Special Bulletin by the Leadership Council: What can you do to help solve the crisis in the nation’s family courts?


    April 14, 2010

    According to a conservative estimate by the Leadership Council, each year more than 58,000 children are ordered by family courts into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States. (link to press release)

    This crisis is larger than the one in the Catholic Church. It is also more dangerous. Children who are court ordered into the custody of their abuser have no one to turn to for help as these custody determinations are backed by the force of law.

    What can you do to help solve the crisis in the nation’s family courts?

    Find out about the domestic violence laws in your state. Most states prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from having custody or access. Is this law being upheld in your state? Join with others and work within your state to strengthen these laws.

  1. Find out if Parental Alienation Theory being promoted in your state.Abusive parents often gain custody by convincing court evaluators that safety concerns raised by family members are indicative of “parental alienation syndrome” – a pseudoscientific theory that views child abuse claims as a custody ploy to deprive the accused parent of custody. Too often, protective parents are labeled as “parental alienators” and then punished by the courts for their appropriate protective efforts. Lobby legislators to limit thus use of nonscientifc theories in family court.

  2. Demand specialized evaluations by experts in family violence in custody cases involving allegations of domestic violence or child abuse. A regular custody evaluation is not sufficient to uncover family violence. Nor are evaluations done by Child Protective Services. Child Protective service agencies are usually not adequately staffed to comprehensively assess child abuse in the context of family conflict.

  3. If you feel that the court system has harmed a child you know, tell your story. Fill out our online questionnaire and share your story with others. Careful research and increased media coverage are necessary to expose this crisis.

  4. Join with others who are concerned about the crisis. Examples of some good organizations working to reform the nation’s family court system:The Battered Mother’s Custody Conference, Justice for Children,California Protective Parents Association, The Center for Judicial ExcellenceDVLEAP Custody and Abuse Project, and Stop Family Violence.

  5. Support the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence. The Leadership Council trains professionals, sponsors research and submits amicus briefs in cases to inform the courts about the most current science on child abuse, interpersonal violence, and family conflict.Learn more about donating to the LC

  6. http://americanmotherspoliticalparty.org/

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    Attend ALL Child Custody Sessions at NCADV’s Conference for $125!!!

    August 1st through 4th, 2010

    The Hilton Anaheim, CA

    NCADV is currently offering a special rate to anyone wishing to attend the Child Custody plenary session and corresponding workshop track sessions during NCADV’s and NOMAS' National Conference on Ending Violence: Changing Faces of the Movement at the Hilton Anaheim in Anaheim, CA.

    Please note, this rate is only available until July 22nd, 2010 and is specific to the custody pieces being offered at the conference. Access to other NCADV conference events will be at an additional cost.

    Attend 6 workshops on the topic of domestic violence and child custody as well as the corresponding plenary session for $125 per person*. Click here to register!

    Please see below for the schedule of sessions, titles and descriptions.

    For more information about this conference, please visit www.ncadv.org.

    Plenary Session

    Monday, August 2nd


    FROM DISGRUNTLED LITIGANTS TO THE CANARIES OF THE CUSTODY COURT SYSTEM: Protective Mothers Were Right—They Are Being Mistreated by the Courts

    Opening remarks from Ms. Joye E. Frost, Director, Office on Victims of Crime. The new book, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY establishes that the routine use of outdated and discredited practices has resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with abusers.  The research is now readily available to challenge and prevent the common mistakes that so often harm children.  The success of the abuser tactic seeking custody to maintain control over their victims and failure of the courts to recognize this tactic undermine the work of our movement and have led to an increase in domestic violence homicides after many years of declines.  Mo Therese Hannah will discuss the research available to help protective mothers.  Judge Mike Brigner will explain how judges are getting it wrong so often.  Garland Waller exposes the failure of the media to report this scandal.  You will want to stay until the end because Barry Goldstein will explain how to use this information in your home communities as we use the research in the book to reform the broken custody court system, prevent the unfair attacks on protective mothers and make sure no child has to cry herself to sleep because a court separated her from her safe, courageous, protective mother.

    A MUST HAVE—Purchase DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY at the conference for the special rate of $115 (normally $135.95). If you need to get approval to purchase this book, please do so prior to arriving at the conference. Please make checks out to Barry Goldstein if you will be purchasing one there.

    Custody Track Workshops (in order of occurrence):

    Battered Mothers Caught up in Multiple Courts: Navigating the Three Planets

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    Kathleen Waits

    Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Mary's Story
      1. Background and Methodology
      2. Mary's Story
    3. Lessons from Mary's Story
      1. Support Counts: You Can Make a Difference in the Victim's Life
      2. Lawyers and Other Professionals Matter
      3. Attitudes Need to Change More than the Law
      4. Process Counts
      5. Do With the Battered Woman, Not To Her
      6. Any "Solution" Not Based on Battered Women's Experiences Is Doomed to Failure
      7. Batterers as Rulemakers
      8. How Physical and Non-Physical Abuse Work Together: Why Do We See It as Torture When Argentinean Generals Do It, But Not When It's the Guy Next Door?
      9. Mary Did Not Display "Battered Women's Syndrome"; "Battered Women as Survivor" Is A Better Explanation of Mary's Responses
    4. Questions -- Skeptical and Otherwise -- About Mary's Story
      1. Is Mary a "Typical" Battered Woman?
      2. Is Russ a "Typical" Batterer?
      3. Haven't Things Changed a Lot: Would Mary's Story Happen Today?
      4. Isn't This Story Just About a Few Bad Apples?
      5. Why Should I Believe Mary's Story?
      6. Do You Hear What I Hear? The Danger of Telling Stories
    5. Conclusion: Why We Must Keep Telling Stories

    APPENDIX A. What to Say (and Not to Say) to a Battered Woman

    APPENDIX B. Methods of Coercion

    APPENDIX C. Personalized Safety Plan

    APPENDIX D. Power and Control Wheel

    Author's Note


    I. Introduction

    The statistics are horrifying. Women are brutalized, terrorized, and murdered by intimate partners every day.[1] To make matters worse, battered women are often victimized a second time by police, prosecutors, lawyers, psychologists, and judges. [2] Batterers often seek and receive custody of children [3] even though they often abuse children as well as women. [4] While society and the legal system have improved their attitudes toward domestic violence, [5] we still have a long way to go.

    And yet the statistics cannot tell the whole story. They are too abstract and impersonal. The sheer magnitude of the numbers can desensitize us. Domestic violence is so widespread, we can easily become numb to the human suffering behind the statistics.

    Telling individual women's stories is one way to address this dilemma. Stories touch our feelings in a way that statistics cannot. [6] Stories can also spur us to action when statistics only depress us. [7]

    And so, I have decided to tell the story of one woman, a woman I will call "Mary." [8]

    After telling Mary's story, I discuss in Part III some lessons that can be learned from what she experienced. In Part IV, I then address some questions that might be raised by her story, including whether Mary's story is credible and whether Mary is a "typical" battered woman.

