Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This upsets me so much I can't even think of a title for this post

From Sick joke or sick reality?:
"Parental Alienation Syndrome has been used nationwide by batterers as a courtroom tactic to silence abused children by attempting to discredit their disclosures of abuse. This theory is not recognized as valid by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Medical Association. Parental Alienation Syndrome is not accepted as a psychiatric diagnosis, and has been rejected by the mainstream psychological community. Parental Alienation Syndrome is junk science; there is no valid research or empirical data to support this unproven theory."

PAS is all about punishing mothers, while abused children are denied their safety and the validation of their own experiences.
In Florida, Indiana, Connecticut, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, Maine, and Nevada, there is now reportedly a whole day officially dedicated to raising "awareness" about [Richard] Gardner's theory called Parental Alienation Syndrome, in which the very reports of abuse by a child against a father are themselves evidence that the child is being brainwashed by the mother (and if the child is angry at the father, or doesn't want to visit, that's even more evidence) and the only "cure" for this syndrome is to force the child to live with the abuser and deny ANY contact with the protective mother, who has no history of abuse.

C'mon, you're thinking, what judge would buy this crock? Doesn't it matter if the abuse really happened? Apparently not.

So why is PAS being allowed into the courts?
This month, the NOW Foundation joined other leading organizations working on family law and family violence in a complaint filed against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The complaint charges that U.S. courts are failing to protect the life, liberties, security, and other human rights of abused mothers and children by frequently awarding child custody to abusers and child molesters. PAS is one predominant strategy being used by lawyers to place children in such danger. A recent Newsweek article noted the finding of a Harvard study that in custody cases involving documented spousal abuse, 54% granted custody to the batterer, and parental alienation was used as an argument in nearly every single one.

Don't Miss: Courageous Kids (powerful) - kids who had to live with an abusive parent are speaking out about their experiences.
Also: A Letter to Richard Gardener (funny)


Anonymous said...

Gives 'Spin Doctor' a whole new perspective, doesn't it?

Reminds me of Loftus: she turned in her membership to the APA because of this sort of abuse on her 'False Memory Syndrome' research...

SOOOO they turned around & began a spin campaign to slander... against YOU GUESSED IT!:LOFTUS.

Gotta LOVE the APA...

Spread Love...
... but wear the Glove!

BlueBerry Pick'n
can be found @
"Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"

TomCat said...

It amazes me that people would actually buy into such trash.

Red Jenny said...

Hey TC, unfortunately many otherwise well-meaning folk get sucked in because they aren't willing to look at how awful some families can be. They think, rightly under most circumstances, that a child should have access to her or his father - problem is, there are situations where this is far worse for the child. Sometimes they don't have enough background in science to know the different between good science and junk science. I don't think most of the people who buy into this crap are pro-child-abuse, but they are fooled by those abusers and mysogynists who fight so hard for their so-called rights.

KC said...

While I can certainly see the dangers of jumping on the PAS bandwagon so to speak (ie kids being sent to live with an abusive parent), I think its unfair to be wholly dismissive of the theory as "junk science" or to assert that the lack of recognition by the APA and AMA is consclusive on the matter (remember that not to long ago homosexuality was a disorder while many other legitimate problems--such as batters wives syndrome--were not recognized). You have quoted from articles by advocacy groups which have their own biases, not scientific texts. Frankly I dont think we know what the real answer is.

From personal, anecdotal experience; I certainly can think of children of divorced parents whose animosity towards one parent far exceeds what is reasonable given what the actions of that parent. I don't think that proves or disproves anything.

But what it does do is leads me to be less dismissive of one side of the issue than you have been here.

Anonymous said...

Is an excellent response to NOW. Plenty of research! When are both genders going to get fed up with a group that is no longer for equality, but has a radical hidden agenda.


C Lynch said...

Hey Red Jenny, I agree with you on the Junk Science part - Parental Alienation has been researched and documented in hundreds of peer reviewed articles while the claims about it being used solely by abusers is mere myth. Additionally, hundreds of other peer reviewed studies show that child abuse is *more* prevalent in a woman led home, so it would appear that PA would - in that case - be perpetrated by more women. The myth of abusers using PA and PAS lost even more credibility when PBS commissioned a documentary on that very subject, and the documentary was subsequently shredded showing that the mother who was using this claim that the father was the child abuser was in fact herself *convicted* of multiple counts of child abuse. Too bad most people can't get their facts straight.

Red Jenny said...

Hey Angela, am I one of your angry radical feminists? Don't worry, I'll answer for you: yes.

While I appreciate your diplomacy, KC, the agendas of those who promote the concept of PAS are far scarier than the agendas of those who disprove it.

