Parental alienation is a term that is becoming popular and for good reason. It describes a situation where a child exhibits unjustified hostility towards one parent. The general idea is that the child has been manipulated by one parent to view a capable and loving parent as bad. Of course this is nothing more or less than child abuse by the alienating parent and causes untold lifelong damage to the child. Courts and professionals that are supposed to protect children refuse to acknowledge its impact on the child.
However, there is another side to parental alienation that is entirely misunderstood and dismissed. There can be a situation, as in my case, where the child discloses very real physical and emotional abuse by one parent but the abusive parent falsely claims this is nothing more than parental alienation. Playing on the growing popularity of parental alienation they deliberately misuse it to claim that the child has been manipulated by the other parent to ‘tell stories’ that are untrue. Herein lies the danger of generalising such a complex issue. There are circumstances where the child’s hostility to what is in reality a child abuser is completely justified.
“There is not a judge in the land would give her back to her mum.”
In my case CAFCASS made a very lengthy report from an interview with my child that lasted around 2-3 hours. They concluded that my child was telling the truth about the abuse, that she was recounting real life events. Reading the report and seeing things I had witnessed from a child’s perspective as well as events I was unaware of broke my heart and left me in tears. My father read it and I could see the look on his face change as he turned the pages. I remember him saying “there is not a judge in the land would give her back to her mum.”
In a 9 page report there was a single line that the abuser picked up on and ran with. My daughter had a phone call from our abuser who said that she would “get her brain fixed.” My daughter had asked me about this and, trying to reassure her, I said that perhaps her mum would see the doctor and everything would be okay. In the CAFCASS report it stated that my daughter had said “my mum’s brain is broken, that’s what my dad told me.” To the abuser this was a green light, look here is proof that my daughter was manipulated, this is parental alienation. This was the first time I had ever heard this term.
To a family judge (don’t get me started) this was all she needed for the case to fit into her preconceived stereotypes. Dad is bad, mum is good. The judge decided that despite the CAFCASS officer advising supervised contact with the mother, there was no truth in the abuse my daughter told, it was all made up, and gave residency to her mum.
“She was brutally and instantly taken from the protective arms of her father and handed over alone to a violent and cruel child abuser.”
Apart from the ongoing and unmonitored violence that is happening right now as you read this, imagine the damage this has done to my daughter. She was brave enough to talk to a complete stranger about (excuse the French) some serious shit, yet in the end was not believed. She was brutally and instantly taken from the protective arms of her father and handed over alone to a violent and cruel child abuser. She has been taught that speaking up about abuse makes no difference, in fact talking about abuse has removed the parent she relied upon for protection.
So all this hullabaloo about parental alienation should not be taken lightly and should not be categorised into an all encompassing box. It is a complex issue and each case should be taken on its own merits. It can describe manipulation of a child which in itself is child abuse but it can also be used to discredit a child disclosing lived physical and emotional abuse.
Thank you for reading and i hope it opens some eyes.
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The CCA Support Team