4 Reasons Divorcing Parents File Allegations of Sexual Abuse with Child Protective Services

Some people look at a child and don't see a child

Some people look at a child and don’t see a child

“Dad has a big penis” Sweet Bee says giggling and pretending her hand is a penis, while we are horse playing on the bedroom floor.

“EXCUSE ME!” I blurt out.

“Yeah, and then he does this and this” Muppet joins in.

WHOA SILVER!

and then

WHAT THE FLYING F%$# ??????? (Excuse my language)

This completely caught me by surprise and I wasn’t sure what to think of this. So many questions and concerns were racing through my head. On the one hand, kids don’t come up with this all by themselves, there is, at a minimum, a foundation of truth. On the other hand, despite all that is ‘wrong’ with Ex, I highly doubt he would sexually abuse the girls.

I quickly changed the subject as I had to think about this and how to approach this delicate problem. Because it is a problem.

It is a huge problem.

The Department of Justice reports that as many as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually abused in childhood. That is horrendous. It is also a problem, because it is very controversial, delicate and tricky subject in Family Court.

So why do parents file allegations of sexual abuse with Child Protective Services?

1. Allegations are true

Unfathomable, but a sad reality. Some people look at a child but do not see a child. Unfortunately, approximately 47% of sex abuse occurs by an immediate or extended family member; parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles/aunts, cousins.

Talking with local and national experts, the anecdotal consensus seems to be that about 90% of the allegations of sexual abuse at the onset of divorce are true. These truthful allegations surface at the divorce proceedings because;

  1. The non-offending parent finds out about the sexual abuse and immediately files for divorce.
  2. There is long-standing sexual abuse that is revealed only in the context of divorce. The child finally feels ‘free’ to disclose the abuse and the perpetrator will have a much harder time to maintain the secrecy.
  3. Sexual abuse is triggered by the marital dissolution. A parent either starts to sexually abuse the child to retaliate against the divorcing spouse or because the stress of the divorce results in more impulsive and regressed behavior.

The anecdotal consensus is that the further out from the filing of divorce the parents are, the less likely it is that the allegations are true.

2. Misunderstanding the child, and/or misunderstanding normal child development

The stress of divorce have us on edge, and parents are much more sensitive, even hypersensitive, to the slightest deviation of ‘normal’ and it is easy to take things out of context.

When a 5-year-old girl comes home from Dad with an irritated vagina it raises eyebrows from Mom. However, 5-year-old girls are notorious for not wiping their booty properly and urine is irritating and can cause redness. A pre-schooler does play with his/her private parts, they are on a road of discovery.

A parent involved in a high-conflict child custody dispute, may be ready to jump to premature conclusions without full facts, or fully understanding the development of a child. Alarmed, the suspicious parent, may ask suggestive and leading questions to the child and inadvertently reinforce the suspicion of sexual abuse. And because of the level of hostility, distrust and anger it is easy for a parent to believe the worst about their former spouse.

3. Repressed sexual feelings and desires of the accusing parent

Psychological repression is the psychological attempt by an individual to repel one’s own desires and impulses toward pleasurable instincts by excluding the desire from one’s consciousness and holding or subduing it in the unconscious.

The problem with repression is that it has to find an outlet, and the individual with repressed feelings will ‘act out’. They know, are very aware, that abusing a child is wrong and will not do so themselves, but they are obsessed with the possibility that the child has been or may be sexually abused.

Such a parent may question the child repeatedly, examine genitals following visits with the other parent, and repeatedly take the child to doctors until some professional affirms the suspicion.

4. Mental illness and/or Personality Disorder of the parent

Several researchers have published various studies about the incidences of false allegations of sex abuse and the personality traits of the accuser (Charles V. Ford, K. Ross, G. Blush, H. Wakefield, G. Underwager, etc.). They found that parents making false allegations during divorce proceedings are likely to have personality disorders and/or other psychiatric problems. Approximate 74% of the parents making false accusations had a personality disorder diagnosis, 3% had another mental health diagnosis, while 24% was not determined or free of psychopathology.

In contrast, 70% of the falsely accused were assessed as normal (sound familiar?).

The personality disordered parent is obsessed with hatred and hostility toward an estranged or former spouse. This parent does whatever he or she can to hurt the spouse, and their child becomes a pawn in the ongoing battle. They foster a false accusation as a way to get custody, as a way to punish a former spouse.

The personality disordered parent has blinders on, sometimes not even aware of their hatred, and convinced they are absolutely, undoubtedly right; the abuse is taking place. They are unable to accept that there may be other explanations for the child’s behavior, or the circumstances. In true cases of sexual abuse, the accusing parent often explores all possibilities.

bathroomSo what really happened?

