Domestic Violence by Proxy - Clarity of the Parental Alienation Debate by Jennifer Collins

Domestic Violence by Proxy - Clarity on the Parental Alienation debate from a child who lived through it

Hello, my name is Jennifer Collins. I am the adult child in a highly publicized "Parental Alienation," child abuse, custody case. Many "professionals" from the therapeutic and legal fields resort to the term “parental alienation” to try to explain why children say that they do not want to spend time with a particular parent post divorce. They have no idea how that label can be destructive and even deadly to children who are being abused and then turned against their protective parent who is desperately trying to protect them and secure their safety.

In actuality “Parental Alienation” excuses a perpetrator of child abuse, strips a domestic violence survivor of any support she might have while demonizing her, leaving the children victimized again and wondering why no one will help them. Parental Alienation was lodged against my mother to supposedly explain my brother’s and my fear of our father and pining for our mom. Not only is "parental alienation" heavily relied on to explain away reports of child abuse, it is an easy, simple and convenient rationale when these professionals get confused between the "he said/she said" factors in child custody cases. In my case, it resulted with the court ignoring my brother’s and my accounts of horrible abuse, severing the most important bond we had in our young lives (with our mommy) and forcing us to live with the person we identified as abusing us (our own father.) I have been on both sides of the "Parental Alienation" argument and what happened to me and my brother fell well beyond what this fictitious phenomenon contends.

My father’s allegation of Parental Alienation against my mother was nothing more than a smoke screen to conceal his ongoing abuse of his primary target victim and her children. His efforts to take my brother and me away from our loving mother to punish her for leaving him was successfully achieved AND condoned by the system put in place to prevent such abuse from happening. What my father did to us - isolating us from our mom who we longed for as little children, along with his cruel emotional and physical tormenting of my brother and me - was much too severe to be labeled with such a canned title as "parental alienation.”

That term is too weak for what we suffered. It’s more than bad-mouthing or saying nasty things about a parent. I wish that was all we had to suffer! "Parental Alienation" doesn’t even begin to capture the kind of torture that my brother and I endured but there's been no term to accurately portray what happened to us and what's continuing to happen to thousands of other children of domestic violence survivors until now. Dr. Patterson found Domestic Violence by Proxy to explain that a batters “purpose is to use children as a tool to punish the victim for either leaving the relationship or filing an injunction for protection.”

What my father did to us was Child Abuse and not only did his behavior towards us not change, it actually worsened. He used my brother and me to keep control over our mother and isolated us from our mom to punish her for standing up to him. My father would openly say in front of us “This will teach her that she better listen to me!” or “You know that this is all HER fault, don’t you?!” These frightening tactics exemplify the very definition of DVbP. Dr. Joyanna L. Silberg, PhD, Executive Vice President of the Leadership Council; found that Domestic Violence by Proxy is “A batterer with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation uses the child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his victim, the former partner". For us it was like being prisoners of war.

Domestic Violence by Proxy isn't very hard to identify. These cases begin with roots planted firmly in a history of domestic violence. My father beat up my brother, my mother and me. This history of domestic violence is the single most important factor in recognizing Domestic Violence by Proxy because after years of study, we now know that leaving a violent or abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily stop the violence and abuse against the victim. In the majority of cases the abusive dynamics continue, especially for those victims who have children in common with their abusers. Dr. Silberg states that in DV by Proxy cases, the batterer “sees clearly that the easiest way to continue to hurt her is to assert his legal rights to control access to the child of his former partner.”

Like most abusers, our father recognized that he no longer had direct access to our mother after the divorce, but he DID have access to us kids. He quickly learned that the best way to get to our mother was through her children, realizing that abusing us was a far better and more effective way to hurt HER. This chain of events is at the heart of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE by proxy. Perpetrators are aware that their history of domestic violence against their former spouse doesn't put them in a very good light so they portray themselves to others as "good parents and loving fathers whose only wish is to maintain a relationship with their children". With their unabated rage against the mother of their children in full effect, they abuse their own children then claim to be the victims of "Parental Alienation" when mom reacts to and reports the abuse to authorities, asking for intervention.

If we accept the abuser's claims that he's a good parent, I ask you, would a good parent withhold crying little kids begging for their mother? Wouldn't a good parent console, calm and reassure his children that they're loved and safe - that Mommy's just a phone call away? But that's NOT what these guys do. The term "Parental Alienation" doesn’t even begin to capture the kind of torture that my brother and I endured because in fact, it wasn't "parental alienation" - it was MEAN, VIOLENT, TORTUOUS, ABUSE! Because of what happened to my mom, brother and me, I've dedicated my life to bringing child abuse to an end and accurately identifying DVbP is one of the first steps in doing so.

