Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Parent Alienation Leaves bruises deep inside

In the end, it was one tiny voice that silenced anyone who still had doubts that parental alienation is real and one of the most insidious forms of child abuse.

The voice wasn't real – Dashiell Hart opened his arms wide and threw himself off a Vancouver bridge eight years ago at the age of 16.

But his voice was brought to life at a Toronto conference by his devastated mother, Pamela Richardson, who endured a 12-year court battle with her ex-husband to try to win back the heart and mind of her son.

Dash was just one tiny soldier in the growing army of children who are becoming collateral damage in bitter battles between ex-spouses that are overwhelming Canada's divorce courts, the first Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) heard recently in Toronto.

"Over 12 years I had four different sets of lawyers trying to convince the courts my son, who lived less than 10 minutes' drive from me, needed to see the mother who loved and raised him," Richardson told the conference.

"Maybe it's still believed that no parent would wound their child for their own selfish gain. Maybe people still believe that the loss of a parent is not that big a deal – parents get sick, have car accidents, get cancer, they die. But alienated parents aren't dead – and the children know it."

According to Richardson, it was her ex-husband, Peter Hart, a criminal lawyer, who began a concerted campaign to win sole custody of their then 6-year-old son and cut off all contact with his mother, physically and psychologically, shortly after the couple separated in 1989.

"With PAS children there are generally no outward or tangible signs of maltreatment," said Richardson, who later wrote a book called A Kidnapped Mind: A Mother's Heartbreaking Story of Parental Alienation Syndrome. "Instead of bruises, the wounds of PAS children are buried deep in their heart."

Hart was granted interim custody of Dash – Richardson blames that on his strong connections in the court system – while the couple sorted out their divorce.

Richardson had visitation rights, but increasingly Hart would claim that Dash was too busy with soccer, sleepovers or homework to see her. She was even asked to stop helping out at Dash's school.

To show her love, she would leave freshly baked cookies on Dash's front doorstep.

The year that Dash was 11, Richardson saw her son for just 24 hours. Every time she asked a judge to enforce her access time, Hart would accuse her of being obsessive and "trying to break up their happy home."

"There are transfers of time followed by transfers of power and children know enough to keep themselves safe," said Richardson.

"A shift takes place in the child's mind. This is the heartbreak of PAS: children are forced to choose between their parents because, in their mind, they've already lost one parent (to the divorce), and they're terrified of losing the other."

Dash went from being a happy, healthy 7-year-old to threatening to jump out the second-storey window of his school at the age of 9. At almost 12, he showed up at court in his father's clothes.

Judges are now starting to tackle PAS head-on, with an increasing willingness to switch custody to the alienated parent and order the children into treatment.

But back in the 1990s, most wouldn't even acknowledge it as a real issue, said Richardson.

After years of being told she was "idiotic," "uncaring" and even "dangerous," Dash grew into a teenager who lashed out constantly at his mother, who by now had remarried and had two young sons.

PAS "has everything to do with who has custody," she said. "It's a crime of calculation and opportunity. Arguing about whether or not PAS is a syndrome or a mental health disorder or abuse just ties everyone up in knots while real children and real families suffer this harm. A child's fundamental right to be loved by both his or her parents is destroyed by PAS."

And the effects are long-lasting, as parental alienation expert and researcher Amy Baker told the conference.

Her study of 40 adults who were alienated as children revealed lifelong battles with low self-esteem, alcoholism and drug abuse, as well as high divorce and suicide rates.

Parental alienation used to be known as "malicious mother syndrome." But it's become a more equal-opportunity form of emotional abuse of children over the last two decades, according to a new study of some 74 Canadian cases, which was released at the conference.

In 24 of the 74 high-conflict divorce cases examined by veteran Toronto family lawyer Gene Colman, men turned their kids against their mothers, while 50 of the cases involved women alienating the kids from their fathers.

Canada's family courts have tended to deal with contentious divorces by awarding sole custody to one parent, believing that joint custody is simply unworkable among ex-partners who are at war.

Many divorce experts, mental health professionals and child advocacy workers, some of whom spoke at the conference, have long argued that this approach encourages parental alienation by treating the children as prizes to be won or lost in bitter battle.

Colman said the study's results confirmed for him that Canada's divorce laws need to be amended to make "equal, shared parenting" the norm in all divorce cases, except when there are extenuating circumstances such as domestic violence, mental health or other issues that make one parent clearly unfit.