After my initial shock, I had to make a plan to discover what was really going on. I had to weigh my options and approaches. I had to balance between calmly finding the truth and fiercely wanting to protect the children.

Turns out both girls ‘regularly’ walk in on their father when he uses the bathroom and he sometimes walks around the house naked. This is by all means inappropriate behavior, considering the girls are 4 and 8, but not new behavior. With a previous girlfriend, he would walk around her house naked, in front of her then 7-year-old son.

Personality disordered parents are egocentric and have poor boundaries. They can not distinguish between their own emotional, psychological and physical needs, and that of the children.

This was a stressful situation. Protecting the child is also finding the truth in a calm manner, not just immediately calling Child Protective Services. If a parent is over reacting or fabricating an allegation, the child’s emotional health is also threatened. Bresee et al. assert that an allegation of child abuse is clear evidence that the child is at risk, whether or not the allegation can be proved. Wakefield & Underwager (1988) believe that a parent involved in developing a false allegation may not be qualified to be a custodial parent. Many states have (case) laws reflecting this opinion.

True or False?

Here I want to put in a word of caution. There are many studies out there that investigate the incidence of false allegations; some use small samples and some use large samples. None of these studies distinguish between the time of filing the report and the time of filing the divorce.

The smaller, and often anecdotal, studies report high incidences of false allegations. The larger studies report 2-8% of the reports made are deemed false. In approximately 50% of the allegations are found to be true, and 40+% to be ‘undetermined’.

And ‘undetermined’ is just that, they can not find conclusive evidence, it was not properly investigated or even investigated at all. ‘Undetermined’ doesn’t mean there was no sexual abuse, nor that it was a false allegation. It means there is a child in trouble, because abuse is taking place; either by a parent sexually abusing the child, or by a parent jeopardizing the psychological wellbeing of that child by making false allegations.

The Genetics of Psychopathy and Why it Matters in Child Custody

“The last scan in the pile was strikingly odd. In fact it looked exactly like the most abnormal of the scans I had just been writing about, suggesting that the poor individual it belonged to was a psychopath—or at least shared an uncomfortable amount of traits with one….When I found out who the scan belonged to, I had to believe there was a mistake….But there had been no mistake. The scan was mine.”

Oops.

psychopathbrain

Brain scans of Dr Fallon and family

You are a world leading expert on brain imaging for violent criminals and psychopaths and you find that your own brain image is that of a psychopath. YOU are a psychopath. That has to be hard.

Wrong.

That is what a normal person would think; we have empathy, we have emotions. The psychopath doesn’t, (s)he will look how to turn this into a personal gain. And so did Dr Fallon; without empathy for what this public knowledge would do to his immediate family, he turned his discovery into a book about entering the dark side of the brain of a psychopath, included his family history of violent murderers and psychopaths. To top it off he then sought publicity with a huge media campaign. Book sales = money.

And I’m hopping on the band wagon, because his story is of extreme importance for child custody and there are 4 reasons why;

  1. Psychopathy has a genetic link; it passes on from parent to child. A child of a psychopath is at risk.
  2. Psychopathy is in the brain, it is not curable. Forced joint custody, parenting coordinators, therapy, etc will not improve the situation.
  3. Hitler vs Dr Fallon; Society’s misconception about the violent vs socially ‘adapted’ psychopath.
  4. Make or break the child; Influences in the early years.

1. The genetics of psychopathy

Yes, psychopathy passes on from parent to child through genetics. Dr Fallon in his book talks about several violent (and infamous) murderers that are related to him. He has a very interesting family tree to say the least.

Research has shown that Antisocial Personality Disorder (psychopathy) has an about 56% genetic component to it. Just to compare, breast cancer also has a genetic component. Women who have the mutated genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a chance of getting breast cancer in about 55-65% or 45% respectively. Angelina Jolie in 2013 went public with her double mastectomy because she has the gene mutations.

That is a different perspective, isn’t it? They are in the same range.

Just because you have the breast cancer gene, doesn’t mean you get breast cancer. If you have the gene for psychopathy, doesn’t mean you actually become a psychopath. But your chances of becoming a psychopath or getting breast cancer are the same when you have the gene for it.

Kids get some genes from Mom, some genes from Dad, it is a mix. This means children of psychopaths are at risk. It doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to have the gene, but there is a considerable possibility they do.

And when the kids do have the gene, it takes outside factors for psychopathy to become present, just like it takes outside factors for a woman to develop breast cancer.

2. Psychopathy is in the brain

Well-meaning people will say: ‘O, it will get better, it just takes time’, ‘Why doesn’t he go into therapy, that will help’, ‘If he just realizes what is going on, he will change’. I’ve heard my attorney say it, I’ve heard friends and family say it and I have to admit, I was of the same mindset during the marriage as well. I believe in human goodness and thought it would get better. I now know better.