    WordPress Tags: WOMEN,CHILDREN,LESSONS,FROM,WOMAN,STORY,Table,Contents,Introduction,Mary,Background,Methodology,Support,Make,Difference,Victim,Life,Matter,Change,Solution,Failure,Batterers,Rulemakers,Physical,Abuse,Work,Together,Torture,Argentinean,Generals,Door,Display,Syndrome,Survivor,Better,Explanation,Skeptical,Otherwise,About,Typical,Russ,Batterer,Haven,Happen,Just,Apples,Should,Believe,Hear,Danger,Conclusion,Keep,APPENDIX,Coercion,Plan,Power,Control,Wheel,Author,Note,statistics,partners,judges,custody,system,violence,magnitude,numbers,Domestic,human,dilemma,feelings,action,Part,Lawyers,Attitudes,Responses,Methods,Footnotes,whether



    Kathleen Waits

    Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Mary's Story
      1. Background and Methodology
      2. Mary's Story
    3. Lessons from Mary's Story
      1. Support Counts: You Can Make a Difference in the Victim's Life
      2. Lawyers and Other Professionals Matter
      3. Attitudes Need to Change More than the Law
      4. Process Counts
      5. Do With the Battered Woman, Not To Her
      6. Any "Solution" Not Based on Battered Women's Experiences Is Doomed to Failure
      7. Batterers as Rulemakers
      8. How Physical and Non-Physical Abuse Work Together: Why Do We See It as Torture When Argentinean Generals Do It, But Not When It's the Guy Next Door?
      9. Mary Did Not Display "Battered Women's Syndrome"; "Battered Women as Survivor" Is A Better Explanation of Mary's Responses
    4. Questions -- Skeptical and Otherwise -- About Mary's Story
      1. Is Mary a "Typical" Battered Woman?
      2. Is Russ a "Typical" Batterer?
      3. Haven't Things Changed a Lot: Would Mary's Story Happen Today?
      4. Isn't This Story Just About a Few Bad Apples?
      5. Why Should I Believe Mary's Story?
      6. Do You Hear What I Hear? The Danger of Telling Stories
    5. Conclusion: Why We Must Keep Telling Stories

    APPENDIX A. What to Say (and Not to Say) to a Battered Woman

    APPENDIX B. Methods of Coercion

    APPENDIX C. Personalized Safety Plan

    APPENDIX D. Power and Control Wheel

    Author's Note


    I. Introduction

    The statistics are horrifying. Women are brutalized, terrorized, and murdered by intimate partners every day.[1] To make matters worse, battered women are often victimized a second time by police, prosecutors, lawyers, psychologists, and judges. [2] Batterers often seek and receive custody of children [3] even though they often abuse children as well as women. [4] While society and the legal system have improved their attitudes toward domestic violence, [5] we still have a long way to go.

    And yet the statistics cannot tell the whole story. They are too abstract and impersonal. The sheer magnitude of the numbers can desensitize us. Domestic violence is so widespread, we can easily become numb to the human suffering behind the statistics.

    Telling individual women's stories is one way to address this dilemma. Stories touch our feelings in a way that statistics cannot. [6] Stories can also spur us to action when statistics only depress us. [7]

    And so, I have decided to tell the story of one woman, a woman I will call "Mary." [8]

    After telling Mary's story, I discuss in Part III some lessons that can be learned from what she experienced. In Part IV, I then address some questions that might be raised by her story, including whether Mary's story is credible and whether Mary is a "typical" battered woman.

    WordPress Tags: WOMEN,CHILDREN,LESSONS,FROM,WOMAN,STORY,Table,Contents,Introduction,Mary,Background,Methodology,Support,Make,Difference,Victim,Life,Matter,Change,Solution,Failure,Batterers,Rulemakers,Physical,Abuse,Work,Together,Torture,Argentinean,Generals,Door,Display,Syndrome,Survivor,Better,Explanation,Skeptical,Otherwise,About,Typical,Russ,Batterer,Haven,Happen,Just,Apples,Should,Believe,Hear,Danger,Conclusion,Keep,APPENDIX,Coercion,Plan,Power,Control,Wheel,Author,Note,statistics,partners,judges,custody,system,violence,magnitude,numbers,Domestic,human,dilemma,feelings,action,Part,Lawyers,Attitudes,Responses,Methods,Footnotes,whether

    Beaten, Raped, Robbed and Left for Dead: Unmasking the "Father's Rights" Movement

    originally published at http://www.themestream.com/articles/411153.html

    Beaten, Raped, Robbed and Left for Dead: Unmasking the "Father's Rights" Movement

    by  Kathleen Parker

    Under the guise of "gender equality," a well-funded father's rights movement has declared war on US laws mandating child support and placing a child's best interests ahead of a father's "entitlements" in custody decisions. Caught in the crossfire are thousands of women and children who are horrified to discover that too often, Family Court has become just one more lethal weapon in the arsenal of this army of "father's rights" deadbeats, bullies and abusers.

    I. Prologue

    For two years, my two darling daughters and I have been brutally and repeatedly beaten, raped, robbed and left for dead -- psychologically, emotionally and financially -- by the man who used to call himself the husband and father in this family.

    Affable, intelligent, articulate, a successful businessman, this vilest of abusers was never a family man, but he certainly well-maintained the fiction of a perfect, public gentleman. He enjoyed, and enjoys, the pleasant aspect of the public eye, a smiling hail-fellow-well-met, friend of the well-connected, in a small Midwestern town where such niceties matterÂ? perhaps too much, as we'll see as this story unfolds.

    No one is more surprised today than I am, that my children and I survived, thus far, what can only be described as a brutal gang assault from thugs in suits -- smiling, scented men and women, without soul or substance, masquerading as small-town community leaders, philanthropists and businessmen.

    The blueprints for the man's relentless, insidious, assaults -- those we've endured, as well as those he promises still await us -- come straight from the international, fledgling, but vicious and well-organized, euphemistically-titled "father's rights" (FR) movement.

    As I've discovered, FR militants comprise a movement completely and irrevocably corrupted by money, and by the power its advocates believe money gives them. It's an abomination that they so deliberately invoke the word "father" to gain validity for their purely selfish agenda.

    A cruel, stunning ambush -- devised to play out when I was at my weakest and most vulnerable point -- that was my introduction to the glib liars and cold, compassionless cowards in the FR movement. My girls and I have not yet escaped the poisoned litigational swampland this movement, this man and his henchmen have created, but we are, I believe, well on our way to healing.

    Admittedly, our case -- an extreme case of massive business fraud peddled for the public record as "divorce and custody"-- is not typical. Professionals in both family and business law assure me -- as they shake their heads in disgust and disbelief -- that the unique confluence of circumstance, opportunity and personality characterizing my situation is unlikely to be replicated.

    But in researching my defense against these hollow-hearted monsters, I've encountered hundreds of women whose stories could be mine. I'm not alone, not by a long shot. Most disturbing is the number of women with whom I've communicated who are so demoralized and impoverished by the process of "divorce and custody, FR-style," that they are on the verge of giving up.

    To these women and mothers I say: Losing is not an option. You must survive, somehow, any way you can, to fight another day. Perhaps I can help you with this series and its informational links.

    This year, thousands of men -- hand-in-hand with their children -- will march in Nazi-like precision on Courthouses in more than 100 cities, demanding "gender equality" and "family preservation" as they seek legal sanction for their cowardly abuse and domestic terrorism.

    For every one of those thousands of men, there is a woman whose life is about to be sacrificed in the crosshairs of the "father's rights" assault weaponry.

    So I know I am not alone in the poisoned "father's rights" swampland. Many, many of the women I've encountered have been ambushed, brutalized, defamed and trashed, and don't have the first clue what happened or how or why, or when it mercifully, might end.