A man named Richard Gardner came up with Parental Alienation Syndrome, a discredited theory he concocted and smartly marketed. His explanation of PAS was not based upon any scientific research, but on his own experience and bias. His work was self-published and never peer reviewed. The idea is that if children don't like one parent and object to visitation with their father (this is almost always used by fathers), the only possible explanation is that the mother has alienated the children and the bizarre “solution” is to force the children live with the abuser they are afraid of and have no contact with the protective mother. According to this theory the child's reaction cannot be because the father mistreated the child or the child’s mother. The only explanation is the mother is alienating the child. Mr. Gardner made many horrific statements during his life supporting his belief that society is too uptight about adult sex with children and that such activity is actually beneficial to the child. It was this bias that formed Gardner's theory and why it is so often used to protect fathers who sexually abuse their children.

My mother was only 17 years old when she married my father. My mother was sent to the hospital 3 times in the first month she was married due to my father’s abuse to her. Since she was also abused as a child, she just accepted that this was the way life was. When my father fractured my brother’s skull, Child Protection became involved and our mother was warned that if she didn’t take us and leave our father, we would be removed from them both, and she would also be charged with “Failure to Protect.” My mother followed their instructions and fled.

When she filed for an Order for Protection, my father was automatically awarded unsupervised visitation. During visitation our father kept abusing us and beating us - more than when he lived in the home. He could no longer use our mom as a punching bag so he turned to us kids. This is exactly what Domestic Violence by Proxy is. It is when an Abuser tries to maintain power and control over his victim by hurting her children. When our father picked us up for visitation he would tell my mom “Get a good look at them. This might be the last time you ever see them alive!” We begged her not to make us go with him. In turn our mom pleaded with the court to protect us but she was warned that if she withheld visitation she could face charges of "custodial interference." Despite the lack of support from the court and her fear of our father, our mom still tried to protect us. She listened to our cries for help and refused to send us alone with the man she knew was beating her children.

This gave my father the leverage to file for custody based on his bogus claims of PAS. The Judge found that our mother was a victim of our father’s unrelenting abuse and our father admitted that he hurt our mother in front of us. He even admitted to shaking us by the neck and threatening to kill us, yet the judge decided that it was easier for us to live with our father’s physical abuse than to live with our mom who he referred to as a “broken woman” and a “scared little bird.” Somehow those labels seemed more of a threat to us than our father’s fists! Considering that family courts are supposed to be focused on "the best interests of a child", I cannot fathom how any judge can see it fit or ok to place children in the custody of a documented abuser and then to further assist him in denying the children access to the only protective parent they've ever known. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it any better now.
Most of the mistakes by family courts in child abuse and domestic violence custody cases involve a failure to consider the context of the various disputed accounts. In intact families, children hear their parents make negative statements about each other yet this is not parental alienation. When a parent escapes a relationship with an abuser (as they’ve been told to do by governmental agencies) and tries to protect their children from abuse, this is not parental alienation. When the abuser simply continues his violent behavior by abusing the children instead of their mother, although this is technically parental alienation, it is much more severe than that. This is clearly Domestic Violence by Proxy. The abuser accuses his victim of Parental Alienation for explaining to her children that the abuse being waged against them is wrong and not their fault. If she tries to protect them from his abuse she is accused of further trying to alienate her children from their father. So for doing the right thing, the protective parent is again accused of wrongdoing. Worse, these allegations of Parental Allegation are enough for the court to reverse custody.

Parental Alienation is commonly used as a legal defense tactic by abusers and it automatically discredits mothers who speak up for their children when they come forward and reveal that someone is hurting them. Parental Alienation has been used as a convenient and catchy phrase that is thrown about to simplistically mean one parent influencing and swaying the child’s allegiance by systematically saying negative things about the other parent. Generally mothers are accused of being malicious liars, who are fabricating abuse to “get back at” their exs, but what our father did to us went beyond careless words; he was calculating and cruel. Because our protective mother was the one making a commotion over our father’s abuse, she was viewed as “the problem” rather than our offending father. Everything got so twisted around that the court reacted in its most common response to PAS allegations; and took my brother and me away from our protective mother and gave us to our abusive father.