Looking at the brain scan of Dr Fallon is sobering. It is clear that certain parts of his brain are functioning differently than his family members do. Sure, I read the research that psychopathy is not curable, I talked to experts, I preached and told it. Yet deep down inside I hoped it would be different; for the children’s sake. When I saw the scan, reality hit.

A psychopath is not going to change, no therapy will cure him/her. Nothing can change their brain.

3. Hitler vs Dr. Fallon

When we think about psychopaths, we think about Hitler, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and perhaps even Jodi Arias, Ariel Castro or the Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza. We think of creeps, we think of violent criminals.

Certainly not of a well-respected neuroscientist, husband and father like dr Fallon.

And that’s where society and the judicial system go wrong. The world’s leading expert in psychopathy, Dr Babiak and dr Hare, wrote the book ‘Snakes in Suits‘ and as you probably guessed, it is not about violent criminals. The percentage of psychopaths in high-powered positions in society is similar to the percentage in prison.

However, not only is our view of psychopaths skewed, our perception of their ‘damage’ is also clouded. Violence and murder are tangible concepts. We see the horror. Psychological trauma is so much more difficult to grasp, especially when you are not the victim.

Caregiver behaviors …… negatively affect the child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and/or physical development. Psychological maltreatment has been linked with disorders of attachment, developmental and educational problems, socialization problems, disruptive behavior, and later psychopathology. American Academy of Pediatrics

Despite the fact that the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have policies in place that recognize the frequency and long-term injury of psychological abuse, family court dismisses or even fails to recognize its existence. Yet the psychological damage of being raised by a personality disordered parent is well researched in the field of psychology, this is an unmistakable and devastating disconnect for the child.

4. Make or break the child

So how is it possible that Dr Fallon turned out ‘reasonably well’ and others have gone off the deep end? It is the early years. It is the environment the child grows up in.

holdhandsinfant

Picture by Steve Corey (Flickr)

Nurture

Dr Fallon explains he was loved as a child. He was the first-born after several miscarriages. He was wanted. He was important to his parents, or at least by 1 emotionally and psychologically healthy parent. A parent who was able to form secure parent-child attachments. So there was at least a 1-way of love.

As I’ve written about before, psychopaths cannot form secure attachments, but the love of Dr Fallon’s parent(s) provided him with a cushion to soften the impact of his genetics.

Just like smoking can cause lung cancer, red food coloring can aggravate ADHD, so is lack of love a trigger for becoming a psychopath. A psychopathic parent per definition can not express love; they are incapable of having empathy and without empathy there is no love. And a parent without empathy can not teach a child empathy.

Love is a deep concern for the other. Love is caring for the other. Children of psychopaths often endure neglect at best, or worse, physical abuse. This environment encourages the next generation to be psychopaths when they are at risk.

Dr Fallon emphasizes over and over again that the timing of the emotional/psychological injury determines the effect on the brain and what type of psychopath you become. For the gene to be expressed, the child needs to be exposed to trauma before puberty. Having the gene and being exposed to violence, or child neglect, is the recipe for disaster. The more severe the exposure, the more violent the psychopath becomes later on.

Family Courts Responsibility

‘Best Interest of the Child’ is the legal standard, not what is fair to each parent, or what a parent would like. Yet the courts do not follow-up on this, they would rather cater to Parental Rights organizations and work on a compromise between the 2 parties as if the children are property that needs to be divided equally. The legal standard is blatantly ignored to favor what can be agreed upon, not what is in the best interest of the child.

First of all courts need to put aside their misconception that psychopaths are violent criminals and realize that ‘upstanding’ members of society can be psychopaths as well. All persons involved in child custody decisions need to put the child first, and not the glorified theory of coming to an agreement and divide the property equally. This is the wellbeing of the next generation decisions are being made about.

When a child is at risk because 1 parent is a psychopath it is particularly important one limits the environmental influence of said parent. This could be a tipping point for the child to develop a personality disorder. It is extremely important that the child be around the parent that can express love, values, care and empathy. That does not mean the psychological disordered parent should be eliminated out of the life of the child, but the influence needs to be managed appropriately.

I can not repeat this enough; conflict is the single most predictable factor for the worst outcome for children of divorce. Forcing joint custody is perpetuating conflict for children. It is making the situation for children who are already at risk even worse. The acrimonious behavior of the psychopath is not going to change. They can’t change, their brain is set.

It is the courts responsibility to protect and safeguard the child, failure to do so has long-term consequences for the child and society. It is time courts recognize and take appropriate actions when there is a parent with a personality disorder and not stick their heads in the sand to cater to parental rights organizations. Our children are not 2nd rate citizens, they are our future. 

