I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

MACLEANS MAGAZINE CANADA ~ INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD WARSHAK ~ June 4, 2008

Parental Alienation has reached the Canadian mainstream media. MACLEAN'S Magazine in Canada is a weekly publication targeted at Canadian adults who want information in a colourful glossy magazine format. It gets no more mainstream in this country and is similar in timing to the U.S. publication called Time Magazine. I haven't yet researched the newspaper which is quoted in the interview and editorialized "judicial reaching on a gargantuan scale," and says "it has the potential to cause further harm." Whoever wrote that has their head up their ass – pardon my street language - but what does it take to wake society up to this abuse. I will try to find out which paper wrote it and then write my own editorial. I came across a web site that had the start of the quote and it is attributed to the the Globe and Mail. I have already sent my comments to them and left this remark on the website hosting a portion of the editorial in the G&M which started like this but payment is required to see the rest:

Trying to force filial love Sending a 13-year-old to a forced "deprogamming" to teach him to love his mother, as an Ontario judge has just done, is a bizarre way to try to overcome the ...

http://torontoseeker.com/item-1871155.htm.

My comments on this site are as follows:

The writer of this article obviously has NO experience at the insidious and abusive nature of Parental Alienation and its impact, not only on the child (children) but the target parent or the extended family. It is naive in the extreme to think the program will teach love. It will not but it will help the child to understand better what has happened and give him the tools required to re-engage with the other parent. I find it hard to believe the writer had their head so far up their gluteus maximus. No one can possibly know the absolute devastation this form of child abuse has until they become a target. Ask Alex Baldwin or write me at parentalalienationcanada@(no spam)gmail.com. Remove no spam and brackets.

KEN MACQUEEN | June 4, 2008 |

Can the courts tell someone who to love? They must try, decided Ontario Superior Court Judge James Turnbull, in a recent ruling involving the case of "L.S.," a 13-year-old boy systematically brainwashed by his father to hate his mother. "Parental alienation is a difficult issue increasingly faced by the courts," said Turnbull. In a bold move, he granted the mother sole custody of her estranged son. The ruling gives her the right to transport him — against his will, if necessary — for treatment to counteract years of "subtle emotional abuse" by her ex-husband. Turnbull based much of his ruling on the testimony of Dallas-based clinical psychologist Richard Warshak. L.S. and his mother will participate in a four-day program Warshak helped devise to counteract such alienation. Warshak is the author of Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond From a Vindictive Ex.

Q: Explain parental alienation.

A: What I call divorce poison are the things parents do that undermine the relationship with the other parent. It can range from occasional badmouthing to a vicious campaign to remove the parent from the child's life. When children succumb to this kind of negative influence they begin to treat the other parent with contempt, or with fear. The term that I've come to use is pathological alienation because I want to distinguish this problem from situations where a child has good reason to reject a parent.

Q: Is pathological alienation an act of love, or of hatred toward the children?

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A: I do think this is the most under-recognized form of emotional abuse toward children. What happens is parents who do this are so caught up in their emotions that they lose sight of their children's needs. They don't deliberately intend to hurt their children. The children are just collateral damage.

Q: Can you give examples from your experience of how this brainwashing is done?

A: It usually begins with a theme: "Your mom left us." Or, "Your dad goes on business trips because he doesn't care about us." The parent's love for the child is put in question: "She never really wanted you." Sometimes a parent's past mistakes are exaggerated. Other times entire episodes are manufactured to make the parent look bad to the child.

Q: That's particularly evil.

A: In some cases, children's memories of the good things that were done are wiped out, so they don't remember that the parent was present at an important event. Even though the parent has pictures to prove it, the child's negative view is so fixed that they discount the evidence. Attempts by the rejected parent to reach the child, such as gifts and cards, are withheld. In one case a girl was told that if her father really wanted to see her he would have sent money for airfare. A few years later the girl found a drawer full of plane tickets that the father had purchased and sent and the mother had hidden. In another case a woman who was in her 30s reconciled with her father after her mother died. She told him she could never get over the fact that he didn't provide money for her to attend college. So he pulled out his cancelled cheques that amounted to four years of tuition that he had sent to the mother but the girl had never seen.

Q: You say in your book that rejected parents sometimes contribute to their victimization by maintaining a stoic silence or just by refusing to indulge in a similar sort of slander about their ex-spouse. It's not always a good idea to remain passive?

