You have probably seen OMB’s informational poster about why we advocate not using the term or “theory” of Parental Alienation. We post it once a month encouraging our readers to understand that the controlling behaviors of Cluster B parents in trying to place a wedge between the children and healthy parent is Domestic Violence by Proxy. The emotional abuse of a Cluster B is domestic Violence (DV).
When a Cluster B personality disordered individual enters the family court system they wage war upon the healthy parent. They may have been absent parents never attending school, medical or dental appointments but suddenly they attend everything, preening as the doting father or mother and may push for custody. Custody is seen as a prize. The goal is to hurt the healthy primary parent and save money via child support calculations. As part of that push they groom children to see their healthy parent as untrustworthy and self-centered (projection), with divorce or separation their fault while portraying the Cluster B parent as wounded and needing the children to shower him or her with love and affection. Children often respond to this gaslighting by siding with the abusive parent.
The Cluster B parent often blames the healthy parent for his or her own actions, claiming parental alienation (PA). If the children distrust Cluster B parent based upon a history of abusive behaviors, this estrangement is labeled as PA. The healthy parent, unfortunately, is at serious risk of losing custody in family court. Men who physically batter their former partner are much more likely to gain custody than the healthy parent. Courts have been taught that women claiming DV in family court are usually lying and using this false claim to secure custody. Even when DV claims are accepted, courts falsely believe DV only affects direct victim and that abusers can be good parents to their children. Once Cluster Bs have the children away from the healthy parent, they use manipulation and other forms of abuse to convince the children that their other parent never loved them and are untrustworthy.
Alina Patterson (2003) first defined Domestic Violence by Proxy or DV Proxy. DV Proxy is a pattern of behavior where a parent with a history of using domestic violence, or intimidation uses the child (as a substitute) when s/he does not have access to the former partner. Continuing the cycle of domestic violence, the cycle of Domestic Violence by Proxy starts when the victim leaves the abuser and the abuser learns the easiest way to continue to harm and control the former partner is through controlling access to the children.
Once the abuser has control of the children they are able to continue stalking, harassing and abusing the former partner even when the abuser has no direct access. DV can manifest in ways such as threats to the children if they display a close relationship with the former partner, destroying the children’s favorite possessions given by the former partner and emotional abuse. Children are often coached to make false allegations about the parent.
DV by proxy is very deliberate and planned. The abusers know what they are doing and chose their controlling, coercive, and illegal behaviors. The behaviors are usually surrounded by threats and fears and often include “battery, destruction of property, locking children in rooms to prevent them from calling parents, falsifying documents, along with other similar overt behaviors.” As the leadership council suggests, “Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.”
Unlike Gardner’s discredited PAS theory, the behaviors associated with DV by proxy are visible. Gardner stated the behaviors by the “alienating parent” were unconscious or unseen. This is one of the scarier components in Gardner’s theory because you cannot defend yourself against unseen things. Many healthy parents have found themselves trying to defend themselves against these unseen behaviors.
Family court professionals often fail to understand the presence and implications of both domestic violence and Cluster B psychopathology. Thus family court usually encourages unfettered access of the children to abusers. Family court judges and lawyers often work to punish healthy parents reporting bona fide abuse. Yet, they often seem to believe the victim stories told by abusers. Court officials often seem slow to recognize how family court itself can be abusive, particularly protracted, repeated, unnecessary court hearings used by the abuser to drain the financial and emotional resources of the healthy parent. Children may be placed with the abuser while the healthy parent is discredited through accusations of mental illness or PA. Other professionals involved including GALs, evaluators, therapists, etc. often take on responsibilities that are beyond their skill level. Antisocial and or Narcissistic personality disordered parents with good impression management skills are adept at “conning people, or gaining sympathy, and can win the trust and support of a family court professional while turning that same person against their ex-partner.”
The main goal of the abuser is s/he will end up with complete control over the children and will use this power over his former partner, “who tried to escape the power and control of the once abusive marriage.” They do not care if the children are harmed as long as their former partner is hurt and they feel they have won. It is imperative that the healthy parent and attorney understands how to use DV by proxy to counter and claims of parental alienation.
The following links may also be helpful:
One Mom’s Battle: Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), Custody Evaluators, therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children.
History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2009, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother, (Tina Swithin), navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth. Tina’s battle spanned from 2009 – 2014 during which time she acted as her own attorney. Ultimately, Tina was successful in protecting her daughters and her family has enjoyed complete peace since October 2014 when a Family Court commissioner called her ex-husband a “sociopath” and revoked his parenting time in a final custody order.
Tina Swithin: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon (print, Kindle or audio format). Each year, Tina offers life-changing weekends of camaraderie and healing at the Lemonade Power Retreat. Tina also offers one-on-one coaching services and a private, secure forum called, The Lemonade Club, for those enduring high-conflict custody battles.