The Goddess, The Witch and the Cat

“I’ve lived it for 40 years” my ex-Mother-in-Law said bitterly on the stand. My heart bled for 4509724747_fef40ce78f_bher. Yes, she has lived it for 40 years. Yes, she has every right to be bitter. Thank God I’m out of it.

My ex-Mother-in-Law looks like a shriveled raisin. Of all the pictures I have seen of her, the eyes never smile. No happiness beams from her. There is no doubt she had a tough life.

“Your mother-in-law is cold as a fish” one of my uncles said on my wedding day, “She has absolutely no emotions”. He is right, my ex-MIL is the epitome of an emotionally unavailable woman and mother.

An emotionally unavailable primary caregiver is detrimental to a child. When the primary caregiver cannot respond sensitively to a baby, it leads to attachment problems in children; a contributor to conduct disorders and Anti-Social Personality Disorder. It is the environmental factor for expression of the genetic component of psychopathy.

Attachment problems also can manifest themselves as eating disorders in early adulthood. Sadly my ex-sister-in-law has an eating disorder.  I am still, and always will be, extremely fond of her.

Both cruelty to animals (the killing of cats by Ex) and eating disorders are expressions of control and punishment for a lost and/or dysfunctional relationship with an emotional unavailable primary caregiver. Eating disorders are more prevalent and thus more scientific research is available to describe the attachment problems experienced in early childhood, but animal cruelty is no different. Gender stereotypically the female internalized, the male externalized.

The killing of cats has a very symbolic meaning. Cats throughout history and in society are    baststrongly associated with females, both in a positive and a negative way.

Ancient Egypt is probably the clearest positive example of adoration of women and cats. The main goddess Bastet was both woman and cat. She evolved from the warrior lioness to the protector against evil. What cows are in India, domesticated cats were in ancient Egypt.

Cats also have a negative association with women. The derogatory feline term the English Language has for vagina would probably have horrified the Ancient Egyptians.

Halloween is only a few weeks past, but witches and cats are prominent features. Cats in medieval times were associated with witchcraft and the devil and cat-burning along side witch burning was a common occurrence. Cats are associated with women.

The killing of cats has been specifically researched in serial killers. The FBI is careful to state that not all cat killers are serial killers, but animal cruelty is a common denominator in serial killers and violence towards humans. Cat cruelty is specifically related to the image they have about women and their relationship with their mother. They are ‘easy’ subjects for research as they are incarcerated. Serial killers who killed women had a troublesome (understatement) relationship with their mother and killed and/or tortured predominantly cats prior to escalating to humans.

The American Psychological association has a clear directive for its members on how to deal with pet abuse and family violence.

“Pet abuse is clearly a significant part of the pattern of family violence and its early identification can save lives and protect families.”

Vaughn et al did one of the largest studies in the US studying animal cruelty and antisocial behavior. Thankfully only 1.8% of their subjects committed animal cruelty. Approximately 84% of those were male, white (70%) and born in the US (91%). Interesting was that 56% of the perpetrators had at least some college education.

About 76% of the subjects are ‘Never Married’ or ‘Widowed (that is scary), separated or divorced’.

And that is important for child custody. Why?

Attachment research has found that after 20 years 72% of the subjects still had the same attachment classification. The troubled relationship with the mother gets expressed by taking out the frustration on cats and the relationship dynamics with other women, be it wife or daughters. How the early attachment was classified, was also how adult (friendship) and romantic relationships were formed later in life.

Attachment classifications can be assessed through various scientific accepted tests, appropriate for the various ages. These tests are specific, and not generic. The simple statement ‘child is attached’ is meaningless. It sends shivers down the spine of competent child psychologists. Children are always attached, but there is a big difference between secure, and the insecure attachments; anxious, avoidant, ambivalent/resistant or disorganized.

“The presence of an attachment is distinct from its quality. Infants form attachments if there is someone to interact with, even if mistreated. Individual differences in the relationships reflect the history of care, as infants begin to predict the behavior of caregivers through repeated interactions.” Handbook of Attachment

It is the quality of attachment that affects the future adult relationships, both romantic and with their own children.The_Witches_Cat_by_howlinghorse

And thus we are perpetuating the situation by putting children with an emotionally unavailable parent, we are perpetuating insecure attachments when children get significant time with a parent that is incapable of forming secure attachments, because (s)he did not have a secure attachment to begin with. We are jeopardizing the future generation.

In another post, another day, I will go deeper into the link of child abuse, child neglect and anti-social personality disorder.

 

To Alienate or Be Alienated; Different Dynamics in Parental Alienation

“Ostara, Sweet Bee didn’t say she hated her father, drphilbut it was pretty much what she meant when she was in the judge’s chambers”, my attorney tells me.