Once custody was reversed in favor of our father the trauma of his abuse continued. His abuse was so intense and severe that Domestic Violence by Proxy is the most appropriate terms to describe what he did to us. Dr. Silberg describes how “by emotionally torturing the child and severing the child’s bond with the mother, he harms his intended victim, the child’s mother, in a way she cannot resist.” Our father would beat us and tell us that it was because of something our mother did. We were not allowed to have any contact with our mother at all: no visitation, no phone calls, no letters, etc…. It was horrible. When we begged our father to see our mother he would tell us painful lies like that our mother was crazy and in a mental institution. We were repeatedly told different stories that she moved away to another state, that she had a new baby to replace us - he even told us that she didn’t really love us and that she did not want us anymore! He would tell our mother and the courts that we were thriving without her. No one checked up on us. They just took my father’s word for it. The “Parental Alienation” that our mom was accused of for trying to protect us from abuse didn’t compare to the continued abuse that my father blatantly committed against us. Yet the court officers simply ignored our pleas for help stating that we needed to accept that this was the way it was and “life wasn’t fair.”

It is disturbing that courts often grant custody to abusers, who are devoid of empathy and compassion, with the expectation that he is more likely to encourage the children to have a relationship with their mother. The children are traumatized by being ripped away from their primary parent and having the most important bond in their lives severed. Ironically once an abuser gets custody, he continues to engage in the abuse of the children as well as to his former spouse. This is another example of Domestic Violence by Proxy. The abuser withholds the children from their mother, tells them damaging lies about their mother and even threatens them by saying that if they continue to love and long for their mother they will be punished. So after the custody reversal the court actually condones the same behavior it allegedly sought to avert and prevent! Judges repeatedly punish and retaliate against protective mothers for any negative statement made against the father and then do absolutely nothing when the father actively prevents the children from having a relationship with their mother. This double standard is just one example of gender bias that has been found by court sponsored committees in over forty states.

When we were finally allowed to see our mom during supervised visitation, all of our conversations were restricted. We told our mom (and the court supervisors) that our father was still hurting us. The supervisors scolded us for that saying “You’re not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore.” When we told our mom what our father had said about her not loving us and wanting us, we wanted confirmation from her that it wasn’t true but before she could answer the supervisors again instructed her “don’t answer that.” My father did not endure such scrutiny before custody was reversed even when we were begging for protection from his angry fists. What’s ironic about “Parental Alienation” is that the person accusing it is usually the person who’s deliberately using alienating and divisive tactics himself. He is the one who is actually being abusive towards the children. In our case, my father’s actions and behaviors were completely ignored by the court because my mom was “guilty” of Parental Alienation. How is it that a court of law, whose supposed to be pursuing justice for all, can take the word of an admitted perpetrator over a confirmed victim’s and call it “fair and impartial”?

For 18 months and 8 days we were truly isolated from our loving mother. My father and several court evaluators openly admitted that their goal was to destroy our bond with our mom. This treatment is what happens to cult victims. They attempted to brain wash us into believing that our father was actually the victim of our mother’s evil intent. Since my brother was 11 years old and I was 9, we sometimes doubted our mom - we were hurt and angry that she abandoned us. We thought “If she really loved us she wouldn’t let this happen” but there was not ever one time where we thought that our father was the victim. Throughout all of it, we knew with certainty that he was the one who was hurting us!

My brother and I were desperate to escape our father’s abuse, but we lost faith in the family court system because of the one truth our father would repeat “They don’t believe you! No one believes you!” Somehow, during the little visitation we had with our mom, she would find little ways to communicate the truth in messages like “I believe you did a very good job. I always believe you! I can’t wait to see you again… I always want to be with you!” Sometimes she would be reprimanded by the supervisors but she always found subtle ways to tell us that she was still there for us. Despite our mom’s veiled reassurances, it was such a confusing time for us so my brother and I decided to confront our mother. We still held out hope that if our mom knew what was really going on in our father’s house she wouldn’t leave us there with him any longer (and I’m saying “she” because we believed that our mom was ultimately allowing all this.)

It turns out our mom DID love us and DID want us and was willing to do ANYTHING to prove it to us. We started writing notes to her and sneaking them into her pocket during visitations. Then finally one day, when we ran away from our father’s house, our mother was there waiting for us. We fled the United States and found protection in the Netherlands. We were the first Americans to be granted Asylum in Holland. It took years for us to recover from the abuse. We were forced to live in secrecy for 14 years until we were found by the FBI. Our mother voluntarily returned to the United States to face the legal consequences for her actions. Happily, all kidnapping charges against her were dismissed! Yet some people who didn’t even know us from men’s rights web sites wrote about our case and chastised my mom. Like my father had done a decade earlier they accused her of Parental Alienation because she hid us from our father for 14 years despite our accounts of the abuse! How is denying a man the right to ABUSE his children wrong?

A child's birthright is to be loved, nurtured, taken care of and supported; childhood memories are supposed to consist of bedtime stories, making forts and summertime adventures. My memories are hiding in closets, watching my precious mother being reduced to a bloody pile on the floor, wanting to help her but not knowing what to do, squelching terror and tears for fear of being discovered and being his next victim. Despite all the abuse I suffered as a child, I initiated a call to my father a little over a year ago sincerely hoping that 14 years would have melted his anger and bitterness towards life into regret and reconciliation. Although I prepared myself for the worst, I was completely devastated regardless when all he had to say to me was "You are 14 years too late".