I don't know what it is about the comments today, but I can't understand half of them. So to those I didn't respond to: please explain your point clearly with reasonably accurate grammar so that your meaning is not obscured.

Anonymous said...

Please do not be angry. Support true EQUALITY like Terri Stoddard!

KC said...


I'd prefer to evaluate PAS on its merits rather than accept it or dismiss it based on what I think of the agendas of those who push it. Divorces are messy businesses. You can't tell me you've never encountered an instance where a spouse in a relationship (male or female) was manipulating the children to spite the other. Its more common than you might think.

Its my understanding from people who deal with these kind of family matters that while those who believe in the existence of PAS are in the minority the debate is far from settled. With respect, we can't disregard facts or summarily declare debates settled solely because it is incovenient to our social agendas no matter how noble they may be.

Jim Hueglin said...

The point is that it should not matter who first brought the problem of parental alienation to the attention of others, or what it is called, since it does exist. An untold number of children are routinely cut off, by one of their parents, from their other loving parent, and by extention, their grandparents, extended family members and friends. It is a sad situation, but one that you would not seem to be able to acknowledge. Hopefully you will never experience it.

Scott Neigh said...

I agree that divorce can be a messy business.

I agree that even more than most kinds of "knowledge" creation by Western science, the creation of psychological diagnostic categories is a fraught business shot through with struggles over power, because so often those categories, even the ones that are largely uncontroversial, are used in ways that are more about power-over and control of marginalized people by experts and "the authorities" than about health or healing or wellness or empowerment, let alone about justice or liberation.

I agree that some women can engage in abusive behaviour towards their kids; of course they can.

But I find it interesting how easy it seems to be for a number of the commenters above to use all of that complexity and furor over details to quietly omit the overwhelming reality of violence by men against women and children (which often occurs in the context of state and corporate violence against communities, of course.) I don't see how you can meaningfully talk about this issue without keeping that reality in the foreground, unless blanking or obscuring or fudging that reality is actually at the heart of your agenda.

KC said...

Scott - I don't think anyone is downplaying violence against women and children or even moving it from the foreground. Whats more I think that the suggestion that anyone might be "blanking or obscuring or fudging that reality" to further some agenda obscures debate on the issue more than anything else.

The point I have been trying to make is that the specific debate over whether PAS actually exists or not should take place in the realm of psychology not politics. In other words PAS either exists or it doesn't exist. Whether or not violence against women and children is a social issue of concern (which it clearly is) is irrelevant to determination of that narrow question. Only when that specific debate has been settled (or at least settled on some balance of probabilities) should these social issues be invoked to provide a context in which real life application of PAS in legal disputes or wherever is carried out. For example IF PAS is proven to be real in a scientific sense (and that is still a big if. I am not begging the scientific question) should concerns about violence against women and children mean the onus lies on the person alleging that PAS has occured to prove it? Should they bear the additional onus of disproving abuse? Should the standard of proving PAS be higher than the normal civil standard of balance of probabilites? These are the kinds of questions (and there are others) where debate about the social issues should take place. But on the narrow issue of whether or not PAS exists--I prefer to let science decide regardless of my own political proclivities. Its intellectually erroneous to proclaim that "PAS doesn't exist because violence against women is a serious issue". That simply doesn't follow. Its illogical.

As an aside I have to say that the willingness to disregard competing considerations is something that really frustrates me about ideologically driven arguments both "left" and "right". Just because violence against women and children is a serious issue and even more so than the issue of parents who use children as pawns to leverage or hurt other parties in a separation/divorce/whatever does not mean that we should summarily disregard the latter. In our quest to prevent violence we can't act in a way that is ignorant of the fact that children are sometimes manipulated by former spouses to further their own ends. Just as we can't in our quest to convict murderers ignore the importance of due process rights for the accused. We might see the former as a more important task but if we lose sight of the latter we have done ourselves a grave injustice.

Personally I think a profound concern for and sensitivity towards domestic violence can co-exist with a reasoned debate about PAS. What cannot co-exist is ideological blindness and rational argument.

Red Jenny said...

Angela, I'll stop being angry when women and children stop being the overwhelming victims of abuse.

KC, of course divorces can be a messy business. Of course kids can get caught between angry spouses. And of course there are parents who talk badly about the other spouse or otherwise try to manipulate their children. That is not the same as PAS. As to agendas, if the APA has one, it is to keep themselves in business. If anything they err on the side of pathologizing too much. Plus, if the debate is "far from settled" than diagnoses of PAS should not be permissible in the courts. I'm sure you'll agree with that.