    Nor are my children alone, in their children's Hell of paralysis, betrayal and uncertainty. There are thousands of children, just like them, tiny trophies for the FR militants' mantlepiece.

    We are not alone.

    After an initial warming wave of comfort, that fact horrifies me.

    And that is why this story must be told.

    II. The Men Behind the Masks

    Who ARE these masked men, these well-heeled and highly motivated sloganeers who put their phony, sad-eyed faces toward a sympathetic world, and their money toward sympathetic legislators, and claim to be struggling against all odds for the 'equal right' to parent their children?

    They are diverse in vocation, avocation, shape, age and color? but they are usually well-educated, articulate and well-off They are many and they are growing in size and strength. One thing is certain: The predators in the FR militancy are nothing at all akin to the smiling, loving "dads" they project on their websites and in their newsletters.

    In fact, the stark contrasts are frightening, once you've had the misfortune, as I have had, to unwittingly stumble into this den of wily snakes.

    You may meet some of them yourselves this year, in your own hometown, as they extend their reach, spider-like, into county courthouses and state legislatures, seeking the overturn of virtually every protection afforded women and children, especially, most diabolically, women and children who are or have been victims of abuse.

    Consider just a few of the FR movement's real agenda -- overturn the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 as unconstitutional? end child support? eliminate battered women's shelters ? end child support? eliminate food stamps and AFDC? end child support? mandate policies of rebuttable presumptive joint physical and joint legal custody in 50 states in this country.

    Oh, yes, and did I mention: eliminate child support and the laws that protect and enforce it.

    FR militants will drone endlessly on about a non-issue they call Parental Alienation Syndrome and another they call Malicious Mother Syndrome, and demand evaluation after evaluation, in hopes of finding someone, anyone, to take their sick side, or failing that, of running the spouse completely out of financial and emotional resources, so that she can no longer do battle on a level footing.

    FR militants purport to "document" -- with special software they market to newcomers on their websites -- an endless number of incidents of parenting interference by the mother. The documents or diaries are usually entirely bogus, the incidents described quite often self-created, or built around a half-truth dropped carefully into a new, sinister situation.

    But the FR operators assure their militant members that the documents are magnificent "evidence" in a courtroom, especially when the accused mother comes ill-prepared to defend herself against a never-ending recitation of fantasies.

    FR militants and their minions will cite multiple state and Federal court cases to the Judges, demanding that some weird, extrapolated precedent be followed, and that this interfering mother be stripped of her children for sabotaging the father's relationship with his child.

    A sabotaged relationship. That's a key and favorite phrase and accusation of FR men -- and you can guess -- it's absolutely necessary: How else can these physically absent, emotionally crippled, unwelcoming, motivated-by-money 'fathers' reasonably explain to the Court their children's overwhelming preferences for mother, home, stability and security in the lives they've always known?

    It is, of course, all the mom's fault, these glib and self-aggrandizing liars will claim, under oath, if needs be. The child is brainwashed. The mother exerts undue influence. The mother and child are 'pathologically bonded' and the mother is clearly doing 'irreparable harm' to this child.

    FR militants, at an especially sick level of cruelty, engage in what they call gas-lighting, and what we call crazy-making ? a modus operendi worthy of an entire article in its own right.

    These men insist that the sole remedy for the alienation they've endured is immediate removal of the children from their mother's home. Custody, they say, must go to the poor, victim father.

    Never mind, they say, that PAS has been debunked repeatedly by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychologists Association.

    Never mind that the father has been tagged by professional forensic evaluators as physically absent, emotionally unavailable, rigid, unwelcoming in his demeanor, unbonded with any of his children.

    Never mind that the father has been documented as a physical, financial and emotional abuser and the children do not wish to live with him.

    Never mind the father's perjury and fraud. He is, he says, entitled to 50% of his child and woe be to the mother or judge or courtroom that denies him his 'rights.'

    Consider just a few examples from the "Father's Rights Manifesto" -- among their other stated goals --

    "Convert battered women's shelters to battered spouse's shelters, or eliminate them. These organizations have become guerilla training centers in the war against fatherhood and must be converted into facilities which assist in the elimination of fatherlessness and the preservation of families."

    "Eliminate child support, alimony, and all other transfers of assets which encourage or support fatherlessness. Collecting such court ordered awards costs 2 to 3 times as much as the amount collected. Punitive measures recently enacted by government discourage or prohibit productivity. The negative psychological impact of requiring a father to subsidize the destruction of his own family is a powerful economic demotivater."

    "Replace tax incentives which favor broken families or single parenthood with small but important "bonuses" to encourage and reward intact families, thus changing the tacit role of government from anti-family and anti-fatherhood to pro-family and pro-fatherhood."

    You'll rarely hear or see such a stunning agenda voiced or envisaged in public by the smooth-talking operators of the FR groups. They are many nasty things, but they are not often fools.

    III. The Uppity, Inconvenient Spouse Seen Through the FR Looking Glass

    Allow me to remind readers that admittedly, my husband's attraction to the "father's rights" movement was occasioned not by his love or concern for his children, whom he barely knew, but by his perverse need for money -- not just his money, but my money as well. More than $1 million in assets just vanished during the pendancy of this litigation, and now my husband, like so many men on the FR sites, is pleading personal and business poverty.

    We, of course, are all terminally stupid, and he apparently, has the only fully functioning brain cells in the neighborhood. Yes, I believe that he truly believes we do not know and will nopt reveal -- as I have known from the day I learned of his plan and am revealing now -- that this has been an extreme case of massive business fraud peddled for two long years for the public record as "divorce and custody."

    And the FR movement afforded the perpetrator ample weaponry with which to wage his war against his family and his fraud against the Court, keeping the Court and myself wrapped up in an endless series of FR-scented motions and demands. And during those 18 months (and the eight months to a year of "planning ahead" he did) my husband casually offloaded hundreds of thousands of dollars from our businesses, right from under everyone's noses!

    How did he do this?

    All will be revealed.

    I've often told folks that they can only truly comprehend and protect themselves from the duplicity of the 'father's rights' movement devotees, and understand my specific misadventure within it, if they examine the paper trail with a copy of Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through The Looking-Glass" right within their grasp.

    The "father's rights movement" is a topsy-turvy, upside-down, inside-out and backwards world, a distortion of essential realities and the random creation of alternate realities, in which left is right and right is wrong and wrong is a necessary means to the 'right' end.

    In this anti-female world of "father's rights," a woman's assertiveness is an obsessive need for dominance and control; a mother's nurturing love is unhealthy dependence and pathological bonding; a father's cold years of absence and emotional abuse are a noble endeavor to teach children independence.

    A business partner's 18 years of hard work and sacrifice are transformed into a simple, selfish, manipulative gold-digging exercise, and the FR's systematic, casual, pre-emptive destruction of his spouse's hard-won personal and professional reputation becomes a justifiable act of self-defense against an unpredictable, vindictive 'crazy' woman determined to destroy the father's life-work.

    Such a complex strategy of reinvention and historical revisionism takes time and money. So it's important, the FR militants tell their minions, to CONTROL THE MONEY as well as the FLOW OF INFORMATION.

    You must, these FR operators admonish repeatedly, PLAN AHEAD, FILE FIRST with gusto, and file as often as necessary. And keep her scrambling for money, sputtering in outrage, and invariably, on the defensive.

