Everybody knows that, in some cases of divorce/ separation, it’s not uncommon for a parent to carry on abusing their ex-partner by proxy, especially by using their children.
We all know about parents badmouthing each other in front of their kids, that they nudge to ‘take a side’. We all know about how some abusive fathers (but not only) use their due child maintenance support to blackmail and continue exerting pressure upon an ex; for instance, by refusing to pay it. We all know, too, about how some abusive mothers (but not only) deliberately sabotage contact between children and their dads; for instance, by making all sorts of excuses about how they cannot come and talk over a phone to not being present at pick-up time, and from unjustly restricting parenting time to making self-entitled demands just to render contact difficult.
Parental Alienation, though, takes such abuse a step further.
As the dictionary defines it, ‘alienation’ is a strong excluding and rejecting behaviour, the purpose of which is ‘to make somebody less friendly towards you’, ‘feel that they do not belong’. And Parental Alienation, indeed, is exactly that: a parent psychologically and emotionally manipulating their children, for them to end up hating or fearing their other parent (‘be less friendly towards’, ‘feel that they do not belong’) despite them having had, so far, a safe, healthy, and loving bond.
How can that happen?
‘The Invisible Parent’ is the story of a father recounting his own personal experience of going through such ordeal (he decided to remain anonymous, mainly to protect the identities of the people involved, especially his children). As such, it is a book that will resonate with every parent -fathers, mothers- who have been traumatically excluded from the lives of their children following such post-separation abuse. It will resonate, too, with anyone having been affected by what is but child abuse tearing whole families apart, and which, nevertheless, still remains, to the shame of us all, unrecognised by the law -at least in Britain. Those denying the existence of Parental Alienation, claiming, for instance, that it’s a made-up concept used by abusive fathers to further abuse their children and the women who left them (completely disregarding, by the same token, the fact that many women are going through it as well…) ought to read this too, at least for a strong reality check!
This father’s story is, indeed, atypical only because of his professional and financial situation, as well as that of the abusive mother involved. Theirs was not your usual divorce:
‘I am a very wealthy man, my ex-wife received almost £7 million in our divorce settlement and lived in a £2.3 million home. I paid over £80,000 per year in maintenance and school fees.’
As far as the rest goes, though, most of it is so common that everyone having gone through such hellish ordeal (alienated fathers as well as alienated mothers) will feel like reading their own life stories. After a period of happy co-parenting, his ex-wife will indeed purposefully sabotage contact between him and his kids; and, when he decided to challenge that in court, she will accuse him of being (drum roll…) 'abusive'!
Here is such a common and predictable trope, in fact, that it feels as if every vindictive parent, using children as proxy to engage in post-separation abuse, had read the same playbook somewhere:
‘If you are an alienated father, the assumption is you’re either a wife beater, child beater or abuser. If you are an alienated mother, you’re usually assumed to be mentally ill or an addict.’
These tropes are predictable, mostly because they are rooted in sexist gender stereotypes (men perceived as 'violent' and 'abusive', women as being 'emotionally unstable'). Yet, for dedicated and loving parents wanting to remain in the lives of their children, and against the whims of a toxic ex (ab)using them, these tropes will have to be fought in courts. And courts, far from being helpful in such cases, can, in fact, exacerbate the problems.
Family courts indeed are not only plagued both by systemic problems and outdated cultural and gender bias (which he outlines), but their proceedings are, also, lengthy and time consuming. Therein lies the issue, as, this lengthy time to deal with urgent matters, precisely because it stretches over months and years during which a parent doesn’t see their children, plays to the full advantage of the other parent (the custodial, abusive one) using it to brainwash the kids into believing their lies. This is Parental Alienation at play: children who, before and until then, had a loving bond with a parent, are, now, after having been cut off from him or her for months and years of legal proceedings, feeling but hateful, fearful, spiteful, reflecting but the opinions of the abusive parent who indoctrinated them into the abuse!
For the alienated parent, it's a terrible situation to be in. Despite the accusations thrown at you being ultimately debunked, despite court orders in your favour re-asserting the rights of your children to have access, by the time a case has been ruled over it is, mostly, too late. The children, by that time indeed, would have been so manipulated that they will want nothing to do with you, having been cut off from you for so long already. According to Parental Alienation UK, this is not a gendered issue but the fate of as many fathers as mothers in Britain alone, where a estimated of hundreds of thousands of children are being affected every year.
