Monday, October 6, 2008

Batterers as Parents

At the recent Georgia Commission on Family Violence Conference, attendees heard a keynote address from Lundy Bancroft, an author, workshop leader, and activist on trauma, abuse, and healing, about the effects of domestic violence on children. He has a number of articles on his website discussing the negative effects that children experience when parented by a perpetrator of domestic violence. We specifically recommend The Batterer as a Parent, where he writes:
Most of the characteristics that are typical of men who batter have potential ramifications for children in the home. Batterers often tend toward authoritarian, neglectful, and verbally abusive child-rearing. The effects on the children of these and other parenting weaknesses may be intensified by the children's prior traumatic experience of witnessing violence.
Influence of Battering on Parenting
  • creating role models that perpetuate the violence
  • undermining the mother's authority
  • retaliating against the mother for her efforts to protect the children
  • sowing divisions within the family
  • using the children as weapons against the mother
Safely fostering father-child relationships: Except in cases where the children are terrified of the battering parent or have been abused by him directly, children tend to desire some degree of ongoing contact with their fathers. Such contact can be beneficial as long as adequate safety measures are provided for the mother and children and the abuser is not given the opportunity to cause set-backs to the children's emotional recovery. These goals can be fostered through custody arrangements that take into full consideration the violence in the home caused by the battering parent and through the use of professionally supervised visitation, ideally based in a visitation center. Where unsupervised visitation is found to be safe, the use of relatively short visits that do not include overnight visits can reduce the batterer's ability to damage mother-child relationship, limit his negative influence on the children's behavior and value-systems, and ensure that the children feel safe and secure—while still allowing them to feel a continued connection to their father.
Women's Resource Center will begin to provide these supervised visitation services this month through our newest program, Nia's Place.

We encourage all of our readers, and especially judges and others working in the legal field, to read more from Lundy Bancroft, including Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes and others.

In response to the increased media attention surrounding the release of Alec Baldwin’s book entitled, “A Promise to Ourselves,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and StopFamilyViolence. org released the following:

(September 29, 2008) Washington, DC – The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), Stop Family Violence, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, four of the nation’s leading domestic violence victim advocacy organizations, call on the media and the courts to rectify the misunderstanding and misuse of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in custody cases.

“Child custody cases are among the toughest cases courts have to handle. And in custody cases where domestic violence is involved, the judges have an even higher responsibility to ensure that the safety of family members is not dangerously impaired by misleading – and legally unjustifiable – ‘parental alienation syndrome’ theories,” said Sue Else, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Parental Alienation Syndrome” is a claim that has been used to suggest that some parents try to undermine their children’s relationship with the other parent, typically the noncustodial parent, by making false statements about that other parent, most often in the form of abuse allegations. In fact, actor Alec Baldwin made that claim about his own child custody case in a recent interview with Diane Sawyer.

“PAS is being used by some abusers as a tactic to demonize parents’ attempts to protect their children from abuse, denying victims of domestic violence justice in the courts. The fact that some parents behave badly in ordinary cases is no reason to ignore real abuse when it is presented to the court,” also stated Else.

Joan Meier, DV LEAP’s Executive Director, said, “PAS was invented to defeat child abuse claims - and it has been remarkably successful in misleading family courts into believing that women who are sincerely trying to protect their children and themselves from abuse, are just seeking to end the children’s relationship with their noncustodial father.”

According to NNEDV, DV LEAP, SFV, and NCADV, victims of domestic violence face a surprisingly uphill battle in family court to win custody of and safety for their children. All too often, courts award custody and unsupervised visitation to parents found to have committed domestic abuse. Many courts handling custody cases do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and fail to properly factor in the impact of abuse when considering the best interests of the child.

“The most important factor judges should be weighing in making custody decisions is the safety of the mother and children, and the introduction of PAS overshadows this critical need for safety,” said Rita Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Meier states that research has shown that children become “alienated” from a parent for a variety of valid reasons, most often resulting from the parent’s own negative behavior and relationship with that child.

“The proponents of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ are purveying invalid junk science is not even legally admissible. PAS has been emphatically rejected by the Presidential Task Force of the American Psychological Association and by the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges. Leading researchers in the field of custody have agreed that PAS has no scientific validity and the only courts to address the issue have found it inadmissible,” said Meier.

“With the increased media attention surrounding the release of Alec Baldwin’s book, it is important to let the public know that victims of domestic violence are being silenced through the use of ‘parental alienation syndrome.’ We cannot afford to consign thousands of children to unsafe custody or visitation with abusive parents because family courts have come to believe that abuse allegations mean nothing more than a campaign of alienation,” said Else.