    'Plan ahead,' the FR sites advise. Translation: ambush your spouse and children, and hit them hard enough in the first round to knock them dead out of contention. Ugly? Yes. Cold-blooded? You betcha!

    But such a plan is crucial for physically and emotionally absent men whose spouses are not only excellent mothers but also who claim 50% of the parties' assets -- and they may very well be significant assets -- not by virtue of marriage, but by virtue of the woman's own hard work in creating those assets and building the business.

    All that history must be revised. All the past must be overwritten. And most importantly, the assets which would surely be divided with the mother, and equally bad, accounted in the calculations for the husband's contribution to child support, must gradually, unavoidably, seem to diminish and appear to DISappear.

    That uppity spouse must never have access to the resources she will inevitably, ultimately use to unravel and rewind in public the FR advocate's tale of fraud, deceit and duplicity.

    IV. Rapists in the Den of Thieves

    As we are seeing, advocates of the "father's rights" movement, such as my soon-to-be-ex-husband, often find themselves saddled with uppity, inconvenient spouses such as myself:

    Women who, during the marriage, do far more than their "fair share" with regard to both family and finances, without comment or complaint.

    Women who had full, satisfying lives before their marriage and are destined to have full, satisfying lives when the marriage is over.

    Women who take their responsibilities seriously -- and who assert the corresponding rights that they've earned by dint of having fulfilled and fulfilled well -- those responsibilities, be they financial or familial.

    When faced with the prospect of parting from such women, men such as my husband and his cronies in the FR movement, whose 'responsibility' has been primarily to themselves, and whose interests are primarily money, power and control, and whose family links are historically characterized by remoteness and abdication of responsibility, must face an awful truth:

    Divorcing men -- even those who have been allowed to control their spouses' assets throughout marriage -- must relinquish their control of her assets in order to accomplish a fair and equitable distribution Â? unless he can demonstrate that the assets were either his in the first place, and oh dear, they've been unavoidably depleted.

    And oh yes, that depletion is HER fault. She MADE me do it; that over-controlling **** FORCED me to file 56 motions against her and engage in this litigation because? well, fill in the blank. Their excuses are limited only by their imaginations. And when their imaginations are limited, they have thousands of pals on the "father's rights" websites and in local organizations to "share" ideas with them.

    But that awful truth about loss of control goes down very hard on these men, and that's what attracts them to the glittering promise imbedded in "father's rights." Is there any better way to look like a good guy than to claim to be 'forced' to diminish your assets (and hers) in a selfless struggle to rescue your children from an evil aggressive mother? How courageous! What a noble guy!

    Think about it. Women of substance and assertiveness are all too frequently tagged, STILL, in our culture as aggressive, domineering and controlling. Men in the FR movement, often married to women of substance, use the Looking Glass strategy to crush their spouses, often in anticipation of divorce.

    The spouses, of course, are not initially clued in. Subterfuge is a critical element of the Looking Glass strategy. As we've seen, these men don't often EVER come clean about their REAL agendas. Lie, lie, lie, deny, deny, deny.

    And as we've seen, the "father's rights movement" has been masterful in its manipulation of its image, and by extension, in the image of its members. They are not "deadbeat dads," oh no, they are, they say, "dead-bolted dads," shut out of their children's lives by vindictive women.

    They are the victims, they say, over and over. And that is simply not so.

    My husband learned from his mentors in the "father's rights" movement exactly how to use his own children and the Family Court system to hold the knife to my neck while he continued his vicious assault on me.

    V. "Are you a WEAK man, Mr. Rxxxd?"

    A side-trip of sorts, but relevant to the balance of power that the "father's rights" militants seek to shift their way in the sniper-fire they employ before the "divorce war" actually begins at Trial.

    One of the early difficulties my 2bx encountered -- a wee snag in the fabric of his well-woven strategy -- occurred during the initial hearing for temporary custody and support. This was not before a judge, but a lay person referee, in a courtroom.

    On Day One, my 2bx described in appallingly convincing detail (to my total and complete shock -- because every word was a total and complete fabrication) to an apparently very sympathetic referee the following: how he'd been bullied by me for a decade, never allowed to make decisions, never allowed to have the kids alone or drive them to school, never allowed to pay the household bills, never allowed to maintain the house and property.

    His point was intending to prove that my over-controlling, domineering obsessiveness was terrible for the minor child and she must be removed from my care IMMEDIATELY if not sooner. Oh yes, he was ready: yes, the children were not in any trouble and the elder daughter was successful in high school and was enrolled in the premier Catholic women's college in the country?. but the tragic truth (he looked up at the referee with wide eyes) is that these poor children were terrified of me and THAT explained their well-behaved manner and their successes? they didn't DARE cross their mother.

    I believe he used the words "swift and terrible retribution" to describe what these children allegedly "knew" would happen to them if they fell out of line.

    He was doing fine on the witness stand, lying under oath like an experienced perjurer (perhaps he is!) and even obviously enjoying his victimhood, until my attorney, reeled him in with --

    "You know, Mr.Rxxx, you've described yourself to this court as having suffered all these things at the hands of your wife, and your children, too ? and you never did anything about it til now? You've described yourself as a very weak man, Mr. Rxxx. Are you a very weak man?"

    My 2bx's face literally froze. This was unexpected and, worse, a public insult. He did not know how to answer. It was a joy, after months of ambush and uncertainty and terror on my part alone, finally to behold a crack in that smooth, well-oiled "fatherly" veneer.

    Through my tears, I quite nearly laughed out loud. The spell this man had woven in that Courtroom was broken, as the referee and court personnel pondered?. hmmmm?

    It was the only genuinely good moment I would have in Court for quite a long while, but if you've ever had to deal with a man totally consumed with his own self-image of power, dominance and total control? then you can image how deeply I cherish it!

    VI. Arming Men for the Brutal 'Divorce Wars'

    There's a very logical reason that "certain kinds of women" are especially attractive targets of the militant abusers and users in the FR movement. And don't be misled into the fantasy that the abuse and psychological trauma inflicted on the spouse and her children is "incidental" to divorce, custody and business dissolution litigation.

    Abuse, trauma, conflict, chaos, imposed poverty -- these are weapons that are in fact the entire POINT of the FR's litigational strategy.

    The men who run and operate the FR sites and handle the FR lobby contacts in Washington DC and set up the FR groups as 501( c ) (3) tax-exempt organizations and prepare their minions for what they call "the divorce wars" are intelligent, articulate, educated, savvy and largely, unscrupulous men.

    They have likely been married to intelligent, articulate, accomplished, educated women. By nature of their associations with the FR movement, the men involved in the conflict are fathers and the women may be businesswomen and professionals, but they are also mothers.

    And there's the rub for these FR militants. An intelligent, accomplished woman isn't typically going to allow herself to be beaten, raped, robbed -- of her assets AND her children -- and left for dead without a spirited defense. A spirited defense requires money and time and a clear head.

    The spouse and mother MUST be either crushed at the onset, or worn down emotionally and financially, kept without money, without security, without a way out -- without the spirit part of her spirited defense -- until she begs to surrender, by constant, continual demoralization.

    To accomplish that, these FR militants require -- absolutely require -- a lengthy, destructive Court battle of some kind in order to indefinitely delay any discussion of, or investigation into, assets, financial dealings, or their own poor past as a parent.