Link with comments- News & Features Parental alienation syndrome leaves bruises deep inside

Related - Turning Children into Tools of Hate (below)

Barbara Kay: Turning children into tools of hate - Full Comment


Cold North Wind said...

Much the same happened to my two female children-when I left the x to protect them from incest and myself from losing my life.

BUT never in a million years would I, nor did I, "use" pas -the abuser did. NEVER would I touch a -theory that has such a noxious provenance.And now- a noxious history. This -idea-is primarlily used by abusers against protective mothers. A bad bad bad idea. Those who use it- are tainted with abuser and pro-abiser status.

Zoey said...

Are you sure those are your thoughts? Have YOU investigated PA/PAS YOURSELF? Or are you the typica co-dependent that needs to be part of a group (Domestic Violence groups) that are hurting women and children everywhere with the help of those like YOU! Who parrot the agenda of federally funded women's groups without any personal accountability to what PA/PAS is doing to the next generation?

I believe that your a parrot for them and have not done your own homework.. that's ok the world needs parrots otherwise the truth would be known!

Anonymous said...

What are "bruses"...I think if you're going to go around touting JUNK SCIENCE you should at least be LITERATE!

I suppose the mother who BEGGED the judge to not allow her sons to go with their dad had PAS?

You Madam have a view that is not even shared with the APA or is in the DSM and the best part....IT NEVER WILL BE!

Do yourself and others a favor and actually research about Dr. Richard Gardner or Warren Farrell. Then ask yourself if you can actually say that PAS is something that is really used the right way and not by against angry abusive ex fathers.

Ask the mother of the Castillo children, The Leichtenberg boys, Olivier and Isabelle Gaston...too many to list of all the children that were placed into the hands of their father and MURDERED by court order! Let's see what kind of answer you'd get....Get REAL!

Zoey said...

I'll bet your as disgusted with my opinion as you stated here...

As I am disgusted with your co-dependent parroting without doing your own UNBIASED homework on the subject!

Have a wonderful day!

Zoey said...

Oh and thanks for pointing out the typo.. it's been fixed.

Anonymous said...

I have gone through a year and a half of litigation and been allowed only four hours with my son who is now a year old....ligitization proceedings...cases in both superior and district court and yesterday I made the mistake of believing that a judge would listen to a man and see the lies and deception that has been used over this time to keep me from my son. I have been painted as one of the most horrible, twisted, unstable men that has walked the face of the planet...all lies, I tell you honestly. Never in my life have I felt so horrible about myself and been hurt so badly by a woman that I once loved. A woman who is evidently so sick that even those directly around her can't see it nor do they care to do anything about it and my son is suffering for it. The judicial system doesn't care. Judges don't care about the truth and what is right. I have been given an hour of supervised visitation twice a month. How is this fair?

Michael J. Murphy said...


I see the Gender Feminist Trolls have left their drive-by smears of Dr. Gardiner and PAS. These trolls show up on the gender feminist sites spouting stuff for which they know nothing about - except maybe they found some misinformation in the Liz Library. Cold North Wind was quoting wolves on a misandry site earlier this week little thinking her comparisons were "out to lunch" She forgot that the head of the wolf pack was the dominant male. Talk about patriarchy.

These trolls, Luddites, deniers all use the same silly rhetoric that revolves around taking snippets of Dr. Gardiner's work and then pasting them together to make it look like he actually said it. Its like taking sound bytes from someones many speeches and then editing them together to make a completely new statement.

The gender feminists have an agenda and they are getting paranoid (worse than before) because some of them may lose entitlements, not to mention custody, if things like shared and equal parenting come along and judges understand the emotional turmoil of children being abused by narcissistic mentally ill alienators. I always want to meet deniers in person so I can study their body language while trying to look me in the eye with their deceitful message.

They in fact become enablers of abuse by denying this terrible emotional mental cruelty exists.

I like your responses. Being civil to some of these malcontented propagandists of gender feminism is not necessarily something one should always try given their Luddite behaviour.

We shall soldier on. I was at the symposium and saw the palpable trauma on the faces of targeted parents including but not limited to Pamela. Many were female.

Zoey said...

Have you read Pamala's book - A kidnapped mind?

Her story parallels mine as far as the political connections and the judges ignoring her and her son's mental health.

I pray for her daily.

As for the deniers.. it's scarey watiching someone in such denial that they actually believe.. it's surreal..