This is a man who terrorized and beat me – what he has to say shouldn’t matter, but I must admit that all I wanted to hear from him was an apology. I just needed him to acknowledge what he had done and know that he was sorry for it. I was so ready to swap 14 years for an apology yet there I was, broken-hearted all over again, with confirmation of the truth I knew all along; my father was an abuser and he would never change. That's the thing about abuse: NOTHING about it makes ANY sense - not the abusive acts, not the beatings, not the consequences, not the weird feeling that remains when you still want your abuser's approval despite everything he’s done to you.

Father’s rights groups excuse my father’s abuse by claiming that we are the victims of Parental Alienation, but one of these men’s groups actually came forward recognizing child abuse and denounced my father for his actions. They realized that my brother and I should not be discounted and discredited just because we lived with our mom all these years. My brother and I were not “brainwashed” either as some strangers have claimed. Our mom didn’t have the time, energy or desire to devote to such a thing – we were old enough to know what happened to us and our memories are our own. An abuser’s existence is completely intertwined with power and control dynamics and to effectively brainwash someone, you’d have to be fairly self-disciplined and have some form of power and control at your command. Domestic violence victims and survivors are given such flattering labels like crazy, out of control, an emotional wreck, a broken woman, a scared little bird...none of which implies the slightest bit of self-discipline or ability to exercise power and control over themselves (or anyone else!) so I find it REALLY puzzling that moms can be labeled by the professionals as broken, weak and unworthy yet be accused of brainwashing at the same time. If anyone is more likely to use brainwashing, it’s the abusers NOT the victims!

Sadly however, these fathers’ rights guys continue to defend my father. They claimed to have looked through court documentations from my father and concluded that I must have been lying as a child. Now they label me as a “man hater” who thinks that only mothers should be raising children. I have absolutely nothing against dads - I think it's the sweetest and most attractive male quality to see a dad being nurturing towards a child. Whenever I see that, I smile and can't help but to have a twinge of jealousy for the dad I didn't have growing up - but I didn't have a dad - I had a father who was consumed with anger, alcohol, drugs and controlling our lives through abuse. It wasn't until my Dutch Papa came into my life that I got to feel a little of what it was like to have a real dad. The majority of men out there are good dads, but then there are some fathers out there who aren't worthy of the honorable title. Would any good dad, or good man for that matter, suggest that my mother should be gang raped in prison to be punished for taking us away from our father? Men identifying themselves as Fathers Rights Activists write things like this to me and worse if you can imagine that. Would you feel safe leaving your child with a man who thinks such things? What kind of an influence do you think he'd be if he has any sons or daughters? I'm all for protecting the relationship between good dads and their children; what I have a problem with is the court system protecting the relationship between proven abusive parents and their children who are afraid of them for that very reason! In cases of violence and abuse, what needs to be protected is the children, NOT their relationship to the abusive parent.

Since our story gained substantial public attention, I have had the opportunity to meet many people on both sides of this debate. I have learned from nationally recognized domestic violence experts that my parent's case was not unusual and that it is a clear example of Domestic Violence by Proxy. It has absolutely nothing to do with Parental Alienation. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is an unscientific concoction that is typically used by an abuser to avoid responsibility for his actions and abuse. The PAS accusation is used to blame the victim for trying to protect her children and is almost exclusively used against women. The paradox of PAS is that since it is not a real mental health disorder there is no cure, so once a woman is falsely accused of parental alienation, there is no recourse for her or her child. The mother can only stand helplessly by as suspicious authoritative eyes keep a close watch on her while she prays for someone to see the truth and intervene because she’s no longer able to do so. In the meantime, the child is left struggling with questions they don’t get answers to: “How could mom do this to me? How could she leave me with him? Why is she letting a stranger (a judge, therapist, GAL, etc.) make all the decisions now? Why won’t she protect me like she used to? Doesn’t she love me anymore? Was she lying when she said she believed me and loved me?”