    A lengthy, much-investigated child custody battle snarled up in an overburdened Court system, gives them the time they need to not only re-invent their histories, and those of their families, but also, most importantly, to move, hide, invest and offload their assets.

    A custody battle is tailor-made for these men. I have seen and heard it many times on FR sites:

    "Given the choice between fighting for the child and fighting for her property rights, the mother will nearly always go for the child first. The child will be the most powerful weapon you have in 'convincing' your wife that her concept of 'fair distribution of assets' needs to be revisited."

    Go for custody, whether you want it or not, the FR operators tell their minions. Learn about your child, if you don't know your child. Look like you care very deeply for the children and keep the Court focused on your negative depiction of the mother-child relationship.

    While that's going on, and it can be dragged out for YEARS, no one is looking at the absent, unavailable father! In fact, they EXPECT that his assets will be depleted by this terrible struggle. Even if he loses, he never wanted or expected to 'win' custody, so the delay is a win-win for the 'poor, victim dad.'

    Here's how one counselor euphemistically couches the answer to the critical question for the uninvolved father seeking custody: when to file? Answer: Give yourself enough time to reinvent history. Here's a quote from one of the sites:

    "If you want (insert: your spouse to have to fight for) primary custody, it is possible that a delay could provide a period of time when you are aware of what lies around the corner while your wife is not. This waiting period may afford you an opportunity to solidify your position as the primary nurturer, as well as to gather information and evidence."

    'Gather information and evidence' is a euphemism for concoct and 'document' enough stories, incidents, events, distortions, ad nauseum, so that when you do get to Court -- and as Plaintiff, FR-advocate, you 'go first' -- your stories will appear credible.

    As in so many rape situations, these psychological, financial and emotional rapists cowering behind the shield of the "father's rights movement" concoct scenarios in which they can blame their victims. Having shifted the focus to the woman and her alleged transgressions -- perjury is nothing to these men -- these FR militants are able to play themselves as the victim the entire time they engage in vicious assault.

    As the above excerpt strongly implies, "solidifying" the absent dad's "position as the primary nurturer" recognizes that in fact, the men who resort to the FR tactics are not and have not been the child's primary nurturer.

    Another FR site points out that the devious dad will need to build "a history of sharing of duties between two parents, or a very close bond between a dad and a child, which can be maintained only by a co-parenting arrangement."

    None of the history has to be true, or real, or genuine, the FR advocates say in their chatrooms and message boards. It simply must APPEAR to be so for the benefit and duration of the litigation.

    This is a key element of the gas-lighting or crazy-making strategy inflicted on the woman. The FR militant first steals his spouse's life and livelihood, and then makes certain that she's aware he is rubbing her proverbial nose in it.

    It isn't accidental and it isn't incidental to divorce, custody or even business dissolution. It's deliberate, cold-blooded and -- as the FR operators will explain -- absolutely necessary.

    That's such a key point, as we will see?

    VII. Domestic Terrorism: Stalking a Wounded Victim

    At the onset of this case, for which my husband initiated litigation in August 1999, I had the extreme misfortune and apparently unforgivable bad luck to be both an excellent mother and an accomplished professional, a 50% owner in a flourishing business that I helped found with my husband -- long before he was my husband -- 18 years ago.

    I also had just endured two full years of absolutely crushing personal grief and family tragedy. Literally "just" endured. The day he advised me of what was afoot, was the first day I'd drawn a breath not fraught with tears in months and months.

    So one of the truly horrifying aspects of this case, for me, has been having to come to grips with the fact that my husband is, and probably has been for some time, an amoral person without normal human feelings. He deliberately essentially stalked me and the kids, psychologically, for months and months, and I never recognized that for what it was until it was far too late to do anything about it.

    The horrible truth is that my own husband watched and waited during my greatest period of personal crisis, and when he guessed that I would be at my absolute weakest and most vulnerable point, he STRUCK with a massive effort to take my child from me -- a child he could not be bothered with for the first 11 years of her life -- without even the benefit of a heated discussion, let alone a Court hearing.

    One more loss, he was guessing, I could not endure. This evil man, to whom I'd been married 12 years, was literally gambling that I would be wiped out emotionally from simply the threat of such a loss.


    My much-loved and great-guy father was very ill for the last half of 1997, just a week after we discovered that my brother's young wife had stage 4 cancer. My brother was coping with his own grief and that of his four children -- 14, 11, 4 and six months. My family, always very close, was in total and complete crisis.

    My father went into the hospital for a heart catheterization and just never recovered. A month later he was diagnosed with stomch cancer, so they operated. Then more heart troubles ... his diabetes kicked in, and eventually in February 1998, they had to amputate his leg. He passed away in April 1998 and we were crushed.

    My sister-in-law had surgery to no avail, and they sent her home in August 1997, giving her six months to live.

    These were two terrible catastrophes from which my siblings and children did not know how we might ever recover. My husabnd, as always, was barely around, emotionally unavailable, as they say ...

    The same year, 1997, my eldest daughter graduated from high school and was trying to prepare for college in the midst of these crises. My youngest, an ADHD high-maintenance child, was struggling mightily and desperately unhappy in school. I had been working at home part-time for two years, after 15 years of fulltime at half-pay in order to "build a base of retained earnings" for the business.

    So in late 1997, I backed off the business and attended to family matters.

    This of course, is characterized in Court papers as abandoning the business without explanation or permission. The date is alternately posed as 1993, 1994 or 1995. In one set of false papers, he even claims I "walked away" in 1995 but he kept me on the payroll until 1997.

    That is all, of course, a deliberae strategy to convince the judge I'm not entitled to 50% of the business assets? but that's an entirely 'nother story.

    My husband's stalking and disingenuous probing of my emotional state was entirely opportunistic and characteristic of the bloodlessly cold methodical win-at-all-costs strategies exhorted by the FR groups. I still shudder to think what would have happened had I been not such a strong person.

    As far as the business went, my husband had always handled the business end, a task he enthusiastically embraced.

    As a writer and right-brained thinker, I managed the creative end and developed a specialty in economic development and community revitalization. At home and in parenting matters, there was no option. I was "it." There was no discussion and no choice. He was neither interested nor inclined.

    The single time in eight years that he took our daughter to school, she was in third grade -- and he took her to the wrong school. An accident? Or simply making sure he NEVER had to do that task again?

    After a dozen years of marriage, I simply did not realize that uppity wives, such as myself, who aspire to a saner balance between family life and workplace, at a time of devastating personal crisis, are not only unentitled to understanding and compassionÂ?but are unwittingly wandering dead-center into the crosshairs of the fledgling but vicious "father's rights" movement.

    I never once considered that the upshot of my decision to take a much-deserved break from the business (no vacuum was created, regardless; we had ample, experienced staff) to attend to family matters was simply the creation of a financial opportunity for my husband and his legal and accounting team.

    He never let on, not for one single moment. THAT still amazes me, these four years later.

    VIII: The Financial Desecration Begins

    Another key "father's rights" admonishment to their minions: CONTROL the MONEY.