They just don't get it!

Michael J. Murphy said...

I have read the book. Its tragic. She gave copies to all the attendees at the symposium and I had a chance to chat with her briefly while she autographed the book. I now have two copies. The non-autographed one will be kept in reserve for a gift to someone.

She is a woman of great presence and dignity. I had seen her before on TV and she's just the same in person.

I do find it interesting these deniers don't understand the malady is not gender specific. I think they have gotten into the ideology so deeply, as Dr. Gardiner found mostly females were alienators, they can't find a way out gracefully.

Such is life when an ideology pursues and overtakes reason. The Turnbull decision last year in Ontario, where I live, was a very bad dad alienator losing custody. I guess it must be something other than PAS to them as well or they would be trumpeting the decision.

Best wishes.

Michael J. Murphy said...

I forgot to mention I met, among others, two very strong and resilient women from across the river from you in Ridgewood, NJ. Katrina Daniels Lee and Lisa Marzullo who are co-founders of the Lee PAS Foundation at Katrina spoke briefly about her trial with her ex and the struggles she has seeing her children. Lis is one of the strongest women I've had the pleasure to meet.

If you get the chance to talk to them do so. They have dramatic stories to tell which are incredibly difficult for any one to deal with but they are troopers.I was glad to have had a chance to talk to Lisa - she is an amazing woman and mom.

Zoey said...

I couldnt have said it better myself...

They can't find a graceful way out..

What a shame they are willing to continue the destruction of man woman and children at any expense!

Zoey said...

I've actually met Katrina in the City. She was at the play on parent alienation (right this min. I can't remember the name).

I agree she is amazing and beautiful!

I have not had the pleasure of meeting Lisa yet tho.

Anonymous said...

Louise don't be taken in by the oil slick that goes by the name of Michael Murphy. Do some research, he is a Fathers Rights campaigner who has chosen to denigrate not only his wife but his children as well. You are aligning with an abuser.
Interesting how he denies the comments made by Richard Gardner on child sexual contact, when it is all out there for anyone to read and he is widely quoted. I understand your situation Louise but instead of blindly following a junk science that is used mostly by fathers (Gardner writes this himself) realise that what happened to you and your children is an abuse. Fight back but don't use theories that can be shot down in flames.

Zoey said...

Just an FYI,for the woman warning me above..

Exchanging a few online sentences with someone is NOT aligning.

My thoughts are my own.. your thoughts are you own.. his thoughts are his own

However, when it comes to children getting hurt because the women's groups can't find a politically correct way to back out of the "theory" that PA/PAS is junk science, that's when all bets are off in my book!

So don't you worry about who I'm talking to or what I believe..

KNOW that my conclusions are based on FACTS.. facts that I researched MYSELF unlike the "theory" that PAS is junk science which is a contridiction claiming that abusers don't feel entitled enough to alienate..

Tell me how much do you know about abusive personalities? Enmeshed families, why dysfunction breeds dysfunction.. oh I can go on and on.. but you get the picture don't you?

You might want to spend some time doing your own research on dysfunction and YOUR role in an abusive relationship... then work on YOU and don't worry about me.

Michael J. Murphy said...

I see one of the brave anonymous trolls has done a drive-by smear on me. I'm always interested in the motives of these people. They call it junk science but you know what - in the whole history of this so called debunking only one participant in the denial side had a PHD in Social Work and could come close to saying she had a science background. She was from Michigan and got shot down in flames on an appeal by a lawyer who was also a psychologist.

I mentioned earlier these trolls get all their info from places like the Liz Library or from radical feminist's like Joan Meier who was shot down over her misinformation in a PBS documentary a few years back trying to debunk PAS. This person teaches law but she knows nothing about science.

They get hung up on the word syndrome. Did they ever check the DSM. Maybe the trolls could let me know if any one of the maladies listed in it has syndrome after it. None of these people have ever read it as far as I can tell. PAS has passed all of the legal tests to be used in court but then these trolls come back and say the courts are corrupt. The courts need fixing but it isn't because of PA. Lot of food for thought.

Most of them have been visiting my blog for years now and they keep hoping I'll go away. Not any time soon I hope. It gives me a certain perverse satisfaction to know I get under their skin.

I'll keep doing it for as long as deniers exist and I can finish rescuing my children from a mentally ill woman.

You are strong Louise. We've rattled them today and hopefully I will tomorrow and the next day. They are the abusers and inside they know it.