Even though PAS has been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association as not an actual syndrome, thousands of children have been forced to live with their abusers and denied a meaningful relationship with their protective mothers. This false diagnosis, which is improperly used by some “experts”, is also not recognized by the American Psychological Association. Parental Alienation Syndrome does not appear in DSM IV which includes all valid mental and emotional conditions. Recently some psychologists have started to lose their licenses for testifying in support of PAS allegations. These former professionals lost their license because they gave a diagnosis that does not exist. Hopefully if enough “experts” lose their licenses it will discourage a practice that has destroyed the childhoods and often the lives of so many children.
"Fathers' Rights" groups appear to be dominated by extremists who act like they speak for most men when in fact they represent a small minority. Even when a good father feels that he is being unfairly portrayed by his ex-wife, he does not set out to rip his child away from a loving mother and attempt to destroy the close bond his child has with that other parent. Yet these abusers systematically support the removal of any child from their mother despite the valid concerns of abuse. Their goals are to reduce or eliminate child-support, roll back protections against domestic violence and in some cases condone or encourage incest. If they openly and honestly presented their real agenda obviously they would be discredited as the extremists they are. Instead they use their great manipulation skills and speak of equal time, joint custody, friendly parenting and other terms that seek to create the illusion that their goals are reasonable and in the best interest of children.

These self-admitted “Feminist Haters” (as one site refers to themselves) have come to realize that the best way to hurt their partner and punish her for leaving or pressure her to return is to go after her children. Unfortunately we have seen this strategy play out in murders or murder-suicides, but most of the time abusive fathers who had little involvement with the children during the relationship suddenly seek custody after she leaves. This is Domestic Violence by Proxy in its purist form. The court system and the inadequately trained professionals often used by the courts have been slow to recognize this all too common phenomenon. Men who are identified by their children as being the person who physically or sexually hurt them use PAS to conceal their abuse. They misuse the term PAS to try to convince the courts that they are the “real victims” of lying children and vindictive wives. Protective mothers are viscously attacked by the courts and even jailed for doing what the law requires them to do: keep their children safe.

It is in this context that PAS is so often used in domestic violence custody cases. In our case, too much emphasis was put on the discredited theory of PAS and all of our treating medical doctors and treating psychologists were dismissed. In research totally unconnected to custody issues, numerous researchers have found that by the time a child reaches 18, one-third of the girls and one-sixth of the boys have been sexually abused. Although the stereotypical sex-abuser is a stranger in a raincoat, in reality most of this abuse is committed by someone the child knows, often the father. Nevertheless courts rarely find allegations of sexual abuse valid because they use experts with little training or understanding of these issues and they can't imagine a father, particularly one who is successful in other parts of his life would be capable of something so horrible. My father was excused because a family court evaluation testified that he didn’t “look like an abuser.” He was cooperative and my mother was unrelenting in her determination to protect us.

Research shows that when children lose their primary attachment figure (the parent that performed most of the child care in the first couple of years of a child's life), they are more likely to experience depression, low self-esteem and suicide among other harm. Children who witness domestic violence (see it, hear it, see their mother's wounds, feel her fear, hear her screams) are far more likely to engage in harmful behaviors when they get older. In other words there is valid scientific research that provides good reason to insure custody to the primary, non-abusive parent. There is no research to support the common practice of taking children away from protective domestic violence survivor moms based on allegations of a syndrome that doesn’t exist.

Parental Alienation is the primary tool of choice that empowers and emboldens batterers to manipulate the facts, conceal child abuse and perpetuate their abuse through Domestic Violence by Proxy. My mom was once asked when she escaped the domestic violence from my father. I was surprised when she replied “the day I got my kids back.” When she was asked to elaborate she replied “even though he wasn’t hitting me anymore, his abuse continued through my children and that was even more devastating than any beating he gave me.” It was at that moment I realized that we were nothing but a tool for my father to continue to abuse his mother. It is time to recognize Domestic Violence by Proxy and understand that condoning the Parental Alienation deception is the route of “Court Appointed - Child Abuse.” It’s time to stop the “CA – CA!”

Jennifer Collins
CA3 Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse

An Introduction to Domestic Violence by Proxy by Dara Carlin

By Dara Carlin, M.A.
Domestic Violence Survivor Advocate

Have you ever taken a chance in your life? Has anyone ever assured you of something and then reneged once you held up your end of the bargain? Have you ever been completely betrayed and abandoned by someone you trusted? If you've experienced even one of these, then you have a little idea of what it feels like to be a victim of domestic violence fleeing her abuser with her children. But what do you think happens to those women and children who've escaped an abusive home? They'd probably go to a shelter first, then maybe get some counseling, then divorced, right? What do you think happens to her abuser in the meantime? If he's not court-ordered into therapy or management classes (chances are he's not going to go voluntarily) and even if he did go he'd have to genuinely want to change his ways and take responsibility for the harm he's inflicted on his family. For abusers, this is a tall order and one they're not likely to take because "no one's making HER responsible for anything that happened".

