Published on May 13, 2007 by Tri-Cities News
Parental Alienation Syndrome dangerous for kids?
by Amber Miller
Ugly divorce cases become worse when parents pit children against the other parent.
It's a problem termed "Parental Alienation Syndrome," or PAS, and just this year the American Bar Association spoke out against it.
News Channel 11 spoke with a Tri-Cities family who says PAS placed their children in a dangerous situation.
It was a sunny mother's day out by the pool. Life is good now, but Johnson City resident Jeni Hasch says it hasn't always been like this. "In December, I was going to go to jail and the kids were going to foster care," Hasch told Channel 11.
She says her ex-husband is abusive and they were in the midst of a custody battle for their four children. Hasch says her ex claimed that she turned the kids against him.
The judge told her to pack her toothbrush, but her children wouldn't have that. They agreed to see their father.
"The kids said they would visit, but all of them together, and he refused. He lost his temper in court—kind of stalked me out of the courtroom. I had to be escorted by the guard, and that's how it ended, so that's kind of a miracle for us," Hasch said.
He no longer visits, but he's still around.
Sarah,16, says she walks on eggshells. "Anytime I see a car that looks like his, it's always just kind of like your heart skips a beat. It's just knowing that he's around and can show up at any time... it's scary."
Telling their story is a risk this family is willing to take to get the word out about PAS.
"Just because we were kids doesn't mean that we have to live in an abusive situation just because our dad has rights to see us," Sarah said.
The teenager said it’s stressful being a child dealing with an adult situation. "Knowing that you could be separated from your siblings is completely terrifying because it's like the four of us together. That's been the one constant in our lives," Sarah said.
Hasch told News Channel 11 the 2006 Judges' Manuel reads that Parental Alienation Syndrome cannot be introduced in court when it’s a proven cases of domestic abuse.
Amber Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 Tri-Cities News Fair Use Notice
Why Parents Who Batter Win Custody
by Sarah Childress
It took six years for Genia Shockome to gather the courage to leave her husband, Tim. He pushed her, kicked her and insulted her almost from the moment they married in 1994, she says. She tried to start over with their children when the family moved from Texas to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. It didn't last long. Tim called her constantly at work and, after they split up, pounded on her door and screamed obscenities, she alleged in a complaint filed in 2001. Tim was charged with harassment. As part of a plea deal, Tim agreed to a stay-away order—but denies ever abusing her or the children. In custody hearings over the past six years, Tim has insisted that he's been a good father, and argued that Genia's allegations poisoned their children against him. The judge sided with Tim. This summer he was granted full custody of the kids, now 11 and 9. Genia was barred from contacting them.
Genia is one of many parents nationwide who have lost custody due to a controversial concept known as parental alienation. Under the theory, children fear or reject one parent because they have been corrupted or coached to lie by the other. Parental alienation is now the leading defense for parents accused of abuse in custody cases, according to domestic-violence advocates. And it's working. The few current studies done on the subject consider only small samples. But according to one 2004 survey in Massachusetts by Harvard's Jay Silverman, 54 percent of custody cases involving documented spousal abuse were decided in favor of the alleged batterers. Parental alienation was used as an argument in nearly every case.
This year the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges denounced the theory as "junk science," and at least four states have passed legislation to curtail its use in custody cases involving allegations of domestic violence. "It's really been a cancer in the family courts," says Richard Ducote, an attorney in Pittsburgh who has represented abuse victims in custody cases for 22 years. "It's made it really difficult for parents to protect their kids. If you ask for protection, you're deemed a vindictive, alienating parent."
It may seem hard to fathom how a judge could award custody to a parent accused of abuse. But battered spouses often don't file criminal charges—so no judicial finding is made against their mates—and family-court judges typically aren't trained to referee the complexities of abusive relationships. (Although men are sometimes battered by their wives, women are the victims in the majority of abuse cases.) Judges often throw out documented evidence of spousal abuse, arguing that it is irrelevant in a custody case. And experts say that family-court judges often look favorably on the alleged abuser because he seems more willing to share custody than the accuser—who is hellbent on keeping the father away from the child. According to a survey by Geraldine Stahly, a psychology professor at California State University at San Bernardino, attorneys will caution battered spouses against reporting abuse in court so they don't lose their children. (Stahly and other academics say the parental-alienation argument has more legitimacy in custody disputes that don't involve charges of abuse.)
Parental-alienation syndrome was first introduced by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in the 1980s. Fathers-rights groups picked up on the idea and began trying it out in court. These groups condemn abusers. But Dan Hogan, executive director of Fathers & Families, a nonprofit group that advocates for joint custody, argues that all too often the accusers lie in order to win custody of their kids.