A: It's not a good idea to remain passive. Certainly it's not a good idea to react by doing your own badmouthing. The single biggest mistake that parents and the professionals who advise them make is to do nothing. This leaves children with no help or understanding of what is at best a confusing situation. In any other situation when children misperceive reality we help correct their distortions. If children act hatefully toward people of another race or religion we teach the importance of judging people fairly and treating them with dignity. This is no less essential when the targets of animosity are parents and other relatives.

Q: What is the price children pay for writing off one of their parents?

A: The most serious consequence is the loss of the parent and sometimes the loss of half their family. It's not uncommon for these children to reject not only the parent but anyone associated with that parent. It's common knowledge when you have problems with your parents it handicaps your future relationships. In addition to that, though, there is long-term damage to the child's personality and character. As adults they suffer low self-esteem. Some children feel very guilty for having mistreated the other parent. These are the children who've come to understand what has happened to them.

Q: It's a matter of public record that you recently testified in an Ontario Superior Court case in which a 13-year-old boy was judged to have been systematically brainwashed by his father. What prompted your intervention?

A: I'm sorry but I can't speak about any case in which I've been involved, even if it is a matter of public record.

Q: Can you tell me if it is unusual for you to testify in court in these situations?

A: Most of my time is spent doing my research, writing and helping families in my office. I get many, many requests to testify in cases. Most of these I turn down. When I do offer testimony, I do my best to educate the court about the nature of the problem and the options available to remedy it.

Q: In this case, Judge Turnbull seemed impressed by your proposed remedy. His ruling caused a bit of a stir in Ontario. He ordered this boy be flown, against his will if necessary, to this program you helped design, the Family Workshop for Alienated Children. Would that be an unusual ruling?

A It's becoming more common as the courts learn about the damage to children in the present and on. Particularly when judges learn they hold the power to help the family, judges are more willing to tell kids that they don't get to choose their parents just as they don't get to vote or drink alcohol. Not only do the kids have to stop acting like entitled adults, the judges tell the grown-ups to stop acting like kids.

Q: A newspaper report of that case calls the program "a facility that deprograms children." Is that how you would describe it?

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A: Not at all. This is a gross misconception of the work we do. Our program teaches children how to stay out of the middle of adult conflicts, and how to maintain a compassionate view toward each parent. We teach children to think critically. When children learn how to see a problem from different perspectives they usually begin to heal their relationship without having to acknowledge that they had been treating the parent with contempt and without having to apologize for it. They begin relating in a more positive way.

Q: Yet I understand that, to varying degrees, children can be forced to attend, either through a court order or by being physically escorted to the workshop. This is after the courts have already said they're going to make them live with a parent they've already rejected. It sounds like a recipe for disaster.

A: Again, what we have going for us is that the child really has an underlying wish to get out of this bind. I should clarify that often it is not the judge who orders the child to attend the workshop. Rather, the judge awards decision-making authority to the rejected parent who may then choose to enrol the child in the program, just as the parent is free to make other decisions regarding the child's health and education. Our program is designed to jump-start the reconciliation and offer a safe way to contain a child's anxiety and conflict. It's a misconception that the children are restrained. No child has been brought to me in restraints, and I would never work with a child under such conditions. They are oftentimes lectured by the judge about the necessity that they repair the damaged relationship. Once they understand they no longer hold a power that they should have never been given in the first place it's remarkable how much they co-operate.

Q: A newspaper editorial on the Ontario case calls this "judicial reaching on a gargantuan scale," and says "it has the potential to cause further harm." How do you respond?

A: Again, I won't discuss any specific case but the courts sometimes have to make difficult decisions. In another context, a court would not allow a child to live with the consequences of a major life decision made at such a young age, and under emotional distress. For instance, physically abused children will commonly plead with authorities to allow them to remain in the abusive home. But despite their protests, we protect children from abuse in the interest of safeguarding their long-term needs. If children refuse to attend school or seek necessary medical treatment, it is considered perfectly appropriate to require them to comply.

Q: How long does a workshop last?

A: The initial phase lasts four days in terms of our work with the child and the rejected parent. This seems kind of rapid.

Q: I'll say.

A: Traditional attempts to help this problem usually involve weekly therapy sessions. And after two years the therapist decides the treatment has been a failure, at which point the child is even older and it's more difficult to reverse the problem. When divorce poison takes hold it often works so rapidly that a child who is loving one day acts hateful the next. Fortunately, reversing the problem can almost be as rapid. What we have on our side is that the child wants to reconnect with the parent and wants to be released from the bind in which he's found himself. Certainlyin four days we can't undo all the damage of years of living in a family war zone.