Actually Jim, I have more experience in this than you know, both personal and through organizations.

Not that anecdotal experience means much, of course, but it can be interesting to share. I'll share two stories.

I know a divorced couple in which one parent is forbidden to see the child. This is the non-abusive parent. The abusive parent has sole custody because of all kinds of false accusations. This is the man. He has sole custody of his kids. The kids are very confused - they haven't seen their mom in a couple of years. This is a good example of how the courts sometimes screw up. The kids are confused and probably traumatized and need treatment for that, but that doesn't mean they need to be diagnosed with an unproven new syndrome and kept away from their mom even more.

I know another divorcing couple where one of the parents was abusive to the other partner. She has kicked him, and slapped him in the past, and is verbally... well... nasty. This is certainly not cool, but it is nothing like the kind of abuse suffered at the hands of many women I know. Their abuse involved something that is often (though not always) missing from woman-on-man abuse: fear for their lives. Now this abusive woman has been trying to manipulate her kids to be more on "her side". This is bad. Their mom lied to them, and created quite a lot of anger, but their dad has simply spoken with them, pointed out his side of the story, and been very very patient with them. The kids had a good relationship with their dad before the divorce and so there was a strong base on which to rebuild a relationship. They are now actually closer than ever before. Taking them away from their mom because of some fake diagnosis of PAS would have been devastating. Conversely taking them away from their dad would have also been devastating.

Now, if one of the parents is abusive towards the kids, they absolutely need to be separated from that parent. It is very rare for a child or woman to make a false accusation of abuse, so any accusation needs to be taken seriously... If kids experience abuse at the hands of a parent they need: 1) to be made safe, 2) to be believed and validated, 3) to receive treatment to help them heal. The cases in which PAS is used: 1) make the kids unsafe by placing them with the abusive parent, 2) invalidate and discredit their experiences, and of course 3) prevent them from healing. Tell me how this protects the children?

It doesn't. What it does is protect (mostly) the father who feels he is entitled to his kids. In this perspective his kids belong to him, and he has a right to them. They are not seen as humans, but as objects.

The reason I say usually it protects the man is because the vast majority of these cases involves abusive men accusing the women of creating parental alienation. In our society, the power relationships between men and women are still unequal. As Scott says, there's a context here of power relationships that cannot be forgotten.

I could go on, but I think this is long enough ;)

KC said...

RJ - Given that (from my understanding) believers in PAS are a small minority I would agree that a judge probably shouldn't put much if any weight on it. That doesnt mean that parties should be precluded from putting forward an argument that the dominant belief has shifted.

However I don't think we should demand a consensus on scientific theories before that theory is acted upon. I think you and I would agree that action is needed on global warming despite the lack of unanimity of belief in the scientific community about its existence. In fact we probably should have been acting ten years ago when their was even less consensus despite the high economic costs!

Nonethless, if you ask me I say debate away on any scientific issue (PAS, global warming) no matter how many or how few people are on your side.

Anonymous said...


I'm glad I didn't bother to answer your earlier question; you've already made up your mind.

Too bad you've been influenced by false "facts" and debunked "studies." I suggest you read a little from the website before you claim women are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence, or that men never fear for their lives.

This part is hilarious:

"What it does is protect (mostly) the father who feels he is entitled to his kids. In this perspective his kids belong to him, and he has a right to them. They are not seen as humans, but as objects."

This describes how most WOMEN usually feel about the kids. And *I* know this because I know thousands of single moms and single dads. It's almost always women who want sole custody instead of shared, not men.

And fyi- some women are victims of PA just like men are.

PLEASE STOP making this about gender!

We're never going to get anywhere if both sides keep fighting each other instead of the system!

The Father said...

Try taking out the word mother and father and replace it with parent.Then you may be able to see more clearly when you take off the blinders of misandry. what is the definition to the word alienation?
When one parent implores it against the other then it is parental alienation. I can't get any simpler then that.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, it is already about gender. And of course both men and women are victims of abuse, but the quantity and severity on average is very gender-based.

equal parent, your post doesn't make any sense: "When one parent implores it against the other then it is parental alienation."