I didn’t sleep that night, I paced the house walking circles. This was absolutely awful; for a child to (almost?) hate her father. Hating a parent, is hating a part of themselves. No child is going to grow up emotionally healthy when they hate a parent. This was not good.

Where had I gone wrong? What could I do to change this? My mind raced. The kids are free to love Dad, to talk about him, to have him as a part of their lives while with me. There are pictures of Dad in their rooms. When they were younger, I would dial the phone for them, I make sure the phone is easily accessible for them when Dad calls. We bought Dad presents for his birthday/valentine/Christmas/Father’s Day.

Young kids need to idolize their parents, teenagers however, will think differently. In a teenager’s eyes the parents can do no good. That is building their own identity.

But not young kids.

The words of the expert during trial ran through my head; “If this behavior continues, the children will hate their father”. I didn’t and don’t want the kids to hate their father, but how could I ‘fix’ this?

For Dad’s birthday Sweet Bee decided she wanted to give him a hunting shirt. We went to great lengths, and various shops, to find *just the right one*. She was beyond excited, she was beaming and glowing. When they returned from Dad’s Sweet Bee started crying. Dad had given the gift she so carefully had chosen, to the teenage son of his then girl friend. Sweet Bee was devastated.

Subsequent gifts didn’t fare much different. Sweet Bee pulled the Christmas gift out of the trash and brought it to Mom’s. The motivation and excitement for future gifts diminished rapidly. The ‘why’ he did it doesn’t matter, whether it was to ‘eliminate all that came from me’, or that he is just insensitive and doesn’t care, it is how it made Sweet Bee feel.

Sweet Bee runs to Dad, he immediately towers over her and his voice is loud and angry. I can’t hear the words, but I see her shrink and Muppet halts in her tracks. I gently put my hand on Muppet’s back and kiss her cheek. With a slight push I tell her “Off you go sweetheart” and she cautiously walks on. As I drive away I ponder how I’ve never seen Ex hug or kiss the kids at a custody exchange. Never.

During the custody evaluation both Ex and I had to take the MMPI. At trial testimony was given by the expert that Ex scored 80 on Parental Alienation which was about the average for Alienating Parents, I on the other hand scored 52, which was the average for a normal/target parent.

“They never ask to call their Mom” Ex testified at trial. A textbook answer from an alienating parent. Any article or book about Parental Alienation will tell you an alienating parent will prevent contact and then justify it by blaming the child. “He doesn’t want to call Mom/Dad, I can’t make him”, “It is his own choice”.

Truth is Ex makes them leave the cellphone I bought for the kids in the garage, he admitted in his testimony that they have to leave all their stuff in the garage and are not allowed to go into the garage. The one time they went and got the phone, he took it away and put it on top of the refrigerator. They know better than to ask to call Mom. Sweet Bee has gone to the school counselor to ask if she could call Mom, because ‘Dad won’t let her’. A sad reality.

“Thank you for being such good helpers! I’m one lucky Mommy with such good helper kids!” Silence. Muppet mumbles “Dad doesn’t want you to be my Mom”. I hug her and tell her that I will always be her Mom and Dad will always be her Dad, that is how it will always be. “Can I call you Mama (Mom in my native language), because Dad won’t let me call you Mom”. A 3-year-old is navigating the perils of her parents divorce, by pleasing Dad by changing the language of the word Mom, without losing the meaning of Mom.

I contacted a PAS expert to help me with the situation. I’m not above criticism and if I could help the kids with their relationship with their father, I am all for it. First thing he did is correct me, and say that Parental Alienation is when one parent actively prevents the children to have a relationship with the other parent. When a child resents a parent for no apparent good reason.

There can be really good reasons a child resents a parent; physical/sexual or psychological abuse. Parental Alienation is psychological abuse and almost always backfires. If an alienating parent actively campaigns against a target parent and the children realize that, they will turn against that alienating parent. In the end the Alienator will alienate themselves. Each parent has to forge their own relationship with the child.

I realized this was true, but at the same time I wanted to ‘fix it’. I can’t control Ex or his behavior, but how could I improve the situation?

And then I saw last weeks ‘dr Phil Show‘. I felt incredibly sorry for the mother who had not seen or spoken to her children for 5 years. As the show went on, it became clearer and clearer that the mother had alienated herself from her children, she wasn’t alienated, it was her own behavior that turned the children away from the mother.

The heartbreaking moment the daughter told on national television that she had been cutting herself, she was sending out cries for help and wanted the mother to acknowledge her pain. And the mother denied it, the mother was more concerned with protecting her own ego. The father got up and hugged his child. The mother could show no empathy. It was clear that the mother was at her own fault for not having a relationship with her children, but she could not acknowledge it, instead she blamed everybody, and I mean everybody. The list dr Phil showed was enormous, slide after slide.