Q: That was my next question.

[object Object]

Q: You've got some major parental repair work to do as well then?

A: We do. And in truth we're not as successful with [alienating] parents as we'd like to be. We have much more success in healing the damaged relationship the child has with the parent who was rejected. We have had success with the other parent sometimes but in other cases they have no interest in co-operating. In the most unfortunate situations, the other parent will end up rejecting the child themselves. "If you're not on my side you're against me." Even if the other parent does not change their attitude the children can learn enough often to withstand that kind of influence without succumbing to it.

Q: They're inoculated?

A: Yes. We give the children the tools to be children and to stay out of adult conflicts.

4 comments:

The Newton Beadery, LLC said...

Mike-
I stumbled across your blog through a google search and felt compelled to leave a comment.

I empathize with your situation. I'm the mother of a thirteen year old son who's father has been systematically 'poisoning' our son against me.

While I know statistics show it is primary women who perpetrate this against men-I can't help but think how nice it would be if we took the gender out of it.

I signed the Shared Parenting Petition-even thought it was on a site geared solely towards fathers-because I am stand firmly that parents love and need both parents.

I wish you and your daughter the best.

Mike said...

Thank you for your observation. Parental alienation is child abuse no matter what the gender to be certain. In my case it is my ex, a female, who has carried out the theft of the affections of my two youngest daughters but in addition I have found massive and blatant bias toward men and fathers. It is difficult to remove the gender when it is gender bias.

I do agree with you in principal and we both know the very human feelings - beyond gender - of what it is like to walk in the shoes of a loving parent deprived of a relationship with the child or children we helped create. It is utterly devastating and takes incredible strength of mind and purpose to deal with. I too believe children need both parents in a shared and equal ,manner. It is best for their growth and development. Some of the leading people in the shared parenting - men's rights movement are female. I wish you well. The daughter most alienated from me is also now 13 but progress is being made bit by bit and the fact my ex knows this blog exists has helped ease the degree of overt alienation greatly.

Anonymous said...

I also stumbled across your blog, and like the poster above, the father is the alienator of my two teenaged children. The courts facilitated the alienation by awarding him full physical custody, after he got the children to heavily bad-mouth me as the perpetrator after I left, due to DV that was really caused by him. It was that easy, and to this day I still don't know how he pulled it off. But the children are now severely alienated, and although the court has finally realized what happened, their efforts to fix it seem to be too little, too late. I need Justice Turnbull here.

Certain aspects of my situation do resemble those of the recent case in Ontario involving Mr. Justice James Turnbull's landmark decision. Perhaps while women initiate most PAS, maybe the most severe cases are caused by men? Just a random thought.

Michael J. Murphy said...

I'm not certain about the gender in terms of the severity of alienation but clearly the Turnbull decision has publicized this man's egregious abuse of his children and his ex.

Like you the suddenness of the onslaught of PA is dizzying. Even though you know you are being bad mouthed and you try to balance it, the day the children turn on you comes out of nowhere. I think my ex gave them an ultimatum of some sort.

PA knows no gender that is a certainty. My blog and my life has evolved into a fathers rights cause. I have run into a great deal of bias but one of the groups I belong to Fathers-4-Justice Canada makes it clear we are gender neutral. 30% of our members in Canada are female. Our goal is a presumption of shared and equal parenting, barring abuse, written into law, with accusations of abuse requiring the same evidentiary process as criminal cases.

I know what you are feeling and as a mom it must be hard. I was my children's Mr. Mom for 10 years and for me their loss is absolutely heart breaking.

I take one day at a time and try to find ways to allow healing to occur with my 13 year old. My 10 year old has come a long way and she has broken through the alienation from both her mom and her older sister. She is my hero and one gutsy girl. She is still shy about hugging but even that is changing. She wants a loving relationship with both parents and I'm so proud of her assertiveness.

Its because we love our children so much we must always let them know we care and we won't give up on wanting them back in our lives. As much as it hurts that is what we must do.

My blog has been a great help in calling attention to the problem, but more importantly, calling my ex's attention to her own behaviour. She knows it is here and she knows she could be exposed on a fairly broad basis very quickly. It has kept her from continuing her campaign over fears she will lose custody when the matter goes to trial. Without it things would be far worse. She thought she would have anonymity.

I wish you well. You may want to join up with a shared/equal parenting group in your area. Watch for Dear abbey discussing PA as early as tomorrow in 1400 newspapers and another Dr. Phil show on PA down the road.