. You are not getting to see the grandchild you love. When a child is alienated, the child rejects everything to do with the ‘target parent’, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, even the target parent’s football team!
But probably the most painful way to experience PA is directly, as the target parent. Can you imagine the horror, the pain, the anguish of not seeing your child for weeks, or months, sometime years?
No? The alienator can. That’s why he’s done it. He knows that the best way to hurt you is through your child – to take away the one thing in the world that you love more than anything else. Alienators are invariably narcissists.
When the alienating parent is a man, allegations usually relate to the mother’s mental health, alcohol or drug abuse, or imagined promiscuity. Allegations against fathers usually involve violence or sexual abuse. Either way, false allegations are pretty much routine in PA cases. And always devastating.
One thing that mothers will be particularly interested in is an allegation of domestic violence. As mentioned already, false allegations of ‘DV’ are commonplace. There are problems with this. Firstly, false allegations hurt the claims of women who have actually been victims of DV (see below). Secondly, it is not unknown for abusive men to claim ‘parental alienation’ when they are accused of violence.
So, what the courts need to do is simply (?) to sort the wheat from the chaff. If the allegations are true, the court should be prepared to make an order for non-molestation (an injunction, or restraining order). If the allegations are false, the accuser should be punished. Judges are, or at least should be, experts at detecting lies. After all, that’s what a judge does all day – works out who is telling the truth, and who is lying. These determinations can only be made after a ‘fact-finding’ hearing, so this is something that should be pursued vigorously. In my opinion, the judge cannot decide anything until facts have been determined. Firstly, finding facts is important in its own right, but mostly this kind of hearing gives the judge a chance to weigh up each parent and see who is telling the truth.
The reality, on the ground, is that not much tends to happen in either case. At UKAP, we conducted a survey on this topic, and the overwhelming majority of respondents indicated that the judge just wasn’t interested in these allegations. The reason, I argue, is simply that such allegations are made every time – judges just become ‘case-hardened’. False allegations usually involve the target parent somehow, miraculously turning into a monster the day after the separation! Before that, curiously, they were just a normal parent – child caring/rearing was shared in the normal way…
We can see from this that one reason courts might be slow to grant injunctions is that judges are used to false allegations. So false allegations hurt not only the target parent and the child, but also the cause of every woman that makes true allegations of DV.
So for the sake of victims of the horrendous crime of domestic violence, we must do all we can to discourage false allegations.
Paul Massey 22-10-2019
The author is an alienated parent, and founder of www.ukap.one a website dedicated to the problem of parental alienation.