With child custody and visitation issues however, SHE is made as responsible as HIM and the perpetrators just love this set-up; the focus of the court is no longer on the domestic violence that occurred (reasoning that "no marriage = no domestic violence") but is on "the best interests of the child". If the perpetrator hasn't changed his abusive behavior towards his ex-wife and children (and why would he want to change something that works so well for him?) then nothing's changed - the risk for violence and abuse remain - the only thing that's different now is marital status and living arrangements. For many women, this time is more dangerous for them and their children because when the batterer feels that he is losing control he becomes desperate. If he can not access his ex-wife/girlfriend then he knows that the next best thing is to "get to" her through the children and all too often he finds this to be more productive and more entertaining for him. After all, what's the best way to hurt a mother? Through her children!!! Dr. Alina Patterson described the “specific tactics used by abusive individuals to continue controlling their victims after they are no longer present” as Domestic Violence by Proxy.

What is Domestic Violence by Proxy? Simply put, it's the extension of domestic violence beyond the termination of the marriage and/or family. Prior to this, divorced abusers would allege "Parental Alienation" when their ex-wives would report their ongoing abuse or newly initiated abuse against the children to authorities or the family court. “She won’t allow me to see my children! She's turning the kids against me - look, they're even afraid of me! She is alienating me from my children and cutting me out of their lives! All I want to do is be a father to my children.”

The perpetrator's declarations of "Parental Alienation" work like magic for him: his abusive behaviors towards his ex, the children and his court order violations are ignored while the focus becomes the investigation into confirming the mother's use of "Parental Alienation" against him. Many legal and therapeutic professionals think “Ah ha… I have seen this definition before” and comfortingly attribute all the post-decree drama to the bogus "diagnosis" of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) missing the real diagnosis of Domestic Violence by Proxy as described by Dr. Joyanna Silberg, “A batterer with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation uses the child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his victim, the former partner”. Practitioners and service providers take notice: Domestic Violence by Proxy is just as insidious, damaging and potentially life-threatening as domestic violence is!

The smoke screen of PAS was introduced in 1985 by Richard Gardner, a man who openly condoned adult and parental sex with young children. Many of these children who were victims of this flimsy hypothesis are now coming of age and have horrendous stories of abuse. Not only were they tortured at the hands of their own parent but they were further betrayed by the justice system who assigned "supervisors" to ensure their protection from harm.

Jennifer Collins, a young advocate who has survived her father’s severe life threatening abuse as well as the court’s appointed (child) abuse, has researched PAS thoroughly. Jennifer has written an interesting article from a child’s point of view entitled "Clarity on the Parental Alienation Debate From a Child Who Lived Through It" and has also started her own organization CA3 to help children of abuse find their voice like she did. Way to go Jennifer!


Domestic VIolence by Proxy, Leadership Council

Why Terrorist Tactics Employed by Batterers Are Not "PAS"
Leadership Council
September 16, 2009

As more and more abused women lose custody to batterers in family courts, they are wrongly embracing the very ideas that enabled their abusers to gain custody in the first place. False accusations of “parental alienation" are often used by batterers to gain custody and to defend against accusations of abuse.

Some unfortunate women after years of enduring domestic violence have lost custody to the batterers who abused them. In these cases, batterers have made good on their threat to attack their ex-partner in the place she is the most vulnerable—by taking her children away from her. After separation, these batterers continue to wage their campaign of manipulation and abuse by attempting to convince involved children that their mothers never loved them. Looking for a way to describe their batterers' behavior, some mothers have called what their batterer is doing "parental alienation syndrome."

In reality, what these women are describing from their ex-partners is better termed Domestic Violence by Proxy (DV by Proxy), a term first used by Alina Patterson, author of Health and Healing. DV by Proxy refers to a pattern of behavior which is a parent with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation, uses a child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his former partner. Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.

When his victim leaves him, batterers often recognize that the most expedient way to continue to hurt his partner is to assert his legal rights to control her access to their children. By gaining control of the children, an abusive male now has a powerful tool which allows him to continue to stalk, harass and batter an ex-partner even when he has no direct access to her. Moreover, by emotionally torturing the child and severing the bond between children and their mother, he is able to hurt his intended victim -- the mother -- in a way she cannot resist.

DV by Proxy includes tactics such as: threats of harm to children if they display a positive bond to the mother, destroying favored possessions given by the mother, and emotional torture (for example, telling the child the mother hates them, wanted an abortion, and is not coming to get them because they are unloved).

DV by Proxy may also include coaching the child to make false allegations regarding their mother's behavior and harming or punishing the child for not complying. DV by Proxy perpetrators may also create fraudulent documents to defraud the court in order to prevent the mother from gaining custody. Whether or not the child is biologically related to them is irrelevant to perpetrators of DV by Proxy. The perpetrator's main motivation is to hurt his ex; whether or not his own child is harmed in the process is irrelevant to him.