I realized I can’t make the children love their father, nor am I responsible for his behavior towards them. He needs to forge the bonds between him and his children himself. He is responsible for that. It is that externalization of internal problems within the cluster B personality disordered. Put the blame of his strained relationship with the children on others without looking at his own behavior and contribution to the problem.

I can, and will, continue to create a safe environment for the kids where they are free to love Dad. I can validate the importance of Dad in their lives. I want the kids to be happy. Happy kids make a happy mommy. That also includes having good times with and loving Dad.

Their relationship with their father is not a thread to me. How can I possible object to anything that completes the kids?

Deny, Attack, Reversing Victim and Offender (DARVO) in the Personality Disordered

“I need to fax you the affidavit Ex filed, it is 66 pages long, and you need to respond ASAP” the para-legal told me over the phone.

Photo by Özge Gürer

Photo by Özge Gürer

I went to a neighbor’s house and read the fax as it was coming in.

Line after line were false allegations. Accusations that had nothing to do with the truth, but everything with what Ex was doing himself. I was shocked. Surely he didn’t believe himself what he was accusing me of?

It was so bizarre, this couldn’t really be happening. The first 4 weeks after I was served with the divorce papers Ex filed numerous affidavits, over 130 pages in total; all unsubstantiated allegations, without supporting documents.

I was bewildered, how could somebody whom I thought loved me at least at one point, whom I had shared a life with, whom I had children with, could come out with such a vengeance. Why all the hate? And what was even more puzzling was that what he accused me off, was what he was doing himself. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

Yet this type of behavior is common enough that psychology has a term for it.

“DARVO refers to a reaction that perpetrators of wrong doing, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim into an alleged offender.”  Dr Jennifer Freyd, PhD

This sounded all too familiar. Realizing I was not the only one dealing with this brought peace of mind and gave me the strength to see things how they are.

About a year into the divorce proceedings, Ex had information that could ONLY come from my computer. Through a forensic computer expert I found out Ex was forwarding my emails to his corporate email account, and that my computer had been remotely accessed several times. I took this information to the Sheriff’s who told me that it would be a Felony charge and Ex would go to prison for several years.

I didn’t want the father of the children to go to prison, so I asked for some time to decide if I wanted to pursue this.

I felt deeply violated and was extremely stressed out about it. Was nothing safe? At the next custody exchange, I babbled my mouth and told Ex he was being investigated by the Sheriff’s. Not very smart, I know. Within the hour, Ex went to the State Troopers with the emails he forwarded to himself and filed false criminal harassment charges. The charges were eventually dismissed by the DA after he saw the evidence.

So not only did Ex deny he hacked my computer, he turned it around and attacked by filing false criminal charge where he plays the victim when he is the perpetrator.

DARVO is characterized by denial and gaslighting, followed by projection, blame shifting and lying. The pillars of a cluster B personality disorder. A personality disordered person needs to externalize blame by persuading others that their internal problems are external, caused by something else or someone else. By blaming others for everything that’s wrong in their lives they keep the focus off the real problem; themselves.

 “Once others are persuaded to get the problem backward, the dispute escalates into a long-term, high-conflict situation. One that few people other than persuasive blamers can tolerate” — Bill Eddy ‘High Conflict People in Legal Disputes’ 

An alternate reality is created by lies. Parents who engage in this behavior often can’t substantiate their claims or, if they just make up more lies to try to substantiate it, just like Ex’s unsubstantiated statements in his numerous affidavits.

A psychopath engages in this behavior ruthlessly and intentionally. They don’t care, they use it as means to whatever their goal may be.

“People with antisocial personalities are the most persuasive blamers of all, because they have been lying all their lives and lack remorse. They don’t care if they destroy their former partners, and they often don’t care if they are found out. They just spin another tale, and often they get away with it.” — Bill Eddy and Randi Kreger. “Splitting.

Filing false criminal charges with the emails Ex forwarded to himself is a pretty good example to which extend of deception, or spinning of another tale, a psychopath is willing to go. So what is his motivation?

Money.

Ex’s testimony during trial gave good insight into his true reason for fighting for custody. He angrily said he wasn’t going to pay me alimony and the least amount of child support. Getting away with filing false sexual abuse charges with CPS would have helped him greatly to gain full custody and not have to pay child support at all.

Psychologically healthy parents deny false accusations during the divorce proceedings, however, they do it fastly different. Denial is not evidence of guilt. How do you know if an individual’s denial is the truth or an instance of DARVO?

One of the main factors is that an innocent person does not go on the attack, they defend themselves by their own evidence and behavior. For instance, Ex enjoys shooting and torturing cats. When he no longer could deny that he shoots cats, he accused me of making him shoot cats for population control (blame shifting, justification/rationalization and playing victim all in one). As if that all of a sudden made it ok to kill pets.