    I spoke in Article VI of the 'initial' Court hearing that was held in January 2000. Given what's been debated in the comments section on the family court, I do use the term 'initial' advisedly, since several lawsuits were filed simultaneously against me in August 1999. Fending off the inevitable 'initial' hearing is also a core element of the "father's rights" strangulation and rape strategy, and my husband played it like a dream, conning everyone along the way that, indeed, he was "trying" to stay out of Court "for the child's sake."

    By the time the hearing was held, the financial desecration was quite nearly complete. I had $61 to my name, a car in repossession, property taxes unpaid, my phone disconnected, internet service cancelled, credit card bills maxed out and overdue, and months of unpaid college tuition and board.

    My own assets had been seized and held by my husband for nearly SEVEN months, courtesy of a restraining order that was basically superfluous, since he had already moved more than $500,000 and made $350,000 more just vanish into accounting adjustments, a full two months before he'd filed. He simply proceeded as though his reinvention of me as a gold-digging, self-indulgent, malicious nitwit was already reality, as though everything was rightfully only his, and he needed to "protect" it from me.

    He never once gave a moment's thought to what his manipulations were doing to the kids. I told him clearly, "whenever you lob a bomb at me, you hit the kids." But to no avail. He simply did not care.

    After all, as he explained to the Court, he had to keep the business going (hired 14 new people between august 1999 and May 2000) and all those people to keep employed, and this greedy woman will be happy to put the business on the skids to feed her vindictiveness! In fact, your honor, I believe she's trying to destroy this business. And she won;t let me see my poor daughter! Please give me a restraining order to keep her off the premises (and out of the financials and away from her own work-product)Â? and turn that child over to me, your honor. You can trust me..."

    He had surreptitiously called our bank in JUNE 1999 and had the monthly automatic deposits into our bank account stopped. The deposits, but NOT the withdrawals, clever man. But then an unexpected bump in his smooth-sailing path: my sister-in-law, who had hung on for almost two years, succumbed in July 1999.

    In an obvious attempt to not be caught out too early, my husband hand-deposited $2,300 into our household account in mid-July. Tat was roughly half of what the automatic deposits had been for years.

    By the time he filed in August 1999, there was virtually nothing left but the money set aside in a separate account for that year's college tuition for my elder daughter. And in September, the automatic withdrawals kicked in, and of course, there was nothing there to cover them.

    He wrote to the Court, filed motions against me, "outraged," that I'd been "trying to ruin his credit by bouncing hundreds of dollars of checks all over town! Punish this irresponsible, crazy woman, your honor, and did I mention she's also trying to destroy the business and doing irreparable harm to this poor child?"

    There is absolutely no way to stay out of the way of that kind of strategy.

    Worse, all of my professional work-product, my resume, client lists, billing records, writing samples, booklets, brochures, plans and programs I'd developed and produced over the course of 18 years were indeed in the office and out of my reach. He had earlier taken my printer from home to the office "to have it repaired." Ha.

    Planning ahead, he of course had had the locks changed on our office building just days after he filed. (That small fact turned out to be a major factor in his undoing.) When I drove up to the office that Saturday morning (no one about), I found my key no longer worked. I returned home, where he was still allegedly living, and asked him for a key. He of course refused and alluded to the fact that I'd 'made threats.'

    I then asked if this meant he would be releasing me from the non-compete clause in my employment contract. Looking at me as though I'd suddenly lost my mind, he asked, "Why would you think that? Of course not."

    Me: "Obviously, if you're not going to have the money deposited, I will have to work to pay the bills."

    Him: "You can work. No one is stopping you."

    Problem: The minute I were to take any job doing what I do professionally, I am in violation of my non-compete clause, and the contract says I then forfeit my interest in the business. Such an unreasonable clause will likely never stand Court scrutiny, but given my circumstances, and having no funds and only debts, I did not care to be fighting yet ANOTHER lawsuit in another Court somewhere.

    For the record, his strategy worked: my assets have still not been released to me. My husband was, and remains, in sole control of the rents and income from the building we co-own, of the income, dividend, interest and profits of the businesses we own.

    And in a clever coup, he hit me in March 2000 with a K-1 advising the IRS that my share of the business profits the previous year was $161,000. I'd never seen a single penny. The IRS would like my $55,000, please. And of course, that much reported income guaranteed that I'd see NO financial aid for my daughter in college.

    I was not aware at the time of the 'father's rights' movement or their advice to him in this regard. Nor was I aware that he had also been advised to pre-emptively alert the police and the Court that I had 'made threats' not only against the property, but also, he claimed in total and complete fabrication, against the poor terrified (he said, and that was a mistake that came back to haunt him) employees! That, he explained, 'forced' him to change the locks.

    The only 'reasonable' thing to did when faced with this crazy, unstable woman, right?

    I could sense it in my bones: he's setting me up for what he hopes will be a self-fulfilling prophesy. And he was setting me up in order to help him obtain a restraining order against me, which would then be further "proof" of my deteriorating mental condition. I suppose I was lucky not to have been arrested that morning!

    But the effectiveness of this ploy went much deeper. He prevented me from obtaining what I needed to work, and reaped the benefits of the psychological despair that reality brings with it.

    The author of this article is not the Kathleen Parker who is a syndicated columnist and writes for the Orlando Sentinel

    "Maternal Alienation" aka “Maternal Deprivation” aka Cruel and inhumane torture of Children and their Mothers

    The story of naming "maternal alienation": new research enters the world of policy and practice

    Anne Morris1

    Home Truths Conference

    September 2004, Melbourne

    Liz Kelly tells us that, "in order to define something a word has to exist with which to name it. ...What is not named is invisible and, in a social sense, nonexistent" (1988 114). When I sought to understand why so many mothers who were victims of violence were blamed and often hated by their children, I found myself identifying and naming a phenomenon that had been virtually unnamed in the literature on violence against women.

    I was drawn to research this from my experience as a practitioner working with women whose relationships with their children had broken down.   In groups and counselling, I discovered the depth of their grief at losing their children, compounded by the blame they encountered from those around them, which further fed their self-blame as mothers.  It seemed ironic that such a source of profound grief for women did not even deserve a word that identified their experience. For them, their children, families and communities, there seemed to be no way of understanding how their relationships had broken down other than seeing it as the mothers' fault.

    Findings from 1999 Research

    The research project, conducted in 1999 (Morris 1999), discovered that in these cases of alienation, male perpetrators of violence against the women and/or children use an arsenal of strategies to deliberately undermine mother-child relationships. Most often the mother's intimate partner and the child's father or step-father, they employ these tactics in a number of different abusive contexts, including domestic violence and child sexual abuse. They use verbal messages and actions to position the mother in a place where children can hate and despise her, can insult and even abuse her themselves, where any action she makes becomes further proof of the statements made about her. These messages do not have to be based on any truth  - their power is built on the commanding way in which they are conveyed, the rhetorical devices they use and the emotional responses they elicit. The messages are propaganda, and work powerfully on children, becoming more authoritative than children's own experiences of their mother and of their abuse. As they conflict with children's experiences, these assaults on children's sense of reality have implications for their later mental health and healing.

    In this campaign against the mother, the alienator manipulates and inscribes upon his victims demeaning stereotypes of women and mothers. Children, coached to copy the abusive behaviour of their father, are likely to form future relationships based on these gendered stereotypes, whereby men are encouraged to use power and violence for their own ends, and women are debased and held responsible for all ills. Whilst painting the mother as unloving, stupid, mad, lying, malicious and monstrous, the father portrays himself as good, rational, victimised, but heroic. As stereotypes have cultural currency, family members, community members and professionals readily adopt these images without much awareness or criticism.  He becomes the 'poor man' that we easily sympathise with; the mother becomes 'the bitch' we love to demonise.