There's a small but growing movement to ban parental alienation in custody cases, sparked by embattled parents bonding online. They've linked with lawyers and advocates for battered spouses across the country. At least four states, including California, have laws protecting parents who make good-faith abuse allegations. Others may soon follow their lead. Greg Jacob, an attorney who takes cases for abused parents pro bono, is drafting legislation to shop to Virginia and Maryland next month. Meanwhile, parents like Genia keep fighting. "It's so hard, having my children lost," she says, her voice breaking. "This was my life—my children."
Gardner on the sexual aggressiveness of children Gardner suggests that children want to have sex with adults and may seduce them.
- Some children experience " high sexual urges in early infancy. " "There is good reason to believe that most, if not all, children have the capacity to reach orgasm at the time they are born." Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse .Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 15)
- Children are naturally sexual and may initiate sexual encounters by "seducing" the adult . Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p. 93).
- If the sexual relationship is discovered, " the child is likely to fabricate so that the adult will be blamed for the initiation ." Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p. 93).
- "The normal child exhibits a wide variety of sexual fantasies and behaviors, many of which would be labeled as 'sick' or 'perverted' if exhibited by adults" Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 12)
- Sex abuse is not necessarily traumatic; the determinant as to whether sexual molestation will be traumatic to the child, is the social attitude toward these encounters. Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 670-71)
Gardner on therapy with children who are sexually abused by their father
- Keep the child connected to the abuser Special care should be taken not alienate the child from the molesting parent. The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapprochement with the family have proven futile." Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 537)
Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 549)
Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 572).
Gardner on mothers who discover that their husband is sexually abusing their child Gardner blames the father's abuse on the mother, who he faults for not fulfilling her husband sexually. He suggests that therapists should help mother's of incest victims achieve sexual gratification.
- Discourage litigation.
- Encourage her to stay with her husband (the abuser)
- Blame her and the daughter for the sexual abuse by the father
- "It may be that one of the reasons the daughter turned toward the father is the
impairment of the child's relationship with the mother" (pp. 579-80) Gardner, R.A.(1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 585)
Help her get over her anger at her husband for sexually abusing their child.
- "If the mother has reacted to the abuse in a hysterical fashion, or used it as an excuse for a campaign of denigration of the father, then the therapist does well to try and "sober her up".... Her hysterics ... will contribute to the child's feeling that a heinous crime has been committed and will thereby lessen the likelihood of any kind of rapproachment with the father. One has to do everything possible to help her put the "crime" in proper perspective. She has to be helped to appreciate that in most societies in the history of the world, such behavior was ubiquitous [i.e., everywhere], and this is still the case."
Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 576-7)
- "Perhaps she can be helped to appreciate that in the history of the world his behavior has probably been more common than the restrained behavior of those who do not sexually abuse their children." Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585)
Encourage her to become more sexually responsive to her husband.
- "Her increased sexuality may lessen the need for her husband to return to their daughter for sexual gratification." "Verbal statements about the pleasures of orgastic response are not likely to prove very useful. One has to encourage experiences, under proper situations of relaxation, which will enable her to achieve the goal of orgastic response." "One must try to overcome any inhibition she may have with regard to [the use of vibrators]." "Her own diminished guilt over masturbation will make it easier for her to encourage the practice in her daughter, if this is warranted. And her increased sexuality may lessen the need for her husband to return to their daughter for sexual gratification."
Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 585)
Gardner on fathers who sexually abuse their children
- Tell him what he did his normal "He has to be helped to appreciate that, even today, it [pedophilia] is a widespread and accepted practice among literally billions of people. He has to appreciate that in our Western society especially, we take a very punitive and moralistic attitude toward such inclinations. He has had a certain amount of back (sic) luck with regard to the place and time he was born with regard to social attitudes toward pedophilia."
The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapprochement with the family have proven futile"Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem WitchTrials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)
"He must learn to control himself if he is to protect himself from the Draconian punishments meted out to those in our society who act out their pedophilic impulses."
Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill , NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585-592)
Therapy with the father should not be spent focusing on the primary problem (I.e.,sexual molestation). Instead, therapy should be spent "talking about other things" as the goal of therapy is "to help people forget about their problems"
Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585-592)
Gardner on how society should respond to the widespread victimization of children Take a more sympathetic view toward pedophilia
- "One of the steps that society must take to deal with the present hysteria is to 'come off it' and take a more realistic attitude toward pedophilic behavior." (p. 120)
- "The Draconian punishments meted out to pedophiles .go far beyond what I consider to be the gravity of the crime." (p. 118) Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.
- Abolish mandated reporting of child sexual abuse.
Do away with immunity for reporters of child abuse.