“ The attack will also likely focus on ad hominem (arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic) instead of intellectual/evidential issues. ” — Freyd (1997, pp. 23-24)

I defended myself by stating that I am a vegetarian, and if I oppose large animal slaughter, I surely would oppose slaughter of pets. I also provided the custody evaluator with evidence of my involvement with the SPCA and receipts of bringing cats to them. My defense was not based on emotion, but on logic and evidence.

Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to insinuate that what they present as the truth can logically be proven, without actually substantiating their statements. They take advantage of the confusion they create by redefining reality.

Individuals who have been exposed to DARVO consciously or unconsciously know when they hold the offender accountable there will be retaliation. Often we hear when they finally get the courage to bring issues to the attention of courts, law enforcement etc, they ‘wuss out’. They don’t follow through. The battered spouse who gets a restraining order, but then returns to the abuser and dismisses the RO.

I’m guilty of that. I didn’t follow through. I thought I had just present clear-cut 3rd party (logical) evidence to the judge and all would be good.

I did finally grow a spine and followed up with the Sheriff’s with regards to the hacking. The evidence was passed on to the FBI who are now preparing the case.

 

Procrustean bed of Joint Custody.

“O weary traveller, come and sleep in my magical bed and all your troubles will be resolved.” — Procrustus

Divorce is the end of the nuclear family and the start of new beginnings. Theseus_Procrustes-600x450Parents each go into different directions and the child is in the middle. Enter the theory of ‘joint custody’, or the inherent right of a child to have a ‘meaningful relationship with each parent’.

And in ‘Utopia’ we all live ‘happily ever after’. Or do we?

Research data shows us that children who have a meaningful relationship with both parents do better in life than children who don’t. This of course is a good argument for joint custody. What is often failed to mention, is that those studies compare divorced single parent families with nuclear non-divorced families.

This is comparing apples and oranges. And this data is manipulated in the media to either advocate against divorce, or pro joint custody. It is not that simple. It would mean that children who lose a parent due to military service or death of a parent are essentially doomed and that is not necessarily the truth, nor is that supported by other research.

There is one thing that all researchers agree upon. What makes the biggest contribution to a child’s failure to adjust well long-term, is the level of conflict between the parents. Both in marriage and after divorce. The worse the conflict, the worst the outcome for the child. The NY court of appeals and appellate courts have it right, when the acrimony between parents is such that they can not communicate and get along, joint custody is out of the question. It is not in the best interest of the children. The emotionally and psychologically more healthy parent that contributes to most to the child’s life should be the sole custodian. It is now also mentioned in the bible of psychology:

Child affected by parental relationship distress: “…. if the negative effects of parental relationship discord (e.g., high levels of conflict, distress, or disparagement) on a child in the family, including effects on the child’s mental or other physical disorders.”  DSM-V

There are other situations where it is very clear that sole custody is the only option. Sole custody does not mean that a parent is or should be eradicated from the children’s’ life.

When there is (sexual) child abuse, it should be clear that sole custody with supervised visitation of the other parent is the only option. Too often we hear that joint custody is still given to the abuser (M/F). And lets not forget that statistically the most severe abuse takes place at the hands of the stepparent. Courts simply can not exclude stepparents from coming to a custody decision.

With a parent in prison, joint custody is going to be hard. Though Bill Eddy in his book ‘Splitting’ talks about taking kids to visit their parent in prison. Supervised visitation is also warranted when there is mental illness like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.

But there is also hidden abuse, abuse that courts fail or even refuse to see. Just because they turn the blind eye, doesn’t mean it isn’t cruel to the children involved.

Parental Alienation is now in the DSM-V as psychological child abuse. The makers of the DSM-V had to stay ‘politically correct’ and therefore the term Parental Alienation is not named per se:

Child psychological abuse: “nonaccidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child’s parent or caregiver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child.”  — DSM-V

Science won, lobbyist for some parental rights organizations lost. Finally, so now we have to get the courts on board and recognize the damage that is done to children.

Who perpetuates most of the alienating behavior? A normal healthy psychologically parent may be angry at the beginning of the divorce and say and do some things that they later regret, but they will have no problem to admit their mistakes to their children and ex-spouse and assure the children love the other parent.

However, personality disordered parents per definition can not change, it is an enduring character flaw, and they are defensive of their mistakes. It is always the other, the target’s, fault. As time passes on, the children also become the target of the personality disordered parents defensive behavior.

We expect from the justice system, be it judge or jury, to be a trier of fact. We expect them to look at the evidence presented at trial. The 6th amendment assures each of us have a right to a fair trial, criminal or civil. In custody cases the stakes are high, the decision is about the emotional, physical and psychological health of the next generation, the generation that carries our country and future. It wouldn’t get to a custody trial if there weren’t severe issues to be addressed.

