This is a post I never thought I would be writing. Sadly, it is necessary. If simply for the reason of exposing the dangers in alienating other parents and families who have experienced Parental Alienation.
With great expectations, recently I joined a few online support group forums with the intention of reaching out across state lines so not to make myself an island, but rather to join forces for the greater good; increasing Parental Alienation awareness.
One such online forum I joined, called Parents Against Parental Alienation has over 250 members. Although it’s based in Massachusetts, many other folks outside of Massachusetts have joined and have received non-judgemental and caring support, great insight, but some others have also been the victims of judgmental abuse and further alienation from the very support group that is meant to encourage and lift them up.
Throughout the very short time I was actively posting, I witnessed women being harassed by men, as well as men being harassed by women; I experienced this harassment first hand. One of the main issues for this conflict, which had turned ugly with vulgar slurs being thrown about was the “Gender Issue”. Such as, are men more likely to be alienated or women? Is Parental Alienation gender-neutral? Are Domestic Violence statistics biased towards women vs. Domestic Violence is occurring equally among men and women, and of course Feminist organizations vs. Father’s Rights organizations.
I finally made up my mind to leave the group, well, technically I turned off all notifications for the group so I am not receiving any more e-mails, however I am still a member as it remains a great resource for alienated parents. The breaking point for me was when I was accused of being racist, sexist, and hateful, simply because I identified myself as a feminist, by definition. (By the way, I am looking into revisiting my desire to be labeled as a feminist, as the word itself conjures negative connotations. Maybe I can put a modern twist on it, so it evokes a more gender equality image?)
I have come to the shocking realization that, although I have both a great hope for feminists and a great hope for the father’s rights movement, I cannot side solely or confidently with either group. I feel as though I’m hanging on to flotsam and jetsam floating in a river between two great Vessels: The Feminists First and The Fathers’ Fairness. I want to reach out to both of them for HELP, however they both have some angry alligators protecting their ships waiting to bite my off my arms!
To be fair, I must say that I am equally disgusted with both of their tactics, yet I equally yearn to be on both sides. Some feminists agree that in order to come into full equality with men, so it must come to pass that men’s privileges will have to be taken away, or at least their perceived privileges (having to share a privilege may or may not seem like they are being stolen from one gender).
I have been a member of National Organization for Women NOW for about 5 years, and during that time I have been very active. I belonged to an active chapter in NJ, albeit it lacked young(er) folks like me to persevere, and the ones that were members became disenchanted after a short period of time. However, during this time I have also made friends with many amazing and inspiring women, although I do have to admit some of the women were hardened and bitter due to their narrow lens of feminism, and because they believed progress for women’s equality has not been achieved, however they were nonetheless amazing and awe-inspiring. However, I take the view that great progress has been made for women; a view that the seasoned feminists say is the reason why young people won’t take up the reins, not to mention the fact that “young folks believe they have it all.” I also won’t disagree with the fact that much more remains to be accomplished, but I dispute the idea that great strides have not been made.
My life is my journey. I am constantly learning. Back in October, I decided to focus my attention on increasing Parental Alienation Awareness and doing my part to help others, in whatever manner I could. However, I came to a quandary. I could not devote my time and energy to opposing teams. Ethically, I could not take an active approach to help spread Parental Alienation awareness if I was still involved with my beloved organization that decried PAS but a few years ago. I decided it was time put on my big girl pants and resign from my Vice-President position and cease attending monthly meetings because of this one huge factor that was hanging over my head;
WHEREAS, the term Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was created by the psychiatrist, Richard Gardner. It is used as a tactic in courts by litigating attorneys as a defense strategy for batterers and sexual predators that purports to explain a child’s estrangement from one parent, or explains away allegations against the estranged parent of abuse/sex abuse of child, by blaming the protective parent; and
WHEREAS, there are no data to support PAS; and
WHEREAS, mothers are primarily pathologized and blamed for interfering with their children’s attachment to their fathers and PAS is used by many evaluators and courts to discount children’s fears in hostile and psychologically abusive situations as a form of entrapment, keeping the child from the protective parent; and
WHEREAS, abuse is continued via the court system thru a series of ruthless assaults from all angles strategically planned over time by an abuser, his criminal-divorce-personal injury attorneys and PAS therapists to fully discredit, blame and control a protective parent with the sole purpose of hiding abuse, infidelity, finances and to “win” possession of the child(ren), while proponents of PAS profit; and
WHEREAS, as documented in the PBS film, Breaking The Silence, The Children’s Stories there are epidemic levels of abuse and dysfunction in our courts system where espoused judges repeat Richard Gardner’s unsubstantiated doctrine and make binding recommendations in conjunction with PAS therapists and PAS attorneys; and
WHEREAS, the newly revised, 2006 edition of “Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide,” published by The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, includes a strong statement condemning the use of PAS which it calls a “discredited” syndrome that favors child abusers in custody determinations;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women (NOW) denounces Parental Alienation Syndrome and recommends that any professional whose mission involves the protection of the rights of women and children denounce its use as unethical, unconstitutional, and dangerous.
Truthfully, I wasn’t aware of this resolution until just recently, which led to my final decision to cease my activity in NOW. Before that were other issues, that helped to alienate me and my husband, along with his family from his daughter. (FYI, being a feminist, and residing in the same county as the Alienating Parent does not help when one (or both) wants to commit themselves to the organizations and ideals they hold dear to their hearts.)
So, for the past month I’ve been consumed with trying to understand the psyche of fathers who have been stripped of their parental rights, of mothers who have had their children torn from their lives, for no other reason than because the Alienating Parent wants to have control, or wants to be vindictive, or just doesn’t understand their desire to hurt the other parents, or has a baseless idea that they are protecting their children.
I’ve been focused on ways to bridge the gap; how to distinguish between domestic violence, control freaks, and real parental alienation. Is it possible when women’s rights groups denounce Parental Alienation? Is it possible when father’s rights groups maintain that it is, in fact, the women who are more abusive than the men? Bias does exist in support for women who have experienced domestic violence, as many organizations and incredible amounts of money have been put in place for women, but the same can not (to my knowledge) be said for men. However, in the same vein, the women may need the protection even more so than men. Don’t get me wrong. I have also been the victim of domestic violence. I fully support programs that help women who are victims of domestic violence. However, I also support the creation of programs that will help men who are victims of domestic violence, in any form. One of the forms of domestic violence is controlling the other person through the children. No One can convince me otherwise that Parental Alienation is not a form of domestic violence. It is in my book, and it should be included in the BIG book (DSM-5).
Well, it must come to pass that I cannot find the answers because I am not a Psychologist, and I don’t think that my few semesters of receiving A’s in college level Psychology bestow me with the gift or credentials to comprehend human psychology on the level that I so desire. So, my quest to return to school and study Psychology has become my deep desire.
Any thoughts? What is your experience? I would LOVE to know!!!!