What most people wrongly assume, is that all such cases involve very serious crimes and justified safeguarding risks. In our society now in the grip of a cultural panic surrounding so-called ‘violence against women and girls’, where celebrities can carelessly stereotype every man as a 'potential danger', high ranking public servants echo such bunk by suggesting that they ought to be curfewed after 6pm, and, where our girls are made afraid of what has been dubbed a ‘rape culture’, fathers, especially, precisely because they are men, have been suffering such populist and fearmongering misandry as collateral damage. It’s a fearmongering which has reached such a toxic point, in fact, that men battling to see their children are increasingly being perceived, not as loving, dedicated, parent doing their utmost to remain engaged, but prejudiced as being domestic abusers, wife beaters, and child molesters assumed to be (surprise, surprise…) ‘rapists’ and paedophiles!
Nothing illustrates this bogus scaremongering misandry, one of the main reasons for misinformation about what is Parental Alienation, better than a recent documentary, 'Torn Apart: Family Courts Uncovered', which aired on Channel 4 back in 2021. This documentary, because of its unscientific bias completely ignoring the fate of even alienated mothers (Parental Alienation UK were not interviewed nor consulted, a blatant omission which tells you all you need to know about its parti pris and credibility…) received a record level of complaints, flooding in from alienated parents and family members from across the gender divide. Of course, 'Torn Apart', for its lazy research and negative bias towards fathers, can easily be dismissed as a mere piece of churnalistic propaganda, serving the cause of some ideologically driven lobbyists. It is, in any case, currently being investigated for it breach of several Ofcom rules. The damages it has caused into feeding misinformation and pseudo-science in the popular culture, though, still remains to be assessed.
What is striking indeed with cases of Parental Alienation is that, far from involving serious crimes and justified safeguarding risks, its evilness resides in its banality. It’s a banality, in fact, which makes it particularly sinister.
Disciplining your children when they are misbehaving will be framed as you being verbally and emotionally abusive. Hugging them or cuddling them in public, especially after not seeing them for months, will be framed as you being physically assaulting them, and so being abusive. Supporting them with their education, schoolwork, even paying for tutoring so they succeed at an exam, will be framed as you being pushy and controlling that is, abusive. Taking them on holidays, or buying them toys, clothes, or else, will be framed as you trying to 'buy them off' that is, trying to side line the other parent, and, so, being abusive. Do you work long hours? It will be framed as you being neglectful of your children, or not having time to parent anyway, and, so, will be framed as you being abusive.
As the author comments, reflecting on how he was framed as being abusive for taking his children to a West End show:
‘in cases of Parental Alienation, the whole point is everything – and anything – can be turned around by the abuser to make your kids hate you. Including taking them to a musical instead of a theme park.’
Like every parent who has been through it all, I fully relate. I was personally accused of being coercive and manipulative for (GASP!) taking my boys to museums instead of clothing shops (something I did too anyway, but which was ignored). It might sound silly and petty, but these are accusations which must be investigated (is the parent really abusive? Coercive? Manipulative?) by social services, Cafcass, and, at times, involving the police or the schools (another bastion of female staff, prejudiced -consciously or not- in favour of mothers) while pending further court hearings, each spaced out by several months during which you are unlikely to see your children, mostly, as it was in my case, because the alienating parent will refuse to comply with court orders stipulating otherwise (breach of orders, contempt for the courts, refusal to cooperate with the law yet while engaging in further legal abuse, are, in fact, very common behaviours among abusers...). As the author states, though, 'time is a luxury alienated parents don't have', as the whole wasteful process is nothing but more time given to the abusive parent to use to their full advantage, to further manipulate the children.
My case took two years. I was vindicated in the end, but the exhausting and traumatic toll experienced both by me and my children will never go away. Other parents are not so lucky, they who have completely lost contact with their children. Others, too, fathers especially, end up by killing themselves -something which is far from rare, yet that our femocrats believing that Parental Alienation is 'a debunked theory' are otherwise quick to dismiss (you might remember Jess Philipps, a female MP who laughed off the idea that a debate on male suicide was needed in Parliament...).
Unsurprisingly, then, being erased from the lives of his children is, ultimately, what happened to the author as well. After three years of an exhausting legal battle, a judge will finally rule to end it all with no contact being implemented, not because he was abusive (he never was) but because the battle had gone long enough; so long, in fact, that the children were being badly affected. Here is a common outcome: a parent falsely using the 'abuse card' in total impunity, abusing their common children by collateral damage, successfully excluding another safe parent (once loved but now feared and hated) with our family courts left not only powerless to tackle the issue, but, in many cases, in fact, having made it worse all along. And, here too, sadly, was a common outcome: far from having their safeguarding addressed, the children will remain, in the end, into the full custody of the abusive parent.
'Churnalists' and the ideologues those dogma they ‘churn’ out, by focusing on these very rare criminal and heinous cases only to distort a reality and create sensationalist, irresponsible, headlines in the mass medias to sell their sheets, are therefore spreading but dangerous misconceptions. Parental Alienation is as much about false accusations of abuse as it is about normal, expected, attitudes from a parent, being twisted and turned into something sinister, or supposedly underlying a sinister agenda.
