Monthly Archives: February 2011

“Parental alienation” and domestic violence

By Joan Dawson
From Huffington Post

“I hope there’s more cases just like this, where people don’t want to let their spouses see their kids…I hope it happens more and more, until the law finally says you know what? There needs to be something done so these parents can be with their kids.”

These were the words fired by Randall Todd Moore as he denied having “not one ounce of remorse” for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing his ex-wife.

But was his ex-wife ‘alienating’ the kids, as Moore alleged, or trying to protect them from danger?

This case is clear, but as those working in domestic violence and child abuse realize, all too often clarity comes at a price.

Parental alienation (PA, or PAS for Parental Alienation Syndrome), a topic pro-PA psychologist Richard Warshak recently covered on Huffington Post, alleges a parent poisons the mind of a child to fear or hate the other parent. The defamation results in a damaged relationship or estrangement.

Those opposing parental alienation admit parents can bad-mouth the other parent either deliberately or inadvertently; however, factors such as poor parenting skills or personality on the part of the mother or father and stages of normal development or reactions to divorce on the part of the child can also cause alienating behaviors.

Dr. Paul Fink, President of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, and a former President of the American Psychiatric Association states, “Science tells us that the most likely reason that a child becomes estranged from a parent is that parent’s own behavior. Labels, such as PAS, serve to deflect attention away from those behaviors.”

More dangerously, parental alienation can mask domestic violence, child abuse and child sexual abuse. What is the difference between fearful or uncooperative battered women and alienating,” vindictive” mothers? If parents try to withhold access to children, are they alienators or protectors? If they try to provide evidence of abuse – interviews with psychologists, medical examinations or discussions with the child – are they gathering proof or further alienating the ex? What is the difference between alienated children and abused children?

The behaviors can be indistinguishable.

Indeed, it’s not just domestic violence survivors’ advocates who witness the problem with PA. The American Bar Association, American Prosecutors Research Institute, National District Attorneys Association, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges all denounce the use of parental alienation in the courtroom. The National District Attorneys Association says on their Web site,

“PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused children.”

That hasn’t stopped courts from using PAS, resulting in accusations against individuals, mostly women, of maliciously denying access to children.

Katie Tagle, for instance, sought a restraining order on Jan. 21, 2010 against her ex-boyfriend Stephen Garcia to stop him from having unsupervised visitation with their nine-month-old child.

She told the judge Garcia threatened to kill the infant. The court transcript records Judge Robert Lemkau as saying, “One of you is lying,” and later, “Mr. Garcia claims its total fabrication on your part.” Garcia also referred to it as “little stunts and games” that she used to deny him access to his son.

Even when she tries to produce evidence of the threats, he says, “Well, ma’am, there’s a real dispute about whether that’s even true or not.” And finally, “My suspicion is that you’re lying” (said twice). He denied her the order (as did two other judges). Garcia took their son that day and drove off into the mountains. Ten days later, they were both found dead.

The transcript is here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/26434649/tagle-garcia-court-transcript-dent-protection-to-baby-now-bay-is-DEAD
This case clearly demonstrates another issue women have in courts: credibility. It’s easier to believe a woman is lying than to believe a man can abuse or kill a woman or child. In reality, in family court, denying abuse is more common than fabricating tales of abuse. Most allegations are made in good faith (see the American Bar Association’s 10 Custody Myths and How to Counter Them). And most denials are made by perpetrators, perpetrators skillful at manipulation – even of professionals.

Indeed, we must not forget family court is the place for couples with high conflict and abuse. The overwhelming majority (up to 90%) of couples create their own parenting plans. Those that cannot, go to family court.

Judges, though, have been known to downplay even well-documented cases of abuse and to give more weight to parental alienation than to abuse allegations. In the case of Jennifer Collins, for example, the judge told her mother to “get over” the abuse as at least two years had passed, according to Collins’ Web site. The judge reversed the custody decision because her mom’s fear was “interfering in his relationship with us.” Jennifer’s mother Holly took her two children and fled to the Netherlands, where they were granted asylum. (See also the Courageous Kids Network of children who were court-ordered into relationships with abusive parents.)