Create federally-funded programs to assist those claiming to have been falsely accused of child sexual abuse.
Gardner, R.A. (1995). Written testimony on HR3588 - Proposed revision of the child abuse prevention and treatment act (CAPTA) (Public Law 93-247).
- Keep pedophiles in the community
- The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapproachment with the family have proven futile"Pedophiles who abuse children outside of the home should first be given the opportunity for community treatment. "If that fails then and only then should some kind of forced incarceration be considered" Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse
Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)
Gardner on Child abuse hysteria
- Child abuse allegations are the "third-greatest wave of hysteria" the nation has seen, following the Salem witch trials and the McCarthyite persecution of leftists. Gardner, R.A. (1993, February 22). Modern witch hunt--child abuse charges. The Wall Street Journal, p. A10.
- "We are currently living in dangerous times, similar to Nazi Germany. Sexual abuse hysteria is omnipresent." Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. xxv)
Who is to Blame for "Child Abuse Hysteria"? People who voice negative feelings against pedophiles
- "During their harangues against the 'perverts' who are the objects of their scorn, they often rise to a level of excitation that can readily be seen as sexual. . . .Psychological, such individuals are ever fighting to repress their own unacceptable pedophilic impulses, which are continually pressing for release." Gardner, R.A.(1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp. 30-31).
The legal system - including judges
- "There is no question that abuse cases are "turn ons" for the wide variety of individuals involved in them, the accuser(s), the prosecutors, the lawyers, the judges , the evaluators, the psychologists, the reporters, the readers of the newspapers, and everyone else involved - except for the falsely accused and the innocent victim ..Everyone is getting their 'jollies, ." Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem
Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 31).
- "Judges . too may have repressed pedophilic impulses over which there is
suppression, repression, and guilt. Inquiry into the details of the case provides voyeuristic and vicarious gratifications .. Incarcerating the alleged perpetrator may serve psychologically to obliterate the judge's own projected pedophilic impulses."Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited .Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 107)
- Sexually inhibited mothers
"The mother . is . psychologically gratifying [her own sexually inhibited needs] with the visual imagery that the sex abuse allegation provides." Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp.36-37).
- Greedy parents
"Many are victims of their greed, which is so enormous that they blind themselves to the psychological traumas they are subjecting their children to in the service of winning lawsuits that promise them enormous wealth." Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ:Creative Therapeutics (p 43).
- Judeo-Christian principles
"It is of interest that of all the ancient peoples it may very well be that the Jews were the only ones who were punitive toward pedophiles.. Our present overreaction to pedophilia represents an exaggeration of Judeo-Christian principles and is a significant factor operative in Western society's atypicality with regard to such activities Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 46-7
Sick Joke or Sick Reality?
Below the Belt: A Biweekly Column by NOW President Kim Gandy
May 17, 2007
I know you think I'm talking about "Opie and Anthony," recently suspended from their radio talk gig for "joking" with a guest, "Homeless Charlie," who said he wanted to rape Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush. The hosts encouraged these horrifying remarks -- in fact they laughed and imagined "the horror" on Rice's face as she is held down and punched in the face.
No, I'm talking about another sick reality. Let me ask you first: Would you trust a guy who wrote that rape victims "gain pleasure from being beaten, bound, and otherwise made to suffer" as "the price they are willing to pay for gaining the gratification of receiving the sperm?" A guy who published his belief that "the child who has suffered bona fide abuse may very well have enjoyed the experience..."? A guy who claimed that incest is not harmful, (citing Shakespeare) only "thinking makes it so"?
And I know I don't even have to ask this -- but would you trust this guy with your kids?
I thought not. Which leads me to ponder how on earth the "theory" this guy thought up has found its way into court rooms across the country, and is currently influencing child custody decisions, especially those involving child abuse. That's right, this guy, a psychiatrist named Richard Gardner -- who, by the way, also asserted that adult-child sex is normal AND beneficial for both parties as well as for the survival of the human race -- is being given credence in cases involving the fate of children and families.
And believe it or not, it seems that nine state governors have jumped on Gardner's pro-pedophilia bandwagon. In Florida, Indiana, Connecticut, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, Maine, and Nevada, there is now reportedly a whole day officially dedicated to raising "awareness" about Gardner's theory called Parental Alienation Syndrome, in which the very reports of abuse by a child against a father are themselves evidence that the child is being brainwashed by the mother (and if the child is angry at the father, or doesn't want to visit, that's even more evidence) and the only "cure" for this syndrome is to force the child to live with the abuser and deny ANY contact with the protective mother, who has no history of abuse.
C'mon, you're thinking, what judge would buy this crock? Doesn't it matter if the abuse really happened? Apparently not.