    I named this campaign against mother and child and their relationship maternal alienation. This name defies the general trend towards gender neutral language, that conceals"women's disadvantage in a range of institutional settings" (Gatens and Mackinnon 1998 xiv), and reminds us that this is a form of gendered violence aimed at mothers and mothering. By removing gender from the framing of problems of violence, a gender-neutral perspective obscures the role of gender and power in abusive relationships (Berns 2001). The term 'maternal alienation' was created also partly as a response to the contentious Parental alienation Syndrome (PAS) (Gardner 1987), used particularly by men in custody disputes in the United States, and increasingly in Australia, to undermine mothers' allegations of their violence and abuse towards mother and/or child, predominantly child sexual abuse (Myers 1997; Dallam 1998). A favourite of the men's rights groups, Parental alienation Syndrome insists that it is mainly women who alienate their children from their fathers, while being silent about fathers' attempts to alienate children from their mothers. The term 'maternal alienation' subverts this ploy and draws attention to the prevalence of alienation aimed at mothers. The term also has potential to take account of the widespread existence of mother blaming within families, institutions and popular and professional discourses.

    As maternal alienation occurs across a spectrum of abuse and violence, I found Liz Kelly's idea of a 'continuum' of abuse helpful, as it acknowledges the interconnectedness of what are often seen as specific forms of abuse such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse (of women and children) (Kelly 1988).  The concept of a continuum allows a consideration of the extent to which institutional structures and the practices of health and legal professionals contribute to maternal alienation, for I continue to discover that the alienation begun by the perpetrator is invariably continued and compounded by institutions and professionals who become involved with the family.

    Naming maternal alienation has had a number of consequences. The women who were interviewed as part of the original research wished to have services and service-providers educated about maternal alienation, as they had received such negative and destructive responses from services. In addition, service providers who heard about maternal alienation requested that practice responses to maternal alienation be developed. In response to both requests a project was established in Adelaide in 2002, called the maternal alienation Project. I was the single project officer, and worked on a number of fronts to educate services about maternal alienation, and develop practice responses to it.  The project also aimed to create systems change and influence policy-making.

    The maternal alienation Project (2002-3)

    Naming maternal alienation began a process for me of witnessing how a new concept is taken up, or resisted, by institutions and individuals. I realised that naming does not merely reflect an intellectual activity of progressively becoming aware of the world in which we live, but is a profoundly political activity, that challenges existing relations of power. Within the arena of gendered violence, the act of naming assails the contested borders between the speakable and the unspeakable, where what is spoken is monitored by those who wish to define what is "true" and "untrue". Jan Breckenridge discusses this as the interplay of "silences and subjugation". She explains subjugation as "processes that subordinate or discount certain types of experiences or sources of information, by either ignoring or reinterpreting the content " (Breckenridge 1999 7-8).

    Through my work in the maternal alienation Project I became acutely aware of the ways in which the borders of what it is permissible to speak are patrolled. The project, and I as project officer, were exposed to many pressures, some subtle, and some threatening. The most obvious of these was the ongoing attacks from the men's rights groups, one of which published a press release on their website calling the project"hate politics� and"Holocaust Revisionism� and insisting that the Premier of SA and relevant ministers close the project down. This was accompanied by a campaign of letters to the Premier and Ministers, a barrage of questions directed to the relevant Minister in SA Parliament by the elected member of the 'Family First' Party, a Christian political party advocating their conservative view of 'family values', personal attacks made on my character to departmental directors, threatening and abusive emails to me, and the slashing of my car tyres in front of my home. Analysing these tactics, I found they mirrored and projected onto a larger canvas the tactics used privately in maternal alienation. It is no wonder that this tiny project, with a budget that could only afford to employ me for three days a week, was finally closed down after eleven months, instead of running for the three years we had planned.

    Nevertheless, over this period I worked with two groups of practitioners to develop practice responses to women and children who had been alienated from one another in domestic violence and child sexual abuse. I also met with and conducted training sessions for workers and managers within the Family Court of Australia, Family and Youth Services, SA's statutory child protection system, the Police, Attorney-General's Department, a magistrate from Adelaide's Domestic Violence Court, domestic violence services, community health services, family services, and so on.


    The most profound aspect I continually encountered in my work on maternal alienation was a pervasive mother-blaming, that seemed to inhabit all levels of institutions and communities, of practice and belief. Perhaps this is not surprising if one looks at how Western mothering in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has been subject to surveillance, judgements, regulation, and how mothers have been dictated to, and sometimes punished by experts of all types (Hays 1996; Smart 1996). Yet mothers' work is unpaid, largely invisible, and under-valued. Theories such as Bowlby's attachment theory direct expert eyes to mothers' shortcomings, yet blind them to all the other significant influences in children's lives, such as poverty, the wider community, peer groups, fathers, and the presence or absence of violence (Birns 1999).

    Many service interventions tend to focus on the deficits of the mother, perhaps accusing her of neglect. However, we need to be aware that the effects of violence and abuse and maternal alienation on the mother child relationship can look just like maternal neglect. As practitioners or outsiders we can encounter situations where mothers are unable to control their children, and where they can appear to be immobilised and apathetic, or angry and frustrated with their children, and feel the task of mothering is far beyond them. Thinking of themselves as bad mothers, they may even feel that the only option left to them is to give up their children. However, rather than being signs of neglect, such a situation can be the result of a relentless campaign to undermine on all fronts a woman's ability to mother. Children experience that their mother's authority has broken down - they have been coached to loathe and blame her; they have been told that their mother doesn't love them, that she's crazy, that she's a slut; she is a creature who deserves abuse. These messages are not just given once, but become the tapestry of family life. Such messages are difficult to resist. Professionals also find them difficult to resist, as they accord with cultural perceptions of mothers. As Martha McMahon points out, "Mothers are no longer portrayed as self-sacrificing and all-loving but as untrustworthy or potential enemies of their children" (1995 190)).

    Invisible perpetrators

    As a counterpoint to the culpability of mothers is the invisibility of fathers. One needs the other, for if all attention is directed to the failing mother, we do not see the ways that violent and abusive fathers harm their children. Many researchers have commented on the profusion of ways in which violent men are invisible in the system, and women are held to different standards from men, (Edleson 1998; Burke 1999; Irwin, Waugh et al. 2002). Child protection services, family services all tend to focus their intervention on the mother, and rarely"mess� with the father. Women are held accountable for the effects of his violence, even when they are themselves victims of his violence.

    These factors create fertile ground for maternal alienation, which assigns responsibility to women for all wrongs, and conceals the ways that male perpetrators operate to punish, control, and injure. Therefore the two most important principles of any response to address maternal alienation are to support the mother and make visible the tactics used by the perpetrator. These two principles underpin the practice responses developed through the maternal alienation Project (Morris 2003).

    Principles of Best Practice: Supporting mothers and making perpetrators' tactics visible

    To support mothers it is usually necessary for service-providers to become aware of their own tendencies to blame mothers or hold them accountable for their partners' violence. This approach recognises that children's well-being will be enhanced by a positive relationship with their non-offending parent. This works against the cultural grain also in recognising the positive role that mothers can have in their children's lives. Given appropriate support mothers and children can rebuild their relationships, and mothers can be enabled to support and protect their children in the future.

