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It's abuse, NOT "alienation"!

Abuse, NOT "alienation"
Abuse, NOT "alienation"
David Castillo Dominici

Sign this petition with 476 supporters; 24 NEEDED.

The petition update came to me with a request from its creator, Lisa Nadig, asking, “Can you help this petition win by asking your friends to sign too? It's easy to share with your friends on Facebook…”

Typically I’d jump right on a request like this one and though I already signed on to Lisa’s petition days ago, I just couldn’t take the next step because while Lisa’s plea for assistance is no different than any other domestic violence survivor mom’s the problem is her case is being argued by “Pathological Parental Alienation”. Automatically my allergic, knee-jerk reaction to “parental alienation” kicked in when I first read the petition but it was quickly followed by a “bang head on desk” moment when I read

Because the recommendations of the court ordered forensic psychologist (emphasis added) to treat "Pathological Parental Alienation" were never implemented, the situation worsened…

For the love of everything holy – it’s NOT “parental alienation” it’s child abuse!!! But, as you notice, this vocabulary/concept didn’t originate from mom, Lisa (which would be understandable) it originated from the court ordered forensic psychologist!!!

Don’t get me wrong – alienation does exist BUT it’s the end result or consequence of abuse, it is NOT the process or a process – the process that leads to alienation is abuse and in the context of abuse, alienation is “normal” just as traumatic bonding is also “normal” within the context of abuse. To be clear, when I say “normal” I’m not implying “good” – I mean “normal” as in “as to be expected”.

Child visitation occurs in practically every divorce situation where children are involved, but let me exemplify the difference between abusive and non-abusive situations.

Drop-off/pick-ups become the exchange method post-divorce and one good indicator that you’re looking at an abuse-related case is when the drop-off/pick-ups occur at the local police station or at a very public location; non-abusive drop-off/pick-ups typically occur at each parent’s home (because there are no safety concerns to worry about).

In non-abusive cases, the kids’ll be doing whatever they’re doing until the custodial or non-custodial parent arrives to retrieve them (ie: watching TV, playing or waiting without a parent watching like a hawk). When it’s time to go, the exchange good-bye between parent and child is a casual, non-dramatic, non-emotional “see ya later”. If a parent is late in arriving and the child becomes anxious, the parent with the child will console and reassure the child and may call the other parent to see what the delay is if that parent hasn’t already called to say he’ll/she’ll be late – a common courtesy exists even with parents who don’t care for their ex-spouses because they know to keep their kids out of adult issues, concerns and business. The bottom line in non-abusive cases is routine, stability, predictability where the kids’ comfort level is reasonably catered to – it’s never attacked.

In abusive cases, nothing is simple and nothing ever goes smoothly because drop-off/pick-ups become the abusers chances to toy with their victims so the game can begin as early as bringing the child to the wrong drop-off/pick-up location and/or at the wrong time. If the custodial parent doesn’t show up or doesn’t show up on-time, the child will naturally become anxious but instead of soothing and reassuring the worried child as a normal non-abusive parent would, an abusive parent would begin playing in to the child’s fears and start saying things like this:

  • Looks like your mom forgot all about you again; gee, I’m sorry bud…
  • Guess you’re mom’s too busy with her: new boyfriend, new husband, new baby, new step-children, her friends and forgot about you again.
  • I hate to say this, but I don’t think your mom’s coming
  • This is what moms do when they don’t want kids – they don’t show up
  • This is exactly what your mom did to me – I sat there waiting for her and she never came back
  • Not being on-time is a sign of disrespect; she doesn’t respect my time or yours if she’s making us wait here like this
  • I know you don’t like waiting and it’s boring but if we leave or try to call her she’ll call the police on me
  • If you were living with me, this’d never happen
  • It really makes me sad how your mom mistreats you

An abusive parent won’t call the other parent to ask why he/she’s genuinely late and will “fake call” for the child’s sake if the child asks that the other parent be called. Unlike a non-abusive parent, the abusive parent seeks to get the child upset and agitated.

The reason why the tactics above work is because the child’s experience is indeed being based upon some level of truth (ie: we’re at the pick-up/drop-off location at the time dad said she’d be here but the fact of the matter is she’s not here). Add the natural reaction of anxiety, worry or doubt, place a few harmful suggestions (or “wonder out loud”) and viola – the child will come up with an understanding all his/her own: Mom’s not here because (fill in any of the “explanations” provided in the list above).

Once the child has this “understanding” the consequential fallout doesn’t take a PhD to figure out: When Mom eventually shows up, the child is angry/hurt because of the accepted explanation given by the abusive parent so chances are the child will want to hurt mom back by either lashing out, refusing to leave with her or by giving her a hard time. Most children don’t want to talk about their feelings in the moment when they’re angry so if mom decides to wait it out or write the child’s reaction towards her off as a “mood swing” the abuser’s explanation is what will hold ground in lieu of the child pursuing the objective truth. Think about it: do you really think a child is going to ask his/her mom “Were you late picking me up because you were too busy with the other kids?” or accuse her of being late because she was too busy with the other kids?

The process described above is abuse but it gets mislabeled as “Parental Alienation” when that’s NOT actually and factually what’s going on! More worrisome is that in Lisa’s case, it’s not a distraught parent whose mislabeled abuse, but a court ordered forensic psychologist! A kid’s life and relationship with his mother is at-stake and the “professional” is trying to prove fairy dust in a court of law.

Though I don’t know Lisa’s case enough to know if DV was a factor, it’s clear she’s caught up in the family court crisis and while I totally disagree with the “pathological parental alienation diagnosis” some things in life are just flat out wrong and this is one of them.

If you’re interested in supporting Lisa and her fight for her son, click here:

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