Although it may sound like it, this is no sick joke. It's a sad, sick reality. And anyone who cares even a little about children's human rights and the epidemic of family violence should take note and take action.
Let's start with the lowdown on "parental alienation syndrome" (PAS), which is also being called "parental alienation." Like I said, Richard Gardner thought it up. The late Dr. Gardner was a child psychiatrist who liked to tell people he was a full professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. Actually, he was an unpaid volunteer. But hey -- professor, volunteer; child sexual abuse, fun adult-child sex -- hey, what's the difference? If you're Richard Gardner, not much.
But I digress. While Gardner was volunteering at Columbia in the 1980s, he formed some opinions and made some personal observations that, together, he decided to call "parental alienation syndrome." He defined PAS as a condition arising from one parent's (mostly mothers, he said) "programming" of the child to wage an unreasonable "campaign of denigration against" the other parent (most of the time, the father, according to Gardner). PAS, he said, arises most often during child custody disputes, usually involves false allegations of child sexual abuse as part of the programmer parent's attempt to turn the child against the other parent, and causes "enormous grief" in the alienated parent.
Gardner's diagnostic criteria included finding out from the child the parent's "frequency of programming thoughts" and the parent's "success in manipulating the legal system to enhance the programming." The ridiculousness of these criteria goes without saying. Gardner was insistent that the "programming parent" is the mother, and that the alienated parent is the father. He opined that treatment involve forcing the mother to stop expressing negative views about the father and granting custody of the child to him and denying any visitation to her. No part of the PAS diagnostic process involves examining the father's psychiatric history or conduct, or even inquiring whether he had actually engaged in abuse.
According to an article by Dr. Paul J. Fink, past president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Hon. Sol Gothard, retired judge and former faculty member for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges:
"Parental Alienation Syndrome has been used nationwide by batterers as a courtroom tactic to silence abused children by attempting to discredit their disclosures of abuse. This theory is not recognized as valid by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Medical Association. Parental Alienation Syndrome is not accepted as a psychiatric diagnosis, and has been rejected by the mainstream psychological community. Parental Alienation Syndrome is junk science; there is no valid research or empirical data to support this unproven theory."
To date, none of the studies necessary to judge the validity of Gardner's so-called syndrome have been conducted. In 2006, the Children's Legal Rights Journal (a multi-disciplinary journal published in conjunction with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the National Association of Counsel for Children, and the Loyola University School of Law) and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges each published analyses finding no scientific or legal basis for the use of PAS.
And yet, PAS keeps making appearances in courts across the country, subverting and perverting the pursuit of justice one family at a time. According to the Children's Legal Rights Journal, a North Carolina court incarcerated a teenage girl who refused to visit her father, and a New Jersey court suspended a mother's contact with her two children, granting sole custody to the father despite "'foreseeable emotional upset and possible trauma'" to the children (Hoult, 1). In Pennsylvania, a court ordered a teenager into "PAS treatment," and he subsequently hung himself.
Young people who have suffered due to inhumane court rulings involving PAS are speaking out.
They are not the only ones. This month, the NOW Foundation joined other leading organizations working on family law and family violence in a complaint filed against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The complaint charges that U.S. courts are failing to protect the life, liberties, security, and other human rights of abused mothers and children by frequently awarding child custody to abusers and child molesters. PAS is one predominant strategy being used by lawyers to place children in such danger. Arecent Newsweek article noted the finding of a Harvard study that in custody cases involving documented spousal abuse, 54% granted custody to the batterer, and parental alienation was used as an argument in nearly every single one.
This is not a trend that will fade away. It's junk science that's gaining momentum, amassing victims, fooling powerful government officials, and even attracting an unfortunately famous ally or two like Alec Baldwin. PAS advocates play down the theory's unquestionably absurd roots in Gardner's pseudo-science, pathologize and punish mothers fighting to protect themselves and their children, and stand faithfully by fathers' so-called right to unfettered access to their children despite any history of assault or abuse. And the judges and the media are buying it hook, line and sinker.
Do something about it. Contact the governors who've proclaimed "Parental Alienation Awareness" days and raise their awareness about what's in the best interest of our families. Contact the media outlets who are giving PAS advocates like Alec Baldwin a platform to lie to the public. Pressure your judges to educate themselves and get our justice system back on track.
Gloria Steinem said, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off." I'm definitely pissed off about PAS and hope you are, too. It's just what we need to set our families free from junk science, junk justice, and sick realities.
For more detailed information and sources on PAS: Hoult, Jennifer, (Spring 2006). The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy, Children's Legal Rights Journal, 26(1) pp. 1-61.