    Effective work in this area also depends on making the perpetrator and his tactics visible and accountable for the violence, abuse and alienation and their effects on women and children. This enables women and children to understand how they were alienated from one another (Laing 1999). By making perpetrators visible, we are shifting back to them the responsibility for the damage, the harm, the trauma they have caused. When women and children understand where their problems have come from, they can take back their power to live the lives they choose for themselves, and not be driven for the rest of their lives by the patterns set up and manipulated by the perpetrator.

    A strange paradox emerges in this field of work, which I suspect is the result of our gender-neutral approach, where so-called neutrality constitutes a male view (Hearn 1998) � on the one hand men become invisible in the system when it is largely men who are responsible for violence against women and children, and women are held accountable. But when it comes to the care and development of children which mostly falls to mothers, women become invisible and the significance of their mothering role is not acknowledged. Further, we live in a society that values individualism, and our therapeutic interventions tend to reflect this. We treat children as separate beings, when in fact they are embedded in relationships of care and development. We often work separately with mothers and children, not recognising that after our clients' hour with us, they return to struggling to live together. These influences effectively create a gap in our services � very little work is done to support the mother-child relationship.

    I suggest we need to look differently at how we work with mothers and children after violence, decentralise our importance in children's and young people's lives, and find ways of making their relationships with their mothers work. If we work to re-build mother-child relationships after violence we create possibilities for healing in the future. This is the long-term solution to their problems; this is the realistic solution, and if we get it right it acts as early intervention/prevention, as mothers are enabled to support and protect their children.

    The mother-child system/alliance

    Therefore a service response to address maternal alienation needs to focus on building a mother-child alliance. The presence of abuse generally leads to mothers and children developing quite different understandings of the shared events in their lives. They need support to learn to talk together about the violence they have been subject to and develop shared activities and plans for the future.

    This doesn't necessarily mean that mothers and children always need to meet with counsellors together � they will need their own time to express their pain, grief, anger, frustration, and this is best done separately. But practitioners can keep in mind the need to develop mutual understandings throughout this process.

    Uncover the tactics used in maternal alienation

    Where it is possible to interact with programs that work with perpetrators of violence, there is the potential to discover some of the tactics used to divide mothers and children. Work with child sex offenders in programs like Cedar Cottage (NSW), where offenders are required to admit how they planned and set up sexual abuse of children, enforced the secrecy, and undermined children's relationships of trust (Laing 1999), would be useful also within programs for perpetrators of domestic violence.

    Making perpetrators' tactics visible gives us an important resource for healing those who have been abused - an understanding of the tactics used against them. When perpetrators' tactics are exposed, women and children can unravel the many misunderstandings they have been subject to, and understand that neither the mother nor the child is the problem - their problems have been created by the manipulations of the alienator (Laing 1999). Once they see the role of the perpetrator in their alienation, they can begin to free themselves from the lies and dynamics he contrived. They can step aside from the destructive patterning that has been set up, and behave in different and more positive ways towards one another.

    Develop an alternative narrative

    Women who leave violence and abuse often find they re-capture a sense of being a worthwhile person that was lost during the abuse; they may discover they have values and a personality that were buried for years. This (re-) emerging self can be strengthened during work with mothers and children, as together they create a life that they choose. Becoming very clear about what they want in their lives enables women and children to re-frame who they are, and step outside the behaviours they adopted to survive the abuse, and the negative narratives about who they were.

    It can be helpful for women and children to understand how the tactics of maternal alienation capitulated them into particular behaviours. For women, these tactics often worked to entrap them into 'playing out' the role assigned to them by the perpetrator. After leaving an abusive relationship, women and children often find that perpetrators' tactics to control them escalate. They will need to hold on firmly to the alternative sense of themselves so that they are not tricked back into the old ways of behaving that 'proved' the perpetrators' words about themselves.

    Using authority positively

    When maternal alienation takes place, mothers are positioned as the ones least able to make changes. A mother's words are discredited before she even utters them, and her actions are reviled before she takes them. Whatever she does, she has been painted as the mad one, the bad one, the stupid one, the one who can't be trusted. Her children will not listen to her or cooperate with her. Professional interventions that put pressure on her to make changes within the family such as changes to children's behaviour, exacerbate this situation and problems are likely to escalate. This tends to"prove� to practitioners that the woman is the cause of the problems.

    What is needed from practitioners is both understanding of how maternal alienation has operated to disempower and discredit mothers, and an attitude of respect towards them. Practitioners' authority can be used positively to model respect towards the mother and authorise alternative narratives and behaviours for mother and child. This counterbalances the power and status of the alienator's voice.

    Advocacy and information giving

    Practitioners who work in these ways report that their positive work is rapidly undone by services that are ignorant of maternal alienation and unwittingly reinforce the negative conditioning set up by maternal alienation. On the other hand, they found significant changes when they worked together with these services to address the family's problems. An integral part of this work is to educate all services that interact with these families about the effects of violence and maternal alienation, so they too can support them and not become a part of the problem.

    Creating consistency, safety and integrated service approaches.

    Perpetrators maintain absolute control over their families by being inconsistent and unpredictable. The inconsistency and distortion of reality that occurs as part of maternal alienation fractures women and children from their own experience, and from being able to trust themselves.  What is consistent in their world is their lack of safety.

    This pattern of inconsistency and families' resultant lack of control can be mirrored by services when they take different approaches to mother and family. Those services that are punitive and judgemental and continue to disempower mothers repeat the dynamics of the abuse situation. Families cannot recover while this is their environment - while they are awaiting the next blow, the next senseless act that removes their sense of control and safety. Integrated approaches by all services connected with the family develop consistency in the way a family is treated. This can counteract the many contradictions that the alienator has used to confound his victims and remove their sense of control or understanding.


    I believe these practice responses require a fundamental re-thinking of our practice: they entail becoming aware of and resisting mother-blaming in its many forms; making visible the hitherto hidden tactics and influences of perpetrators; valuing and re-building mother-child relationships; treating mothers with respect and allowing them the power and authority needed to take up the responsibilities of mothering; working in an integrated way with other services to create safe and consistent environments for mothers and children.

    In the short history of the maternal alienation Project, it appeared that these changes were too difficult to achieve, in the face of continuing attacks by men's rights groups. Perhaps increasing bureaucratisation and standardisation of service procedures was another factor that made it difficult to take up these challenges. Towards the end of the Project, some managers and policy officers aware of the parliamentary attacks on the Minister suggested that we change the name"maternal alienation� to something less confronting. Soon after, the project ended for lack of further funding.

    But this is not the end of the story. The resources created during the Project, and the information given at training workshops continue to circulate. Survivors of gendered violence and practitioners are discovering and redistributing this material, requesting training for their organisations, and changing their practice. They are advocating for changes within the system, and have created working groups to accomplish this. I am reminded of the single flower whose seeds are scattered by wind and insects, take root and create generations of flowers. There is no longer one lonely target, vulnerable to attack and attempts to silence it, but many advocates of change as the ideas about maternal alienation have taken root and grow.


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    1 The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions to this work of Dr Margie Ripper, University of Adelaide, and Professor Liz Kelly C.B.E., Child & Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University.