58,000 children a year go into sole or joint custody arrangements or unsupervised visitation with physically or sexually abusive parents, according to an estimate by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence. That’s over 1,000 children a week the courts place in harm’s way.

Giving custody to the supposedly alienated parent is one way to “solve” the problem of parental alienation. Jailing the mother is another.

Tiffany Barney and Joyce Murphy are two women who’ve been jailed; their cases were covered in the media. Both alleged child sexual abuse and neither were believed. Barney fought for five years, at times losing custody or having limited supervised visitation. Murphy was called “toxic” to her daughter and deemed the cause of the child fearing her father. She fled with her daughter. When found, she was jailed for felony abduction and later granted limited visitation. It wasn’t until three more girls came forward with molestation charges that her ex was finally the one jailed.

A few other cases making headlines include: Court Punishes Woman in Alienation Case; WI: Judge Jails Mother over Daughter’s Refusal to Visit Father and Judge Dismisses Abuse Allegations.

To sum it up, any behavior that does not promote access to children can be classified as parental alienation and punished with jail time or limits on/loss of custody. With this threat, parents are less likely to report abuse and more likely to share custody with an abuser.

It should also be noted that when violent partners make good on their threats to take the kids away, it’s referred to as domestic violence by proxy -a continuation of domestic violence – rather than PA or PAS. Some battered women who’ve lost custody use PA or PAS to describe their particular situation. This both minimizes the nature and scope of abuse women face and promotes the use of a dangerous weapon (PA/PAS) that can be used against them in court.

I wouldn’t hand an angry man a agun, nor would I readily hand over a legal strategy to potential pedophiles, abusers or killers. Yet that is exactly what PA/PAS is doing.
Full story

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Filed under battered women, children & custody, domestic violence, violence against women, women's rights

Report Details Sabotage of Birth Control

New York Times Story

Men who abuse women physically and emotionally may also sabotage their partners’ birth control, pressuring them to become pregnant against their will, new reports suggest.

Several small studies have described this kind of coercion among low-income teenagers and young adults with a history of violence by intimate partners. Now, a report being released Tuesday by the federally financed National Domestic Violence Hotline says 1 in 4 women who agreed to answer questions after calling the hot line said a partner had pressured them to become pregnant, told them not to use contraceptives, or forced them to have unprotected sex.

The report was based on answers from more than 3,000 women, but it was not a research study, those involved said.

Complete story

There is nothing suprising about this report, and domestic violence victim advocacy programs have for years had anecdotal evidence of birth control sabotage by batterers. Coerced pregnancy, and not allowing a woman control over her decisions about family planning and birth control are some of the reproductive health impacts from gender-based violence. 

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Filed under battered women, domestic violence, gender-based violence, women's rights

Teen Dating Violence Awarness Video

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Filed under teen dating violence, teen violence

Date Violence a Serious Topic for Teens and Parents

February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month and it is critical to remember that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults. Teen dating violence rates exceed other types of youth violence. One in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.

Recognizing abuse in a relationship can be difficult, especially for teens. There are many types of abuse that young people may believe are normal in a relationship. Even though teen relationships may be different from adult relationships, teens can experience the same types of abuse. Teens also face unique obstacles if they decide to get help. They may not have money, transportation or a safe place to go. They may also have concerns about confidentiality with many adults obligated to make reports to police, parents and child protective services.

SHARE, Inc., Help for Abused Partners, and New Directions are domestic violence programs that serve a six-county area in Northeast Colorado. These programs provide information, education, prevention, and intervention to help end dating violence through educational workshops in schools, direct assistance for victims, and activities that help young people develop healthier relationships and change attitudes that support violence.  Domestic abuse intervention programs oppose the use of violence and emotional abuse as a means of control, support equality in relationships, and, most importantly, ensure confidentiality to all individuals who come to them for information and assistance.