This is very different from "parental alienation syndrome" as described by the late Richard A. Gardner. Dr. Gardner described PAS as an internal process by which a child aligns themselves with a preferred parent to protect themselves from the divorce conflict. “PAS” is conceptualized as a psychological process of identification with a parent who, according to the theory, encourages this identification at the expense of the other parent.

PAS inducing parents, according to Gardner, are often unconscious of what they are doing to encourage the identification. In contrast, perpetrators of DV by Proxy are very conscious of what they are doing. Controlling, coercive, illegal acts often done by abusive and controlling people, usually men, are not subtle, and do not encourage an identification with a parent. Criminal, fraudulent, coercive acts are visible and obvious. These behaviors encourage compliance by threats and fear. Behaviors involved in DV by Proxy are deliberate and often illegal. These behaviors include: battery, destruction of property, locking children in rooms to prevent them from calling parents, falsifying documents, along with other similar overt behaviors.

The most dangerous aspect of Gardner's PAS theory is that that the alienating parent's behavior is theorized to be so subtle as to be unobservable. In other words, the behaviors that are supposed to cause the alienation are assumed to be happening without any proof that they have actually occured. As many women have discovered this makes a charge of "alienation" almost impossible to defend against.

While Gardner's theories regarding PAS have been shown to be overly general and have not been supported by careful research, behaviors seen in DV by Proxy can be readily observed. Behaviors involved in DV by Proxy are deliberate and planned; many are illegal, and if the child is given the freedom to talk, will be described in great detail by the child.

If the child's formerly favorable view of the victimized parent changes when exposed to tactics like this over time then it is more likely a form of "Stockholm Syndrome" or traumatic attachment to the abuser, rather than the alignment with one parent and negative reaction to the other that Gardner described as "alienation".

A recent and comprehensive article on PAS and its use in the court system, by Jennifer Hoult can be downloaded here.

For further information:

◦Are Protective Parents Losing Custody to Alleged Abusers? Evidence shows that women who raise concerns about family violence during custody litigation run the risk of losing their children.
◦Stopfamilyviolence.org: The people's voice for family peace. Stop Family Violence is a national grassroots organization with a mission to organize and amplify our nation's collective voice against family violence.
◦CA3 -Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse
◦High-conflict divorce or stalking by way of family court? Massachusetts Family Law Journal, 2004. http://www.mincava.umn.edu/reports/linda.asp
◦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. (download PDF)

Domestic Violence by Proxy by Dr Alina Patterson

Abuse by Proxy
Doctor Alina Patterson

What is Domestic Violence by Proxy?

Domestic Violence by Proxy (DVBP) is a term I have invented to describe specific tactics used by abusive individuals to continue controlling their victims after they are no longer present. It describes a pattern of behavior I’ve observed many times in my own practice. It consists of using the systems designed to protect the victim in order to continue to abusing them, while projecting the appearance that what they are doing is completely legitimate. These abusers twist the truth and successfully sell it to attorneys, judges, guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, private counselors, parent coordinators and Children and Family Services, just to name a few.

DVBP is often used in family court during custody and visitation litigation. Often, the purpose is to use the children as a tool to “punish” the victim for either leaving the relationship or filing an injunction for protection. It is often confused with a “high conflict divorce,” which is different, because while the former is perpetrated by the controlling individual, the later is carried out by both parties. It is not just a matter of poor communication between parents.

Accusations of Domestic Violence or a request for an injunction are generally the very things that cause victims to loose custody of their children in family court. Professionals often advise victims of domestic violence to leave the environment to protect their children, and when they do, the family court system sometimes punishes them by fulfilling their worst fears.

As a result, DVBP must be stopped in family court.

CA3 - A Safe Place for "Children of Abuse" to Find Their Voice!

My name is Jennifer Collins. When I was a little girl I was abused by my father. When my mother tried to protect my brother and me, my father accused her of “Parental Alienation.” The court found that both of my parents were correct; my mother was right that my father was abusive and my father was right that my mother was keeping us from him. So… the court decided that the current custody agreement wasn’t working and they reversed custody to the very man who was beating us. How do I sanely explain what insanely happened to me? How do I make sense of something that can’t be rationalized? Even now, it seems unreal - except I know what happened to me and the court documents show that this "drama" is really a documentary.

"Happy childhood" - I've wondered a lot about that throughout my life. Does that mean the same thing for everyone? Is a "happy childhood" a break in between beatings or is it never being beaten at all? My father used to beat me and my brother. Just as (or perhaps even more) traumatizing was watching my father beat up my mother. It wasn’t just a quick smack or just one excessively hard blow. He would go on and on for what seemed like an eternity; tormenting her, slapping her, yelling at her, punching her, kicking her, pulling her hair, etc… I used to hide in the closet with my brother and it wasn't for a game of "Hide & Seek". We would leave the door open a little bit because I was afraid of the dark. Through the crack, we would watch with horror the savage abuse of our poor, sweet, loving mommy. That memory alone has scarred me for life.