Procrustean bed: And arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced

Procrustus persuaded travellers in Greek Mythology to come and sleep in his bed. He claimed his bed was perfect and would fit each traveller. The iron bed in fact was a torture device, where Procrustus (meaning ‘The Stretcher’) would stretch the person who was too small and would cut off the legs of those that were too long.

Forcing joint or 50/50 custody on embattled or personality disordered parents, despite the evidence presented, discarding hard evidence that does not fit your theory and embellishing unsubstantiated accusations as being truthful, or justifying lies, undermines the justice system and hurts children. A personality disorder is a game-changer in custody decisions; it is time the courts realize the damage they are doing.

Dear Lady Liberty, I Kissed the Wrong Frog.

Dear Lady Liberty,

I’ve visited you again last weekend, and I’m always mesmerized by you and what you stand for.451268880_9dd7aa3c7c_b Freedom. You are a promise. A promise to oneself.

On 10 January 1998 I sat at the window seat of KL 691 trying to get a glimpse of Lady Liberty, the promise of this wonderful new country where I was enrolled in a prestigious PhD program.

I was trembling with excitement. I was in my early 20s and the world was my oyster. With just 2 suitcases and my dreams I landed in this wonderful and beautiful country.

After about a year I met Ex and I have to admit now, I kissed the wrong frog. I kissed the psychopath frog, and he did not turn into a prince.

Psychopaths are exceedingly charming, it is clear from our whole divorce proceedings that our female judge and female GAL are absolutely smitten with Ex. And so was I. It wasn’t until the end of the marriage that I, like Little Red Riding Hood, started asking questions, and no longer took the lies, gaslighting and manipulations for truth. The spell of the charm was gone on the 8th of July 2011 when I kicked him out of the house. O, and how he has held it against me that I kicked him out during the proceedings. The rage, he was insulted beyond. How dared I do this to him.

Hervey M. Cleckley wrote the ‘Mask of Sanity’ in which he describes the elusive psychopath, the master deceiver, who secretly possesses no moral or ethical restraints, yet behaving in public with excellent function.

Like a snake charmer mesmerize the snake, the psychopath with his/her superficial charm enchants the victim with the determined focus of a predator on its prey. Through a web of blatant lies, subtle lies, lies by omission, half-truths and truths the psychopath maneuvers its victim to where (s)he wants them to be.

And so did Ex. He knew from the get-go that 50/50 as a father was likely the best he could do through court. To him that was not a problem, as he would from there on proceed to full custody through the children, aka ‘Parental Alienation’. During the divorce proceedings he worked relentless on them.

And he succeeded with the court. I rejected an offer from the judge, where the children would spend 6 months of the year with the father first and then 6 months of the year with the mother.

Nobody familiar with Parental Alienation would take this idiotic proposal in consideration. This offer would have assured the bond between 1 parent and the kids would be broken. The judge assured me that she ‘would make sure the children were allowed to contact me’, despite a 2 year trail of evidence and admittance by Ex himself, that the children were not allowed to contact me, or talk about Mom, that the kids would be punished with a time-out if they failed to obey.

Six months are a long time without contact with a parent for a toddler and young child.

But both the judge and the GAL were smitten with the idea, Ex had cleverly maneuvered them in an advantageous position for him. Probably how he did during the marriage, like it was ‘my’ idea. Both the judge and GAL lost sight of the best interest of the child and had become puppets of the psychopath, they were enchanted. Ex could not conceal his victorious smile walking out of the judge’s chambers. I had no idea what had happened, but it send chills down my spine.

In criminal court these manipulations can not happen to the same extend. Apart from the Judge, there is the jury and the rules of evidence and sentencing are strict. Family Court is ruled by subjectivity. The Family Court judge becomes the ‘trier of fact’, in my case giving credibility to the parent who scored 2x the standard deviation above the norm on the Lie Scale in the MMPI. The seductiveness of charm; throwing away objective data to succumb to the psychopath.

It is in Family Court that most Life Sentences are given, ironically not Criminal Court. The lower standards and rules of evidence favor a bias, where subjectivity determines what happens to the child.

Do I regret my marriage? In a strange way I do and I don’t. For one, there are 2 beautiful kids and I wouldn’t want to have missed out on them for the world. Furthermore, not the marriage, but the divorce has grown me as a person. I wish I had learned my life lessons in a different way, but that is the past.

Standing in front of you last weekend I realized that what I dreamt of when I landed on JFK I have become. I’m happy, I have inner freedom. My dream is not over just yet, there are so many more promises to fulfill. On to the future!

Love,

Ostara