Some of the warning signs of teen dating abuse are:

For parents – your teen:

  • Apologizes and makes excuses for her partner’s behavior.
  • Stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.
  • Casually mentions the partner’s violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.
  • Often has unexplained injuries or the explanations don’t make sense.

The partner:

  • Calls your teen names and puts her down in front of others.
  • Acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to your teen.
  • Blames his behavior on alcohol, drugs, or other people.
  • Thinks or tells your teen that you, the parents, don’t like him.
  • Controls your teen’s behavior, checking up constantly, calling or texting and demanding to know who she’s been with.

For teens:

 

  • Are you being told by your friends or family that they are worried about your safety?
  • Do you think if you could just change your behavior, things will get better?
  • Does your partner call you names, belittle you or physically hurt you?
  • Are you feeling pressured to spend less and less time with your friends?
  • Are you lying to others to cover up for your partner’s violence?
  • Are you making excuses for his behavior?
  • Are you afraid of what will happen if you end the relationship?

Test your knowledge of teen dating abuse online at Love is Not Abuse http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/

Other resources include National Teen Dating Abuse 24-hour Helpline, 1-866-331-9474; Break the Cycle at www.breakthecycle.org; Love is Respect at www.loveisrespect.org; and SHARE, Inc. at www.sharemorgancounty.org.

For more information call SHARE, Inc. in Fort Morgan at 970.867.4444; Help for Abused Partners in Sterling at 970.522.2307; New Directions in Yuma at 970.630.8161; or toll free throughout Northeast Colorado 1.877.867.9590. Services are available at all three locations in English and Spanish.

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Presidential Proclamation: National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month reflects our Nation’s growing understanding that violence within relationships often begins during adolescence.  Each year, about one in four teens report being the victim of verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual violence.  Abusive relationships can impact adolescent development, and teens who experience dating violence may suffer long-term negative behavioral and health consequences.  Adolescents in controlling or violent relationships may carry these dangerous and unhealthy patterns into future relationships.  The time to break the cycle of teen dating violence is now, before another generation falls victim to this tragedy.

Though many communities face the problem of teen dating violence, young people can be afraid to discuss it, or they may not recognize the severity of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.  Parents and other adults can also be uncomfortable acknowledging that young people experience abuse, or may be unaware of its occurrence.  To help stop abuse before it starts, mentors and leaders must stress the importance of mutual respect and challenge representations in popular culture that can lead young people to accept unhealthy behavior in their relationships.

Our efforts to take on teen dating violence must address the social realities of adolescent life today.  Technology such as cell phones, email, and social networking websites play a major role in many teenagers’ lives, but these tools are sometimes tragically used for control, stalking, and victimization.  Emotional abuse using digital technology, including frequent text messages, threatening emails, and the circulation of embarrassing messages or photographs without consent, can be devastating to young teens.  I encourage concerned teens, parents, and loved ones to contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or visit www.LoveIsRespect.org to receive immediate and confidential advice and referrals.

My Administration is committed to engaging a broad spectrum of community partners to curb and prevent teen dating violence.  The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women supports collaborative efforts to enhance teens’ understanding of healthy relationships, help them identify signs of abuse, and assist them in locating services.  Resources are available at:  www.OVW.USDOJ.gov/teen_dating_violence.htm.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provide tools to help prevent dating violence among teens.  More information is available at:  www.CDC.gov/ChooseRespect.

During National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month — and throughout the year — let each of us resolve to do our part to break the silence and create a culture of healthy relationships for all our young people.  Adults who respect themselves, their partners, and their neighbors demonstrate positive behaviors to our children — lessons that will help them lead safe and happy lives free from violence.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2011 as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.  I call upon all Americans to support efforts in their communities and schools, and in their own families, to empower young people to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives and to engage in activities that prevent and respond to teen dating violence.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA

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