When my father repeatedly slammed my 4 year old brother into a wall and fractured his skull, that is where it all should have ended, but it was only the beginning... Child protection was called by our priest or the doctors. (I still can’t figure out who was the first one to call because that is kept anonymous.) My mother was threatened that if she didn’t leave our father, we would be taken away and she would be charged with “failure to protect.” She did what she was told to do; she fled with us and filed for a temporary Order for Protection which was extended for a year.

As a child I thought what happened up until this point was both of my parents' responsibility. This is a common mistake also made by many professionals and the public who fail to understand the abuser is solely responsible for his actions. Once the court system “took responsibility” for the safety and well being of my brother and me, they must share the blame for failing to protect us since they were completely aware of my father’s abuse. Even though it was my father's fists and his ongoing use of violence against us, he was allowed to hurt us under their "watch." So from this point on, I hold the court 100% responsible for every ounce of terror, trauma and injury we suffered at our father's hands! Although my mother was awarded custody of us, despite my father's well-known and well-documented use of force and violence against us, my father was somehow awarded unsupervised visitation with my brother and me! This is our entry into the “INjustice System” (as I experienced it.) How could this happen? The search into answering that question became the root of my investigation and examination of our family court system, which subsequently led to the creation of my organization CA3 – Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse.

My mother was only 22 years-old when she fled from my father’s violence yet she was even willing to return to my father when she came to understand how she had been betrayed by the system that was put in place to protect her and her children. Can you imagine escaping abuse, then coming to the realization that it was safer for your children if you went back to your abuser because you could distract some of the abuse away from them? This young battered woman was overwrought with guilt because we were forced to go alone with our father on visitations which left us facing the brunt of his anger since she was no longer there to protect us from him. My father continued to beat us and threaten our mother that he was going to kill us and himself so she would have to suffer for the rest of her life. This scared the heck out of all of us! Time after time my father would hold his hand or a pillow over my face and suffocate me until it “all turned black.” Every single time he had me gasping for air I thought I was going to die. Now that I am older I realize how close he came to really killing us.

My father’s abuse continued up until my brother was 9 years-old and I was 7. We would beg our mother not to send us with him. She tried to protect us and let us stay home, but then our father showed up at our home with the police. They would enter our home, search for us and literally pull us out from under our beds where we were trying to hide to find safety - then the police would actually hand us over to the man who was hurting us! Sometimes our mom gave up and would just hand us over to him with tears running down her face, apologizing and trying to explain that she didn’t have any other choice. We were two terrified little kids who couldn't understand WHY our mom, who loved us so much, wouldn’t protect us. Regardless of all the evidence and witnesses to the facts of our abuse, our father filed for a reversal of custody claiming that our fear and unwillingness to go with him was actually caused by our mother's use of “parental alienation” against him. In another step deeper into the injustice system, we were ripped away from our mother and forced to live alone with our father!

Considering the circumstances, you'd think my father would at least try to put on a good show with the court’s oversight, but he continued to severely beat us regardless! The GAL’s "sage" words did little to help us: “Visitation with the mother is to remain supervised as long as the children keep reporting abuse.” Can you believe it? All my father had to do to keep control was to make sure that he kept beating us and he had it writing! This is 100% the fault of the court. I would show up at court supervised visitation with my mother and lift up my shirt to display the welts and bruises on my back and bottom that my father had left on me saying “He’s still hurting us.” Everyone gasped but did nothing. They'd tell me “You are not allowed to talk about those kinds of things anymore.” That is what I call “Court Appointed Child Abuse” - when the legal authorities KNOW that a child is being abused and does not do a thing to protect them. I thought what happened to me and my brother was unique but through research, I learned that thousands of children each year are court ordered into such abuse!

Having survived this nightmare, I’m sure you can understand that I wouldn't wish such a fate on any child. Can you imagine how I felt when I discovered that it's still going on in family court cases all over this country? Mind you, these are DOMESTIC VIOLENCE cases where violence, abuse and trauma were the reasons for the divorce and disintegration of the family in the first place!

Something has to be done! It is up to us grown children of abuse to come forward with our stories of how the system failed us. Then we need to demand change! That is how CA3 “Children Against Court Appointed Child Abuse” was born. Many people, even some politicians, are starting to take notice. Let’s join together to stop the CA-CA!

Please send me your story to me at: CA3CACACA@hotmail.com