Make no mistake: the true faces of Parental Alienation are not paedophiles snatching away children from mothers to rape them, but that of grandparents having the police at their doors for sending birthday cards to their grandchildren. According to a 2019 study by IBB Solicitors, and which has been quoted by the Bristol Grand Parents Support Group, an estimated one in seven grandparents have been cut off from accessing an contacting their grandchildren following such issue alone (a total which could concern up to two millions children as a whole). Dogmatic femocrats and the churnalists echoing them would have us to believe that Parental Alienation is about Fathers Rights only (read: 'patriarchal women haters') but it's everything but.
Sadly, no matter how sinister the accusations, it works. It works so well, in fact, that even the emotional toll and poor mental health of alienated parents, the product of losing their children while dealing with false yet traumatic allegations of abuse, is used against them to further justify their alienation:
’an alienated parent often appears anxious, desperate, aggressive and angry. You would too if your children were taken from you, and worse they suddenly say they hate you.’
'The reason I raise this -and the fact so many alienated parents report similar experiences of the emotional and mental health trauma of this particular form of domestic abuse- is because it's not a question that factors in the court process. Specifically, nobody asks what is wrong with you when you appear paranoid, angry, stressed, or desperate. None of the court officials, judges, Cafcass Guardians, social workers recognise your obvious distress. Most often, those people take a look at you and decide that your demeanour explains why your kids don't want to see you.'
You might ask: why would a parent do such a horrible thing?
I am currently writing a book on domestic violence and abuse affecting men, including post-separation abuse such as Parental Alienation. So far, the commonest reason pointed by most of the men (and women, knowing a man who has been abused) who contacted me to offer their testimonies on this topic is very simple: entering in a new relationship. This doesn’t surprise me at all. This is how my own alienation started. The author, also, had entered new relationships which had triggered further abuse by his ex-wife. Could it be because alienating mothers or fathers feel threatened in their main parental role by an outsider?
In his case, though, he also speculates on a few more, including a financial one. He, after all, is a wealthy man who left his ex as a multi-millionaire after they divorced, although she seemed unhappy about the settlement. By his own account, it’s a speculation. But…
It’s not far-fetched.
India Knight, in an article titled ‘Mugged by the Toxic Wife’, had already outlined, more than a decade ago, such ‘toxic’ behaviours among some women when divorcing wealthy husbands. We shouldn’t be surprised either. After all, we talk a lot (rightfully) about deadbeat fathers washing their hands of their kids, or, those using child support as a mean to further abuse their ex-wives, leaving many single mothers in poverty (single mothers remain the poorest working age demographic in Britain). What we never talk about, though, is how many toxic mothers do likewise that is, use contact with children as a mean to coerce and financially blackmail their exes.
Again, going back to the book I am writing, I had men, fathers paying their child support as they should, being coercively asked to also cough up more money for their exes to finance from holidays to unpaid bills and debts (contracted after their break-up) and, even, plastic surgery! At this point you know where this is going: when they refused, contact with their children was brutally cut off, and when they took the matter to a family court (if ever -many don’t have the financial mean to do so and so gave up at that point; I personally represented myself...) allegations of abuse (ta dah!) were ‘suddenly’ thrown at…
As with male suicide and domestic abuse in general, this is not a laughing matter, though. Parental Alienation is everything but a gender issue, and, as already stated, it affects at least as many mothers as it does fathers. And yet... We must also here face a growing social problem which has become more and more urgent: the so-called ‘rise of fatherlessness’, and its disastrous impact, not only upon the children concerned, but, also, society as a whole.
In the UK alone and over the past twenty years, one in three children had permanently lost contact with their father following the divorce/ separation of their parents. Deal with it as you wish, but the misandrist wishy-washy ‘oh well, it’s cos *all* men are deadbeat!’ won’t explain it. Fathers *are* being pushed out of their children lives, and it's about time that we start doing something about it. But, for this to happen, we first need to come to grip with a reckoning: that women too can be domestically abusive, and that mothers too can engage in child abuse. In other words: it’s about time that our society, still wrapped up into misogynistic prejudices seeing women as merely weak, passive, hapless, disempowered, and, so, as a result, unable of being as toxic and abusive as men (all sexist prejudices having been shamelessly recycled by neo-feminists, infantilising women supposedly to empower them) gets a more than needed wake up call!
In the end, it’s not about fathers’ rights only. It is, also, about that of alienated mothers too; and, more importantly, the sake of the countless children going through such abuse in the first place.
Will 'The Invisible Parent', at long last, contribute to the debate? Let's hope so! In the meantime, if you are a man who has been domestically abused by a woman, or, a woman who knows a man who has been domestically abused by a woman (including as victim of Parental Alienation) please feel free to contact me. I am writing a book about the issue, and all testimonies will be anonymous.
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