Anonymous said...

red jenny, I'll try this again as my last post may have gotten lost in cyberspace. Chances are we will never see eye-to-eye on this, and that's okay, because even writing about the problem is helpful to me. You see, over the past 12 years, as a result of my son's separation and divorce at the instigation of his then wife, and her mother, my wife and I assisted our son in raising his children of the marriage. During those years we saw the children on an average of two days a week, and established an endearing relationship with them. In the process, by virtue of our support of our son, we were, on more than one occassion, falsely accused, by the children's mother and maternal grandmother, of abusing, including sexually abusing, our grandchildren (so much for it is rare for a ... woman to make a false accusation of abuse). As of last December, however, my wife and I have had virtually no contact with the grandchildren we love so much because their mother, and maternal grandmother, have alienated them against their father, extended family and friends. While I would agree that some men use whatever means is available to them to control women and children, I can assure you, once again, that parental alienation is a reality, it is used as a means of denying children access to those they love, and its negative consequences on the children involved could, in later life, be devestating. It is unfortunate that, all to often, men are considered to always be sinners, and women are considered to always be saints.

Red Jenny said...

Jim, I'm sorry to hear about your situation, but an anecdote does not a syndrome make. Also, that something happens doesn't contradict the statement that it is rare. Please don't throw that old false line about men as sinners, women as saints. There's absolutely no difference in the level goodness of either gender, and that's a cheap argument.

Anonymous said...

Men are victims as well and to not acknowledge this shows that you are agenda driven and have lost the ability to think in a balanced way.

News Flash! All the stats show that women are more likely to abuse children than men. Did you hear of the most recent case when the sicko mom mutilated the genitals of her son and blamed it on the dog! There is no use in debating this because those who are agenda driven will refuse to admit this.

Also, most of the stats show that men and women abuse their partners at almost the same rate. Feminists, of course, will never agree to this. Support and check out

Anonymous said...

Hi Red,
The view that all men are batterers is a very narrow minded point of view. That is synonymous with saying that all who drink coffee doesn't like tea.

The fact of the matter is my children were alienated from the time of divorce and it continued on May 4th 2007 when I buried my 20 year old son and she made sure that my name and family did not appear in the obituary. She raised hell in the hospital because the doctors were updating me on my sons condition. PAS is real. Read my book "Cheated" A documented account of parental alienation which in fact was co authored by my son Ariel who explained how his mom had he and his brother open the child support checks and tell them that if your father loved you he would send more money. When you generalize your personal feelings across an entire population, it takes away your credibility. I am sure that you will say that my case is isolated because it gives you the ability to remain on that soapbox.
The coffee is brewing!!!


Minister Ronald Smith
Children Need Both Parents, Inc.

Anonymous said...


Red Jenny said...

Thank you for disagreeing with something I never said: "all men are batterers". Nice straw man.

And you'll say the cases I'm familiar with where the father was the abuser but successfully got full custody of his children to be isolated incidents too. Neither of us makes a good case there.

Mothers and fathers both are capable of, and can do, terrible things. Husbands and wives can do terrible things to each other too (but the accurate statistics show a remarkable difference in amount and severity of abuse. Femicide is far higher, for example.). Did you miss all the other times I've said as much? That doesn't mean junk science should be used to keep a child with his or her abuser.

Red Jenny said...

Many cases of spousal abuse are still not reported to the police - although there are some signs that reporting is increasing.6 The most complete information about the extent of spousal abuse in Canada comes from the 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS).7 This victimization survey asked almost 26,000 women and men in Canada about their experiences of abuse including experiences of violence and emotional abuse in their current or previous marriages and common law partnerships. According to the GSS, women and men experience similar rates of both violence and emotional abuse in their relationships. The survey found, however, that the violence experienced by women is tended to be more severe - and more often repeated - than the violence directed at men. For example, compared to men, women were:

* six times more likely to report being sexually assaulted
* five times more likely to report being choked
* five times more likely to require medical attention, as a result of an assault
* three times more likely to be physically injured by an assault
* more than twice as likely to report being beaten
* almost twice as likely to report being threatened with, or having a gun or knife used against them
* much more likely to fear for their lives, or be afraid for their children as a result of the violence
* more likely to have sleeping problems, suffer depression or anxiety attacks, or have lowered self-esteem as a result of being abused, and
* more likely to report repeated victimization.8

Some researchers have noted that the survey also found that women experience higher levels of certain types of emotional abuse. Compared to men, women:

* were four times more likely to report being threatened, harmed, or having someone close to them threatened or harmed
* were four times more likely to report being denied access to family income
* were more than twice as likely to report having their property damaged or their possessions destroyed
* reported a higher incidence of being isolated from family and friends, and
* reported a higher rate of name-calling and put downs.9

Homicide data reveals that women are also at higher risk of being killed by their husbands. In the past two decades, three times as many wives were killed by their husbands, as husbands killed by wives.10 The rate of spousal homicide is much higher for Aboriginal women and men.11

Department of Justice Canada

Red Jenny said...

this case is an example of how family law is NOT biased towards women, and indeed often fails to protect women and children.