For more information regarding abuse of the legal system by perpetrators of domestic violence, see our post on judicial stalking.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with the position in this article. The analysis is accurate and provides real, substantive information that I hope and pray American court rooms take a hard look at, reviewing the situation of awarding custody to abusive parents.

Excellent and meaningful information.

Anonymous said...

The True Abuse/False Alienation Scam
by Katie Stanton

There are false allegations of fictitious syndromes going on all over the country and around the world. Horrifically abusive men, armed with lots of money, use false allegations of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) as a strategy to annihilate their families.

Instead of doing this physically, these abusers are using family court to inflict the damage. The men who claim to be "alienated" often will repeatedly call in false abuse reports on the mother, which is ignored in court proceedings and by the PAS-accusing evaluator.

These same men will attempt to "coach" the child to say bad things and make false allegations against the mother. When the child reports the father for his abuse (including parental alienation tactics), the father falsely claims alienation by the mother. It is a reign of terror, with the child as the ultimate victim.

There are some of the frequently elements of the abuse/false alienation scam. These behaviors often start during the relationship--they're not something that occurs as a result of divorce, but instead are often the reason for the divorce. They are:

Abuse frequently either begins or escalates during pregnancy.

Abuse can be physical and/or sexual.

Threatens to take the children if the victim mom leaves.

Threatens the life of the mom and/or children.

Extremely emotionally abusive and controlling.

Coercive control is constant.


Harassment by any means possible, phone, email or any other means of communication. Communications are with the intent to inflict emotional distress.

False accusations of infidelity.

Interferes with wife/mom's work.

Keeps mom and kids from having friendships with other people, and relationships with her own family, wants to only be with his relatives and friends.

Financial abuse (may incur bills and refuse to pay any, forces mom/wife to take on debt to keep family afloat while simultaneously undermining work of wife/mom).

Wife/mom will try to get help for husband/dad, and NOT immediately leave. Wife/mom will refuse to prosecute, only to later have this be extremely detrimental.

CPS involvement due to domestic violence and child abuse reports called in by people other than the mom. Mom will be terrorized with every report because she is at risk of losing kids to CPS.

Abuse against child that child discloses to mom while still married or in relationship. Mom will choose to work with dad on this personally.

Mom gets threatened by CPS with failure to protect while married or in relationship.

Visitation may be stopped for valid reasons.

Child is a pawn, the ways and means of continuing the abuse on the mother while inflicting great harm on the child.

Child will often be abused in front of mother intentionally during exchanges.

Child exchanges are just another opportunity to inflict harm on mom and child in any way possible. Calling all day, changing times, changing locations, repeatedly and obnoxiously.

Father refusing to return child from visitation.

Father will often have wealthy parents (and usually highly abusive and controlling father).

Father's parents will also engage in the terrorizing of mom and kids, and will also make threats and file false reports. Father's parents function like tag team of bullies.

Father will have visitation, then falsely claim that he was denied visitation. (Valid reasons for schedule changes are claimed to be "alienation.")

Father will receive phone calls, and school correspondence, then falsely claim that the calls were not long enough or meaningful enough, etc and that he did not receive ENOUGH information from school or may falsely claim that he received nothing when opposite is true.

Mother will comply with every order in great detail, while father disobeys, but father will file for false contempt claim in order to commit custody exchange fraud.

Father only needs to lie to psychologist, who then does nothing to corroborate any information, and psychologist will come to court and falsely accuse parental alienation without any evidence. Courts will listen to paid expert and vilify the protective parent to the delight of the abuser.

Father is expert at "crazy-making" This behavior distorts reality and destroys the possibility of honest communication. This is a very effective device to increase confusion and insecurity in the victim. It also makes the victim mom have to continuously defend in court.

In these cases, of course the child is fearful of the father. The children will be telling the truth, and the psychotic father is claiming they are lying. He forces the children to undergo evaluations and reunification therapy in efforts to have these psychologists "brainwash" the children into believing the father's alternate version of realty.

The children are tortured by unethical lawyers and psychologists profiteering off the case under the direction of the abuser dad, who is usually a very skillful and charming liar. The litigation will go on endlessly, as the protective parent desperately tries to shield the child.

This tactic of the true abuser using false allegations of alienation is an extreme form of emotional battering, and is a way of continuing to inflict abuse. The child will resent the true abuser even more, because of the hell they are being put through in order to exact revenge on the mom. False allegation of this fictitious syndrome--Parental Alienation Syndrome--is a fraud and needs to be exposed.